Prologue

"Memo." The word sat there at the top-left corner of the sheet of paper, the header haunting the mind of the person sitting in the chair before his desk. He felt the overwhelming urge to write something, just to pass the time. He consciously unclenched his fist while reading the heading for the umpteenth time. He was sick and tired of the monotony in his life, and was anxious to do something different. Writing was the most obvious way to do that, but he was so far unsuccessful.

He lived in the dorms at the University of Erudition, running through the same routine every week. Every weekday, he went to the same five lectures. Every Saturday and Sunday, he worked at the deli around the corner. Every night of the week, he worked as a waiter at Rod's Pizzeria. The word "every" kept on popping up in his head. While the names of the events changed, it was still the same to him. Only five weeks into the semester, and his life was already routine.

Fed up with the piece of paper on his desk, the young student rose from his chair and exited the room (not forgetting to lock his door on the way out, else face the wrath of his roommate).

The hall was so packed with people that it was all he could do to get to the stairwell. One of the students in his hall was having a small kegger with whatever he'd managed to sneak past the Resident Hall Assistant. Because the RA was out for the night, the students were living it up (and then getting drunk enough to see pink elephants and the like). He hadn't wanted to join them, though, on account of his having an 8:00AM class the next day.

The stairwell door slammed shut, the young student already descending towards the ground floor. One more door soon closed behind him, and he was outside. A moment later, his eyes adjusted to the dark of night. A nipping cold surrounded him.

He used his time alone outside to think back to the lessons he'd learned to date. He was at the University to study magic, how to understand it as well as how to practice it. As a student, he held the rank of mage. Upon graduation, he'd join the ranks of wizards and witches in the Wizards' Guild.

Wizardry was the art of manipulating objects, doing things such as creating fires and enchanting items. Flying and invisibility were not beyond their reach, but restricted to the more powerful wizards and witches. The most powerful, it was said, could form objects from their component parts with only the power of magic.

Sorcery was a little bit different. Sorcery included drawing magic into one's body, and channeling it in different forms. This was considered completely impossible by everyone in the Wizards' Guild, and it was well-known that no one alive could accomplish it. Though, it was theoretically possible.

That was enough for him. Thinking of the cold air around him, the student concentrated on the presence of magic. He slowly tried to draw it into himself, thinking only of the magic. Several minutes later, he realized that he wasn't getting anywhere.

He sat down on the grass, thinking over what it was that he did wrong. He thought of everything he knew about the cold when, suddenly, it dawned on him. Of course he couldn't draw the magic into himself, he didn't know enough about the cold to know what caused it. Maybe if he could find something that he knew the origin of, he could create it through sorcery?

His next dilemma lay in what he could study. The most potent force, he figured, was fire. But fire was too dangerous to work with, and he didn't want to accidentally burn down any forests. Cold was too complicated. People just didn't know enough about what caused change in climate.

A few hours later, he finally came up with the weather. It was something that he could find the origin to through simple observation. Certainly there would be a lot of reading to do in addition, but it was certainly feasible.

By the end of the semester, the student felt he finally had a basic understanding of the weather. In the months that had passed, he'd learned to read the signs well enough to know the weather patterns for a month to come. He could only use that ability in conjunction with magic, but it was already second-nature for him.

He stood out on the road to the University, realizing how far he'd come in the short time since arriving. While his courses took him slowly through all of the steps in magic, he found a way to apply that knowledge in a way that had never been done before. But he wasn't done learning yet.

Looking into the morning sky, the young student saw the perfectly white clouds against a light blue backdrop. There was going to be rain the following Sunday he knew, the magic flowing into him. He was still trying to figure out how he could make that ability apply to sorcery when it hit him. It was sorcery that he'd been using to predict the weather. And then he knew how to apply that knowledge.

Thinking again of the sky, he then envisioned the weather changing along with the movements of his hands. To his surprise, wind struck up around him. It wasn't long before he found that the wind was moving along with his hand movements.

He looked around, deciding what to do next. The road before the student was made completely of stone, a clear path between two large fields of grass. On one end of the road was the University complex, the other leading into a dense forest. The fields and University were surrounded by an alcove of mountains.

An interesting idea popped into the student's head when he glanced back at the road. He then proceeded to raise his right arm, moving his hand in a dramatic sweeping motion. The wind swept up the thin layer of dirt, leaving the stones absolutely spotless in the moments it took for the flying dirt to crash softly on the ground.

Suddenly, lightning flashed. Thunder sounded rapidly in response immediately behind the student, making him jump. Taking a minute to recover, he turned around to see if there was any scarring on the ground. He knew there probably wasn't any, but he wanted to see how close he had come to getting electrocuted.

Standing right where he guessed the lightning had hit the ground was a man wearing only crimson and black. The student would have leapt in surprise, but calming himself worked better than he'd expected. He finally began breathing normally after a few seconds that felt like minutes.

"Where did you come from?" he asked the stranger. The road had been clear mere minutes before, and he couldn't figure out how someone could have snuck up on him so quickly.

"Another world," he answered simply.

"That's not possible. The only way to travel between worlds is through one of the eight Gates, and the nearest one is a half-mile from here." He pointed to the Erudition campus. "And that's back in the University." He tried to think of another way for him to have appeared, and there was only one solution. A solution that was not possible.

"Teleportation is impossible? Isn't Sorcery also impossible?"

Then he knew, though he couldn't explain how, that the person standing before him was a sorcerer. Here was someone who could change the shape of the world with a thought. Someone who wasn't supposed to be able to exist. "You're implying that nothing is impossible, then."

The Sorcerer smiled. "Exactly, but you already knew that. I think it's time I introduced myself. I'm known on this world as the founder of the University of Erudition, Corlin Gabriel.

"I started this school along with seven identical counterparts, one in each of the other dimensions that form the Universe." He paused, the student thinking hard. "I set them up in search of an apprentice to teach. Wizardry is a comparably simple art to master, but the benefits are limited. It can be learned in a matter of days, and mastered within a single lifetime.

"Sorcery, on the other hand, takes years to learn, and millennia to master." The student's eyes went wide, the shock settling in. "One of the 'benefits' is immortality," he said, answering the unasked question. "Fortunately, it's not as much of a curse as you might think, since I can also bestow immortality unto others. I can also spend as much time as I want to in a single moment, for I know spells that are able to change time's flow. I digress."

He waved his hand, as if removing the conversation from the air. "I've come to ask you to become my Apprentice. You will study the art of sorcery over the centuries, far away from this place. No one here will remember you, and all records of your existence will be removed."

The student shook his head, trying to sort out everything he'd just heard. Again, he knew it to be true. The weight of the situation literally knocked him off his feet, and he found himself sitting in a heap on the road. To give up his entire life for a chance at power? It sounded insane. And that didn't even take into account––

"Your family? Friends? You can have your life back at any time you choose. Another benefit is that any spell can be un-cast, any effect can be undone. The only thing you have to lose can be replaced with ease. You will learn if you accept, that I can guarantee."

He looked up at the black-cloaked Sorcerer. "It isn't much of a choice, is it? Everything I've worked towards to gain, and my entire life to lose. Even if I can get it back, it will never be the same. But living is about finding the right life for myself. It's the only decision I can choose without regretting it forever."

The Sorcerer nodded, understanding his new apprentice quite well. To his left, a circular portal suddenly appeared. Offering a hand to the Apprentice, the two rose from the earth, and stepped through to a place that didn't truly exist.

They landed from their brief flight (so brief that the Apprentice didn't even realize they were flying until after they finished landing) inside a library. A library so large that the beginning and end were nowhere to be seen.

The Sorcerer laughed as his student stared google-eyed. "Knowledge is sought after across the Universe. You now have that knowledge at your fingertips. But before you can learn more, you must perfect what you currently know." Gabriel paused as if expecting a response.

The Apprentice nodded. "You mean about the weather."

"In order to control the power of lightning, you have to completely understand the wind. It's a matter of learning the science before the mysticism, which you already understand." He raised his left arm, and a single block of shelves changed from the dull brown and black of the wood and bindings to a bright blue. There were thousands of books among those shelves alone. "These are the books that contain all you need to learn. And memorize."

The Sorcerer's young protégé's mouth gaped. He now looked quite hilarious, eyes and mouth open as wide as humanly possible. Realizing this, he quickly composed himself. "That would take centuries." A nod was his response. "I might as well get started?" Another nod.

He walked up to the bookshelf, taking down the book titled An Introduction to the Effects of Climate. Sitting down at a table that had materialized while his back was turned, he set to work. A book containing blank sheets of paper – along with a pen stuck inside it – appeared as he began to read. The second book was titled Notebook.

Two hundred years he'd spent reading in the Library, only to finish the small selection of books the Sorcerer had assigned to him. To say that he had an understanding of the weather was an understatement: he was a master of it. Now all he had to do was to learn how to adapt that knowledge to magic. He was finally ready for his first lesson in sorcery. To learn that lesson, the Sorcerer had taken him outdoors to a large plain.

There was grass in every direction, all grown to a precise three-inch length. Grass was the only thing visible, not even a rodent or weed living nearby. The sky was a moderate blue, puffy white clouds passing slowly overhead (no matter how many different names for them he learned, the one from the Apprentice's childhood always came to mind).

"The first thing you must realize," his master began, "is that all forms of magic draw energy. With wizardry, the amount is so minute that it is negligible. With sorcery, on the other hand, even the simplest of castings will require massive amounts of energy.

"Because it is the weather that must be manipulated, you are going to draw the energy into yourself from the air around you. You have done that before, so it will not be difficult.. There is a limit to how much power your body can absorb, however.

"Think of your body as a river. The wider the river, the more water that can flow through it. If too much water tries to pass through, the banks will overflow, water flooding uncontrolled. Also, as more water flows, parts of the riverbed break away. When you attempt to funnel too much magic through your body, it will cause you pain. If you draw for too long, it will have the same effect.

"Like building an immunity to a drug, you must increase the amount of magic in increments to increase your strength and resistance. Similarly, it decreases the effect of another's magic on you. Do you understand?"

The younger of the two nodded. "In order to use magic I have to channel it through me. Within a day, there's only so much magic I can use, whether all at once or spread out through the day. The more experience I have using magic, the more I can use per day. Also, each element I call upon is an independent source of magical energy."

"Correct. Now, the real difference between sorcery and wizardry is that with sorcery, you do not manipulate the environment. You channel it's energy to cast spells.

"Allow me to demonstrate." He raised his left arm, and lightning struck from the sky in the direction of his extended fingers. "That would be more on the lines of wizardry." The thunder boomed loudly. "It is more dramatic, but it is also limited to use outdoors. The more hostile the wind, the easier to create the effect. You try it."

The Apprentice emulated the Sorcerer, lightning striking at a similar distance, in the direction of his fingers as well. "Excellent. While it is relatively simple, it serves no real purpose. In order to use lightning effectively, you must be able to conjure it." The Sorcerer waved his hand, and a wall made of flowing lightning appeared before him. It crackled softly, the wall forming a solid, impassible barrier. He waved his hand again, and it vanished.

"That is a bit more complicated than I expect you to be able to do right now, but is enough for you to grasp the concept. Here is what I want you to begin with." He held out his right hand, his fingers cupped into a bowl-shape. His Apprentice did the same. "Draw from the weather, and envision the energy forming into a ball of lightning within your palm."

Lightning seemed to flow from the Sorcerer's shoulder, down his arm, and out of his fingers. In his palm rested a ball of lightning. "This is the simplest of lightning conjuring." He tossed the ball into the air a couple of times, before hurling it into the ground. There was an explosion, upturned grass and earth flying every which way. "Your turn."

The Apprentice managed to get the lightning flowing through his arm, but failed to be able to control it once emitting from his fingers. The Sorcerer laughed. "We have some work to do, I see."

He was in a field again. This one was a bit livelier than his master's training grounds, little mammals scurrying about. A river running to his right with people walking alongside it, upstream. He turned around to see their destination.

Tremendous stone walls stood their ground before him, heavyset wooden doors wide open in invitation. Townspeople and travelers passed through them to the city that lay beyond. Further embedded within the city walls, a castle was visible.

The Apprentice wrapped his red cloak about himself and walked through the gates. He tried to remember what people were really like, but it had been centuries since he spoke to a human other than Sorcerer Gabriel. Looking at all of them moving around him, he found himself hiding more tightly within the cloak than even a moment before.

The loud hum of conversation became audible as he cleared the city's guard towers. The stone street – labeled Main by the signs – continued straight ahead, to end at the entrance to the castle and keep. Another two roads circled around the castle walls, connected by smaller paths. Shops and smiths lined Main Street, houses and inns making up most of the rest of the city. The layout made protecting the townspeople much simpler, the Apprentice surmised.

Males and females of all ages cleared the way for him. Unable to comprehend why, the Apprentice stopped walking. Taking note of their dress, he saw that everyone in the entire city was wearing shades of gray and brown. His own red and black clothing was definitely out of place. Unfortunately, his skills in wizardry were all but nonexistent, and there was not much he could do.

He continued his way down the road, taking in the sights of a culture he had no contact with for three hundred fifty years.

Clerks stood ready to sell the items of their shops all along Bariten's Main Street. The tradesmen worked hard at their crafts in plain view of patrons and those walking down the street. Potential costumers walked past all of the storefronts, the clerks taking note of them.

One particular clerk, who happened to work for the most successful blacksmith on the South Continent, took note of the different types of people walking by. He'd done so ever since he had started working for the smith, eighteen years before. The clerk had eventually learned how to read people's body language well enough to determine their general purpose on Main, and what it was they would actually be buying.

A man across the street was looking to buy a gift for his wife or girlfriend, glancing between Diego's Silks and Dara's Diamonds. As predicted, he entered the silk shop. A few moments later, he bumped into a woman standing outside the shop, nearly dropping the dress in his hands.

The woman, oddly, had previously gone completely unnoticed by the wary clerk. How could he have missed such a compelling sight? He found himself staring at her fair figure, wishing that the woman would approach him. She turned toward him and entered the blacksmith's shop, answering his prayers. "Welcome to the Metallurgy. May I be of service, madame?"

As she looked up at him, her hair seemed to stream back of its own volition. Blue eyes locked with his, the clerk's heart now racing. "Yes, good sir. I am in need of a good blade for defense, yet I do not want anything cumbersome. Do you have something that fits my description?"

He nodded, fumbling for a dagger situated beneath the counter. He placed it there, along with its small scabbard. "This is the finest dagger you will find in Sevenths Kingdom, and surely of better craftsmanship than anything you could possibly acquire in the nearby Human Empire! It's equal exists only in the others like it on the wall behind me." He pointed to where five identical daggers were mounted. "The weapon is well worth the price, at only six ounces of gold."

The woman nodded. "I think that will do," she said with a slight smile. A pile of silver coins was deposited on the countertop. He took the money into a pouch, which was also beneath the countertop. The woman smiled again, took her dagger, and left.

The clerk sighed. "I could use some more customers that look like that," he said quietly. The beautiful woman's image still fresh in his mind, he leaned back against the wall behind him (taking care not to brush against or knock down any of the weapons there, of course). He did not even realize that he had been paid in silver instead of gold coins.

The woman saw a blur of red and black out of the corner of her eye as she began to round the corner off Main. She normally would not have taken note, but such bright colors usually meant nobility or magic users. And wizards were not forces to be trifled with.

She hurried off down the path, anxious to get away from whatever that stranger might have been. It would not do her any good if she were found this close to the Human Army.