Charles opened his eyes, “You’re finished with your test?” Kyle had woken a sleeping Charles like this many times. However, Charles never seemed disoriented or even to have missed anything. Kyle thought that was probably just a skill the other man had gained through long life, but if it was a spell Kyle wanted to learn it.
“Hand it over.”
Kyle handed the page over, “Yes, master.”
“Quit calling me master all the time like you’re Frankenstein’s lab assistant or something.”
“Yes, sir,” Kyle answered smiling slightly. Charles was a pain in certain ways, but at least he had a sense of humor.
“Not much better, but I’ll take it. You know, I was born after apprenticeships stopped being the major teaching vehicle, but I don’t think you’re using master in quite the right way.”
“Your level in the craft is Apprentice…”
“I have a BS and several years of work experience.”
“…Apprentice because you don’t know jack about magic as an independent science. All you know is applying it to other areas of study. I, on the other hand, actually understand the most ancient and beautiful of the arts. I have mastered it, therefore I am a master.” Charles gave him a knowing smile.
“Counterpoint,” Kyle responded raising one finger. “You make me wear a stupid robe.”
Charles looked over and seemed to suppress a snicker. “Don’t be preposterous. I make you wear a scholars’ gown.”
“That doesn’t make it better.”
“And, anyway, I was born well before the modern practice of letting students in supposedly prestigious institutions dress like homeless people. I’m trying to foster a certain pride in what you’re doing. That’s what the gowns were designed to do.”
Kyle lifted the voluminous fabric of his garment away from his body letting a breath of air cross his skin. He was beginning to sweat already. “This is very hot.”
Charles smiled, “That’s another thing the gowns were designed for! Those prestigious institutions were poorly heated.”
“We’re on an equatorial island.”
“Nice isn’t it?”
“Alright,” Charles said, “Your bindings are no longer an embarrassment to the craft, and I officially pronounce you ‘half literate.’ Let’s move on to your practicum, and if you don’t handle the magic like some ignorant monk I’ll let you out of the robe. Gather some power, and if I see you contemplating the sound of one hand clapping… so help me…”
Kyle, like most modern students of magic, had been taught to focus power by tuning out his senses, visualizing the flow of energy, and drawing some in. Of all the things Charles objected to in how Kyle had been educated that probably annoyed him the most. He said, that humans could sense magic because magic was focused by any information processing system, and humans carried around one of those in their heads. Blocking out the other senses to better perceive it was like someone turning down the radio because they’re trying to drive in the fog; fundamentally unnecessary. He considered visualizing something to be even worse, that he said, was like taking a hand off the wheel to clutch a Saint Christopher’s pendant.
His advice was to just be aware of the magic at all times as an exercise in general alertness. To this end, he had spent the past few months teaching Kyle to pay attention to his senses. He would quiz Kyle on what the perfume the housekeeper worn had smelled like hours after the housekeeper had left. Or he’d hand Kyle a glass of orange juice and ask if any grapefruit juice had been mixed into it. Charles had once had Jessie walk around behind Kyle while Kyle attempted to track her by the sound of her footsteps.
The exercises were endless, but they were also working. As he stood on the beach, without particularly thinking about it, Kyle could tell the side of his body that faced west was hotter than the side that faced east because of the setting sun and a salt scented breeze that blew out of the North-east. The drink Charles had on a stand next to him was, from its smell, mostly pineapple but also had some citrus in it. There were distant sounds, but apart from their conversation, Kyle hadn’t heard anything obviously human in better than an hour. The sand beneath his feet was uneven, and his footing wasn’t very good.
Most importantly, magic buzzed under all of that. It was somewhat more subtle than the smell of Charles’ drink, which contained no alcohol, but it was there nonetheless. Kyle took in a deep breath, drawing in the magic as he did. Even that small focusing gesture annoyed Charles, and he could summon magic without the slightest twitch, but he let it slide because even some other Archmagi did that. Fortunately, it actually worked, and Kyle’s sense of the magic sharpened dramatically. He failed at getting magic that way one or two times out of every ten, and then he generally had to fall back on his older habits.
He drew in as much as he could. That was another thing Charles had him do fairly consistently. No one was really sure if you could adjust your capacity to focus magic by doing it more often, like lifting weights. Some studies had found it was possible, others had failed to show evidence for that proposition; mostly it just got bogged down in arguing about controls and how close the test subjects had been to their hard capacities to start with. However, Charles clearly believed it was possible.
Charles gave Kyle a pleased smile, then sketched a series of bindings in the air next to him. Kyle recognized it as an adaptive limiter binding. It measured magical energy precisely without a dedicated piece of electronics or a lot of hand work. It was one of those binding techniques Kyle had considered fairly useful, and its results prompted Charles to make a small approving noise, “You’re getting better. You’re up about 7% from your last test, and that draw was solid. You pass. You may remove the uncomfortable gown.”