It took a moment for Alessandra to speak, and when she did, her eyes were as wide as they could go. “What…was that?” she asked.
“That was a small sample of how one can use magic to manipulate a person’s senses,” Havor said with a small smile. “Quite a basic trick, in fact. Once you’re more experienced, you won’t be fooled by simple lights and sounds. All you’ll see are the flows of magic used to construct the illusion. But for now, the point is that this is one of the most basic magical techniques, and yet you didn’t even know it was possible until right now.”
“Well, okay, so, thanks for making me feel stupid,” Alessandra muttered.
“That is not my intention,” Havor said, closing her eyes and shaking her head. “I’m trying to make you realize how little you know, so that you can become more receptive to learning. If you think you already know everything you need to know, you’re not going to listen to what I have to teach you. But if you realize that you’re still a beginner, maybe you’ll find some value in listening to an expert.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Alessandra mumbled.
“I’m glad you agree,” Havor said with a slightly sarcastic smile. “Now, let’s get started.”
That first lesson was one of the most intense experiences Alessandra had ever had, mentally and physically, even more so than three hour sparring sessions she’d had back in the Mekoval clanhouse. For eight hours, Havor crammed information about how magic worked into Alessandra’s mind, and drilled her on the information she’d given her. For eight hours, Havor did not raise her voice, and the smile on her face never disappeared, but despite her gentle demeanor, Alessandra had never had a more fierce or determined instructor. By the time the lesson was over, Alessandra was more exhausted than she’d ever been in her life. It was almost all she could do just to drag herself back up to her quarters and flop into her bed.
Similar lessons took up the bulk of Alessandra’s time as a new member of the Order of Sunaru. They weren’t always with Havor, but she was often Alessandra’s teacher. There were two other mages who took turns teaching Alessandra. One was an older man named Belva Latayu, and the other was a woman who was only slightly older than Alessandra, whose name was Jiranai Silcor. Belva was dark haired and dark skinned, with gray stubble just barely covering his head. He had a gruff exterior, but he was quite pleasant once you got to know him. His training sessions were no less intense than Havor’s, however. Jiranai was blond, short, and had a bubbly personality that kind of reminded Alessandra of how Halidasa had been before Bezzum died. Despite that, she was probably Alessandra’s toughest teacher, although the distinctions between the three were quite minimal.
One person Alessandra saw a great deal of during her rare breaks from lessons was Shalor. Alessandra was still unclear about exactly how the Order of Sunaru was organized, and she wasn’t entirely sure what the different ranks meant, but she was pretty sure that Shalor was a fairly high ranking member of the Order. In other words, he didn’t need to spend his time doing anything so base as teaching a new recruit. And yet, despite that fact, he seemed to go out of his way to spend time with her. Alessandra was a little suspicious of this at first, but gradually it dawned on her that he simply liked her. Even though she had friends in the slums, relationships there tended to be based on the principle of “what can you do for me”. It was a little foreign to Alessandra to have somebody want to spend time with her because they liked being around her. Foreign, but not unpleasant.
All in all, being a member of the Order of Sunaru was every bit as wonderful as Alessandra would have imagined it would be, if she’d ever dared to imagine something so outlandish. For the first time in her life, she had plenty to eat, she had a secure place to sleep, she had her own bathroom, and she didn’t feel like she needed to watch her back constantly. Despite the fact that she was working harder than she ever had before, she also was enjoying more luxuries than she’d ever imagined. It was amazing and wonderful and it seemed like it was too good to be true. Which was part of the reason why she had a surprisingly difficult time enjoying it.
The other part of the reason was that she couldn’t stop thinking about her friends back in the slums. It had been easy for her to think of herself as exceptional when the height of her ambitions had been to become a Clan Master. Now that she’d risen higher than anyone of her station had ever dreamed of rising, all she could think was that she was a fraud who didn’t deserve anything she’d received. Her only exceptional quality was that she had been in the right place at the right time. If that demon had attacked anyone but her, she’d still be scraping by in the outskirts, if she wasn’t dead already. Instead she was in the Avaroth, while her friends were still stuck in the slums. It didn’t seem fair, but she couldn’t think of anything to do about it.
In any case, she knew she was being irrational. Just because she was lucky didn’t mean that she couldn’t enjoy her luck. After all, it wasn’t as if anyone else in her clan would spend time moping because they got to be a mage and no one else did. If she felt a little twinge of responsibility toward her clan mates, well, she had been their Clan Master for a brief time. It only made sense. But they would do fine without her. They’d pick a new Clan Master, hopefully Torea, and then they would carry on. That was how things always went in the slums. There was no reason for Alessandra to think that anything would change.
To be continued…