The sunlight wasn’t supposed to be on his left, Evren thought as he woke up. It was to the right, where the window was. And the walls were white, not this elegant blue, like he was in a…
That’s right, he remembered. He was in a palace. He listed his left hand. Yes – it was still there.
The prince who would inherit the Varinian Amulet… was him.
He lay there for a while, then sat up, still not getting out of bed. The bed was soft – as you’d expect from a palace. The window – to the left, as he’d noticed before – let in sunlight through a thin curtain. He knew that if he opened the curtain, there would be a great view of the palace gardens.
He should be happy. Proud, even, to be chosen for this.
Knowing that didn’t help. The light in the amulet swirled unevenly, though it remained dim.
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting in bed staring at it when he heard a knock at the door. Lord Calius didn’t wait for a reply before coming in, with four attendants behind him, carrying boxes.
“Good morning, Prince Silvio,” Calius said.
“I – I told you before, it’s just Evren,”
Calius ignored him. “These attendants will help you bathe and dress,” he said, gesturing to the four behind him.
Evren blinked. “I can do that myself,” he said. He got out of bed and stood up. He started to ask, but Calius gestured to a door to the side. Evren went there as fast as he could.
The shower was a lot larger than his at home, tiled in blue and white with gold designs painted, intricate patterns shining everywhere in the light that came in through a high window. The tiles were probably historic, he reflected, but the shower itself had been remodeled in modern times, with a glass door and a large, fancy shower head.
He took off his t-shirt and shorts, stepped in and turned it on. He let the water run over him. Whatever this thing did to the water was amazing. He would miss this, he thought, when he went –
He tensed. He wouldn’t be going back “home”. This was his home now. Even in this context, he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
When he was done with the shower, he returned to his room and was surprised to see Calius still there, with the attendants.
“I said I can dress myself,” Evren said.
“Can you?” Calius said, in an even tone. He gestured to the clothes that lay on the bed. Evren walked over to the items. There were what appeared to be several layers of robes, plus other pieces. Evren didn’t know which would go on first, or, for some of them, where.
He sighed, and let the attendants dress him.
When they were done, he left the bedroom and came into the office room of his suite. Kayir sat there, with Evren’s aunt. As Evren entered, their jaws dropped.
“Evren…” his aunt started. “You look amazing!”
“Like a real prince,” Kayir said, with a smile. He vaguely heard Calius scoff behind him, but he was barely focused. He gazed into the mirror on the wall across from the entrance to the office, and gasped.
He barely recognized himself. He had never worn clothes like this before, and the shapes of the garments reflected his features in ways completely new to him. His inky black hair, usually pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, was now long around his shoulders and down his back. His thick-framed glasses didn’t quite match the look, but he supposed those would have to change, too.
Still, he looked like he was wearing a costume. This was of far higher quality than anything he had worn for a play, but even so, he felt like a mere imitation of what Aurelio was.
The other prince’s silly, vacant smile and airy laughter came into his mind and he cringed a bit internally. Maybe that difference was a good thing.
He looked at Calius. The high priests had an important role to fill, and only himself or Aurelio to choose from. With that in mind, he could see why Calius was so tense, but even so…
A desk was set up by the window in the study, and Calius stood beside it, gesturing for Evren to sit down. The whole setup looked like valuable antiques. Between those and the expensive robes, he moved slowly. He didn’t want to break anything on his first day.
Calius began to speak. “There is plenty that you will be expected to know that an ordinary person would not have been exposed to,” he said. “We will try to remedy as much of that as possible in a short time, but…” He gave Evren a look that made Evren want to shrink down into his seat.
“Actually,” Kayir said. Evren and Calius turned to look at him. “Evren’s learned a lot of it already. I made sure to teach him things he would need if he ended up here.”
This was news to Evren, but then he realized, it was probably true that most children wouldn’t have learned as much as he had about the history of the kingdom, or the personalities of so many historical kings – even those that were barely even touched on in history classes in school. All of this was giving him new ways of seeing his whole life through now, and he wasn’t sure if he liked it. It was as if everything he had believed about himself was… He shook his head, turning back to Calius.
“That is good,” Calius said. “And it is also true that you have been studying magic, correct?”
Ah, this question. Evren took a deep breath. “I was, but I… stopped.”
Calius paused for a moment, before responding. “Stopped?”
“Yeah,” Evren said, intent on staring at the desk. “I -“ he hesitated. “I didn’t think I’d be able to go anywhere with it, so… I just stopped.” There. It was out. “I’ve been playing in a Cantrile troupe since then.” He said.
“Oh, not this again,” Calius muttered. Again? Evren realized he must have been referring to him, with the lyre, from before. Prince Aurelio. Evren cringed inside.
“I’m good at it, though,” he said. Calius just looked at him.
“He is,” Melisse offered. “He plays the lute. His group has been getting a lot of acclaim.”
“And that has no connection to his duties here,” Calius said. “Prince Silvio must focus entirely on learning magic.”
“My name is Evren,” he said. “Not… Silvio, or whatever. Just Evren.”
Calius closed his eyes for a moment and took a breath. “It is not proper for a prince to go by such a… to use a nickname like that. Particularly for someone in your position.”
He glared at Evren, but Evren didn’t budge. “Well, I’m not Silvio, prince or otherwise.” he said. “I’ve never used that name.” He looked Calius right in the eye and didn’t waver.
Calius sighed. “I won’t waste time on this trifle,” he said. “Evren.”
He said the name as if it tasted bad. It was clear he intended this as only a temporary concession. Fine, Evren thought. He’d take on that challenge.
A few hours later, Kayir and Evren entered a large, empty hall. On the far wall, banners hung near the high, arched ceiling, with emblems of the royal line, and the high priests. The walls were stone, rougher than the stone in the main areas of the palace. It was like a bigger, older version of a school gymnasium, Evren thought.
This was where they were to practice magic.
Kayir carried a bag full of implements – Evren didn’t know what they were, but he’d find out soon enough. He walked towards the center of the room, gazing up at the ceiling, wondering how many important things had happened in this hall. How many great figures from history had trained here? Evren let the atmosphere soak over him.
“You did study magic before, right?” Kayir asked. Evren broke from his daydreams.
“Y-yeah,” he replied.
“How much do you remember?” Kayir asked, cutting right to the point. He carried a few rods in his hand, each about a centimeter thick and the length of his forearm, made from different materials.
“I guess I remember the basics,” Evren said. He looked away from Kayir. “I-I mean,” he started. “If I had known that this-“
“It’s alright, Evren,” Kayir said. “It’s actually probably better if you remember less. You would have to re-learn a lot of things from the beginning.”
Evren blinked. He looked down at his wrist. He had changed from the formal attire he’d been dressed in earlier, and he now wore training clothes – leggings and a long-sleeved t-shirt. The sleeve was long enough to cover the amulet, but the light from the stone, brighter than yesterday, was visible through the thin fabric.
“This will work different from the sorts of tools you’ve used before,” Kayir said. He stood back from Evren now. “Try something simple, like a burst of wind,” he told Evren.
Evren moved into position, one leg back to brace himself, holding his left arm out, his right hand positioned nearby to help guide the energies properly. He tuned into the energies in the air, finding the streams of them, figuring out how to take some, just a little, and channel them through his body, through the bracelet, and into –
Suddenly he was knocked backwards. That force – that couldn’t have come from just that size of spell.
He heard Kayir laughing a bit, holding out a hand to help Evren up. “It’s a lot bigger, isn’t it?” Kayir asked. “Remember how you put out that fire so easily?”
“Yeah,” Evren said, thinking back. That had seemed easy for such a powerful effect. Could this amulet really…?
Evren nodded. Of course it would be that powerful. This was the Varinian Amulet.
“Hey, you’ll have time for brooding later,” Kayir said with a smile. “Right now, we’re practicing.” He handed Evren one of the rods. This one was made of some sort of crystal, with a blue tint in it.
“We’re going to practice with some different materials, to see what it responds best with,” Kayir said.
“Shouldn’t you know that, after all these centuries?” Evren asked.
“Well, it’s different with every holder,” Kayir said. “Your own energies, and your tastes and habits and the way you move, and the shape of your body, all of these things influence the way an amulet works.”
“So, the rituals I’ll have to do…?”
“They’ll need to be completely redesigned around you, like they would need to be for any new amulet holder. That’s just what happens,” Kayir said. “But that’s why Calius was so worried about making sure you study hard.”
Evren tensed at the mention of the High Priest. Kayir seemed to notice. “But enough about him. He’s complicated. I’ll tell you about it sometime.” He gestured to the implement Evren held. “There’s one thing he got wrong, though – your Cantrile experience will help you a lot, actually. You see, the structure of these magic rituals is actually a lot like the structure of a Cantrile troupe, and these materials are like the different instruments. They all have different tones, and it’s important to figure out which are the ones you need for what you want to make happen. ”
“Really?” Evren replied. He hadn’t gotten to this sort of thing when he had studied magic. He was beginning to realize that the sort of magic they teach at that level is completely different. The thought of learning these things excited him.
Kayir had him do a few spells with the crystal tool. The next was made of a special type of wood; the third was marble. They practiced a variety of things, without tools and with a variety of combinations of these. It didn’t take long for Evren to be able to lose himself in his magic – it was like playing his lute, but even better. He felt the energies flowing through him, he learned to affect the pace of them, the intensity, the combinations – only basic changes at first, since he was just starting out. But even from that, he could feel the possibilities in this. It felt as if he were standing on the very beginning of a long road, a road to to eternity, even. His whole body felt the excitement, the anticipation of the journey. He felt as if he were standing there with his arms open wide, the wind blowing through his hair, ready for whatever this adventure would teach him.