|I’ve always known that I was special. Turns out, I was even more special than I thought. I always did well in school, with straight A’s. I’m very artistic, and draw exceptionally well. I have a great sense of taste, and design a lot of clothes. The only catch is that I just want to be normal. I don’t want to go to college at 14, or go to an expensive art lesson every week, or be some celebrity fashion designer. I just want to be plain Erin Nightshade.
I was in sixth grade, and knew just about everyone in my grade, plus some of the seventh graders. My best friend in the entire world had the same schedule as me, and we always sat next to each other. Her name was Victoria SpiritBlossom. Tori for short. No one knew what happened to my parents, and I stayed with Tori at her grandparents’ house. She didn’t know where her parents were either, and her grandparents never cared what we did. We always joked about our names, because they were so weird. I was never a particularly cheery kid, and I was very serious about things, but I was happy plenty of the time. One of the things that I thought about sometimes, was my birthmark. It looked like a skull, and was on the palm of my right hand.
It all started one day when I was in art class. I was getting a little frustrated that I couldn’t paint the image that was in my head perfectly. The colors on the canvas were very bright, but all of a sudden, the paint started to peel and turn grey. It dried up, and cracked right in front of my eyes. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I knew I shouldn’t tell anyone. Before my classmates noticed my canvas, I switched it for a new one. When I looked over at Tori’s canvas, her colors were more vibrant than anyone else’s. I just thought it was a trick of the light.
A few months later, something else happened. I was doing some community service for extra credit. I was at the local park, planting some rose bushes, and they were wilting faster than normal. One second, they were bright and perky, and the next, they were limp and sagging. I was starting to panic, so I gave them some water and made sure they were in the sunlight. It didn’t help, so I just told myself it was a little cold, because it was spring. It was 87 degrees, and everyone was wearing short sleeves. Tori had been planting baby trees, and I noticed that they were blossoming with pink flowers. I didn’t even know that Oklahoma had cherry blossoms. There was no way that was a trick of the light.
The rest of the year went fine, except for my science fair project, which involved growing bean plants. During summer break, Tori and I were inseparable. We were swimming in our pool, which was colder than it should be, when I saw a reflection of an owl on the water. Before I could say anything, Tori swam right through it. I saw it again, and she noticed as well.
“Look!” She said. “Did you just see that?!”
“Yeah, but I don’t see the owl anywhere except in the reflection…”
A voice hooted out, “Isn’t this Erin Nightshade’s and Victoria SpiritBlossom’s residence?”
Tori and I started freaking out, but the voice told us to calm down. It mentioned something about a looking glass spell, but neither of us understood.
“I guess no one has explained anything yet.” It sighed, and spoke again, “If you would come with me, I can show you everything.”
“No way!” I said, stepping out of the pool. “I’m not going anywhere with a freaky owl who only appears in a reflection. Oh, and not to mention that you can talk!”
“Not to be rude but she’s right” Tori said as she followed me to get her towel.
“I wasn’t going to start out like this, but I will if I must,” sighed the owl.
“What are you talking about-” but before I could finish the sentence, we were surrounded by a swirl of sparks. They were every color of the rainbow, and then there were colors I had never seen before. They didn’t burn, and I heard a light “pop”. When the sparks cleared, Tori and I were in a state of shock.
Right before my eyes there were castles, unbelievably huge trees, people in weird clothes holding sticks, and some of the people were riding on dragons and horses. One of them was even riding a white tiger.
“What did you do?!” I screamed at the owl, who was sitting on a perch nearby. “Where are we? When are we? And how did we even get here?”
“I think I need to explain some things to you two.” This time it wasn’t the owl who spoke. There was an old man in a violet robe, with a pointed hat. His voice was a little rough, like he had been through a lot lately. “My name is Headmaster Ambrose”.
“Listen, Mr. Amber-Rosey, or whoever you are, I need to go home. No offense, but this isn’t exactly something I can take seriously.”
“I completely understand your confusion, but I also think that you should step into my office for a few minutes. If, for nothing else, than to change clothes.”
I hadn’t noticed that we were still in our swimsuits, wrapped up in large towels. Tori hadn’t said a word since arriving, and was still taking in everything around her. Several people had stopped to watch the scene unfold.
“Erin, I think we should listen to him” Tori was wearing a serious face, which she hardly ever used. “He seems to know what he’s talking about, and I’m getting cold.”
Reluctantly, I nodded my head and went inside. The inside of the castle looked like a normal office, except there was no computer, and the room was lit by a few candles. Despite the small amount of candles, the room was surprisingly bright. One side of the room was piled high with books, enough so that the door was blocked. I didn’t know what was behind the door, but I wanted to find out. We sat down in a large chair, and the old man sat at his desk across from us.
“You are different from your friends, and have been since you were born. The world that you have just entered is full of mythological beasts, fairytale creatures, and figments of your imagination. It is full of wizards, witches, and warlocks. There is no power known as electricity here, but instead, things are powered by magic. You will learn to cast spells, battle monsters, and master all of the magical arts.”
“Wait, you still haven’t told us where we are.” I reminded him. “And by the way, who are you?”
“Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry. I am Headmaster Ambrose, and you are in Wizard City. There are many worlds among the spiral, but you’ll start out here. You will learn magic spells from Ravenwood, the main school. There are seven different magics, Balance, Storm, Ice, Fire, Death, Myth, and Life.”
“Okay, but I still don’t get what this has to do with us.”
“Well, we just got over our last crisis about six months ago…”
Ambrose told us about some guy named Malistaire, and how they finally defeated him. Everything had been peaceful for a little while. Gradually, though, Ambrose noticed that the Life students had completely stopped talking to the Death students, and the Fire kids had put up posters against joining the Ice school. The Storm students were even zapping the Myth kids. Things were unraveling, and he was afraid that if it didn’t stop soon, there would be total chaos.
“We need you two to help stop this madness.”
Not much time had passed since we left the swimming pool, but it felt like an eternity.
“Now that you mention it,” I said softly, “I always thought there was something big going on, and I just didn’t know what it was.”
“Can we please have some clothes, now?” asked Tori.
“Of course. I almost forgot. You two need to find out which school you belong to.” He got a large book off the top of a pile by the door. When he opened it, the pages were swirling, and it looked like a rainbow colored spiral, with little bubbles around its edges. Ambrose gave me a quill, and told me to answer the questions. When I looked back down, there was a quiz. I completed it, and the pages sparkled back, Death. That explained a lot about the roses, the painting, and my birthmark. I passed the quill to Tori, whose answer from the book was Life. I got really nervous about what the headmaster had just told us. We had never even had any fights, but now I suspected that we soon would.
He got us some clothes, and they were the weirdest things I had ever seen. Mine were black and white, which I kind of liked, but the hat was a little pointed, and the robe looked medieval. Tori’s outfit was a deep green, with light brown swirls around the edges. We had wands, too. Mine was a polished staff of metal, with a skull on top. I hoped it wasn’t a real skull. Tori’s was exactly the opposite. It was a real branch of a tree, with leaves blossoming all over.
“Now, I suppose you should meet your new teachers.” He said, with a twinkle in his eyes. He gave us each a map, a book telling us everything we needed to know, and sent us off to explore the new world.
When we got outside to what was called The Commons, everyone started talking at once.
“Are you two new here? Let me show you around! What school are you?”
Tori and I just walked right past them, not wanting to get too deep in conversation at that point. We hurried to get to a gate that read, Ravenwood School. When I got inside, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. In the center of the valley was a 250 foot tall tree, and it had eyes and a mouth! To my right there was a willow tree with a cloud over it, a tree that was covered in snow, and a tree that was on fire. By each tree there was a small building that were decorated in different colors, purple and yellow, blue and white, and red and orange. To my left, there was a cherry blossom tree, just like in the park at home, a tree with one eye, and a tree that looked completely dead. This time the buildings were green and brown, yellow and blue, and black and grey.
“According to my schedule, I’m supposed to go to the Life school.” said Tori, still in awe of the scene around her.
“I’m supposed to go to the Death school, but I don’t think it’ll be hard to find it. The colors make it pretty obvious.”
We both headed off toward the Life school, because I wanted to see it too. The teacher was a cow, and she was really nice. The students inside, not so much. I quickly made my exit, while Tori tried to learn the life symbol. I walked behind the huge tree, whose name was apparently Bartleby, to find the Death classroom. The earth around the school looked rough and jagged, as if it had gone through an earthquake. Inside, it was very gloomy, but it somehow felt like home. Where the teacher should have been, there was a hunchbacked old man, carrying a lantern. He said his name was Dworgyn, and that he used to be the death class assistant. After Malistaire had gone off in a rampage 18 months before, the Death school had fallen below Ravenwood. After the students defeated Malistaire, they had helped to get the classroom back. He taught me the death symbol, which looked like a skull, and helped me draw it in the air. The other students were friendly enough, and they related to me in a lot of ways, but they kept making rude remarks about the Life school. They said that I did much better than any Life student would have, or that I made the right choice. I knew that I shouldn’t let them talk that way, so I paid a visit to the Life school. I found out that I can choose a second magic to study, so I signed up for Life. The classroom was in chaos when they found out. Moolinda Woo and Dworgyn tried to calm them down, but they wouldn’t listen. Tori and I quickly fled the scene, after picking up our deck of spells. When we reached the front of the valley, I noticed that there was no Balance school. I asked a dog who stood like a person about it. He said that he was the Balance professor, and that there had never been a Balance school. There hadn’t been enough money to build it.
“That’s horrible!” Tori exclaimed “That might have something to do with the current issue between the schools.”
“Maybe. But for right now, we need to go talk to someone on Unicorn Lane.” I said as we were waving goodbye to the professor. The rest of that day was the best in my life. Sure, Unicorn Lane was a little too bright and cheery for me, but we both had a lot of fun defeating all the monsters. We even got the whole street completed before dinner.
“Speaking of food and stuff, where do we live?” I asked the headmaster after telling him about our triumph.
“Oh, my goodness! I am so sorry, girls. I forgot to tell you about dorms! Here, take this note to Simeon. He’s just outside of the Storm school. He’ll give you the keys to the dorm rooms.”
We headed off to Ravenwood, and sure enough, there were dorms right by the entrance. Simeon gave us two sets of keys, and we found our rooms. They were on the top floor of the tower, and the view was amazing. Back on Earth, we had always shared a room. We tried to get to sleep in our different rooms, but we wound up moving Tori’s bed into my dorm. One side of the room was decorated with green plants and happy looking pictures, while the other was covered in slightly dreary décor. Tori always kept her things neat and organized, but my things were just left wherever I put them. We got along really well, despite the different schools. By the time a month had passed, we both had the badge Three Streets Savior. The issue between the schools hadn’t gotten any worse, but it hadn’t gotten better, either. I thought that the whole point of having a balance school was to bring the schools together, despite the opposites. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I had made a lot of new friends, mostly Death, but one of them was from the Balance school. His name was Tony RavenClaw, and he was different from the rest. Most of the Balance kids that I had met hated every other school. The Death kids in my class only disliked Life, and Fire only hated Ice, but Balance topped it all. Tony, on the other hand, enjoyed every magic, and chose spells from each one. The day I met him was one of the weirder ones since coming to Wizard City.
I was relaxing by the Death school, sitting on one of Bartleby’s roots, when Tony went inside. He looked nothing like a Death Student, or even a Myth student. Death and Myth were always closely related, and got along well. When I peeked through the door, Dworgyn wasn’t teaching him anything. Instead, he was rooting around his storage closet, muttering about needing something. Tony gave him something inside a jar that was glowing, and Dworgyn accepted it by giving him a spell I had never seen. It looked like a mix between all of the iconic creatures. I had one eye, like a Cyclops, had a skeletal body, one hand was holding a torch, the other an icicle, sparks were flying from it, and it was wearing a sash of blossoming flowers. It was a Balance spell. I could just see the symbol for the scale before Tony put it away. As he was exiting, he noticed the look on my face.
“Oh, you must have seen the card.” He said as I was trying to control m facial expression. “It’s called an Elemental Spirit. It has the raw power of the elemental magics, but it also has complexity of the secondary magics. It’s the most powerful spell I know of, and it has the power to create peace, or to wage war.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it. How did you get it?”
“Malistaire gave it to Dworgyn just a week before he started causing trouble. There’s only supposed to be one card at a time, but some people think that there’s more.”
We started talking about different spells, and I realized that he was really friendly. He didn’t know why, but he was just different. Tori had been working on a quest for Moolinda Woo, and when she found us, I introduced her. She immediately made friends with anyone who was kind, so they were off to a great start. The next day we figured out that we were working on the exact same quests, and were on the same level. Together, we excelled faster than anyone else in the spiral. If only things had stayed like that.
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