Chapter 21 – No Greatness Without Adversity


Month 11, Day 2, Monday 3:15 p.m.

Thaddeus watched as the Siverling boy left the room with a stride so supremely self-assured it bordered on arrogant. The contrast of such dark eyes against pale hair made Siverling seem both perceptive and secretive, as if perhaps he had already divined all your inner thoughts, and was only keeping them to himself because he wished to. That composure would serve him well, if he managed to keep from killing himself over the next few years before achieving a basic level of competence.

A knock on his door frame brought his head up to see Damien, his old friend’s son, standing in the doorway.

“Come in.”

“Who is he?” Damien said impatiently, dropping his satchel and sitting in the chair before Thaddeus’s desk.

“Hello to you too, Damien.”

The boy sighed and rolled his eyes. “Hello, Professor, how do you do, etcetera, etcetera. Do we really need to trade such mundane greetings every time we meet? Was it not you who said needless pleasantries were the conversational defense of the unimaginative and boring?”

Thaddeus allowed the boy a small smile. “Indeed. ‘He’ is Sebastien Siverling.”

“That’s not what I meant at all. I know his name,” Damien said bitterly, adding, “even if he can’t remember mine,” under his breath. Louder, he continued, “What’s so special about him? I’ve been hearing all kinds of rumors.”

“I have taken him as my provisional apprentice.”

“So it is true!” Damien crowed. “I knew it. But you’ve never taken an apprentice before! Not even the heir of the High Crown was able to sway you, I heard. Were you planning to make him your apprentice from the beginning? Is that why you got so angry that I argued with him?”

“Reprimanding you for your foolishness had nothing to do with this. But no, I had not planned to take an apprentice this year. There were…extenuating circumstances.”

“Is the Siverling family so influential, then? I’ve never heard of them.”

Thaddeus resisted the urge to rub his temples to ease the headache building there. “Let me remind you, he is only a provisional apprentice. The Siverling family’s influence, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with it.”

Damien nodded. “So it was his display in the examination. No components? A darkness sphere and a blue flame?” The boy had lost his air of immature curiosity and was staring at Thaddeus with total seriousness. “I admit it looked impressive, but was that really all it took?”

Thaddeus leaned back in his seat, almost impressed despite himself. “Snooping, were you?”

“I was waiting my own turn, and happened to see when the door was opened. I cannot help it if my eyes work.”

Thaddeus snorted. “Well, that was a part of it. Suffice it to say, I was intrigued.” The Siverling boy’s written test scores may have merely reached deep green, but Thaddeus had looked through the answers he felt were most relevant to determining mental acuity and intelligence.

Siverling was lacking in knowledge, and had obviously written his answers as if he expected a human to read and grade them, but he also knew how to think about an unconventional problem and try to solve it. Perhaps with guidance, he could learn how to think properly about more than test questions. Also, of course, there was the fact that Thaddeus did not believe for an instant the boy’s clumsy evasion when asked about his previous experience as a sorcerer.

He had been impressed by the boy’s use of light. Controlling light as a component or energy source required both clarity and force of Will. He knew there was no way the boy had encircled enough heat, or had the ability to channel enough even if it had existed, to create a flame so hot it turned blue. The boy had repurposed the light to create the flame, with only a moderate amount of heat radiating off it.

Thaddeus had also been impressed that Siverling was able to speak coherently after dropping the spell, rather than simply passing out.

But what most impressed him was that the boy was able to set the spell’s output—the flame—outside of the sphere bounded by the chalk Circle. Not just at a static distance, but freely. This ability was one of the main hallmarks of true free-casting. He didn’t teach it in his class until the later terms, and most students had a mental block that simply didn’t allow them to make the leap in control. After seeing that, none of the other professors should have been willing to let him slip through their fingers. If Thaddeus had had to, he would have sponsored the boy’s tuition fees himself.

No matter what Siverling said, he had definitely practiced sorcery for years already. Either that, or he was some kind of monstrous genius.

But Thaddeus was a monstrous genius, and even he would have struggled to channel that many thaums when he first began to cast.

Thaddeus imagined most of the other incoming students could not control that spell longer than a second or two without it slipping their control and causing serious backlash. When the boy had started casting it despite the half-finished, inefficient spell array, Thaddeus had thought they would have to scrape Siverling’s remains off the floor before calling in the next student. Instead, Siverling and the room both remained entirely intact.

Of course, the boy was a moron for even attempting it, but Thaddeus knew that if he required all his students to be thoughtful, intelligent, and talented, he would end up leaving the University in a rage after never teaching anyone that met his standards.

“What did you meet with him about? Are you giving him special training?” Damien didn’t wait for Thaddeus to respond. “I have been asking for special training since I was six!”

“I gave him a list of additional exercises to complete, on top of the normal work other students will be doing. He received no special instruction.”

“I want to do the extra exercises too,” Damien said immediately.

“Do you not think you will be busy enough with the regular assignments? I heard you’re taking Divination on top of my own class, and Fekten’s.”

“If Siverling can do it, I can do it, too. Also, it’s not as if this requires any extra work on your part. You’ve already compiled the assignments for him. What does it matter if I learn as well? As you said, you gave him no special instruction that would require you to actually make an effort.” The boy crossed his arms over his chest, tilting his head to the side provocatively.

“Watch your words, Mr. Westbay.” The warning was mild, and held no true offense. Thaddeus thought for a moment, then stood and began collecting another set of the same devices and supplies he had given to Siverling. They were all from future exercises his classes performed, so he had many duplicates. “If your grades drop in any of your other classes…” He did not even need to complete the threat.

“They won’t! I promise.”

Thaddeus wrote down the instructions for each exercise. “The goal is to master these by the end of term. I imagine this will take three to four hours of practice every day.”

Damien’s eyes widened, but he didn’t back down.

As Thaddeus shooed the boy out of his office and returned to his own work, he shook his head ruefully. He thought of the little altercation between the two boys at the application center the month before. Perhaps a little rivalry would push both of them to greater heights. It would be good for Damien to interact with someone who did not care about his status and would challenge him on the basis of merit alone. It might even give the two of them a boost for what he had planned once the chaff had been culled from his class in a few weeks.

Greatness did not come without adversity.

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