[Story] Character of the Week – Harvian

[[ Harvian is an asenji (fox) wizard from my fantasy setting, Ka’arthadia. He’s been in several stories, traveling with Tamazi the uhl kiraal (lioness), but I’m not sure yet exactly how I want their story to end. I also don’t fully know his background, but I do know that he serves Lakahari, the Lady of Illusions. So here’s a story from when he was just a wee apprentice! ]]

The asenji stared intently at the crystal, magical energy crackling over the surface of his fur and tingling his whiskers. He heard the voice of his instructor in his head — to affect a physical object by way of magic, you must transfer the energy from yourself onto it. Simple in theory, but like most magic, much more complicated in practice. Changing color was one of the simplest of illusions, why was he having so much trouble with it? Harvian narrowed his eyes, peering closely at the crystal. Did it look more blue, or was it just wishful thinking? He sat back in his chair with a sigh of exasperation.

He massaged his temples, picking up the book again. Maybe there was something he’d missed, some word he was saying wrong or a step he’d skipped. He was still ahead of most of the others in his class, but that didn’t make him feel much better. He was meant for this, he could feel it. With enough practice, he was certain it would come to him. Harvian just wished it would come a little sooner. The words and symbols swam on the page before his eyes — it was no use pushing himself any further tonight. He was exhausted, and one could hardly perform spells in that state.

The sharp sound of breaking glass echoed through the hallway. Harvian peered out of the doorway of his study alcove to see Nasir, an older student, hastily gathering up the broken shards of a bottle. He blinked in surprise at seeing Harvian.

“Uh, sorry about that,” said Nasir, scooping the shards up in a bucket. “I didn’t know anyone else was here.” His ears twitched nervously.

“You aren’t hurt, are you?” Harvian asked. He could see a few small cuts on the older student’s paws, but they didn’t look too serious. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I break those all the time.”

Nasir spared a half-grin as he collected the last of the shards. “Heh, yeah. I did too, I guess.” He still seemed anxious, but maybe he’d just been startled by Harvian’s presence. Normally students weren’t allowed in the study alcoves this late, but no one had come by to shoo him out, so Harvian had kept working.

Curiosity tugged at the corners of Harvian’s mind as he watched the older student. “What were you working on? I mean, if you’re allowed to say.”

Nasir’s grin widened, showing the tips of his teeth. “You want to see?”

“Yes!” Harvian knew he sounded like an over-eager apprentice, but that’s what he was, right?

They stepped into the study alcove that Nasir had been working in. He hid the bucket with the broken bottle behind the door for the time being. All of the student rooms that Harvian had been in were tidy and utilitarian — they had a work bench as well as a cabinet stocked with magical supplies and reagents. Some of them had a sparse bookshelf with a few outdated books on them, but not all. This room was cluttered with notes and papers, things pinned to the wall, diagrams and formulas and scraps of incantations. The desk itself was hardly visible underneath the mountain of books, jars, and papers. There were bundles of herbs drying from the ceiling beams, a collection of feathers in one corner, and cobwebs in another.

“Gosh,” said Harvian.

Nasir moved to the desk and shoved enough books and things aside to reveal a small open space. He took another bottle from the shelf and set it there.

“Okay, watch closely. It’s empty, right?”

Harvian leaned in to inspect the bottle. Aside from some water spots, he couldn’t see anything unusual. It was a clear glass bottle, just like the ones in all of the supply cupboards.

“Now, watch,” demanded Nasir, and the bottle seemed to fill with a thick blue smoke, swirling and churning against the glass walls. Tiny figures seemed to emerge, no larger than insects, though they had arms and legs like animals. The longer that Harvian looked, the more seemed to appear, teeming within the confines of the bottle.

“Let them out!” gasped Harvian. As he said so, Nasir laughed and waved his hand over the top — the entire crowd dissipated in a wisp of the magical smoke.

“It’s not real. Just a little thing I’ve been working on.”

Harvian stared at Nasir. “You made that up? By yourself?”

The older asenji cocked an ear back and shrugged a little. “Not entirely. Good inspiration helps.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Nasir said, glancing out the doorway. “You’re not going to learn the good stuff here. Sure, you can learn simple illusions and color-change charms, but the stuff that’ll really mess with your mind? You have to go to the source.”

Harvian looked at him blankly. “The source?”

“The Lady of Illusions herself. Surprised you haven’t heard others mention her–”

“I have.” Harvian piped up. “We’re not allowed–”

“And why do you think that is?” Nasir demanded. “Because they’re trying to keep it from you. They don’t want you to be better than they are.”

Harvian frowned, considering this. “Is that really why?”

“And, I mean, it’s too dangerous for a lot of people. She’ll only teach the best.”

Harvian was the best, he was certain of that. Maybe not just yet, but he would be. And soon. Could the Lady of Illusions help him? He’d heard a lot of stories, but he couldn’t be sure just what was true and what wasn’t. Harvian had the feeling that’s the way she preferred it. While she lived far to the south, he knew one of her temples wasn’t far from here. At the very least, he could find out for himself just what she was all about.

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