Chapter 6:

Hierachy of the Mages

The Trials of Ilcor

It took Jasper a week to recover from the poison. Bedridden and sweating, a fever that only broke after a day of rest and medicine. During the fever all he could do was cycle hazily through the event to the point he could no longer tell if it was a dream or reality. The boys that beat him, the girls disappearing into the forest with only one returning and the dragon that showed him kindness. Swirling through his head and through his stomach, sometimes coming out into a bucket on hand.

The sisters came in and out tending to him until finally his fever settled and all that was left was the slow recovery as the medicine ran its course and his body healed itself.

The one solace for him was the time he could spend alone. Normal days at the monastery had him out of his room for most of the day; swimming, eating, classes and swordsmanship training. He didn’t hate the activities, what he hated was the time spent with the other kids. Those who mock and those who keep to themselves to not be associated and mocked as well. During his sick week he could just be with himself, thinking and dreaming...maybe missing Nash now and then too. He hoped he was well, although why would he not be? He was able to retrieve an egg and was now a dragon rider, not only that he had obtained an air elemental dragon. While Jasper was here in bed after failing and now not knowing how he would proceed.

He would soon learn the next course of action the following month. Every year the monastery holds a lesson on the various trials and how they will work right after the trials end for the month. They were split into age groups depending on which stage they were up to; his group was for those aged between seven and eleven.

It was the biggest group so it had to be split up even further. The gap between the first and second trial was the largest in the trial process. They probably figured twelve was the ideal age for higher learning and those younger might not be able to pass the trial. One of the older boys on the way to the lesson had whispered loudly that he had heard it was because that was around the time children go through transitioning into and adult’s body which made it easier for the pearl to transition and absorb within the the body, and therefore the body develops into that of an adult’s alongside the powers.

Jasper was too young to truly understand what this meant but when he got older he eventually did. It did not matter much to him until then, so for now he entered the classroom and listened to what awaited him next.

A grey robed sister entered the room and stood at the front. This was to be an important lesson so the highest sister must lead the teaching, or so they said.

“Welcome to this year’s mage trial briefing. I will be going through the process of this next trial and what you might expect before and after and during the trial”

Eyes panned around the classroom. The children were docile and at attention, most of all Jasper who bore holes into her from his seat at the front. Those fresh from the trials often cling to these lessons as a way to collect what was lost during the trial and find the meaning they must hold on to going forwards.

“In order to become a mage, you must go to the lake of Muirin and find yourself a clam. Which clam you choose matters not. The clam will assess you, ask you a question and if you pass it will give you its pearl. If you do not pass or try to force your way to the pearl, it will eject you from the lake with high pressure water. Do not worry, you will be given a medicine that will allow you to breathe underwater for a period of time long enough to fulfill your task. After obtaining the pearl you may consume it and it will grant you unique powers. The exact way the clams assess and the specific questions are unknown; each person has recounted a different question and process and we have yet to fully understand how these clams work other than that they were a gift from the goddess Muirin in order for us, her subjects, to learn and grow with her magical gifts. Any questions so far?”

No hands shot up. There were usually no questions, oftentimes this time was more so to give the kids time to process the task they must face, to accept the fact that there was not much they could really do to prepare because no one actually knew the right formula for success. The only thing that was truly known was that the clams assessed based off of intellect but how they judged it was unknown.

“Once you enter the mage’s castle you will be split into four elemental factions based on your powers. The hierarchy of our kingdom will be maintained there too; Air mages are at the top, then water, fire and lastly earth. Oftentimes there are those who are given powers that do not fall under those categories. These will be assigned one of water, fire or earth depending on the perceived level and power of the magic you obtain.”

Finally a hand shot up. The sister nodded approval and the girl asked;

“Why are they only assigned to those three? Why do they not also get assigned to air?”

The sister looked around for a moment before answering, allowing the question to settle and with a calm, clear voice responded.

“Air is the purest form of magic. It is a direct link to our god Eimhir, the god of air and the ruler of the gods. If we mix in those without the air magic it will tarnish his legacy as well as lower his importance. The other gods are important but a distinction between the god that created the world is key to maintaining the balance of our world”

Jasper thought on this for a second. He did not really understand this. Even within the mage ranks they had to look up to those with the power of air? Would the gods really want the people of their world to live in constant hierarchy? Although, the more he thought about it, the more he saw the natural occurrence of this through his experiences. Elemental attributes or not, not yet of age to be chosen as anything in society, he was still looked down upon and shown there was an order to things because of how he was born and grew up. They were all orphans and abandoned and yet they still saw the impotence of hierarchy. He was always at the bottom of the ranks simply because he was born on the streets. Even if he had been born when his mother was still a maid, people would have still looked down upon him for being born to a maid and not a dragon rider. None of which was under his own control. On the streets he could see it too; the stronger were those who led the pack and established an order. This was their way of survival and those under them saw it as a way to survive as well; to cling onto the strong and let them lead them towards food and shelter. These different situations he had gone through and will face no doubt going forwards made it hard for him to decide if he agreed or not. He had no control over things and he had to live with what the gods had put him through; but even in the lowest rank of life there was still a forced order, so maybe there was a need for it like the sister said? She was much older and had studied the gods far more than most there, wouldn’t she know best? He set these thoughts aside for the moment, although they never truly left him. Not ever.

“In order to prepare yourself for this task all you kids need to do is work on your swimming, and learn from your teachers well. With effort in your studies, you will be gifted knowledge and maybe then the clams will see this and give you their blessings.”

The rest of the talk was less interesting to Jasper so he found himself losing attention often. It was just general stuff, outlines for their studies going forwards. He thought about what she said however. Putting his efforts into studies and learning as much as he could in order to raise his chances. He nodded to himself. That would be his goal. If the kids and the world gave him a tough time he would just focus on what he could do for himself. If he put the effort, he reasoned, and still failed then he would be able to blame others and not himself. If he did nothing and failed, that's when he would hate himself. Jasper knew better than to let that consume him. Many on the streets have and their last days were miserable. Jasper did not want to feel that way and so he steeled himself for what was to come. 

N. D. Skordilis