BK I, Chapter 7: Arcane Baptism

Bathed in the light and heat of that ball of fire Valerian couldn’t help but be reminded just what sort of power lay within his grasp. But that was only if he could reach for it and grab it firmly. No matter what, potential was only potential and not actual strength. He would have to work really hard if he hoped to gain the latter.

He could still make out Jonas’ figure, nearly obscured by the half a meter wide ball of flame just in front of him. Unlike Valerian, ‘he did not seem to be under any duress. He wasn’t sweating nor did his skin get flushed by the flames despite being so close to them. He didn’t even look concerned. Seeing that cool, confident figure only made Valerian more determined. He wanted that. He would have it. No matter how hard it was, he resolved.

The ball of fire suddenly disappeared. One second it was there the next it wasn’t. The only evidence of its existence a sweaty eight year old, some scorched grass and the residual heat. Valerian’s wide eyes opened even wider if that were possible. Jonas got up and after brushing down his robes walked towards him.

“That was a sample of the second tier fire spell, [Fireball]”, he said in an even tone.

He did not apologise for not warning him nor did he explain why he did what he did. He just marched up and continued like they were still sitting and chatting on the stone benches. Unease flashed in Valerian’s eyes. That display of power had shown him that his uncle wasn’t as simple as he thought. Particularly the ending. If that fireball had appeared as quickly as it had vanished, there was no way he wouldn’t be injured right now. After all, he had been sitting right in front of the man.

Jonas, on the other hand, was quite satisfied with the way things played out. Gauging Valerian’s reactions had allowed him to assess his three Cs. The three Cs were something his own mentor had tested him on and explained to him. They were three factors essential for practising the arcane arts. The first C was caution, the second was curiosity and the third, courage.

The arcane path was very dangerous. Without the first C, an arcanist would not live long. The path required constant study and experimentation so without the second, that arcanist would not make much progress. Finally, it entailed a lot of risks, and chances to be taken. This required courage or the arcanist was doomed to mediocrity.

Valerian had not been dumb enough to sit still with a fireball so close to him and he knew to make space when he saw it grow. He did not wait for someone to warn him or save him nor did he stupidly think that his uncle was above hurting him. This proved that he was cautious. In the face of danger he had not run rather he stayed and observed. He had even questioned him. This in addition to his bookish traits showed was both curious and courageous.

Jonas was rather satisfied with this. Intelligence and talent were great boon to cultivation but they were not everything. The arcane path was very harsh on all who walked it. Without the three Cs and a lot of hard work no arcanist would ever amount to anything. Jonas himself had surpassed many with far better prospective results than his. He was fully convinced now that his decision to mentor his nephew was not wrong. The boy would go far and he will be one of the people to push his cart there.

“I Jonas son of John, Surnamed Steelborn, The Burst Blaze, Arcane Lord of the fire attribute, Array master of the second circle, Scion of the house of Cragsveil am willing to take you Valerian son of Valiant of the house of Cragsveil, Prospect of the arcane path, as my student. Do you accept?”

Valerian was shocked and confused. He could tell that this was not something to be taken lightly. The tone it was delivered in alone revealed that to take of the language used. He was confused because he thought Jonas had already been chosen as his teacher. He voiced this.

“Aren’t I already your student?”

Jonas suddenly realised that maybe he should have discussed this with him before making his proclamation. Quickly, he explained what it was he doing and its significance. Arcanists were proud people. As cultivators on the route to immortality and people blessed the ability to dominate the natural world they possessed a certain arrogance and it showed in what they did. It was customary for them to announce themselves names, titles and all when they met. A proper introduction was required in formal gatherings, duels and other events of significance.

This done he repeated himself. “I Jonas son of John, Surnamed Stellborn, The Burst Blaze, Arcane Lord of the fire attribute, Array master of the second circle, Scion of the house of Cragsveil am willing to take you Valerian son of Valiant of the house of Cragsveil, Prospect of the arcane path as my student. Do you accept?”

Now understanding what his role was Valerian did not hesitate. “I Valerian son of Valiant, Surnamed Steelborn prospect of the arcane path, Scion of the house of Cragsveil, am willing and honoured to be your student”.

Jonas nodded happily. Despite this he felt a small pang of pain and sadness in his heart. Student not apprentice. This was a major detail for arcanists. A student you taught but an apprentice you trained, you passed legacies down to, you raised, you handed down your hopes and dreams for him or her to complete. He was sad because he was not qualified to have Valerian as an apprentice. In fact he was unqualified to have anyone as his apprentice. He was still too low on the power chart and more importantly he had no legacies or spells to hand down.

He comforted himself with the fact that it would not always be the case. He will eventually make a name for himself and have numerous apprentices. In addition, teaching Valerian was sure to be good practise for when they finally came around.

“Before I teach you magic there are some things you must know. First off, what I did back there was use a spell. It allowed me to collect world essence and shape it into a ball of fire. That is how the arcane arts work. World essence is a strange and powerful force. It is dense and all attributed. Every element is present in it; fire, water, metal, wind, etc.

What an arcanist does is that using his own essence he summons the surrounding essence and places it under his control. Then he shapes it, converts it into whatever element or attribute he wants and uses it. In my case I summoned fire attributed essence, concentrated it in my palm and shaped it into a sphere. I can then fire it at someone or use it for something else”.

‘Like scare your student you mean’, Valerian thought. He kept his mouth shut though.

“However that requires control over arcane energy something you do not have so our first task will be to help you find your energy and control it”.

“Find it?” Valerian asked a surprised look on his face.

“Yes find it! Or have you already discovered it?” Jonas asked expectantly.

Valerian quickly shook his head. He would know if he had a world warping energy at his fingertips or sloshing about in his gut. Jonas on his part corrected his expression. It was too much to hope for that Valerian would have already made contact with his arcane energy. It seemed he might have gotten too used to his nephew performing incredible feats. While contacting your arcane energy on your own wasn’t too difficult it required some stimulus such as danger which wasn’t something a sheltered boy like Valerian would have experienced.

“People like you who possess arcane energy but have not accessed it yet are called prospects. Once you’ve done so you will have officially stepped on the arcane path as an Arcane Disciple. However it is not so easy to be an arcane disciple. It is the first step and the foundation for your career as an arcanist and thus requires special preparation.

It is split into five sub-stages which are, the arcane baptism, energy gathering, arcane manifestation, sea formation and the energy condensed stages. Only when these are achieved can a person truly be called an arcane disciple. Thus arcane disciples who have completed all these steps are called true or consolidated arcane disciples.

The arcane baptism requires you to use your newly acquired arcane energy to transform your body into a vessel capable of absorbing world essence and transforming it into arcane energy. The energy gathering stage is where you begin training your energy, and as the name implies increase it thanks to your arcane baptism. Once you have a sizeable amount you can then extend it outside your body in the arcane manifestation stage. It is at this stage that you can cast spells.

The majority of the disciple realm though involves the gathering of arcane energy. This is with the intention of creating a sea of arcane energy within the body to support the drain of spells. Once this is done this sea can then be condensed into an arcane crystal in the final stage aptly named the energy condensation stage. It is only when the arcane crystal is formed that a person can be called a true arcane disciple”.

As such our current goal is to help you make contact with your arcane energy. Then you can use the Manifold Elemental Incarnations to perform your baptism. Once that is done I can begin teaching you what I know about the arcane arts”.

Valerian was excited now. How could he not be? He was on the cusp of becoming an actual arcanist. Soon he too would be able to conjure balls of fire to fling at his enemies. Maybe not fire but wind and metal were definitely assured.

Finding his arcane energy was simple. The only reason he couldn’t control it was because he was unaware of it. All he had to do was bring it under his perception. This could be done by having someone insert his own arcane energy into his body to stimulate his own, or use an array to accomplish the same thing. Valerian opted for the array method.

He sat cross-legged in the array, having been placed in a special introspective state. Honestly, Valerian had never felt anything like it. He was hyperaware of himself, his immediate surroundings and most of all his internal state. He could feel his heart pumping and the blood that flowed through his veins. He could even follow it as it meandered through his body’s pathways and dispersed into his organs. His mind was focused and his perception honed and aimed at himself.

Jonas assured him that it was a meditative state that he would learn to enter on his own. That it was a simple, core skill for all cultivators. In the beginning it was fine if his trainer helped him enter it but eventually he had to learn it on his own. Thankfully it was not difficult to learn.

All the same, Valerian was more concerned with sensing his arcane energy at the moment. He felt nothing which made him wonder whether Jonas had begun or not. It was at this point that he felt a now familiar and uncomfortable tingling sensation. Immediately his inner world trembled and he felt it. It was like the clouds had parted and the sunlight was streaming in illuminating a previously hidden part of him. A part he had never known. He sent his sense diving in.

He perceived it as a giant agitated pool rumbling with tumultuous waves. Instinctively he knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way. It should be calm, tranquil. ‘The array must be causing this’, he realised. Reaching out to it with his mind he tried to calm it. Instantly the waves stopped. He looked on amazed as what had just been choppy water became peaceful with a mere thought. For a while all he could do was test just how much control he had over it.

He raised his own waves, parted it, shaped it into orbs that whizzed around. He even raised the entire pool hundreds of meters up and caused it to fall back down as rain. He was having so much fun he nearly forgot what he was meant to be doing but once he remembered he immediately got to work.

Jonas looked at Valerian with concern. Technically the process was harmless but this was the first time he was on this side of things and with his first student too so he was justifiably nervous. Which is why relief flooded his face when he felt Valerian’s energy surge and then begin to circulate throughout his body. Clearly the boy had started employing the Manifold Elemental Incarnations like he was supposed to. He could feel the world essence in the area swirl and converge around him.

“How is it going?” he heard a voice ask.

He turned around confirming that it was his aunt who had spoken. He glanced around to see the rest of the family also revealing themselves. He wasn’t surprised though he had felt their presences from the very beginning. It was Valerian’s first training session so of course they’d come.

“Everything seems fine. It is even going better than expected”.

Aunt Clara laughed softly. “That’s Valerian for you. Always exceeding expectations”.

Richard was next to speak. “What’s next?”

“Well he is supposed to circulate his energy in accordance with the method throughout his body for at least thirty complete cycles. Then he will start using it to perform his baptism”, Jonas replied.

“So we wait?” his brother surmised.

“Yes!” he admitted. He took a long look at his nephew siting there in the middle of the courtyard. Then dismissing the array in place he created a completely new one. This one had two circles and its function was to gather world essence around Valerian. ‘That ought to cut the time down somewhat’, he thought. Then he settled down on one of the stone benches to wait with the rest of the family.