Fireballs Among Friends: Part One
The fire gleamed bright in Rasala's hand as she whispered the words of the spell that she was using to focus her power. The little flame twisted and spun in response to what the pink Bori was saying. She was trying to get the heat just right, the control good enough...
She pointed at the worktable she was using – there was a square chunk of cold wax sitting there, in the middle of a piece of paper. When she pointed, the wax melted, but the paper was unharmed.
Hah! It was all about the specificity of the spell – trying to melt the wax without distributing the heat to anything else around it. Such a spell had a myriad of applications if it could be replicated well – Rasala's original idea had been a stove that would cook the food, but whose sides would remain cool to keep children or Petpets safe.
There was a knock on the door of her workroom. She looked up. "Come in."
It was Alshemar of the Seventh Scroll, her former tutor and continued confidante. She was glad it was the tall blue Ogrin – she was in a plain dress with her hair braided back, hardly the image a First Mage of the Order should portray. And the dress had some scorches for earlier variations of the spell that hadn't gone so well. She commented, "There are whole libraries of fire magic, but it seems that most mages want it to burn up everything in its path. There's very little on actually controlling it."
He smiled. "When you have finished your work, there will not be so little, will there?" She smiled up at him in return. Then he asked, more seriously, "Have you heard what Grimjon is saying?"
Rasala took a deep breath through her teeth. "Hilda was here earlier, telling me about him." She scowled. "He's telling everyone that I'm too hot-headed, that while I served the order well as battle leader at the Obelisk I'm not the sort of First Mage that is needed for peacetime. Implying, of course, that that arrogant idiot is what's needed."
Alshemar said, "But you cannot say that before a general council. What can you state positively?"
Rasala nodded. She might have been a full mage, as she had been for years, but Alshemar still had a gift for putting her through training exercises. She thought about some of the ideas she'd had lately, trying to decide which would be the sort of interesting new platform that Grimjon would never be able to compete with. "I want to target our recruitment of new members, focusing on areas where we're currently underrepresented among the population of mages. That's a good peacetime objective."
Alshemar nodded and smiled. "Very good. You thought of that quickly. Is that an idea you've had recently?"
Rasala went to the back wall of her workroom – a map of Neopia took up the whole thing. She pointed. "The Lost Desert. All of the city-states, all of the tribes, some of the oldest traditions and scholarship of magic that are still in existence today – and all we have are three mages living in a mountain valley working on seeing-spells who never come to anything and Kijara in Sakhmet, who's so low in the hierarchy of the Sakhmet Mages' College that her belly's on the floor."
Alshemar said, with no small degree of alarm – which Rasala didn't consider entirely fair – "You've already got a specific person in mind, don't you."
Rasala nodded, and pointed at her map. "King Jazan of Qasala. He's one of the top five most powerful mortal mages in Neopia that's not already affiliated with the Order. And not only is he a powerful mage in his own right, he controls the manpower and resources of the Qasalan Mages' College – not one of whom has even officially corresponded with the Order, let alone considered joining."
Alshemar said, eyes narrowing, "You are far too intelligent, Rasala, to merely have forgotten the Order's long-standing ban on members who have been proven to have used black magic. Which King Jazan undoubtedly has."
Rasala said, "Under a curse. Much as poor Seradar did – with the Darkest Faerie possessing him, he didn't even know what he was doing, and he was drummed out of the Order! Now we have a powerful mage and a very good teacher living in a tower by himself in the borderlands between the Haunted Woods and Qasala where he's doing no harm but no good either, and Princess Roberta was so furious that the Order has been completely cut off from sharing the not-inconsiderable resources of the Greensward Guild."
Alshemar sighed. "Rasala, you were not yet born the last time an exception was made to that rule. It was thought that Morstena had been young, and confused, and badly led by a previous teacher, and that she hadn't truly understood her use of black magic."
Rasala had heard the story before. "The Lady of the Black Veil. I'd never known that she'd used black magic before her induction into the Order, though."
Alshemar said, "I remember it – I was merely beginning my apprenticeship at the time. Others were apprentices by the time she was ruined. Rasala, this will not gain you support among the Order should Grimjon force a vote."
Rasala looked through her papers and pulled out two letters. One bore the golden wax seal of the Altadorian Council, and the other was on paper that shimmered slightly. Alshemar's eyes widened. "You went to Fyora herself as a character reference?"
Rasala smiled proudly. "And Jerdana. They've both worked with King Jazan in the past, and both vouch for his trustworthiness. Their voices will be listened to." And now for the final evidence. "Have you heard that he's begun giving his oldest two children magic lessons? Kijara said they accidentally animated a statue of Coltzan the First during their last state visit to Sakhmet."
Alshemar frowned. "What does that have to... oh." His eyes widened – he'd seen it! "His oldest two children – they're twins! Twin mages..."
Twin mages were rare – and incredibly valuable. Even if they were weak talents on their own, something about the resonance of their combined magic gave them sheer power almost equal to that of a Faerie when they worked as one. She said, "And if King Jazan is convinced to join the order – or, at the very least, to let us into Qasala – not only do we have him, the Qasalan Mages' College, and one of the oldest magical libraries in Neopia, we also gain the opportunity to make a good impression on two young people who are going to grow up to be extremely powerful."
She took the letters back as Alshemar said thoughtfully, "I hadn't yet heard that the prince and princess were mages. That could make the difference to the others."
Rasala rolled her eyes. "Oh, it's all the same. Appeal to altruism, appeal to the rights of other mages, and they'll be falling asleep in their chairs. Talk about what they could gain from it, and you have all ears." She kept thinking. "And if they decide that the letters and the twins are worth making an exception for, then that'll be a change in the bylaws, that exceptions can be made. And it'll be a change under my name, which will cut Grimjon off at the knees."
Alshemar leaned against the wall, smiling under his thick beard. "You insult them, and yet plan how to keep your position as First Mage in the same speech."
Rasala gave him a level look. "If I had a Neopoint for every time I heard you complain about the 'old bores' in the Order during my apprenticeship... the whole point of the Order is that together we become more than a bunch of cross-grained or scatterbrained old mages who couldn't agree on what to have for breakfast. We become a force to be reckoned with – a force with considerable power, that can be used to make life better for everyone in Neopia. I want to do everything possible to make sure that enough mages of good intent have the resources and the backup to prevent mages from going dark in the first place, and if they do, to keep them from hurting anyone. We don't want to be exclusive, hiding in our towers. We want regular Neopians to think of the Order of the Red Erisim the way they do the Defenders of Neopia – as people who are here to help."
Alshemar said, "I'd merely leave out the Defenders of Neopia reference... there are too many people in the Order that I don't want to envision in those sorts of costumes. Good luck, Rasala. I'll be in touch."
Rasala nodded, and he walked back out the door – he always preferred to appear and disappear outside. He said that disappearing in the middle of a room was no more polite than jumping out the window. Since she had his support, she'd clean up and go to Qasala. She wanted to have Jazan's agreement before she announced everything to the Council – if this wasn't complete, she wouldn't look like the decisive First Mage that she wished to be.
She hadn't told Alshemar about the actual contents of the letters, though. Fyora had been circumspect, merely stating that she would certainly recommend Jazan for the Order... should he wish to join. And Rasala didn't think she was imagining the hesitation, given what Jerdana had said. But while he is a good man, I've met friendlier Werhonds. When you ask, he may merely tell you to go kiss a Meepit. (He'll be more polite. Slightly.)
Rasala decided not to worry. The Order was good. What sort of mage wouldn't like to work with the Order if given the chance? King Jazan was the unofficial leader of the Qasalan Mages' College, even though some mage whose name Rasala couldn't remember actually carried the title – surely he would like the idea of someone else to turn to should his own strength fall short. Someone to keep him from having to face the darkness alone. Rasala was glad of it – glad that she had Ganfrey, Hilda, Belisarius, Alshemar, and all the other companions and partners in magic who had become her friends, even if they came at the price of having people like Grimjon, Yvenya, and Miskal as well.
As she fetched her formal, First-Mage-of-the-Order robes, she decided to stop at Hilda's before she transported herself to Qasala, so someone would know where she was. She'd have this business done by supper, and be rested and able to transport herself back to her tower tomorrow morning. She wished she were as good at transportation spells as Alshemar, but few people could zip all over Neopia without taking some time in between to eat and rest.
But even with needing a night's sleep, this shouldn't take too long. She was certain that King Jazan would want to join the Order, so how hard could this possibly be?
To be continued...