I returned to the inn that afternoon once the stable master kicked me out. He told me to return in a few days, but I planned to return as soon as possible. Ghost had become a new best friend, second only to Appleon on the scale. When I cut through the bar to head to my bunk, I found that Lady Sonea was waiting for me at the counter. I thought admissions started at sundown, but I simply assumed she had come to get me ready a little early.
I came over to her and took a seat. She pinched her nose almost immediately.
“You smell like horse dung,” she said.
“I may have fallen in some,” I admitted. “It was a good day.”
“You met Ghost then?”
“It was kind of Appleon’s father to buy you that horse. You should thank him personally when you get a chance.”
“I will,” I assured her. “So… are we ready for admissions?”
She frowned. Even now when I think about it… I hated her frown. It was a sign of doom.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to put that on hold,” she said.
“What!?” I nearly yelled. “Why?”
“Something has come up. You and I, along with a few dozen others, will be making our way to Darthmonte in a few days.”
“Darthmonte?” I asked. “What’s there?”
“A ship that is going to transport us to Stonehaven. It’s still being rebuilt since the Yunai have been pushed back, but the Udirian military wants a new branch of the Academy to open there. Magical users are still growing up down there, and we want to make sure they’re found and trained properly so that they don’t create any more problems for us down the road.”
“We’re going to Stonehaven?” I asked, my mind swirling with excitement and dread. I knew next to nothing of the ancient city aside from the anecdotal information you read in a pamphlet. The city had been carved into the sides of a mountain, the stone walls high on either side, opening to a vast ocean, with only a small opening carved to allow passage into the greater landmass. As far as I knew, Stonehaven had been destroyed in the First Invasion. I also knew, long ago, my parents had lived there.
“We are,” Lady Sonea confirmed. “I never told you this, but I was born and raised in Stonehaven. I moved to Udiria when I was just a teenager, about your age to be precise, because the magic users were all here. The King of Stonehaven wants to draw the Udirian strength to his rebuilt city, and I can’t disagree with that thinking. If we had magic users more available when the First Invasion sacked the city… perhaps we could have done more.”
“So how long are we going? Just to get stuff set up?”
“One year,” she said flatly. “If things are going well, I may stay on longer. What happens with you will be determined by my success.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’re one of the first students to be admitted to the Stonehaven Academy,” she said. “I will teach you as a first year, and young Evanor will continue as my protege.”
Hearing that I had just been admitted to study magic at the Academy was exciting, but hearing that I would be doing that studying in a city that I had never seen before was less than thrilling. Udiria had been my home for a long time now. I wasn’t sure I was ready to give that up.
“Will there be any other people my age coming along?” I asked.
Sonea gave a smirk and rubbed my head. “At least one unruly boy will be joining us.”
“Appoleon?” I asked excitedly.
“Appoleon,” she echoed. “He’s got the heart of an adventurer and his father is a skilled alchemist that has offered us his aide.”
This news tempered my fears a little bit, so I listened in as she explained how we would take a ship from Darthmonte to the small docks that had been rebuilt in the harbor area. From there we would be escorted to a section of the city that would be managed and controlled by the Udirian Academy. It would be their own district in the great city, a small piece of Udiria inside the walls of Stonehaven.
When she was done telling me the details, she presented me with a birthday gift that I will never forget. It was a crystal, unlike any that I had ever seen before. It had been encased in a metal structure, and that had then been encased with a wood handle. In all, it was a wand. I hadn’t seen a wand before, ever, and the power crystal on it seemed large. It was rare for adult magic users to use wands. They often carried staves with much larger crystals that were attuned to collect and store energy from the twisting aether. A wand such as this was more common for wartime, when mobility was key and the crystal could be hidden away.
I looked up at her with shock. “This is for me?”
“That’s right. Keep it close. This wand means more to me than you’ll ever know, so I am entrusting it to the boy that means more to me than he’ll ever know. Use it. Become powerful with it.”
“When will my lessons begin?” I asked as I hefted the wand in my hand, surprised at its weight.
“As soon as we’re in Stonehaven,” she replied. “There will be plenty of time then.”