He Dreamt in Crystal

He dreamt in crystal cross'd the years but never challenged fate
Though rapt with power from his birth yet chased by others' hate.

Forgotten by the world he knew he stood yet as their guard
But in his loneliness, the ice about his heart grew hard.

He saw himself a threat to the world he loved so well
And so he damned himself to live a lonely sort of hell.

Long have been the years, but now comes a crucial hour
Where he must embrace friends or else will lose his power.

Though wrapped in threads of destiny not even he could see
He dreamt in crystal unaware of what was meant to be.

Twenty-eight-year-old Katia Mac Cionaoith stood on a high prominence overlooking the Bavarian forests. Last night, a heavy fog had rolled in over the valley and, owing to the extreme cold, had frozen, leaving the forest rimed in frost. The wind whipped through the cleft in the peak with a mournful howl and tossed her wheaten hair about her shoulders. Though it was exceedingly cold, Katia did not feel it - even those with only a spark of the gift possessed the instinctive magic necessary to protect themselves from the elements - and Katia had far more than a spark.

Just then, the sun rose just enough for the light to hit the trees and the trees sparkled like a thousand crystal statues. With her mage sight and hearing, Katia listened appreciatively to the thousands of notes and tones singing through the forest in harmony with the prismatic colors cast from the ice crystals. The sun rose slightly higher and the perfect moment passed. Katia remained standing on the prominence for a little longer, listening to the birds exchanging morning greetings, their songs filled with little chuckles and warbles. She smiled nostalgically and then turned and, drawing her hood up, began her walk back to the castle.

That spot was one of her favorite places at the institute and, after today, it could be a very long time before she laid eyes on it again. For today was her final trial as an apprentice mage, and, if all went well, she would be returning to her beloved Ireland tomorrow. After studying magic for 20 years, Katia had fully mastered her gift and hoped to use her power give back to her childhood village. She passed a bend in the trail and the tall towers and spires of the institute rose into view, vying with the mountain peaks for the morning sunlight.

The institute, jokingly referred to as "Terror Tech" by the students, searched every year for children bearing magic's gift. Any child bearing the gift who was at least 8 years old was taken from their home and brought to the institute to learn. The institute was relatively new, having only been founded some 47-odd years ago. Prior to this, magic had been learned from master to apprentice. The institute itself was quite isolated, for learning magic could occasionally prove hazardous. In fact, although teleportation using focus crystals was possible, travel home was strongly discouraged and, as such, Katia had not been home in 20 years.

Communication home WAS permissible. If one were rich, one could pay to have 2 crystal communication globes constructed. The globes were formed of highly polished glass with a small piece of a focus crystal embedded at the base. If a mage was possessed of a strong talent, he or she could construct such globes themselves - Katia was one such. Once made, one of the magisters would teleport to the student's homes and drop off one of the paired globes. The poor and less gifted students were left to write letters, which would be delivered by the magisters once monthly, or to barter with a friendly bird who might be willing to deliver a letter in exchange for food, protective charms, or other services rendered.

Although Katia was luckier than many other students and her crystal communications were always clear, she couldn't wait to see her mother and her 2 sisters in person (her father had died some 14 years ago). She approached the gates of the school and squared her shoulders. One final test and she was free to do as she wished. She headed for the central courtyard of the castle with a determined step. After today, she would be a student at the institute no longer. After today, everything would change.

Magister Artimeus waited silently in the courtyard, standing beneath the boughs of a gnarled oak tree that, though old, was much younger than he. Though he did not appear a day over 65, he was in truth more than 2,000 years old (he could never quite be sure as he had lost count). Mages tended to age only until their power reached its peak and there they remained, frozen in time. Though not the founder of the institute, Artimeus had been with the school almost since the beginning. When the newly minted headmaster, Frotriem, had first approached him regarding the new magical institute, he had been intrigued by the idea of training a whole group young mage apprentices at the same time. He had come to love the institute and to realize that his true calling was that of teacher and mentor. He had had enough of watching the progression of history and had come to prefer the peace and solitude offered by the institute. He had never once looked back.

He raised intelligent gray eyes and peered sharply at the small crowd of new students filing into the courtyard. Artimeus' future sight and true dreaming (clearer than that of most practitioners) had informed him that one of these children now standing before him was woven about with fate. Artimeus had seen the founding of Rome, had watched as Hannibal used vinegar to cross the Alps and invade Italy, was present at the assassination of Julius Caesar, and, more recently, had felt the crystalizing of a great nexus event at the birth of Jesus Christ. However, despite all he had seen and done, Artimeus sensed that one here would see and do much more than he.

Out of the corner of one eye, he saw a flash of amber as Katia slipped unobtrusively into the courtyard. He lowered the crimson hood of his cloak and stepped from the shadows beneath the tree. His mouth quirked in mild amusement as he saw 2 or 3 of the gathered children start in surprise - he would have to work on their observational skills evidently.

Today should be a normal day at the institute...the introduction of a new batch of mage apprentices to their first large working and the final test of the gifted mage apprentice, Katia. Though this appeared to be a normal day, every sense Artimeus had, both arcane and not, told him that, after today, everything would change.