Private Tales Class Field Trip

Voraak Tyrethian

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ELBION COLLEGE

Voraak had just finished his Elemental Basics class and was rushing down the hallway to attend his Alchemy course. Voraak had been doing rather well at the College and took a liking to studying Elemental Magic and majoring in the art of Frost. Sweat started to form on his brow as he dashed through the various corridors to reach the Alchemy classroom. Alchemy was one of the classes that he shared with his childhood friend and love interest-- Roselia. He was hoping to get a seat next to her; as they both enjoyed each other's company.

Reaching the oaken doors that prefaced the classroom, Voraak gave a hearty nudge and they swung open. The classroom was filling up and there were not many seats left....but LOOK! A spot by Roselia was available. Jumping to the front of the classroom, Tyrethian made himself comfortable by this fair lady and spoke up.

"I am sorry Professor Ryver, Elementalism let out late"

An older man, adorning a forest green cloak nodded in agreement and spoke to the young man. "I know, I know. Professor Maburn likes to do that doesn't he? The showoff".

Voraak offered a chuckle in quick response and the session was about to begin.

"Alright young ones, today's lesson will be quite hands on and you will have the ability to gather ingredients to make a very VERY important reagent that is paramount for the knowledge of all Alchemists and Mages alike. The potion in question is one that revitalizes the consumer and makes their energy almost replenish. An old, weary man such as myself will feel twenty-years old again and should you exhaust yourself while performing magic, this potion won't guarantee your energy to cast more spells but it will dampen the exhaustion, just a tad."

Voraak looked over to Roselia and smiled at her as he whispered
"How did Invocations go?"

Roselia smiled and chuckled
"Fantastic...we practiced with conjuring familiars and it was so much fun!" She beamed happily at him.

Tyrethian nodded and smiled at her
"Glad to hear"

Professer Ryver stopped lecturing and looked at Voraak with a curious twinkle in his eye, putting him on the spotlight. Ceasing the conversation, the aging alchemist continued.

"To make this reagent, one must gather a common ingredient found in the forest environment: Pepper Root. Now this plant got its name for a simple reason....it tastes like a common pepper one would use to season their food. This root, when braised on meat; does quite taste impeccable HOWEVER! We are going to discuss its alchemical properties instead."

Voraak tore his textbook open and read some brief information about Pepper Root before exchanging flirtatious smiles with Roselia.
 

Teodron

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Teodron sighed as he watched a fellow student come into class late, and take a seat in front of the half-dwarf. It had been one of the only open desks, and he’d been hoping it would stay that way. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t really on his side these days.

Nor was the College of Magic: dwarves and even half-dwarves were not all that common among these, and there were few races smaller, so most of the college had been designed for people much, much taller than him. Even the children of other races sometimes overtook Teodron in height, something he was trying not to be annoyed at. Still, it was hard when he could barely see the Maestar lecturing, and had to crane his neck to see past the much (much) taller human man in front of the half-dwarf.

It had been a long string of similar occurrences. The books on the shelves in the library were often just tantalizing out of reach; the chairs and tables were too high, leaving his feet dangling sometimes; even the stairs required a little bit more effort for the smaller Teodron. So though he was sympathetic to the other student being let out late—Metisa knew the Maestar’s didn’t care much for the students’ time—the half-dwarf also knew he’d been let out late many a time and still managed to make it to class on his much shorter legs.

Mostly, though, he was annoyed at the looks he got. People were still surprised to see anyone with dwarven heritage at the college, given that it was known to be a less-than magical race. Teodron could ignore those.

However, what he couldn’t ignore were the looks from those who’d known his mother and put two and two together. The pity in their eyes was too much to bear.

So he channeled it into his studies. Even if he wasn’t the most talented mage, he was striving to be the hardest working: what he couldn’t master immediately, he always mastered eventually. Even though he knew he wanted to study rune magic, he didn’t shy away from the other magical disciplines. Actually, he welcomed them. As far as Teodron was concerned, the more information on magic he received, the more he wanted to know. He was insatiable.

And not just because he was still concerned the college hadn’t been entirely forthcoming about his mother’s disappearance.

Still, that was all at the back of his mind as he glared at the human male, who’d been predictably distracted by the pretty girl seated next to him. Multiple times Teodron almost shushed them—and considered doing a lot worse—but every time he bit his tongue. He was still new here, and didn’t want to get on anyone’s bad side, no matter how hard they made it to focus on Professor Ryver’s impassioned, but admittedly boring spiel on pepper root. At least the professor managed to put a stop to the worst of the behavior between the boy and the girl, and Teodron heaved an audible sigh of relief when they fell silent.

Focus renewed, the half-dwarf dutifully noted down every word from the old alchemist. Shortly after coming to the college Teodron had developed a shorthand so that he could write more quickly; it was the only way to keep up with some of the professors, who often liked to hear the sound of their own voice more than they liked teaching. As Ryver kept going on and on about the wonderful properties of pepper root, then directed them to read more, Teodron frowned. If this ingredient was so great then the half-dwarf didn’t know why they wouldn’t use it in everything. However, even he knew that was too good to be true.

Skimming the pages of the textbook didn’t yield any obvious information about negative effects. Biting his lip, the half-dwarf tentatively raised his hand, ignoring the now sickening smiles from the infatuated pair. “Excuse me, professor. I apologize if this information is laid out elsewhere, but I was wondering what drawbacks, if any, the potion and the root had?” After all, magic always had a price of some kind. Sometimes it was nastier than others, but sometimes it was simply an equal and opposite reaction at the other end.

Teodron raised his chin, ignoring the reactions of his classmates, which ranged from indifference to muttered teasing about the teacher’s pet. After all, in the half-dwarf’s mind they were here to learn and not to make friends.

And certainly not to flirt so blatantly with one another in class.
 

Voraak Tyrethian

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When the lecture started about this Pepper Root, Voraak kept his comments to himself and he intently listened to the teacher while reading in his textbook about the plant itself. Professor Ryver was a man in his late fifties or so and his cloak was adorned in yellow accents that were intricately designed. A robe signifying that he was a master in his rightful art.

Seeing a hand shoot up, the Professor acknowledged the half-dwarf who was also exceptional in his studies.

"Master Stonecutter! Yes! Excellent question! There is a particular drawback to the Pepper Root yes. Once harvested a sort of natural timer starts. The Pepper Root decays rather quickly when taken from the fertile soil. You have an hour or two, depending on the climate to prepare the Root before it loses its potency. If you were to brew the Pepper Root when its expired. The results are very dreadful and can make you very ill which means that the Pepper Root can make for a potent poison."

Voraak nodded in affirmation at the half-dwarf's question as a sign of respect. The aging professor then went on about the root some more before announcing a 'field trip'.

"I will show you all there is to know about Pepper Root in this study, so with that being said the whole class will be taking a small field trip down to the meadows to perform further analysis. Such an exciting time!!! In addition I will be assigning you groups of two in order to complete and expedite this study."

Ryver looked down at his lectern and compared names and possible outcomes before announcing the setup.

"Tharyn, you will be going with Wilhelm"
" Roselia you will be going with Jurgin"
" Teodron, you will be going with Voraak, as you two seem to be very adept in my class"


After the announcement was made, Professor Ryver gathered a satchel full of supplies and headed toward the door.

"Everyone, we will reconvene at the meadows below the College; we will meet there in twenty-minutes. Hurry up now, be enthusiastic about your work fellow mages!!"

Voraak nodded and looked to Roselia one last time before gathering his materials and turning around to meet his new partner.

"Well, looks like we get to harvest together."

Voraak held his hand out to the half-dwarf in an attempt to make alliances.
 
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Teodron

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Teodron hadn’t thought his question was all that impressive. Oh, sure, it was definitely good to know that once it was picked the root needed to be used immediately, which the half-dwarf imagined would be difficult in the wilderness. Scanning the page before him, Teodron saw that (to the best of the author’s knowledge, at least) Pepper Root had yet to be successfully domesticated, which would explain why there wasn’t more of it readily available.

Out of the corner of his eye, the half-dwarf saw the tall human nod at Teodron, apparently in respect. The half-dwarf blinked, surprised by the gesture. He paused for just a few seconds too long before nodding back in acknowledgement; hopefully the tall man wouldn’t view it as rude, but rather as a sign of distraction.

After all, the half-dwarf was still trying to follow along with the explanation. Frowning, Teodron considered the professor’s words: it seemed incredibly risky to use something that turned so quickly from potion to poison. Then again, most magic was incredibly dangerous when it wasn’t done correctly. While the half-dwarf would’ve loved to ask a follow up question—knowing which climates caused it to decay more rapidly, and how to tell when it had expired seemed reasonable—Ryver had already moved on, excitedly saying they’d understand more after a field trip.

In this case, it was a literal field trip, seeing as they were going to the meadows. However, thinking back to what the professor had said earlier, the half-dwarf was confused. Hesitantly, he raised his hand. “Sir? Forgive me for asking, but didn’t you say Pepper Root grew in a forest environment? Are we just meeting in the meadows before heading into the woods?” It didn’t really matter, the half-dwarf knew (he’d go where told without asking too many questions), but it never hurt to be prepared.

Then the professor handed out the pairings and Teodron had more pressing concerns.

Namely, that he was paired with the tall human: the half-dwarf eyed Voraak curiously as the human held out his hand. While it had shocked the half-dwarf to hear that he was considered ‘adept,’ he didn’t have much time to process it. Taking the human’s hand in a firm grip, Teodron made sure his voice was polite. “Looks like. I’m Teodron. Nice to meet you.”

Then the half-dwarf hesitated, eyes straying to the girl Voraak had been speaking to. Teodron lowered his voice. “If uh, you wanted to switch partners for whatever reason, I ah, would understand.” The professor might not, but after watching the two lovebirds in front of him the half-dwarf figured the human would jump at the chance.

It wasn’t so much that Teodron wanted a new partner as that he didn’t really know how to handle group work. No one much liked working with a half-dwarf, or at least, many of his other students didn’t. While the professors mostly seemed happy with Teodron’s progress, he couldn’t help the nagging sense of self-doubt that crept over him at times like this. To buy himself time and steady his nerves while he waited for Voraak’s response, the half-dwarf gathered up his supplies. Hopefully he wouldn’t need anything beyond what was in his bag, which included a quill and ink, journals for note taking, and a few books (some assigned for class, some slightly more advanced). It didn't sound like they'd be going far, so the half-dwarf was going to assume that would be enough.
 
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Voraak Tyrethian

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Professor Ryver shuffled his feet and turned around as the half-dwarf prompted another question.

“Yes Master Stonecutter. We are all meeting in the meadows for a head-count. So I can issue corrective actions if students skip out. We head into the forest together, I will show you all the signs of thriving Pepper Root and what to look out for. Come along now! Research and progress waits on no one!!”

Voraak held his hand out for a few moments before the half-dwarf agreed to the handshake.
“Pleasure, I’m Voraak”

As the aging man headed out the door, students could be seen getting up and heading out with their respective partners. Roselia turned to Voraak and smiled.

“Guess we got in trouble for that one eh Vor? I’ll see you out there!”

Nodding at Roselia he offered.
“See you out there Rose!”

As Teodron and Voraak walked out of the classroom and into the courtyard, an offer to switch partners was brought up by his newfound partner.

“Normally I would switch partners, only because I have run into complete idiots who have no idea what they are doing, which is why I work well with Rose. She is a natural. However, you seem pretty keen and adept so why the hell not?”

The Young Sorcerer held his pack over his shoulder with one hand as the two walked out and headed to the meadows. Voraak was nervous but he felt that he would work somewhat swimmingly with his new partner. At least Voraak wouldn’t be doing all the work; which is what he had experienced before.

“I will say one thing about Professor Ryver, his lectures may be long-winded but his cooking suggestions for some alchemical ingredients is on point. I haven’t had Pepper Root braised on meat but hell….I wanna try it now.”

The slope of the terrain took the class downwind and a vast meadow was displayed before them and stopped at the treeline where the forest was. The forest hugged against the Cairou River and according to Professor Ryver--it was an excellent place to harvest Pepper Root as long as it wasn’t overharvested. The class slowly came to a stop as the Professor went to the front and went on about his lesson.

This would give the students to socialize among themselves before the study could begin.
 
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Teodron

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Ah. The girl’s name was Rose, or rather, Roselia. It occurred to Teodron that maybe he should do a better job getting to know his fellow students, regardless of how they felt about his race. After all, if he was going to spend the foreseeable future (and it would be a long period, since even becoming a Maestar of the First Order took ten years) at the college, it would be much more tolerable if he had friends, or at least allies.

He could start with Voraak, who seemed friendly enough even if Teodron wasn’t quite sure whether the human’s words about being surrounded by idiots were a compliment or not. After all, all the human said was that basically the half-dwarf wasn’t a complete idiot. “Oh. Thanks?” Coughing awkwardly, Teodron rushed to add, “that is, I appreciate you giving me a chance.” Well, that wasn’t exactly right—the professor had assigned them, it wasn’t like they’d sought each other out—but Teodron fell silent, not wanting to say anything else that might make him seem idiotic.

It was going to be a long day. At least the conversation swung back around to the topic at hand soon enough. Well, kind of.

The half-dwarf gave the human a skeptical look as Voraak spoke about cooking with Pepper Root. “Really? I’d be too worried about accidentally poisoning myself.” Actually, the half-dwarf didn’t know if the decay only applied to the root’s alchemical properties or if it would extend to cooking as well; either way he probably wouldn’t risk it, but it would certainly be good to know. “I’m worried enough about that with the potion, especially since Ryver didn’t mention how to determine if it was expired or what climate would make it expire more quickly.” Presumably the class would learn that in due time. It was just that Teodron wished some of his fellow students were more interested in learning and less interested in goofing off.

Apparently many of them thought this field trip was an opportunity to have fun. The half-dwarf tried not to let it bother him as a small group of them started showing off by casting more and more elaborate illusions, trying to see what they could get away with without Ryver noticing. It was a waste of magic—and foolish, given that they weren’t really supposed to be doing any unsupervised spells—but they didn’t seem to care.

Maybe Teodron was just jealous that he’d never shown a talent for illusion magic beyond the most basic spells, though he was still determined to master it along with all the other disciplines.

As they trudged down to the meadows and made their way to the forests just up ahead (following the path of the familiar River Cairou), the half-dwarf tried to come up with an appropriate topic of conversation. His mind was coming up blank, so he decided to just go with the classics. “So what are you hoping to study at the college?” Most people had quite elaborate—and often ridiculous responses to that question—so Teodron figured he’d just make interested noises every now and again while Voraak rambled on. That usually worked.
 
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Voraak Tyrethian

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As the pair walked out of the College and out into the serene environment, Voraak exchanged conversation with the half-dwarf mage. They seemed to hit it off better than he did with most of his classmates- with the exception of Rose who was in a league all of her own. Hearing the dwarf thank him in a questioning tone allowed Voraak to correct himself.

“My apologies, I meant that completely as a compliment. You seem really sharp is what I was really trying to say”

Although the Professor did assign them, maybe it was to show the other students that Teodron was just as good--if not better than any other classmate; or maybe to show the others that Voraak had strong potential, no matter how late he was to class.

“Professor Ryver prides himself with layer upon layer of information, he will tell us all we need to know about Pepper Root. Since it is dangerous, he feels more obligated to shadow us and make sure we are in the clear. At least you know that if you were in a survival situation with nothing to eat but Pepper Root, this study will teach you how to properly handle it.”

Voraak ran a smile across his face while looking at Teodron. The meadow lay just before them, Teodron and Voraak were not the first to make it there, as the rest of the class was there waiting for them. Getting caught up in the conversation, it seems that their pace was slowed down which allowed other classmates to get there first.

The half-dwarf then posed a question that he hadn’t been asked….yet.
What am I hoping to study?

“You know, that’s a really good question. I think all magic should be studied, this way most mages are well-versed and practiced. I….myself however, am primarily majoring in Elemental magic--particularly Frost Magic. After I graduate from the College I would like to study other magics and practice Alchemy if given the chance.”

His head spun around and made contact with his new partner.
“What about you? What are you hoping to study here?”

-----------------------------------------------------------

As the pair made it with the rest of the group, Ryver greeted them with a shaking head and a voice of authority.

“Glad you two finally joined us. NOW! Going back to Pepper Root, I will explain some more things in depth as we trudge along in the woods. I had the liberty of making a small campsite for the groups to work with so all the materials you will need--minus the Pepper Root, are located at your appropriate stations. Come now.”

Professor Ryver and the class proceeded toward the forest and soon they all disappeared behind the treeline.

“Pepper Root has two main requirements for it to grow; plentiful shade, and a nearby water source. Trekking along the Cairou River would be wise class.”

The expedition shifted their direction as the Professor lead them to the riverbank, which revealed that the water had a rather slow current. Kneeling down, the teacher piped up and alerted the class.

“Look here. This is Pepper Root, it looks like the roots of a vegetable but the black speckled spots give it away. To harvest them, simply just cut away the main portion here…….leave the root branches alone as they will help expedite the growth of another Pepper Root.”

Ryver had a knife to which he used to cut away the main body of the root. Hurriedly he walked past the class and directed them to the nearby campsite(s).

“Come now…..this is where the real fun starts”
 
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Teodron

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Teodron blushed when Voraak apologized. The half-dwarf hadn’t meant to imply that the human had been anything less than polite. It was simply that Teodron was bad at interpreting other people’s statements; while he knew that most people at the college weren’t malicious (although maybe a bit prejudiced), it was hard not to worry about what other people were thinking of him. “Oh! No need to apologize, I understood. I just...well, I don’t know that many people here yet.” It wasn’t really an explanation—it was barely an excuse—but the half-dwarf didn’t really want to dwell on the awkwardness.

After all, it would require him to explain quite a bit that he really didn’t want to.

Nodding along to the human’s explanation, the half-dwarf found himself agreeing with most of what Voraak said. Professor Ryver was better than most at the college; many of them seemed to view teaching as a waste of their time, which could be much better spent on researching or casting their own spells. Some of them even amassed fortunes to rival those of any merchants in Elbion. “I know. I wasn’t really worried, just commenting that I’d rather not resort to eating something that could poison me if I screwed up. Better safe than sorry in my book.” Maybe that made Teodron lame. But he’d rather be lame than dead.

Besides, being cautious was necessary in magic: when a spell went awry, the effects were unpredictable, but almost always dangerous. It was one of the first lessons the students had drilled into them, after the Five Laws of course.

Smiling at the other man’s words, Teodron found himself getting excited for the first time about this excursion. It seemed that (despite some very obvious differences) he and Voraak had a lot in common. “I think all magic should be studied as well! Although I have to admit I don’t have a talent for most of it, but studying it and its various forms has always fascinated me.” Glancing at his partner, the half-dwarf wondered whether he might actually make a friend today. “Graduation feels a long way away, doesn’t it?” Indeed, Teodron hadn’t even begun to make plans for afterwards, seeing as he’d be in college for so long. “What is it about Elemental Magic, and Frost Magic in particular, that appeals to you?” It was obvious from Voraak’s words and his reverence towards the professor that Alchemy was a favorite—and a lucrative business at that—but Elemental Magic and Alchemy seemed very different.

Teodron probably should’ve predicted that his question would get turned around on him. At least he had an answer ready. “I’ve always been fascinated by rune magic.” It got a bad reputation, but it had been the half-dwarf’s mother’s specialty. “And I also like defensive and protection magic.” While the half-dwarf didn’t seem himself as a fighter, he could see numerous applications for defensive magic outside of the context of battle.

Then they arrived, and Teodron was far too busy listening to the professor for further conversation with Voraak. The half-dwarf paid close attention to every detail about Pepper Root: its preferred habitat, how to recognize it, and how to harvest it. It didn’t seem too complicated, but with magic there was usually some issue (although the rapid decay could definitely be considered one).

Following the professor to the campsites, Teodron couldn’t help but wonder what Ryver meant by ‘real fun.’ The half-dwarf supposed he’d just have to wait and see.
 
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Voraak Tyrethian

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Voraak smiled briefly at him and shook his head at his classmate.

“I understand completely. It was hard for me to adjust but I had Rose to break me in, her and I have been friends since we were kids so she made the adjustment VERY easy for me”

Hearing the lecture from Professor Ryver, it was made apparent that their current assignment would match that of a scavenger hunt--a hunt for Pepper Root(s).

“Better safe than sorry is a good way to look at it. However some of the best arcane authors looked at it the opposite way. Do dangerous so others know what is and isn’t dangerous. I am sure that Ryver’s old material is manuscripts from dead mages and scholars who took their work too seriously”

Voraak gave a brief chuckle after revealing that bit of dark information.

The Young Sorcerer was careful in his arcane dealings and always struck true with the Five Laws but he still questioned and thought “what if one could go beyond the Five Laws?” but has never acted on it.

“Thank the Gods someone else feels the same. I told one of my classmates this and they reported me, saying that I was condoning and endorsing Necromancy. I only meant that it should be studied so if a mage ever runs into trouble--they will understand it and know how to combat it.”

Looking at Teodron’s sense of disapproval he shook his head and offered

“You should give yourself more credit. People are more powerful than they can ever realize. My father was a mercenary and claims he was a shit swordsman but truth is, no one could swing as fast as he could…..Show off what you got”

On that token, graduation was still a journey away from him. Voraak wouldn’t take other courses because he was so focused on Alchemy and Elementalism. He blamed this on the fact he wanted to be more than proficient in these two arts--then he would worry about the rest.

“Yeah…..quite a ways off for me, but that’s alright I have all the time in the world.”

After offering the sentiment on graduating, he was asked about his interest in Frost magic. His interest grew because of certain artifacts and people he read about but Frost also had a utilitarian purpose as well.

“Stuck in a desert? Melt the ice. Need to cross a body of water? Freeze it. Need to put distance between you and an opponent? Raise a wall of ice. It’s usefulness is much more appealing to me as opposed to other Elements. I’m not saying that they are useless but I just prefer Frost.”

This much was true but it wasn’t the full answer he had in mind.

“Rune magic eh? Takes some serious dedication and focus to be finessed with it! I have tried it but it’s not my wheelhouse so power to you for that.”


--------------------------------------------


Professor Ryver huddled everyone around the campfire and knelt down to show the class how to properly dress the root before consumption.


“As you see here class, I already have the ingredients for the potion. You will need one part Pepper Root--freshly picked. You will need a chunk of oaken bark and a few shucks of wild mint. Now you need to dress the root to expose the goodness within it. Make a few incisions in the Root itself, to act as a sort of ventilation so the flavor and properties seep into the mixture. Once that has been performed, toss it into the pot. Layer the mixture with wild mint…..and crush the bark as best as you can before tossing it in the solution. The result? Stirring it until the texture is non-apparent and you should get this nice blue color coming out. I would say a safe chance is to stir for around ten minutes. “

Everyone gathered around would be able to see that the mixture turned from translucent to a bright shade of blue in a matter of minutes. Various gasps would take place and the Professor would resume.

“Once you are done stirring, you should be able to pour this into a flask or bottle and voila! A potion of rejuvenating!”

Before the class could applaud the Professor did add one warning.

“Now you may be wondering….what does Pepper Root look like when it has been expired? This is the answer…..The Pepper Root will wrinkle and shrivel like a raisin. The smell will change from an aromatic black pepper to that of a fish. The smell is...hard to explain but a fishy type smell is the only way I can explain it. Class you have an hour to find some Pepper Root, Wild Mint and some Oaken Bark. Once the hour is up, reconvene here and I will assist you in the potion making...now begone!!”
 
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Teodron

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Teodron spared a moment to wonder what it would be like to have a best friend going through the college with him. He’d left behind all the people he knew in his old life: his family, his friends, his former co-workers. His mother hadn’t exactly made a habit of bringing home her colleagues. As a result, while some knew her, very few knew Teodron.

Of course, being known to the professor’s would probably just contribute to the half-dwarf’s reputation as a teacher’s pet. Regardless, it seemed Voraak’s experience at the college had been very different from Teodron’s. “That sounds nice.” Right then he resolved to try to get closer to his classmates. It wasn’t their fault he was shy and uncertain.

As the conversation swung back to magical theory—well, kind of, at least—Teodron felt he was on much firmer ground. “I’m all for pushing the boundaries of magic, but there’s a difference between doing something that might be dangerous and doing something dangerously,” he pointed out. “I certainly wouldn’t advocate for getting rid of caution and protective and preventive measures, “ in fact, the half-dwarf shuddered at the thought of experimentation without care, “but if you never take a risk you’re not really learning. Or living.” It was much easier said than done, though.

However, then they ventured into a much more fraught topic. Teodron hesitated, eyes darting to their nearest classmates, before lowering his voice so that it couldn’t be easily overheard. “Keep your voice down.” Maybe the half-dwarf was being paranoid, but again, better safe than sorry. Necromancy wasn’t technically dark magic, but it was close enough to worry many of the mages, and so it wasn’t taught. It didn’t help that many necromancers tended to go bad; maybe it had something to do with losing sight of the line between life and death, though Teodron was just speculating.

“Look, I agree with you that it’s worth studying the more...taboo arts, if only to counteract them. And theoretically necromancy has some benevolent applications. For instance, allowing spirits to rest, or dealing with ghosts, or even mediumship could probably be considered a form of necromancy if you think about it in a certain light…” realizing he’d gone off on a tangent, Teodron coughed. “Anyway. What I meant is, even if I agree with you, it’s still not safe to talk about that sort of thing openly.” The half-dwarf wasn’t going to report Voraak, obviously. Teodron just hoped the human had more sense when it came to actual spellcasting.

Of course, given the other man’s comments about danger and magic earlier, maybe that hope was misplaced.

The half-dwarf just shrugged, embarrassed that the human was trying to give a pep talk. “It’s not a matter of confidence or showing off, just fact. I have less aptitude for the magic arts than a lot of the other students. So I try to make up for it by working as hard as I can until I master it. Sometimes even after. just to make sure it sticks.” So far the strategy had been working, but they hadn’t gotten to more advanced spellcasting yet.

Well, actually, Voraak had a limited amount of time in the world. Humans were among the shorter lived races. As a half-dwarf, Teodron would live longer than most humans, though not nearly as long as his dwarven ancestors. However, he felt the impending years pressing in on him; it didn’t help that he’d watched his mother struggle to distinguish herself as anything more than a junior mage here.

She hadn’t quite accomplished that before her disappearance.

Banishing that thought from his mind, Teodron tried to give the human a reassuring smile, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “That’s true. Guess I never thought of it that way.”

Voraak made some good points about Frost magic. However, the half-dwarf frowned. It wasn’t that he wasn’t convinced that the human was right. It was more that Teodron thought there were lots of disciplines that could fulfill the same purpose. “Can’t Water magic do everything Frost can, and more?” It stood to reason that Frost was a subset of Water, though the half-dwarf wasn’t totally certain of that. “And Earth magic could transport you out of the desert or you could use it to dig until you hit water. And obviously it can build bridges and walls.” Realizing he was potentially criticizing the other student’s judgment, Teodron hastened to add “I mean, it sounds like it works for you, which is all that really matters. I was just curious I guess.”

“Oh. Uh...thanks!”
Teodron had been taken aback by Voraak’s response—most people ridiculed rune magic—but the half-dwarf’s response ended up being quite bright and friendly. “I don’t know about dedication or finesse, but it’s not the most common choice.” The half-dwarf had his reasons, though.
-------
Not for the first time Teodron reflected that the professors at the college of magic were kind of weird and single minded when it came to their chosen magical disciplines. Granted, the half-dwarf could get obsessed as well. He just knew the value of a broad foundation in multiple disciplines in addition to knowing one in depth.

Pulling out a notebook, Teodron made a careful and swift list of everything required for the potion: ingredients, recipe, how long it took to prepare, even how it looked when it was expired. Immediately after the professor dismissed them, most of the group scattered, clearly eager to explore the woods and get this out of the way. Teodron had just one question. “Sir, does the potion expire within an hour or two as well, or does preparing it halt the decay process?” It wouldn’t be much use if it only lasted an hour or two, so Teodron figured it was stable for longer than that. However, magic faded, so it’d be good to know how long it lasted.

They’d need to get hunting, so Teodron turned to Voraak. “Let’s get on with it then.” It was said in an amiable tone, which would hopefully soften the words. With that, the half-dwarf set a brisk pace upstream. The Cairou was familiar to Teodron, as it was familiar to all residents of Elbion. However, he didn’t know if he’d ever been this far before. Still, it was an easy landmark.

As they walked, the half-dwarf kept his eyes peeled for any sign of either mint or Pepper Root. He figured oak bark would be easy to find, but those other two might be difficult, especially if the rest of the class picked the woods around them clean. Still, whenever they saw a shadowy or shaded area the half-dwarf bent down to examine the plants.
 
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Voraak Tyrethian

The Pale Sorcerer
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Teodron was different than most of his classmates he had to work with. He wasn’t cocky, arrogant or condescending; not from what Voraak could tell. The half-dwarf just needed time to adjust and people to help make it easy--as far as settling in goes.

“Yeah….it was nice. Anyways, you are making your mark here and that’s what matters.”

Which was true. Voraak didn’t have friends growing up, all he had was Roselia and she was enough. However, Teodron would be Voraak’s first male friend which felt different, yet normal.

The half-dwarf commented on pushing boundaries of magic which kept him even more invested in the conversation.

“Agreed. A controlled environment is usually best to do research, especially if proper safety measurements have been taken.”

Voraak hadn’t taken any risks yet when it came to magic or research but he knew that he would have to sooner or later. The artifacts he would seek out, the magic he would want to practice. He smiled at the sentiment before Teodron hushed him about Necromancy.

“Pfft….I don’t care. People can get offended by it all they want...it won’t get rid of Necromancers. Ignoring them and turning the other direction won’t combat them”.

Realizing he came off as careless, he apologized and reassured Teodron

“I’m sorry, I just hate living through the judgement of mentioning those subjects”

Even if the mage had agreed with him, it still didn’t change opinions of others and he knew that Teodron and himself were a minority. Except, Voraak was a little bit more interested in the topics than he portrayed.

Going to a different topic, Voraak gave a brief sigh as if he was glad to get off the rocky topics and on to something more neutral.

“Hard work is part of it and an integral part of becoming a great mage. That’s what Professor Grimwater told me”

Debating on the Frost magic, Voraak held his ground and acknowledged the facts that his classmate presented.

“This is true, water can do that and more. I just prefer Frost. Water is very pliable and free-moving which can appear graceful. Frost is more rigid and can be more deadly when needed in combat. Of course, scholars can have different opinions which I openly welcome. Frost is just something I am drawn to. I can’t really explain it.”

And he couldn’t. He felt this weird fascination with Frost magic and even researched famous mages/warlords that used Frost magic and they had become immensely powerful before being reduced to dust.

------------------------------------------------

The Professor was putting the finished solution in a bottle when Voraak’s partner raised another thought-provoking question.

“The potion? Expire…..Oh yes! Thank you for reminding me Master Stonecutter. The potion does indeed have a shelf-life which is also the reason why this potion sells for a hefty price. Depending on the environment you are in, the potion can expire and lose it’s potential. If the finished potion is in hot, arid environments it will only last 2-3 days. Colder environments actually ‘lock’ the potion in the current state. This means that if you craft this solution and put it in freezing cold water or if you lug it around in the Alpines or the Arctic environment, then the potion could last weeks.”

Ryver almost turned back around before remembering another bit of information.

“Also! If you carry the potion and it decays, don’t worry about the Pepper Root’s properties. The potion simply loses its efficacy, nothing negative has been recorded among the Alchemists’ Guild. So if you have the potion and it decays, the only thing you are greeted with is a strange tasting potion that does nothing. I hope that answers your question Teodron”


After the aging Alchemist tended to his fire, the classmates were off like a race. Teodron and Voraak kept to the riverbank, looking for Pepper Root. While they would scour the forest, Tyrethian would grab his dagger and shave bits of oaken bark off a nearby Oak tree and place it in his pouch.

“I got the bark, now if we could find some wild mint and Pepper Root then we will be good to go”

Pepper Root was an elusive plant of it’s own accord however that wouldn’t prevent the pair from looking at every square inch of the forest for the desired ingredient.
 

Teodron

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Teodron decided that he tentatively liked Voraak. Of course, they’d had such a limited interaction so far that it was really too soon to tell. But the human was nice enough, a decently engaging conversationalist, and shared similar views to the half-dwarf when it came to learning and magic. All that combined to make Teodron believe they could actually be friends.

Still, he wasn’t sure he’d agree with Voraak’s assertion that the half-dwarf was making his mark at the college, and moreover that it was all that mattered. Honestly, he wasn’t sure he bought the assertion that his reputation and legacy were the most important things in his life, and even if he did, he wasn’t sure that he was actually making a mark to begin with. He knew enough not to voice all that to Voraak, however. “I hope so. And I’m sure you are as well. Making your mark, that is.” Hopefully in a good way.

Simply nodding at the comment on a controlled environment for experimentation—that was so self-evident it didn’t require a response—Teodron wondered when he’d be allowed to start actually performing magic that wasn’t well documented. There were students who practiced magical traditions of their ancestors that hadn’t been studied at the college, but that was different than pioneering new forms of magic.

Of course, the half-dwarf was studying one of the oldest forms he knew about. So maybe he’d never be a trailblazer in magic theory.

Metisa as his witness, Voraak might be a fool after all. It was all Teodron could do not to roll his eyes at the human’s total lack of self-preservation. “Look, whether or not you like the prohibition, discussing Necromancy is ill-advised. Obviously I think it’s important to study it, if only to develop countermeasures, but seeing as that’s an unpopular opinion,” and seeing as how discussing it openly might lead to expulsion (not that the half-dwarf mentioned that), “don’t you think you should be a little more...circumspect?”

After all, it was only chance that Teodron had been sympathetic to that point of view. It was entirely possible another one of their classmates would be less understanding. “Does Rose know about all this?” Maybe that was a low blow—and the half-dwarf didn’t really know what the relationship between Rose and Voraak was—but Teodron had often found that considering a situation from the perspective of a close friend (or loved one, whatever) made it much clearer.

He smiled at the human to make sure there were no hard feelings. “I get it. Trust me, I get my fair share of judgment for studying rune magic.” It wasn’t quite the same as admitting to an interest in Necromancy. However, for completely different reasons, it was incredibly unpopular.

Shrugging at the next comment from the human, the half-dwarf made sure his voice was free of any bitterness when he next spoke. “I think so, but talent does count for a lot as well. And many of the Maestars think innate brilliance and aptitude for magic is necessary.” Sometimes they thought that was all that was required, and fawned upon the students who came in with strong magic already, ignoring the weaker members of their class.

At least, that had been Teodron’s experience.

The subject of which Elemental magic was best and Teodron grinned. “Fair enough. I was mostly thinking out loud. You definitely don’t need to explain your preference for a specific magic discipline to me!” After all, that had as much to do with exposure, personality, and disposition as it had to do with skill.

-----

All the information that Ryver conveyed was quite useful. Teodron dutifully wrote it down before tucking his notebook back in his pack.

Then he and Voraak were off; the half-dwarf nodded approvingly as the human scraped some oak bark off a nearby tree. That was the easiest ingredient to find. Try as Teodron might, he couldn’t seem to uncover any Pepper Root or mint. Of course, he didn’t really know what mint looked like in the wild. Or at all, really: it wasn’t a spice that he’d cooked with often, even after he’d taken over cooking for the family in the immediate aftermath of his mother’s death.

Disappearance, he reminded himself firmly. She was only presumed dead.

Stumbling upon a tributary that fed into Cairou, Teodron bit his lip. “Why don’t we follow the stream? We might have better luck in an area that hasn’t been picked over by our classmates yet.” Then, because he didn’t want to be a burden he asked, “also, do you know what mint looks like? And where it grows?”

It made him feel silly to ask, but Teodron was a city boy and pretty much useless in the woods.
 
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Voraak Tyrethian

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Hearing Teodron’s tone of voice take a more ‘disapproving’ manner made him smile in a joking way. He gave a brief shrug before commenting on the question.

“A little more circumspect? Aw come on. I enjoy being ostracized by other students….In all seriousness you are right. I can’t really be a good role model of a student if I don’t fit the majority of the narrative being taught at the College”


Picking through the brush and not finding the ingredients at the moment sent Voraak into a questioning phase. Did they go too far upriver? Did they overlook it by talking? Did another group comb this area before them? It was all too early to tell.

“Yeah, Rose knows about this. She is worried that I could be involved in some dark plot of some kind or fall victim to the promise of power. She means well and I will try not to worry her…..too much”

Giving a brief chuckle, Voraak firmly secured the bark in his pouch and pressed forward to search for Wild Mint. The Pale Sorcerer took a sigh of relief when the topic of Rose was changed to something neutral like Rune Magic.

“Rune Magic is quite underrated in most studies I have poured over. I couldn’t really get the hang of it but it is not for everyone. You have to have that….that….what’s the word? Aptitude? Bah….it’ll work. You have to be cut out for it in order to use it swimmingly based on some things I read.”


Hearing the half-dwarf comment on his choice of Frost put him at ease. No more probing into reasons why it was his select form of magic. Perhaps they could discuss something else? Perfect….Wild Mint.

“Following the stream would be a sound decision as Pepper Root thrives in that environment. As far as Wild Mint goes, I know what it looks like. Some shoots will sprout up in or around moss. My mother used to make tea with it when I was ill. I know the stuff all too well!”


The pair descended further and further into the woods, hunting for their quarry.
 

Teodron

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Perhaps it was being an older sibling, or perhaps it was the discrimination he still occassionally experienced for being a half-dwarf, but Teodron could never imagine himself joking the way Voraak was right now. Maybe that meant the half-dwarf was too serious—though he thought that was far preferable to the alternative—but unlike the tall human, who seemed popular and likeable enough, there was much less of an uphill battle to be recognized and accepted by peers and professors both. “It’s less about being a model student and more about being a student at all,” Teodron pointed out. “I’m sure they would expel someone just to keep their reputation intact.”

Reputation seemed to be the College of Elbion’s primary concern. When his mother had disappeared, rather than console Teodron and his family, the Maestars had instead covered up the details. It was why the half-dwarf was convinced there was more to the situation than met the eye.

“And that doesn’t concern you?” If they really were best friends, then Teodron would’ve thought that Voraak would give Rose’s worries a bit more consideration. It sounded as if the human was humoring the girl, rather than treating her seriously and giving her words the weight they deserved. Still, it wasn't the half-dwarf’s place to judge; if Rose and Voraak were indeed close, then presumably they knew each other well enough to know how the other acted and felt. Teodron wasn’t that close to anyone, not even his father and sisters.

Teodron was on much firmer ground when it came to rune magic. It helped that Voraak seemed to have an incomplete understanding of the art: it was one of the oldest magical disciplines, and one of the least understood, so that wasn’t surprising. “Not particularly, actually. Or at least, that’s not how I’ve always viewed it.” The half-dwarf struggling to put into words how he felt about the runes. “It’s like...well, you see, it’s old. So people say things like ‘oh we’ve forgotten too much,’ or, I guess, ‘it’s outdated, newer magic is better, we stopped using it for a reason,’ or well, any number of things about it. But they’re wrong.” He said that last part much more firmly than the rest. More firmly than he'd meant to, actually.

Taking a deep breath, Teodron tried to tamp down on both his annoyance and his excitement. “What they don’t get is that ancient cultures all practiced their own form of it. That doesn’t make it primitive, not at all. Indeed, it’s remarkable how diverse the runes and their effects are, and it varies by region. What that tells me,” though not every rune mage agreed, and many non-rune mages definitely disagreed, “is that it’s not a dead art, but one that’s constantly reinventing itself for a new era. It had as much to do with intent and imagination as it does with any physical markings.” Realizing he’d been talking for a while, Teodron blushed. “Sorry, I just...got excited, I guess?” It was no excuse to ramble on, though.

Thankfully, he was spared from speaking further by the discussion of the plants. Nodding at the description of wild mint, Teodron resolved to let Voraak take care of that ingredient; the half-dwarf resolved to just keep looking for the Pepper Root, since he wasn’t going to be much use identifying the mint based on a visual description alone.

Maybe it was that extra diligence or maybe it was the turn away from the main part of the river, but eventually Teodron spotted something near the banks that looked promising. It was in the shade of a willow tree that had taken root by a bend in the tributary they were following. Kneeling down, he compared it to the mental image he had of the plant: spotted vegetable roots. “Over here,” he called out, already pulling out his belt knife. If Voraak agreed that it was what they were looking for, the half-dwarf would cut away the root, leaving the leaves as Ryver had suggested.

Although maybe they should mark this spot, find the mint, and come back so the root didn’t expire. Teodorn didn’t know how long they’d been traveling: outside a city he was terrible at keeping time. However, returning to this area would be nice. It was incredibly quiet, with only the sound of babbling brook to split the air.
 
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Voraak Tyrethian

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Nodding at the sentiment, Voraak finally caved and agreed.

“You’re right, I get so excited to talk about magic...my proverbial filter comes unhinged. I hope no offense was taken Teodron”.

And he meant no offense. The Pale Sorcerer couldn’t afford to be expelled from the College, he still had much to prove and much to offer to the world of Arethil.

The College did maintain quite the reputation and did not hesitate to expel ‘problematic’ students in order to salvage their image. Voraak shuddered at the thought of being expelled this early in the game.

Going back to the topic of Rose, he smiled and laughed

“Of course it worries me, she is a close friend and her opinions matter greatly to me. I just don’t think she has anything to worry about.”

He hoped.

Voraak wanted a future with arcane principles and he hoped that Roselia would be part of that but it was way too soon to tell at this point in time.

The way that the half-dwarf talked about Rune Magic, it was noticeable that he was very well versed in its execution and theory.

“I never thought of it like that. However, I will implore you to continue chasing your craft…..and don’t ever be sorry, show enthusiasm for something you care for”

Voraak couldn’t read the future but he felt that Teodron would have a good outcome with Rune Magic after graduation.

While the conversation trickled to a hushed whisper, the pair resumed their search for the elusive Pepper Root. Finding some Wild Mint along the way, Voraak foraged a few shoots of the mint and made sure it was securely snug in his belt pouch.

Then he called out to him…..

Teodron motioned for Voraak to come have a closer look to see if they found their desired ingredient and alas…...Jackpot!

“That’s it Teodron! Good Eye! I managed to get some Wild Mint while you were looking for the Pepper Root….I think that’s everything and we should be able to go back to base camp and cook the potion up...Yeah?”

Excitement was brimming in Tyrethian’s eyes and was already hinting that he was ready to go back to camp and see how the other classmates did. He was hoping they would be the first but it wasn’t a competition so he settled as it was….a good field trip.
 
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Teodron

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The half-dwarf shook his head. “No offense taken. Just be careful, yeah?” It would be just Teodron’s luck to make friends with someone who then subsequently and immediately got expelled for being a little too interested in dark magic. While this was obviously a secondary concern, Teodron imagined that wouldn’t do wonders for his reputation at the college either.

As the conversation swung back to Rose, Teodron bit his lip. Again, he didn’t have close friends—especially close female friends—but he did have younger sisters, and in his experience asking people not to worry just got them to worry more. “I don’t think you get to control whether someone worries about you or not. All you can do is listen and try to alleviate their fear.” It was probably not his place to be saying any of this, so he fell silent.

At the other man’s comment, Teodron blushed slightly. “Same to you,” he said, slightly awkwardly, but kindly enough.

Seemed like they were all set on ingredients. The half-dwarf finished harvesting the Pepper Root, and then stood up and nodded. “Sounds good to me.” Hesitating at the enthusiasm in the human’s words and eyes, Teodron added, “We can go faster on the return trip if you’d like.” With his shorter legs, he’d have trouble keeping up. But he’d been doing that his whole life, so he’d manage.

Besides, Teodron found he also wanted to get back and maybe impress the professor some more. Either way, he set off back down the tributary, a spring in his step.