Escapism: 3.4

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Casper:

It took nearly two hours, all said, for Casper to find what he was looking for. Even with a calm achieved, itself a task that he doubted he would have managed without his teacher’s mind as a reference, it took him a while to find the right part of himself. It wasn’t, as Freja had described, like a light inside his mind. He had tried envisioning it that way at first, and it had felt stilted, out of shape. When he finally found it, the idea it brought to mind was, for him, something a good deal more quiet. A single head of dandelion seeds in an empty field of grass, swaying gently in the breeze. The picture was oddly detailed for a mental image, vivid and consistent enough that he could count the individual seeds branching off of it. When he relayed the image to her, his teacher let out a dry chuckle.

“That so, huh?” She asked. “Well, try using your power. See if your flower changes at all.”

“Well, uh…” Casper started. “Thing about that is… My power’s always on… I’m never not using it.”

Freja grunted.

“I see.” She paused for a moment, then continued. “Well, can you change it somehow? Put more energy into it or something?”

The boy nodded, closing his eyes and focusing for a moment on his power. He began to swell his boundary out, from just large enough to encompass him and Freja, to large enough to fill the whole room, then even bigger. He pushed it out far enough that he could feel the minds of those passing in the street outside, the happy woman still selling her flowers. In his mind’s eye, the dandelion shifted, grew larger, the individual bristles of it opening up a touch wider. It was a strange feeling, watching what felt like an imaginary picture change without any conscious input from himself.

“It’s doing stuff,” he said aloud. “Changing shape the more I use it. Getting bigger.”

“Yup,” Freja murmured, nodding. “Good job, kid. You’re a mage. That flower you’re seeing is your spell. You’ll probably start seeing more of them turn up as you start learning new spells.”

New spells.

Casper took a moment to absorb that idea, the image of the flower in his mind nearly slipping from his mind as a wave of excitement threatened to push him from his present calm. He thought for a moment, before asking a question that had been lingering in the back of his mind for what felt like weeks.

“Is… is there some way I can turn it off?” He asked, earning himself a look of confusion from his teacher. “M-my spell, I mean. It… gets in the way of life, sometimes. I’d like to not have to deal with it all the time.”

“Ah,” she nodded, understanding. “Sure. There’s a couple ways you could turn it off for a while, I think. You could probably play around with it for a while and see if you can find an off switch-”

“No,” he cut her off. “I tried that. Three months. Couldn’t figure it out.”

Freja gave him another nod.

“Fair enough. Thought you might say that. Well, I could probably put together an amulet or something to keep your spell suppressed,” she raised a hand to forestall the boy as he opened his mouth to speak, excited. “Don’t get all yappy yet. It’d take a few weeks, I’d have to take a very close look at what your spell does, and it’d cost you about twenty grand.” She chuckled slightly as his face fell once more. “Easiest answer? Just keep yourself exhausted, I guess. A spell won’t work if you don’t have enough energy in you to fuel it. Start learning some other spells and just work all your energy out on them so your power goes away for a while.”

Casper sat for a moment, mulling it all over in his mind, then nodded with a sigh. It wasn’t ideal, but at least it was something he could do. Better than just holding his bubble close and hoping.

“Yeah,” he muttered. “Okay. So, how do I learn new spells?”

“Simple,” Freja shrugged. “You get someone to teach you.” She pulled herself to her feet. “For that, gimme a sec.” With that, she walked out of the room, leaving him alone.

Curious, and lacking anything better to do, Casper followed the older woman with his power, tracing her mind back through the narrow hallway and into the shop, then out onto the street, where she came to a stop beside the cheerful flower woman. He felt their emotions fluctuate briefly, flickering slightly in minute response to concepts introduced and discussed. He felt the flower woman become a touch excited, Freja a little amused, before the two apparently swapped places, his teacher remaining out by the flowers while the second woman made her way inside, passing through the cluttered shop and into the hallway behind him.

“So,” she called out cheerfully as she caught sight of him. “You’re the new kid, huh?”

“Guess so,” he answered, glancing behind himself towards the same, slightly portly woman who’d been selling flowers when he’d arrived. She was carrying, to his momentary confusion, a pair of small, cheap, plastic flower pots, each apparently filled with plain garden soil. “My name’s Cas. Hi.”

“Nice to meet you, Cas,” she replied, stepping forwards into the room and bending at the waist to place one of the pots beside the boy. “I’m Mel. Now then. Let’s not waste time. Freja said you’d earned yourself a particular spell, and I’m better at teaching this one than she is, so watch closely.”

Casper nodded and Mel lowered herself down into a sitting position off to his side with just a touch more ease than Freja had before. She lifted the second flower pot in her hand, holding it just below eye level between them. Casper gazed at it, waiting. He didn’t have to wait long.

It started out relatively small, a slight disturbance in the soil filling the container, before a tiny nub of green poked its way out from underneath; a seedling. The tiny plant grew a little faster now, extending into a stem like a video in time lapse. The stem sprouted leaves, grew higher, and formed a bud, which quickly colored itself into a light, orangish pink, before dividing out into petals that then spread apart into a flower bulb. The whole process had taken perhaps eleven seconds. Mel placed the newborn flower on the floor between them, and turned her eyes towards the boy.

“Thoughts?” She asked, her tone suddenly very serious, matched by what he felt in her mind.

Casper hesitated. It felt to him like his teacher was waiting for him to judge her. He could feel a note of something that almost felt like anticipation in her mind. Like she was waiting for him to miss the point somehow; to say the wrong thing. In the end, he opted for honesty.

“Well,” he began. “I gotta admit, a little bit of me’s disappointed that nothing caught fire and exploded.”

Mel rolled her eyes, a momentary amusement touching inside her mind.

“Kids,” she snorted. “They never change. We don’t teach combat magic to children we’ve only just met, Cas.”

“Yeah, I figured,” He admitted, returning his eyes to the plant between them. “… What sort of flower is it?”

“This?” She asked, gesturing down at it absently. “It’s a tulip.”

Casper nodded.

“It’s pretty,” he said eventually. He meant it, too. He liked flowers. Growing up in the city, they were a little bit of a rarity. “The petals make me think of sunsets.”

Mel gazed at him as he spoke, her eyes narrowing slightly as she considered him. Then, she smiled, a surprisingly powerful note of pride settling down in her thoughts as his words hit home.

“Aww,” she chuckled. “Such a nice boy.” With that, she leaned forwards a little, her hands coming to rest on her knees. “Yup, that’s good enough for me. You’re learning this one.”

Casper cocked an eyebrow at that. Had he just passed a wizard test by complimenting a flower?

“This one?” He asked. “You mean there’s other ones I could learn instead?”

“Yup,” Mel nodded, gesturing a hand absently towards the tulip, which slowly began to swell once more. “There’s a bunch of other ones. Freja could teach you any number of flashy spells, and you’ll probably learn some of them too, in time, but this one’s a little special. I only teach it to the kids I like. Not every youngster gets to be a nature mage, you know.”

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