She made it pretty far down the walkway before she realized that she had no idea where she was going, and Havor had in fact asked her to follow. Pulling up short with a chagrined look on her face, she waited for Havor to catch up to her. Fortunately for Alessandra, she was smiling as she did so.
“Eager, aren’t we?” she said with a wink. “I’m glad to see it. Although, I’m not surprised. From what I’ve heard about life in the slums, you must think you’ve died and gone to Paradise.”
“It’s…a lot different, that’s for sure,” Alessandra said. “A lot more comfortable, certainly.”
“You don’t sound overly impressed,” Havor said, with a slight frown.
“Oh, I am!” Alessandra exclaimed. “I’m just…still getting used to everything here. It’s still hard for me to really believe that I’m a member of the Order of Sunaru.”
“You’re a lucky woman, that’s for sure,” Havor said. “Most of the time, new members have to go through a rigorous screening process. For every opening for an apprentice, we have at least a thousand people who apply. It’s pretty intense.” For a moment, she paused, and a grimace appeared on her face. “I remember the process well, not just for me, but for every one of my predecessors as well. It’s not pleasant. You’re very lucky that you didn’t have to experience it.”
“Oh,” Alessandra said with a small frown.
“What’s wrong?” Havor asked, slightly puzzled.
“Well, that just makes me feel even worse for Ilimay’s apprentice,” Alessandra said, grimacing. “I mean, she put all that work in, and now she gets nothing for it.”
“Oh, Fienele will be assigned to a different mage soon enough,” Havor said with a smile. “Don’t worry. Once we find somebody who deserves to be here, they stay here. People who have the mental and physical strength to wield magic are rare. We don’t let them go when we find them.”
“Ah, that makes me feel better,” Alessandra said, relieved. “I mean, I know I didn’t have a choice in what happened, and if I hadn’t been there, Ilimay’s powers and memories would be lost forever, but…”
“I understand,” Havor said. “Like I said, you’re a very lucky woman. It’s natural to feel like you don’t deserve the great fortune that has befallen you. You’ll get used to it eventually. Especially once you unlock Ilimay’s memories. Then it will feel like you’ve always been in the Order.”
“How long do you think that will take?” Alessandra asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Havor said with a slight frown. “This has only happened a handful of times in the past thousand years, so we don’t really understand how it works. Normally, an apprentice trains for years to open their minds to their master’s mental and emotional wavelengths. Then, when the master is close to death, the apprentice’s mind is ready to accept all of those new emotions and memories. For someone like you, though, you barely knew Ilimay at all, and so your mind doesn’t know what to do with all of her memories. Therefore, it’s simply blocking them out entirely.
“Like I said, this has only happened a handful of times, and every time the results have been wildly different. One person couldn’t remember a thing for three years, and then suddenly woke up one day remembering everything. Another gradually recalled their previous memories over the course of a year, starting about two weeks after they received them. A third person remembered nothing for two years, started remembering bits and pieces over the course of a month, and then suddenly remembered everything while eating lunch one day. There have been a few others in your position, but the results have been different every time.”
“So, what you’re saying is, there’s no way of knowing?” Alessandra asked.
“More or less,” Havor replied. “There are a couple of things we can be reasonably certain about though. One is that every time this has happened, it’s taken at least a year for the person to recall all of their previous memories. The other is that it’s never taken more than five years. So, the best answer I can give you is that it will take between one and five years.”
“That’s kind of a long time,” Alessandra said with a frown.
“I guess,” Havor said with a shrug, and then she smiled. “I suppose, you’re only…what? Eighteen? Nineteen?”
“Eighteen,” Alessandra said.
“When you have a thousand years worth of memories in your mind, five years suddenly doesn’t seem like much time at all,” Havor continued. They entered the inival, and went up several floors to the training level. They went from the inival into an unoccupied room that contained nothing but two chairs facing each other.
“Have a seat,” Havor said, gesturing to one chair while she sat in the other. Alessandra followed her lead. “Now, you have been able to make use of your powers to a limited extent, correct?”
“I mean, I’ve used my powers,” Alessandra said, feeling somewhat defensive. “I’ve figured out how to teleport, and how to mask myself from all senses. I know how to increase my speed and my strength.”
“There’s no need to get defensive,” Havor said with a smile. “You’ve done quite well so far. But the fact that you think you’ve gone beyond very basic levels of skill just shows me how much you still have to learn.” She held a hand outstretched in front of her, and suddenly a green-and-gold fireball appeared in the air above her hand. Then the fireball began to stretch and expand, until Havor was wreathed in multiple streams of flame. As this was happening, Havor’s form began to change and morph, and before Alessandra knew what was happening, a huge, multicolored beast was sitting in front of her, with rainbow colored wings that were so wide they shouldn’t have been able to fit in the room. Except that the room itself was changing, and Alessandra realized that she was hanging thousands of feet in midair over a landscape more beautiful and more terrible than anything she had ever imagined before. Green trees stretching for miles and miles, red cliffs towering over deep canyons, snow-capped mountains that towered even over where Alessandra and the beast that was Havor were located. It was all Alessandra could do to take in everything that was happening around her. And then, just like that, it was all gone, and she and Havor were sitting alone in a white room that contained nothing but two chairs.
To be continued…