The washrooms weren't far, and Finn did feel refreshed and relaxed after cleaning up. Back at the room he knocked before entering.
"Come in, I assume you found it?" Jess asked as he walked in. She had gotten out of her scale mail and changed into a cotton shirt and some pants, and was sitting on her bed writing in a small book.
"You were right, I feel great now. Maybe it's because we are underground, or the water passes near the forge, but the water wasn't cold at all! There was even a room full of steam, too hot for me in there but the dwarves in there were arguing about whether or not to dump more water on the heated rocks." Finn narrated expressively.
Jess jumped up from where she was sitting and found her bar of scented soap. Stopping at the door, she turned to give Finn questioning look.
"I don't know where the women's bath is, you can ask the inn's maid. She was preparing the cave or room next door just now." Finn responded, laughing as she left.
Having already changed out of his leather at the bath, Finn got into his bed and tried to find a comfortable sitting position.
Waiting for Jess to return he practiced his control over magehand by getting it to lock and unlock the door, and poke the heavy chest with a dagger. He had definitely improved since he first learned the spell and was eager for Jess to teach him a new one.
When Jess opened the door to their room, she was greeted by the sight of Finn sitting upright in bed fully focused on parrying a floating dagger that repeatedly kept trying to stab him.
Jess would have been worried if the whole thing hadn't been happening at an extremely slow pace. It took the dagger quite long to recover from each impact, readjust its direction and float forward point first again.
The dagger fell to the ground with a clatter as Finn lost focus.
"Practicing splitting your mind?" Jess asked and nodded approvingly. "That's a must for every spellcaster to be effective in combat. If you can cast a spell while moving or dodging you don't need a paladin to babysit you."
"Your dad's experience?" Finn asked, seeing her nod, he continued. "I thought it might come in handy, oh! We talked about me learning a new spell during this trip!"
Jess nodded and passed him the book she was writing in earlier. "Take a look at the first few pages, they are some of the lowest level spells available to those who study magic. I wrote some notes in the margin to help you understand."
Finn gently flipped through 'the apprentice's spell catalogue' as he noticed was written on the cover. Each two page spread featured a single spell. There was the name, a short description, the incantation, necessary and optional material components, and even diagrams showing the runes and in what order to draw the strokes.
"This book is amazing!" Finn exclaimed in excitement, as he read through some of the spells.
There was the freezing arrow spell, the light enchantment, the blinding flash spell, and the defensive spells Jess had used previously as well as some he hadn't heard of before. Jess had already marked some spells she though would be possible for him to learn.
Magic missile, a spell that fired off one or more "missiles" that homed in on a designated target. It was probably the easiest offensive spell to use.
Grease, a spell that coated a surface or item with a slippery oily layer. To cast it one could use a tablespoon of any fatty substance like butter, lard or whale blubber. Very useful when trying to escape, or use a frying pan.
Finally, every adventurers insurance against falling to their death: featherfall. This practical spell causes the target to fall at a slower speed, for easier casting one could obviously use a feather.
Finn was disappointed that there was no fireball spell in the book. The spell which made wizards feared even today.
"Where is the fireball spell?" Finn asked after flipping through the book.
"Take a look again at the spells included" said Jess patiently, "all of them use a maximum of one rune to cast. Spells can be categorized by the number of runes, spells using one rune are of the first circle. The fireball spell uses three runes and is therefore a third circle spell."
"I see, so the spell is too advanced for apprentices to learn. But why circle?" Finn asked.
"Many spell runes look like a circle filled with lines or symbols. The circle helps contain everything until the rune is finished and provides a base structure to add more layers. Each additional circle is drawn outside the first, the fireball spell would have three layers." Jess explained, "forget about that for now, try learning one of the three I selected. They might not seem impressive, but they have a lot of potential if used right."
Nodding, Finn turned to the page for magic missile. Imagining himself firing bolts of magic from his fingertips, he eagerly examined the rune diagram.
The rune was fairly simple, first a circle, then draw a small triangle inside, and finally some small script that Finn didn't recognize arranged all along the inside of the circle.
Pointing at the script Finn asked, "what's this part?"
"Right! I forgot you hadn't learned about that. The script is the ancient language used in most spells, the language is basically dead and only remains due to its effectiveness in harnessing magical energy. Spell chants in the common tongue need much longer phrases to achieve the same effect, and wizards are often too embarrassed to use them."
"Interesting, haha!" Finn thought it would indeed seem comical. "Do you know any?"
Nodding somewhat regretfully, Jess began.
"Oh glorious lady of the light, banish the darkness and shine with might, illuminate my path, aid my sight, imbue this with your power, light!"
As she ended the chant she touched her sword, it slowly started glowing like it had when she previously used the spell in the tunnel.
Cancelling the spell, her face reddened when she saw Finn clutching his sides with tears in his eyes. He finally burst out with laughter, rolling back and forth on his bed.
"Haha! I can see why no one would use that in public!" Finn earned himself a solid punch on his shoulder that almost knocked him into the wall.
"Thanks for the demonstration", Finn quickly calmed down, "can you help me with learning to draw the rune?"
Jess just passed him a few scraps of parchment and a pencil. "Try drawing it on this first before using your mana. If you make mistakes when drawing with mana you might cause the spell to destabilize."
Grabbing a smaller book and a pouch from her stuff, she got in bed. As she flipped through the book she would stop and trace a rune on the page with her finger, each time checking her pouch for the corresponding material for the spell.
Seeing her focused, Finn went back to his studies. Memorizing the rune was hard, and Finn wasn't even sure he could complete it using only his internal mana. He couldn't even test that because it was a destructive spell.
Flipping to the featherfall and grease spell in frustration, he noticed they seemed easier. Featherfall could be cast using only a the verbal component "descensus pennáta". A feather reduced the mana needed, while the rune allowed the spell to target heavier things.
Picking up the dagger he had been using previously, Finn went over the incantion in his mind and mobilized his mana. Tossing the dagger upwards in a safe direction he pointed at it and said:
Willing his mana to flow into the dagger, he saw it being surrounded by a formless light mist before it reached the apex of its curve. After that it dropped like a rock and clattered on the ground.
"Well that didn't work," said Finn disappointed. He used magehand to bring the dagger back. Going over the process in his head he couldn't pinpoint the problem. Maybe it was due to a lack of practice, he concluded before tossing the blade again.
"Stop it already!" Jess, who had been smirking at first lost her patience. "Read the instructions again. Remember how you picture a hand when casting magehand? Well each spell has a corresponding image to visualize."
"Right!" Finn understood the problem, the spell required him to visualize a feather attached to the target.
Picking up his dagger, he was just about to toss it again when Jess reminded him.
"It doesn't have to be falling when you cast the spell. Drop it after you succeed." Jess said as she returned to her spell preparation.
Finn closed his eyes and imagined a small feather attached to the hilt of his dagger. Feeling his mana, he willed it to enter the blade before drawing some out and shaping it into a feather
Opening his eyes, his dagger seemed to have grown an ugly lumpy feather. It was a dull grey color like the pigeons common all over town.
Dropping the dagger off his bed carefully, it fell slowly to the ground. Rather than saying it fell like a feather, Finn thought it seemed more like how an object would sink in water.
"Sweet!" Finn was excited and kept practicing with his dagger. After a few more trials, he realized it was easier to cast when holding the dagger. The mana could directly enter it, and he didn't have to aim.
It was an hour later before Jess deactivated the light rune in the wall and told Finn to stop his practice. He had begun testing the spell on a still with mixed success.
"Heavier object require more energy to slow down, so you'll need a feather to affect a person as you can't harness nature's mana. Take a few from your pillow before we leave tomorrow. Now get some sleep, we need to be a full strength tomorrow."
Laying down with his face against the cave wall, he suddenly realized they were sharing a room. What if he snored or had another nightmare! 'Jess would probably punch me', he concluded with a nod, 'she would knock down any intruders too, so I'm probably safe.' Just in case, he used magehand to make sure the door was locked. Soon he was fast asleep.
Hearing his light snore, Jess smiled and relaxed. She wasn't very comfortable sharing a room, there were too many creeps in the world. She wasn't too worried about Finn though, she was confident she could knock him down with her fists if he ever overstepped her boundaries.
Somewhere else, a cloaked figure was yelling profanities at the scene of a battle. Two burnt and broken bodies had been removed from the remains of the campfire and were laid out for examining.
"Arrrrgh! Those useless fools! How could they just get killed like that!" The cloaked figure yelled at the one who had dragged the bodies out of the ashes.
"Shut it you brainless lump of meat!" A spark zapped our from under the cloak and singed a small patch of the zombie's rotten flesh.
"How am I supposed to make zombies out of these ruined materials!" Turning to one of assistants behind him he gave a signal, "summon the beetles."
A short while later, the only remains of the hired muscle were clean white bones.
"The pox on them for ruining such fine specimens," the necromancer cursed. "Even some of the bones have been weakened by the fire! Oh well."
The necromancer's eerie chant and strange movements made the two apprentices fidget uncomfortably. An echoing whisper and a light breeze suddenly filled the room as the necromancer completed the runes. The bones started rattling as the breeze converged and swirled around their heads. Then the chant ended and the cavern was quiet.
A faint pale glow silently grew inside the skulls. They were like candle flames at first, but after the necromancer burned some paper talismans and grey herbs they started growing.
The thick smoke from the burning talismans and herbs was sucked in through the skulls' eye sockets. At the end the flames were fist sized and pale blue in color.
Strands of smoke started flowing through the skeletons connecting the bones together. When the process was completed, they slowly stood up.
"Good good!" The necromancer rubbed his hands in excitement, "I'm almost ready."