IS, V3, Chapter 3: Alfirin Academy

I love flying; that feeling of brisk wind whipping across my body, the weightlessness, looking down upon the world from a place that most people could never reach. For whatever reason, that night was actually the first time that I had ever really enjoyed gliding through the air so much.

The beautiful moonlight was illuminating the farmland that was overgrown with all kinds of crops; and the gigantic wall of bio-luminescent green mana trees in the distance were spectacular. Instead of walking, I just flew back to the upper city in the middle of the night: It was definitely an amazing experience.

The tip of the five story pyramid was actually flat and wide. It was made that way so that people like me, who could fly, were able to enter the building through the roof. Although, most just used it for sightseeing, since it was the highest place within the great fence at the time.

After landing, I felt a familiar presence; two glowing golden orbs appeared out of the darkness. I smiled and asked my not-so-mysterious visitor “Were you waiting for me?” in a curious voice, as I walked towards him.

He quietly whispered “Worried…”, pulled back his hood, and removed the black mithril protective mask; that he used to hide his face and aura. Ethir’s shiny red bald head was easily visible in the moonlight; I could even see a faint smile, before he sighed and covered himself up again.

Then I heard a loud and high pitched laugh, as the door to the stairwell flew open. Wearing a white, bloodstained dress, that smelled like raw meat; Lorelei walked out between the two of us and pointed towards the south.

I let out a small sigh, then said “Lori, sweetie, you shouldn’t be walking around by yourself in the middle of the night.” in a concerned voice; while placing my right hand on her head and gently scratching behind her large, round, mouse-like ears.

She boisterously shouted “Hah! Assassin hunting is my favorite sport! Anyway, look… do you see it?! Fine, I shall enlighten the two of you on my newest plan! In my dream, there was a massive black tower in the southern corner of the upper city!” while grinning and licking her whiskers with her snake-like tongue.

Her smooth and pink tail, which was a few centimeters longer than she was tall, smacked Ethir on the back and he muttered “Wasn’t your idea…” in an irritated voice. Then he pulled out a book and opened to the middle; there was a drawing of a triangular prism, standing upright, with diagrams of nearly twenty floors on other pages: that he hastily flipped through.

Lorelei wasn’t even phased by the revelation; she just laughed hysterically and cheerfully yelled “Oh yea! I forgot you showed me that a couple days ago! Well, whatever, just build the damn thing already!”; while climbing up on my shoulders and sitting down.

She was pretty light, so it wasn’t even that uncomfortable; except for the knife handles that were pressing into the back of my neck. Ethir quietly whispered “College…”, which was nearly impossible to hear over the incredibly loud squeaking: right next to my ears.

I sighed, then anxiously muttered “Even with magic, this isn’t going to be easy. Is it really necessary to build a giant tower? We have a lot of schools already, and even the palaces have been mostly converted into teaching facilities…”; a relatively thick, wriggling tail was tightly squeezing around my right arm.

He cut me off; whispering “Alfirin Academy… will be a symbol… for every race, every age… and anyone who truly wants… to learn. The whole continent…” in a serious voice. It was certainly a grandiose and noble concept, but obviously not very profitable.

As Lorelei jumped down off of my shoulders and made a victorious pose; she rambunctiously shouted “The whole damn world will be lining up to pay us to go to learn all kinds of shit!” while revealing a sinister, yet adorable, grin.

Ethir cleared his throat, then whispered “It won’t be… nearly that large… the world is… vast, there are too many people.” in an irritated voice. The two of them never seemed to get along very well; though they were always pretty close as well.

After stretching my arms behind my back, I said “Yea, and besides that, we need a lot more instructors. About a hundred of my most advanced students are already working in the palaces: teaching level two magic. Nadja and Lachel are the only ones who could actually perform anything more difficult than that… aside from myself.” in a disheartened tone.

She snickered for a few seconds, then emphatically yelled “Who said that we would only be teaching them magic?! At this new school, people will be able to learn everything from tailoring to adventuring; even clock-making… hell, Lyn has been teaching a team of blacksmiths; how to make new pipes for the entire city. We’re going to start incorporating plumbing into every building on the surface as well.” while smirking.

Ethir sighed dramatically and started walking towards the stairs; Lorelei licked her whiskers and told me “Oh yea, Rae-Rae, I need you to help me move something first.” in a happy voice. When we finally arrived at the ‘thing’ she wanted me to relocate… I was more than a little shocked.

There was a massive worm-like metallic monster laying in the middle of the clearing: It looked like an inanimate object. However, I immediately knew that something with an aura so vibrant, was definitely alive in one way or another.

Whether it was sentient or not, I had no idea; but that creature seemed surprisingly docile: compared to its intimidating appearance. If it was just a hunk of metal, I could have probably levitated it with ease; then a large group of people could have simply pushed the beast into the tunnel… but that wasn’t the case.

From the outside, the shiny silver worm was impossible to manipulate with earth magic, because of its aura. Fortunately, myself and about a dozen of my students, including Ethir, were able to slowly, but surely, make the creature’s body slither back into the metallic tunnel like a snake.

It took a few days, but as soon as it reached the labyrinth, it was like the beast had woken up; it was completely illuminated and even began levitating on its own. The ‘maglev’, as Ailyn called it, was able to move around within that tunnel incredibly easily.

Well, she wanted to perform a lot of tests on it; before actually using the worm to travel anywhere. After that arduous task was dealt with, Ethir and I had to gather up a hundred construction mages; along with nearly a thousand of the non-magical kind, we begin working on that ridiculous tower.

Both concrete and iron were relatively cheap and abundant; but for what he had planned, we were going to need a massive quantity of black-mithril. Luckily, Lorelei was sponsoring us, and she was able to save a lot of gold; since she already owned all of the mining rights in the whole city.

Most of the blacksmiths worked for her as well, so gathering the proper materials had already been done ahead of time. Pure black-mithril was great for a normal smith to make mana resistant armor and weapons with, but completely useless for what we were trying to do.

Not only would it have been extremely wasteful; it was impossible to manipulate through earth magic, so Ailyn created a solution for us. She developed a method combining a small amount of the material, as a powder, into concrete and steel to create a very strange result.

I’m sure that she probably added a bunch of other things into the mix, but the obsidian sludge acted like its grey counterpart… until it solidified. Then it was a lot stronger, harder, very difficult to burn, resistant to corrosion: according to her.

Personally, I never really cared enough to test the differences myself; the main point was that I could manipulate it, as long as the concrete remained wet. The moment it hardened, it acted a lot like black mithril; it absorbed any mana that was attempting to influence it.

There was a major weakness though; a limit on the amount of energy that it could store, before breaking down. Fortunately, since it wasn’t completely pure, the mana that became trapped was slowly released into the atmosphere over time.

Dark-dwarven steel worked in a similar way, and could be manipulated with earth magic: If the temperature of the material was extremely high. Basically, we had to create several giant forges around to the construction site, so that we could keep the massive beams malleable.

Even if I could walk around in daylight, with proper attire, magical labor was a little beyond my capabilities at the time. I was in charge of the night shift and Ethir took care of things while the sun was up.

Technically, he was just directing us anyway; his mana pool was still pretty small back then, and his main affinity was wind. He dealt with all the complicated plans; so all I had to do was move a bunch of giant black beams, and concrete around in the middle of the night: illumination was pretty important.

We used a rather large number of glass mirrors and fire mages; sometimes even Conor helped out with his “Spotlight Hands” as he said Michael called them. With access to magical beast meat, and blood for me, we were able to use several times what our mana pools’ maximum capacity every day.

Although, we still had to take breaks at least one or two days a week: to avoid severe mental fatigue. Ethir and I had to make sure that the mages didn’t push themselves too far; a few people nearly died in various accidents.

We actually planted several mana trees around the southeastern and southwestern sides of the tower, so that building scaffolding was much easier. In the end, we somehow managed to finish it all up in under three months.

The trees were removed afterwards and a massive pool was built in their place; which was connected to a very familiar river to the south. I was actually pretty surprised to see Michael’s two mermaid friends again; though I suppose it was a little odd that I hadn’t tried to visit them before then.

He named them Teal and Turquoise, based on the color of their scales, but I didn’t really know anything else about them; aside from their love for freshwater fish. They couldn’t speak verbally, so I had to use telepathy to communicate with them.

Unfortunately, I could barely understand anything that they were trying to tell me; so I had to ask Ethir to translate for me a few times. Learning to be fluent using most forms of telepathy; was a lot like looking at a written language that I had never seen before, and then trying to speak it using facial expressions and hand gestures… at least that’s how it was for me.

The way Michael described the process to me; was that I needed to form my aura into a fine string or large rope, and then use that to connect to the other persons mana pool. If they didn’t want to form a bond, it would fail; he cautioned me that if I forcefully entered their minds, it would have been considered illusion magic.

He nonchalantly told me “Rae, illusory spells are extremely dangerous and can easily backfire or be abused, so I can’t teach them to you. Although, if you do manage to figure it out on your own; I won’t be angry with you or anything like that. Just be careful… I love you, and don’t want you to experience hellish torment more terrible than you could possible imagine; so try to avoid mentally raping or enslaving anyone.” while engulfing me in his aura. It was actually pretty strange how oblivious I was; while receiving those otherworldly lessons from cute, yet terrifying, son.

Once Alfirin Academy was officially opened; Lorelei made a public announcement that all primary and secondary schools were going to be free for anyone who wanted to use them. It was basically the complete opposite of what she told me before that; since she used it as an excuse to raise taxes slightly.

Well, it didn’t really matter to me; I never asked why she changed her mind on the subject. The artificial lake that we built acted as both the teaching facility for all water magic, and a dormitory for the two-thousand mermaid students that we had just received.

Even though the main construction had been completed, and the beautiful triangular black tower was definitely built… there were no furnishings. It was basically empty and the interior still needed to be painted; the hundreds of classrooms needed to be built the old fashioned way.

The first floor was the cafeteria and main entrance into the tower. It had a three story high ceiling, which was a lot taller than any of the others. Ethir was insistent that we needed to make sure that each of the rooms could easily fit a person who was four meters tall. I thought it seemed ridiculous at the time; but it just meant that there would be a lot less floors and walls to build: I didn’t really mind though.

Along the northern interior of the cafeteria were a myriad of steel tubes, of various sizes. There was also a large spiral staircase, in each of the two corners. With earth, wind, or fire magic, it was an extremely fast and efficient way to travel to the higher floors.

The larger ones were eventually replaced with a device that used pulleys, wires, and a platform that people could stand on. After Ailyn finished playing with her giant metal worm, she returned to inventing useful devices like that one.

There was a gigantic gate-like entrance in the very center of the northern wall; while the southeastern side had a tunnel that led underwater. The southwestern entrance, or exit, was a relatively small door which opened to a wooden pier. It led to a relatively large island in the center of the widest part of the artificial lake; where most of the water magic classes were taught.

Nadja actually had a small house built on that tiny landmass; she didn’t want to spend too much time and energy each day walking. Even with my healing abilities, Michael never taught me a way to reverse the aging process; we all knew that she only had a few years left at most.

Not that there weren’t innumerable ways to prolong a person’s lifespan; I just wasn’t capable of most of them at the time. Although, she did claim that her body felt a lot younger ever since she began eating magical beast meat on a daily basis. Her aura was growing stronger as well, but she had lived a lot longer than most rat tribe; she wasn’t frantically trying to escape death, just casually warding it off momentarily.

She did retire as matriarch though, choosing her granddaughter Anneliese as her successor: I honestly had no idea how their system of government worked. Nadja refused to stop teaching though; which was convenient for me because there really weren’t any other qualified water mages available at the time.

Lighting, ventilation, and plumbing were all major issues that were being taken care of by Ethir and Ailyn. I really didn’t know all the details and was way too busy trying to hire more staff.

It had been less than a year since I started teaching magic; so there were only a handful of students who were capable enough to work at Alfirin Academy. However, there were plenty of other jobs available to people; some of those included: janitors, security officers, cafeteria cooks, assistants, secretaries, maintenance… the list was unreasonably long.

I was really starting to miss the simplicity of living in a cave: playing telepathic games with my son, practicing music, and having no responsibilities. Nevermind, even back then, Michael was constantly training me and preparing me for my new life; as he slowly made me forget about the old one.

Between the tower and the pyramid was a considerable amount of empty space; which was in the process of being turned into student dorms and faculty housing. Various specialized schools for blacksmithing, tailoring, carpentry, and pretty much every other job that required training were being constructed as well.

Alfirin Academy wasn’t just a single building; it was the entire district, plus a small artificial lake. It took six months for us to get everything in order to actually start accepting students; thats when the ten year storm hit.

Fortunately, the outdoor water magic classes weren’t hindered by the rain; though it quickly became impossible to teach flying lessons on the roof though. The top floor of the tower was split into two very large apartments; they were for Ethir and I, with an office separating them.

I really didn’t want to be the principal, but since he was way too shy to deal with people, I was forced to be the figurehead for the whole school; but honestly, he was the person who actually ran things.

It wasn’t that bad, my job didn’t really change that much and I was able to teach all kinds of magic. My students had increased their mana pools considerably in the time that I didn’t see them, and there were thousands of people who had already surpassed what was being taught in the public schools below-ground.

For a few moments I had become complacent again, but my destiny wasn’t quite so… peaceful.



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