There is no better sleeping draught than a horrifying adventure that ended well. No wonder Kangassk slept like a log until midday. The first thing he saw when he woke up was the familiar grey-and-silver tome of the “Contemplations about the nature of magic”. Last time it sported a candy wrapper in place of a bookmark, now it was an arrow with striped fletching, from Kangassk’s own quiver. Sereg must have been running out of candy.
Next to the book, was a tray with breakfast: a pile of puffy, steaming pancakes and a saucer of jam. Vlada must’ve sent this, who else. Kangassk still couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a powerful ancient mage being so human when it came to simple things. It was almost like she was younger than Sereg. Was she? Kangassk thought about a lot of things as he gobbled the pancakes. It helped to keep the scary, demon-related thoughts at bay. Later, Kangassk tried to find Vlada to say his thanks for the breakfast but both she and her gloomy friend were nowhere to be seen. Their tent was empty.
Kangassk shrugged and returned to his place. He tried to read the grey tome to learn more about the dvoedushnik phenomena. With the easy prologue having been read days ago, the newest wordlholders’ apprentice had to deal with the complicated scientific text now; there was no escape. No wonder that in half an hour, the late morning dizziness in his head turned into a full-scale headache. Kangassk had to put the book aside and address the problem; luckily, he knew how. He wasn’t completely ignorant in ways of magic, after all.
Little Kan was a curious child and, since the traders passing through Aren-Castell were the only people who would willingly speak to him, he learned from them, and learned a lot. The knowledge Kangassk collected from the traders over the years was his precious, hidden treasure stash. There were stories and songs, tips and tricks, basics of swordplay and dance, and one simple magic spell with a weak painkilling effect. The spell weak enough not to explode in Aren-Castell, close to No Man’s Land, but strong enough to deal with a headache. Just perfect!
Kangassk concentrated his thoughts, raised his hand to his brow and began the silent incantation...
Vladislava found her apprentice in his tent, deep in thought. The thick “smell” of magic was in the air. Someone had been busy…
“Are you okay, Kan?” asked Vlada.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “May I ask a stupid question?”
“I had a headache and decided to deal with it with that one spell I know. I’ve been using it since I was little and it has always worked…”
“Has something changed now?” Vlada sat on the floor next to Kan and gave him a curious look. A very well played childishly curious look.
“No, it did work, just not the way I expected it to.” A why smile appeared on his face. “Ah, never mind… I don’t want you to laugh at me…”
“I won’t laugh!” promised the mighty lady of the South and Kan believed her.
“Well… there had always been this warmth flowing through the fingers, it was what soothed the pain. Today, it was a slight chill instead. For the first time in all the fifteen years I’ve been using the spell.”
“Ah, that! I’ll explain,” said Vlada with an approving nod. “You’ve never been to the North before and never studied magic properly, so you didn’t know about the stabilizer effect. Your painkiller spell is one of the thermal spells, the stabilizer effect affects them a lot. It doesn’t change the spell itself though. Your headache did go away, right?”
“See: the spell itself works as it should. The stabilizer effect can be crucial for casting other spells, though. For example, in the South, almost everyone can light a fire with magic, it’s that easy. In the North, though, you’d have to be a pretty good mage to do the same. Overcoming the stabilizer effect to get your way will cost you in terms of skills and energy but it’s doable. I’ll teach you when you’re ready.”
“I wanted a word with you, it’s about the vitryanik,” said Vlada, “but it can wait… You surprised me, Kan. I had no idea you could cast spells!”
“Just one,” he shrugged. “It’s nothing…” He couldn’t help remembering little Zanna’s disappointment as he said that.
“No-no-no!” Vlada waved both her hands in the air in protest. “This is important! It means I can give you another spell, something that shares a thermal element with this one and you’ll be able to learn it. With even more elements learned, adding the next spell will be even easier, and so on. The beginning is the hardest part. Once it’s set, the rest is like rolling up a ball of yarn. You still don’t get it, huh? What if I told you that some mages graduate from the University before casting their very first spell? And that some of them never cast it at all and have to remain theoreticians? Every road begins with a first step. It’s the hardest thing but once it’s done, all you have to do is walk. Now imagine me thinking hard about how to help you make the first step and suddenly learning that you made it a long time ago! Whew... You know what? I’m going to teach you a new spell right away!”