|It was just the beginning of another boring day. My alarm clock beeped in my ears and rain splashed against the dirty window, and I turned the alarm off. I shoved my pillow over my head and closed my eyes hoping that, for once in my life, my aunt would have forgotten that today was Thursday, and that maybe, just maybe I would be able to sleep a little longer.
Fate had other ideas.
“NATALIE! GET UP!” The screech rang in my ears, and I knew that if I didn’t get out of bed, I would be in big trouble. Reluctantly, I dragged myself out from underneath the warm blankets that I longed to be able to stay under and trudged down the hall to the tiny kitchen of our apartment.
Aunt Gwen sat at the table, a glass of tea in her hand, looking through the job listings that were assembled in front of her. A bowl of cereal was placed in front of the creaky chair I always sat in. I shoveled the food into my mouth, desperately hoping that my bus driver hadn’t decided to wake up on time for once in her life. If she wasn’t as late as usual…errgh, my aunt would kill me if I missed the bus.
Around fifteen minutes later, I sat alone in the twenty-third leather seat of bus number 5-47, ignoring the dull buzz of conversation that surrounded me. It had always been like that—I never had any friends on the bus. My only friend walked home each day. My eyes stayed fixed in place, staring out the window. My fingers danced the way they always did, playing a pretend piano in my lap. Many people asked about that, but I never replied. They knew why. I was the freaky piano girl, supposedly obsessed with it. But I wasn’t.
The bus slid to a slow stop in front of the school, and kids flooded from the vehicle. As always, I was last to escape from the hunk of metal, and by then almost everyone was in the school. I walked up the path alone, when a monotonous buzzing sounded in my ears. I tried to ignore it—probably just a fly somewhere near my head, but instead of fading as the insect flew away, it steadily grew louder, soon becoming a thunderous growl, and a splitting headache erupted in my head. Any thoughts I had were lost in the pain, any sounds unheard over the roar. I dropped my books, sending them crashing to the cement, and clutched my head.
Suddenly, the ground came up to meet me. My cheek scraped the pavement, and I tasted a foul flavor in my mouth before a white haze clouded my vision and I was thrown into oblivion.
“A-ha! The spell is working…” A voice pierced the silence of my unconsciousness. “Look, Gamma, finally we have found her!”
“A young wizard. A student, perhaps, with enough potential to save Wizard City!” The voice sounded as if it came from an old man, but the other voice sounded strange, and inhuman. More like a bird.
“Oh really? Where is she from?” the bird-like one asked the old man.
“A very distant realm—by Bartleby, in a world that does not even believe in magic!” I must have been dreaming. Wizards? Magic? Impossible.
My eyes slowly opened, just to show myself that this was indeed a dream. But somehow, when I finally opened my eyes, an old man and an owl loomed over me. A circle with strange glyphs and runes surrounded my body on the wooden floor. It couldn’t be real. Books flew off the shelves, arranging and rearranging themselves, and instead of the electric lighting I was used to, wax candles lit the room. The old man was dressed in deep blue robes covered in golden stars and a crooked hat. His owl wore spectacles!
When I tried to speak, the only things that came out were gibberish. My mouth couldn’t even form a simple “Where am I?”
“Look, she is waking!” the owl exclaimed. That was all it took for me to pass out again.
“Awaken, young Wizard!” Wizards…could it be real? My sense of logic screamed that it wasn’t, but my heart longed for it to be true. Magic…it was a wonderful thing, something that I suddenly yearned for.
This time, I wasn’t reluctant to wake up. I opened my eyes excitedly as the old wizard held a book toward me.
“My name is Merle Ambrose, and I will be your headmaster here at Ravenwood School,” he explained kindly. “Now, take this book and answer the questions truthfully. They will determine your element of magic!” My element…my own element of magic. The thought filled me with anticipation.
I took the heavy book and the feather quill that Headmaster Ambrose offered me and slowly answered each question. Finally, after a very long time, Headmaster Ambrose instructed me to close the book. He waved his wand over it, and suddenly threw it open.
A bright light erupted from it, filling the room with its glow. I was momentarily blinded, but when I could see again, I had eyes only for the book. Burned into the pages and still a bright, hot red, was the lone word that would determine my element…
“My dear, we haven’t had one glow that bright in centuries,” I heard Headmaster Ambrose say softly, staring at the book. Puzzled, I gave him a quizzical glance, but soon I was inching my fingers toward the word FIRE, instead. It still glowed brightly, and I wondered if it felt hot…
The word was warm to the touch, and it would have burnt a normal person’s fingers. But fire never burned me, strangely. Now I knew why—fire was my element.
“Young Wizard, what is your name?” Headmaster Ambrose questions, turning to me.
“Natalie Fairfield, sir,” I told him. A spark of recognition twinkled in his eyes, and it was soon replaced by wonder.
“Who is your father?” he asked suddenly. I hesitated, a lump forming in my throat, but finally managed to spit out an answer.
“Nicholas Fairfield, sir. And my mother...my mother was M-Moira Fairfield.” I wouldn’t let myself think of the crash. The mangled and broken faces of my mother and father when we—no, I couldn’t let myself think of that. Thoughts like that only brought tears.
“Ah, two marvelous wizards. Of course, their real names were…Nicholas Mythhaven and Moira Greenblade, I believe. If only that accident hadn’t happened with Malistaire…” My head snapped up.
“What do you mean? My parents died in a car crash,” I said quietly.
“Yes, yes they did. But it was all the work of an evil wizard by the name of Malistaire. All of Wizard City is threatened by his malevolence now. But let’s not dwell on such a thing. Come, we there is one more thing we must do.” I wanted to ask more questions, but despite Headmaster Ambrose’s kind personality, I imagined he could be pretty stern as well. I decided to ask my questions later and followed Headmaster Ambrose to yet another book, this one even bigger. I really hoped he didn’t expect me to read it…
“Now, before we write your name in here, we must find your wizard name. Fairfield is only a human name, and humans are so dull! Now place your hand on this book and completely relax,” Headmaster Ambrose instructed. I did as I was told, and when I lifted my hand, a silver star shone on my palm. When I asked, Headmaster Ambrose said this was just the mark of a wizard. Every wizard had one, although it was not always on their palm.
Headmaster Ambrose then waved his wand over the book, sending magic drifting over it. I could sense the magic around the room, now. Everything was more colorful from it, and I realized that Headmaster Ambrose glowed brightly with magic. Was this how wizards saw magical things? It was amazing!
When we opened the heavy book, my new name was resting on a line. When I murmured it under my breath, the magic in the room shone brighter, and even more of it filled the air.
I was no longer Natalie Fairfield in my dreamworld. Now, I would be known as Natalie Dragonflame, and I was enrolled at Ravenwood School.
Headmaster Ambrose smiled a little, and so did I. Wizards…it was wonderful. I wondered what would happen when I woke up, since I had to be dreaming, of course. I dreamed I woke up in a magical world. But magic wasn’t really possible. But where would I find myself? In the nurse’s office? The E.R.? Still on the ground? I had no idea. But I decided not to dwell on it, and just tried to enjoy my dream while it lasted.
“Now, you’ll be needing a wand and some proper clothing,” Headmaster Ambrose said, eyeing my modern clothes distastefully. I didn’t see why I couldn’t wear my clothes, but he insisted, saying I would “stick out like a sore thumb.”
Headmaster Ambrose led me to a wooden door and waved his wand. The door immediately opened, revealing outfits of different colors. Many were purple, green, white, blue, and red, among others. There were six different kinds of wands, each having its own row. The old headmaster pulled a red set of robes and a read wand from the closet and handed them to me. I could see that the robes shimmered with magic, and the wand glowed slightly. And then I was led toward yet another big book.
Throughout the morning I was filling out paperwork and applying for fun little clubs and group activities, all the while dreading the moment when I would wake. A while later, I found myself in my own dorm filled with spellbooks and feather quills and piles of parchment. A bed was at one end of the room.
This was quite a long dream. A good one, but long. I decided to venture outside.
As soon as I opened the door, I jumped back and shielded my eyes. A HUGE magical aura was right in front of me. When my eyes were finally able to handle the brightness, I realized that the aura was coming from a tree! But not just any tree. This tree was massive, bigger than Hogwarts from “Harry Potter.” Six or seven trees surrounded it, seeming to branch off its roots or something, as well as an assortment of buildings. One tree caught my eye—it was on fire!
I approached the tree cautiously, and asked why it was on fire.
“I am the Tree of Fire!” he said majestically. “But you can call me Bernie.” The tree smiled (for it did indeed have a face) and his flames grew brighter.
“What is this building?” I queried, nodding towards the building next to the magnificent burning Bernie.
“That? That’s the School of Fire. Ooh, you’d better get going! Classes start in ten minutes!” Ten minutes! I had to hurry!
Startled and frantic, I ran back to my dorm and collected my quill, some ink and a bunch of textbooks Headmaster Ambrose had given me. Tripping down the stairs to the door, I ran down the cobble-stoned street toward the School of Fire, knowing already that I was late.
“Miss Dragonflame, I presume?” A woman with a bright flame for hair and a red dress greeted me coldly when I entered the classroom. Definitely the fire professor. “I don’t like tardiness and I don’t tolerate it. Next time you’re late you’ll have detention. Sit down.” Scared of the teacher’s wrath, I took the only empty seat and placed my textbooks on the table. I’d only been late by three minutes…I’d have to be more careful. Even though it was only a dream, I wanted it to at least be a happy one.
The teacher then decided to introduce herself. “I am Professor Falmea. Here are my classroom rules. No shouting. No drawing. No eating. Definitely no talking out of term!” There was a very long list of rules. She might as well have added “No breathing” to them.
Throughout the day I learned not only about fire spells and such, but also about the other elements and magic itself. For instance, the first elements were Ice, Fire, and Storm magic. Ravenwood’s giant tree was Bartleby. I even heard a rumor that the life professor, Moolinda Wu, had a pet unicorn (although that was only a rumor). But I also learned about darker things. Things like Malistaire. Evil things.
I found out that Malistaire had been the death teacher, and a good one, at that. But then he betrayed Ravenwood, and I even heard that one of Bartleby’s eyes had been destroyed during the battle between him and Ambrose. But I was never sure of what happened, really. No one was.
My dreams weren’t usually so vivid. I wondered if, maybe, this could even be real. It was never possible, but impossible things happen every day. The bee, for instance, isn’t supposed to be able to fly. Its tiny wings aren’t logically able to support it. But the bee flies anyway. If a teeny little bee can defy the laws of physics, then magic can exist.
Besides, I just pinched myself. Very hard. Ouch. Nope, I'm not dreaming.
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