Often Important Information Is Given to Us Before or After the Point When We Need it
“Tell me the name of the mage who pioneered our current methods of detecting mind control.”
Isaac thought about it for a second, trying not to focus on his heart trying to run out of his chest. “Stanley…Arvane.” That was wrong, he thought, frowning.
Lee nodded, making a note on her paper. She’d made a note of everything Isaac had said since he’d sat down, which was fair and all since it was an exam, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t traumatizing. “And what method did he use that countered an older method, and why did we all decide to keep using his way?”
“He started looking for rigid thought patterns,” Isaac said, remembering that because the word ‘rigid’ had made him laugh in class. “Because he thought that people don’t normally think in straight lines, and so if they were, it was probably a sign that someone was forcing them. The old way was to look for magic that was touching their brains, but magic can touch people for a lot of reasons so people kept getting accused of mind control who weren’t.” Isaac paused, trying to remember the last part of the question. “We kept doing it because…it worked better? Oh, and because his spells used Shadow instead of Light, and more people can use Shadow.”
Isaac was sure he was missing something, but Lee nodded and jotted down notes. “Okay. Anything else?”
Frowning, Isaac wracked his brains, trying to remember. There must be if Lee had asked him, but he couldn’t think of anything. “I know he died because of inventing that. He found out that the archmage at the time had been controlling a bunch of people’s minds and confronted him and got thrown out the tower window.”
“Yes, he did,” Lee agreed. “Okay. Last question. Do you want a break first?”
Isaac shook his head, throat a little sore from talking. Mostly from talking. His everything was still a little sore from the other night. “No, just get it over with.”
Lee smiled at him. “There are three major types of compulsion and two of mind control. List them and their attributes, as well as the best method of breaking each of them.”
Oh! Isaac sat straight in his chair. He knew this. He and Peter and Garrett had studied for exactly this question. “For compulsion, there’s direction, enthrallment and negation. Direction is when you compel someone to do something specific like…go to an ocean, and that thought takes over their mind, the need to do that. It can be broken if the person being compelled is hurt badly enough or if they can summon a stronger reason not to do it. It’s almost impossible to break from the outside unless you can grab the object or person compelling them, but you can help by giving them a safe way to do what they’ve been compelled to do. It’s the most common type of compulsion put on objects, and it usually uses Light as its base when mages do it.”
Isaac took a breath. “Enthrallment is more general, the person isn’t compelled to do a specific thing, but they’re given like a general idea, like, the most common one is they want to make a person happy, or be useful to a town, or something like that. And then they’ll want to do that more than anything, but they’re left to interpret that however they want. Enthrallment needs to have an object of…uh, fuck…fascination. An object of fascination to centre on in the person’s mind. It’s easier to break than the others, because the person just has to ask themselves why they’re doing this enough times, and it breaks easily if they’re told to do stuff that they really don’t want to do. Most people use it to force people to love them, but it works better if the enthralled person already wants to do the thing they’re told to do as well. You can also break it from the outside by just questioning the person’s behaviour until they realize what’s wrong. Mages use Light and Shadow for that one.
“Negation is when you’re compelled to forget something or not notice something. It’s hard to keep someone negatively compelled, especially if they have to ignore something huge. But people who want to sneak around use it, and also people who want someone to forget something without actually erasing their memories, which is hard and noticeable. You can’t put a negative compulsion spell on an object, and it can be broken by forcing the person to recognize the thing they’re not seeing. But it’s almost impossible to break if it’s on you. It uses Shadow too.”
Okay. Okay, Isaac felt good about that. Lee was smiling, so he’d probably done well. Mind control, two types of mind control. “The first kind of mind control uses Light and Shadow, it’s called indirect control, which it isn’t actually. It’s when someone puts mind control on someone and walks away. They still have to power the spell and stuff, but they can go about their life while the person they’re controlling does whatever they’re told to do. It’s impossible to break mind control from the inside, but the right spells can break indirect control if someone notices it happening, which isn’t too hard because mind-controlled people tend not to act right. And direct control is when you…basically possess someone. The mage just takes over their entire brain, and they have to do whatever the caster wants. It’s almost impossible to break at all, the only way is to stop the caster—which is easy because he or she can’t do anything else while they’re controlling the person. The person becomes like a puppet. Usually they know what’s happening, though, their consciousness gets pushed aside but it’s still there. Same with indirect control, they usually know they’re doing something they don’t want to do, unlike compulsion spells. Uh, direct compulsion uses Shadow and Dark.”
Isaac closed his eyes, let out a long breath. That was everything he remembered. He was pretty sure it was everything.
“Very good,” Lee said. “That was a very good answer, Isaac. And that’s it, exam over.”
“Thank God,” Isaac said, slumping in his chair. “That was terrifying.”
“No need to be afraid. I told you it would be fine.”
Isaac smiled at her. “Well, we’ll see about that after I get my grade.”
“You have nothing to worry about.” Lee closed her notes in a book. “It wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you your grade before everyone else, so you’ll have to wait. But you definitely passed, so don’t worry.”
Isaac closed his eyes for a second, rubbing his arms as a warmth stole through him. “Thank you,” he said to her. “For letting me do the exam this way. Terrifying as it was, I never would have been able to write all that.”
“I know. And now that you know how relatively painless it is, your other exams should be easy.”
Isaac nodded. “I have history tomorrow. So we’ll see about easy.”
“History is important, Isaac.”
“It’s really not.” Isaac knew it was, he just didn’t like it.
Lee laughed. “We shall agree to disagree.”
Isaac rolled his eyes. “Well, sadly Hugo is on your side.”
“Yes, the curse of being faculty, we have to care about the thing we teach. Now, Isaac, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this. But the rest of the class isn’t taking this exam for another hour or so.”
Isaac nodded. He knew that—Peter had still been in the room studying when he’d left. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell them the questions.”
Lee’s smile told Isaac she knew he wasn’t being entirely truthful. “I’m sure you won’t. Fortunately, it won’t matter if you do. I used slightly different ones for you, just in case.”
“Aw, dammit.” Isaac chuckled. “Oh, well. I’ll feel bad if I got easier questions, though.”
Lee shook her head. “Some of them were harder. I knew you could handle it.”
“How’d you know that?” Isaac asked, not convinced.
“I read your mind.”
“That’s funny, I’m not drooling on the floor,” Isaac joked. Mind reading was supposed to be really invasive.
“Maybe I’m very good at it,” Lee said, raising an eyebrow. “Surely you don’t expect the academy hired someone who wasn’t the best at what they do?”
“Doesn’t seem like something the academy would do, no,” Isaac said, thoughts drifting back to something else. “Hey, Lee?”
“What is it?”
“Is it true that the academy is planning to kill that kid in the south? The Sorcerer King’s son?”
Lee was quiet a moment, a frown growing on her face as she looked at him. “Yes. How did you know that?”
Isaac blushed, feeling a bit bad. “I overheard you and Elijah talking about it a while ago, in the museum. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop or anything, I was just sort of…there.”
Lee sighed, shaking her head. “I believe you. Though I would have thought I’d have noticed you there.”
“I was outside. I heard you through the window.”
“Ah.” A nod. “That makes sense, then. Yes,” she sighed. “They are. Solomon—the man we told you about. He’s been killed.”
“The man Christopher was working for,” Isaac said, nodding. “Yeah. And his son has taken over.”
“According to what Cameron has told us, yes. The academy is planning to go down south and stop him before he can hurt anyone.”
“But you don’t think that’s a good idea?”
Lee shrugged. “I shouldn’t be talking about this with a student.”
“But you already are.”
“Little shit,” she muttered. “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t think it’s fair for us to go and kill someone when we don’t know that he’s our enemy. But for all we know he’s been traumatized by his father, or brainwashed, even. The boy’s your age, Isaac. I find it hard to believe he’s an evil mastermind. That’s all.”
Isaac nodded, listening. “I think you’re right. I mean, not that I know anything. But it seems like you should at least try talking to him before you just go kill him.” Maybe he really was evil, this kid. But he might also just need help. If his dad had been some evil king, he might just be scared and lonely.
“I agree, but the archmage doesn’t.” Lee looked resigned. “He thinks it’s likely that this boy Sam really was the one behind Christopher’s attack, and therefore that there’s no room to negotiate.”
Isaac frowned. “Sam?” A southern sorcerer about his age named Sam. His stomach felt a bit funny all of the sudden.
“Yes, that’s his name. Samson, I think.” Lee gave him a look. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Isaac shook his head. “Nothing. What else do you know about this guy? Anything?”
“Not much,” Lee said, shaking her head. “The only person who’s ever seen him that I know of is a friend of Cameron’s named James. Sam and a helper went to visit him at home one day and that’s the only reason any of us know that Solomon is dead in the first place.”
Isaac nodded now. “Right. A helper?” That was a strange way to put it.
“That’s what James told Cameron. Apparently Sam’s blind, and had a young man with him…Isaac?”
Isaac had covered his mouth, closing his eyes. “Fuck,” he whispered. “I met him.” Sam hadn’t seemed that bad. A bit grumpy. Not evil.
“You…” Lee leaned forward. “You met him? Isaac?”
Isaac nodded, trying to breathe. He opened his eyes, looking at Lee. “He was here in the capital. I had sex with him.”
“You…” Lee shook her head. “He was here? Is he still in the capital, do you know?”
“I don’t…I don’t think so,” said Isaac, trying to breathe normally. “I don’t think so. He was just here for a while, he said. He was…” Isaac trailed off, remembering.
“I met him just outside the academy. He said he was checking up on his brother.” He met eyes with Lee. “He said his brother is a student here.”
Lee’s expression went very, very still as she watched Isaac. “I think,” she said, “that you and I should go see the archmage.”
Isaac nodded, stood when she did and let her lead him out of her office to the lift. He wasn’t sure what to think. Because he really hadn’t thought that Sam seemed like that bad a person. But he’d been wrong before. And the fact that he’d come and met the chosen one—probably—seemingly at random struck Isaac as too much of a coincidence.
Maybe it was fine. Maybe Lee was right, and Sam wasn’t like his dad. Maybe it hadn’t all been some evil plan. Maybe.
But as much as Isaac thought that was possible and even likely, part of him couldn’t help but feel like he’d made a mistake that he didn’t yet know the consequences of.