“Focus!” Jennifer insisted, her voice booming.
Sam tried to, groaning and wincing under the pressure and exhaustion. She had been training with Jennifer for a while now, how long had it been? An hour? More? She lost track of time, lost any useful interpretation of time as well. Both of them were now in what Jennifer called ‘Anda Ríki’. The realm of the spirit, the mind. As far as Sam understood it, this was a sort of extra dimension projected on top of the normal world. You could only see and access it with your Aurem. Seeing it had been the first step, and Jennifer had drilled Sam already on how to use her Mind’s eye to see into Anda Ríki. Now they were at the next step, making Sam fully project her Aurem, shape it and then enter Anda Ríki.
It was hard.
Incredibly hard. Sam had been trying, listening to what Jennifer said. But so far she had only been able to do what she had done before. Starting up her Aurem, making it flow and rage. She could feel the power around her, she could see it even when she used her Mind’s eye. But no matter how she tried she failed to ‘shape it’. She didn’t even understand what Jennifer meant by it. Somehow she should use the power she felt all around her to wrap herself in it, cloak herself. And by doing that, she would shape her Aurem. But it was like grabbing water and using it like a cloak. It simply made no sense and did not work at all.
“Stop, focus girl! You are reckless, erratic. Like a child flinging its arms around itself wildly. You need to control it, all of it. Begin anew.”
Sam sighed. “Yes, Jennifer.” She said as she let go of the power, her Aurem powering down again. Then she flared it up again. The rush that she felt when she called up her Aurem was intoxicating, exhilarating. She wondered if there were Players who had gotten addicted to it. But then she forced her thoughts back and focussed again.
“Now, don’t start to try and reach out blindly as you did before. Look first, see! See, feel and know your Aurem. You need to before you can even hope to grasp it.”
Sam sighed, at the same time she understood what Jennifer said but also not at all. She focussed on her Mind’s eye. She saw Anda Ríki, it was for the most part and empty and dark. Like a dark grey filter put over the world. The real world was still visible, but only vaguely so. Most of it was translucent, only faint hints of it remained in this world. The further away she looked, the less she saw until eventually everything dissolved into a unified, black-grey mass in the distance. Jennifer was in front of her, Sam could see Jennifer’s real-world form, sitting down, legs folded underneath her. But like all the rest, this was only a faint shadow. On top of that was the Anda Ríki form of Jennifer, a bright golden light, intertwined with strands of orange and amber here and there. Her form here looked exactly the same as her real form, but Jennifer had told she could change that at any time, but for now, it was better for Sam to see her like normal. Jennifer walked around Sam, observing her from all sides. It annoyed sam a little, she wanted to be able to do that as well, with as much ease as Jennifer did.
Sam groaned as she refocussed. She looked at herself now, something impossible to do in the real world without mirrors, but in Anda Ríki one could do this, even without shaping their Aurem. She thought about doing it and her view simply changed towards herself. She could see her real form, the same sort of faint shadow as Jennifer’s. Sitting down, legs folded as well. Her face distorted with exhaustion and effort. And frustration.
Sam sighed as she tried to ignore all the frustration and focus on her Aurem. She could see the power that she felt all around her, it rushed around wildly. Like a storm that moved through invisible canals floating around her. It clung to her form, here and there, but where Jennifer had a bright projection, Sam had none.
“Good, keep looking. Study it. Study yourself. Your power.” Jennifer called out as she paced around Sam still.
“I try, but all I see is the power rushing about. Just like before.” Sam said, her voice revealing her frustration.
“That is what you see at first, but you need to look better. There is a rhythm to the flow, a pattern, a dance. See it, understand it, feel it. Only then you can truly grasp your Aurem.” Jennifer said. Her voice and glare stern.
Sam bit her lip, both in the real world as in Anda Ríki. She stared at herself, at the rushing power. It looked violent, wild, untamed. The flow was changing colours and hues, going from dark and cold colours to warm and bright ones. This would change, Jennifer had told, once Sam grasped her Aurem. Its colour would ‘settle’ and remain largely the same for the remainder of her life. Colour study would follow later she had said quickly after, to stop the endless cascade of questions Sam fired off.
Sam gasped suddenly, yelping. Finally, she saw it. As she had been staring a the flow, suddenly, she saw a rhythm to it, a pattern of movement in how the energy flowed. It happened much the same as those funny images that go viral at times, where you look at a whirly circle that suddenly starts to move if you look long enough. It felt exactly the same, only a hundred times more intense.
“Do you see it?” Jennifer asked as she stopped pacing.
“Yes! Well, I see a sort of pattern. Like a heartbeat to the flow?” Sam said.
“Yes, good! That is a good analogy. The pattern, the Rhythm is much like your heartbeat, only for your mana. It will only go when you are dead.”
Sam swallowed as those words came in heavy, she still hadn’t come to terms with how violent and deadly this Player world was.
“Now, try to shape it.”
“I…,” Sam hesitated. “I don’t know what you mean by that.”
“Well,” Jennifer said, grinning. “Try to grasp it like before, then think about how you put on a cloak, or how you pull sand over you when laying down on a beach. Or how you submerge yourself in the warm water of your bathtub. Whatever feels like it would work the best, would give you the best feeling and sensation of being cloaked, use that and focus on it as you grasp your energy.”
“Okay,” Sam said, then focussing back on her energy. Now that she had seen it once, she could clearly see the rhythm to her energy. It felt comfortable, familiar. And somehow warming as well. She reached out to it, then she realised that she had no hand here, but as she was about to think about retracting her arm, she could feel her energy on her hand. The hand that she had reached out with, but that was not there. It was weird and the entire thing gave her a headache.
Sam could feel the energy flow against her hand, in between her fingers, like chilly summer water in a shallow creek. It felt soft, much softer than water or anything she had ever felt. And as it was chilly, at the same time it was also warm. Or warming. It felt incredibly comfortable to touch it, to feel it.
“I know the feeling is intoxication and overwhelming but strengthen your resolve. Do not lose yourself to it, grasp it. Wield it!” Jennifer called out suddenly.
Sam groaned and refocussed, forcing her self to shut her hand and try to take hold of the flow. She didn’t really expect it to work but to her surprise, she felt as if she was holding onto something once she did. The energy was still flowing, still moving in its rhythm, but at the same time, Sam could feel how she was holding onto it.
“Good! Now don’t hesitate, wield it!” Jennifer pushed on.
Sam paused, then she thought about what Jennifer said. She went through all the different scenario’s that she had mentioned, but neither of them felt as if they were good enough. Then her mind suddenly jumped to a memory, of Finn and her. Of them hugging, how his embrace felt so warm and comfortable, how she felt safe from the world. And it felt right. She felt connected to the flow all of a sudden and almost without a thought, she threw it onto herself, as if putting on a cloak or coat with a swing.
Sam moaned as she was suddenly overwhelmed by an intense feeling of warmth, a comfortable warmth, not an annoying heat. Along with the warmth, she felt safe, empowered, bold. She felt as if nothing could touch her. She felt the raw power rushing around her. She could feel how raw, wild and untamed it was, and at the same time, she could feel her control over it. It felt amazing.
“Yes! Very good Sam!” Jennifer called out.
But Sam almost didn’t hear her. She focussed on the energy around her, she knew she wasn’t done yet, on instinct. She had put on the energy, now she had yet to wield it. She focussed, ironed her will and pushed it onto the energy, pushing it down, straightening it out all across herself, her Anda Ríki self. It took quite some effort, and an amount of time that Sam couldn’t quantify by now, but she succeeded. Once she was done, she could see herself now. And aside from her faint shadow, there was now a bright projection of herself as well, much the same as the one Jennifer had. Sam’s projection had a soft blue base with shades of dark blue, cobalt, sapphire and tanzanite to it. Sam changed her view back to her person. As her vision shifted, she saw Jennifer standing in front of her, her face betrayed the surprise she had.
“What?” Sam asked, a little worried. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, not at all,” Jennifer said. “You did great. It is just that you have quite some different shades and hues to your Aurem.”
“Is that bad?”
“It isn’t bad, or good per se. It is special for sure. But we don’t really know yet what the colours mean. I just know that Players with more than two hues are pretty rare. And I can count at least four on you.”
“Oh,” Sam said, she moved her arms to look at them. They looked as if she was wearing a very thin, see-through silk robe. One that lighted up as well.
“Look at that,” Jennifer said with a grin. “You can move already. That was fast, but probably to be expected with you.”
Sam blushed, or she felt as if she blushed. She had no idea how that looked in here.
“Go ahead, try and stand up,” Jennifer said.
Sam hesitated for a moment, but then stood up. It worked. She took a few steps. She moved. She laughed, she felt amazing. She did it. Sam turned around and saw her real-world self, still sitting down, legs still folded. A faint shadow like Jennifer’s. She moved her arms, watching them. The colour and hues changed or moved. Flowing around her, inside of her. She noticed that the flow of them mimicked the flow of her energy before. Her magical heartbeat.
Jennifer stood a few steps away from her, she smiled as she motioned Sam to come closer to her. Sam grinned and started to walk towards Jennifer, but after a few steps, she was suddenly overwhelmed by a nauseating feeling. Her entire body felt exhausted, up to a point she felt like throwing up. She fell to her knees and groaned, looking up to Jennifer in despair.
“Hmm, five steps, not bad. But it seems there is a limit to how privileged you are with your gifts.” Jennifer said. She walked over and helped Sam’s projection up, taking her back, closer to her real-world self.
The closer they got to her real body, the better Sam felt, until she felt perfectly fine again.
“What was that?” Sam asked between heavy breathing.
“Your limit, for now,” Jennifer said as she let go of Sam. “You see, moving in Anda Ríki costs energy, just like moving in the real world does. It just works a bit differently. It has to do with your mana, the capacity of your nervures and how fast you replenish mana among other things. But I’ll give you an in-depth class on that later on. For now, it is enough that you know that the further away you move from your real body, the higher the strain on your projection in here will get. It increases in stages, and the increase is exponential, as you just felt. By training and getting better overall in your Arcane skills, you will be able to go further and further. I myself can go ten stages deep.” Jennifer smiled, pride seeping through.
“Is that far?” Sam asked, oblivious.
“A bit, most Players that have an Aurem can do about three stages. Mage specific Players can do five often. Players who focus on their Aurems can reach seven or higher easily. But from nine and up it increases in rarity.”
“What about Master Thomas?”
“I don’t know what his actual limit is, but I have seen him go up to stage fourteen. I am pretty sure he can do better than that though.”
“Amazing… “ Sam said. “But, how far is a stage?”
“That is hard to explain,” Jennifer said as she walked around Sam again. “The first stage is only a few steps. The second stage will take you a few meters, the third stage will take you past the point where your vision gets blurry here.” Jennifer said as she pointed into the distance, which Sam estimated to be about a hundred meters. “After that, it jumps up higher and higher. When I saw Master Thomas go to the fourteenth stage, his projection was moving kilometres. I can not fathom the strain that puts on you. Some say stage eighteen would be the cap, as that would allow you to travel from any point on the world to any other point, in Anda Ríki. But others say that there very well could be no cap at all, allowing one’s projection to move anywhere, even space or other worlds.”
“Otherworlds exist then?”
“I don’t know, but at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did though.” Jennifer stopped pacing around Sam and put a hand on her shoulder, smiling. The touch felt warm. It also felt as if their skin was melting together but in a comfortable sensation. “That is enough for today, it is time I teach you about your nervures and mana burn. You can stop projecting now.”
“Umm,” Sam said as Jennifer was walking back to her real body. “How do I do that?”
“It is easy,” Jennifer said. “Just move back to your body, and think about uncloaking. Whatever analogy you used, use the ending of that. It will work.”
Sam bit her lip and walked back to her body, sitting down on folded legs again. She closed her eyes, although that didn’t really do anything in Anda Ríki, it helped her through. She visualized ending a hug with Finn. She felt a rush come over her, as the power retreated away from her, back into her mana pool. And when she opened her eyes, she was back in the real world, sitting on the floor, across from Jennifer.
Her legs were sleeping and ached as she got up, Sam was stretching them, slapping her calves to try and get the blood flowing again.
“You did good, you’ll get used to this eventually. If you have enough long training sessions.” Jennifer said as she walked over. “I’ll show you a few useful spells too, that can prevent your legs from sleeping. And to keep your blood circulating. There are stories about Players who had such long projection sessions that their legs died off from bad blood circulation.”
“Oh, thanks…” Sam said.
“Come, time for another lesson now. Stretch and exercise a bit as I explain.”
Jennifer explained the nervures and mana burn to Sam, talking to her about how it arrises, the dangers and what it was. What they knew and what they didn’t know yet. Theories and researches. By the time she was getting to the part on how to heal it, Finn walked in.
“Finn!” Sam exclaimed happily, she ran over to him and hugged him. “How was your training?”
“It went okay,” Finn said, his voice showed that he felt like crap. “Pretty intense.”
“Are you okay?” Sam asked a bit worried. “You sound like you are in pain.”
“Yeah, I’m okay. I hurt all over though, but they are small pains, I can manage.” Finn said with a smile and hugged Sam again. “Thanks for the concern.”
“Of course,” Sam said softly, enjoying the hug.
Jennifer cleared her throat and Finn let go of Sam.
“Master Thomas told me to come and see you, that you could show me how to recover from mana burn and heal my nervures?” Finn said, turning towards Jennifer. One of his hands lingered still around a finger of Sam though, holding on.
“Ah you are just in time then, I was just about to show Sam how that works,” Jennifer said. “You can do it while standing, or sitting, or whatever. I assume both of you ache somewhere in your body right now, correct?”
Both of them nodded.
“Focus on that pain. As you do that, reach out to your mana, like when you cast spells, or use your Aurem,” She looked at Sam. “Or when you channel.” She looked at Finn. “You will feel a sudden pull on your mana, and you will feel it flow to the pain you are focussing on.”
It took a while but eventually, both of them nodded again, they had their eyes closed by now, focusing on themselves.
“Good, now think how you would clean a wound by rinsing it with water, try to visualize that with your mana and this pain. You should start to feel waves ebbing over the pain, it should feel warm or soothing.”
Sam was the first to nod, Finn took a bit more time but eventually nodded as well.
“Great, that is all there is to it. Just keep doing this until you feel no more pain or discomfort, and then move to another area that aches. Repeat until you are fine. Now you two do just that, I will be back later to inspect both of you.” And with that Jennifer left the two of them alone in the room.
They spend the first ten minutes or so focussing on their aches and soothing them, healing them. Both of them were anxious, they could feel the pain go away but aside from that, there was no other feedback that told them they were doing it right. Finn was the first one to speak up, after finishing clearing the first of the many aches he felt.
“So how was your Aurem class?” He asked, opening his eyes and looking at Sam.
“It went okay, frustrating at first. It took me a while to get it, but once I did… Finn, this Aurem thing. It is amazing! There is like a whole world all around us, and we can’t see it. We never knew. And with my Aurem, I can see it, I can even travel in it!”
“Wow, that sounds amazing,” Finn said, smiling. He loved how Sam looked and acted when she was enthusiastic. “What is it like? The other world?”
“It is…. Well, it is dark and weird and cold looking. And nothing there works like here, or most of it. And if you move too far you’ll feel like shit and damage your nervures and all this… but it is amazing though.” Sam laughed after she finished. “I am not really selling it, am I?”
“Not really, no,” Finn said chuckling.
“So how were your lessons?”
“Ehh, the same, pretty much. Frustrating at first, I sucked at first too. But eventually, I managed to do it, with some help of Master Thomas. Then he stopped me just as it was starting to get fun and I was getting the hang of it. Because of my nervures as well.”
“Yeah, I needed some guidance from Jennifer too to get it, we are really lucky to have them and guide us,” Sam said. “Are you okay? You seem to be in a much worse state than I am in.”
“I’m okay, just a lot of aches, I guess I’ll be here longer than you, working on them.”
“No worries, I’ll stay here with you, even though you are boring,” Sam said and chuckled.
“Lucky me,” Finn said as he rolled his eyes.
“Phs” Sam leaned in close and kissed Finn. “There, did that help?”
“Yes,” Finn said softly, looking into her eyes. “That soothed the pain the best of all.”
They both chuckled and hugged.
“Let’s get back to it before Jennifer gets back and gets in a fit with us about slacking off,” Sam said, chuckling.
“Yes, I definitely do not want to get on her bad side,” Finn said and winked, then closed his eyes. Moving onto a new ache, soothing it.