V9i4 GoldenPaladin

Narrated by Shae Strong and Randell Moore

As instructed, the Golden Paladin met Hesa at the appointed time in the only flat and relatively bare field near the camp — to find that she’d set up a mini-training ground mostly consisting of an array of figures of various sizes in the distance, lit by magical orbs floating nearby.

Nearer to the camp was a small collapsible table, by which Hesa herself stood. On the table were two objects: a large bottle with apparently no opening at the top, and what looked like a dwarven mug with four small metal rings on either side instead of the expected handle. The area around Hesa was also illuminated by magical orbs spaced over her head at even intervals.

She smiled when she saw him, her eyes alight.

Uh oh, the Golden Paladin thought, amused. I’ve awakened a magical scholar’s desire to share their love for their craft. I’m in for it now.

“Good, good, you’re here. Come.” She beckoned him to the table. He took his place next to her and looked down at the objects.

“I know this one,” he said, gesturing to the bottle without an opening. “Are we starting here?”

“Seems you at least remember your initiate’s training.”

Picking up the bottle, he turned it over in his hands. “Yes, though I can’t say any of my teachers were as uncompromising as you are.”

Hesa crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh? Then, a quiz: What are you holding, and what are you tasked to do with it?”

“A magical object made of thaumatic glass, which will give off mana when the initiate’s will is passed through it. The goal is to create a cloud of mana inside the enclosed space. The exercise is dual purposed: to judge how much mana and will an individual is capable of producing naturally, and for practicing focus, which is essential to any utilization of the Weave.”

“A textbook answer,” Hesa sniffed, and the Golden Paladin grinned. “Get to it, then.”

It took about an hour of repeated attempts for the Golden Paladin to refamiliarize himself with the process of focusing his will. His rustiness imparted the kind of mental strain associated with doing long-unused math, but proficiency came easier the more he tried. Finally, he set the now-glowing bottle down and looked at the grinning Hesa.

“Very well done. As you know, it takes most raw initiates months to get past this step. Either your past mage self was accomplished indeed, or, more likely, the Creator has enhanced your natural abilities across the board.”

As if in response to her words, the bottle shattered, causing her to jump. Her cheeks glowed gently out of embarrassment, clearly visible even in the dark of night, and she swiftly turned away.

As I thought, you should have no trouble relearning and even surpassing the magic you once knew.” She picked up the mug. “So, you don’t recognize this?” At a shake of the Golden Paladin’s head, she went on: “It was probably invented after you’d moved on from your life as a mage. I’m not sure if you’re aware, so I’ll just say it — those who are born with an affinity to the Weave are also given an affinity to a specific Thread. This corresponds to which spells they will have greater ease in casting, and which will fight them like rabid monsters. To be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea what will happen if you attempt to use it. But I’m curious, and if it works, it will be good knowledge to have. I will demonstrate, so watch the flow of the Weave and copy what I do.”

Hesa slid her fingers through the rings on either side and wrapped her long, delicate fingers around the mug. She took a moment to center herself, then faint iridescent power began to flicker beneath her fingers like flames in the wind, gone as soon as he caught a glimpse of it. It wasn’t until he realized the cup was filling that he figured out what she was doing — the prismatic ‘liquid’ now contained in the mug was her own personal mana.

“As you can see,” she said, removing her hands, “my mana is multi-colored, because I have affinity to all the Threads of the Weave.” She watched the cup expectantly; after a moment and with a cheery bloop, the ‘liquid’ was gone. “Simply put your hands around the cup as I did and draw mana from the Weave. The cup will do the rest.”

The Golden Paladin did as she instructed. Though he technically was wearing gauntlets, he could still feel the cup’s bottomless ‘hunger’ encouraging him to draw forth his mana and feed it. He focused on the Weave, pulled the Threads that would come to him easily, and let the energy from them fill him and pour out through his fingers.

Then, at the same moment, he and Hesa both realized something had gone very wrong.

What pooled in the cup was not an ephemeral dense cloud of mana, but the selfsame radiant golden light that had wreathed the Golden Paladin in the earlier battle. 

“Drop it! Quick!” Hesa shouted. But by the time the Golden Paladin cast it away, the mug was already half-melted.

The light that had gathered in the cup spilled away in a column that lanced into the darkened sky. When nighttime reasserted itself from its unscheduled moment of daylight, what remained of the mug was a lump of twisted metal sitting forlornly in the grass.

The Golden Paladin hastened to apologize, but Hesa only responded, at first, with the long-suffering sigh of every person who had ever uttered some variation of the infamous phrase: ‘Let’s see what happens.’

“As expected,” she said finally, “you bypass the Weave in entirety.” As she bent down to retrieve the sad little lump, she muttered, “You served me well.”

Welp, we know the Golden Paladin has magic now! But can he do anything with it? Who knows! See you next time!

Metacosm Trivia Time!

Why did it take time for Thread affinity testing to be invented if it’s so important?

In the First and Second Ages, the scattered and disorganized groups of mages (who mostly didn’t like or trust each other) didn’t know it was important, because they didn’t like or trust each other. Magical research was done almost on an individual basis, and advancements were hoarded by their discoverers.

The establishment of the Magus Academy in the late Second Age was what changed all that, the impetus for which was a catastrophe that we’ll discuss another time. As mages were forced to come together and begrudgingly pool their knowledge, they realized they’d been missing a key data point about why some mages had an easy time with some spells but struggled with others. This eventually led to the discovery of Thread affinity.

N.A. Soleil is a portmanteau pseudonym of the two authors' names.

You can read previous Metacosm Chronicles stories in past issues of Tumbleweird.