There was a great crash and, for the seventh time that morning, the large ceramic vase shattered across the floor.
“I think we have done quite enough of that for today,” Lord Felmont sighed, magically reassembling the object as he spoke. “I am at a loss for what is inhibiting you so, Your Highness. The Arte of levitation has been one of your best accomplishments, yet it seems to have escaped you this morning.”
“I’m just not feeling well, that’s all,” Dawn lied, watching uninterestedly as the sorcerer returned the vase to its pedestal with a shooing motion of his hand. If the truth were told, the Princess had rarely had a morning she felt better. Her heart still hammered from her less than exemplary speech to the court over breakfast, and she was easily distracted from her lesson by the thought of an evening in the company of Mel. In just a few short hours she would begin work on whatever the Chief Medical Examiner had planned for dealing with the wicked plague.
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that, young Majesty. Still, I must impress upon you the importance of these lessons. Surely you can spare a little more attention to the task at hand? I’m quite sure Malera will be more than happy to help you on your way to better health once we have finished here.”
The wizened old wizard finished his statement by summoning the helmet off a suit of armor just beyond the door to their classroom. Dawn was not sure, but she thought she saw the old man’s mouth twitch downward slightly at the mention of Malera’s name.
“Let us continue using this. And I suppose while we’re at it, we can make it a bit more fun. Let us play a little game I like to call ‘catch and release’,” Lord Felmont said as he caused the helmet to rise into the air and hang there. “I will toss the helmet to you and you will catch it using only your levitation Arte. Then you will return it to me in the same manner. Let us see how fast we can get this little bit of entertainment going.”
As Lord Felmont finished, the metal head covering soared through the space between the tutor and his student, stopping suddenly as the Princess’ own Arte took over its path. She returned the helmet with surprising speed, pushing it along its new course to her instructor. It stopped when he held it within his own power and sent it, once more, toward the Princess. Back and forth it flew and, before long, Dawn was fully absorbed in their game of catch and release. Mel and the sleeping sickness fell from her thoughts as the helmet careened, faster and faster, zooming without end until Lord Felmont sent it high above her head. Dawn extended the full force of her magic to send the iron lump back.
What happened next took both Dawn and her instructor completely by surprise.
Dawn’s feet lifted off the ground and her frantic form went flying after the escaping visor. The floor zipped beneath her and, in seconds, she was out the door and sliding down the long hallway beyond her classroom. Her head struck the floor with an impressive crack and the silver chain she always wore around her neck skittered away, its small flashing pendant falling far from Dawn’s reach. She lay on the floor watching white specks of light flit across her vision.
Lord Felmont erupted from their classroom, ran at top speed to the splayed Princess, and roughly dragged her to her feet.
“Your Highness! I should have thought to warn you!”
“Ouch… Wh… What happened?” Dawn moaned, tenderly touching the spot where her head and the flagstone had met.
“I did not realize you would extend your power to reach the helmet. I had thought its path would have shown you I dismissed it.”
“Well, it didn’t. Why did it pull me along like that, anyway?”
Lord Felmont looked slightly unnerved. His eyes scanned Dawn head to foot and then flashed to the pendant on the ground. He walked to where it lay, bent to the floor, and gently returned the jewel to its owner. Dawn noticed that the small clasp that held the chain together had snapped and she gave an inaudible groan.
“When you attempted to stop my dismissal,” Lord Felmont explained, carefully watching the Princess tuck the broken jewelry into one of her coat pockets, “my magic and your own came into contest. I am modestly more adept in the Aetherial Artes than yourself and reasonably more powerful, and as such, my magic won over yours. Your attempt to stop my Arte linked you with your own and dragged you along with it until mine had ceased. There is an important lesson to be learned here, however.”
“Oh?” asked Dawn, finding it hard to think through her quickly developing headache. “What’s that?”
“There are limitations upon magic. The Aetherial Artes can accomplish much, but there are three laws it must obey.” Lord Felmont paused a moment, his face reforming into a more serious expression. “The first law is simple. ‘No essence in creation shall be made or unmade within the power of the Aether.’ The following law, the second, is perhaps more difficult to accept than it is to understand. ‘No life, great or small, may be kindled or extinguished by directive of the Aether.’”
“You’ve told me this before,” Dawn grumbled, rubbing the sore spot on the back of her head, “do we really have to go over this again? It was your fault I got hurt!”
“All true, all true,” Lord Felmont intoned, “we have, indeed, been over this before. That being the case, could you recite for me the third law of magic?”
Dawn gulped. She was not expecting a pop quiz in the middle of Lord Felmont’s lecture. She had remembered the first two laws just fine, but all she could remember of the third law was something about princes and power.
“Um, magic can not-” Dawn stammered, trying her best not to appear as confused as she was, “-can not be more than…uh…the prince of power?”
“Do you perhaps mean the ‘Principles of Inherent Power’, Your Highness?” The old wizard supplied.
“Principles of…what now?”
“Principles of Inherent Power. Many a mage has spent their entire life seeking to better understand the unique Principles.” Lord Felmont continued. “In short, they are the individual restrictions of each user of the Aether. Knowledge, available Aether, and physical limitations are just some of what goes into discerning each sorcerer’s or sorceress’ Inherent Power. Attempting to break any law of magic can bring about a harrowing condition known to us as the Enchanter’s Fugue.”
Dawn’s eyes widened in understanding. Until now she had assumed that if something could not be accomplished through magic the enchantment would simply fail. Her head swam for a moment until a question formed solidly inside her mind.
“Is that why we’re not using magic to cure the sleeping sickness?” Dawn breathed, eyes wide. “’Cause of this… Enchanter’s Fugue?”
Lord Felmont nodded sagely.
“That,” he replied, “is just one reason. Our bodies are wonderfully complex inventions. Minor cuts, bumps, and bruises can be quickly be healed by the experienced practitioner. But in matters of the mind, as this sickness most assuredly is, we are woefully ill equipped. One small mistake could drain us of our power, possibly forever. The Fugue is no less a threat to a sorcerer than the sickness we now endure.”
Dawn shuddered, her new found knowledge quickly dimming her already tarnished appreciation of magic. Lord Felmont lead the way back to the hall while Dawn followed close behind. Their lesson continued with relative ease, only slowing as the Princess’ lunch hour approached and her motivation fell.
“One more time, Your Highness,” Lord Felmont sang, gleefully conducting the delirious Princess in another recitation of the quadratic equation. Her voice rang out in the tune of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ and finished the formula in its entirety with a bellowed, “-all over two ‘a’!”
“Excellent work, Princess!” her jubilant instructor extolled, clapping joyfully at her flawless oration. “That will be all for today. Aside from our morning mishap, you have earned top marks! You should be very proud of yourself!”
“That’s it? For the whole day?” Dawn shouted, barely able to contain her mirth. “But it’s not even time for lunch yet!”
“Very true, very true,” Lord Felmont agreed, “but I am sure you would not oppose an early lunch in place of more trigonometry, would you?”
“You got that right!”
“Wonderful!” the old man beamed. “Now, let us make our way to the kitchen! If I am not much mistaken, our intrepid cooks should just now be removing a mustard slathered roast liver from the oven, and I would not oppose a sampling or two.”
Dawn pulled a horrified face, sending Lord Felmont into a fit of laughter.
“Oh, come now, it’s not all that bad. At least try some before you decide you hate it!”
And with that, Lord Felmont spun on his heel and left. Dawn hurried behind, desperately hoping that somehow the old sorcerer was wrong and the kitchen would be completely liver and mustard free.