|Today, my mom finally let me take my three younger sisters to the park without her.
The park, about three blocks from our house, was small as parks go. And boring. All it was was a jungle gym and a field not even large enough for a decent sized soccer game. But the younger kids, Sadie and Samuel, loved going there. So I had to take them, and Savannah had little choice but to tag along.
Today, all four of us were at the park: Samuel, Sadie, Savannah, and me, Sarah. I looked around, trying to find them all. Samuel was climbing around on the jungle gym. I spotted Savannah in the field. So where was... yes. There she was in the field. She had just thrown Savannah a ball.
So what was I doing? There was really nothing for me to do here, so I decided to plant myself onto one of those tiny little park benches and try to manage the nearly impossible task of keeping an eye on all three siblings at the same time. At twelve, I was the oldest and the most responsible, so my mom counted on me to keep the others out of trouble.
“Sarah! Help me!”
I whirled around then sighed with combined relief and exasperation. Samuel needed my helped to get across the monkey bars again. It must’ve been the fifth time today.
“I’m coming,” I said. I got off the bench and headed for the monkey bars. Then when I got there I held my arms open for him to jump into.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Samuel. But he’s four years old and probably the biggest troublemaker in the world. So I need to keep an extra careful eye on him most of the time.
I had helped Samuel get to the last rod when I heard shouting coming from across the field.
Oh no! “Not again!” I moaned, pushing Samuel onto the platform. But I didn’t even need to look to know that Sadie and Savannah were fighting. Again.
“Sarah, look! I did it! I made it across!”
I smiled weakly. “Good for you. Stay here, okay?” I said, even though I knew he’d be up and running as soon as I left anyway.
“Okay,” he said.
So off I went, Savannah and Sadie’s shouting driving me insane - almost.
I found them in no time; they were standing near the edge of the woods. I didn’t even get to say, “What’s going on?” before Sadie shouted, “Savannah called me a scaredy-cat!”
I put my hands on my hips and glared at Savannah.
“Well, it’s true!” protested Savannah. That girl always had an excuse ready. “She accidently threw her ball in the woods and made me go get it!”
“I don’t want to!” Sadie wailed. “I might get poison ivy!”
Savannah gave me a look as if to say, You see?
As if that would make me take her side.
“So you’re not getting it?” I asked.
I turned around and stuck my head through the trees. I saw the ball nestled in between two bushes no more than five feet away.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sadie look at me expectantly. Savannah smirked.
Frowning, I walked through the trees, sidestepped a patch of poison ivy, – Sadie was right about that at least- and picked up the ball. It was then that I heard a scream of pain.
I dashed back out onto the field. Sadie was rubbing her arm.
“Come on, guys, let’s not get physical,” I said, looking Savannah straight in the eye. I handed the ball back to Sadie.
I whirled around. Not surprisingly, Samuel had moved from his spot on the monkey bars. He was now on the other side of the field.
“Look!” he shouted. “I see an owl!”
“Go see what he wants,” I said to Sadie.
No sooner than she had left, to make sure Savannah learned the lesson here, I stomped down hard on her foot.
“OW!” She screamed. Her eyes shot daggers at me. “You were the one who said not to get physical!”
“Okay,” I said, fighting to stay calm. “I admit that I could’ve done that a little differently. But can’t you cut her some slack? Just once?”
She tuck out her chin defiantly. “She’s old enough to start doing things on her own now.”
“Exactly! And look at her! She can’t even play a computer game ‘cause she’s too afraid!”
I didn’t say anything; I just returned her hostile stare. I’ve learned that sometimes, silence can be more effective than any insult.
To my relief, Savannah finally scoffed, “I’ll go apologize.” I nodded.
I hope that she at least does it right, I thought as she walked away.
Suddenly, I heard voices. I looked over my shoulder and saw two girls rollerblading on the sidewalk.
It seemed innocent enough at first. But then my eyes narrowed. I had just realized they were from my school. And they were pointing at me.
Here it comes, I thought.
Amazingly, as far apart from each other as we were, I managed to hear a few words of what they were saying.
I scowled as they rolled away, laughing, but I didn’t say anything. People talked about me behind my back all the time, so I was used to it.
I guess they laughed at me constantly partially because I was the class brainiac, the geek, the bookworm, the girl who always turned her test paper in first and still got A’s. That was part of the reason. But it was mostly because of the weirdness.
I was certain that more strange things happened to me than everyone else combined. Everywhere I went, I somehow managed to cause something to happen that I couldn’t explain. I attracted weirdness like a magnet attracts paper clips; it was as simple as that.
There was one time during recess when I was sitting under the shade of an oak tree, finding nothing else to do but watch as everyone else hung out in their little “groups,” knowing I’d be rejected if I asked to join. I had watched them enviously, wishing that I had someone to hang out with too. All of a sudden there was a rustling noise, and then hundreds of birds dove down from the trees and perched on my head, arms, shoulders… well you get the point. I was starting to get uncomfortable and was attracting several stares. But when I tried to shake them off, they wouldn’t budge. Many of the teachers got involved, but nothing what they did helped. In the end, I shouted, “Oh, just go away!” And to my amazement, they flew back into the trees as if they had been there all along.
There was another time just after school when I saw the same two girls that just skated by, about fifty feet from where I was standing. Not only did I actually hear her say, “Sarah is such a freak,” but just when she said it, thick, long vines erupted from the ground and wrapped themselves tightly around the two of them. I almost laughed when I had heard them screaming for help. Sure enough, help had come, but nobody could pull the vines apart. They had to be cut out with a bread knife instead.
Many more strange things happened to me throughout the course of my life, some hilarious, some humiliating. But after each one of them, there had always been a tiny voice in the back of my mind.
Did I do that?
Everyone else seemed to think so. And everything that had happened seemed to be linked to something I said, did, or thought.
Besides the things I mentioned, I had superdeveloped senses, being able to see or hear things from far away as if they were right nearby. On top of that, I almost never got sick. When I did get ill or injured, it seemed to heal faster for me than anyone else. My parents were amazed when I, say, didn’t catch a cold that everyone else in the family had.
“I guess you’re just immune to that sort of stuff,” my mom had told me.
Suddenly, a voice cut through my thoughts. “I’ll go get Sarah,”
I had heard Savannah say it from the opposite end of the field. And she wasn’t shouting or anything.
There goes my super hearing again, I thought.
In a second, Savannah was by my side.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Samuel’s not kidding,” she said. “There really is an owl.” Was it just me, or was there something funny in her voice?”
“Cool,” I said. I rarely saw owls around here, so I thought I might as well come over.
I followed Savannah to where Sadie and Samuel were standing. They both were staring at the same point in the trees, so I followed their gazes.
And I was immediately confused.
“Are you sure that’s an owl?” I asked. Savannah nodded.
It was an owl, but it wasn’t only snowy white. It was also wearing a graduation cap complete with a tassel and blue, round glasses.
“Do you think it’s someone’s pet?” Savannah asked. “People dress up their dogs, so why not owls?”
“I don’t know…” I said uncertainly.
I studied the owl intently. It seemed to be smiling. Wait, could owls do that?
Then… it winked.
I gasped. “Did you see that?” I asked the others. Both Sadie and Savannah nodded.
That ruled out the possibility of hallucinations.
Samuel, meanwhile, had this big, happy grin on his face. “That’s so silly!” he said. At least one of us was enjoying himself.
I turned to look back at the owl, but it had gone.
“Huh? Where did it go?” I heard Sadie say.
Suddenly, the park, the forest, everything around us – I can’t describe this any other way – melted away. Like wax on a candle.
“What’s happening?” asked Samuel.
I didn’t reply. “Grab hands,” I ordered; I didn’t want us to be separated in any way.
But wait, what was I thinking? This couldn’t be real. Could it?
It’s got to be a dream, I thought. I fell asleep on the park bench, or maybe I never even went to the park at all. Simple.
“Aha! The spell is working!” said someone, but it wasn’t one of us. In fact, it wasn’t a voice I knew, or even recognized.
At last, the last of the park melted away, and we found ourselves in a circular room lit only by a few candles. It was a little cluttered, but it somehow had a nice, homey feeling about it. What mesmerized me most, however, were the objects flying, yes, flying, around the room. Books, quill pens, scrolls, they were all zooming around the room in no particular order or formation.
But it is a dream, I reminded myself.
Even stranger than the room itself, if that was possible, were the room’s two inhabitants. The first was an owl, the same one we saw in the forest, on a wooden perch. The other was a person, an old man. He had long white hair and a beard. He had on the weirdest clothes I had ever laid my eyes on: a dark blue robe and hat decorated with tiny stars. He wore a monocle and wielded a staff that was nearly as tall as he was.
“Do you think he’s a wizard?” Sadie asked me. I slapped my hand over her mouth. We might as well have been making fun of his clothes. I hoped that he wouldn’t get angry or think we were rude.
But he merely chuckled.
“Look Gamma, here are Ravenwood’s newest students. Welcome, Samuel Nighttamer…”
“My last name isn’t Sparkleblade!” Sadie exclaimed.
Savannah said nothing but raised her eyebrows.
“…and Sarah Spiritheart. Welcome to the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts, the finest school of wizardry around!”
We all stared blankly at him.
“Please, sit down,” he continued, waving his arm over a nearby couch. “We have many matters to discuss.”
Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel all sat down before I could stop them, so I went to join them too. We all just barely fit.
The man sat in an armchair directly across from us. “I apologize for not introducing myself,” he said. “I am Merle Ambrose, headmaster of Ravenwood School. And this is my assistant, Gamma.”
“How do you do-o-o-o?” said the owl.
I was so surprised, I nearly fell off the couch.
“I must say,” he said, “You are very lucky to be enrolled here. Only wizards of enormous skill can even hope to get in.”
“Are you saying,” I said slowly, “that we’re wizards?”
“Oh, I’m very sorry,” said Ambrose. “I keep forgetting that you come from a world that doesn’t believe in magic. Earth, I think it’s called. Yes, Miss Spiritheart, you are all wizards.” It took me a second to realize that he was addressing me.
Samuel gasped. “Just like Harry Potter!” he exclaimed. I couldn’t help laughing.
“So yo-o-ou already know a wizard?” asked the owl, now sitting on the headmaster’s chair. “Who-o-o is this Harold Spotter?”
“Harry Potter,” I laughed. “But he’s no one, just a character in a book.”
Then it hit me: I was talking to an owl.
This was probably the strangest dream I’ve ever had. And the best.
“Now,” continued Ambrose, “We must figure out what type of wizards you are. In order to do that, we must consult the Book of Secrets.”
As soon as he said it, an ancient looking book drifted from its place on top of a pedestal and into his open arms. Then he took a quill from his desk and handed them both to me.
I skimmed through its pages. It was only a few seconds before I realized what it was.
“It’s a questionnaire,” I said.
“Of a sort,” said Ambrose. “Answer these questions to find out what type of wizard you are and which classes you will attend at Ravenwood.”
Samuel tugged on my arm. “I wanna try!” he said. So I held the book between us.
At first, I wasn’t sure how it would go. Samuel couldn’t read very well yet, so he would probably pick the answers that went along with the best pictures. But Ambrose seemed to think Samuel knew what he was doing, so I went along with it.
Maybe fate will help him decide, I thought. Or magic.
I giggled to myself as I scribbled down Samuel’s answer to the last question.
All at once, everything on the page disappeared and was replaced by one word: BALANCE.
“Me next!” said Sadie. I handed the book to her.
The word that appeared for her was ICE.
Next was Savannah’s turn. ICE.
As Savannah handed me the book, I half expected to wake up in bed. I was almost entirely convinced it was a dream now. And when stuff like this happened in dreams, I often woke up before I could do what I wanted to do.
But to my surprise, I managed to fill out the whole “quiz” without being sent back into my bed. I stared at the page, waiting.
“Very good,” said Ambrose. The book flew back into place.
It was then that I began to doubt my theory about this all being a dream. I selected my longest fingernail and jabbed it into my arm. It hurt.
Maybe this isn’t a dream, I thought. The idea was impossible. Yet as soon as I thought it, happiness began to well up inside me until I thought I would burst.
“There are a few other things we must discuss,” said Ambrose. “First off, your registrations have already been processed, so it is essential that you must start your classes as soon as possible. Tomorrow would be best.”
“Classes? It’s the middle of June!” exclaimed Savannah.
“Your point is?” said Ambrose.
“Never mind,” she said quickly.
“I will now send you home to pack your things,” continued Ambrose, as if there had been no interruption. “Not much is needed; clothes will be provided.”
We’re going to live there? I started to feel slightly anxious.
“Don’t worry,” said Ambrose, as if reading my thoughts. “There will be plenty of teachers to look after you there. And you can visit home whenever you like.”
I certainly hoped so.
“I’ll be there at seven o’ clock to take you to your dormitory,” he said.
“Seven o’ clock,” I repeated.
“I shall see you then!” he said. He raised his staff.
Suddenly, we were back in the park.
For a while, we just stood there, blinking in the bright light. Then Sadie broke the silence.
“Sarah,” she said, “do you really think we’re wizards?”
I smiled at her and shrugged. “Why wouldn’t we be? After all that happened today I’m surprised you think we’re not.”
“Hey, I didn’t say that!” she said.
“So, what do we do now?” asked Savannah.
I thought a minute. “Let’s go home,” I finally said. “We need to go pack.”
My mom looked from the old man standing at the doorway to me. I tensed when I realized that the look she gave me was, in fact, a glare.
“Sarah,” she growled, “what on earth is going on?”
I grinned sheepishly. “Surprise,” I said.
At exactly seven o’ clock, Merle Ambrose had arrived, as promised. I suddenly realized I had refrained telling my mom that he would be here today. So telling her that we would be leaving would be harder than we thought.
I should’ve thought of that, I groaned to myself.
“Forgive me,” said Ambrose, stepping through the doorway, “but I don’t think we have been introduced. My name is Merle Ambrose, and I am the headmaster of a school called Ravenwood.”
My mom stared at him blankly. The corner of her mouth twitched.
“Excuse me, Miss Spiritheart,” he said, “but do you know of a place where we may talk privately?”
Mom looked at me. Spiritheart? She mouthed.
“In here,” I led them both into my parents’ bedroom.
Ambrose tipped his hat and closed the door behind him.
“All right, guys, let’s go get our bags,” I whispered, hurrying them upstairs.
Following Ambrose’s advice, we had decided to pack light. Among what we did pack were pajamas, cosmetics, books, (only I had decided to pack those) and games to play in case we had any free time.
These must be the lightest suitcases we’ve ever had to pack, I mused as I dragged both Samuel’s and my suitcases down the stairs.
Once down, I received a tap on my shoulder from Savannah. When I turned around, she jerked her head in the direction of the door, from which I could hear hushed voices.
I couldn’t help it; I crept over and pressed my ear to the door. They were apparently whispering, but I could hear every word
“The choice is yours,” Ambrose was saying.
I heard my mom sigh. “I don’t know,” she said. “Their father is better at this sort of stuff than I am. But he’s been gone on a business trip for over a week now.”
“They’ll be perfectly safe,” Ambrose reminded.
The next few minutes were in silence, long, tantalizing. I willed one of them to say something more.
Then I heard footsteps. I scrambled back to stand with the others.
Mom came through the door with a grave look on her face. My heart sank. I had so desperately wanted to go.
“It seems,” said my mom, “that you’re going to wizard school.”
My eyes widened. “Really?”
She nodded. And to my surprise she wiped away a tear.
I ran up to hug her. “We’ll visit whenever we can,” I promised.
She gave me a sad smile. “I know you all will be safe,” she whispered in my ear, “but can you look after them? Just in case?”
“Yeah,” I said, “whatever you want, Mom.”
I went back to stand with the others.
“Be sure to do what Sarah tells you, all right?” she asked the others.”
“Yes,” they all said, somewhat reluctantly.
Ambrose walked over to us. “Ready to go?” he asked. Before we had even answered, he said, “Let’s go then!” He seemed as eager to get to the school as we were.
“Bye!” our mom called out.
We all waved back. Ambrose raised his staff again.
Suddenly, we found ourselves in a totally different place. I looked around and gasped.
“Welcome to Ravenwood,” said Headmaster Ambrose.
There was so much to see I didn’t know where to turn. Magical, floating wisps colored red and blue covered the sidewalks. A great tree with a face of an old man stood in the center, surrounded by several other smaller trees. A golden haired boy covered in green from head to toe smiled at me as he walked into a building labeled the Life School.
“This is where your classes will be held,” he said. He turned to Samuel. “You will be taking classes with Arthur Wethersfield.” To Savannah and Sadie, he said, “You will attend class at the Ice School with Lydia Greyrose.” He turned around to face me. “And you will take classes at the Life School with Moolinda Wu.”
Strange name, I thought. I had never heard it before. It sounded distinctively Asian.
Then, Ambrose sent us off on a “quest” (That’s what he called it.) To meet the seven magical instructors of Storm, Ice, Fire, Balance, Life, Myth, and Death. They were all different from each other and we enjoyed meeting them all… except for the Myth professor, Cyrus Drake.
“I wish they would send us some adept pupils for once,” he had sneered. I was stung.
“I’ll show him,” I muttered on the way out. “Incompetent… we’ll see about that.”
Our last stop was the Death School, a gaping, bottomless chasm.
At first we were confused. But then a student named Malorn Ashthorn told us what happened. A man named Malistaire used to teach Death. But then he disappeared, the school right along with him.
Then we went back to Ambrose, debating on whether Malistaire actually caused the Death School to disappear.
Ambrose was right where we had left him. “Ah, excellent,” he said when he saw us. Then he handed us some training points.
“Although you take classes from only one school,” he explained, “these training points will allow you to learn spells from any secondary school of your choice.”
I looked toward the Myth School and grinned. I knew exactly where I wanted to use mine.
“Come this way,” said Ambrose, opening a door.
We followed him through the door, up some stairs, and down a hallway. He halted when he approached a door at the end of the hall.
“This is your dormitory,” he said, handing me a ring with a single, golden key attached. “You will live here until you are able to afford real estate.”
I stuck the key into the lock, twisted it and opened the door.
Inside was a simple room with a wooden floor and stone walls. It was small, maybe just barely large enough for the four of us. On one side of the room was a desk and on the other were two beds.
“I’m afraid it’s not much,” said Ambrose. “However, I did take the liberty of adding an extra bed; I’m not sure you would all fit in just one.” His blue eyes twinkled.
“Thank you,” I said, touched by his thoughtfulness.
Then he pulled out from behind him four sets of robes, hats, and boots. “These are for you to wear when you attend classes,” he said.
He gave one to each of us. Samuel’s were light brown and orange. Sadie’s were white and light blue. Savannah’s were purple and blue. And mine were green and a creamish color that was somewhere between yellow and white.
“You also need these.” He pulled four objects out of thin air. “Wands.” He handed these out as before.
I ran my fingers up and down my new wand. It looked like a tree branch, but it felt as cool, hard, and unbreakable as metal.
“I will leave you now,” said Ambrose. “Come to my office tomorrow so you can learn the basics of Wizard City. No later than seven-thirty.”
“Got it,” I said. I wanted to say something else as he exited through the door, but all that managed to come out was, “Thanks, thanks for everything.”
From outside, I heard him say, “You’re welcome.”
As he left, I checked my watch. It was almost eight.
“All right, let’s get settled in,” I said.
The next couple of minutes we spent unpacking our suitcases and putting our stuff in random places. We even found a door that led to a bathroom where we could place our cosmetics.
I also found time to try on the robes that Ambrose had given me, which were very comfortable. They felt as if they were made especially for me.
At last, it was the time we normally went to bed. We were all dressed and ready.
“Let’s see if I can make this work,” I said, clapping my hands together. “Sadie, you sleep with Samuel in that bed. Savannah and I will sleep in this bed.”
“Samuel kicks in his sleep,” Sadie complained.
“Get used to it,” I said. “Are we all ready?”
We got into our beds.
“Goodnight, everyone,” I said. I received several sleepy replies.
I yawned. It had been a long day.
My mind was swimming as I went to sleep. Wizards. Ravenwood. Ambrose Magic. It was a lot to take in during one day. But I’d get used to it.
The image of the four sleeping children slowly faded from the headmaster’s crystal ball.
“They’ll come around,” he said fondly. “All new pupils do sooner or later.”
Gamma nodded in agreement. “What will yo-o-o-ou teach them when they come to-o-omorrow?”
“A little of this and that,” said Ambrose. “All the essentials. Teleporting, chat, quests and experience, Malistaire.”
The two exchanged dark looks.
“So yo-o-o-ou really think they are the ones, then?” asked Gamma. “In the prophecy?”
“As to that, I cannot be sure,” said Ambrose. “Although they do show a lot of promise, I have not yet seen their full potential.”
“There have been other families,” Gamma reminded.
“Yes, sighed Ambrose, “but none of them had quite the skill I was looking for.”
The family appeared once more in the crystal ball. “They just might be different,” said Ambrose.
“That’s what yo-o-o-ou said the last time,” said the owl.
“And the time before that,” said Ambrose. “I know.”
The slight sternness in his voice let Gamma know that this conversation was over.
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