Rhea, Year 814 of Avia, Day 119
Master Rhozo hunched over at his desk, reading a dusty book that looked hundreds of years old. The ink on the cracked, yellow pages was fading away from age, forcing Rhozo to squint to make out incomplete sentences.
Ilina knocked on the door and walked inside the room, with Icarum following close behind. They pulled up chairs in front of Rhozo’s desk and seated themselves across from him.
“He’s ready,” Ilina declared.
Rhozo looked up from his book and stared intently into Icarum’s eyes. It could’ve just been Icarum’s imagination, but it seemed as if Rhozo’s eyes glowed softly as he examined his grandson.
“Ilina, it looks like you’ve completed your job as a mentor. I’m surprised.”
“What do you mean completed?” Icarum asked. Although he wouldn’t dare to admit it, he enjoyed spending time with Ilina, even if they were just panting and fighting half the time.
“It looks like you’ve finally become strong enough to channel your spirit’s energy into magic. And that’s something Ilina can’t teach you, since she’s still mastering it herself.”
“Oh.” Icarum appeared slightly disappointed.
“Ilina, you can return to your own training regiment now. I’ve made a few changes to it in preparation for your first Games next year.”
That’s right, Icarum thought. Now that Ilina’s fourteen, she’s eligible to compete.
“Good luck!” Ilina mouthed. She bowed respectfully and strolled out of the room.
“Now then, shall we begin?”
“You usually learn this in class, but since you only have around three years until your first Games, I’ll give you a quick rundown on what you need to know about magic.”
“First, you should be aware that your magic’s still developing at an abnormally fast pace. Ideally, children are awakened when they’re two or three years old so their spirit can grow along with their body. Since you were awakened only recently, your baby spirit needed time to adjust and catch up to your ten-year-old body. That’s why we wouldn’t let you use magic or your wings these past six months.”
“What happens if an adult gets awakened?”
“It’s possible, but incredibly dangerous. They’ll have no control over their spirit, which could lead them to discharge their magic violently. Worst case scenario, their spirit would grow too fast for their body to handle, and they’d die.”
Rhozo pulled a blank piece of paper out from a cabinet and prepared to write on it with a black-feathered quill.
“What are the building blocks of this world?”
Rhozo laughed. “Right, that’s what the Sydurnians call them. Here, they’re known by a different name: Aviales.”
“Just like atoms, there are many types of Aviales, but instead of being used to create metals for machinery, they’re used to cast spells.”
Rhozo dropped his quill into a jar of ink and drew a circle on paper in front of him.
“At the moment, there are fourteen known Aviales, and we can organize them into a circle. It doesn’t really matter which one you start with, but there’s a specific order that you have to go in.”
At the top of the circle, Rhozo wrote the word “fire” in small print.
“For the sake of this example, I’ll start with the Fire Aviale. Going in the clockwise direction, these Aviales will follow.”
He wrote them all around the circle, saying them out loud as he went.
“Fire, Metal, Earth, Sand, Time, Psychic, Shadow, Ice, Water, Storm, Wind, Space, Sound, Light, and back to Fire.” He completed the circle.
“Aren’t these also the affinities that everyone talks about?” Icarum asked.
Rhozo smiled. “You’re a fast learner. Yes, every spirit is naturally better at harnessing a certain type of Aviale. And we call that your affinity.”
“The reason why we depict the Aviales in a circle,” he continued, “is because the Aviales are all related to each other. For example, water and fire are very different, so we place them on opposite sides of the circle. On the other hand, water and ice are very similar, and so we place them right next to each other.”
Rhozo drew lines between each Aviale to further demonstrate his explanation to Icarum.
“You can use the circle to determine what magic you should learn. If your affinity is water, you’d also be able to work with Ice and Storm Aviales, although not as well as with water, of course.”
Aware of his own shadow affinity, Icarum glanced at the circle to see what Aviales were nearby. Psychic and Ice, he noted.
“There’s one more important detail you should know,” Rhozo stated. “Each bird-spirit has specific powers related to your affinity, with some allowing more flexibility than others.”
Rhozo stood up and reached for his cane. He walked into the hallway and motioned for Icarum to follow.
“Owls like me have a light affinity, but that doesn’t mean we can use any power related to light. Owls only have the power to touch the spirits of others, so we can’t cast spells that blind people’s eyes.”
“Then wouldn’t two people with the same spirit be exactly the same? How would they differentiate themselves from each other?”
“Well, the obvious answer would be training. Those who work on their magic output daily would be able to cast stronger spells.”
“They’d still cast the same spells, though.”
“The less obvious answer is that the so-called ‘powers’ we have are really just guidelines. Touching the spirits of others is a pretty vague ability, and many Owls have created different spells by focusing their training on different parts of that power.”
As he walked down the hall, Rhozo tapped the ground with his cane.
“There are Owls like me who focus all their spiritual energy on awakening others. But there are also Owls who learn offensive spells, like silencing the spirits of others through some burst of light.”
“Generally, if your spell is more closely related to your spirit’s power and natural affinity, it’ll be stronger. But like I said, there are many ways to hone your power, leaving lots of room for innovation and creativity.”
Rhozo stopped in front of a huge stone door. To Icarum’s surprise, he pushed it with ease.
“Welcome to our library. Each rebel faction has one, but I’m proud to say that ours is one of the largest.”
The room was huge, even bigger than the training cavern that Icarum had fought Ilina in for the past six months. Copper chandeliers hung from the ceiling, with wax candles lighting up the room. Dusty bookshelves were lined up on the tall, sturdy walls, with dozens of giant ladders scattered throughout the library to help people grab books.
Many of the people inside, however, opted into using their wings instead. They flew around to reach for books they wanted to read.
“I didn’t know this place existed.”
“You shouldn’t have. We try to keep this place a secret from those who aren’t able to use magic yet. Many of the books here record spells that our ancestors used, and we don’t want any of our novices trying to cast a spell and accidentally hurting themselves.”
Icarum recognized some of the books that his father had given him as well. In addition to the many spell-recording books, there were legends and epic stories that Icarum loved. He was mesmerized by the sheer size of the library.
Rhozo noticed the expression on Icarum’s face and grinned, happy to discover that his grandson was an avid reader like himself.
“It took us five years to build this. The Sydurnians tried to burn all the books related to magic when they took over, so it was quite difficult to smuggle them out.”
Rhozo rolled up his sleeve, revealing a small watch wrapped around his wrist. He leaned over to check the time.
“Anyway, let’s get back on topic. As part of your training, you’ll research your spirit and your affinity. Once you have a basic understanding of your spirit’s power, you’ll be able to develop spells that you’re comfortable using.”
“I thought that there haven’t been any other Vultures in recorded history, though. How am I going to learn spells?”
Rhozo laughed. “Did you really think that all you needed to do was read books and steal spells from others?”
Rhozo shook his head. “These books serve as your foundation. There might not be many books about Vultures specifically, but there will be some about other birds with shadow affinities, like Crows.”
“And if you still can’t figure out what a Vulture’s power is from reading, you’ll just have to go into the wild to study Vultures on your own. A spirit’s power is often heavily based on the bird that the spirit represents.”
He led Icarum to the center of the library, where a short, middle-aged man was snoring on a rolling chair.
He poked the man with a cane to wake him up. “This is Master Gala. He’s in charge of the library and despite how he looks, he’ll be able to offer you some pretty good advice. If you have any questions, you can ask him.”
Still half-asleep, Master Gala raised his hand and waved at Icarum.
Before Icarum could finish his sentence, Rhozo had already made his way towards the exit. Icarum sighed.
“Do you have any books on Vultures?”
“So you’re the one that everyone’s talking about,” Master Gaza asserted. He stood up and sniffed Icarum’s clothes from head to toe, examining him closely.
Icarum froze, not sure how to respond.
“Did I forget to shower this morning or something?”
“No, not at all. My spirit’s a Kiwi, you see, and our noses are much better than our eyes.”
Icarum stared at Master Gaza awkwardly. “I see.”
“For someone who’s supposed to be a Vulture, you’re shockingly skinny. Though not as skinny as the older kids have been saying. They're all talking about how they’d definitely beat you in a fight.”
Unfortunately, Icarum knew that they were probably right. He could barely fight on the same level as Ilina, who wasn’t even using her magic against him.
“But now that you’re in front of me, I’m not too sure who’d win. Just give yourself around two years and I’m sure you’ll surpass them.”
“You can tell all of that with your nose?”
Master Gaza nodded. “This way.”
He jumped off his chair and made his way towards the west wing of the library. Thick books with black covers lined the shelves.
He pointed at a small bookshelf in the corner that held only three books.
“This is all we have about Vultures. It’s not much, but it should be pretty useful.”
Icarum came closer and glanced at the titles. Anatomy of a Vulture, Shadow Affinities, and History of Vulturus, he read.
“Well, if you need anything, you know where to find me.” Master Gaza waddled back to his seat in the center of the room and laid down on his chair. He placed a handkerchief on top of his eyes.
Icarum couldn’t help but laugh. He grabbed the books off the shelf, squatted down, and began to skim through their pages.
Most of the content was self-explanatory, with long paragraphs about how Vultures hunt and survive. Vultures were scavengers, and they’d often feed off of the carcasses of already dead animals.
And then there was the story of the god Vulturus, told in great detail in the third book. Since it never mentioned magic, Sydurnia didn’t find the story of Vulturus especially dangerous, so it was never banned. Icarum was already familiar with the story, but he re-read it nevertheless.
Fear and darkness. Scavenging after death. It seemed to Icarum as if these vague terms would serve as the basis for his power, but there was no surefire way to know for sure.
I guess I’ll just have to take that old man’s advice and study vultures in the wild, he thought.
No better way to learn a spell than through trial and error.