I figured I was in trouble when Magister Atra scowled as she looked my way. Cripes, it felt like I had been pierced by her gaze, so sharp and heavy that it may as well have been a dagger. The woman honestly scared me sometimes.
“Miss Pyralis,” she called, circling the tip of her wand over the palm of her empty hand. Fire appeared in the shape of a miniature sun that spun around about an inch above her pale-skin. With her eyes slightly scrunched she held it out towards me. “Please tell the class the types of spells that I am using to perform this without getting burned?”
I winced a mite at being called out. There was a lot of ways to make it not burn but, given the class we were in, I took a shot in the dark and answered with, “Err…I think ya started the fire and then removed the ‘heat’ from the flames so they couldn’t burn… I think?”
Her lips pursed, but she nodded. “Correct. I used an origination spell to spawn the flames from thin air with magic and then used an abolishing-configuration spell to take away the heat. While done separately to demonstrate the inner workings of the spell, the text in your books will cover how to summon these harmless flames directly. The incantation for the Witch-Light spell is ‘Passivus Flamma’ and it is commonly used to light portable lanterns.”
With a wave of her wand dozens of the little balls of fire appeared in the room. A couple of the others touched them and complained they were cold. What’d they expect when there was no heat?
“Now, with a little work—” Magister Atra muttered an incantation under her breath, causing the flames to twist and mold themselves into tiny birds. Then she added another spell that gave them each a spark of false life. “—you can do this.”
The flaming critters circled around a few times. They scattered embers like snow from above and earned a few whispers from the rest of the class. One even caught sight of my red hair and dove towards it.
I extended my hand for it to land on and admired the attention to detail. It matched to the one just outside the window. Not including the colors since it was made of fire and all. I was impressed.
Having gotten my attention the magister dispelled the critters with minor pops and continued the lecture. “Remember class, Configuration spells combined with Origination spells can be used to create something out of nothing but the mana in the air, shape it into something else, and give it something it never had, or take something away. They are in essence the cornerstone of modern magic, rivaling that of the ancient arts, such as Amelioration and Maleficium. Now open your books.”
We spent half-an-hour book-learning basic spells to perform alterations, and then how to control what we created. After that the magister announced that we were going to the Atrium to practice. The room we were in was too small for that.
As we lined up I had the rotten luck of being right behind Invidia Arktiska, one of the ringleaders of the ‘Make Alice’s Life Miserable’ club. She had a grudge against me or something because of a spat between her boyfriend and me.
It wasn’t my fault he tried to cheat on her. The gal should have been grateful I set his rear on fire for getting handsy and implying things that weren’t true. But she went a more annoying route and constantly ticked me off.
The white-haired gal shot me a smug glance. Let the pestering begin. “So, how’s that friend of yours since he got kicked out?”
She was referring to Kowl. That loudmouth Vancipe had been bragging he got him kicked out to whoever would listen. While I knew the truth, I was already on thin-ice after being sorta responsible for running off and endangering us both. So I couldn’t shut him up without kicking a hornet’s nest. “He’s fine. Got his own shop now.”
“Hmm, he does, doesn’t he…” she mused out loud, tapping her finger against her cheek while her eyes roamed over me and settled on my robe. “And you’ll be going to his place after class, won’t you? On top of that, I’ve noticed you’ve put on a little weight recently…”
I glared at the crack. I knew where she was going with this. It didn’t take a genius to put together that I was staying with him after moving out of the dorms. You’d have to be blind not to notice that we were closer than most other students our ages either.
Raising her voice just enough so that her little clique could hear her, the frosty gal pushed my buttons. “Shouldn’t you inform the magisters that you’ll be expecting soon? I mean, you seem a little young but I’ve heard that in some places they start early so—” She shut her yap when she found my wand at her throat.
“One more word outta ya and ahm gonna shove yer wand so far up that frozen—” I supposed the rest of my words to that comment might have been a little unladylike, seeing as some of the others who could hear us were wondering if it was actually possible. I woulda demonstrated on her but I suspected I would be having words with Magister Atra. The gag suddenly around my mouth was a big tip.
“Miss Pyralis! Remove your wand and stay your tongue!” she demanded. When I did she turned to Invidia. “As for you, Miss Arktiska, I heard everything. You have detention for instigating that little…exhibition of improper commentary, as well as implying improper and lewd conduct of another student in such a manner.”
The gal opened her mouth to say something but Magister Atra’s glare chilled her frozen tush right down to the core. Everyone else looked someplace else at the same time so that they didn’t get the same treatment when she spanned the line afterwards. I swear she had that down to an art form.
It was quieter than a mouse on a snowy winter night up in the north as she led us to the Atrium. Not a single peep was heard, not a single step was out of line. No one wanted to be the next person to make the magister angry.
The Atrium was a large building made of stone, rounded like a dome with light coming in from the stained glass above and shining down to the mosaics on the floor. The walls had small crystals embedded within, used to hold enchantments on the building that wouldn’t fade as quickly. It was the best place on campus for students to practice spells and not risk blowing something important up.
While everyone else in line was directed to go practice the spell, I was dragged off to the side for those words with the magister. She removed the gag before giving me a talking down to. “Miss Pyralis, I understand that she provoked you but that sort of language is not tolerated here, nor having your wand drawn on her.”
“The gal’s been ridin’ me harder than she does a broom,” I pointed out. “If she put that much effort in keepin’ her boyfriend in check he wouldn’t have been touching where he shouldn’t have. There’s the reason the folks hate magi right there, they think their entitled to something they aren’t!”
“Once again, check your language.” Magister Atra’s face softened a bit and she sighed. “I know how petty students can be since I was once on the receiving end myself. But you cannot let them bait you. It is beneath you.
“You are already one of a kind in that your magic can stay in existence for an exceptionally long time. Considering you have no known heritage when usually only magi have such capabilities, it is something that we are very vested in from an academic perspective. I know you can grasp the material, yet your grades have slipped since Mister Freslight’s departure.”
“It wasn’t fair he got the boot.” My throat grew tight. “Vancipe gets to strut around after attempted murder and yet Kowl’s gone. It’s not fair he’s gone.”
“Only because you lied to me and ran off, endangering yourself and instigating that conflict,” she shot back. “The risks he took were nothing short of a death sentence if there had been one mistake. He thought you were obviously worth the cost and took the majority of the blame so you could remain. Yet here you are, wasting his sacrifice by dawdling in class.”
My eyes fell down towards the ground from her stirring the guilt inside me. “I just…wanted to help him then. I didn’t think…”
Magister Atra brought her hand up to my chin and guided my head up to meet her eyes. They were soft to look at now. “Miss Pyralis, you’ve already cut back your hours to being a half-time student so you can help him. But you can do so much more by completing your studies here. Your time is precious, so you can’t afford to waste it by being led like a mare to water by the others. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. When that chilling look in her eyes came back I changed my tone and spoke up. “Yes, Ma’am, I understand.”
“Good,” she huffed, removing her hand. Tapping her wand against her cheek, she added, “Now, I have to punish you since you caused a commotion. Because you only attend half-time, you’ll have morning detention with Magister Flourish along with Miss Arktiska. No complaints.”
I grumbled a bit about it but kept quiet as Magister Atra led me back to the rest of the class. Then she told me to do the same type of magic she did in the classroom: Configuration.
Configuration was the art of changing something that already existed in nature. The four categories that made it up were Metamorphosis, Endow, Abolish, and Alteration.
Alteration was the process of altering something, as the name implied, whether it was changing the size, the shape, or other features. Endowing something meant to add something that wasn’t naturally a part of it. Abolishing did the opposite by removing something that was a part of it. Metamorphosis was the process of completely changing it into something else, a combination of the other three.
I began with the Witch-Light spell by taking a deep breath. Imagining the sphere of flames and funneling my magic into my wand as heat coursed through my body, the pinkish pyre came into existence at the tip of my wand. Next was to change the shape.
The image took form in my head. The sphere began to erupt in countless small bulges, lumping together to form two outstretched mounds that became wings. Tiny feet popped out of the bottom. A snout was followed by beady eyes and long ears, shaping themselves to turn the flame into a bat.
It was easy for me to picture a bat and the details showed on it. The critters haunted my dreams from how much time I spent in the underground caverns that ran beneath academy. They were big on creative punishments here, and the incident that got Kowl in trouble earned me a lot of detention time too.
Last, I endowed the critter with the concept of ‘life’ using the spell Magister Atra demonstrated. It took flight into the air with the others like it. I couldn’t help but smile when it did.
I knew it was just a fake. It would eventually fade out of existence since magic couldn’t actually bring the dead back or create real life. That was one of the rules that they taught us here. But seeing it darting around Atrium filled me with a sense of satisfaction….
Because it was proof that I was a witch.
I left campus once class was dismissed. Since Trikryss was only a short flight away, I could get there with plenty of time to spare on the broom that Kowl got for me. He claimed it was a business expense. But it was a gift in his way of saying as much.
The grounds of the academy were pretty big. It was easy to get lost on foot if you weren’t paying attention. But things looked a bit different from above.
You could see where the forest to the south led to the mountains. You could see where Teable’s Maw was between here and the sparkling lake to the west. You could even see where Trikryss was to the north.
I liked flying up high, but the winds were wild today. They could knock me around or off my broom. So I stayed just above the trees and took my time, until I spotted a clearing where three older students I didn’t recognize were having an altercation. It looked like fun.
Two of them had their wands in their hands and held them out as they bowed, not taking their eyes off the other, while the third acted as the referee. It was against the rules to duel within the walls of the academy or dorms. Outside of them was a different story. I managed to park myself onto a thick tree limb to watch the show.
The referee waved his hand down to signal the start of the duel and then booked it before he got caught in the crossfire. The one on the right with short-hair cast the first spell with a flourish of his wand. A dirt-brown flurry of sparks shot towards the ground in front of him. Loose dirt and hard stone churned beneath the surface of the clearing and then mashed together into the form of a human-like warrior called a Sentry of Stone.
The Sentry series of spells were designed to create what amounted to dolls from whatever was available. While it was possible to form one out of something without a solid form, like a Sentry of Fire or Sentry of Water, it took a lot of focus and magic to maintain it. Using whatever was nearby to create one with a solid form was a lot easier.
A stone fist popped out of the ground first as the Sentry of Stone rose from below. Hunching over as it stood on its two legs, while squirming like it had the shakes, the Sentry pulled up a sword of carved stone next. There was a moment of silence before it moved forward, dragging its weapon through the grass to get the other guy.
I caught the soft sound of dancing fire popping into existence. The guy on the left had twisted the normally wild element into a lance of flames with his wand. The white-hot tip of the lance flew off with a bang that knocked him back a step.
The air hissed as the flame-lance flew and speared through the Sentry molded from stone and dirt. I could hear the crackling of the superheated stone at its core. It had been completely burrowed through, leaving only a hole with the edges colored molten-gold. The damage was so bad that it crumbled into loose dirt and gravel.
Not deterred by his loss, the short-haired one fired a faster spell than before. It was a streaking tawny bolt that I couldn’t recognize, missing the target as the flame-caster leaned to the side and the spell hit the ground behind him. At least it seemed that way until the earth-caster smiled in a smug manner I saw all too often around these parts.
The soil swelled and rose as a mound, like a balloon ready to pop. Then, with a roar like thunder, it ruptured in a geyser of mud. The force sent his opponent flying in the wake of the earthen explosion and it took a second for the long-haired guy to tumble back down. He was dirtied by the rain of sticky globs but unharmed for the most part. Although that look in his eyes said he took it kinda personally when it came to his robes being ruined.
I was proven right when he fired an explosive spell that narrowly missed short-hair, lobbing into nearby tree. It completely blew apart the base of the trunk, turning it into a rain of splinters, before sending the rest crashing into another tree. The earth-caster looked at the tree and then back to the one who cast the spell, then he got mad.
That wasn’t a spell to be used for a friendly-duel and boys with wands were quick to anger. But, before they could go any further and start using something a little more lethal, the third guy finally intervened. The show was over and, since those last two spells caused a ruckus, they probably drew attention from the academy. Since no one was hurt and getting questioned about the use of lethal spells would have made me late, I decided to split.