Authors: Terah Edun
Tags: #Coming of Age, #fantasy, #Magic, #Action & Adventure
The energy she pushed out hit a wall—the water’s resistance to her interference. Instead of the water moving,
moved, straight up and straight out of the lake. The push was so powerful that she arced up and out toward the lake’s sandy banks…where she would surely splatter like an egg dropped on a flagstone. Her eyes widened with horror and this time, mid-air, she didn’t push out but called mentally for help.
The air answered, forming into a funnel cloud which caught her and dropped her safely onto the grass, where she blacked out from sheer exhaustion. When she awoke the air was calm, the grass was soft, and a man sat nearby nibbling on jerky. She ached all over; otherwise, she would have leaped up and demanded an explanation. Instead, she eased up like an old lady, keeping a wary eye on the man, who wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to her. He continued chewing on his snack while studying the sky. There was a relaxed air about him. He was practically
on the green.
I almost just died, didn’t I?
she mused. The man sat up suddenly and looked at her, as if he had heard her very thoughts. He eyes widened as she saw his.
Wow, he’s heterochromic!
she thought excitedly. As if he were in fact listening to her very thoughts, the man with the two different-colored eyes, one green and one blue, raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you just going to stare at me?” she asked crossly.
He smiled and said, “Hello, Sitara. I’m Cris, an Air initiate. You did quite well just now.”
She just sat and blinked at him.
“Do you realize yet that you ended up in the lake because you wanted to?” he asked. “The Air was only responding to your fervent desire to cool down, and your visions of the cool water of the lake were very clear.” He smirked, and shook his head ruefully. “The fact that Water clearly doesn’t like you wasn’t the fault of Air.”
“Are you making fun of me?” she said with a glare.
“No,” he said, laughing. “I’m trying to invite you to attend the School of Air as a student.” He glanced up in the sky. “With the requirement, of course, that you finish your exams once the sixth moon wanes.”
Suddenly Cris, the grassy sward, and the lake vanished, and she was back under the domed rotunda where it had all begun.
ll five of the youths stood in various states of disrepair, with expressions ranging from disgruntled to angry to hopeful.
“Well,” Masadi said, as he walked toward the center of the room, “You have all passed the first test, a test of magical ability and school fit. Now: we know that you have all had a long morning,” he continued, as he gestured towards to the windows placed high along the walls. The waning sun indicated that it was already late afternoon.
“There is but one more…activity, shall we say, for today. One which you will perform together to ensure compatibility and accurate placement.”
As he spoke, a glowing ring began to form in the air, two feet in diameter and waist high. It was somewhat intimidating. Allorna turned with a questioning look to see four other testing officials, including the Fire Headmaster, gathering along the wall holding hands. Masadi said, “This is the Ler Ring. Please gather around its edges and hold your hands above it.” He then walked over to join his colleagues.
With tired sidelong glances at each other, the youths reluctantly stepped up to the glowing circle and thrust their hands into the blue-hazed air above it.
As soon as they were in place, they began to hear voices in their heads. They could still see each other clearly, but they also felt like they were having private conversations with others at the same time.
Masadi voice sounded again: “This is merely a formality—a final look at your powers through the Ler Ring, and a general conversation with a Probate, Initiate, or Headmaster. We will seek to be quick.”
A young man nodded at Maride.
Maride, I am Cris, an Air Initiate. I will assess your powers.
As Maride turned to face him, he grinned and corrected himself.
Ah, no need. I can feel your magical vibrations from here on the air currents. The ring helps. You already know you are of the School of Research; I am here to tell you that you would do well in the House of Dormant Research.
“You can tell all that from a
?” he exclaimed. Then, with a mutinous look, he challenged: “And how do you know I don’t have any specialized magic?”
On the contrary, Maride, you have some of the strongest magic I have ever seen,
Cris replied evenly.
It is not tied to one element or field, but rather gives you the ability to practice in all of them…within certain limitations.
He rolled his eyes; Cris ignored him and went on.
As a student of the Dormant House, you will be able to contribute to the legacy of magical practitioners for decades to come. You will learn to assess a person’s magical potential, hidden or visible, and help them understand their gifts, while also pursuing your own interests as they come.
“Oh, well, in that case,” Maride said softly, “I suppose it’s okay then.”
In Allorna’s head, Locus’ voice returned with a languid,
Hello, young lady.
She folded her arms and snorted. In her view, he spelled trouble; his was the kind of lazy, flirty voice (not to mention nice arms) that had gotten many a doxy on Allorna’s trainee beat in trouble.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see each of the other four youths engaged in conversations, seemingly with themselves, but she assumed with one of the testers in the corner, as she was. She swallowed deeply and focused her full concentration on Locus. He smiled and proclaimed,
Oh yes, definitely Fire, and perhaps….a sub-specialty in Politics?
Allorna, simpering on the outside and cogitating with military precision on the inside, replied tactfully, “Fire is good for defense. So yes, that will be fine.” No need to tell him that she’d already trained in the use of fire as a gardis tactic against thieves and gang lords. “But… politics?” she asked tentatively.
It might be good for court rituals.
I see a young man in your life, and power that is not necessarily yours. You should learn how to wield it nonetheless.
Allorna, startled, must have let her surprise show through their mindlink. Upon sensing her concern, Locus said,
Not to worry, my dear, part of my gift is portents—but it’s not all-encompassing. In other words, I wasn’t reading your mind. That time.
He chuckled aloud.
As Sitara frowned, wondering what this silver ring would bring, she heard the Healing Headmaster speak in her mind:
You have faced the tests of Water and Air, Sitara. Since you gravitate so clearly to Air, that of course will be your School placement. Nevertheless, I would like see you exert some effort in the School of Water, since the two elements are so closely tied to one another. That and the fact, of course, that you already have some affinity to Water as an Octupani.
“Whatever,” she muttered. Exhausted by the day’s events and her aching wound, Sitara would have agreed to take classes in the School of Fire if he had asked her to.
With a quick shake of his head and a ripple of his shoulders, Vedaris struggled to stay on his feet. He ached, and he was bloody pissed. That pompous git hadn’t even told him his
With a cough, the Headmaster of Air, Arias, interrupted his dark thoughts.
And I’m so tired of everybody in this school reading my damned mind.
Then I suggest you get over it, young man,
Arias shot back. Vedaris briefly ducked his head; he still had enough shame to feel chagrined at the realization that the Headmaster had heard such a coarse thought.
A dragon student of the Unknown. How…odd,
Usually a Sahelian has already proven his worth in the youth challenges
and by extension gathered a school placement at one of the five Dragon Academies of Sahelia.
“Well, obviously I didn’t,” muttered Vedaris.
No shame to you, young man. In fact, I do believe our last Sahelian, Cintas, bypassed the tests directly for a position as Probate upon arrival.
Vedaris bristled and, unable to contain himself, retorted, “With all due respect, Headmaster Arias, I am not Cintas; and your comparison of my testing for entry student status and his for Probate status is unfair. I did my best and would like to be considered on that merit.”
Well said, Vedaris
, interjected a new voice.
Vedaris jumped in surprise and directed a frown at whoever had just “spoken.” The new voice continued,
Arias, sometimes you speak without consideration for your tone and meaning.
Arias’ voice was less assured as she replied,
Apologies, Headmaster Doctariua; no harm was intended. It was merely a comparison of our only two Sahelian candidates within the past century.
Doctariua, Headmaster of the Unknown, replied dryly,
Well then, I think that is enough comparison for one day.
To Vedaris, Doctariua directed,
Young man, we will meet when you have learned to master what you do not know. Prepare thee well.
Vedaris—confused, cranky, and tired—didn’t have much to say except, “Yes, Headmaster.”
, began the School of Unknown Initiate,
You will do well in the School of Healing, with a cross-specialty in Magical Research. It will help you find the answers you seek for your clans.
Sidimo responded, “Thank you for your judgment. But you must know that my clan has long since lost the ability to heal the ill. We are only able to diagnosis sicknesses.” His voice filled with bitterness, he said, “Even in my test, I could only assess the patient’s health. She was dead by the time I returned.”
That is precisely why you’re here
, the Initiate told him.
You will learn that the healing arts aren’t limited to magic. You know this in your heart already; and you applied some of those techniques during your test. Science and manual techniques can be just as beneficial as magic.
This is where you belong: for your own sake, and your clan’s.
“If you say so,” Sidimo said, adding fervently: “I will do my very best.”
I know you will.
And just like that all of their conversations ended and the ring dissipated. As the new students turned towards the Madrassa instructors, they saw that they were already filing out the doors. The Air Initiate Cris alone stayed, conversing with a matronly woman who had her broad hands raised to her hips. The woman did not look or sound happy. With no other direction as to what was next, they settled where they were and waited for Cris to finish his business.
Sitara frowned as she looked at the two staff members. The woman was waving her hands around in an agitated manner; indeed, it almost looked as if they were shouting at each other.
As she concentrated on the conversation and their lips, Sitara could almost hear the words emerging from their mouths. It was as if the vibrations of sound that they were forming in the air were
As the echoes traveled further and further from the mouths of the woman and Initiate Cris, they dimmed and faded.
Frown lines appeared on Sitara’s face. Odd that she could see the vibrations caused in the air by the echoes, but still couldn’t hear the sound they carried.
A rude poke to her shoulder interrupted her train of thought. She turned to snap at the boy who had jostled her, and then realized she didn’t know his name, so settled on a terse, “What?”
“What…um, what,” he started and coughed to clear his throat, “are you looking at?”
Sitara raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Isn’t it obvious?”
“Yeah, I mean, I know
you’re looking at. What I meant was
? It’s not like we can hear, them right?” he said with a short laugh.
“Actually,” said Sitara stiffly, “I
almost hear them, and might have if you hadn’t broken my concentration.”
When the boy scowled and opened his mouth to retort, the other girl said sharply, “Enough, Maride. Look, we’re all tired. Can we just…chill for a minute?”
?” said Vedaris, from where he was perched leaning back against a column. “Ha! Sure, we can do that, but I just faced a drecking ninja who shouldn’t
a ninja, we’re now enrolled in school that has a stick up its bum like it or not, and I haven’t eaten since this morning.”
“Vedaris—” Sitara began, but was interrupted.
“Frankly, I’m not sure how you passed,” said the young Deathkeeper with a casual shrug. “You certainly don’t have the…
of a typical candidate, and there’s no magical signature anywhere about you.”