Chapter 13, Part 2

“So that means…,” Alessandra said after a moment’s thought.

“Correct,” Shalor said. “A majority of our members must spend the majority of their time here, powering the Autorum, or else the barrier will fail, and it will no longer matter how corrupt the Circle is, or how poor the slums are. The city would be overwhelmed by demons in a matter of hours.”

“That…does explain a lot,” Alessandra said quietly.

“Once you have learned to fully control your powers, you also will be taking a shift powering the Autorum,” Shalor said. “It is the most important duty you will undertake as a member of the Order of Sunaru.” They walked along by the railing overlooking the giant crystal, simply observing it in silence for a few minutes. Finally Shalor said, “I know how people in the slums view us in the Order. I once felt that way myself. It’s a little uncomfortable to think about, to be honest. We are not gods. We are merely humans, like everyone else. We have been blessed with greater powers than normal humans, but we still make mistakes, just like everyone else. But if there is any good reason for slumdwellers to revere us, it is because of this. What we do here keeps the city safe from complete destruction.”

They walked on a little bit further, and then Shalor turned to Alessandra and said, “Do you understand now why we don’t do more to alleviate the suffering of the people in this city?”

“Yes,” Alessandra said, in a voice that was almost a whisper.

“I wish we could do more, I really do,” Shalor continued, and he sounded pained. “I remember what it’s like to live in the slums. It was horrible, and my heart goes out to everyone who is still stuck there. It would be wonderful if we could devote our powers to alleviating the poverty that is rampant there, but if we did that, and the barrier fell, what would it matter?”

“I understand, Shalor, I really do,” Alessandra said quietly. “I’m sorry I doubted.”

“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty,” Shalor said, shaking his head. “I’m just trying to impress upon you the gravity of what we do here. This room is the most important place in the city-no, actually, the world. If this room didn’t exist, every last human being in the world would be dead.” He paused for a moment, as they continued walking. “That’s a difficult thought to grasp, I understand, but you need to grasp it if you’re going to be an effective mage.”

After this, they were silent for a long time, just walking around the Autorum and observing the mages hard at work feeding their magical energy into it. Alessandra had had just enough training to see that the mages were doing something, but she couldn’t tell what it was they were doing. She could see the flows of energy connecting the mages to the Autorum, but she couldn’t tell what they were or what they did. A non-mage wouldn’t have been able to see anything.

As she walked and watched, she also thought. Seeing all these mages sitting here, focusing so intently on this giant purple crystal, she began to really feel the weight of what it meant to be a member of the Order of Sunaru. The Order had always been so distant from her life as a slumdweller. She knew that they protected the city, but she’d never put any thought into what that meant. Now, as she stood in the heart of the Avaroth, a member-in-training of the Order herself, she finally began to realize just how important the Order of Sunaru was.

After this, her training continued apace. History was a part of it, but a relatively small part. More important was learning how to control the magic powers that had been given to her by Ilimay Ladron. These training sessions were intense, often lasting as long as eight hours a day, and sometimes longer. When she came into the Order, she thought she had a pretty good idea of what she was doing. She’d learned how to teleport, and to make herself completely invisible to all senses. She could activate superhuman speed and strength. But her first lesson with a fully trained Sunaran mage had taught her just how little she knew.

That lesson had been with Havor Kingresa, one of the mages who had been in the Vanmorzen manor when she’d met Shalor. When Alessandra had first met Havor, her impression had been that she was a fierce woman with an impressive temper. Instead, she had turned out to be one of the most patient and gentle people Alessandra had ever met. Of course, that first encounter had only lasted a couple of minutes, and Alessandra had not interacted with Havor at all in those moments, so her false impression was excusable. Still, that first lesson had been surprising.

“Come,” Alessandra said in response to the chime that sounded at her door. She was getting the hang of both responding to chime and freely allowing people to enter her quarters. Havor entered the room as Alessandra got to her feet.

“Oh, hello, um,” Alessandra trailed off as she realized that she didn’t know Havor’s proper title.

“My name is Havor,” Havor said with a warm smile. “We met in the Vanmorzen manor, although considering how chaotic that moment was, I would not be surprised if you didn’t remember.”

“Oh, no, I remember you,” Alessandra said hurriedly. “I’m just unsure how to address you.”

“Address me?” Havor said, a quizzical look on her face, and then she laughed. “Oh, you mean my rank? Well, it’s tralasor, but don’t worry about that. Just call me Havor.”

“Oh, of course,” Alessandra said with a bow. “What can I do for you…tra-, er, I mean, Havor?”

“It’s time for your first lesson,” Havor said, gesturing to the door. “If you would follow me?”

“Of course!” Alessandra exclaimed, and rushed out the door.

To be continued…

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