Ambitions | Maia
It was the end of another year at Riddlelock, and Maia was to choose her path forward in her studies. Despite her frequent travels, she had worked with her professors, her adviser, and the headmaster of Riddlelock's school of magic to continue learning at her own pace, submitting research projects and travel journals instead of homework assignments. The upshot of this was that she was apace with her fellow students; however, this meant making a decision she wasn't convinced she was ready to make.
"What if I make the wrong decision?" She was laying on the couch in Opal's solar, her wings tucked and her ichigato, Taika, laying across the top of the couch. Opal had always known what she would choose; astral magic, and the study of the stars and sky. Maia's passions were not quite so clear to her.
"It's not set in stone, Maia," Opal soothed. "You can always change your mind."
"And be here forever," Maia lamented. She had seen it before, with other pouflons who couldn't decide and kept changing their focus. It meant another year of work, at minimum, to catch up, and then the years of study to master a magic from that point forward. Some particularly dedicated or talented pouflons managed to master their magic in less time, but Maia didn't think she was one of those pouflons. Despite her great confidence in herself and her ability to do things, make new friends, and travel the world, she still thought of herself as the distracted, unmotivated bud she had once been, when the only version of academia she had known were Asterfall's great stone walls and rigid curriculum. Go to class, don't be late, do your homework, don't conduct experiments without the permission and supervision of a professor or a lab assistant - these rules had governed her early life, and somewhere in her they still scolded her for her inability to adhere to that lifestyle.
"Does it really matter how long it takes?" Opal asked. It was easy for her to think that, Maia thought mulishly. Opal was cut out for a long, glorious life of research and academics, perfectly content to stay in her tower and conduct her research and write her papers. This was the perfect life for her; quiet, secluded, and intellectually stimulating. She would excel here at Riddlelock, or at Asterfall, or anywhere else in Bellacoste, as long as she had a library. Maia, on the other hand, didn't know what exactly would make her happy, didn't feel as if she had a place or a thing she could call her own. So she was an adventurer - there were many other pouflons who traveled frequently, who had gone to every corner of the world to explore. What made her special?
When she expressed these fears to Opal, the other mage was quick to point out that Maia made friends all over Bellacoste, had made a reputation for herself as someone always willing to help, to the fullest extent of her abilities. Not everyone could find their passion so quickly, Opal said. It takes time.
Maia sighed, her normally cheerful demeanor downcast as she tried to think positively. She knew, intellectually, that Opal was right, but she found it so difficult to shake the feeling that she was a failure.
"I know what would cheer you up," Opal said, standing up. "Let's go for a flight. It'll help you clear your head."
Maia had to admit that it did sound tempting. She got to her feet, giving herself a shake, and followed Opal down the steps of her tower. They emerged in the dusky twilight as the sun was sinking below the horizon, although from their vantage point at the base of Opal's tower, they couldn't see it anymore. Sprouting their wings, they took flight, gaining altitude quickly and circling above the tower before soaring west, over the dense Riddlelock forest. Suddenly craving the sharp clarity of the cold, Maia ascended higher and higher, until the trees below were an indistinguishable carpet, and the air was almost too cold to bear. Opal kept her silence, flying several feet below, where it was warmer.
As Maia banked, cutting through a thermal wind, she had a sudden thought.
She was a traveler. A traveler who soared high above the ground, who flirted with the breeze and the currents in the wind, who reveled in the feeling of rain on her fur and feathers.
Air magic. Water magic.
She could use these, and still be a traveler. She could be a traveler and a mage. Whoever said that mages had to stay in their studies?
The sky would be her study.
Hadn't she always enjoyed weather magic classes, even if she'd never considered it as a career? Weather mages were usually so stationary, employed in cities and other communities to help curb the sharp teeth of storms and winter snows. Never more than a little, never more than a touch of magic to ward off the worst of the weather - pouflons knew better than to meddle with nature - but still at their post, day in, day out. She never wanted to be like them, stuck in one place forever. But she didn't need to be. Who said that weather mages had to be employed as weather mages?
She folded her wings, dropping in a steep dive until she murmured a spell and caught the resulting breeze beneath her wings, just above the tree tops. With an exhilarated laugh, she turned to look up at Opal, rising to meet her friend halfway as she descended.
"I've got it," Maia cried. "Weather magic!"
Opal beamed. "That sounds perfect," she agreed, glad that Maia had made a breakthrough. It was disheartening to see her so lost and unsure of herself. "Did you want to fly some more?"
Maia didn't bother answering, simply pumping her wings and propelling herself forward, turning to look back at Opal with a smile on her face. What would she do without her best friend? They continued to fly as night fell, only circling back towards Opal's tower as the moon rose, gliding gently on a cool night breeze as Opal told stories about the constellations in the sky.
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