Kimen hurredly walked up to the door to Edmunds home and knocked. It had been a long time since the child had a magic lesson and she felt that she was due for one. She hadn't been slacking on her studies though, in fact she wanted to show Ariel some of the things she had learned recently.
Ariel's voice could be heard through the house as you knocked. After a few long, awkward moments, the door opened with a gust of wind and Ariel was there rubbing his neck. "Very sorry, Kimen. Master Edmund is a bit... groggy at the moment. He should be here in a minute or two."
Without any pause, Edmund walked up, bags under his eyes and his knuckles white from how firmly he was clutching his staff. When he noticed you he relaxed. "Okay, it is you. Hello, Kimen, please come in. Sorry, I haven't been getting much sleep and I wasn't expecting anyone today." He opened the door wider and beckoned you inside.
"Good morning Mr. Ariel! And Good morning Mr. Edmund." Kimen smiled at the two of them in greeting before his expression became that of concern after looking at Edmund. Had the man been expecting someone else? "Are you okay, Mr. Edmund? You don't look like you are doing very well." Kimen asked, stepping through the door, "Did I come at a bad time?"
Edmund shook his head. "Not at all, not at all. I've just been in and out a lot, and setting up a few things. Nothing to concern yourself about." Edmund Stretched and rubbed his eyes. After that, he resumed as his usual, though somewhat forced this time, dignified pose. "Did you come for a lesson or is there something you wished to discuss? I'm available either way."
Despite Edmunds assurance, Kimen couldn't help but still be a little concerned, "Well, we haven't had any lessons in a while Mr. Edmund so I was hoping we could have another one. I also read a little more of Mr. Kent's book since the last time I talked to you." She glanced towards Ariel smiling proudly, "I have also been practicing my cloud formations Mr. Ariel and I wanna show you what I can do now sometime, okay?"
Edmund raised a brow at Ariel, who proceeded to do a casual loop de loop in the air and land halfway to the gound on his back, reclining on the air. "...Well. That's... strange. But alright." Edmund lead Kimen through the kitchen and sat down when he had two simple glasses of icewater. "I don't know about clouds, but what happened in the book? I'm certainly curious about more of my family's beliefs."
Kimen took a seat and tried to recall the two stories she had read in Mr. Kents book. "The first one I read was called The Story of Darnius. He was a warlord who almost managed to rule the world. He came to a kingdom of a place called Our Lord and he was worried about their divine faith, so he asked for help from a demon named Ixion to get the um... 'firey passion and strength' to defeat them. Ixion agreed to help him, but the result was that his armies had all burned to death."
"If anything that teaches you to flower your words more carefully I guess." Edmund shrugged. It sounded rather similar to every other tale he heard about demons, them twisting deals until it benefitted only them. "...But I don't think the place was called 'our Lord.' I think it just means that it was a very religious and faithful kingdom."
Kimen had to admit that that part did kind of confuse him a little. "Oh." The child simply said in response to their mistake. "I doubt he would have lasted long regardless of if he had succeeded or not. People generally don't like those who conquer them. And I doubt every single person in his armies could be one hundred percent loyal to him." The child tilted his head up as he reviewed the story in his head again, eventually he looked a little confused. "Hey, Mr. Edmund... What do you think of Ixion in this story? Mr. Kent always believed demons were bad, but didn't the demon kind of help by preventing Darnius from succeeding and therefore save that religious and faithful kingdom? er... Well he did kill a lot of people so that is not entirely a good thing either but..."
Edmund scratched his head. "Part of the problem that I had with religious texts is that they often seem to have different purposes and I'm not even sure if they're true." Edumund took a drink from his water before continuing. "Going on the theory that this is true, I'd assume it was because, in the end, Ixion only wanted to be left alone, and so he attacked the person who bothered him.-- However, if this story was made up, I'd assume that it would was a message about how those who keep faith will be protected and survive, and those who seek demonic power will in the end be lead to ruin." Edmund shrugged. "But I am only speculating."
"True or not, they don't seem to be any different than the book of fables and stories I read when I first came here. I mean, they try to teach children lessons and books like this seem to try to teach you lessons too. But they are a bit different. Where the children's stories are a lot simpler, Mr. Kent's book of stories is a little more complicated. Maybe even more adult. And maybe it doesn't matter if it is true or not, it just wants you to think about the stories it contains." Kimen took out Mr. Kent's book and started to flip through the pages trying to find the next story. "If Ixion really wanted to be left alone he could have just killed Darnius on the spot and send whoever was with him at the time back with the message rather than agreeing to help him, right? it seems a bit strange."
Edmund nodded. "Reasons always seem strange or irrational. What's also odd, is that Darnius himself didn't die in the story. He survived to see the error of his actions. But, if he was as ruthless of a warlord as the story implies, he could easily go back and exact revenge on the demon with another army." Edmund shook his head. "Maybe having you read this was a mistake. I now remember why I never believed it."
Finding the title of the next story, Kimen closed the book, wrapping her arms around it. "I doubt it, Mr. Edmund. Maybe the entire intention was for Darnius to see the error of his actions. And I doubt his life after the incident would have been a good or long one. As I said before, people who are conquered generally don't like their conqueror. He would have had a hard time raising another army because of that, and because of what happened to the last army that at his command. Not to mention how scary the scene probably was. Attacking the demon could have met with the same or worse results." Kimen squeezed the book in her arms tightly, "I don't want to stop reading this book, Mr. Edmund. You said to know this book was to know Mr. Kent! And this was something Mr. Kent loved too!"
Edmund rubbed his neck at Kimen's reaction to the statement. "I sometimes forget how loyal you were to him. It's a good trait of being a knight. He trained you well." Edmund leaned back and took another drink from his glass. "Was there another thing you wanted to discuss? I don't mind keeping my mind off of other business for you. It's refreshing, honestly."
Kimen looked down at the floor, still holding the book protectively in his arms feeling a twinge of sadness. "Mr. Kent was a good person. A little misguided sometimes, but he was always trying to do what he believed was right. I kind of admired him for that. He always looked out for me and tried to keep me safe. He didn't even want me to become his squire when I asked him. But he still taught me. I disappointed him, made him uncomfortable with my magic, frustrated him, made him angry... And I regret that. But he never pushed me away...what I am trying to say is Mr. Kent was important to me because of all of that. If you think I am loyal to Mr. Kent, it is because of those things and not because of his training. He was like a father to me." Kimen took in a deep breath, "Anyway, there is another story that I read if you want to discuss that? Or we could save it for another time."
Edmund nodded sadly. "If you ask me, we should probably move onto magic then. You probably need to keep your mind off of things, or else we both might end up in a downward spiral. He was my friend too. Only other person from my home." Edmund stood up. "If there are no objections, the next lesson I have prepared is a continuation of last time. Counterspelling."
"I am glad you two had a chance to become closer. I am sure he was happy to have a good friend like you." Kimen tucked the book back into a pocket where it was safe and stood up, deciding not to say anything else on the subject for fear of upsetting him. "Will we be doing this the same place as last time?"
Edmund nodded. "What's the use of having a basement if you're never going to use it? Besides, this way I'm going to have access to my supplies in case one of us gets hurt." Edmund began walking down to the basement, under the assumption Kimen would follow. It was the same as last time, though it felt less empty. Obviously, Edmund had removed the runes that were preventing mana.
When Kimen arrived, Edmund put down his staff and took a deep breath. "How I developed counterspelling was based on how I needed to siphon mana in the first place. Instead of letting someone else's spell go off, you attempt to harness the mana they're using. Essentially, it's the same as last time, but this time the subject doesn't comply with it beforehand."
"In other words, you are basically taking the other person's spell and making it your own?" Kimen asked, hopping off of the final step and onto the basement floor after Edmund, "Could it also have other practical uses?"
"In a sense, yes. Generally, all you have time to do is try to redirect the mana somewhere else, whether it be outward or back towards the original spellcaster, but I suppose with practice you could take the entire spell." Edmund raised an eyebrow at you. "The basic concept of mana siphoning has many practical uses... this one I'm not sure out of concept. Though I'm wondering your thoughts now."
To Kimen the idea didn't sound too difficult. The mana was already there, it was all a matter of directing it elsewhere. At its most basic, maybe it would be like someone throwing a ball. You could get hit by it, catch it and throw it back, or send it elsewhere. Though no doubt that this was not a ball they were dealing with here and it would likely take a little more practice and concentration. "Well, like lets say it wasn't a persons spell but your own that you are working on. And something went wrong and it was out of control." Kimen tapped his chin with his finger as he thought about it. "You would usually try to break down the spell, but that destroys the magic. If instead you could use the magic that is already out of control there is a possibility that maybe, though with some difficulty, you could use this to bring a spell back under control."
Edmund stood still for a moment. "I never really considered that. If that's the case, multiple people could work on the same spell. I mean, I never tried it, but I'd assume you could make an incredibly powerful effect that way." Edmund thought a bit. "I always personally saw magic as an independent act, so, I apologies for my inexperience there. I'm the master that I might like to think I am."
Kimen nodded, "Group spells were generally meant for the older students, and usually reserved for really, really talented mages too. I didn't really pay much attention when they were discussed though. My education was set up in a way that I would have the knowledge and skills needed to travel with my brothers so I wasn't going into that branch of study." Kimen admitted, she really didn't know much about the topic.
Edmund nodded. "Well, you did very well with the last lesson, so I doubt that this will cause any trouble for you." Edmund twisted his wrist in an odd gesture, and what seemed like little more than a harmless snowball flew over Kimen's head and splattered against the wall behind him. "See the gesture I made? If you can tell someone is casting a spell, then you have a few seconds to counter it."
Kimen flinched and dodged instinctively as the snowball shot past his head and hit the wall. While it was only a spell, it was difficult not to do so when you saw something suddenly come flying at you. "I'll watch out for the next one you cast then."
Edmund nodded. He held out his hand, twisted his wrist, and began casting the spell. Kimen only had a few seconds before another snowball flew over their head.
Kimen took a deep breath, keeping an eye on Edmund as he started casting. The child was at first a little lost as to what she should do, and as the snowball came flying towards her she held her hand out, extending her mana out to catch it in air, but rather than stop it, she allowed it to advance. She mentally willed its path to change and as a result the snowball arced downward after passing over her head, and then curved back around her body picking up in speed. Her other hand came up as she guided it back onto a new path straight for Mr. Edmund.
Edmund was caught off guard and was hit with the tiny snowball, and brushed off the white flakes after its impact. "Well, that was... certainly impressive, I'll say. Redirecting already cast spells was something that I wanted to do with you later." Edmund regained his posture and smiled at Kimen, "But the goal here is to prevent the spell from being cast by manipulating the mana that the spellcaster is currently using while casting it. In a fight, redirection can save your life, but if you can feedback the mana before it's used, you might stop a fight before it starts."
Kimen frowned, then nodded to Edmund. "Alright Mr. Edmund. I'll try to do it right this time." So the task was to take the mana that was currently being used for casting. In other words, steal it from the user as it was being pooled into the spell? But the question was, what should he do with the mana afterwards? Feeling a little unsure Kimen took in a deep breath, "Ready."
Edmund nodded. "Very well. Focus. It's just like it was with Ariel, you just need to pull a little harder." He held out his hand, and began focusing his mana for another small snowball.
Kimen concentrated, picking up on the mana that Edmund was drawing together in his casting, she needed only to take that mana away from him before he finished. The child held up her hand and mentally reached out to it until she felt her hold on the magic there. Wasting no time, she tried to pulled it to her, snatching away a good chunk of the mana that was there but not all of it. From there she simply dispersed the amount she had gathered to scatter across the rest of the room harmlessly, though the air took on a bit of a chill as a result.
Edmund smiled with satisfaction. "And that is counterspelling," he said, "Or, at least the basics of it. Eventually, you'll develop the reflexes to do that against spellcasters that manifest their effects quickly. But, for now, you've done what I can teach you on the subject." He eyes Kimen though, inquisitively. "Though, your ability to manipulate spells after they're cast without practice beforehand is still very good. Perhaps you can do more with that than I can."
Kimen smiled, "We learned how to take control of spells rather early in our lessons back home just so we could protect ourselves if one got out of hand. It was kind of like a game of hot-potato but with water usually." Kimen rubbed the back of his neck, and laughed "Would you believe me if I told you I lost those games a lot at first?"
Edmund shook his head in amusement. "I would not, honestly. You seem very naturally gifted," he said. He rolled his shoulders back into a more relaxed position. "What training have you had beforehand, if I might ask? Magic-wise, I mean. I know Sir Kent wouldn't have been much help."
"The basics, magic identification and reading, accident avoidance, various earth and air spells, some protection spells but... I didn't pay as much attention during that since around that time I started skipping ahead on my own and started learning how to do patch jobs and forming my own spells. It wasn't too long after that I ended up having to leave school. I tried to keep up with my spell studies for a while but um... I had a few other things I needed to worry about at the time." Kimen explained hoping Edmund wouldn't enquire as to why she had to leave, "I rather liked learning the spells I wanted to learn on my own. And when I came to cleft I had a chance to learn quite a few more and experiment a bit."
Edmund nodded, grabbing his staff once more. He seemed more comfortable with it in hand. "Indeed. I can understand that sentiment. In a world where many followed the teachings of the Liber Aurum, it was hard to find times to practice. I feel like I too have improved here." He glanced at Kimen for a moment. "Though, I'm sure you had a slight advantage, having materials to study instead of personal experimentation. My materials have been limited."
"When I fell into the Cleft I thought I was just in a different place of my own world at first. But in a lot of ways its better! This world provides a wonderful opportunity to learn just about anything you are interested in. Its a great place to take advantage of your curiosity and it is perfectly acceptable to" Kimen replied happily.
Edmund smiled. "It's good to see that there are many here who have adjusted well. But, I will say, I never intended to stay. I just have found recently that I can't leave either." Edmund shrugged, but his hand clutched his staff tighter. "But one must work with what one is given."
"Yeah, there was a lot of important things I needed to be doing back home. Though getting away from some of it was a bit of a relief. I was pretty shocked when I learned I was never going back." Kimen admitted, looking down at the floor and rubbing with her shoe. "All I can do is hope that everything is okay back home."
Edmund was a bit uncomfortable with the statement, but didn't say anything to directly respond to it. He leaned into the wooden staff as he tried to relax. "I should probably mention that I will be leaving in a couple of days. Those adventurers I've been hiring? It turns out what I thought is true. Demon worshipers are on the rise. So, I'm building a guild hall in Mandala."
"Mandala?" Kimen looked up, trying to remember where he had heard of that place before. "That would be... somewhere north of here right? I think I remember reading somewhere that Mandala was in a mountain range in Guardia."
Edmund nodded. "It was in fact Sir Kent's organization. If he was still alive, I would accept him with open arms, even if my father didn't." He smiled back at Kimen. "Feel free to come whenever you would like. There will be room, and protection."
"I bet Mr. Kent would have been pleased. He was a little misguided sometimes, but he was good at what he did." Though Kimen was still smiling, the child's expression seemed to hold a little bit of sadness to it. "I'll come visit you when you have everything set up."
Edmund nodded. "I look forward to it." With a long sigh, he looked back at the stairs, as if he was waiting for something. "Is there anything else you would like to discuss?" he said, growing somewhat worried.
"Not at the moment, Mr. Edmund." The child answered, then tilted his head to the side and looked at the man quizzically, wondering if he was waiting for some sort of guest to arrive. Kimen didn't want to take up his time if that was the case, but Edmund looked a bit concerned.
"Nothing," Edmund said, "I've just been paranoid lately. People that I don't want to see. I don't want you to get involved in it too much."
When Edmund finished speaking, Ariel manifested next to him frantically. "Master Edmund! You told me to tell you if she arrived." "WHAT!?" "Yes! I didn't expect her to show up again. There's something about you, Master." Edmund gripped his staff and began walking towards the stairs, before he was cut off.
"Oh my dear Earl of Gloucester?" the charming voice of a woman could be heard. Heels clicked against the stairs as an attractive woman in an elegant black dress appeared. She smiled affectionately at Edmund, who glanced at you uncomfortably. The woman followed his gaze. "And who's your friend?" she asked with a teasing smile.
Kimen looked confused by Edmundís reaction at first, however after a moment things started to sink in. It appeared Edmund WAS expecting company. Kimen put on a smile for the woman, "Hello, my name is Kimen. Mr. Edmund was just giving me a magic lesson. I wasn't aware he was expecting company." She looked to Edmund, smile growing a little wider, "You should have told me you were waiting for your girlfriend to show up, Mr. Edmund. I could have come back later."
Edmund grit his teeth, but kept his mouth shut as he tried to hide it. With a deep breath, he went back to seeming calm and collected. If he knew anything, it was how to put on an act. "Yes well... she shows up unexpectedly. So, I didn't exactly know she was coming." He turned back to her. "Hello, Goneril."
Goneril did not waste a moment to take advantage of the situation. She strutted over to Edmund casually and wrapped her arm around his, kissing his cheek. "No need to be so surprised, Love. But don't worry. I'll behave myself." She winked at him and turned back to Kimen, resting her head on his shoulder. "I didn't mean to interrupt anything, Kimen, I'm sorry. You're studying magic? Edmund is very talented. You'll learn a lot."
"Oh! Don't worry, we had just finished so really you weren't interrupting anything, ma'am." Kimen answered the woman. She seemed rather nice as well as polite, it was hard not to like her for that. "And yes, I am studying magic under Edmund since I have been having a little bit of difficulty with the subject lately. He has been very helpful."
"Is that right?" Goneril asked, looking at Edmund. She nuzzled his neck with her nose playfully and then pulled away from him. She walked over to you and ruffled the child's hair. "If my little Gloucester does anything mean to you, you'll tell me right?" Goneril winked at you as she teased.
"Yes, ma'am." Kimen laughed, after the woman ruffled her hair, "Though I doubt it will be necessary. I don't think Edmund has a single mean bone in his body!" The child glanced at the stairs, then back to Edmund. "I guess I should get going then? I don't want to hold you two lovebirds up~" Kimen giggled, giving him a wink.
Edmund gave a lighthearted chuckle at Kimen. "Yes, yes, I suppose so." He looked slyly at Goneril. "After all, I won't see much of her after I move to Mandala."
Goneril was surprisingly stunned for a moment by that statement. Then her lips crept back up to a michevious grin. "Hiding, are we?" She walked back over and kissed him on the lips. "Don't worry. I'll find a way to come up and visit." she once again locked her arms around his, "You know me, Edmund. I always find a way."
Kimen's smile faded as he stared at the two of them. After watching them, and listening to their exchange, the child was just now picking up that something was a little off here. And for a moment he wasn't sure if he should try to address it or not. Maybe it would be better to talk to Mr. Edmund later. The child's expression brightened, "I'll come and see you too! And maybe one of these days I'll get to visit with you more, Ms. Goneril! It was a pleasure meeting you!" The child rushed to the stairs, then turned looking at Edmund, head tilting a little bit as he waved, a mild bit of concern and confusion behind his smile. "Thank you again, Mr. Edmund."
Edmund nodded to Kimen. "I'll try to keep our lessons going," he said. As Kimen left and he heard the door, Edmund pulled away from Goneril. The demoness laughed playfully, and began to walk up the stairs. "Where are you going?"
"I'm fixing myself a drink, Love. I might as well get comfortable." Goneril responded. She continued walking, and Edmund soon followed after. "I have to say, my timing was perfect." She poured a glass of wine and offered another to Edmund when he arrived behind her.
Edmund took the glass reluctantly. "Why involve Kimen?" he asked, taking a sip. He was caught off guard. This tasted different. Did she bring her own wine?
"Simple. I want you," she said. She took a long drink of the wine, much more than should be properly done at one time. "As rumor spreads of your involvement with me, your allies will turn on you. You're already untrustworthy, a sorcerer with ties to demons. One little push and you'll be all alone." She finished her glass next drink and smiled wickedly at Edmund. "And then I'll have you all to myself."