Crambo spoke in careful, measured words; his mind crafting an image from his phrases and triggering those mental mechanisms of magical imbuement that would turn his metaphor into a reality. The pressures of his art bore down upon Crambo with relentless might and tireless vigor. He was well into the third year of his studies at the Academy for Metaphorical Mages, and the time to prove the value of the Academy’s investment had come. The time to display his skills in the art of metaphor and magic under the eyes of his instructors and peers in a glorified ceremony that was nearly as ancient as the venerable Academy itself.
The Academy grounds were vast, with their eastern half taken up by a meticulously thin forest, interspersed with verdant, grassy knolls. A broad clearing, stretching hundreds of meters in diameter, had been carved out of this forest long ago to serve as the meeting ground for this sacred rite of passage that all Academy students underwent. The crowd was dwarfed by the vastness of the clearing. Some three-score mages watched the youth with variations of impatience, sympathy, and gleeful anticipation.
Crambo was oblivious to his onlookers as the words formed with images in his mind’s eye. He felt that peculiar click in his brain that accompanied the metaphysical might of magic when it arose to his beckoning. Beatific words spill forth from his mouth in a frothy stream of magic as he wove metaphor into reality.
“The cloud-shadowed grass bends in the wind before me, like the ocean waves ebbing with the tide.” Crambo stopped speaking. Paused expectantly. Watched the wind-bent and cloud-shadowed grass with growing trepidation. A minute dragged by with no apparent change or any other indication that the young mage had succeeded in his trial.
Surprise was apparent on Crambo’s face but notably absent on all others. He had expected an impressive aquatic display as the grass turned into water that rushed away from him. Though he had no awareness of it, despite years of earnest indication, those who witnessed his rite had seen exactly what they had expected. The younger of the spectators, Crambo’s fellow students, were barely restrained from chortling exclamations of mockery by those few elder mages present that still garnished some sympathy upon the maladroit youth.
“I don’t understand… that should have worked. I could feel the magic.” Crambo’s voice wasn’t lost, or even bewildered. The tone and stance of the young mage resembled simple indignance more than anything else. The bellicose flare from his eyes eagerly confirmed the student’s continued barrier to learning. Professor Poetaster sighed, dramatically.
The crowd quickly dwindled as it became apparent that Crambo wasn’t likely to perform further spectacles for their delight and derision. Professor Poetaster lingered, waxing loquacious about the beauty of the clearing in a distracted and obnoxious voice. With anticipated swiftness, the soliloquy spouting professor was alone with his wayward pupil. The student in question was arguing with himself over comparative potential between various lyrical lines of metaphor that, unbeknownst to him, bore equal voids of value.
“Crambo, come over here.” Professor Poetaster’s voice brooked no argument, for it invited complete compliance.
Crambo ignored these truisms by ignoring his professor. He continued to struggle with his metaphors, determined to prove his mastery of magic upon the insubordinate grass. Despite attempts of increasing volume, Poetaster failed to harness his student’s attention. His patience lost, the professor resorted to the rude tool of magic; ominously chanting a magical metaphor that would grab his student by the throat and force his rebellious mind to attendance.
“knowledge serves as the grasping fingers of the hand that throttles ignorance, and focuses the minds of straying supplicants.”
Crambo coughed, gasping as he felt a vise-like hand clasp around his throat with indomitable strength. He sought to struggle and object, but found his attention wholly focused upon the professor, eagerly awaiting further words of guidance and wisdom. A surge of self-hate rose along with the forced feelings.
“Much better. If you want to learn magic, Crambo, then you must first internalize how to learn. You refuse the advice of your instructors, taking only what bits and pieces suit your fantasies. You failed your rite, but this is not the end. I spoke with the Head Magus earlier today and requested that you be allowed to receive further tutelage even if you were to fail the rite of passage. She acquiesced, but with the requirement that I personally handle your education. We’re going to make a mage of you, have no doubt of that my young pupil.”
The portion of Crambo’s mind that hadn’t been snared by Poetaster’s magic screamed bloody murder at the old man, wholly intent on learning everything the professor had to teach and shaping it into a weapon of vengeful independence. Little did he know that the professor had anticipated and intended the rise of such dark and powerful motivations within the otherwise listless student. Poetaster saw students, like words, as mechanical things that needed the manipulative guidance of such trained and articulate minds as his own.