"Eyiel," he said, "please pay attention."
The girl looked, embarrassed. She had been drifting off, distracted by pretty things flying through the sky. "I'm sorry, master."
"Please, don't let it happen again." The man turned back, facing away from the students, to continue his lesson.
"Now, then," he continued, clearing his throat. "As I was saying, the most important concept in using magic is remembering how to channel the energies properly. Light energy, dark energy, and the four types from each, what you end up with is dependent on how you end up using them." He turned and looked at the students, and a smile tugged at the corner of his right lip.
"Eyiel!" The girl was staring off in the distance again, and jumped at the sound of the teacher shouting her voice.
"Y-yes?"she stammered. The other students giggled.
"Since you seem to know everything there is about magic, why don't you give the class a demonstration?" He smiled slyly, and leaned forward, motioning for her to step up to the circle.
"Ye-yes, master!" Her face was turning red from embarrassment as she stepped forward, the laughter from the students becoming more prominent. The teacher gave them a stern look as he waved his right hand to silence them, index and middle fingers extended. They got quieter.
The teacher stepped back from the circle, and waved his hand over the edge. The circle glowed, and strange writing surrounded it. A smaller circle surrounded the girls feet. "The circle will protect you and us, should you end up out of control. Now please, Eyiel, give us a demonstration. Anything you like."
She nodded, and concentrated, holding her hands forward. She concentrated, and wondered what to cast. Okay, she thought to herself, you can do this. Fire, from the Light, and Thunder, from the Dark. As she gathered the energies, her hands began to glow. "Fire bolt!" she shouted out after a moment, and closed her eyes as the fire flew from her hands. It flew forward, until it hit an invisible wall at the edge of the circle. It held position there for a moment, embers and sparks falling to the ground from the point, until it suddenly bounced. It split off into several beams, and accelerated, bouncing all around between the inner and outer walls.
Some of the students began to look worried, while a few of them laughed. "And she lost it," one of those ones said, amused. Eyiel ducked down, scared that the barrier might break. The teacher held his hand forward and a new spell circle appeared, filling the majority of the circle. A surge of energy rose from it, engulfing the previous spell, and then it died down, leaving a calm
"That," the teacher said, waving his hand to dispel all three circles, "Is why you should allow me to give a complete lesson before attempting anything stupid like that. Class dismissed, Eyiel, I want to have a talk with you later, in my office." The students laughed, and Eyiel ran off, face now fully red as she tried to hide it with her hands.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was evening. The dining hall was filled with students, residents, and workers, all enjoying meals. The events of earlier hadn't been forgotten by the students of the magic teacher, who were still laughing about it. Eyiel sat with them, still somewhat embarrassed, but not offended, nor embarrassed enough by their teasing to warrant any action or shame to keep her from mixing with them.
She hadn't yet spoken to her teacher, as he had been missing since he had dismissed the class early. She enjoyed her meal, and the mingling with her friends, until the dining hall was closed, at which point she headed back to the teacher's office. As she knocked, she got no response, so let herself in to wait inside.
This wasn't the first time she had been called to this room, which was filled with bookshelves filled with books she could not read. The room also had a very ornate desk, made of ebony, obsidian, and jade, and a fancy chair to match. There was also a large sofa, colors matching the desk and chair, and several simpler chairs. She decided to sit on the sofa and wait, and so laid across it leaning her head on the arm.
She waited, and the comfort of the sofa quickly stole her to sleep. She was awoken by a loud bang, as the door of the room slammed shut. A figure was there.
"Master Ardarrion!" He was breathing heavily, hunched over, with blood spilling out from multiple wounds. She got up and ran to his side, as he struggled to walk forward. "What happened?"
She put one of his arms over her shoulder and braced his weight, slowly leading him over to the sofa. She laid him down on it, and looked for something to deal with his wounds. "Don't worry," he scratched, voice hoarse and barely audible, and waved her off. "I will be fine. Please, get me some water."
She nodded, and grabbed a flask from on the desk and ran out of the room, heading out to the courtyard to the fountain. It was now the dead of night, and nobody else was up. Her only light was the twin moons, which were both in the sky tonight lighting up the yard. At any other time, she would stop to enjoy the night, did she happen to be awake for the sight, but she was focused solely on her task.
She filled the flask, and ran back to the room. Ardarrion had, under great strain, removed his cloak and shirt, revealing many wounds. There was also a strange, silvered device, attached on his shoulders and breastbone, and running down his right arm and attaching halfway up his forearm. He was breathing heavily again, indicating the effort was sapping all of his strength.
She held the flask up to his mouth, and he sipped some water from it. He coughed a few times, spitting up blood, and leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "Thank you," he croaked.
"What happened?" She began to try to bandage his wounds, but he waved her off.
"Again," he said, "please, I will be fine. They aren't fatal." He pointed up to one of the bookshelves. "If you would, please, the book Die Welt der Maschinen, from the top shelf." She nodded, and went over to the shelf, trying to read the foreign titles to find the book he requested. She found it, and pulled it out. It was a sealed book, and the latch would not open.
"It's bound by a spell," he said, coughing some more. "Eyiel, how is your history studies? You know of the ban on technology, right?"
"Y-yes," she stammered, not liking where the conversation was going. "After the war over three hundred years ago."
"Yes, yes indeed." He motioned for her to bring the book over, and he held his hand over it. Mumbling a few words, a spell circle appeared on the cover, running through the latch. It spun, and tumblers in the lock shifted as it did, until it suddenly fell open. He opened the cover, and pulled out a key, which he inserted into the device in a hole on his breastbone. He turned it, and a clamp released, loosening it from his shoulders and arm. He motioned for her help, and she helped him remove the device and set it on the floor.
"Three hundred years ago," he said, after taking a large drink from the flask. "Most of the world was destroyed from the machining and refining of war. There was a collapse of society, with nearly everyone dead, and so a ban was placed on technology."
"But," she said quietly, looking at the device. "That, there, that is a piece of technology, isn't it?" He smiled, and slowly sat up.
"We are a stupid people, after all." He laughed, and then worked slowly to his feet. Eyiel dropped the book and quickly lent him her shoulder, and he motioned for her to lead her outside. "You've never seen any actual devices from the age of technology, of course."
They walked, slowly, out to the courtyard, and sat down on a bench there. "Eyiel," he said, looking up at the moon, "a simple ban won't stop people. They still use things, in secret, in silence. They are that stupid, after all."
He then looked down at her, straight into her eyes. "I hope its not so presumptuous of me, falling for a student. But your studies will be complete soon, and you would normally leave after that, to find marriage if not adventure..." Suddenly, without any more warning, he leaned forward, and kissed her lips gently.
Startled, and quickly turning red, she jumped up. "But-what...Master Ardarrion?!" He's not that much older than me, she thought, letting her mind slip and quickly wander through the moment, but she quickly shook her head. No, Eyiel, focus! What is going on!?
He smiled a moment, then got a stern, sad look on his face. He closed his eyes, and shook his head, and motioned for her to sit back down. Cautiously, she did.
"That device," he said quietly, his voice suddenly sounding much older than his age, "is indeed a piece of technology. But it is also a tool of magic. A most dangerous combination, much worse than the technologies of the past alone.
"Since the ban on technology, people began to learn how to use magic. Back in the old society, the term fantasy would be used to describe fictional writings fitting the world we now live in today. Likewise, the term science fiction we could use to describe the world near the end of that war. But, it is neither fantasy, or fiction, this is the present day, and our reality. And at this point, it's something we must preserve."
"What do you mean?" She wasn't sure what he meant, nothing was reversing. The school-town she was living in and attending was small, and specialized in teaching magic. There were many of such places, scattered around the vast countryside, small towns with a small amount of people, with strange creatures born of magic energies roaming all the space in between.
"I tell you all this because I do want you to stay," he said sternly. "As a lover, and as... my replacement."
"Your replacement?" He didn't respond to her question. Instead he stood up, and headed slowly out to the field, towards the circle which he held demonstrations for his magic class.
"The device has a latent effect," he said, motioning for her to stand back," so I can still use its powers for a little while even when not wearing it. But after that, it's the end. Please watch." He faced to their side and held up his right hand. Her eyes went wide with surprise, as out of nothing strange multicolored plates, thin and translucent, appeared in the air around his arm, gathering and swirling together. He closed his hand, and they all changed colors to varying shades of red. Suddenly they spread out, and reassembled themselves all around him, in a form loosely similar to armor.
"Come," he motioned, "try and hit me." She cautiously walked forward, and tried to backhand him where one of the plates were. Her hand was stopped on the plate, which had a warm feel to it. She stepped back, and he waved his hand, causing the plates to break off and vanish. His legs started to give way, and she rushed forward to catch his shoulder again to help him back to his office.
"Just," she said, still in shock, "just what was that? I've never seen any magic like that."
He didn't say anything until they were back in the room. He carefully lay back on the sofa, and she sat in a chair by his side. He took another drink from the flask of water, and closed his eyes.
"Just as illegal as anything else," he said. "Yet even more dangerous. But we must use it, to uphold the Oath of Order."
He reopened his eyes, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small ring, with a symbol engraved on it. As she looked at it, she noticed it matched a ring he wore on his right hand, and had always worn as long as she had known him at the school. He took her right hand, and slipped the ring on her ring finger.
"What," she started to say, but he put his hand up to press two fingers against her lips.
"Don't say anything. Not until I have said all I have to say." He leaned up, and grabbed Die Welt der Maschinen from where it lay on the ground. "Die Welt der Maschinen," he said quietly, "the world of machines. This school, this town, is simply where I spend my idle time. My life is dictated by the Oath of Order, to prevent a return to the world of machines."
"I'm just one of many," he said, removing his own ring from his hand. "We're a secret group, scattered everywhere. Our founders were an old police force from the end of the war, sworn to never allow anything like that happen again. With the discovery of magic and it's spread, this device was born. It absorbs magic, and gives it physical form. Depending on how you use it, it can take many different shapes, defensive, or offensive.
"But for me, it will no longer respond. That is why I need you, dear Eyiel. I need you to take my place in the Order of the Red Ice."