Increasing Winds

by Terry Spafford

A couple of days after Brian declared me flight worthy, I was out for a morning, flight south of the Keep, and I saw a sight I had been hoping to see for weeks. Trumpeting a joyous greeting, I dove out of the sky to the caravan, skimming only a few feet above their carts before finally landing behind them. The caravan, startled by my sudden appearance, stopped dead in its tracks. Sean and Jack quickly, rode back to me.

"Jeees, what are you doing Saroth?!? Trying to give me a heart attack?" Sean shouted up at me.

{Sorry! I couldn't resist. I've been waiting weeks for you to get here,} I responded, grinning at him. I cleared the grin off my lips and turned to face Jack.

{Good day sir, sorry to disturb your caravan. I won't keep you and your companions long. Would you mind dearly if I carried my friend here the rest of the way? It isn't far to the Keep; just over the hill a mile or two down the road. Surely you can handle your caravan with one less person, this close to the Keep.}

"What happened to you?!?" Sean interrupted us, having walked down my side and noticed my bandages.

{I had an encounter with some Lutins while I was on patrol a few weeks ago. Believe me, you don't want to see the other guys. Bad news is, I can't shift to morph until Brian gives the OK. Beyond that, I'm as good as I ever was; It just looks worst then it really is.} I quickly explained.

I turned back to Jack and looked at him expectantly. {So, what's the word?}

Jack took his time thinking. "I guess we can let him go on ahead-" he said slowly.

{Great! Hop aboard Sean. Believe me, the only way to properly see the Keep is by air,} I said, crouching low and doing everything but pick him up by his collar and tossing him on my back. I barely waited long enough for him to gingerly settle in between the ridges at the base of my neck, just ahead of the first wound, before leaping into the air. Jack stared up at us, shaking his head before riding back into the caravan with Sean's horse.

Flying was great, an experience I never wanted to lose, but flying with a friend like Sean still managed to seem better. The thrill he felt as I skimmed low over the tops of the trees added to my own thrill and made me feel like a young hatchling. I stayed low to the trees, my legs sometimes brushing against the upper branches, heading towards the Keep at an angle I knew would provide a stunning view.

{Hold tight,} I warned and I started up the side of the valley. I heard Sean gasp in surprise as we left the valley and the Keep lay spread out in front of us. I slowly pulled us higher into the air and looked down at Metamor Keep spread out below us.

"Oh, WOW! This is incredible," Sean said softly staring down at the sunlit roofs and towers of the Keep. "It's so bright! The energies here are unbelievable!"

{I thought I told you to not use your Sight here! You're liable to blind yourself!} I told him sternly.

"Don't worry, it's not that bad, It's bright, but I'm already getting used to it.... Wow," he responded leaning against my neck and looking down. "Are those the Three Gates you told me about?" he asked, switching the subject.

I looked down to where he was pointing and nodded my head. I then started pointing out other sights around the Keep, explaining stories and showing him the general layout We stayed in the air until the caravan pulled into the main courtyard.

With the barest warning to him, I shifted direction and dropped down next to the caravan. Sean slowly climbed down, his face flushed with excitement and windburn. {See, I told you the best way to see the place was by the air.} I said, smirking slightly.

Sean smiled back and, with a final pat on my knee, he ran up to the caravan to help with the unloading. I stayed against one wall and watched as the traders and the Keepers haggled over the price of the supplies and slowly unloaded the carts. Unable to shift, I was too big to help lug the supplies to the storage rooms.

I soon noticed Electra, looking around 5 or 6 years old, moving through the crowds towards Sean. She waited until he had helped carry the supplies from the Island inside before she approached him and tugged on his arm. He glanced down and shouted in joy, lifting her into the air and hugging her. I moved closer to them to listen in, just in time to see Sean put her down and kiss her on the cheeks.

"That's from Gordon. He says he misses you and hopes you'll come back down to the island sometime soon. And he said to contact him as soon as I got to the Keep." Sean explained, smiling at the blushing Electra.

Electra blushed even more and shuffled her feet. She aged herself up to her usual age and smiled at Sean. "Thank you Sean. I'll call him as soon as I get you settled in,"

{What?!? Nothing for me?} I asked, mocking indignation.

Sean lightheartedly punched me on the leg. "THAT'S for making me wait down in the village with a cart with a broken axle when you could've flown me up here any time!"

{Hey! I was grounded on raccoon's orders. I've only been declared airworthy within the past few days! Besides, I DID fly you the last little bit of the way here,} I shot back, grinning.

Electra split us up, laughing. "OK you two, settle down. Go gather up your things Sean and I'll show you to your room and around the inside of the Keep. And, speaking of 'coons, Sar, Brian wants to see you in the southwestern courtyard as soon as possible." She winked at me. "I think he might have some good news for you."

{Thanks Electra,} I sent back. {Catch yah later, Sean,} I called to him as I launched myself into the air. I perched briefly on the peak of the dining hall roof and looked down into the southwestern courtyard. I could see the raccoon morph waiting there for me. Not wanting him to wait longer then needed, I glided down to him.

"You certainly seem to be in a good mood today," he commented after waiting for the dust to settle.

{And why shouldn't I be? Sean just got here, the weather's great, a certain tiger is nowhere in sight and I have a feeling you're going to have good news for me.}

"We'll see, don't get your hopes too far up yet. Now, would you mind giving me a lift up onto your back?" he asked.

I complied and waited impatiently as I felt him scramble over my back. After awhile, I felt something metallic brush against my back and some tugging. Eventually he slid down off of me.

"OK, try to shift now, but take it slowly," he ordered, staying behind me.

Closing my eyes, I concentrated, triggering the shift spell as slowly as I could. I ignored the aches and pains as I slowly shrank for the first time in over a month.

"Stop for a moment," Brian ordered. Opening my eyes, I saw I was now half my normal size. The raccoon was already scrambling up my tail to my back. After a few moments of inspection, he slid back down to the ground. "OK, keep going, slowly."

We continued this way for the next few minutes, me shifting a few steps closer to human, then him checking me out. Finally I reached my lower limit and stopped. Brian examined me one last time and nodded to himself.

"All right, looks like everything is okay. Just take it easy for the next little while, and remember, I said no more jumping off buildings in morph form."

{I remember, thank you Brian,} I said, a little unsteady on my feet. I took a couple of steps and fell against a wall, unused to be walking in morph form after so long. Brian stayed with me until I regained some mastery over my smaller body, then left to look after his other patients.

I caught up to Sean and Electra outside the Deaf Mule, on their way in for dinner. "Saroth! You shrank!" Sean shouted, seeing me come up.

{Yup, the 'coon cleared me for shifting and just about everything else. And believe me, it's good to be able to fit back inside again,} I sent, grinning. I held the door open as they entered.

We grabbed a table against the wall, ordered a dinner, talked, drank and celebrated Sean's arrival and my own return to the world of morphs. Sean did his best not to stare at the Mule's varied clientele, with limited success. Every so often, he would stop in mid sentence, staring as someone else came in the door. Electra and I simply grinned at each other and waited for him to recover, often needing to remind him where he stopped.

"Amazing," Sean said quietly, closing his mouth after staring at the hunk and bombshell entered the bar. I recognized them as a couple who had been married before the curse and both TG'ed in the battle. Sean sipped his beer and looked around. "You realize I see more magic in this room right now, then I saw on all the years on the Island?"

Electra laughed. "Well, Magdalain Island isn't exactly known for its magicians."

Sean smiled slightly, "It's not just that. The Island may not have many magicians, but it still has its own magic. This place has more, MUCH more. Everything I look at here has got at least one spell, more often a lot of spells, on it, some look recent, others look as old as the hills. It's incredible!"

"If you ever feel overwhelmed, let us know, we can take you -" Electra started, concerned.

"No, no, no. I'll be fine... It's a lot to get used to, but I can handle it," Sean quickly interrupted.

We sat at our table and talked and drank long into the night. Some time early in the evening, Electra bade us goodnight, reminding Sean and me not to stay too long and that both of us had lessons in the morning. Sean and I barely heard her, watching Coperincus beat some other poor soul at the pool table. Late in the evening, I thought I saw a tigermorph in the doorway, but by the time I could focus my eyes on him, he was gone. I simply shrugged it off and ordered another round for Sean and me.

By closing time, Sean and I declared our informal contest, to see if a sailor could out drink a dragon, a draw and stumbled off to our rooms. I stumbled out of the Deaf Mule to the courtyard and shifted to a barely-flying form. After two aborted takeoffs, I finally got into the air high enough to just reach my balcony. Banging my legs against the stone railing, I skidded halfway into my room on my belly and fell asleep without shifting back down to morph.

I groaned and slowly woke the next morning, feeling the warm sun beating down on my back and tail. My legs ached from where I had banged them against the railing the previous night, and my head was throbbing. I vaguely felt something fall off my back as I stretched. Trying to coordinate my movements to turn around and look at the object, I only succeeded in kicking it over the edge of the balcony. Sighing in annoyance, I managed to pull myself out of my room, back fully on the balcony, and looked to the East.

I frowned, not seeing the red glow of dawn I expected, but only light blue sky. Blinking my eyes, trying to clear them, I looked higher up, finally finding the sun nearly directly overhead.

{Ah, crap, I overslept,} I cursed to myself, trying to shake off my headache and my lethargy. {That'll teach me to celebrate so hard, Electra's gonna have my hide for this,} I muttered, stepping over my balcony ledge and flying unsteadily out of the Keep, the thing I knocked off the balcony was long forgotten. I headed towards the mountains, and my normal shock wake up cure. Crossing a small peak, I saw it spread below me. I folded my wings against my back and dropped myself into the deep, cold mountain lake.

Roaring in shock as the cold water surrounded me, I felt my mind regaining its clarity. I forced myself to paddle in the water until the initial shock wore off and the coldness started seeping into me. Chilled to the bone, I finally pulled myself out and shook the water off. I flew slowly back to the Keep, letting the sun warm me up.

Landing back at the Keep, I ran inside to Electra's Labs. The heavy drapes had been drawn shut across the windows, leaving the room lit only by candles and the fires burning under numerous strange concoctions. I found her trying to teach Sean a spell.

"'Bout time you showed up here," she said as I came in. "I warned you last night not to stay too long, but did you listen? Nooo... You know I'm not going to walk up those stairs just to wake you up, Saroth, especially after I needed to spend half the morning waking up this guy."

I nodded my head mutely and looked at Sean. It was clear that he was ruing the celebrating he had done too. Especially since it looked like Electra had already been drilling him for hours.

"Your lessons are over on the table; you've got a lot to catch up on, so hop to it. You're not going to leave this lab until you can make that rock float in the air," she said, pointing to a table near the covered windows with notes and a fist sized rock.

She turned her attention back to Sean. "As for YOU, you aren't leaving until you can extinguish one of these flames with magic," she said, pointing to a candelabra with 12 lit candles. "Watch carefully now," she continued, concentrating and preparing the extinguish spell.

I tried to concentrate on the spell she wanted me to cast, but I couldn't help overhearing as Electra slowly got more and more frustrated with Sean.

"OK, one more time, watch me carefully, watch the streams of magic and repeat them exactly," she was saying, the frustration in her voice rapidly reaching the boiling point. I glanced up and saw Sean was similarly near his limits. I debated going over to force them to take a break, but I was already halfway through the levitation spell and didn't want to lose it. I waved my claws over the rock, feeling the magic building within me almost like the lightning bolts I had thrown at the Lutins and listened to Electra with half an ear. The magic energy left my claws, engulfing the rock with it. I waited a second to make sure the rock was completely covered and raised my hand. The rock wiggled and slowly started to rise into the air. I was about to shout in triumph when the room went black.

Surprised, the rock slipped out of my magic grasp and fell on my foot. Yelping in surprised pain, I jumped and knocked the table over with a loud crash. Freezing in place on one foot, I looked around the pitch black room, eyes quickly adapting to the darkness. I could see the warm air rising from Electra and Sean, and cooler air coming through the covered windows but not much else. I frowned, realizing that I could see very little warm air rising from where the candles, lanterns and fires had been burning, no where near the amount of hot air there should have been. Only magic could put out a fire that completely.

"Sean, what did you do? What did you SEE?" Electra's voice came from the darkness. From her tone I could tell she was both surprised and excited.

"I don't know! I was watching you cast the extinguish spell, and grabbed the tendrils for my own spell. Next thing I knew, the spell seemed to grow stronger, leaping to all the candles, and the lanterns, the burners and out the door!" Sean's confused voice came out of the darkness. "I can still see it too, sitting on the wicks and on the firewood."

Electra sighed. "That's probably why I can't get them relit. Well, you may be able to see, and Saroth can probably see somewhat too, but I certainly can't. Saroth, you were near the windows, mind opening the drapes?"

{Just a second,} I sent, watching the cool air currents from the window move over the tables. Walking slowly with the air currents and my memory as my guides, I made my way over to the drapes and threw them open. The room was flooded with light.

"Good, now Sean, can you still see the extinguishing spell?" Electra asked.

Sean nodded. "Yes, I can, quite clearly. "

"And can you feel any connection to it?" she asked. She saw Sean's confused look and explained more. "I was the original caster of this spell and so, I should be able to cancel it, but I can't. Something is blocking me somehow, taking the spell and strengthening it and making it last longer then it should."

"I- I don't know... What would the connection feel like?" Sean asked.

"It's hard to say... It's different for everyone." Electra sighed and tried a different tactic. "Look at the extinguish spell and try to pull it loose; to make it go away."

While they were talking, I walked to the door of the lab and looked outside. A few people were walking down the hall, looking confused. {What happened?} I asked.

"We don't know. All the fires on this floor just went out and won't relight! My cake is going to be ruined!" a woman shouted.

{Hm... we're looking into it. I'll let Electra know, and, as soon as we figure out what it is, we'll see what we can do about getting your fire back before your cake is ruined,} I sent, closing the door behind me before she could make any more comments.

{Electra, all the fires on this floor went out! How could your spell have done that?}

"Hush Saroth, I think we've nearly got it." Electra said, not taking her eyes off the wick of a candle. "OK, Sean, just relax. Look at the spell, imagine it's a knot in strings, reach out, grab those strings and start untying the knot; it's as simple as that."

Sean nodded his head, staring intently at the wick. He raised his hands and started moving them, looking like he was actually untying a knot. After a moment of silence he smiled. "It's working! It's going away! It's gone!"

"Only one way to be sure." Electra said. She stared at the wick, holding her hand near it and snapped her fingers. The wick burst into flame. She smiled and took it out of its holder and tried to light the other candles. They sputtered, but failed to light.

"The spell is still active on the other candles," Sean explained as Electra glanced at him.

She sighed. "Well, you removed that first spell, you should be able to remove the rest. I need to think for awhile about why it did what it did, see if I can figure out what you did. In the mean time, you're going to go to every candle, lantern, burner, and fireplace on this floor with that extinguish spell on it and you're going to remove it, just like you did this one. Starting with Miss Gibson's oven. Saroth, you go with him, show him the way around and introduce him to everyone, and explain as best as you can, what happened." She walked over to the chair in front of the now cold fireplace and sat down, dismissing us.

"What was all that about?" Sean asked as I led him out of the lab.

{I haven't got a clue, but whatever it is, you managed to confuse Electra big time. Last time I've sensed her that confused was back when I first changed I think.}

"How so?"

{The fire extinguisher spell is a short duration spell, just long enough to put out the flame. Yet, somehow, you managed to take that spell and make it not only powerful enough to affect this entire floor, but you also made it semi-permanent. }

Sean sighed. "But I don't have a clue WHAT I did. I was getting more and more frustrated, and when Electra cast the spell, I just 'grabbed' it and felt my frustration flow into it. After that, the spell just seemed to take on a life of its own."

{Well, whatever you did, don't do it again until Electra can figure out what happened. You could trigger something none of us wants. Here we are, your first stop.}

Miss Gibson wasn't too happy to find out Sean was the cause of the floorwide blackout. Since the fires had been put out magically, there had been very little leftover heat to keep her oven warm. No where near enough to save her cake. Still, she let Sean in to remove the spell, watching his every step. After cleaning the spell out of her room, we made our way to one end of the floor and started working. It took us the rest of the afternoon to go around to every candle, lantern, oven, and fireplace, explaining what happened and removing the spell. Sean got more skilled at untying the spell knots, but he couldn't figure out how to remove more then one spell at a time, even with my ineffective help.

{Well, if worst comes to worst, you can always join the Island Fire fighting squad,} I said with a grin as we walked back to Electra's room to get the last few candles.

"I don't want to see another flame again for as long as I live," Sean grumbled, fatigue clear on his face and in his heavy step. Removing all of those spells one by one had taken a lot out of him. "Besides, I didn't cast that spell... I just made it stronger somehow; not much use to them if I can't cast the spell to begin with."

We entered Electra's lab again and found her exactly where we had left her, deep in thought, staring at the cold fireplace. Sean went to work, disenchanting the candles and burners while I went over to the table I had knocked over earlier. I righted the table and started picking up the papers.

"I'm finished Electra," I heard Sean say. Looking up I saw him standing near her. Walking around the table, I looked at Electra and recognized the glazed expression on her face.

{She's talking to her brother, Sean,} I sent quietly, moving to stand next to him.

She blinked her eyes, coming out of her trance, and looked a little startled to see us standing in front of her. "You are? Good, good... I was just talking to Gordon, getting his thoughts on an idea I have...." She stood up and stretched. "You both are excused for the rest of the day. I need to go talk to some of the other mages and set up something. Be back here, ON TIME, tomorrow."

She shooed us out of the labs and left us in the hall. "What do you think she has in mind?" Sean asked, stifling a yawn.

{Don't know, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough,} I said. {Come on, let's go get dinner, then I think you should get to bed.}

"I'm YAWN not tired," Sean protested weakly.

{You're practically dead on your feet! Come on, the dinning hall's over here. Not quite the Deaf Mule, but it's a bit cheaper and the food's still pretty good.}

The next morning, the rising sun woke me up, inside my room this time. Groaning, I started stretching, feeling something slide down my back and clatter onto the stones beneath me. Blinking the sleep out of my eyes, I reached down and picked it up, staring at it. Seeing the black dagger with the Thief's Guild markings on the hilt awoke me fully.

I roared in rage and leapt off my balcony, barely shifting enough to slow my fall. I ran to the dinning hall, where the breakfast crowd was eating, the dagger gripped tightly in my hand. {Where is he?!? Where is that treacherous, back-stabbing tiger?!?} I roared, heedless of the Keepers flinching under my mental shouting.

Electra quickly got up from the table and made her way to me, Sean trailing behind her. "Saroth!? What's wrong? Calm down, and tell us what happened," she said soothingly, trying to force me to back out of the room. I resisted at first, then grudgingly let her push me out, grumbling loudly. "Don't worry everyone, we've got the situation under control," she shouted back as we left the room.

"OK, Saroth, just what do you think you're doing?!?" she asked sternly pinning me against the hall outside the dining room doors.

{It's that treacherous tiger! He broke into my room last night and left a little gift,} I said angrily.

"A gift? What sort of gift?" she asked.

I opened my hand, showing the black dagger. The edge had sliced my palm, smearing my blood over the dark blade.

Electra frowned, taking the blade from my hand. She turned to Sean. "Sean, take Saroth to my labs and take care of that cut. Then, in the wardrobe to the right of the windows, you'll find a harness. Saroth, as soon as Sean's taken care of your hand, you're going to put on that harness and take Sean for a flight. Show him the region, take him to the beach, just get out of here until you've worked off your anger.... NO BUTS!" she ordered sternly, cutting off our objections before we could voice them.

She cleaned the blade off, her expression serious. "I will handle Scratch," she added, stamping out of the hall.

I watched her leave, fuming that she had thwarted me. Sean tugged on my good hand. "Come on, I think we'd better do what she says," he said solemnly.

Sean lead me back to the lab and worked silently on my hand, cleaning the shallow cut. Neither of us said a word. He then retrieved the harness from the wardrobe and lead me outside. I grudgingly shifted to my full size, ignoring the pain from the slice on my hand, and knelt so he could put it on. If Sean hadn't been there, I would likely have ignored her orders, hunting down the tiger myself, but I didn't want to get Sean in trouble.

As soon as the harnesses and Sean were in place, I leapt angrily into the air, thrashing the air as hard as I could with my wings. The ground quickly dropped away beneath us, but my anger didn't. I headed west, with no destination in mind until my anger finally subsided enough for me to relax and settle into a more natural flight rhythm. Sean, tied onto my back by the harness, felt my muscles loosening as I calmed down. He reached down to tighten some of the straps that were starting to loosen up.

"Mind telling me what that was all about?" he asked, finally breaking the silence that had existed since Electra had left us back at the Keep.

I sighed and flew in silence for a few moments longer. I sensed him about to ask again, and started talking. I told him about my family and their killers, and how Electra had found me and raised me at the Keep, and my promise to avenge their deaths, and about Scratch being a member of that guild. I tensed up again as I thought of that tiger.

"Is he really that bad? Maybe someone else planted the dagger on you," Sean said.

I rumbled angrily. {Don't you start too. The rest of the Keep may be blind to his treachery, but I certainly am not. Trust my words, the next time we meet will be the last. Maybe then whatever spell he cast over the Keep will be broken and the Duke and the others will finally see what a danger he was.}

Sean, feeling my neck muscles tightening under him and my angry rumblings and quickly changed the subject. "What's with the harness and the flight?"

I laughed, happy about the subject change. {For this,} I said as I looped in the air. Sean shouted in surprise. I could feel his heart pounding and his hands gripping tightly to my backridges, even though the harness had held him firmly in place on my back for the short time we were upside down.

Straightening out my flight back to the Keep, I continued more seriously. {Actually, it is because Electra knows me better then I think I know myself. She knew I needed a good, long flight to calm down after that... that incident, and she also realized that, in the mood I had been in back there, I would likely have ignored her orders to take it alone. By making you take me away and ride on the flight, she knew I wouldn't have disobeyed her. The harness was for your own protection in case I got a little fancy and decided to take my anger out on the sky, like THIS!} While I was talking, I had been slowly gaining altitude, getting as high up as I dared with Sean on my back. Reaching the peak of my climb, I folded my wings against my back and started tumbling out of the sky towards the ground below.

Sean looked at the ground spinning closer towards us, gulped and screamed, his eyes clenching shut. I held my eyes open, watching and waiting. A few hundred feet off the ground, I spread my wings and stopped our tumble. With a grunt, I skimmed over the tree tops and climbed into the air again.

{Ouch,} I said softly, my wing shoulder muscles sending out stabs of pain.

"Are you OK? Are we still alive?" Sean asked, his eyes still closed.

{I'm fine and yes, we're still alive... I think I just overstrained my wings with that trick. Guess I should've waited a little longer before I did that.} I sent, trying to ignore the throbbing pain from my back as we flew back to the Keep. {Do me a favor, and don't tell Brian I did that, 'Kay?}

Sean slowly cracked his eyes open, not really believing we weren't dead. He eased his death grip on my backridge and looked at the handprints on the bronze hide. "Sorry, Saroth, I didn't mean to hurt you," he said.

{You didn't... It takes a lot more then a simple human grip to hurt those ridges,} I sent.

He looked at the fading handprints and shook his head disbelieving. He looked up at the approaching Keep. "We're heading back?"

I nodded my head, flying over the outer walls. {I think I've calmed down enough, and Electra will be expecting us back soon. She won't be happy, having our lessons delayed twice in two days. Besides, that last stunt took a lot out of me; I don't think I can fly much further.}

I landed outside Electra's labs and shifted to morph as soon as Sean climbed down. Pulling the loose harness off of my shoulders, I tried to rub the base of my sore wings. I handed the harness to Sean and followed him into the building. Electra wasn't there.

I grabbed a bottle and a scrub brush and lead Sean to a cleaning room where I showed him how to clean the harness. He also gave me a hand rubbing my sore wing muscles with a relaxant from the medical kit. We returned just as Electra got back, not looking happy.

"Grrr, that Cat! I almost wish Sar WOULD kill him and save us all the trouble," she grumbled, not noticing us at first.

{With pleasure,} I sent back, rubbing my claws in anticipation.

She jumped and looked at us. "Oh! You're back! I didn't expect you back so soon." She walked over to her chair and sat down, looking at us, trying to lighten up and cover her slip up. "I've talked with Scratch and I don't think he'll be a problem with you any more Saroth. Just stay out of his way, and he'll stay out of yours. Do NOT attack him unless he attacks first, got it?" I sighed in disappointment and nodded my head. Electra beamed. "Good, now... where were we before that little incident this morning?"

She looked at Sean and smiled. "Oh yeah, now I remember. Sean, I think I know why you haven't been able to learn any spells, but I want to do one more test, just to be sure."

She got up and pointed at a pile of rocks centered on an otherwise empty table. She pointed to one rock on top of the pile, concentrated, and slowly it started to rise. "Now, Sean, remember what you did yesterday, with the extinguisher spell? I want you to look at this simple levitation spell, and do the same thing."

"What do you mean? I don't know how to do what I did before."

Electra sighed. "Look at the spell, the levitation spell, and grab it like you did yesterday, and let things happen naturally," she explained.

Sean stared intently at the rocks for a moment. "Hey! These rocks are enchanted!"

"Don't touch the enchantment!" Electra shouted in warning with a hint of panic. "If things work according to plan, that enchantment may be the only thing that will keep you from levitating the entire Keep into the air. What ever you do, just touch the Levitation spell, absolutely NOTHING else," she explained cryptically, the first rock held steadily in the air under her power.

Sean nodded his head and concentrated. I stepped closer, trying to figure out what Electra had in mind. Without warning, the pile on the table started shaking and slowly joined the first rock in the air. The entire pile, including the original rock, floated higher into the air until they pressed against the ceiling.

Electra breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. "It worked! I was right!" she shouted triumphantly.

I glanced warily at the rocks floating against the ceiling, and stepped away before looking back down at Electra. "What worked? You were right about what?"

She grinned. "I was right about Sean... Sean, be a dear and release those rocks. Don't worry, the enchantment on them will cause them to fall onto the table, no matter where they are. Do it the same way you removed the extinguisher spell yesterday."

Sean snapped out of his daze and nodded his head mutely. Scrunching his face up in concentration, he stared at the rocks. His hands moved in the air in front of him as he untied the spell. One by one, they fell off the ceiling, arcing as they fell to land back on the center of the empty table. Sean scanned the ceiling, found one last rock that had drifted to a corner, and let it go. I ducked to avoid it as it flew horizontally by me to the table.

"That's all of them," he announced.

Electra nodded her head and hoisted herself up onto the edge of the table and grinned at us. "Let me start at the beginning, back when we first met you on the island, Sean. As you recall, we had a little incident during which Saroth cast a simple fire spell that got out of control. Remember?"

We both nodded our heads as she continued. "After I had time to start thinking about it, I realized something... There was no way Saroth was skilled enough at the time to create such a powerful fire spell. When it comes to the weather, you're a natural, Saroth, but, no offense intended, the other spells tend to leave a bit to be desired. I know now you've mastered that fire spell to my satisfaction, but at the time you could barely generate a spark. But, at the time, I simply chalked it up to an adrenaline magic rush and forgot about it, having more important things to handle.

"At the same time, I met you, Sean, and I realized you had the potential for a strong magical talent. It wasn't developed enough for me to tell what exactly, but I knew it was there. When Sar and I left the island, I asked Gordon to keep an eye on you; to see if he could help your talent develop. But, as you know, he didn't have much luck beyond teaching you how to see Magic."

Electra smiled, enjoying our rapt attention. "Since Gordon only really knows the healing magics, he figured that maybe you simply couldn't learn healing magic. After all, it's not unheard of that a mage only knows one type of magic, or can't learn a certain type of magic. For years I thought Saroth wouldn't learn anything but weather magic until he changed, but I digress."

"To see if this was the case, he talked to me and we decided it would be best if you, Sean, came up here where you could learn from all types of magicians. Yesterday, I tried to teach you numerous spells outside of the healing spells Gord exposed you to, without success, until finally you triggered a change in that extinguisher spell... a change that I certainly wasn't expecting. You somehow took control of my spell, made it your own in many ways, and amplified it in ways I didn't even think were possible.

"While you were out removing it, I started thinking, remembering the last spell I saw cast around you, Saroth's fire spell, and got an idea. I contacted Gordon, talked to him and made an interesting discovery. He told me that while you were around him, his numbing salves, the burn salves, the stasis spells he cast on the trade goods, just about any magic he did, was amplified, sometimes TOO much... By the way, he told me that Lucinda finally got a bit of feeling back in her hand."

I glanced over at Sean and saw him blush. "Lucinda is a girl in the village. Last winter, her knife slipped while she was cutting some fish, gashed her hand badly, so she came to see Gordon. While he prepared the bandage's, I put the numbing salve on her hand. She left with the gash bandaged up and seemed fine. The next day, she came back, complaining that her hand was still numb, when the salve should have worn off long ago. We washed her hand thoroughly, and waited a few hours to see if it would wear off. It didn't, and apparently is just starting to wear off now."

Electra waited until Sean finished, then continued. "In any case, Gordon's incidents seemed to point more and more towards what I suspected. Last night, I checked around the Keep, doing research, and not finding much, so I arranged this experiment which worked perfectly!"

She leaned forward, smiling at Sean. "Congratulations, Sean. You are a 100% natural Magical Amplifier, a powerful one at that if I'm reading the signs correctly."

"And that means what exactly?" Sean asked, pleased, but confused.

"It means you will never cast your own spell for one thing. Amplifiers are rare, but the few I was able to discover records on could never cast a spell. But that's the only bad news about an amplifier. Amplifiers are rare, very rare. In fact, I don't think there has been one at the Keep in recent history. There are rumors that Nasoj managed to find one to help him when he cast this curse, but no one knows for sure. They can't cast magic, but they can take existing magic spells and somehow amplify them, making them stronger or affect more things. Experienced amplifiers were rumored to be able to weaken spells too as well as strengthen them. That may just be a legend, but it'll be interesting to see if their a grain of truth in it. In any case, over the next little while, we're going to work with you, train you and such to see just how talented you really are." Electra explained. She jumped off the table and started pacing the room, her mind racing miles ahead with excitement.

"Do you realize what sort of opportunity we have? Amplifiers are one of the rarest types of magicians in the world. With an experienced amplifier at their side, a simple magician could become the strongest wizard in the Keep! and a strong Wizard like Magus would be virtually unstoppable. Why, with your help, we might even be able to lift this curse once and for all! Of course even if you weren't an amplifier, your sight would certainly help us sort out these curses and may be show us the way to unravel them, but since you are an amplifier, we may just be able to break this curse more easily...."

Sean and I exchanged amused glances, then looked back at the pacing child. "Of course, you've got a lot of training to do, YEARS of training before you'll really be effective, but it doesn't hurt to look, just don't touch!"

She stopped in front of Sean and looked up at him. "Look but whatever you do, do NOT touch unless you are 200% sure you want to touch it. One of the first things the books emphasized was that an Amplifier needs to learn is that a spell's power isn't everything. Balance is also extremely important. The counterspells that block part of Nasoj's curses are largely based on balance, not strength. Considering the number of wizards and magicians we have at the Keep, we could easily make our counterspell stronger, but it would probably blow up in our faces. No, the balance must be maintained, even at the cost of our forms. "

Electra turned around and walked over to a desk. "You're both dismissed for the day. I need to think about this, let Gordon know what I found, and start making plans for your training. Tomorrow, Sean, Magus wants you to go down to the Three Gates, where the curses were originally cast, and examine it, see if you can figure out what makes it tick. Whatever you do though, do NOT try to touch the spell, or amplify it or whatever it is you do. The results could be too horrible to imagine! The day after that we'll figure out what we can teach you but that'll need to be your last day at the Keep for a few weeks, just to be sure the curse doesn't get to you." She sat down on a chair with her back to us, busy scribbling on a sheet of paper, already forgetting we were in the room.

We slipped out of the Labs and started walking down the hall. {Well, has the shock worn off yet?} I asked with a smirk.

"I'm not sure... I don't think Electra's even gotten over the shock yet. Me? I'm still trying to figure out what I'm being shocked about. I've never even heard of a Magical Amplifier before!"

{Neither have I actually, but Electra seems to think its big. Don't worry, it'll sink in soon enough. If that is what you are, and it does what Electra says it does, then that would certainly explain a lot about you. Remember back when we met on the trail and you pointed out the spells, including that Magical charge, you saw on me?} Sean nodded his head. {Well, after you went to sleep last night, I 'looked' at you, and saw the charge wrapped around you like a blanket. Perhaps that was a side effect of what you are.}

Sean shrugged. "Could be, though I don't see how. By the way, speaking of that charge, I can still see it on you. It's weaker then it was before, but it is definitely there."

I glanced down at myself then back at him. {Is it? I don't feel it and it certainly hasn't been affecting anyone.}

"Believe me, it's still there, but I think it may be a natural part of you. I saw a similar charge around Cerulean yesterday when he stopped by before you arrived, but his seemed older, more experienced somehow. Perhaps it's a dragon signature or something?"

"Could be, I don't know."

We walked in silence for a short while, heading for the Deaf Mule. Sean finally broke the silence as we crossed the courtyard. "I wonder what happened to me?"


"Electra said that I somehow amplified your fire spell back on the Island, as well as Gordon's healing spells, yet I don't remember doing anything close to what I needed to do with the extinguisher and the floating spells. And they certainly didn't become semi-permanent. Your rain put out those fires, and the people the spells were cast on are certainly far from eternal healthiness. Something must have changed to make my amplifying active, or semi-active at least, instead of passive, and to make the spells permanent."

I shrugged and held the door open for him. {Don't worry about it. Electra will probably have it figured out before you come back from your vacation away from the Keep. Now git in there. First round is on me.}

Sean grinned and walked in. "Fine, but let's keep the celebrating down a little. I want to get an early start tomorrow and I don't want another hangover."