Chapter 13: The Return of Dragoon
Merlin excused himself from dinner early saying he had to throw some things together to meet Professor Slytherin in the forest. He instead sprinted toward the large classroom he had cleared out for use. There was a small office attached that could also double as a storage room and that was where Merlin slipped into first. He switched out his Slytherin cloak for the robes he usually wore with this disguise. Then he concentrated, focusing on the age he was aiming for and released his magic. He grabbed a small scrying mirror that was on the shelf and double checked that the spell had worked. A grin broke across across his slightly wrinkled face. He did look younger than his previous version of Dragoon, and he certainly ached less, but his hair was still snow white and his beard was still just as long. Outside the room he could hear the students beginning to come in. They would probably start to wonder where the desks were, or for that matter where a lot of the items that made up a typical classroom were, but Merlin preferred a large empty space. As soon as it warmed up enough he would take these lessons outside. Or as soon as he learned how to create a dome of heat for his students. Now why hadn't he thought of that earlier?
Deeming enough time had passed, Merlin took a deep breath and exited the room. All eyes were immediately on him as he strode to the front of the room in front of the black board.
"As I am sure you have noticed there are no desks and no chairs so simply find somewhere to stand while we wait for the stragglers," Merlin announced before he folded his hands behind his back and closed his eyes. His talent for dramatics was getting the better of him but he just smiled. There was no harm in a little bit of good fun. As the sound of footsteps entering the classroom ceased, he once again opened his eyes. "Is that everyone then?" There was quite a lot of people in this room. He was pretty sure most of the school had turned up. And if all went well today, those who didn't come today would be here Thursday. Yes, moving the class outside would be a wise idea. With a flash of his eyes he shut the door to the classroom.
"Excellent. As you may know, I am Dragoon and I shall be teaching you the basics of battle magic. How to defeat your enemies and escape with minimal harm. Although some of the spells are not particularly difficult, the trick is remembering them all in the heat of the moment when your attention is being divided and you are under attack. For instance," he threw up a shield charm next to him. "This is a very simple shield. I'm sure most of the first-years can pull this off. But," he raised a warning finger and narrowed his eyes. "This simple shield will become harder to maintain as it sustains the blasts of enemy magic while you yourself are trying to cast other spells in rapid succession at the same time. Now does anyone have any ideas on how I could make the shield easier to sustain?" He looked around at the class, peering at them in a way he knew made him look more mysterious. One student finally raised a tentative hand. "Yes Mister Murdoch?"
The older Ravenclaw student gave a start at having been address by name. "Could you create a separate source of power for the shield to draw on?"
"Yes, very good. We call that an anchor," he explained. "One must pour some of their power into an anchor beforehand so that the shield can draw on that energy without exhausting you during the battle. Now does anyone have an idea on what would make a good anchor?" Merlin saw one of the Hufflepuffs smile as she raised her hand. "Miss Reyna?"
"A crystal perhaps?"
"Very astute," he complimented with a smile. "Miss Reyna here is not only correct, she has also demonstrated a very useful skill that will help her if she is ever in danger. The power of observation." There were mostly confused looks but a few more students had put the two pieces together. "If you would all direct your attention to the side of the room you will notice a rather large collection of crystals on the ledge. Miss Reyna has noticed these and came to the correct conclusion that they would be used today. One very important lesson in staying alive is taking advantage of your surroundings. You must be more aware than your enemy. Now if everyone can grab a crystal we will practice transferring your energy and anchoring your spells."
Merlin guided them through pouring their power into the crystal and directing the shield to take it's power from there. Then he had them all pair off and cast a very gentle energy spell at their partner. He walked around the room, offering extra tips to those still struggling and giving praise to those who had caught on faster. He noticed that some of the upperclassmen had fallen back into talking, having successfully anchored their shields and fired some blocked spells at each other. Merlin cast out his arm towards the blackboard and a piece of chalk began to write.
"On the board you will find some more advanced spells that will come in handy," he called out. "Practice the spells against your partner's shields and be careful not to let your shields drop. Remember you may have to add more energy to your crystal." The room was once again completely lit up by varying colors of magic being thrown across the room. The older students had switched to more advanced shields against the fireballs their friends were whipping at them and Merlin smiled at the friends bickering while they both cast spell after spell at each other, successfully maintaining their own shield while allowing only their own magic to pass through. Before long the bells chimed out the hour and the class turned to look at him sadly.
"Yes, that means the lesson is over. I want you all to keep your crystals. Many of you noticed how you had to replenish the supply of magic in your crystals; what I want you all to do is get in the habit of putting a little bit of your magic in the crystals every day. Before bed is often a good time but be careful not to drain yourself." A student raised their hand. Merlin nodded at them to speak.
"Is there a limit to how much magic the crystals can hold?"
"Yes, but you will not reach that limit. These crystals can hold a very impressive amount."
"Then how do know there is a limit?" a snarkier Gryffindor asked. Merlin grinned. Because he had found the limit. The crystal had broken apart and dissolved into dust under the weight of his magic.
"Because I know someone who shattered a crystal when they tried to pour their magic into it." He could see the questions on the tips of their tongues. "No that is a story for another time. Off you go. Shoo." He motioned for them to leave and even helpfully opened the doors with another flash of his eyes. Once they were all out of the room, he shut the door and locked it. Then, secure in his solitude, he dropped the disguise and sank to the floor in exhaustion. He had been more nervous about this first lesson than he let on. He was not cut out to be a teacher like Gaius was. It was nerve wracking having everyone's attention focused solely on him, listening to his every word. When he was walking around the room, helping people individually, that felt better. But all the stress and pent up nervousness was leaving him now to be replaced by exhaustion. He remembered that he ought to get back to the common room soon; he didn't want to be caught in the corridors after hours again.
On Thursday an even bigger group of students met him outside. He had put up a large dome of warmth that glowed faintly from the magic running through it and hid a smile at the looks of confusion that faded to pleasure when they crossed the barrier. A couple more observant students were starting to wonder why their teacher never seemed to have a staff or a wand and Merlin let them ponder how powerful he was. The feeling of awed respect is sometimes a nice feeling. Anticipating the increase of students, he had brought extra crystals for those students not at the first lesson. He did not, however, loan any to those who forgot, wishing to impress upon them the importance of always being prepared. They worked again on shields and Merlin taught them some new spells that cut like a dagger or punched like a crossbow bolt. He had set up targets for the more deadly spells so that the students were not placed in harm's way but at the end of class he had a surprise.
"Okay, now I want you all to line up and take out your crystals." They did as he instructed without any questioning. "Now one at a time, I want you to attack me. Pick your favourite spell and fire away. No holding back." One older girl raised her hand.
"Miss Stella, do you have a problem with that?"
"No, sir. Only, what if we hit you? These are harmful spells."
"I'm touched that you care. But I assure you, nothing you do will break my shield. And if you do manage, then I deserve the pain for not being as prepared as I should have." He gave them all one of those stern teacher looks and gestured for the first student to come forward. Gavin stepped forward and without hesitation shouted his preferred spell, his wand pointed firmly at Merlin's chest. Merlin wordlessly blocked the spell and sent a bolt of light back at the boy. Gavin gasped as it hit his chest. It didn't hurt, just a tingling sensation, but he hadn't expected that.
"Like I said on Tuesday, the reason battle magic is hard, has nothing to do with the spells themselves, but with the concentration and the fast thinking necessary." The class relaxed, some of them had been shocked to see a professor outright attack a student. "Never assume that your opponent will simply let you attack them. There is always a catch. Next." Continuing down the line, each student fired a spell of their choosing that Merlin immediately blocked and then tried to raise their shield as Merlin shot back. It only took a few students before shields began materializing immediately after they cast their spell. Some students used their advanced knowledge to fire their own spells through their shield and Merlin nodded in approval. As the students began to expect his spells, he turned to different methods of catching them unaware.
To one Gryffindor, he caused a snake to bite at his ankle to distract him. To a Hufflepuff, he summoned a small whirlwind behind to knock her off her feet. He used a blade of grass to tickle Anna's ear and conjured a ring of cold flames to encircle Mason.
As he finished surprising each of the students, he imparted a few words of wisdom and sent them back into the castle while he turned to wander the castle grounds a while. Simply enjoying the beginnings of a colourful sunset and being completely, well nearly completely, relaxed.