I was woken up by my sister Sadie, who was bouncing hard on my stomach with her knees.
“Get… off… of… me!” I managed to gasp.
She did, excitement shining in her eyes.
That’s just great, I thought. Why couldn’t I have been woken up by… I don’t know… “a shaft of brilliant sunlight” like any normal person?
It could’ve been worse. Savannah, who was ten, three years older than Sadie, could’ve chosen today to wake me up instead.
“Get up!” shouted Sadie. “It’s time to go to school!” Only in the last four weeks have I ever heard her say that with such enthusiasm. Ever since we started classes at the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts.
“I’m up,” I mumbled. I groggily got out of bed and walked over to my backpack, which had been magically enchanted to fit everything I needed. It held a map, my wand and spell cards, and pretty much all the clothes I owned. Today, I pulled out my favorite outfit: my fairy cloak, fairy shoes, and the healer’s cowl I had recovered from Triton Avenue just two days ago.
Once I had changed into these clothes, I retrieved my wand and spell cards from my backpack, pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and slightly tilted my hat. I was ready.
“Finally,” Sadie said as I slung my backpack over my shoulder.
“If we’re late, I know who I get to thank,” said Savannah. I ignored her and stuck the key into the lock.
Oh, and your eyes aren’t deceiving you or anything. Everything I’ve said so far- magic, wand, spell cards, Ravenwood- is all true. All four of us are wizards and we just started magic classes at Ravenwood School. Samuel’s a balance wizard. Savannah and Sadie are ice wizards. And I’m a Theurgist, or life wizard.
Just four weeks ago, a man named Merle Ambrose had taken us from Earth to Wizard City to enhance our magical abilities. Not everything was exactly predictable here, but it was a lot more interesting. And fun. And not to mention classes here beat boring old math and science by a landslide.
I led the others outside to drop them off at their classes. “You two better get going,” I said to Savannah, who grabbed Sadie’s hand and raced off through a crowd of students.
Then I took Samuel to his balance class. Arthur Wethersfield smiled when he saw me. “Jolly good to se you, Miss Spiritheart,” he said, winking. “You too, Mister Nighttamer.”
Spiritheart. I grinned. That was my new last name here. Everyone’s’ was different, even siblings’.
I turned to go to find a friendly-faced, golden-haired boy standing right nearby.
“Hi, Sarah,” he said.
“Hi, Chris,” I replied.
Chris Willowcrafter had been my best friend ever since my first day of classes. He was smart, caring, and had a great sense of humor. And I could tell he thought the same about me.
I guess I was just really grateful. After all, once upon a time, before I came here, I was considered a freak, a weirdo. I was just glad of a new friend.
“What’s up?” he asked lightly.
“Nothing,” I said. We started walking to the Life School together, like we did every day. Actually, we did everything together: quests, minigames, and classes. It was simple: we enjoyed each other’s company.
“So you’re a level eight now?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m planning on learning the Legend Shield today.” I pulled the door open and held it open for us.
“Welcome, students,” said a soft, mystical voice. It was Moolinda Wu, our teacher.
At first I was a little freaked out about having a talking cow for my life teacher. But then again, most animals talked around here. And as time went by, I began to like her peaceful manner, her soft, almost musical voice, and the lessons she taught us.
“We have been created,” she had advised one day, “so we must learn to create.”
Chris and I took our usual seats in the front row. Unable to wait to learn the new spell any longer. I put my hand up.
“I’m ready to learn the Legend Shield today, Professor Wu,” I said.
“Patience, young wizard,” she said. “We must wait for the rest of the class to arrive. I reluctantly nodded.
Finally, when everyone else who took Apprentice Life Magic was in their seats, Professor Wu walked up to the front of the room.
“Welcome, class,” she said. “Before we begin, I understand that some of us are ready to learn a new spell.” She beckoned me and a girl named Catherine Fairyblossom forward. Then she gave us each a spell card.
“The Legend Shield will protect you from Myth and Death attacks,” she explained. “It will take seventy percent off your opponent’s spell.” Then she carefully showed us how it worked and how to cast it.
“Let’s see you try it,” she said to me when she was done.
I knew exactly what to do. First I traced the life symbol, focusing my energy on the leaf I was creating. When that was done I concentrated on my new spell card, using the limitless magical energy it provided. Then I heard the sounds of a forest- birds chirping, trees rustling in the breeze- which meant the spell was done.
“You have done most excellent, Miss Spiritheart,” I heard Professor Wu say.
I looked down. Swirling around my midriff were two shields, exactly as they had appeared on the card. I heard murmurs of approval throughout the room.
I practically glowed. Even here, in Wizard city, I did well in class. Only instead of being made fun of for it, I was admired.
It felt good.
“So, what quest are you working on?” Chris asked.
I grinned. It was a joke we had made up one day. To ask would be completely redundant because we always did the same quests anyway.
“Guess,” I said.
“Hmm… would it be… defeating the Harvest Lord in Triton Avenue?”
“Yup,” I said. “But I can’t go there just yet.”
“I’ve got an extra training point I need to use. I’m going to schedule private myth lessons.”
“With Drake?” he asked incredulously. I nodded.
“Why him?” he said.
“I know he’s a little strict…”
“Strict doesn’t even begin to describe him.”
I giggled. “I just think myth could prove useful someday.”
“Suit yourself,” he said. “Why don’t I go ahead and you could teleport to me when you’re ready?”
“That would be great,” I said. “Thanks.”
I grimaced as we parted. I hated lying to him.
Of course, it wasn’t a total lie. I really did think myth would come in handy. But the reason I took it had more to do with the fact to prove to Professor Drake, who humiliated me on my very first day, that I wasn’t “incompetent,” like he said I was.
I had a difficult time planning a date and time to learn the next myth spell. Cyrus Drake was just too hard to please. One time I suggested was to early, one time was too late, one time was during his lunch period; it went on like this for so long, I was certain that Chris had already gone to defeat the Harvest Lord himself.
Finally, we came to an agreement. I left the myth school listening to Professor Drake mutter how pesky and unbearable some students were. Feeling my face go red, I teleported to Chris.
To my relief, he was still outside the Harvest Lord’s tower. “What took you so long?” he asked.
“Professor Drake was a little picky,” I replied.
Chris nodded knowingly. “That’s understandable. Now do you see why I picked storm as my secondary school?”
“Oh, stop it!” I laughed.
“Okay,” Chris said. “You ready?”
About twenty minutes later, we both triumphantly emerged from the tower.
“Piece of cake,” Chris said.
“Easy for you to say,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “That crow of the Harvest Lord’s hurt.”
“So should we go talk to Suzie now?” Chris asked.
“Sure,” I said, “but after that I have to go to the Fairgrounds to play some minigames.”
“Saving up for something?”
I gave him a look. “Maybe…a house?”
Right now, my three younger siblings and I lived in our student dormitory. It was a little cramped, so at the moment, we were saving up for real estate. But even though we were all saving up together, we only had about 3,000 coins, not even halfway up to the wooded cottage.
Suddenly, I heard a cry from down the street. “Help!”
“Let’s go,” I said. With that, I tore off down the sidewalk, yanking him along behind me.
It wasn’t long before we found the source of the trouble. A boy was in a battle with three Scarlet Screamers at once. And he was almost out of health.
“We’ve got to help him, Chris, come on!” I was pleased to see that we weren’t too late.
After we both used the fairy spell on the boy to give him back health, it was easy enough to defeat all of the Scarlet Screamers. At last, we were all done.
“Thanks a million,” said the boy once we were safe on the sidewalk.
“No problem,” I said, “but couldn’t you have just fled?”
“I was about to,” he admitted. He flashed another grateful smile, which I returned. The boy, maybe a little older than we were, had olive-toned skin and brown hair so dark it looked almost black. He also had brown eyes that constantly sparkled and was dressed in black and white from head to toe.
“What happened?” asked Chris.
“I was running low on health,” the boy began. “But I went to help some younger wizards who were battling Scarlet Screamers. They fled before I realized I was here. So that left three all to myself.”
“I’m Nolan, by the way,” he continued. “Nolan Darkwind.”
“Sarah Spiritheart,” I said. I looked expectantly at Chris.
“Chris Willowleaf, he said. To my surprise, his tone was steely and cold, and his eyes were narrowed.
Then, without another word, he took my arm and dragged me down the sidewalk.
“Chris, what are you doing?”
He came to an abrupt halt and turned to face me. “Sarah,” he said, “Nolan is a necromancer. A death wizard.”
“So?” I asked.
“So?” Chris looked amazed. “I would’ve thought you’d have known this by now, Sarah. Life and death wizards hate each other. We’re enemies.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t known that. “But he seemed really nice.”
He shook his head. “The Death School can’t be trusted. It’s evil. And it’s where Malistaire used to teach.”
“I knew that,” I said, slightly offended.
“Just so you know,” he said, although he looked worried.
He was with me up until we finished talking to Suzie. Then he said, “Well, see you around,” and teleported home, leaving me alone in Triton Avenue.
He had never done that to me before.
The next day was Saturday, so I was supposed to sleep in. But for some reason, I couldn’t. I woke up around seven, my head filled with images from the dream I just had. They were all of Chris.
What should I do? Well, Chris was an early riser, so I decided to find him and set things right.
I got up and dressed. Then I took out paper and a quill and left a note on the desk for the others to see.
Sorry, but I need to go. Can’t explain. If you all want to do some more quests, you can. Just whisper chat to me if you’re in trouble, all right?
See you soon.
Then I headed outside and sat down under the shade of a tree.
First, I tried contacting him with whisper chat. I talked as long as I was able, but he didn’t reply. Then, when all else failed, I tried teleporting to him. But when I tried, I just ended right back at Ravenwood.
Maybe he’s ignoring me, I thought. No, it couldn’t happen. We had been too good of friends. But was it possible that he was angry at me all because of Nolan?
I turned around, hoping to see Chris.
Instead, it was Nolan who came up to me. “Sarah, right?”
I nodded, remembering what Chris had said about the death school.
“Well,” he said, “I wanted to thank you for saving me the other day.”
“It was nothing,” I said, scrutinizing him. I decided that no matter what Chris said about the death school, this guy seemed friendly enough.
We added each other to our friends lists.
“So,” I said conversationally, “Nolan, right?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I’m not normally a huge talker.
“Yup,” he said. “Nolan Darkwind. The strongest, bravest, most powerful, most awesome…”
“Okay, I get it,” I laughed.
“I was serious,” he said, but I could tell he was joking. “Is something the matter?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean when I saw you, you were pouting with your head between your knees.”
I grinned wryly and shrugged. I didn’t want to worry him yet with details about Chris.
“Okay,” he said. “What level are you, anyway? I didn’t catch it.”
“That’s because I never told you,” I said. “But I’m a level eight. And you?”
“Twelve,” he said thoughtfully. He seemed to ponder something for a moment, then he said, “Would you like for me to show you something?”
“Okay,” I said
He smiled again. “This way,” he said, leading me through the tunnel to the commons.
“This thing you’re going to show me,” I asked, “is it in the commons?”
He nodded. I decided that if it was in the commons, it couldn’t be that dangerous.
Nolan took me to the waterfall, and then he stopped.
“Um…” I stalled. It was a breathtaking waterfall, but everyone knew it was there. “Where are you going with this?” I had to shout to be heard above the roar of the falling water.
To my amazement, Nolan stepped through the waterfall.
I took a deep breath, braced myself, and followed him in.
I gasped. This water was freezing! In fact, I was so cold, I almost didn’t notice where I was. Or the door just a few feet away.
“Here, let me help,” said Nolan. He took a spell card out of his bag and conjured up a fire cat. It pranced around us, warming us both up.
“Ahhh,” I sighed. “Thank you.”
“Now we’re even,” Nolan laughed. He opened the door with a key he took out of his pocket and slipped inside. “Teleport to me when I’m in.”
I shrugged and did as he asked.
I immediately found myself in a place I had never seen before. The ground was hard and rocky, and the only trees were scraggly, bare. I could hear ravens cawing in the distance. There was only one word for this place- spooky.
“Where are we?” I wondered aloud.
“Welcome to Nightside,” said Nolan dryly.
It was then that I saw a building that looked vaguely familiar. And suddenly I knew why. It looked exactly like all of the other schools in Ravenwood.
“Is that the…”
“…death school?” Nolan finished for me. “Yeah. For some reason, when Malistaire caused it to disappear, it ended up here, in Nightside.”
I spun on the spot, not knowing where to look first. Nolan chuckled.
“Want to sit down?” he asked, indicating a wooden bench.
“Sure,” I said. He sat down beside me.
“So, how’s your friend?” he asked.
“Chris?” he nodded. “He’s okay, I guess. Actually, I don’t know. I haven’t seen or heard from him since yesterday in Triton Avenue. I tried to contact him, I did, but for some reason I wasn’t able to.”
When Nolan didn’t reply, I added sheepishly, “I don’t think he likes you much,”
“Hates me, more like.” he said.
“It’s not his fault that he’s life,” I said defensively.
Nolan looked at me, and I was shocked to see a touch of bitterness in his eyes.
“It’s not just the death and life schools,” he said. “It’s the death school against every other school.
“The death school has a bad reputation,” he continued, “if you haven’t noticed. People hate us. They never approach us because we’re supposedly “evil.”
I thought of Chris and the things he said about the death school. Maybe it was really just a stereotype.
“And it’s all because of Malistaire,” he spat. “And his Black Hand.”
This, I noticed was a rather odd thing to say. “Black Hand?” I asked.
“You’ve never heard of the Black Hand?” he asked. When I shook my head no, he went on.
“When Malistaire disappeared, about five years ago, he also took with him five students who were all loyal to his cause. He took them here, to Nightside, and trained them until they were almost as powerful as he was. Now they live with him in his hideout, wherever that is.
“What are their names?” I asked.
“Ian Ghostbringer,” he recited, “Patrick Nightwalker, Cornelia Greyheart, Nora Skullhorn, and Marcus Deathspear. They’re all very powerful dark wizards. And they all enjoy pain and cruelty just as much as their master.
“They don’t come out very often,” he continued, “but when they do, it’s a nightmare. They set fire to buildings, summon monsters to attack people, and do anything else to cause devastation. I think the last time anyone saw them was in Marleybone, about a year ago. It was a disaster. A lot of people were injured. Or killed.”
He continued, “They are completely devoted to their master, Malistaire. If he gave an order, they would obey it without question. They are completely attached to him, kind of like a hand is attached to an arm. That’s how they got their name.”
“That sounds terrible,” I said.
“And the worst of it,” he said, “is that they’re still really young. In their late teens or something like that. Marcus…I think he’s only twelve or thirteen. But he’s the most powerful. And Malistaire’s favorite. At least, that’s what everyone’s said.
I can see why everyone would hate the death school, I thought, with students like that. I felt really sorry for Nolan.
So I gave him a smile, just like the ones he gave me, put a hand on his shoulder, and let him know he had a friend in me.
Days passed. Saturday faded into Sunday, and Sunday into Monday. But until Monday morning, I hadn’t heard from Chris at all. Instead, I hung out with Nolan during the weekend. I learned that he was funny, kind, and had a somewhat mischievous nature. He constantly was cracking jokes and making me laugh.
He reminded me a lot of Chris.
When I walked into the Life School on Monday, I had almost given up on Chris entirely. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw him where he normally sat, waving at me as I walked in.
“Over here,” he said to me. Bewildered, I sat down next to him.
He opened his mouth to say something, but just before he spoke, we heard the soft voice of Professor Wu telling us class was ready to begin.
Barely five minutes later, Chris pressed a scrap of paper in my hand. First looking around to see if Professor Wu wasn’t watching, I read the note that was on it.
Meet me in the Life Tower. Right after class.
I scribbled on the back, OK, see you then, and handed it back to him from under my desk. I wondered what that was all about.
The rest of the period seemed to pass by twice as slowly as usual. First, Professor Wu handed back Friday’s homework. (Chris and I both got an A+) Then we did a short exercise in which we practiced healing magic. Well, I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be short, but it felt like it went on for hours. In fact when class was over and we had to make way for the Initiates, I was nearly half dead, which had never happened to me before- not while I was taking classes here.
I went across the path and through the door to Life tower. Chris and I sometimes went here after class if we didn’t want to be surrounded by people. Every memory I had of this place was happy, but what if today wasn’t?
Chris was there, in the center of the room, holding a bulging bag. I walked up until I was just inches from his face. Then I put my hand on my hip.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “Where were you all last weekend?”
“Easy,” he said teasingly, holding his hands up. “You don’t know all the details.”
“Maybe,” he said, “I didn’t want you to be near me all last weekend because I was arranging a little surprise for you; did you ever think of that?”
Instantly, all the anger that had flared up inside me was gone. “Surprise?”
“Yeah.” He held out the bag. I took it, unraveled the string that tied it together, and carefully opened it.
“Oh!” I gasped.
Inside the bag were coins. A lot of coins. More than I had ever seen in my life. Maybe enough to buy a forested mansion.
Which was probably why Chris was grinning.
“You didn’t…” I started.
“I did,” said Chris. “It’s for your house. It probably took about a thousand minigames to earn it all, but seeing the look on your face was worth it.”
I flung my arms around his neck. This was another thing I liked about Chris: he was okay with stuff like that.
“You’re the best, Chris! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” he laughed.
“I guess the whole death school thing his behind us now,” he added.
I squirmed uncomfortably. How would he react if he found out I was Nolan’s friend?
“I guess…” I managed to say.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Why don’t you go finish up your Triton Avenue quest and then we could start on Firecat Alley?”
“Okay,” I said.
I left him with that awful feeling still in my stomach. Like I said, I hated lying to him.
The only thing left to do for Triton Avenue was to talk to Headmaster Ambrose. I didn’t feel like walking the whole distance, even though it wasn’t that far away. So I just teleported to the commons and walked from there.
When I entered the tower, I saw both Ambrose and his owl, Gamma, huddling over something I couldn’t see. They were also whispering to each other. But as a life wizard, I could hear every word.
“Miss Spiritheart. I have reasons to think that she may be the one mentioned in the prophecy.”
“The tru-u-ue healer?”
“I have told you, Gamma, I can’t be sure.”
“But she is so young! The others to-o-o-o! There’s no way they can possibly defeat Malistaire!”
“I agree that it is a lot to put on one’s shoulders. But if she is, in fact, the one mentioned in the Prophecy of Light…”
They continued their conversation in urgent whispers. Meanwhile I was frantically trying to comprehend all this. Prophecy of Light? True healer? Defeat Malistaire? Did I somehow have something to do with all of this?
“Ho-o-o-o,” Gamma warned suddenly.
Ambrose spun around, but not before shoving what he and Gamma were examining in one of the drawers in his desk.
“Ah, Miss Spiritheart! Good to see you again!” I couldn’t help but notice he was using a falsely cheerful voice that one normally uses when they’re trying to hide something.
I stared at him.
“What did you just hide behind your back?” I asked. Now wasn’t the time to worry about asking personal questions.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said calmly.
“But I saw you!” I said incredulously. You just put something in your desk! And you were talking about me and this prophecy thingy! You…”
“Now is not the time for you to know,” he said. “Trust me on this. Soon your time will come to find out. But not now. So why did you come to see me?”
This change of subject was so sudden, I started talking about Suzie and Artur in Triton Avenue before I realized what I was doing. Of course, by the time he handed me my prizes and experience, it was too late to go back to the subject of the prophecy. So I said good-bye and walked out the door.
I left the office hurt and confused. What was this “Prophecy of Light?” Why did Ambrose try to hide it from me? And what did I have to do with it?
Whatever the answers to those questions were, I had a feeling that it couldn’t be good.
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