The local temple was a step above the surrounding buildings, it’s exterior built from what seemed to be solid marble, which despite the efforts of both heaven and earth it’s exterior had remained spotless, as if the temple rejected the very idea of dirt. The inside, however, was much less simple. Statues of various gods decorated the halls, each one fully clothed in mysterious silks and metals, and beneath each of their likenesses a plague was inscribed into the stone, detailing their names and their jobs. Covering the floor of the temple was a tapestry that, like the rest of the temple would neither get dirty nor would it tear no matter how much it was walked on, stomped on, or even pulled, a fact demonstrated by Lana. As my attention drifted away from the floor and the walls, my vision drifted to the ceiling, which was covered by a beautiful painting that seemed to detail the travels of a certain hero, which I followed for a while, until I almost ran into a door trying to find the next scene, earning myself a few silent chuckles from James, and outright laughter from Lana.
“Are you really that engrossed in all this?” Lana asked after a while.
“Yeah,” I said, finding it hard to tear my eyes away from the countless wonders that decorated the surroundings, “I mean… It’s all so beautiful.”
“Beautiful?” came a third voice, “Well, I’m pleased to find someone finds the place so. Maybe you could take over for me, and I’ll transfer over to the Tower of Belyon, of even Zuel. Now those are some beautiful temples.”
Turning around, I was greeted by a kind-faced man in a priests garb. His hair was covered by a short, cylindrical hat, though tiny wisps of caramel hair still managed to sneak through. His eyes were a light blue, and between them sat a snub nose, upon which was a tiny pair of spectacles that seemed to remain level despite a seeming lack of support from anything that was not his nose.
“Argus, ‘ts naice te see yer,” James said, patting the man on the back, “We were wand’rin if ye could give th’ kid an appraisal?”
“So that’s what it is,” Argus said, sighing, “I guess I could, though it would be nice if…” He cast a hopeful glance at James.
“Nat happenin Argus,” James growled, “Yeh know how busy we are. Ahm surprised we make it ter Devan at all sometimes.”
“Fine. It was worth a shot,” Argus said, then looked at me and motioned with his hand, “Come boy, we’ll get you sorted out quickly.”
I followed him through a maze of corridors, each hallway more complicated than the last, until we finally reached a golden door that stood out against the white surroundings. It bore the image of two lions, fighting over a blood red gem that spanned the lengths of both doors, acting like a sort of lock, and from it emanated a sense of dread and bloodlust, as if the jewel was willing itself to break, even if only one of it’s shards would cause us pain.
“This is our sanctuary,” Argus said, “Wait here a sec, I’ll, er, deactivate the curse.”
Argus raised his hand, and chanted, “Behold, for I have found great evil. My lord, I ask thee, give me the power to vanquish the darkness. Blessing!” Then, from his hand sprang countless beams of light that all seemed to fly straight toward the gem. As the lights hit the gem, it’s surface seemed to ripple like water, and it slowly shrunk until a handle could be seen protruding from the door.
“Quickly now, boy,” Argus said, “The curse is gone so now you can, er, grab the latch.”
“My name is Allen,” I said, grabbing the latch and pulling the door open.
“Ah yes, er, sorry, Allen. Anyways,” Argus said, clearly eager to move away from names, “There’s a circle in the middle of the room. All you, er, have to do is sit in the center, channel mana into it, and then no matter how, er, weak your stream is, it’ll tell you what brand of magic Lord Aphoth has blessed you with.
I was beginning to see why James and Lana seemed to detest this place.
I walked into the sanctuary, a small, dark room with barely enough space to fit a man lying on his back. Spanning the entire floor of the room, was a circular pattern of runes and sigils that, despite being carved into the floor, rotated across the floor, each layer moving contrary to the two beside it. In the center of the entire circle was an image of a familiar hawk, barely large enough for a grown man to stand on. As I stepped into the center, light began to filter through the floor, illuminating the runes in an infinite amount of colors and intensities.
After a while, the particles of light that had been floating upward suddenly zoomed toward the center of my hand, rearranging themselves into the form of a ball, which floated into the center of my chest, as if was some sort of round ghost. All of a sudden, I felt a roaring pain, as it my nerves were repeatedly tearing themselves apart then putting themselves together with molten steel.
A banging sound echoed throughout the chamber, and i opened my eyes, groggily.
“Allen! Do you hear me?”
“Ghh… Lana?” I groaned.
“Allen! Open the door!”
I stood up, weakly, and looked around for the exit. On each wall was a magic circle, this time, instead of being carved, it was made of a pale yellow light that formed lines and circles that all traced back to a single, central circle that bore the image of an eye. Reaching out to one, I tried to move it, however it immediately shattered, emitting a loud sound, as if someone had dropped a wine glass on a stone floor.
“Allen! What was that?”
I reached again towards the wall, remembering the door that had opened to accept me. I willed myself forward, towards Lana, towards ‘home’.
The world suddenly faded to black, and lit again in the colors of the church.
I looked up to see Lana and James standing above me, and Argus a ways behind them. However, they were somehow… different. Lana was suddenly dressed in an ornamental suit of armor to match her knife, which had shifted into a beautiful golden longsword with gems all the way down the center. James, on the other hand was dressed simply, wearing a plain robe that seemed to blend into the background, and Argus who seemed to be shivering, was still in his priests garb, though now there was a clear image of a woman in white floating behind him, connected by the palm of her hand. Seeing me, she flashed a thumbs up at me, then put her finger over her mouth as if to shush me.
“What… what happened? Why are you all so.. weird?” I asked, trying to orient myself.
“What are you talking about?” Lana asked, “You were unconscious in there for two hours. Of course we’d be worried!”
“A-anyways, m-m-mister Allen,” Argus stuttered, “d-did you, er, figure out your affinity?”
“Affinity? And two hours? Why did all of you change if it was just two hours?”
“Change?” James’ face twisted into a , “What do yeh mean, change?”
“You, into that tunic, and Lana, into that… Lana, what are you wearing?”
The next eternity or so consisted of Lana yelling assorted insults and kicking me.
“Er, mister, uh, Allen, sir,” Argus finally piped in, breaking off Lana’s ruthless assault, “Would you, er, mind t-taking off your s-shirt?”
“Argus…” James growled.
“Er, n-not like that!” Argus squealed, “I j-just want to check something.”
Gingerly, I lifted my shirt, revealing the crystal which by now had solidified into a golden orb with an eyespot in the center, whizzing around to stare at James, Argus, and Lana in turn.
“Argus,” James growled, “I swear this better be better than it looks like.”
“Er, y-yes, sir,” Argus stuttered, taking a few steps back, “Er, A-Allen, sir, c-could you p-p-please describe what you see?”
“A large yellow orb.” I replied truthfully, “Isn’t it kinda obvious?”
“Allen,” James said, “We don’ see nothin, ‘specially me.”
“Allen,” Lana exclaimed, shaking my shoulders, “You have [Magic Sight]!”
“You know, that sounds great and all,” I replied, dryly, “But how do I turn it off?”
“Try cutting off the mana to your eyes.”
“Explain it so that I can understand, please.”
Lana looked around, a bewildered look on her face, as if I had just said something so utterly bizarre that she had nothing to answer it with.
“Look,” she said, “Just imagine the magic circuits around your eyes closing, like someone pinching a rubber tube so that water won’t flow through.”
“This is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but…”
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the image of the magic circuits closing. After a few minutes of concentration, a web of blue energy spread across my vision, as if a very bad hunter had tried to tie down my eyes, and I set to work. After my mental hand had finished cutting off several circuits, the rest of the web seemed to fall apart.
Opening my eyes, everything had returned to normal.
“Did it work, lad?” James asked, kneeling down beside me, “How do I look?”
“Good. Now, do you remember anything else?”
I racked my brain, trying to make sense of what had happened, “My body kinda…. I’m not really sure what happened. My entire body was in pain, then…”
“P-perhaps, [Mana Manipulation]?” Argus offered, “T-try increasing the mana flow to your hand.”
Before I could open my mouth, Lana cut into the conversation, “Opposite thing with your eyes.”
I closed my eyes again, however this time, instead of webs over my eyes, a buzzing sensation swept over my skin, as if an army of bugs was using me as a bridge to the sky. My eyes opened, and I saw even more of the little blue streams, this time looking like countless rivers that spread out from a great lake that covered my heart, each river sprouting countless streams. In some places, such as the palms of my hands and my feet, the rivers collected into ponds of energy. Once again, I tried to manipulate the channels with my invisible hand, when suddenly I felt like someone had tried to slash open my wrists.
“Close it!” Lana yelled, trying to cover my palm, “You opened it too much!”
Frantically, I tried to use my mental hand, however it refused to form. I tried again, and again, until eventually, Argus barged in, shoving Lana aside.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! Here, let me help!” As he spoke, Argus placed his hand on my arm, and it fell numb. Looking down, I saw the last of a blue smoke dissipate into the air, and below it, my hand which no longer showed any the blue channels, as if they had been cut out.
No, that was wrong. Looking closely, they was still there, however a knot had been tied in one of the channels further up my wrist, preventing the flow of mana. Carefully, I moved my mental hand up and down my wrist, until I found a rupture in one of the channels, right above my arm. Surprisingly, it healed rather quickly, and more words popped into my head, this time they were fresh and stayed in my head long enough for me to read.
The Magic Skill [Aptitude] has activated.
Magic Skill [Mana Manipulation] has been learned.
“What is… [Aptitude]?”
Author’s Note: Whew. I have no Idea why I wrote this much. Truth be told, I could have stopped at 1000~ish words like usual, but I just felt like writing more and more. Perhaps this is what it means to be a writer?