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Magic is a tricky thing that some master slowly, some master quickly, and then there's Erin.
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Chapter 15. Of Casters and Airships

Erin, Vechs, and Chad followed Guude into a pub that evening. Guude said there was a half-caster who'd be willing to teach Erin a bit of mind protection magic. Guude explained that this caster was very rarely around due to his adventurous lifestyle, but he'd got word that he was in town at the moment which meant he'd be at the pub.

The pub was dimly lit but had a warm atmosphere. Chad got some glances, but for the most part, the patrons seemed friendly. There was a man with a neatly styled quiff at the bar drinking beer and talking to the bartender.

"Evening, Sevadus," Guude said as he sat down at the bar.

The other man nodded to Guude, "Evening," he looked over at the trio Guude had clustered behind him, "who're your awkward and attractive friends?"

Guude rolled his eyes, "Can you not hit on people for one minute?"

"I can, doesn't mean I will."

"You're a pain in my arse, Zagursky." Guude grumbled, "Anyway, to answer your question, the Felin is Chad, the guy's called Vechs and the girl is Erin. Erin is an unpractised half-caster."

Sevadus looked Erin up and down, "She doesn't seem that young, how come you're unpractised?"

Erin felt a little bit insulted, but ignored the comment, "It's a long story,"

"Night's still young, get yourselves some drinks and come to my booth, then we'll talk," Sevadus said standing up and walking away.

The four of them ordered drinks then located Sevadus again and sat down. Guude next to Sevadus and the other three opposite them.

"Right, spill," Sevadus said taking a gulp of his beer.

"Well," Erin began and explained a somewhat lengthy summary of what had happened over the past few weeks. All the while Sevadus listened, nodding occasionally but remaining silent until Erin had finished her tale.

"So your dreams are being manipulated by some caster or hexer, huh?"

Erin nodded, "That's right, can you help?"

"I can. Remind me, what did those figures in your last dream look like?" Sevadus queried.

"Weird masks, hooded, dressed all in black." Erin summarised.

The man's brow furrowed, "That's not great," he paused to create suspense then continued, "you see, they sound a damn lot like the Erizul Guild. They're some of the worst criminals on Zopru, the Queen doesn't dare stop them for fear of being killed. They're basically immortal and untouchable because everyone's so scared of them."

"And here I was thinking they were a myth," Chad said slowly.

Sevadus shook his head, "Very real, handsome. And very dangerous. If you're getting visions of them you definitely want to learn how to protect yourself because you're in some deep shit."

"That's reassuring." Erin laughed shakily.

"I'm not going to sugar coat it." He placed a hand either side of Erin's head, "Rock, hard place, you. You came to the right man, though."

"So you'll help us?"

"Sure. Chad over there is handsome enough for the lot of you. Yeah, I see your ears twitching, Felin. Anyway, Erin, I'll teach you how to protect yourself, but you'll have to come with me to Obrary."

"Why?" Erin asked cautiously.

"I'm an adventurer, I travel the globe, my next stop is Obrary."

Erin considered it a moment, "We need to go to Obrary anyway, so it's two birds with one stone."

Sevadus grinned, "So it's agreed then? I'll take you to Obrary and teach you some magic for...fifty grokel."

"Upfront?" Chad asked.

"Up back's better, but sure," Sevadus winked, "yes, though, upfront payment is preferred, that way if you die I still get my money."

"Cheerful man, aren't you?" Erin said.

"Most cheerful man you'll meet from Zopru, ma'am." Sevadus quipped.

"Hang on, I still need to speak to you know who," Vechs said.

"Oh crap, you do." Erin said in realisation, "Sevadus, think we could make a detour to Vechs' house?"

Sevadus sighed, "Alright, I'm glad I'm overcharging you now."

Erin squinted at him, "Overcharging?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing," Sevadus said, waving his hand dismissively.

---

Two days later Erin was laying on the deck of Sevadus' small airship. She had never in her wildest dreams imagined she'd be where she was now.

Everything had gone surprisingly well. Sevadus had flown them to Vechs' house and Vechs had spoken to the mysterious Persephone while Erin, Chad, and Sevadus waited in a nearby village. Erin had felt awkward and a lot like a third wheel the whole time they waited for Vechs, due to Sevadus' near constant flirting with Chad.

While it was probably a nice distraction for Chad from the crush he had on Vechs, it made the men boring company. During this time Erin had gone over all the facts she knew of Sphinx. If she was honest with herself she didn't feel any closer to solving this puzzle, despite speaking to Guude.

Guude had been helpful and given them several pages, including the other half of the portal diagram page. They had some interesting information, but nothing all that helpful. Erin was starting to wonder if she even wanted to keep going with this quest. From what she'd heard this group only brought bad things. The only good that had come of it was Guude, Meria and Liana meeting.

She couldn't tell the others this, though. She felt like they'd be angry at her for wasting their time if she did. She'd only know these people for a few weeks, not even a month, she didn't know how they'd react. No, Erin decided to keep it quiet. There were bigger things to deal with anyway, maybe Sphinx would slip out of Chad and Vechs' minds?

The matter of Vechs having no heart was a big one, another was the Erizul Guild being in her dreams. Erin was still getting these dreams and had actually had to bandage one of her wrists due it starting to bleed from the bittermist exposure.

When Vechs had reunited with them he'd only brought bad news. Persephone said that the spell was taking longer than expected. Vechs had dug up the coffin he'd buried Zisteau in and Persephone had taken it to "help with the spell" Erin called bullshit on that.

"What else can I do?"

"Ask for your heart back and let Zisteau rest in peace." Chad had said bluntly.

Vechs clenched his jaw, "No. You don't understand, Chad, you've never lost someone you love."

"Yes, I have!" Chad yelled angrily.

"Wow, down boy," Sevadus said, carefully pulling Chad away from Vechs.

Chad didn't fight against Sevadus, just spoke in a harsh tone, "In my first incarnation I met a man who I fell deeply in love with. He was in his last incarnation, but we grew old together. When he died I was distraught because he wasn't coming back. So back off, you don't know what happened to me before this incarnation."

"You're both pretty, so please stop arguing, it'll only give you wrinkles," Sevadus said before grabbing Chad by the wrist and marching him off to the airship.

Erin stood there in a stunned silence for a while, "I'm guessing Chad is a bit of a closed book," she said quietly.

"Seems so," Vechs replied wryly.

Erin looked up at Vechs, "Maybe he's right, though? Maybe it'd be safer if you let go of Zisteau and moved on?"

"Have you ever loved someone with every fibre of your being and been willing to do anything for them? Even if it meant you were at risk?"

"No, I haven't. I never let men get that close." Erin said, glancing at her feet awkwardly.

"Well, that's how I feel about Zisteau," Vechs' tone softened, "he was my everything, I can't give up on him, Erin. He means so damn much to me. I have never loved someone as much as I love him and I never will again. Please understand this."

Erin had just nodded in response and left it at that.

Later that day Vechs had explained the rest. Persephone was taking Zisteau's body to Zopru and would contact Vechs in four weeks. They'd agreed to spend those four weeks in Obrary, it would be good to spend some time not moving from country to country and give Sevadus some time to teach Erin some magic.

Erin's mind returned to the ship. Sevadus had given her the same elixir James had on his ship a few days ago to settle her stomach. She stood up and walked over to Sevadus at the wheel, "Hey," Sevadus said with a smile.

"Hi," Erin replied, somewhat awkwardly.

Sevadus stepped away from the wheel, "I don't actually need to steer the ship, I just like standing here. Want me to give you some help with your magic issue?"

Erin watched the wheel move on its own for a moment before turning her attention back to Sevadus, "Uh, yeah sure."

"Okay, so it's all in the mind, and body. Basically, you have to feel it with every muscle, so it's not all in the mind. Forget I said that." Sevadus rambled.

"Okay," Erin nodded.

Sevadus stepped forward and moved his hands to either side of Erin's head, "May I?" Erin nodded, confused. Sevadus placed his cold hands on Erin's head, over her ears and closed his eyes, "Shut your eyes too."

Erin did as she was told. Once she had she wasn't on the ship anymore, but stood in a cosy living room, "Where are we?" Erin asked.

"My living room back on Zopru," Sevadus said, sitting down on a worn sofa.

"Did we teleport?"

Sevadus laughed, "No, I'm using magic to make you see it. The reason I had to put my hands on your head was to prevent you being pulled out of the illusion. Sounds make you lose focus, this way you can keep that focus."

Erin nodded and sat down, "Okay, how do I do this magic thing?"

"Right. Stand up again and just shake all your limbs out, roll your shoulders and just loosen up a bit." Sevadus instructed. Erin did as she was told.

Once she was loosened up, Sevadus stood back up, "Right, I'm going to put you in seemingly life threatening situations and you have to stop them. Just focus on something pleasant or safe. You will be safe because it's only a mirage."

"Okay," Erin nodded and suddenly the floor fell from beneath her.

"Focus on something safe!" Sevadus shouted, "Imagine you're there!"

Erin focused as hard as she could on a safe place. Her bedroom when she was eighteen came to mind. She closed her eyes and imagined laying on her bed reading Harry Potter, listening to music on her CD player. Erin laughed at the thought of listening to CDs and suddenly felt herself stop falling. She opened her eyes and looked around.

It was exactly as she remembered it.

Sevadus looked a little horrified, "What is that sound?"

Erin laughed, "That would be McFly."

"McWhat?"

"They're a British band."

"Where are they?"

Erin rolled her eyes, "It's recorded music."

Sevadus looked around, "But where's the record player? They're normally massive."

"Stop questioning my memories! I managed to stop falling first try."

Sevadus nodded, "Yep, you did, well done. Next scenario!" He said with a wave of his hand.

The room vanished and turned into a strange cave, "Sevadus?" Erin said nervously. He was nowhere to be seen. Just then there was an almighty roar and Erin was pinned down by a grotesque beast.

Erin screamed and attempted to get out of the beast's grip, but it was no use, he had her pinned. Focus on something happy. Focus on something happy. Erin repeated in her mind. She didn't want to use the same memory, that felt like cheating. Instead, she thought about a day at the beach with her friends.

The floor turned to sand and there was the sound of the sea, but the monster and the cave walls were still there. The memory wasn't happy enough. She tried her twenty-first birthday when she went out drinking for the first time. She then remembered what happened after and quickly focused on something else.

She decided to return to her room with the noughties music.

As the room formed, she watched the creature turn into Sevadus, "What? How?"

Sevadus ran his fingers through his hair, "I'm only half-caster, the other half is mimic."

"Huh, that's pretty cool," she paused, "also scared the shit out of me."

"Sorry about that," Sevadus laughed, "Right, next scenario!"

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