Chapter 5: The Rewrite in which I Learn Magic from the Duke.

The Duke stared at me in confusion. It was understandable, I suppose. Magic was a rare talent, one that showed up rarely even among the nobility, much less so among the common people. For a servant to have magic talent would be extremely unlikely. I saw his mind working, and he must have remembered that I came from a noble family, although only a Baron, for he asked me quietly. 

“You underwent aptitude testing?” 

Every noble child in the world underwent aptitude testing. It was a simple test, the child simple placed their hands on a crystal sphere, and if they had any talent for magic, globes of light would appear around them. The number of globes was an indication of their magical power. Among people who did have magical talent, 1-2 orbs was considered average. The prince had 6 orbs appear when he tested, the Duke currently held the record at 10 orbs. When Autumn had attempted, her magic nullifying ability had destroyed the orb. 

I nodded. “Yes I underwent testing.” Well, I hadn’t, but Katrina had before I took over.

He looked confused. “How many orbs?” 

“Only five.” I shrugged casually, enjoying the expression of shock on his face. 

“Did you say five?” His eyes bulged a bit. “How in the world weren’t you sent to the academy for training?”

“My family could only afford to send one child to the academy. My brother, the heir, produced 2 orbs. The education was deemed more useful to him.”

This was a sore point, one that I had written intentionally when designing Katrina. She was born noble, had great magical ability, but was forced to be a servant to someone else. Thus her arrogance and determination to take down the protagonist. She always felt she was better than Autumn, and couldn’t stand being looked down on. 

The Duke didn’t let it go, “But still, with that kind of ability…”

“Ability matters little if no one values it enough to nurture it with training.” I shrugged again, “It was considered more valuable as the third daughter to be here as a lady’s maid, to make connections that would benefit my family.”

He looked upset. “They sacrificed you, for their own gain.”

“Yes, they did.”

“Why aren’t you angry?”

I met his disturbed gaze with my own calm one. “Why should I be? This is the world we live in. My role was to be sacrificed to benefit others, yes, but I am alive, safe and well fed. The fact that I can be such is dependent on the sacrifices of many others.” I stepped closer, wanting to convey this clearly. “No kingdom can be safe without sacrifice. Many will give their lives and well being so that we can live in peace. If they are willing to give up so much for me, what right do I have to complain about the little that is expected of me?”


I smiled, patting his shoulder. ”You will have to make many hard decisions in the future, as His Highness’s advisor. You will make sacrifices, and ask others to make sacrifices in your stead. It will not be easy. It will not be kind or considerate. Sacrifice is painful. But it is also necessary. The important thing is that you face this honestly, and work hard so that we can continue this time of peace. If you cannot do this, I suggest you get out while you still can, and leave your position to someone who can do so with a clear conscience.”

Once I finished, he stared at me silently, the quiet stretching out for an uncomfortable amount of time. 

“Somehow … I think you are an amazing person.” 

I smiled. “Thanks. Your Grace isn’t bad either.”

He sighed. “You might as well call me James, at least in private. After all, I’m going to be your teacher from now on.” His grin was deadly. I had to look away to calm my heart. 

“Be warned, I’ve been considered to be a strict and merciless teacher.”

I looked back at him, and took his outstretched hand to shake. 

“I’m counting on it… Thank you, James.”

He didn’t waste any time. Taking me back out to the field, he distanced himself a good ways away and started explaining. 

“What we call magic is a energy that can be borrowed and refined through the filter of one’s mind. Meaning that, the clearer your mental picture is, the better your result will be.” He chuckled, “Of course, there is also the limitation of how much power you can draw on to use, but as that is directly related to your aptitude, you should have plenty for most purposes.”

He held up a hand, and a flame appeared on his palm. “Magic can be divided into two major types. First is external, in which magic creates a physical phenomenon within the world.”

He held up his hand and the flame shot straight at my face. 

I screamed, and ducked, trying to avoid being burnt. But the flames simply passed straight through me without harm. Slowly I looked back up at James, who was grinning. “Second is internal, which affects the mind with no physical manifestation, such as an illusion of fire.” 

The flame on his palm extinguished and he stepped closer. “Keep in mind that most will specialize in one area or the other, but no matter what you use, your own natural energy will be depleted each time, as it is used to draw and store magical energy.”

I didn’t answer, still crouched down on the ground. Concerned, he came within ten feet of me. Close enough.

“Are you alr…”

Thunk! Thunk! 

Two of my hidden knives flew out, striking a tree behind him, flying by on either side of his head. He fell down to the ground, startled. Finally, I let out the laugh I had been holding in. 

“Sorry, did I frighten you?” My grin was a bit vicious. He stared at me in shock for a few moments, and then laughed himself. 

“I guess I deserved that, after the fire trick.” He took the knives out of the tree and handed them back to me. “That was a bit dangerous, though! What would you have done if you missed?”

I took them back and fluttered my eyelashes. “Your Grace should rest assured.” I stepped a little closer, enjoying when his eyes widened nervously. “I never miss.” 

“I feel like you’re threatening me.” 

I shrugged. “Oh don’t worry, if I ever choose to threaten you, you’ll know.”

I left it at that. I felt better, now that I had made my point: He may be above me in talent, station and magical knowledge, but I wasn’t going to be a pushover either.

Over the next year I made good progress. Between his talent for teaching and my natural aptitude for magic, we were able to quickly push through all the beginner type work. I only had aptitude for internal magic, so most of my studies focused on illusion crafting. James, Autumn and I quickly settled into a routine. He and I would wake up early, and go over the lesson/goals for my magic training for the day. After I had woken up, dressed and fed Autumn, she would begin her lessons to help prepare her to be Queen. I would sit quietly off to the side, reading books on magical theory or practicing spells in the corner. I would have to stay far enough away that her magic cancelling constitution didn’t affect my spell casting. Occasionally I would listen in on her lessons and give my own opinion to her lessons. 

“It’s not that simple.” I broke in one day as he was explaining the motivations of a local noble Marquis Petrosa. 

James paused at my interruption. “Why would you say that? They are marrying off their youngest daughter to the Viscount Beterin to solidify their control of the nearby port. With their abundance of wool products and a port to ship them from, they’ll be able to expand their influence greatly.” He ran his hand through his hair, a habit I had noticed he did whenever he got irritated. Mostly when talking to me.

I smiled. “If that was their only goal, then why not ally themselves with Earl of Tentra? He has a son the same age, with multiple ports under their control. It would be much more advantageous.”

He thought that over. “Perhaps the Earl would not consider a match with a marquis’ daughter?”

“No, both families submitted a request to form an engagement.” I grinned. “They could have picked either family, but chose the one with less power and money, why?” 

Autumn tried, “Is it to cater to the daughter’s preferences? Perhaps she likes the Viscount better?” 

“Very close, but the truth is a little messier. The daughter indeed likes the Viscount a great deal. Enough to sneak out to meet him in the middle of the night.” I laughed, “Now the family is desperately trying to get the marriage done before people who can count months start getting suspicious.” 

A shocked silence fell on the room. 

James broke first. “How could possibly you know all that?!” He threw his hands up in frustration. 

“Never underestimate the power of servant gossip.” I couldn’t hide my satisfied smirk, but felt I should drive my point home. “Real life isn’t pretty, Autumn. People make plans and schemes, but all that can easily fall to nothing due to a decision made in the heat of the moment.” I patted her on the shoulder. “The key is to make your plans, but always leave room for human error.”

James chuckled quietly. “This comes from the person that rumors say is lazy, stupid and arrogant.” 

“My reputation is useful, make sure you don’t tarnish it with any words to the contrary.”

Autumn pouted. “Only you would care if we spread word that you were actually capable. You’re so frustrating!” 

“Agreed.” James chimed in as well.

“You two are being silly. Now get back to work, I’ll go make you some food.” I stood up to leave, but was stopped by a hand on my arm. 

“Wait, before you go you must demonstrate that you understand the third variation of the ignition illusion spell.” He was back in ‘teacher’ mode. I hesitated a moment, glancing at his hand which was still in contact with me. Casual touching wasn’t really looked well upon in this culture, but it seemed that lately every time I turned around he has some reason to hold my hand or pat my shoulder. It was a bit disconcerting; especially as I had not been successful in ridding myself of the stupid crush I had on him. 

He’s going to fall in love with Autumn.

That’s the story I wrote. Despite knowing the course of things, it still hurt a bit to consider him looking at her in that way. Of course, I wasn’t going to let this story play out exactly; I planned to change the ending. There’s no way I was letting him get killed off in the end. Even if it did change everything and he ended up with her in the end, if he was safe, it would be worth it. 

I realized I had stood there too long. Awkwardly I raised a hand a quickly summoned the image of a flame over my palm. Despite looking like a real flame, being an illusion it generated no heat, and didn’t burn me. I focused and changed the shape into a spiral. Once I thought I had the form stabilized, I looked back at James to see if he approved.

He was smiling, a broad grin ear to ear. The shock of the expression hit me suddenly, I felt like someone punched me in the gut. I sucked in a breath unconsciously, fighting to maintain a neutral expression. “You never fail to amaze, Katrina, but you should add more energy to the sides, it will flow better.” He put his other hand out and grasped my wrist in his hand, flowing magical energy through the contact. Startled, I lost control and the illusionary flame shot up towards the ceiling. Fortunately it wasn’t real, or I might have set the house on fire. I felt drained of energy, the large pull from the sudden increase in the spell almost too much for me to bear.  

I shook my head and pulled away from his hand, trying to slow my heartbeat. “I’ll keep working on it, thanks.” 

I fled to the kitchen, conscious of his gaze on my back until I safely rounded the corner and was out of sight. 

Spending so much time with him was a bad idea. My feelings were way past something that could be described as a “crush” at this point. I sighed, wondering if it would be worth it to stop magical training. The skills would be useful, especially as conflict starts to escalate in the story soon. It would be foolish to let my feelings get in the way of protecting everyone. At least he only would be here for another few months. 

With another loud sigh, I headed towards the kitchen to vent my feelings into something productive.

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