Chapter 1: Talisman Chapter 1
It was a rather dull day at the Magefort Academy. Learning magic was like that sometimes; some days you could learn new spells and expand your mastery, but other days you'd need to review what you already know. It's boring, but I can handle it; I wouldn't be getting straight A's if I were too lazy to review. Right now I'm on break; I finished lunch, so I'm reviewing my conjuration textbook, the chapter I'm reading for the third feeling as repetitive as a metronome.
I look up from my book to find a tan-furred anthro bunny smiling down at me. "Uh... hi?"
"You look bored. Wanna play with me?"
I stare in confusion at the unfamiliar bunny. They aren't wearing a school uniform, and they look to be about 8 or 9 years old, a few years younger than me. I wonder what they're doing here? "I have work to do."
"You do? Is it important?"
"Yes." Even if doesn't feel important, it is.
The bunny sits down beside me. "What are you doing?"
"I'm reviewing conjuration magic."
"Review? You mean like, you already know it?"
"Yeah. I need to review so I don't forget it."
"How about we do some spells? That's review, right?"
"You're a mage?"
"I do magic, yeah. I didn't learn here though; my mom's here for some job thing, so we're staying here for a few months. Wanna see a cool spell?"
"Uh... sure." This probably counts as review.
The bunny extends their hands, which begin to glow. They have an intense look of concentration, moving their hands as a small mass of magic forms in the air, shaped by their movements. Eventually, they throw their hands into the air, and with a pop, the conjured magic snaps into its proper shape: A small rabbit with rainbow-colored fur.
The conjured rabbit hops around, bouncing in circles around us, and even on top of our heads, leaving a trail of sparkles in its wake. Eventually, it jumps right at my face-
And bursts into a shower of colorful sparkles.
I giggle. "Not a very useful spell."
"It got you to smile. That's useful, isn't it?"
"... My name's Elian. What's yours?"
"Casey. Nice to meet you!"
"Nice to meet you too, Casey. Want to see one of my spells now?"
The next time Casey visited wasn't until I was 16. Just like the first time, they shook me out of the rigid rhythm of my studies and showed me all sorts of cool new spells! Impractical spells, the kind that would never be taught here. They even showed me a whole school of magic that wasn't even an option at Magefort: Enchantment. Magic that deals with the chaotic world of emotion and thought; calming fear, soothing anger, and granting confidence. I wish I could learn more about it...
But unfortunately, Casey only had the chance to show me the basics before it came time to say goodbye again. We meet at the gate, just before their griffon taxi takes off.
"It's been awesome seeing you again!" Casey says. "I hope you manage to learn more about Enchantment. You really seem to like it!"
"Yeah, I'll try. Worst case scenario, I'll just have to wait for you to come back and teach me more, right?"
"Oh, um... I forgot to mention, but this might be the last time we come to Magefort..."
What? No! There's no one in Magefort like Casey... "So... I won't see you again?"
"Well, maybe you can visit me next time! You'll be 18 soon, right? So you can travel on your own."
"Yeah, but, I still have college ahead of me. And then I'll have a job, and I-"
"Okay then, I'll see if I can visit you when I'm an adult. But for now..." Casey reaches into their bag, and pulls out a pair of... stuffed animals?! "Ta-da! I managed to get these made for us!" They thrust one of the plushies into my hands. It's a bunny with light-tan fur. In Casey's arms is a cat plushie with pink fur. "This way, we'll always be together!"
"Casey, this... is a stuffed animal."
"I'm 16 years old, I can't have stuffed animals."
Casey gasps. "What? Seriously?! I knew this place was weird, but what kind of nonsense laws does this city have?!"
"N-no, it's not a law, it's just..."
"... What is it?"
I laugh and shake my head; looks like Casey managed to squeeze one last lesson in. "Nothing. Thank you, I love it."
"... Okay then. Goodbye hug?" They open their arms wide.
I step forward and embrace them.
"Elian, you NEED to reconsider this!" my mom says. "Magefort has the best magic education in the kingdom! You've only just started Advanced Restoration!"
"And your test scores for Abjuration were amazing!" dad says. "Do you know what kind of jobs that kind of talent can get you?"
I continue packing my bag. "I don't want a job doing Abjuration. And I can improve my Restoration skill by experience, while I travel."
Mom scoffs. "Mages that learn by focused study and guidance improve 60% faster and are 40% more proficient than mages that only learn by experience. You know this, Elian!" Of course I know it, you wouldn't stop telling me after I mentioned I wasn't sure about college.
"Please, we see how much potential you have!" dad says. "We want to see you succeed! We only want what's best for you." And apparently you know what's best for me better than I do?
"I want to see the world, go to new places. I can't do that from Magefort."
"Elian, we..." Mom turns my head to face her. "You can do that. You can travel, you can see the world. You're 18 now, we won't stop you. But please, just finish college fir-"
"I don't wanna learn here anymore!" I shout. I turn back to my bag, packing faster. "All my life I've been learning here, and I've only grown to hate it more and more. The curriculum, the values, the spells, everything about it is awful, and it's taken me too long to finally realize. I can't stand learning here a minute longer."
"... Elian, please," dad says. "Is there anything we can do to change your mind?"
I turn and look him right in the eyes. "You want to help me realize my full potential?"
"Yes, of course! More than anything!"
"Teach me enchantment magic." I turn back and continue packing. Eventually, I grab my bunny plushie from its hiding place under the bed.
"Oh come on, Elian," mom says, "you still have that thing?" Of course I do. Do you know me so poorly that you thought I threw away a gift from my best friend? "You're 18, a grown-up! No Magefort adult should be keeping stuffed animals."
I turn to her with a smile. "I'm glad you finally understand." With a bag over my shoulder and a plushie under my arm, I leave the house.
"Elian, wait! She didn't mean it like that!" They follow me, continuing to bother me, still failing to grasp why I wouldn't want to put myself through a factory that eats up people and spits out mages.
Soon, I get bored, and break into a jog. Then a run. Then a sprint. Faster and faster, I dash toward the exit, laughing as I run through the streets! There are people staring at me, people who know my name and my face but not me, people I'll never see again! I escape through the gate, into the hills beyond the city, and I don't stop running until my lungs give out, and I collapse on the dirt and grass.
Panting, I sit up and look around. I'm outside the city. I've been out here many times, but this time... I'm free. I can finally start learning. But before that... I look at the plushie in my hands. I know exactly where I'm going first. After all, I think, squeezing the plushie to my chest, I need to thank you for opening my eyes.