Chapter 5 : Light Above the Clouds
Three years had since passed. Dryw was 13 years old. He had been diligently training at archery in those three years. His aim has improved vastly and now, he’s even capable of hitting moving targets. All seemed to be going well for this intrepid boy but—that would soon change. One faithful month, he noticed that his mother was coughing unusually frequently. He chalked it up to dust or other irritants, but it wasn’t going away—in fact, it got worse. It wasn’t just coughing either, she also started having shortness of breath—which impeded any physically taxing activities. It sometimes would be too much for her, so she needed to lie down for a while. It was clear she was struck with some sort of respiratory illness. They went to a cleric to see what ailment she might have. They told the symptoms she was experiencing—excessive coughing and shortness of breath—to the cleric. Additionally, she sometimes felt like her throat was closing up. The symptoms suggested that it was an infection in the lungs, so the cleric prescribed an antibacterial tea. This tea contained a chemical that could break down pathogens.
She would drink the tea almost everyday and unfortunately—it didn’t seem to make a difference. Her symptoms were still prevalent which impeded her from doing daily activities. To help aid in his mother’s burden, Dryw took up a lot of the housework. He would cook meals, clean the house, and wash clothes. His father also helped him. When the tea wasn’t working, they went to see the cleric again. The cleric was stumped on what this illness might be. Whatever it was—it hasn’t been documented. Although it disturbed her everyday life, her symptoms were not life-threatening. She wouldn’t die from this, but her quality of life would surely deteriorate. This gave cold comfort to the family. All that they could do was to make sure that she was as comfortable as she could be.
A year has passed since Dryw’s mother got ill. Her condition hasn’t gotten any better nor has it gotten any worse. She still couldn’t do any physically taxing activities as she needed a lot of help. Luckily, Dryw and his father gladly helped out with any trouble she had. But seeing his mother disheveled—a shell of her former self—really impacted his psyche. He dropped out of school to take care of his mother full-time. He neglected to talk with any of his friends and also Morty—which really strained their friendship. To get his mind off of things, he would walk around the forest—while foraging. On one of his walks, he managed to stumble upon somebody who appeared to be caught in a net. They looked to be an elven woman wearing a cream-colored maxi dress that was tangled up in the net. She yelled, “Hey kid! Can you get me down from here—I’m a bit…stuck.”
Fortunately, he brought his bow with him. He took an arrow; placed it on the bowstring; aimed it at the rope that was holding the net; and fired. Unfortunately, he realized too late that there was nothing to cushion her fall. She hit the ground with an audible thud. It didn’t seem like she was hurt as she picked herself up.
Dryw quickly ran to her aid and apologized, “I’m sorry! I forgot there was nothing for you to cushion the fall.”
“Don’t worry,” she grimaced, “I’ll be fine. I’ve survived worse.” She then pointed at a cart nearby, “Hey can you help me get that cart? It has some stuff that I need.”
He hastily grabbed the cart and brought it to her. It was filled with jars and other stuff. These items seemed to strike a chord with him as it reminded him of something. He tried thinking about it until he met back up with the woman. Seeing her dress finally made him remember. She was the same woman that Morty had met. He thought that he could ask who she was, “Hey. By any chance—can I get your name?”
“Oh,” she seemed surprised, “It’s Francesca.”
“What are you doing in the forest?”
“Well I actually lived a couple of ways from here.” She then pointed, “My house is just over that way. Feel free to come by—if you want to.”
As if on queue, water started dropping down as it started to rain. It looked like he was about to take her up on her offer. They started speeding towards the house, but the rain started getting heavier. Eventually, he told her to hold his hand so that they could both run faster. She was confused at first, but came around to it. When she held his hand, a sudden surge of wind enveloped both of their feet. A sense of lightness permeated through their bodies as they ran at an abnormally fast pace. They dashed through the forest while avoiding obstacles along their path. She had no time to ask questions as they managed to make it to the house in record time. She was—understandably—shocked at this and realized that there may be more to this boy than she had first thought.
They arrived at the house. The exterior wasn’t exactly welcoming. It was all-black with shingle siding that looked like it was worn. The house looked to be about two stories and had a central tower that overlooked the surrounding forests. Unlike the buildings in Riogh—that were designed to blend into nature—this house undoubtedly contrasted nature. As they walked up the patio to the entrance, they were met with a big dark wooden arched-double-door. The door opened and they were greeted by a young elven man. He had a dark complexion; a white ponytail; and red eyes. He was wearing a black suit with a red vest that almost matched his eye color. He greeted her with the utmost respect, “Welcome home Mrs. van Helsing.”
“Hello Seirbhiuse,” she greeted him, “We have a guest joining us today. Make sure he feels welcomed.”
“Yes Mrs. van Helsing,” he bowed, “With pleasure.” He proceeded to take Dryw’s green coat that got soaked by the rain and hung it on the rack. Then, he showed the way to the living room—which was on the left of the door. Going through an arched-doorway, they ended up in the living room that was extensively opulent. The walls were blood-red with dark wooden accents. The furniture matched it—being made of dark wood with red accents. Dryw was astonished at this opulence—only the wealthy could afford it. He sat down on the red velvet couch, trying not to dirty up any of the expensive looking furniture.
As he was settling in, he saw a girl and a boy standing by the doorway. They seemed to be siblings—about the same age. They were pale with dark hair and burgundy eyes. The girl had pigtails while the boy had short hair. They both were staring at him for an uncomfortably long period of time until Mrs. van Helsing remarked, “Hey you two, don’t just stare at our guest.” They both scurried away down the hallway as she entered the room. She sat down right across from him and asked him, “Sorry about my kids. So, what brings you to the forest?”
Dryw looked a bit down, “Well. I just needed to take my mind off of things.”
“Off of what exactly?”
Seirbhiuse then entered the room bringing tea. He started serving them while they continued their conversation. Dryw answered with a sigh, “My mother is sick and she hasn’t been getting better. I’ve been taking care of her for a while now and I think taking a walk through the forest could help ease my mind a little.”
She nodded, “Oh. I understand. A sick loved-one can really take a toll on you mentally.”
He then changed the subject, “So,can I ask you something?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Who exactly are you?”
She chuckled, “Oh me? Well I’m just a random woman who lives in the forest.”
“You can’t just be any old woman,” he interjected, “You must have some amount of wealth to afford all this opulent furnishing.”
“Well this house belonged to my family. It was old and rundown, so they decided to renovate it and gave it to me as a parting gift.”
“My family and I haven't always seen eye to eye. It looked like they finally got tired of me and decided to banish me to the forest,” she said playfully.
Dryw had no comment to make of this. He instead remarked, “By the way, we’ve been talking about each other for all this time—yet we don’t even know each other's names.”
“Oh. Well then. My name’s Francesca van Helsing—but you can call me Francesca.”
“My name’s Dryw.”
She then proceeded to graciously offer any help with his mom if he needed it. He retorted that there wasn’t much that she could do. His mother’s illness was a mystery that even stumped most clerics they went to. There wasn’t anything—short of a miracle—that could alleviate her illness. But, she had a suggestion, “Maybe there is some way to cure her illness.”
Dryw wasn’t buying it, “Really? How?”
“I myself don’t know much about medicine, but I know of a place that does.” She then stood up and walked around the room a bit, “The Institute of Magic Medicine is what I’m talking about. They focus on how magic can be used to create treatments for ailments.”
He seemed skeptical about it, so she reassured that the institute has actually created real treatments that are currently being used. Even though this may have slightly convinced him, he was still wondering how he can get them to make a treatment for his mother. She said, “They aren’t going to be ones that’ll make it. You’ll be the one who’ll make it with their help.”
“Are you joking? I don’t know a thing about medicine—much less magic.”
“Well you can always learn and I’ll happily teach you.”
“Wait? You can do magic?”
“Of course,” she answered. She then went to a drawer and picked up a bone from it. She held it with both hands and started to apply her magic to it. Gradually, it started to morph into something. He couldn’t tell what it was, but eventually it was revealed that it had turned into a candlestick holder. “Convinced yet?” she retorted. If he wasn’t sure about it before, then witnessing this feat in action has definitely convinced him. Just then, the rain had also stopped outside. She said that they could start tomorrow if he was up to it. Dryw was very excited as this presented to him a glimmer of hope that he desperately needed.
The next day had arrived and Dryw was eager to get started on learning magic—so much so that he arrived at her house really early. Fortunately, she was an early riser and they immediately started. She didn’t want to bore him with all of the theories and went straight to the point, “Alright. First things first, you kind of already know how to use magic.”
“Huh?!” Dryw was shocked at this remark. Indeed, he did already know how to use magic. This was shown when he and Francesca dashed through the forest at breakneck speed. He didn’t realize it back then, but he was actually using anemomancy—which was wind magic. People don’t need to intentionally seek out how to use magic, they can just discover it by chance. Another instance of this occurring is when one time, Dryw was practicing archery as usual until he suddenly managed to fire an arrow that was way faster than any arrow he had fired before. This arrow was actually propelled using anemomancy. Dryw already had the ability to use magic, he just needed to learn how to control it.
Francesca started off by telling him to apply magic to what he was already good at—archery. In archery, wind would usually be a hindrance because it makes the arrow drift away. However, with anemomancy Dryw could use the wind to his advantage. Instead of blowing the arrow away, he could use the wind to propel the arrow forward with great speed. Thinking he ought to try it out, Dryw tried to give it a shot. Francesca instructed him to shoot a tree from a lengthy distance. Normally it would take a lot of force to make the arrow cross that distance, but with anemomancy, it could easily travel that distance in a short amount of time. He drew his bow and aimed for the tree while she was guiding him, “Imagine that the arrow was your body running through the forest. Channel that same energy into the arrow so that it can cut through the air and hit that tree.”
He stretched the bowstring back and focused—holding his breath to keep himself steady. The air around started to concentrate on the tip of the arrow as he released it. The arrow immediately started to pick up speed as it flew through the air. It hit the tree in no time—leaving a dent on it. The wind didn’t only increase the speed of the arrow, it also increased the force of the arrow. Dryw was stunned that he managed to pull it off. This officially marked the beginning of his journey through magic.
After he got better control of his magic, Francesca decided to ease him into more theory-based magical knowledge. To enroll in the Institute of Magic Medicine, he would need to have an official rank—assigned by the International Mage Federation. Then—and only then—will his enrollment be considered. To succeed in getting this rank, he would not only need practical abilities in magic, but also knowledge on magic. Luckily, Dryw enjoyed studying. It was one of the only reasons he went to school, which has helped him academically.
Three years had passed since his fateful encounter with Francesca. He was 17 years old and eligible to participate in the Magical Aptitude Exam. He had been practicing magic and learning about it nonstop. He felt well-prepared to take the exam. The day before he set off to Doxatos—where the exam was held, he spoke to his mother about it, “Mother. Tomorrow I’ll be setting off to Doxatos to partake in the exams. May I humbly request your blessings?”
“Of course Dryw,” she remarked, “I hope that you’ll do exceptionally well in this exam so that you can return—a great mage.” With her blessings, he set off the next day towards—Doxatos.