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    Thread: Worlds Beyond the Known

    1. #1
      TXU Sr. Member kevin398's Avatar
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      Cool Worlds Beyond the Known

      Worlds Beyond the Known

      Chapter 1: James Goodman: Herbalist, Gatherer, Physician,Wizard.

      It was happening again...that dream...as James tossed and turned in his little hut. He was there, somewhere, and there were others. Young men and women with strong powers that he ordered, and they obeyed. He felt he knew them all but he didn’t know how. His head hurt thinking it, but they fought together, and many evil people fell because of it, and the world was better for it. But....this wasn’t HIM, not really, and he tried to see why this was... but it never became clear....no matter how many times the Dream had occurred.

      James Goodman lived in a small village not far from the caves that supported his town for so long. He grew up here with a family that specialized in healing, in all its forms. He learned from his dad to heal people hurt hunting or in the caves adventuring, and from his aunt to make potions and special medications that many used almost daily.

      He knew more than 2 dozen plants on sight, and mushrooms and roots and other special things and what they could be used for. But he was still young, barely out on his own at 16, and still taking lessons from anyone and everyone he could, as some friends mentioned that he’d be an ‘all rounder’ when he was done, and that was not a bad thing in any small town.

      But he also got preached to about defending himself. Because the caves were dangerous, and the roads between towns weren’t much better. And he took a few lessons from his dad, and could throw knives a fair distance and hit a target as small as one of his moms sugar cookies consistently. If he needed to learn then he would, that was that, and when someone said he’d take over for his dad one day James just smiled and walked away, and everyone in the Family knew his life was elsewhere.

      So as his training went on reports of a gang of bandits came from a Team of men from another town one step closer to the Capital, saying that many there were killed and many others wounded, and when they asked James’s dad to come and help, James stepped up instead.

      “My father is needed here,” he said seriously,” but I am his apprentice,and I volunteer to go.” he announced as the people looked at Frank, James’s dad and sadly he admitted James was qualified to do the job.

      “My son dreams of towns and cities far away.” Frank said as his wife looked sad but agreed.” If that is his Fate then so be it, take him and may the Gods bless your journey.” he said like it was a declaration, and James got a bag ready and he and the men that came looking for him got on horses and rode away, and Frank wondered if he’d ever see or hear from his son again.

      They rode for half a day, camped by a stream and slept, then rode again until the town was nearly in sight. But what they did see wasn’t what they hoped for. In the distance was a pillar of smoke,and the men rode at top speed to get there to see the town had been overrun while they were gone.

      The smoke was from a dozen fires, the frames and walls of buildings that once were part of the town itself, but they were all gone now, fallen inside each other as the fires spread through the town proper.

      They jumped off their horses and started checking bodies that were thrown everywhere, and after a while found one man with an arrow in him that was still alive.

      James did his best and after getting the arrow out gave him some healing magic and finally the man was awake and could speak.

      “Carl..what happened here was it the bandits again?” One man asked as the man just smiled and shook his head no.

      “When they came it was like a wave of water...dozens... maybe hundreds all at once. The bandits were slaughtered right along with the rest of us. Its was Bain’s Forces...wave after wave of soldiers until there was nothing left to burn and no one left to kill.” he said and laid back to rest while James looked for other survivors.

      “Who are Bain’s Forces?” he asked as one man told him that King Bain was the ruler of the Kingdom North of them, just over the mountains,and from time to time they raid towns close to their boarders, but never razed any to the ground like this one.

      “He must be ready for a full on war.” The man said, and after checking everywhere they only had 6 survivors to take care of.

      “We cant stay here, I don’t have enough materials or energy to keep them going for long, we need to get to another town.” James mentioned as the men agreed, and they used their own horses to hitch up a covered wagon, and placed all the survivors into it and then turned and started for the Capital..now over 50 miles away.

      Chapter 2: Recognition...and Sadness

      It took two days to get there and as they traveled one man taught James some magic he used, saying that knives were well and good but what do you do then they are gone and you need to stay alive? So they sat by the fire one night and talked, and after the two men threw everything they knew at James, he managed to learn two new things.

      One was a spell called Dark Escape, where you grab a handful of dirt, enchant it and throw it at the enemy, then it turns into a thick,stinky smoke that only the most skilled and well trained soldier would want to walk through. The other was a skill that made a weapon out of pebbles and stones, called Piercing Shot. James picked up a few small stones, held them in his hand and squeezed tightly. His hand glowed and when he opened it they floated there, charged with energy.

      He aimed them and with a tiny flick of a finger on each they rushed forward, with enough energy to pierce armor up to 50 yards away, and the men said that at least now he could defend himself, and James thanked them for their help.

      One man bragged he used Piercing Shot for hunting too, and James could see how a deer or other animal might fall pretty quickly from something so powerful. And as they entered the Capital the next day people ran everywhere getting help and supplies for them, and the Royal Guards were more than a little interested in what they had to say about the attack, and Capital Security went up greatly after that.

      They got called into the Palace, and got questioned at great lengths while the King sat there watching on. James got credit for saving half a dozen people with his Healing Magic, and he thanked them for their praise, but the King was more worried about the Bain’s now, since this was the biggest attack inside his Kingdom in many years.

      “There may be more questions later.” One old man said as everyone there agreed.” See to it they get rooms until this is over.” he ordered and they were led away.

      They were taken to a nice big lodge and given rooms there for free, because the King ordered it. And while they waited to be called back James got a hot bath and clean cloths on and finally a good solid nights sleep.

      Three days later they were back, and King John and some of his advisors thanked them for saving as many as they could, as well as running here as fast as possible to warn the Kingdom of this first major attack.

      They all got rewards, and James decided that he’d stay here for a while and study, since the Capital had the best libraries around.

      So he told the lady running the lodge he’d stay in that room after the free days ran out, and they made a deal per week for rent and food, and he agreed. With the reward the King gave him he could stay there with room and board for months, and he figured that this was his best opportunity to learn from some of the best, and that made him a little excited to think that.

      So he went around looking for teachers and in the Business District he did find some. Of course they weren’t for free either, and after a few lessons his cash started to look a little less optimistic than before.

      He looked around for a part time job and found one gathering for one of the Gilds. They had their own apothecaries and alchemists, but they didn’t have the time to leave the city every day looking for minerals or plants to make their potions with. This also gave James something to do, and he asked many he met questions that turned into lessons that added to what he knew once again.

      He found out that his father and mother had taught him some pretty useful things, but certainly not the best of either one. His skills in Healing went up a little and his potions were tested and checked for potency and even the Gild Master himself admitted that he had bought worse.

      So anything he made himself got bought, and the word got around that a new young man was living in the city, and many watched for him and asked a lot of questions, while James gained a good reputation for working hard. And all this while James’s worth went up with everyone he met.

      He also learned how to make some extra cash too. When you first enter the city sometimes you ride right into the central district...but...other doors lead to the shopping district too. There people set up stalls and sell anything and everything, and so seeing James coming and going many approached him about helping them stay stocked up.

      The vender selling meat roasted over an open flame said he was always looking for more variety, so buying beef from the farmers coming in and out helped a lot, but boar meat or venison was always needed and he gave James a really good price for any he’d bring in too.

      There was also a vender of potions and James found out that he sold to the adventurers and mercenaries that came and went, and the person James had been gathering for didn’t sell to private people, but had a large contract to supply the Army, so James was only helping them and no one else. Of course he thought that was OK to...but this man offered even a bit more for his wares... and so James decided to help both as long as the plants he found were enough to do it.

      Luckily that wasn’t much of a problem. The little valley just East of the castle was rich in plants, and James brought in bags filled with grasses and herbs and even teas that he sold to a different vender. With the horse he owned he could come and go easily that far in a single day, and he knew that he could work here or leave anytime he wanted, and still have some coins to jingle around in his pocket.

      And for one silver coin he could send messages to other towns, and his parents knew right where he was and that he was doing OK by himself, and that left his mom feel a lot better about her son, the wandering Scholar.

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      Chapter 3: Local Businessman

      In a month nearly everyone in the Business District knew James and he had made some good friends. His Healing magic was second to none now and he got calls to go see people in need, and made good money doing it too. He even got asked to visit a small town nearby, and he went to see that wild animals were running amok all around it and people got attacked because of it. He searched and found that the small stream running through the area was polluted, and not by accident either. The chemicals were strong and made the animals sick, and probably some of the humans as well. So he and the towns mayor and several other men tracked it all back to a dump site where a mine left the old water run out and into the stream. He owner got an earful then and he got help running his overflow into a pond, and from there into a swamp where it had a chance to settle the heavy chemicals out before getting into the water supply.

      The results were like day and night as things started getting back to normal as animals stopped going crazy, and after being there a week James got paid nicely for his help, and the town got back to normal once again.

      His reputation went up a little again, and while he was out traveling he took some time to do some exploring, and found a herd of bison feeding on grass a few miles away, and his Piecing Shot dropped one easily as the rest ran away. He made a drag for his horse, nothing more than two long poles and a few across to throw the heavy load on, and he took it back to the Capital, and his buyers went nuts over it and he made some serious cash on the spot.

      It seemed that the bison traveled a lot, and they were just now coming into the kingdom from outside on their yearly migration. James was the first to see them this year, and that information had even the army sending out hunters to bring in some, because this was their chance to gain enough jerky for their patrols for the rest of the winter season, soon to be upon them.

      It was a good time of the year for all. Hunters of all types that ran out and brought in animals that weighed half a ton was sure to add some Gold to anyones purse, not a bad thing at all.And a few people reminded James that the Gilds and others needed stocked up on resources too, because then the cold, rainy season hit plants were going to be in short supply.

      And with people trying to continue their work in bad weather, a lot of people would be getting sick, another yearly thing to have happen, and healing potions would soon be worth their weight in Gold.

      All good information James didn’t have before, and he was seen at the general store buying potion vials by the dozen, and everyone knew he’d be around to help out when things got bad.

      Potions are graded according to the Kings Registry Of Medicine. His advisors set up certain standards for purity and made practitioners adhere to their will. So in King Johns Kingdom the standards were pretty high, and James’s potions held steady at a lev 3 potion... not bad at all here.

      But there were 5 levels of potions on their list, and at level 5 they were extremely expensive, and three times as potent as a level 3 one. And James worked and studied and after a while he did get a few level 4 potions made, and his name even made it back to the castle, since nothing less would be accepted for the Royal Family.

      “A new Doctor in the Capital?” The king asked as his advisors said it was true.

      “He came to us when the first major attack happened and stayed on to study. He works to support himself and then takes lessons from the professionals in town. His skills are quite good and he travels far and wide to help the people who need him, all at 17 years of age! It looks like he will have a great career ahead of him if this continues.” he got told and even the King looked impressed and through him other members of his family as well that heard the story.

      “A Doctor, and so young too..” The Queen repeated as her entire Family seemed impressed.

      “Is he cute do you think?” Her maid in waiting asked, as everyone in the room got a good chuckle at that comment. “A young man of such promise doesn’t come around every day.” Got added as a few took some time to think about that.

      “We might need to check into this further.” Got added and even the Queen laughed at how fast this plan was getting running, but she said nothing when they put their heads together for some planning.

      Three days later as James came walking through the Business District talking to friends a picturesque young knight was standing by the booth that sold swords and daggers, and when she heard his name mentioned she...accidentally...bumped into a blade laying there on display. She screamed at once as blood dripped from her hand and the man in charge apologized a dozen times that he left something so sharp stick out far enough to cut someone. But the word got out immediately, and James ran to see. She was holding her wrist trying to stop the bleeding, which was not as bad as it looked. And he took her hand and flipped back the hood on his heavy coat so he could see better, and her face was nearly touching his as he swallowed hard and leaned back a bit.

      “This will only take a minute.” he said seriously and started healing her, as she took that time to give him a really good looking over...that many there noticed.

      “So I heard we had a new Healer in town, but this is the first time we’ve met I think.” She mentioned as he agreed it was.” I’m Cecilia Alcott, of the Queen’s Personal Guards.” She said as James nodded and kept on working and a few minutes later she was healed, and not even a tiny scar was seen from it.

      “You’re quite skilled I see.” She added all smiles as James looked up now and smiled wider than before.

      “And so are you, that cut was perfectly placed to not be seen later, just in case a little scar was left behind. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a member of the Royal Guards.” he hinted as some got a good laugh and she looked a bit embarrassed that it was too obvious.

      “I heard you were very young and skilled.” she admitted, as he smiled and thanked her for saying so. “ So I thought I might want to meet you.” And at that there were some ooohs and ahhhs around the place and she swore ‘it wasn’t like that’ as James got the biggest smile yet and said ‘hmm too bad..’ and gave her a good looking over and walked away, as she turned, all smiles, and returned to the castle with her report.

      Chapter 4: Gathering Intelligence

      The report was favorable...he was young, attractive and well built. All the things young women might want to know. His brown hair was neatly trimmed and he wore cloths that spoke of experience and skill, not just something for looks alone. To the casual person seeing him going by he seemed older than he was, and that spoke volumes to his abilities, and integrity too.

      “And when I said I wasn’t looking at him ‘like that’ he gave me a serious look and said: ‘hmm..too bad’... with a sly smile...so I don’t think he’s seeing anyone yet.” Got reported, and everyone there got a big smile at that. “Definitely worth a look.” She concluded, as a few there nodded they too agreed.

      “Setting traps for our new Doctor?” They heard as Princess Charlotte came walking in and she too got the report and even she had to nod that it sounded promising.

      “We wont have to worry about you getting in our way though right Charlotte?” one young lady mentioned as she was quickly poked and told to be quiet.” But the King wont let Charlotte look at anyone not even other Royalty yet, and we all know it.” She managed to get out, and even the Princess looked sad about that.

      “Please your Majesty, don’t be angry with her.” Got added quickly as Charlotte got a little chuckle in there and said they had known each other for many years, and she knew once that girl started on something she wouldn’t quit talking until she got it out, and everyone there gave the girl a serious look and she did apologize after a while.

      “But unfortunately, she is right. I feel my father wants me to die an old maid someday.” She mentioned, and even her best friends looked sad for her. She was a nice person who didn’t let her Royalty go to her head. She had this little group of friends she gave work to, and they sat and talked almost every day and here they acted like equals no matter the discussion.

      But at 19 she was getting odd looks when she was out on the town, since young women are considered adults at 16, and able to marry with their Families consent at 14, So now even her father the King knew he was being ridiculous, but since she was an only child, it just wasn’t in him to let her go.If he ever did she would find someone easily, since many young men watched her closely and dreamed of that day. But it wouldn’t happen anytime soon, and King John left it be known only a Prince or King was worthy of her, and she looked sadder every time he blurted it out.

      So her destiny was not in her own hands, but the hands of her Father.

      But James had his destiny tightly held and he studied and learned more every month, and was levels higher in some things than many around the Capital were even now. He asked anyone who would listen and through them learned things many didn’t know. His abilities ran mostly to ranged attacks like Piercing Shot, but also a few rare things like Dark Escape too. Many things like Fire Magic eluded him completely, but others many wouldn’t even consider seemed right up his alley.

      And he wasn’t too good to experiment either, and while out gathering herbs for sale he found that by using a larger stone and enchanting it it became not just a Piercing Shot, but an Exploding Shot and blew holes in the ground like a small cannon might have. That was something new, and he practiced it until his accuracy was as good as he hoped, and that added something else to his skill set.

      He took the original Dark Escape that looked like a black cloud of smoke and stunk like it too and mixed sulfur and other chemicals with the dirt and carefully bagged a few to carry. Once he tested one with some help from his friends, and several soldiers he knew admitted that it burned their eyes, and the smell would ‘gag a maggot’ and they all laughed as tears ran down their faces from it. But that was another new skill, and he named it Disabling Cloud and the soldiers that tested it with him agreed to that instantly.

      “You cant hit what you cant see.” Got mentioned and word of this new thing started circulating around the other guards, who seemed glad they weren’t involved.

      Add to that Killing Throw, where he could toss a dagger for yards and yards and not only did it hit the target, it wiggled and cut even after entering, like a creature alive, raising the amount of damage done by a factor of 3.

      James was not the little boy that left home not to long ago. He was now becoming a fine young man, Physician and Sorcerer. His skills got mentioned around town and even during meetings with the town security detail, and many were happy to see skilled people settling in here and making it their home. It would help a lot if trouble ever came calling.

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      Chapter 5: Skirmish Warfare

      Meanwhile the Kingdom was in a running fight with Bain’s Forces. They would run across the boarder, hit targets and run back, sometimes not really doing much damage at all. It was a mystery why they were acting this way, but they had entered the Kingdom a dozen times so far, and the King was getting more upset every time.

      “Hit and run attacks that either overwhelm an area completely, or do little damage. If I didn’t know better I’d say he was using our citizens to train his forces.” One General admitted, as the King looked very serious about the whole thing.

      “And our boarder with him is wide enough he can avoid our patrols and enter at will.” Another officer added and the King had finally gotten tired of it.

      “We can not allow this to continue.” The King screamed as everyone at the meeting agreed.” Take a force of a hundred men to the boarder and kill anyone who comes across. If he thinks we’ll sit back and be harassed like this forever then he’s got another think coming!” he declared and the hit and run war became a lot more serious as a hundred soldiers and their supply caravan marched that day for the boarder.

      They set up garrisons along it every few miles and waited and it didn’t take long to see smoke rising from a signal fire and other teams rushed to help. The first fight was 30 soldiers against 15 but King John’s men won, and Bain got a message saying that John wasn’t playing around anymore.

      Within a month Bain sent an equal number to the boarder, and John answered that with even more. Now the stage was set for a major war and everyone in the Kingdom braced themselves to see how long it would last.

      Supplies of every kind were needed and prices shot up, and James didn’t mind that since he had contracts with several people now and was doing quite well for himself. But he got told by some friends to watch out. His friends in the military were watching him too, and if things got bad at the Front he might be sent there to help fight, and James looked sad saying that he hoped that didn’t happen. But even he knew it was possible.

      The Army had its own Magicians and every major unit had one with them. They did some of the sneaking around, gathering intel and then using their abilities to either slow down or stop the enemy forces. Of course they get caught and killed like everyone else, and Magicians aren’t as easy to find or train as regular Army, so they were always in short supply.

      If the war went on for too long every Magician in the Kingdom would get called on and James knew that his reputation for studying and learning new things would get him mentioned soon enough, and he started working even harder to see what else he could use, just in case.

      And it was in the last week of the third month of the war that James got a message to report to Major Comings at the Castle, and he knew his time to serve had been decided.

      He rode in on his horse and got sent into a meeting almost immediately. The fighting at the boarder was escalating, and a lot of men were dieing because of it. Bain seemed to have a lot of magicians on his side, either by training or hiring mercenaries. But King John never did any special training to get ready for something like this, and so his Army had a disadvantage.

      He was assigned to Captain ‘Jimmy’ Johns and the 24 man team he was in command of. They were to work their way to the boarder to assist in building a small fort there, something permanent that would be a sign to King Bain that this was never going to get easy.

      They gathered outside the front gate at dawn the next day and started their March. They brought along tools for woodworking and more supplies to make sure it got set up properly. The captain had James ride right beside him at the front of the colum and asked if he had any special skills for seeing hidden enemies or further ahead than the Human eye could normally see and James smiled and said that he could spot any enemy within sight, hidden or not, and the Captain told him to stay by his side and do his magic, because other supply caravans had been attacked along the trail trying to get there.

      They rode for half a day then stopped to rest and get a meal. Captain Johns was more than a little curious about James and where he originated, and they talked for a while until he felt he knew him better.

      “I have men in my unit that have been with me for 4 years...” The Captain said as James nodded he understood.” You are new and I don’t know you yet, so until I do I’ll ask anything that comes to mind, understand?” He asked as James just laughed and told him to go ahead, and they had an understanding.

      James wasn’t a member of the military but was hired as a specialist, and many soldiers might be a little upset that while they worked their whole lives to support the King, that he felt he had to hire specialists to assist them. And until they saw his skills for themselves, James might as well be some con man from the Capital trying to get rich off their sweat and blood.

      And James might be young compared to many of these men, but he knew this time was coming and he felt for sure he was ready to give them a good show.

      Chapter 6: Gaining Respect

      One of the things he was told he’d need was some sort of foresight skill, and he found one that worked for him. It was more of a ‘Search’ thing than some special map skill. He could stop and close his eyes and sent out a wave of energy, and anything ,animal or Human that had bad intentions would show up as red indicators right before his eyes, and he could point out where they were and how far away.

      So as they traveled North the Captain would see him close his eyes and let his horse walk along without him for a second from time to time, and he just hoped he was doing something real and not trying to look cool for nothing. But after 4 hours riding James threw up his hand and stopped dead, and the Captain did the same and the caravan stopped instantly.

      “Enemies?? Where?” He screamed with his hand on his sword as James looked up and pointed to bushes not more than 75 yards away.

      “Not Humans though, possibly traps.” James hinted as he got off his horse and walked part way and Captain Johns waited as one of his officers rode up and asked what was holding them up.

      “We’ll see in a minute.” he answered as James pulled out a few stones from his pocket, charged them and fired one after the other through the bushes until a large explosion went off, nearly knocking him over in the process. He did the same on the other side of the road too and another nice plosion went off and he walked back dusting himself off and said that they were magic traps set to go off when anyone rode between them, and Captain Johns looked a little more impressed than before, and they started their Northward travel once more.

      “That was Piercing Shot wasn’t it?” he asked as they rode and James agreed it was.” I’ve seen it used before, one of our military Magicians uses it quite often.” he remarked as James told him he knew two levels of that, one he just saw and a bigger shot that exploded on impact, and they talked some more about that, and the captain made a mental note to see that all their military magicians learned that new trick.

      And after two days traveling, they got to the new site and some men were already there cutting down trees to use and stacking them up near the flat ground they would use to build on. And after a good nights sleep, construction began and their little Frontier Fort was up and ready two weeks later to the smiles of everyone there.

      “Now in an emergency all the soldiers in this area have a safe place to run to.”The Captain said happily, and everyone agreed and soon they had a pair of buildings big enough for 40 men and women to sleep indoors and out of the weather. And a wall of beams 10 feet high and 6 inches thick, and with a walkway around the top of it for scouts and archers to stand and watch.

      Captain Johns sent a bird back to the castle explaining what he had done, and the King was happier than before by a good amount. He openly proclaimed that the new fort was to be named Fort Johns from this day forward and that the Captain would Command it until further notice.

      It looked a lot more secure than camping in small groups on open ground, and the Captain knew that with it here now the enemy had a new target too, and that his team would be kept busy.

      He sent out scouts and hunters and tried to get ready, but it didn’t take long for the first enemy soldiers to be seen, as a patrol came riding up the little road and stopped just 100 yards from the fort walls.

      Captain Johns rushed to the wall, and watched as they seemed curious about what this was doing here, as well they should. Three weeks ago this was an empty field but not anymore, so they had to decide to either move away peacefully or attack. And with a dozen soldiers on horseback, attacking such an established base wouldn’t be smart.

      “They’re staying outside of the archers range.” he commented, mostly to himself, as James came up the ladder and took a look too. “Anything you can do?” He asked as James informed him that he had never tried firing so far before but he would give it a try, if the Captain ordered it.

      “It cant hurt...” he mentioned as James charged up a few small rocks and after a second to aim put everything he had into the first shot. Normally he barely tapped them and got 50 yards easily but today he aimed carefully and really put some pressure into flicking the stone, hard enough that the impact hurt his fingernail but the projectile streaked out, and one horse screamed and flipped over onto its back, nearly crushing its rider, as the Captain smiled and said ‘that should teach them for coming here’ and James fired a few more until the enemy left the way they came.

      Now there was a dead soldier and a dead horse out there laying along the road and the Captain ordered the man buried and the horse brought in for extra food.

      “We feast tonight.” he said loudly and their cooks had a lot of fresh meat to work with for a few days. But he knew they had been found now and that the main enemy force would be sending someone better suited to fighting an outpost like this, and he sent another message back saying they had their first engagement and had won, and waited to see what came after them next.

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      Chapter 7: Upgrades and Improvements

      Meanwhile Captain Johns was trying to get a water tank made but using rough lumber, the best he could do was a small leaking thing and that didn’t make him happy. The stream was a hundred yards away and through a stand of trees, Under siege they would run out of water pretty fast, and he ordered everyone to keep their canteens filled at all times.

      But James was wondering if that was really true, and he went out while they were working and gathered a small forked stick from a bush nearby and then was seen walking around next to the fort acting oddly.

      He knew what the trouble was, they needed pine pitch or tar to seal the tank, and all the trees anywhere nearby were hardwoods, so pine was not found yet. But if they could find water closer, then that would help also and after an hour walking up and down and back and forth the Captain came out to ask what he was doing.

      “Its a skill I learned at home.” James offered as he showed the Captain his style” Its called Witching for Water. With a stream so close there has to be some little bit that travels out through the land, some small crack in the rocks...something...” he offered as the Captain agreed he understood what he was saying.

      He stood and watched for a while and James seemed to find something but wasn’t happy with it, and after trying the same small area, he was standing with his head against the fort wall, and smiling.

      “There’s a tiny little signal here...” he offered as he went back inside and over to that corner, which was next to the supply hut. “ Right about here...” he said and tried again and after a few zigs and zags he marked the dirt not 15 feet from the supply hut and said ‘dig there’ and the Captain had a two man team there working minutes later. If James was serious at all they might find water inside the forts walls, and that would make a siege a lot less dangerous over time.

      “What do you think we’ll find?” He asked as James said it was either really deep or just a small bit of water, but it was right there, a small line, maybe a stream that went right under the fort. And the Captain left him in charge and James stood back watching as foot after foot of dirt got dug and soon a square 6 feet across started taking shape.

      It took a while but soon they were down 4 feet and still nothing, and James pulled them back and jumped in and tested again and the signal was definitely getting stronger, especially in the one corner.

      “It’ll be right over here.” He said as the men nodded and went back to work.Soon they were deep enough that their heads were barely sticking out but the one corner was easily seen as getting wetter every second and James ordered a load of stone brought from the stream and they piled them close by and waited, and after a little more they found a few rocks and when they were lifted up with a shovel water came bubbling in and the bottom started getting soft.

      “Quickly now! Use the rocks to build a wall around the edges to keep it from falling in!” he ordered as two more men ran in to help and the two inside threw their digging tools out and started stacking rocks around the sides.

      The Captain heard the commotion and came running, and by the time the two men got the wall almost to the top they were standing in water waist deep and screaming that they were freezing.

      “Get them out of there, we can finish it from the top.” he ordered and they got dragged out and went to the fire to warm up, as he stood watching them finish the walls and the water slowly getting more and more clear.

      “That was good work.” he hinted as James left him know that it wasn’t a big stream but under normal circumstances it would help a lot, and he agreed to that and he had men finish the well and put a top on it, and they had fresh water inside the fort after that, and the Captain sent another message saying what happened and thanked the King for drafting James to help.

      Within a few days it was like it had always been there. They had a bucket with a rope on it and anyone who wanted fresh water could get it here. They kept their canteens filled and ready and there was enough for washing and bathing too and that helped a lot, as a few mentioned.

      And after that they all waited for reinforcements, or the enemy, whichever came first.

      And a few days later the bell was ringing by the front gate as everyone grabbed their weapons and ran to see why. There, barely a hundred yards away was an enemy patrol, maybe 12 men, but they weren’t surprised at all, and seemed to fall back a bit and a small bit of smoke was seen shortly thereafter.

      “They’re setting up camp along the road.” The Captain imagined, and started thinking about rushing them. “The first patrol reported seeing us and now they’re coming to lay siege to the fort.” he guessed,and he saw real trouble coming. That meant these were just the first, but others were on the way, and he was sure that things were going to get bad fast, and so he sent a bird with a message saying they were under siege, and asked for reinforcements, that he was sure they were going to need real soon.

      Chapter 8: Frontier Survival

      The water problem had been at least partially solved now, but food was getting scarce. The Captain ordered hunting done by the archers and they did bring in a fat deer and that helped for now. James went out too and gathered whatever he could find, and the soldiers were surprised to find a pot of coffee bubbling away the next day. But even with little things like this, he had 24 men to feed, and that takes a lot of work. He sent messages explaining it to the King and got a reply saying a convoy was on its way, so now it was just a matter of waiting it out, and they did their best to get through this until then.

      So it wasn’t a surprise when the first man got sick, and was taken inside and put to bed. Staying healthy is hard when your diet consists of whatever you had laying around. No vegetables had been on the menu for days now, and dairy products of any kind were a nice dream. So they tried even harder to get by while waiting, and hunting became a full time thing after that, and James gathered herbs for the medic and that helped a lot too.

      And during all that the enemy camp was just 200 yards away, but they did nothing to stop them ,just watched and reported everything themselves. And even now Captain Johns was surprised, but he knew they knew everything that was happening, and that soon they would become a lot less friendly.

      But just as they were hoping the convoy was getting close the enemy reappeared, and this time they brought enough men and women to give the new fort a real test.

      Captain Johns estimated around 30 men and women, and at least one was a mage. So he called for everyone to get ready for combat, and even James was on the wall waiting for his chance to help.

      It didn’t take long either, the enemy Commander lined his troops up with shield bearers up front, and started marching towards the fort. Just then a woman stepped forward and fired several fireballs against the outer wall, and the Captain swore that they brought a Fire Mage along with them.

      The three archers popped up from behind the wall and fired, and one soldier right beside her went down, and she retreated behind the wall of shields. But they kept coming and soon James stood and waved his hand and 4 stones floated there and one by one they streaked forward, and three more soldiers went down and there was a sizable hole in their front shield wall by now.

      This went on until they were almost to the gate, then one large rock hit and the explosion rocked the entire fort, and more than a dozen people were thrown everywhere, and some didn’t get back up, as the rest turned and ran.

      “Damn it, so close!” The enemy Commander screamed and his Second mentioned they had traps everywhere, and that they had enough time to get ready for such a battle, and he agreed. He checked his numbers and had 4 men badly injured and 6 dead, and the numbers were slowly turning against him, and he knew his Commander wouldn’t be happy to hear this, so he decided that one big push might do it. After all they had set off their trap a minute ago, so they couldn’t get hit like that again, and so they all got ready ,himself included, and charged the wall...and found out that traps weren’t their only problem.

      As they ran in more rocks hit them , small things that penetrated even shields, and more men went down, but they wouldn’t stop, and so they got to the front gate and threw oil on it and the wall and set it ablaze, and then retreated to wait on it to soften up. But bucket after bucket of water rained down and even oil cant stay lit for ever under an attack like that, and the only good thought he had was that he forced them to use their drinking water to put out the fire, so time was now on their side.

      He set up ranged attacks, archers and the lady fire mage, and they harassed them from afar, and James responded with his attacks,and one archer was now dead, and the fort cheered to see it.

      But it became a regular thing, and now the Captain had two important things to worry him...they would soon run out of food...and the convoy coming from home would be found and destroyed and the supplies added to the enemy’s position instead.

      The Captain had a meeting, and told his officers the truth, without those supplies they couldn’t hold the fort, and they all looked sad.

      “Then we have no choice...” he added,” we leave the fort and attack his camp and force them back. Then when the convoy gets here they wont get stopped by enemy forces.” he said and everyone agreed it was necessary, and they got everyone ready for a big battle.

      “If I might suggest something...” James added as the Captain nodded towards him,” have our men line up in battle formation close to the wall. They are looking for a fight so they will quickly come for us. Then as they approach we can thin them out a little before they get here.” he hinted as the Captain agreed that even a single dead soldier would help now, since the enemies numbers were steadily dropping.

      “Then we march out and form a battle formation 50 yards from the wall and wait.” he announced and everyone went to get ready. The gate opened and out marched 20 men in tight formation, and they stopped 50 yards out and stood there looking defiant and tapping their swords on their shields, tempting the enemy to attack them.

      “Its time...” The enemy Commander declared and all of his men gathered in tight formation and marched out to meet them and arrows flowed both ways, and they just kept coming, and when they were almost within weapons range a sizable explosion went off and 6 men and women flew into the air and Captain Johns screamed ‘CHARGE!’ and they rushed the bewildered enemy.

      It was a good battle even though the enemy lost badly, they stayed and fought until the end. Their Commander and Fire Mage were captured and that ended the battle right there,and the next day the convoy arrived with their supplies and after getting unloaded they took the prisoners back with them with a report on the battle, and how it turned out this way.

      They were now set up nicely for a while again, but Captain Johns had learned his lesson in frontier survival, and even while they had good numbers of supplies, he sent out hunters every day, and soon they had enough jerky and other supplies to last them a month at least, and that almost guaranteed their survival after that.

      And shortly after that the 6 month draft that got James to come here ran out, and Captain Johns shook his hand with a big smile saying they would miss him, and James said that he’d keep an eye out for traps and enemies on the way back, and clear the road for them, and he rode out at dawn and went back to the Capital to a heros welcome, and a nice sized bag of Gold for his service under fire, and bonuses for his enemy kills.

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      Chapter 9: Starting a Business

      Now James had a good reputation with the military and with the Royal Family too. So he decided that traveling could be done a little at a time, but a real full time job might be better. So with that in mind he set out to find a place for himself, and somewhere where his training could go on without bothering the city.

      With his new rep he got asked if he was willing to train a few young people, and while he insisted that he wasn’t a Master by any stretch, he did agree that more training centers were needed. So one day while riding along looking for herbs and other things he happened onto a small farm, but there was no one there. He searched and found bodies that had long since decayed and he saw that perhaps some raiders hit here and no one ever knew of it.

      The fences were down and all the animals were gone, and he walked into the house and found things pretty much where they had been left. With a big brass stove in the kitchen and beds in every room upstairs. It was a decent place, two stories high with 6 bedrooms and a large kitchen/dining room downstairs and a common area with chairs and a big sofa designed for families to sit around the fireplace and talk about the days happenings.

      It could use a little fixing up, but out here even the biggest explosion would go unnoticed, and he felt that this might be a nice place for a school and home.

      He went back to the Capital and reported what he found and after a day the local Marshal went out with him to see what happened and decided that an enemy patrol might have caused this, and they went back to see if the dead owners had any other family. But it seemed their entire family lived together, and were now gone, and James asked about buying the place then, but with no one to buy it from it would just become empty land, and so after a short inquiry he got it given to him for finding it and reporting the deaths to the city.

      Of course the city could have claimed it but when asked what he would do with it, since clearly he wasn’t a farmer, he said he might start his own Magic School, and hearing that might well have helped his cause quite a bit. But in a month he was out there, now owning his own place, and over a hundred acres of land around it. He fixed the fences just in case and had lots of room for his horse to graze, and he went over the entire house and after fixing a few breezy cracks here and there it was pretty nice to sleep in and wake up to. The fireplace and stove worked perfectly and he said a few good words for the last owners, who obviously knew what they were doing.

      So for that first month he did what he thought needed done. The old barn was a nice place for animals, like he was going to have a lot of those, but there was a back room that might have been for storage or something, but after darkening the windows he started pots filled with dirt and manure for mushrooms he found, and soon had his own supplies right here at home. Then a little garden for plants he brought here from outside, and he hoped to someday be able to grow everything here that he once searched for.

      That would all but guarantee him a steady income just in case the school failed. But he didn’t really care because there was no way he was going to wind up broke now, there were just too many possibilities now that he owned his own place.

      There was even a small pond out behind the barn for animals to drink from, and he saw that it was barely a mud puddle with water bubbling up out of the ground, but one good blast and it had some serious depth now. So what was once a small swampy spot became a real pond, and he saw a time when he added fish to it, for future meals down the road and made it as bit bigger.

      That first few weeks went like that, then one day he rode into the Capital and posted a sign on the local bulletin board saying that he would train Magic users that were just starting out. If they were willing to pay for their lessons, he would supply them with a place to sleep if they stayed over, and one free meal a day while they were there, and then he sold the wares he brought in and gathered a few more supplies and went home.

      For days nothing happened then one morning he heard the sound of a wagon coming in, and he walked out to see an older lady and a young girl, barely 15 and they got off and introduced themselves. The middle aged lady was Charlotte Chase, wife of one of the Castle Guards, and her daughter Sherry.

      They had seen the note on the board and when Sherry asked around her father was quick to say that James was a powerful Mage and that he was a good man that could be trusted. So here they were and Charlotte asked to see his skills, and he did a few small demonstrations for them and the deal was made.

      Sherry would stay and learn to use her Magic better, which she proudly displayed as Water Magic. She could pass her hand over a glass or bowl and form waves and even towers of water, not much but something, and James admitted that her skills would certainly be powerful after some serious training, and her mother looked happy to hear it.

      But before she left she made sure James knew her daughter was a good girl and untouched, as Sherry tried to get her to quit talking like that, and James guaranteed her that Sherry would be exactly the same when she left here too, and that seemed to make her feel better.

      “She can go home for a visit any time she likes.” James said as both ladies agreed.” But I would suggest you come for her on the weekends. Even a good trainee needs time off.” he hinted and it was a done deal. And James got his first trainee, and a steady income however small, and he left her pick her room and put some cloths away, and then the training started and he reminded her that using her abilities every day would help a lot in making her stronger, and he set up tests for her every few days, and even had her help work in the garden and gather things for sale, since it was clear she was a little spoiled, and was not in as good a shape as she first appeared.

      “A strong body and a strong mind.” Was James’s first lesson, and while he had her practice water magic every single day, they walked together for a mile or more gathering things for the school and she was even allowed to swim in the pond and that was good exercise too. But that first week she was pretty sore, her legs and arms felt heavy and she got cramps in her thighs after a few days,and when her mom came back to get her for the weekend she was aghast to see her walking a bit stiff to get into the wagon, and she gave James a dirty look, but Sherry told her it was alright and they silently turned and went home.

      She sat down for dinner and her father asked about her training and what James had said about her skills. Sherry seemed really happy that she got a proper teacher, but her mom complained about his way of doing things saying that working her until she got stiff and sore wasn’t ‘training’ but her dad was a professional soldier, and he was quick to say that if she became a Professional Mage that being in good condition was a must, because the military expected no less from people they sent to places to fight. But Charlotte was holding her own too demanding that Sherry didn’t need to fight in wars, there was more than enough for her to do otherwise, and so that was their first weekend at home, discussing wither James was a good teacher or not, and Jon, the father put his foot down after a while, and Sherry smiled wide to see it. In that one week she worked harder than ever before, but that didn’t scare her. Because she also learned more about magic in general and her skills in particular, and that was the entire reason she was out there.

      And her friends saw a new side of her too. She smiled a lot and was very serious about her training, and when they heard that she had to walk a mile a day they were shocked, because her mom all but carried her everywhere since she was young, and they all got a good laugh saying that she was finally learning what many of them had to years ago, that if your not in good physical condition, under bad circumstances you might well die. And Sherry admitted James had told her the same thing, and she was going to give it her all.

      And after two days off a different person got off that wagon at the school. No more summer dresses but pants and boots and a pull over shirt, and James saw that in her first week she did learn something, and he smiled and welcomed her back.

      Chapter 10: The Goodman School of Magic

      Word got around the Capital that James had started his own school. And soldiers that knew of him knew he had real combat experience, and other Masters in Magical Arts admitted he had trained with them too, and so he really did have the qualifications to teach newer students.

      Sherry herself bragged about him and some of her friends were young students too, and one or two were from families that really couldn’t afford to take lessons from a real Master. So after another week a young man on horseback showed up, and James met and talked with him. And after that he came and went taking lessons himself, and James had a second student who worked full time and then came out on his days off for lessons.

      He was Stan Shirley, and his parents ran a small shop in town. He was the only one in his family with Magical skills, and his were Fire Magic.At his current level he could start camp fires with his bare hands, but little else, and James set him up a set of practices to do every time he came out and after a month Stan could hold a ball of fire in his hands and toss it several yards, and his little ‘show off skill’ as his friends called it started to become offensive too.

      James worked him pretty hard too and made him run with them when they went out in the mornings. He wasn’t in bad shape but you’re never in perfect condition, as James admitted, and so Stan left his horse behind and walked and finally ran with James and Sherry, now up to a mile at a time, and she got to laugh at him this time, since she was getting more used to it by now.

      But one thing neither of them had was a wand or staff, and that gave you a way to concentrate your power into something substantial and solid, and even made you more accurate, as James had been taught by the teachers he took lessons from. And so he pulled out a book about Magical Tools, and gave them both a lesson in it, and slowly they understood that it was a good idea, and one day they went searching and came back with the necessary parts and James helped them forge their own tools, and Stan had a staff he claimed could be used for his magic as well as for self defense, and Sherry made a wand and with them their skills got even better, and they had a new pride in their abilities and a physical tool to be seen carrying around, to the shock and pride of their families.

      And after 6 months of training, Sherry got a new robe. It was blue colored and nicely made. It was his way of showing that she was a practicing Mage now, James said, and she looked like she would cry, and she gave him a huge hug and went to put it on.

      He told Stan he too would get one, but his would be red, or reddish in color, so everyone who saw him would know what his skill was, and Stan asked him not to do that, as James looked surprised.

      “Who wants to walk a round in a red suit? I’d look like Satan himself.” Stanley mentioned, as James got a good laugh at that one and agreed. So after this his idea about color coded robes went away and he planned on each of his students getting one the same color after that, and medium blue seemed like the way to go.

      In her time here Sherry had come along nicely. She spent time by the pond lifting water out in long strings ,many feet long and waving them back and forth at will. She also went fishing with James once and she noticed they didn’t bring a pole or line and her practice for the day was catching fish from the stream and it took her a while to get even one. But soon she realized that they lived in HER specialty, and one by one she brought fish out encased in a water bubble, and dropped them into the bucket.

      “Never forget, water is yours to control, so even fishing isn’t hard once you learn how and practice.” James hinted as they took their catch back to the house and had a fine meal on them, and Sherry practiced there too by filling their coffee cups without lifting the pot at all, as a small stream ran from the pot to the cup and James smiled and thanked her, seeing her control getting better every day.

      Stanley’s practices were more tightly controlled, since his specialty was Fire James kept a really close eye on him. It wouldn’t do to start a forest fire or brush fire on the property after all, but control was needed and Stan knew it and as he got better at controlling small amounts of fire, James stepped up his practices until he too was with them fishing one day.

      “Sherry wade out into the stream in the shallow water right there.” James said as she did,” and Stanley, when I tell you put your fire against the water right about here.” he said pointing as Stan said he wasn’t sure how long he could do it but James insisted, and after getting ready Stan charged up and fired a nice sized fireball against the stream but nothing seemed to happen.

      “Harder!” James yelled and Stan did it again and every time James yelled for more power, faster, harder and soon Stan was sweating bullets, but his shots blew water up feet into the air and Sherry got busy grabbing the floating fish until they got a bucket full. And then James said it was enough, and Stanley all but collapsed into the grass by the stream as Sherry laughed at him saying he was still weak, and he gave her a dirty look. But James said he did well today, and that was all it took for Stan to get back to his feet, and they went back to the house and ate a good meal together.

      While James admitted her new robe was for show more than anything, Sherry was seen wearing it around the Capital every once in a while, carrying her wand and getting some nice looks from other students there. She bragged about how fast she was learning and once gave a demonstration as one of her old bullies laughed at her for a ‘soft and worthless skill’, but having a ball of water surround his head and cut off his breathing for about a minute stopped that from ever happening again, while people that saw it cheered for her and even security didn’t say much since the young man got good and wet, but nothing else.

      Of course James heard about it and knew the man deserved it, but since he was the teacher he mentioned it the next day she was out for classes, and she admitted she left him get to her, but he had bullied her for years and she got tired of it.

      “You didn’t kill him, thats a good thing, and I doubt he sees you in the same light now.” James hinted as she smiled and agreed, and another lesson was over, in control and kindness , even to your enemy, but only under special circumstances.

      “And you...” James said turning to Stanley who had a mouth full at the time.” Dont kill anybody either unless its absolutely necessary.” he said as Stan nodded he understood but they all knew that the time would come when they would need these skills.

      thought you might like to know this will be Book Length, and it has more twists and turns than you can possibly see so far so sit back and enjoy.

    6. #6
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      Chapter 11: Life Lessons Too

      Stanley was a nice guy but his ego started getting the better of him. Fire is a powerful skill, and very offensive, so he started bragging about his new abilities and how he would use them against a good enemy when the time came.

      But while having some pride is not always a bad thing, he was getting carried away with himself, and so James felt as his teacher he should show him the error if his ways.

      They all got together for a lesson and when James stepped up and called Stanley to step forward he looked more than ready for whatever the task might be.

      “Stanley has been talking...a lot...about his new abilities.” James said in a not too friendly tone,” so today we show him how very important and powerful he has become.” James added as Stanley got the biggest grin and nodded he understood...but of course he didn’t.

      “Abilities are things we are born with. Skills get practiced and learned, but ego is not needed in the equation at all. Those who feel they are infallible fall first in battle because they were never shown how wrong they are. Today, Stanley learns that lesson.” James added as even Sherry started to look a little worried. “ Alright Stanley lets test your power then, attack me.” James said as Stanley looked a little surprised and worried but James kept insisting, and Stanley finally fired off a fireball at him to have it stopped by a wall of dirt easily.

      “My skills are Earth Magic, I command dirt, rocks and Healing too. Stanley commands Fire, a good ability for sure, especially in the military or mercenary work. But he has never really fought anyone yet, and so his ego is getting ahead of his skills.” James said and as Stan fired a long blast to knock down the little earthen wall a rock hit his shoulder and drove him to his back, gasping for breath.

      “Come on Stanley where is that power that will rule the battlefield now?” James teased, and Stan did get angry and fired a long string of powerful bolts and the little wall fell, but James wasn’t even behind it anymore. “Pay attention to your enemy not their constructs...” Stanley heard softly, and got a punch in the back that sent him to his knees.

      This went on for half an hour and finally Stanley called for it to stop, as he laid there panting on the ground and Sherry looked sad for him, since she doubted he could even stand by now.

      “Lesson number one in combat...there is always someone stronger than you...always.” James said, as he leaned down and healed the many bruises he had given him in such a short time and Stanley nodded he understood as he got helped to his feet.

      “But you have to admit James...” Stanley mentioned as he held his sore ribs.” That I did take some decent hits.” He mentioned as even Sherry admitted he had, as James laughed out loud at the both of them, and fired a single small rock from his thumb and forefinger, and a tree nearby split in two and fell over, and Stanley looked faint, because now he knew he was only alive, because James allowed him to be alive, and that was a sobering thought for one so young.

      “Maybe next year...” James hinted as both Serry and Stanley saw just how far they had come...and it wasn’t nearly what either of them had expected. “ For the rest of the day, chop that tree up for firewood.” James said and went inside and Stanley and Sherry worked together to break it into pieces and stack in on the woodpile as James watched, and neither of them tried using their abilities to do it, and he felt sad for them since it would have gone faster if they had.

      So it was time for Sherry’s lesson it seemed, and as they worked James came back out and stopped them and had them step back.

      “I’m disappointed in you, but then I thought you might have figured a few things out on your own.” James hinted as they both looked surprised.” Sherry step up beside me right there.” he said and she did.” Now form a water blade, thin and strong.” he added as she looked shocked even thinking it.

      “A BLADE?” She asked as he agreed. And so she did and it looked large and sloppy looking but he insisted it needed to be stronger, tighter and smaller,and after several tries she had something he felt at least looked the part.

      “Try that...” He said pointing at a small limb and she did but the blade fell apart instantly.”Again, only concentrate and don’t let it break.” he went on and she tried again and again and suddenly it sheered off one tiny twig and she looked thrilled it could be done.

      “Surprising huh?” James asked as they both agreed.” Water is more dense than air by a good bit, and I saw a demonstration of an Air Magic user that can cut armor, so you should be able to do the same thing.” he added as she looked more impressed by the minute.

      “And you too...” James hinted as Stan asked if Fire could be manipulated this way too and James agreed. “ Its not size that matters, but how hard it is and how long you can hold the shape, now, both of you, back to work.” he added and left again, but this time neither one picked up the ax, and after a while a lot of firewood made it to the wood pile, even though some of it was half burned when it got there, and Stanley and Sherry both had a good days lesson in how to fine tune their abilities.

      “A Fire Blade, I never would have guessed.” Stan mentioned as they sat down for some rest.

      “Or that Water could cut wood.” Sherry added, as they both agreed.” I’m so glad I came here...we’re learning more every day.” She hinted as Stanley finally agreed.

      “Yesterday we didn’t know any of this...imagine what we’ll learn tomorrow.” Stan hinted as she looked positively flushed thinking it.

      “Tomorrow...” They heard as James came out the front door and smiled,” you’ll be learning the same thing, over and over, knowing it exists doesn’t mean you’ve mastered anything, that takes time.” he added as Stan grumbled for a second and Sherry got a good laugh from it. If things went on like this she was sure they would be fine, no matter what happened to them in the future.

      Chapter 12: Third Student

      Early one morning as they all went for their walk a horse came running up and stopped and on it was a slightly older young lady maybe 18 or so and she demanded to know if they knew where the Goodman School was, and Sherry laughed and said they were it, and the lady looked surprised.

      “I’m James Goodman...” He said as she looked positively shocked.

      “The Magical Instructor?” She asked as James agreed, and Stan and Sherry nodded happily. “ But...you’re even younger than me!” She declared as James gave a heavy sigh and picked up a large stone and a second later the river had a new hole for the fish to live in, as water, dirt and rocks flew 50 feet into the air, and the girl had to hold her horse from running away, and looked properly chastised for her ignorance.

      “Looks can be deceiving.” Sherry added as the other girl now nodded agreement, as a water snake 30 feet long danced beside her, and Stanley stood there holding a ball of flame 3 feet wide.

      “I..ummm...” She started as James gave her a big smile and she knew it was forgiven.” My father is a Sargent in the Mercenary Guild, and I have the skill for Healing. I was hoping to get some lessons to help me gain a more powerful skill over time.” She hinted as James said he would be glad to help her, and they agreed to a price and Clare Holdings joined them for her first lesson...physical education... and she walked along with them and watched as they caught fish and practiced their crafts, and James made her walk it to, dragging her horse along behind her and finally they went back to the house for lunch.

      “Here, heal this...” James said as he made a tiny cut on one fish and she smiled and in a few minutes it was gone.” you do have some skills, but something that tiny you should have healed in less than a minute, so the rest of the day you practice Earth Magic, and I’ll show you what all you can use it for.” he hinted as she agreed and James put her through her paces for several hours, and Clare looked ready to drop by evening.

      “I’ll be back tomorrow.” She said as she slowly got on her horse and went home, and James forgot to mention she could stay the night like Sherry, but he felt that he had time to mention it later.

      “Don’t you think that was a little hard for her first day?” Sherry asked as they sat on the front porch drinking a cup of tea.

      “She has some skills...but her father is a Professional Merc and never told her that there were any other skills she could use. No defense, no offense, I doubt he cares about her skills, and thinks she will give up after a while.” He added as she nodded it might be true.” But today, for the first time, she saw that there were several levels to Earth Skill, and soon her father will see that she really is serious about learning...or she would have left by lunch time.” he added as Sherry got a big smile because her teacher tried on purpose to chase someone away...and she stayed.

      “You can mention it tomorrow if you like...that she can stay over if she wants to...coming from me it might sound bad.” he said and went to the little outhouse while Sherry got the biggest grin thinking that anyone would think James was a horny man.

      But by noon the next day they were all out there sweating away, as Clare learned to build dirt piles and walls on command, and she looked happy to see that she could do more than heal little fish. And James had Sherry show her the house and the restroom out back, and soon she rode into town and came back with a bag over her saddle horn and Sherry moved her into the room next to hers and they started talking like old friends.

      Things were finally starting to work out, since now James had enough income to feel like he really did own a school, instead of doing a few young people favors. And he never let on to Clare that her father Sargent John Holdings had come out to talk when she wasn’t around, and was really surprised to hear that she really did have a skill...something he thought was all in her head.

      “Oh she has some skills...” James mentioned as the big man looked shocked.” and you and I both know that there are never enough Healers in this world.” James added as the man nodded his agreement to that.

      “Give me 6 months, and if she doesn’t surprise you, then she can go home.” James added and they had a deal, and her dad snuck back home to wait and see what she could really do, and James set out to show him that women are not the shy,quiet and weak little things he seemed to think they were.

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