|Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
My legs swung against the wall. A brick wall, old and mossy and crumbling away, but strong enough for me to sit on it. Me, that is. No one else ever sits on it. I sighed and rolled up the sleeves of my sweater. A habit of mine, you might say.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
I stared over the muddy grass towards the strangely out-of-place concrete area that had seemingly been placed in the middle of a field for no apparent reason. A scrawny kid with dark hair was messing about on a skateboard – my brother, Nathaniel. He swerved and nearly lost his balance, then regained it and rolled back across the concrete.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
I threw my head back and stared at the sky. Maybe it was just me but, for that moment, it seemed to darken and the clouds seemed to get heavier. Odd, really. Then again, odd things in my life are surprisingly normal. Like that time that cloud seemed to follow this one kid in my old school and kept raining and raining and raining... the day after he kicked me. And when I slapped that girl and her hair stood on end. Perhaps the little things – giving people electric shocks whenever they touch me, thunderstorms peculiarly breaking out when I got angry. You could call me weird... Or at least the things that happen to me.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
I ran my hand through my hair. It was getting dark. Nat and I had promised our mom to be back soon. Nat was still swerving from side to side on his skateboard. Other than that, the place was really quiet.
Not so long ago, this place had been the busiest park in town. Families came here every day. Kids ran wild. It was always noisy – everyone came after class – almost every day. People were planning to add a climbing frame and some swings. It was green and the flowers and trees flourished.
Then everything changed. Overnight, almost. A girl went missing here. She was in my class. She was my friend. Everyone’s friend, really. She was popular – really social, and bubbly. Autumn, her name was. It was only a few months ago. It happened one night after school. She was walking home – and that was the last thing she said to anyone. No one saw her after she walked through the gates into this place. She had been kidnapped. At least, that was what everyone thought. And still thinks, I guess. But that’s not really relevant, now.
The flowers wilted and trees hung there, dead. No one came here anymore. Just me and Nat, on occasion. No plans to build swings and climbing frames. No noise. Nothing.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.
“Nat!” I yelled. “Time to go, midge.”
He glared at me. “Don’t call me that!” He huffily jumped off his skateboard, picked it up under one arm, and reluctantly strolled over to my spot on the wall.
I jumped off the wall and slung my schoolbag, lying on the floor, over my shoulder. “Got your stuff?”
He nodded and grunted. I’d learnt boy-language. That meant yes.
We started to walk across the field to the gate. Every step we took made an odd squelching sound. It had rained last night. It had rained a lot. There was more forecast for today. I could already see clouds darkening the horizon if I looked up.
“Looks like rain,” I muttered.
Nat looked up and squinted. “I can’t see anything.”
“Go figure.” I elbowed him. “Clouds, Nat. Over there.” I pointed.
“You are so annoying!” he whined. “There’s nothing there.”
I sighed, exasperated. Could he really not see them? He was still staring around.
“Sure, Nat. Like I’m gonna fall for that.”
“Yeah! How many times do I have to tell you?”
He sounded genuine. I looked where he was gesturing wildly.
Sure enough, there was a snowy owl.
“Great, Nat.” I said. “An owl. Now let’s go home.”
“I want to go and see it!”
“Mom said we had to get home…”
“Stop treating me like a two-year-old! We will get home on time. We can be quick. Let’s go!” He broke into a run. Sighing, I followed him.
“Hey little owl dude,” Nat soothed.
“Why are you talking to it?” I said, puzzled. “It is an owl. It cannot talk.”
“So? Why can’t I talk to an owl?”
“It can’t answer you!”
“Can we keep it?”
“How is that relevant?” I almost yelled in frustration.
“You don’t just randomly pick up owls from a park and take them home!”
“Yeah you do!”
“Nat! Get real!”
We both stopped bickering only to silently turn towards the owl in shock.
“Owls can’t talk…” I said faintly.
Nathaniel gave me a smug smile. Since when did he think owls could talk?
“Now yo-oo-oo -ou have stopped argu-u-uing,” the owl hooted, ruffling its wings haughtily, “I can introdu-u-uce myself. I am Gamma the Owl.”
“Go figure,” I muttered under my breath. Gamma the Owl gave me a stern look.
“I am Headmaster Ambrose’s pet.” Another smug glance from Nat. “I don’t doubt you will want to meet him, now you have been accepted.” This time Nat was looking puzzled. Then again, so was I. Owls do not speak!
“Okay, Nat…” I began. “Let’s go…” I felt a bit uncomfortable and it was getting really dark.
“No way!” he cried. “It’s a talking owl!” He had a point. But surely there was some logical explanation for this…
“Animatronics!” I concluded. “It’s a robot, Nat, with speakers and stuff. It isn’t real.” Nat opened his mouth to say something, but he was interrupted.
“What are these animal-chronics you speak of?”
Huh. It had heard me. Then it hit me – of course it had. There was someone controlling it. I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to figure out.
“Yeah, what are they?” asked Nat.
“Robots, kind of. Like I said. You get them in theme parks all the time.”
“Look,” I said, exasperated. “I’m going. If you want to stay here and stare at some dumb robot bird, fine. But I’m not.” I began to turn away.
“Hold it, young wizard!” Gamma the Owl again. No… not an owl, a robot. I started to walk away. A robot telling me what to do? Weird. Hold it, young… Wait… Wizard?!
I turned around. “Wizard?” I said. Then I realized I was talking to the owl again – no, a robot – and directed the question to Nat. “Wizard?”
“Wizard, indeed!” huffed Gamma the animatronics owl. “Headmaster Ambrose wishes to meet the two-oo-oo latest enrollments to the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts!”
Headmaster Ambrose? Ravenwood? Magical Arts?
“Whoa,” I said. “Hold it. Say that again.” I’d forgotten it was an owl – an animatronics owl – that I was talking too and was now listening with fascination.
“Honestly, young wizard. Ho-o-o-ow many times do-o-o-o I have to-o-o tell yo-oo-oo-ou?” He sighed.
Strange, really, how I had gone from calling Gamma an ‘it’ to a ‘he’.
“Headmaster Ambrose has accepted yo-oo-oo-ou at Ravenwood School! Are you not proud?”
“Ravenwood? What is Ravenwood?”
“Only the most successful scho-oo-ool of magic in the Spiral! What do they teach yo-oo-oo-ou these days?”
“Math, English, you know. The usual.”
“My my, yo-oo-oo-ou have a lot to learn, wizards! Come! Take my wing and teleport with me.”
Teleporting? Okay, that was too much. There was no way this was gonna happen. It had been a good act up till then but this was ridiculous. Nat, however, took the owl’s wing.
“Nat!” I cried. “What are you doing?”
“I want to go!” he replied.
“You don’t think this is real, do you?”
“Yes! I do!”
I thought it over for a second. Surely, if it were true, it would be fantastic. And if not, well, what harm could come of it? I was already imagining a huge, towering castle of a school – like Hogwarts – and wands, and magic, and spells…
“Quickly, young wizard!” A wind was forming around Gamma and Nat. They seemed to be fading away.
It was now or never.
I grabbed onto Gamma’s outstretched wing.
I felt an incredible rushing sensation like I had stuck my head out of the window of a speeding car. It was absolutely exhilarating. There was a swirling vortex of lights and colors in front of my eyes and I seemed to be seeing several scenes at once, but they were all constantly changing, giving me an overwhelming sense of dizziness.
Then everything went black. I landed unsteadily and fell against a wall. With one hand steadying myself, I tried to stand up straight. I opened my eyes. The room seemed to swim before me, giving the impression that books were flying around the room and rearranging themselves. I blinked. It was still doing it. I blinked once more and rubbed my eyes… And still. Surely this couldn’t be possible!
“That was totally wicked!” someone yelled. I looked in their direction, still dazed. Nat. My little brother. I felt another surge of giddiness.
“Can I do it again?” he asked. “Please? That was so cool!”
“In time, young wizard,” hooted Gamma the real owl. This wasn’t animatronics. It couldn’t be. But it couldn’t be real either. It had to be a dream. I might as well enjoy it.
“So,” I said. “Do we finally get to meet Professor Ambrose now?”
“You certainly do,” said a voice from behind me. I whipped around, and there was an old man in navy robes with golden stars glinting at me. I was stunned.
“Are you a wizard?” Nat exploded. He didn’t bother to wait for an answer. “That’s so cool! Do we get robes like that? They’re wicked. And do we have houses here, like in Hogwarts? Because they have Gryffindor and Slytherin and Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw and they’re all so cool and do we have different lessons? Like potions and stuff? That would be totally great!”
Ambrose stared at him blankly. “Hop warts? Where in the Spiral is that? And what are these ‘houses’? Do you mean student dorms?”
“Ignore him,” I said dismissively. “This is all stuff from a book.”
“Really?” said Ambrose incredulously.
“Yes, funnily enough.”
“Well, well, well. If you like reading, I could show you to the library…”
“Well, you will see on your tour of Wizard City. But that will come later. First, we must consult the Book of Secrets.”
The Book of Secrets? Could this really be real? Of course not. A dream, I kept telling myself. It’s a dream. Make the most of it. You’ll wake up soon.
“Wicked!” yelled Nat. I turned to him, eyebrows raised, all ready to try and think of a really sarcastic and witty comment. Then I saw what he was looking at.
With a lazy wave of his wand, Ambrose had sent a book flying across the room to land on his desk with a heavy thud. It was huge, bigger than any book I’d ever seen before – and believe me; I’ve seen a lot of books – yet it seemed to glow, almost with a golden light that seemed to radiate from its pages like a warm fire.
“Nathaniel,” beckoned Ambrose. I’ll never know how he knew Nat’s name, but at the time I was too transfixed by the huge book to think about that. There was something, at the time, I’d thought, magical about it. Looking back, that sounds ridiculous. Something magical, in Wizard City… Don’t laugh.
Nat had followed Ambrose’s direction and was standing in front of the book, gazing at it with the same rapture that I had. Then Ambrose opened the heavy cover of the book. The inside was just as fascinating as the outside. I leant in to make out the words written at the top of the page – “When you…” I squinted. The writing had been hand-written in an elegant and elaborate style, and the words were hard to distinguish.
“What’s this?” said Nat, blinking. “A quiz or something? I thought a ‘Book of Secrets’ would reveal secrets, not ask questions!”
Ambrose and Gamma exchanged a look that clearly showed barely suppressed amusement. Gamma turned to Nat. “Ah, but it indeed does, young wizard.”
“Oh yeah?” I challenged. “Since when did a quiz reveal secrets?”
“You will find out, young wizard.” Ambrose smiled.
“Can you stop saying that ‘young wizard’ thing?”
“Why, yes – once your names are revealed.”
I almost yelled in frustration. They still hadn’t answered my original question.
“Nathaniel, answer the questions.” encouraged Gamma.
“You know our names! You said our names hadn’t been revealed! What are you talking about?”
“That will come later, young wizard.”
I felt like yelling again.
“Err… quick question…” interjected Nat. “How do I answer the questions? Do I just say it?”
“Of course, I forgot to give you a quill!” exclaimed Ambrose. “My apologies.” He handed a quill and a bottle of ink to my younger brother, who spent barely a split second staring at it in shock before unscrewing the lid of the ink bottle and beginning to scribble in the book.
“Aah…” Ambrose said when he had finished. He muttered some indistinguishable words under his breath and waved a hand over the book mysteriously. All the writing on the page dissolved into nothing.
“What happened?” cried Nat, horrified. His expression of confusion was soon replaced by one of pleasant surprise when a few words appeared on the page.
Enrolled at the
Ravenwood School of Magical Arts on
1st January, 365 WCE
As a student of
“Wow,” gasped Nathaniel. “That’s totally cool!”
“What does ‘WCE’ mean?” I asked.
“Wizard City Era,” explained Ambrose. “The era began with the creation of the distinguished worlds of the Spiral, referred to as Wizard City Era because that is where it all started, of course.”
Wizard City? The worlds of the Spiral? Most of Ambrose’s speech had gone over my head. As for Nat, it looked like it had gone in one ear and subsequently out of the other.
“Ah, yes,” said Ambrose. He tapped the page and it fell into his hands. He held it out to Nat. “Your certificate of enrollment, Nathaniel… Nathaniel Ironheart.”
I don’t know exactly when I realized this, but by that time I had completely disregarded my former doubts about the unusual scenario. It all seemed so vivid. Dreams weren’t like this. At least, mine weren’t. They were quite depressing actually. None had ever been as pleasant as this.
Was it real?
A small flutter of hope stirred my stomach.
“And now, Alexandra,” Gamma hooted cheerfully. “You must find out your name and school of magic!”
“Hold on,” I said. “Before… Before I take this… quiz thing, tell me exactly what magic schools are. I thought this Ravenwood place was one school, not… how many are there?”
“Seven,” replied Ambrose. “There are seven schools of magic.”
“So… they’re all different?”
“Yes. Each has different skills to teach their students and different traits and talents their pupils must have.”
I thought about that. “Which is why we have to do a quiz,” I concluded.
“Exactly, young wizard. Now, these schools have strengths and weaknesses – some general, some to other schools. The schools of fire and ice have weaknesses in each other, as do storm and myth, and life and death.”
“The school that Nat’s in,” I said, thinking out loud. Then I realized something. “Hold on.”
“What, young wizard?”
“That only makes six. You said there were seven schools. Fire, ice, storm, myth, life, and death… So what’s the other one?”
Ambrose smiled. “You are a quick one. The seventh school is the school of Balance.”
“Right. So, how does this all work? There are seven completely different schools?”
“Not quite. There are two groups – the elemental schools: fire, ice, and storm – and the spiritual schools: life, death, and myth. You will learn more about this when you begin your classes.” Ambrose seemed to be getting impatient.
“You left out balance. Let me guess – spiritual?”
“No. Balance is a – well, a mixture is what I’d suppose you would call it – of the other schools. Now, it is time for us to consult the book of secrets.”
He turned to the book again. The first question had reappeared on the page. Ambrose handed me the quill and I began to write.
I had barely set the quill beside the book, on the desk, when the writing melted away again. Within a split second it had reformed, this time bearing the words:
Enrolled at the
Ravenwood School of Magical Arts on
1st January, 365 WCE
As a student of
I felt a grin spread slowly across my face. Storm. All the things that had happened to me made perfect sense. It was the most amazing feeling of rightness. If that’s even a word.
Gamma had picked up the certificate with his feet and dropped it into my hands as he flew overhead. I almost laughed. Not so long ago, I had believed he was a robot. It sounded ridiculous.
“So,” said Ambrose. “Now you’re both enrolled, I think you need spell books. Gamma – can you bring two spell books, please.”
“Immediately, Headmaster,” Gamma hooted and flew off. He somehow managed to retrieve two, dusty books from a shelf and fly back across the room with them clutched in his claws.
“Excellent, Gamma.” Ambrose took the books from his pet owl and held them out to us. “Do take these.”
“Thanks,” I hastened to reply.
“You’re welcome, young wizards.”
I briefly thought he had said that once our names had been revealed he’d stopped saying that. But by that time I had forgotten to care about it.
“And you will need backpacks,” Ambrose said – more to himself than anyone else – before seemingly plucking two small backpacks out of mid-air.
“Thanks,” I repeated, though privately I thought they were way too small to fit even the spell books in. As though reading my mind, Ambrose smiled.
“They are enlarged. Magically. Try putting in your spell books.”
Nat and I did so, and the spell books slotted in while we exclaimed in delight and surprise.
“I suppose,” said Ambrose, “we’ll have to get you some robes. If you would wait one moment.” Ambrose closed his eyes as though he was concentrating hard. Then he opened them, looking relieved.
“Mr Darkwood should be arriving shortly.” he said. As if on cue, there was a knock on a door which I was surprised to see I hadn’t noticed before.
“Come in,” commanded Ambrose. A large man walked in with a bundle under his arm.
“I brought the robes,” said the large man.
“Excellent, Victor.” Ambrose turned to Nathaniel and me. “Would you like to try on your new robes?”
Nat jumped at the chance. “Yes yes yes yes yes!”
I grinned and nodded.
“What color, kid?” Victor asked Nat, who looked at Ambrose for help.
Ambrose smiled. “You are a necromancer, Nathaniel, and the death school colors are mainly black and white. Some students prefer to wear red, but of course, it’s up to you. Any color is acceptable.”
“Black and white it is, then.” Victor Darkwood handed Nat a package wrapped in brown paper. Ambrose waved his staff and Nat’s jeans and baggy T-shirt were replaced by a black set of robes, shoes, and hat with a cool white trim.
“Cool!” exclaimed Nat.
“What about the storm school?” I cut in. “What do…” I struggled to recall what the storm students were known as. “…diviners wear?”
“Well,” Ambrose began. “You wear the same type of clothing. These robes act as a type of school uniform. You will wear them during classes you take in Ravenwood. You may collect other types of clothing from all over the Spiral that you may wear doing quests or at your leisure, but whilst you attend lessons this is what you are to wear.”
“Cool. But I meant what colors?”
“For diviners, usually purple and yellow… sometimes green… But as I said, any color is acceptable.”
“Yes, young wizard. You would like that?”
I was handed a similar package and with another wave of Ambrose’s staff, I was in the clothes I had requested. They felt cool and light and really comfortable, as though they were made for me.
“They’re great!” I cried. I felt like copying my little brother and running and jumping around in small circles, but I wanted to retain my dignity.
“You will wear them whilst you are in classes at Ravenwood. Think of them as a… uniform, of sorts. Only they’re in different colors. And now, time for a tour, perhaps?”
“And this is the library,” smiled the small sprite Ambrose had summoned to show us around. She fluttered her wings daintily and whizzing around at head height. I imagined what it would be like to fly.
“Cool,” said Nat, looking slightly bored. “Okay, so we’ve seen the Commons now. What’s through there?” He gestured wildly towards a tunnel with a wooden sign above it, bearing the words ‘Unicorn Way’.
“Unicorn Way, of course!” the sprite giggled.
“Yeah, well, I mean, can we go in there?”
The sprite stopped giggling.
“Normally that would be part of your tour…” I could sense a ‘but’ coming up here. “…but,” – I told you so! “With all the monsters roaming around…”
“Oh…” said Nat sadly. The sprite flitted around, looking guilty.
“But I guess…” she started. “We could just peep in there… Not for long, though. And you guys had better stay on the sidewalks! No monster battles, okay?”
Nathaniel and I swore we’d do as she asked. The sprite flew over to Private Stillson.
“Who goes there?” he demanded. “No access for novices! You need to get your wands first.”
“They’re with me,” shrugged the sprite, looking tinier than she really was compared to the guard’s huge figure.
Private Stillson huffed a bit but grunted his approval and raised the gate. Nat and I exchanged grins of delight.
“Wow,” I said, staring around. The place was green. Flowers bloomed on the green grass by the sidewalks and trees swayed in a light summer breeze. Everything was so… There was no other word for it – just plain pretty.
“Whatever,” grumbled Nat. He didn’t seem to like it that much. He was strolling with his head down, avoiding the odd glances he was getting from a boy dressed completely in green.
“Careful,” said the sprite. “You don’t want to get into a fight before you even have your wands.
“Whatever,” Nat repeated. I glared at him. Why was he in such a bad mood?
“This is Unicorn Park,” the sprite said, ignoring Nat and pointing to a huge statue of a unicorn surrounded by a small river with clear water that seemed to be the most perfect shade of pale blue.
“It’s fantastic!” I exclaimed happily. I love water.
We continued along the sidewalk. There were some ghosts gliding around in the middle of the street. Other wizards – well, I assumed they were wizards, as they were wearing similar clothes to us – were, well, I think fighting them. As in they were making weird animals erupt from the ends of their wands. A wizard in a bright red robe with an orange trim waved his wand and traced an elaborate symbol which reminded me of a flame, and suddenly a cat – glowing orange as though on fire – leapt in front of the wizard and pounced on the ghost, causing it to moan in pain and disappear into the ground.
Nat still seemed uncomfortable but he didn’t grumble like before. The sprite danced onwards, telling us about each house.
“This is Dorothy Gale’s house,” she said. “And over there – that’s Rattlebones’ Keep. I’d stay away from there if I were you – at least until you get the quest.”
"What’s a quest?” I asked.
“Oh!” The sprite giggled. “I’d forgotten you didn’t know much about Wizard City. All wizards in training do quests so that they can gain experience and level up so they can get new spells and see the rest of the Spiral.”
I nodded. We continued down the street in silence until Nat spoke up.
“Why are all the ghosts and stuff here?”
The sprite’s expression grew solemn.
“It’s a long story,” she sighed.
“So tell us!” demanded Nat.
“I suppose you need to know,” she said. “Not so long ago, the death professor, Malistaire Drake, was the most powerful necromancer ever known. You’d think he would go crazy with power, but he only ever used his magic for good. He was married to Sylvia Drake. She taught the Life School. Then she fell ill with flu. Every healer in Wizard City tried to save her, but there was nothing they could do. It was ironic, really, that the best healer ever died from an illness.
“Then Malistaire went crazy. He ripped the death school from Ravenwood. He turned evil. All of the monsters invading Wizard City are something to do with him. Which is why most of them are undead – he used his powers to control them.”
Nat and I were silent. I wished Nat hadn’t asked.
“Wow, that’s bad,” he said.
“Yes,” agreed the sprite sadly. “Even my sisters have been corrupted.” She gestured to the dark fairies fluttering about the street with evil grins on their faces.
“We’ll help,” I said. “We’ll get rid of all of the dark fairies. You can count on us!”
“I’m sure you’ll try, young wizards.”
“Yes,” I said. “We will.”
“So this is Ravenwood,” I said. It had taken a while to actually get here.
Nat grinned. “This place is wicked!”
“Greetings, wizards,” smiled a dog in a suit who was standing next to a tree. “I am Arthur Wethersfield. Do come back here if you wish to take some balance classes.”
“Uh… Thanks,” I said, disconcerted by a talking animal. I grabbed Nat and continued.
“Life school!” I cried. “Over there. The green one. Let’s go.”
Nat groaned but followed me in there. Inside, there was a peaceful atmosphere, smelling of flowers and fields and nature. I inhaled deeply.
“Greetings, new students,” said a soft, mystical voice from the front of the room. It was deserted except for me, Nat, and a large cow dressed in green robes.
“I am Moolinda Wu, life professor. Welcome to the school of life.”
“Cool!” I said. Nat gave a grunt. “Well, we’d better be going…” I added, seeing Nat’s uncomfortable expression.
“Of course. Do come back if you decide to spend your training points here.”
Outside the life school, there was a group of girls giggling together, heading into a tower across the street. Strangely enough, there was one girl – at the back of the group – dressed in light green with an oddly familiar red hairstyle.
“Nat,” I said. “You don’t think that’s…”
“Autumn!” Nat yelled. The redhead turned round to reveal a familiar face – confused at first, then turning into a huge, warm smile.
“Alex!” squealed Autumn. “Nat! I thought I’d never see you guys again! This is so exciting!” She threw her arms around us.
“I thought so too!” I beamed.
“And me!” chipped in Nat.
“It’s so amazing that you guys got accepted too! That is so awesome! What’s your school? Oh, and what’s your name?”
“Storm,” I said. “And Nat’s death. And you know our names.”
Autumn grinned. “I mean your new last names! I’m Autumn Willowbreeze.”
“Nice. It suits you,” I said. I wasn’t lying, it really did. “Nat is Nathaniel Ironheart, and I am Alexandra Stormrider.”
“That figures, diviner!” she giggled. “And let me introduce you to my friends. This is Madison Lifesong, and Amber Jadeleaf.”Amber and Madison smiled.
“Hi,” I said.
“We’re taking the tour,” said Nat, “so we’d better get going.”
“But it was great to see you again!” I called over my shoulder as we headed into the myth school.
“Hi…” I began.
“Oh, more Conjurer-want-to-bes taking the tour. Lovely. Now, run along and play in the street.”
“Yeah, we’re here on the tour,” I said. I was about to continue when I was interrupted once again by Cyrus Drake.
“Lovely. Now, run along and play in the street.”
“Are you Malistaire’s brother?” asked Nat incredulously.
“I am going to pretend you didn’t say that. Lovely. Now, run along and play in the street.”
I dragged Nat out of the classroom.
“Okay, Nat,” I began. “Let’s get this straight. You do not talk to people like that. Do you hear me?”
“I mean it! If you think you can just say any—”
“Watch out!” yelled a voice. We froze and looked up. A boy in black and white – a few years older than me, maybe – was walking towards us.
“You guys nearly fell off the edge!” he continued. I looked around to see what he was talking about, and noticed that he was right. We were balancing on the edge of a bottomless chasm. I felt the color rise in my face.
“Yeah,” I said. “Um… Thanks, I guess.”
“No worries!” he grinned. “I do it all the time. Malorn Ashthorn by the way. Any time you want to learn death spells, I’m right here, got that?”
“Yeah,” I said again. “This is Nat, by the way. Nathaniel… Ironheart. New at the death school.”
“Hi,” said Nat.
“Cool. You just come here for classes every day, okay? Then I can teach you some death spells.”
“Yeah. Cool.” Nat was grinning. “See you then, I guess.”
“Oh!” added Malorn. “I almost forgot.” He gave Nat a huge grin. “Here – your wand. Oh, and no casting inside buildings or during school hours. Got that?”
We walked into the nearest building. The School of Fire. The second I got in there I was sweating.
“Phew,” I said. “Hot in here, huh?”
“Welcome to the school of fire,” said a tall woman with hair that bore more than a passing resemblance to a flame. “If you think you’re up for pyromancy, come back to learn some spells in the novice class tomorrow. All students welcome.”
“Thanks,” I said.
The next building, in comparison, was freezing.
“I’m c-c-c-c-cold,” shivered Nat.
“M-m-me too,” I gasped.
“Welcome to the school of Ice, my little snowflakes!” A fairy came fluttering over to greet us.
“H-h-h-hi…” I began. Then a snowflake landed on my nose. I blinked.
“Do come back – in some warmer clothes, might I add – if you wish to learn some Ice magic!”
Finally, we came to the school of Storm. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed from inside the windows. Cool.
“Welcome!” bounced an overexcited frog in a purple top hat. “I am Halston Balestrom, Master Inventor – and professor of Storm magic, of course. Aha! A diviner, I see?”
“Yep,” I said.
“Excellent!” the frog boomed with a surprisingly loud voice. “And you, young wizard!” he added, looking at a bewildered Nat. “You must also come learn some divination! So… yes. Here is your wand… You have your spellbook and backpack, good good… So, yes. Classes start tomorrow morning! A good afternoon to you, wizards!”
Nat and I exchanged a grin.
“So…” I said to Nat, who was lying on his bed. “Where are you gonna spend your training points?”
“Well, I was thinking myth…”
“Yeah right! You said yourself that Drake was a prize—”
“No, I’m serious…”
“You can’t! I’ll have to attack you with my cool amazing thunder snake tomorrow!”
“Oh, come on, I was just kidding! You are so easy to wind up…”
“Well, what are you gonna pick?”
“Not sure. What about you?”
“I asked you first!”
“Yeah, and I answered. I said I’m not sure. So – you?”
“What do you think?”
“You would say that.”
“Yeah, it rocks.”
“Okay, so any serious ideas?”
“No, really. You’ll be unbeatable. With the amazing stormy powers and cool death drain spells…”
“Seriously. Tell you what, I’ll go for storm if you go for death. How’s that?”
Later on, I lay in my bed. It surprised me that just 24 hours ago I was lying in a different universe altogether. I grinned to myself in the darkness. I was a wizard! Still hard to believe.
Nat was asleep. I could hear him snoring softly. “Summon dark sprite…” he murmured sleepily. “Vampire…”
Guess he was getting used to it quicker than I was. Tomorrow… I had memorized my timetable. Novice Death Studies. Spiral History. Ravenwood Literature. Novice Storm Studies. Quests. I bit my lip in anticipation.
Nat had always talked in his sleep – ever since he was a little kid. With everything being different, it was good to know that one thing, at least, was the same.
I mean, some things never change.
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