The second year of the Udiria Academy was far more exciting than the first. I started practicing with simple magical techniques, each one slowly building on the last until I was able to create ice formations using nothing more than the moisture in the air. I excelled at the use of magic, but I was not studied and performed poorly when it came time for written exams.
I was also, if I might say, rather handsome. I had recently turned fifteen. I was developing a very powerful interest in the women of Stonehaven. I can assure you that being young, handsome, and wealthy, was a terrible concoction for a young man in a city that was looking to rebuild its population. There were many young women who wanted to study with me, go to eat with me, visit me at the mansion, and so on and so forth. Many of their own parents encouraged the behavior. I was quite a catch, and the age of bonding in Stonehaven was just sixteen.
I accepted a great many of their requests.
The only two people that I made time for, above all others, were Apprentice Evanor and Appleon. The two of them could send for me at any time and I would drop what I was doing to speak with them.
I think Appoleon had trouble adjusting to the fact that so many young women wanted to spend time with me, but he soon learned that this benefited him as well. I was able to arrange a great many study sessions with two friends instead of one. On such evenings, Appoleon’s bright attitude and hilarious personality made him the star of the show. Often, I would discover that by the end of the evening, when the charm of money and power had faded, Appoleon had all the attention.
Evanor never seemed overly attached to my company, which of course only frustrated me since she seemed to be the one girl that had no interest in my time. She was older than me by several years, but she was a very beautiful and intelligent woman. I was thankful to spend my time with her. Especially when she taught me the one and only fire spell she had learned at the Academy. When I produced a small spark between my fingers, I felt like the most powerful mage in the world.
While Appleon did not have magic on his side, he did have the power of the crystals. He had sought the path to becoming a blacksmith when he had arrived in Stonehaven, and his apprenticeship there had put him in with the right crowd. He told us stories of meeting the mighty paladins that came through the city, and then proudly told us of the day he had been asked to join ranks with the Order of the Crystal Blades, as an apprentice.
At first I had been excited for Appleon, but then I realized that this meant Appoleon would be returning to the Northern Kingdoms. Appoleon’s father had just secured a job as an Alchemist professor in Stonehaven, and he would be staying for the foreseeable future. I had just assumed this meant Appoleon would be staying too.
“I don’t want you to go,” I said when we met again the day after his announcement.
He laughed; an honest laugh like I might hear from Uncle Maron. “You old softie, you know I should do this. It’s a big chance for me. You’re going to be a powerful magic user some day. I am going to be right beside you with my crystal-infused mace.”
I frowned. “You know we may never see each other again.”
Appoleon didn’t respond for a moment, clearly giving this thought consideration, but ultimately he shook his head with rejection. “Nah, we’ll see each other again.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I just know,” he replied. “Why not?”
This time I was at a loss for words. “I guess I just—”
“You have a bad past,” Appoleon continued. “You lost a lot of people. You have had to say a lot of goodbyes. I get that. That’s why I’m telling you right now that this isn’t a goodbye. This is me telling you that I’ll see you again.”
“Thank you,” I said. “It means a lot.”
“I’m a thoughtful person,” Appoleon said. “Now I have to go get ready for my grand adventure. The paladin that’s taking me under his wing needs to get to Saltown.”
“You’re going now?” I asked.
“Yeah, we’re heading out in the morning,” he replied as he started to walk away. “I’ll swing through Bantari when we come back through Stonehaven!”
That night, I was sad. I skipped my class, which alerted Evanor that I wasn’t in a good mood. She showed up at the mansion just as the sun was setting and Uncle Maron directed her to the room I had chosen for my sulking.
When she came through the door I was worried she was going to try cheering me up. I wasn’t in the mood and very nearly told her so before she had a chance to speak. Instead, she wrapped me up in her arms and rested her head against my own. It was peaceful and I very much liked feeling of her holding me.
I fell asleep sometime that night and woke the next morning alone in my room with no sign of Evanor. I headed out into the main hall and found Maron enjoying some breakfast. He looked at me and gave a gentle smile.
“She left about an hour after you fell asleep.”
“Did I snore?” I asked.
Maron laughed. “No, you were quite peaceful.”
“I’m sorry I got emotional.”
“Emotions are a good thing,” Maron said. “I’d rather you be sensitive about these things than callous about them. That being said, don’t overplay your sensitive feelings. You got Evanor here yesterday because she knew you cared, but you can’t care too much, or she’ll think you have no resolve. Emotions get the best of us sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they should get the best of us every time.”
I tilted my head. “Relationship advice?”
“Heavens no,” Maron said casually. “Just tips for living.”
I thanked Maron for his words and decided I should head out to help some of the farmers in the western fields. I had heard that their father was ill and they could use the extra help. I wasn’t quite ready for the hustle and bustle of the city, and some honest hard work would help clear my mind.