Following is a story of their early days, before they were married, told to CrIsis by Tyvernos.
“Your studies are an integral part of your arcane education. If you’d rather waste your time daydreaming than pursuing the powers of the gods then you are free to do so without my tutelage.”
“Your will, Reverent One.”
“You’d do well to embrace the magical scholastics with the same diligence and industriousness as Shaniqua. You’re fortunate to have such an able colleague and peer in my class.”
With his head bowed in obeisance he could feel the eyes of a dark-skinned, ebon-tressed young elven beauty…boring a hole into the back of his skull. A soft wind mussed his already tousled hair; it was friendly, almost playful, and it had come from just behind him. Oren sighed. She was the most studious of his classmates and earned their teacher’s praise without so much as an ounce of perspiration-beading exertion. It rankled Oren to see Shaniqua commune with the Elements as though she had been born from the Air’s own womb. My but she was beautiful though.
The tall, blond, elf was fairer of skin and his stature more befitting the calling of a Ranger than a practitioner of magic. He had the build of a lean, lanky thief – a juggler perhaps – but definitely not the frame of a “spell caster.” His mind wandered easily and his flagging interest discouraged more studying. His was an attention-deficit born of boredom and inundated with ennui. Oren fancied himself a man of action. He had been born to the wilds and owed his life to the very Nature itself; he had always felt drawn to the calling of the druids and their unadulterated embrace of the spirit of life. Maybe he just wasn’t meant to be an air warlock. The elemental air had chosen him as one of its scions – but it had also chosen Shaniqua. Did there exist a calling more suited to his aptitudes than this one? Could the air have been wrong?
Elves, he knew, were long-lived but he feared a death by boredom moreso than any other fate. How did Shaniqua do it? Was she genuinely interested in all this twiddly-fingered mumbo-jumbo? Even breathing such a question would inspire raucous laughter, he knew, so he kept tight-lipped. His questions, these days, were impertinent and distracting.
“The spells won’t cast themselves Oren.” Her gentle voice startled him from another absent-minded reverie.
He turned in his stool to regard her with an annoyed expression. “No, I suppose they won’t.”
“I will help you.” Hmm…that hadn’t actually sounded like an offer.
“Thank you Shaniqua but I don’t want your help.” Oren couldn’t keep the sullen, sulky teen “angst” from his voice; he even managed to annoy himself.
“That is why I am giving it. You will meet me just outside of Shadowfall at dusk with a change of clothes and a smile.” The lissome elfin waif sidled past him in her school skirts and uniform before leaving the small, country classroom.
She was the only other student in the entire class with an affinity for the Elemental Air. That commonality alone should have made them thick as thieves but Oren couldn’t help deflating at the thought. Shaniqua made her command of the skies seem effortless while he stood in her shadow and struggled; at his age and with his heritage he should have been commanding the clouds to part and the skies to open and erupt in a deluge and downpour. The elemental Air resided in bones, in his heart, and in his very soul.
Their classmates progressed in varying levels of study and disparate levels of expertise. From novice to acolyte and even apprentice, students like Xar Xar the Arcane, Elanu the Mage, Malkin the Rod Rambler, Firsar the Zodiac, and Ugh the Gobble-Cobbler all seemed to excel where Oren stumbled. They accepted him into their ranks as an unaccomplished, unsung, and unskilled fledgling warlock. But why? The friendships he made here at the College would last. Though he knew it in his heart Oren continued to question why.
The College of Magic in Shadowfall was very young for a place of arcane education. It was hewn from the frozen timbers and craggy rocks in the north-most reaches of the Northern Wilderness – The Wolfen Empire. In the wake of the Elf-Dwarf war the fledgling Wolfen Empire had rapidly expanded as a need for magical schooling became apparent. The College had attracted magical scholars of the various and sundry races and callings that inhabited the empire almost instantly. The Wolfen, revering all things Elven, built the College within the massive Library of Shadowfall to both educate their populace in the ways of magic and to safeguard runic treasures and magical antiquities – relic-remnants from the wars that sundered the world. The druidic remnants of a decimated Elven people, the previously entrusted guardians of these relics, embraced Wolfen enthusiasm and endorsed any efforts to their shared end – the preservation of knowledge. The Wolfen had, seemingly overnight, become rabid book collectors and intellectual devourers. Literacy was on the rise!
Books, and indeed knowledge, were once things of mystery to the Wolfen people but a newfound attitude and spiritual-intellectual movement had found footing and taken hold in the hearts of the people. Libraries were once places of mystery and majesty owned and operated by Elves and Dwarves – the keepers of ancient secrets – but now they held the keys to the mysteries of the universe. This age of Enlightenment was heralded by sought-after knowledge that manifested in a greater understanding of their world and their places in it. The Wolfen Bureaucria undertook and embraced the colossal task of translating ancient Elven works, books, tomes, and manuscripts in an attempt to preserve the precious knowledge contained therein.
“Class dismissed! Be prepared for your project-theses when next we meet.” She shuffled around her desk to thank her students personally. “Xar Xar – your command of potential psychic energy was masterful as usual. I think we are all excited for your final presentation.” The young man smiled proudly as he walked out. Oren followed the herd but cringed when he was singled out in the line. “Oren Oriflamme, stay behind a moment and speak with me.”
“Yes, reverent one,” he intoned.
“You are aware of your standing in my class so I won’t waste my breath on puerile admonitions. What I must impress upon you is how dangerous an uneducated and unskilled mage can be to both himself and his loved ones. If you do not take the care and time to truly advance your arcane practice you risk terrible harm to yourself and everyone around you. Please, Oren, apply your considerable talents and make us all proud.”
“I will, reverent one.”
His teacher sighed and ushered the young elf out of her classroom.
“I’m glad you decided to come,” she offered.
“Yeah, well I guess I owe you thanks for your vote of confidence.”
“Your attendance isn’t gracious – it’s the telltale indication of your having overcome intimidation.”
“I’m not intimidated by you. I’m just a little self-conscious about how much better you are at this stuff than I am.”
“Oren, that’s intimidation.”
Shaniqua gestured for a few seconds and spoke the verse of a spell. Oren knew it well for he had failed the incantation on more than one occasion. He had scant few seconds to brace himself against the Wind Rush before it mystically appeared – guided by the girl’s motions – and knocked him to the ground. Galvanized by the attack, Oren shook his head as he picked himself up and began an incantation of his own. Politely, Shaniqua hadn’t pressed her attack despite having knocked the young man to the ground; she had clearly forgone the opportunity. When Oren’s spell fired a loud Thunder Clap roared through the twilight sky and startled the young woman. Her dark skin dimpled with gooseflesh though her face smiled after a moment of fear and shock.
“Not bad but you’re not going to impress Mrs. Looseleaf with that one. C’mon Oren don’t you have anything good up your sleeve?”
“Nngh…” he gritted his teeth as he began channeling potential psychic energy. The mystical energies swirled around him slowly and his voice cracked when he started to recite the spell. It took him three tries to complete the incantation but an invisible sound barrier appeared around Shaniqua like some kind of noise-canceling globe. He huffed with the exertion and daubed the sweat on his brow.
“What did you do?” she mouthed in silence. Oren chortled and mimed to her to move away from the globe. It had only taken three tries. That was one small victory. “Well that was pretty interesting,” she said when she finally side-stepped the sphere’s silent influence. “Have you tried this one?” Shaniqua made all the requisite motions and spoke the words but nothing visibly happened when she stopped.
“Did I miss something?” he snorted.
“Yes Oren, yes you did,” she remarked casually as she took his hand daintily and walked up an invisible flight of steps right over his head. His eyes followed her in disbelief of her defiance of gravity. Whoa! Shaniqua was literally walking on air! “Hey! Don’t look up my skirts!”
“Er…oof. Wow! That’s pretty incredible!”
“I know right? I’ve been practicing that one for a few weeks now and I think I’ve finally gotten it down. Do you think it’ll win me an ‘A’?”
“I don’t know Shaniqua…but it would earn you valedictorian in my book.”
“That’s very sweet of you, Oren. Thank you.”
“I just know I’m going to fail.”
“Don’t say that! Sourpuss. C’mon…I’ll teach you something you’ll never forget!” The elven waif began to disrobe, shedding her clothes to the growing astonishment of her classmate.
“W…what are you doing Shaniqua?” his voice trembled but he had barely uttered the interrogative when he was taken off guard by her mighty naked gust and knocked off his feet. She seized the opportunity to pounce, grinning all the while, and pinned him with a tackle.
“Oren Oriflamme, summon us a globe of silence and I’ll introduce you to my Leaf Rustler…”