|I leapt out of bed and bounced across the room. A small figure was curled up in a ball under a bright red duvet.
“Nat!” I yelled, shaking the figure. “Nathaniel! Get up!”
Nat gave a grumble and rolled over. I sighed and tried again.
“I said, WAKE UP!”
Nat finally opened his eyes.
“No you didn’t,” he mumbled. “You said get up. Actually, you said ‘Nat, Nathaniel, get up’.”
I groaned, exasperated already, and pulled the duvet off.
Naturally, he protested. “Gerroffme!” he whined. “Gimme the duvet!”
I raised an eyebrow. “You want to be late for school?”
He nodded, eyes closed again. When I didn’t respond, he realized.
“No! Wait! No!” Finally Nat leapt out of bed. He’d remembered. Ravenwood.
I yanked on my robes and boots, pulled my hat over my head, and rolled up my sleeves.
As I might have said before, that’s a habit of mine.
Sorted. I couldn’t say the same for Nat. He was busy combing his hair. I grabbed the comb, tossed it on his unmade bed, and dragged him towards the door.
An enormous tree loomed over the five buildings that always seemed to be gathered around it. Nat wriggled free of my grasp and went sprinting after his friend – dressed in black and red. Another necromancer. They headed towards the storm school. Soon they were both in animated conversation. I wasn’t surprised. They had been working on quests together and had just finished up Cyclops Lane yesterday. I sighed. I usually did my quests on my own.
Gamma the owl flew overhead. “Hat on, Thomas Deathsong!” he hooted. There was a smirk on my face. It was soon wiped away. “Miss Stormrider, roll down those sleeves! How many times to I have to tell you? That’s the third time this week,” Gamma sighed irritably.
Arthur Wethersfield smiled at me as I made my way around the tree to a chasm on the edge of Ravenwood, where a grinning boy in black and white robes stood. A crowd of smaller kids were gathered around him, sat on the grass. Most of them made the grass wilt as they touched it.
“Alexandra,” acknowledged Malorn Ashthorn, gesturing towards the grass so I knew it was okay to sit down. I didn’t, though. I walked up to him.
“I have a training point I’d like to use,” I began.
“Level twelve, huh?” he smiled. “Seems just yesterday you and Nat were novices.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said. “But can I learn Banshee today?” I added impatiently.
“Sure. Here’s the card.” I was handed a black card with a picture of a screaming woman on it, and a few figures.
“Quieten down, guys!” commanded Malorn. He always insisted that he was really just a student, like us, so we were allowed to call him Malorn instead of Professor Ashthorn. After all, the professor title didn’t really suit him.
“Okay, so today we’re gonna go over the Banshee spell…” A couple of level fourteens groaned. To be honest, I felt a bit sorry for them. It must be kinda dull to keep going over a spell they had learnt four levels ago. Then again, they would be journeymen soon. And then they’d learn Vampire. Awesome.
“Spellbooks out! Turn to the death chapter, it’s page 597, section 4. Who can tell me the accuracy of banshee?”
“85%!” cried a myth student at the back.
“Three – or one power, one normal.” A level thirteen necromancer.
“245 death damage, except when there are resists, shields, or damage debuffs.” Me this time.
“305 death, excluding boosts, traps, and blades.” Another necromancer.
“Great! Now the boring bit’s over, you can practice it. Get going, guys!”
I took out my wand and grabbed a Banshee card from my deck. I had been practicing this in private for almost a week now, wheedling a few cards out of Autumn Willowbreeze, my journeyman theurgist friend who seconded in death. It had taken a while, but eventually I had mastered it. And the banshee had only escaped once. I blamed Nat, despite the fact that he was only level 7.
I traced the death symbol, feeling an icy breeze swirl threateningly around me and seeing skulls appeared all around me. I was freaked out when I first cast a successful Dark Sprite and that happened, but I’d got used to it. It was just what happened. Unexplainable. Well, not exactly unexplainable, but we don’t learn about it until we get into Master Class, and that’s ages from now.
A banshee appeared in front of me. I nodded and she opened her mouth and started to wail. More banshees appeared and joined in the screeching. It was giving me a killer headache.
“Nice work, guys!” A voice cut across the horrific sound. I signaled for my banshee to quit the screaming, and she did so, a little reluctantly, folding her arms like Nat in a strop.
“Good control, Alexandra!” I glowed. I’m a bit of a sucker for praise. “Oh, and Thomas, remember, it’s a ghost. Don’t try to restrain it.”
A level ten who I knew was called Thomas Deathsong was trying to cover his banshee’s mouth. He grinned sheepishly as it kept on screeching.
Half an hour later, I was sitting on one of Bartleby’s roots watching two necromancers trying to make their banshees fight each other. They were failing miserably – all the banshees would do when provoked was wail, and it was pointless anyway, because they were unable to hurt each other, seeing as they were just spirits. Eventually they gave up and dismissed the ghosts.
“Okay, class!” yelled Malorn Ashthorn, trying to be heard over the banshees that remained. “Dismiss your banshees and pack away your wands. Homework – practice controlling these banshees! Off you go!”
I slung my backpack over my shoulder and started towards the Commons. I walked into the library and sat down, grabbing my history book, notebook, quill, and ink. Harold Argleston walked in.
“Good morning, class. Today we will be learning about the rebellion of the pyromancers in 76 WCE. Please have your notebooks open to take some notes. I have prepared a presentation, and it would be well-advised for you to listen, as I am going to set you a project on this. Resources for your research will be available here every day after classes, although I would recommend you pay a visit to the Krokotopia library, as they have much information on the subject. And do try chapter 8 of your books – that should be helpful. In your projects I expect the cause of the revolt, the effects, and a detailed personal analysis of the revolt. This will be due in next week.”
I sighed and held my pen poised. I would have to come back here after school to study. I had been planning on starting Colossus Boulevard today. I sighed again. I guessed that would have to wait. I was no whiz at history. Harold Argleston began his presentation, and I responded by beginning to scribble notes on what I could understand of the subject.
I had a free lesson next, so I decided to have a break before starting on my history project. I strolled over to the chasm where the death school used to be. I liked the place – the silence and the cold wind that seemed to be there permanently. I assumed it was okay for me to stay in the place as long as there were no classes being held there. There weren’t any today. There were a few apprentices trying to control their thunder snakes outside of the storm class. I giggled to myself as a thaumaturge was electrocuted by a particularly feisty one.
I was dangling my feet over the edge when I first heard the noise – a great booming sound. I was pretty surprised to say the least. It was always silent when classes were being held. But I knew that the apprentice myth class was going on, so I assumed it was trolls. I did think it was very loud though. In theory, that made sense, as I was sitting next to the myth classroom, but it sounded closer. And surely it was too loud to be a troll whacking the floor with his club. It boomed again. The floor was shaking.
I set down my sandwich and stood up. I had a bad feeling about the noise, but I was determined to prove myself that it was simply an unruly troll. I stepped quietly towards the myth school. I peeked in at one of the windows. No trolls. Just students with heads bent over their desks. As if Cyrus Drake would let them do anything fun anyway.
But then, what was the noise?
There was another earth-shattering boom, this time followed by a cruel laugh. I rounded a corner to see a tall myth kid with blue hair and a satisfied smirk on his face, accompanied by two smaller myth kids and a…
And what was more, it was lunging at a diviner, who was backed against Bartleby in fear. On an impulse, I rolled up my sleeves (again) and sprinted over to them.
“WHAT THE HECKHOUND,” I began, furious. “DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?”
The tall myth kid looked round with a puzzled expression, which was only to turn to another smirk when he saw me.
“Why is that any of your business?” he said, haughty and unruffled.
“TELL THAT STUPID CYCLOPS TO STOP!”
“And why should do that?” he asked in exactly the same stuck-up manner.
“TELL IT TO STOP BEFORE I KNOCK THE MANA OUT OF YOU!” I was right in his face now. Well, not exactly face, because I was half a head shorter than him. But still making an impression, or so I hoped.
“Alright, chill out,” he said, a tad defensively, folding his arms. “But aren’t you going to answer my questions?”
“No,” I said, before I could stop myself. “You get that stupid, idiotic creature to quit that right now or I’ll… I’ll…”
“Did you hear that, my fine Cyclops friend?” asked the tall boy.
The Cyclops turned around and faced me. He grunted.
“Yes,” the stuck-up kid said smoothly. “She did insult you.”
The Cyclops grunted again.
The Cyclops was getting ready to obey. I darted through its legs, confusing it, and grabbed the diviner, who had been watching with a mixture of confusion, fear, and amusement. I tore off my backpack and fumbled for my wand and deck. I flicked through it desperately. Lightning strike… Dream Shield… Storm blade… Thermic Shield… Lightning Bats!
With a wave of my wand, a cluster of purple clouds appeared. There was a high-pitched shriek and a flash of lightning as several purple-blue bats swooped down towards the myth kid.
And that was when Headmaster Ambrose decided to appear.
There was one word going through my head – oops.
Immediately, Cyrus Drake had appeared, claiming that Reed (the tall kid – his last name was Mythstrider) had done nothing wrong, and that the apprentices had simply been practicing summoning their trolls. As I opened my mouth to say that I had seen the apprentices and they were most definitely had not been practicing spells, he continued to state that I had simply launched a completely unprovoked attack on three innocent myth children. My mouth was hanging open in shock. I was disgusted. How could he say that? He’d been in the classroom the whole time.
Of course, the Mythstrider kid had probably got off scot-free – typical conjurer luck.
The diviner and I were waiting outside Merle Ambrose’s office. It was the first time I’d had a proper look at him. I recognized him vaguely from class. Fair hair, green eyes. He seemed to be taking an interest in the floor. It was an awkward silence. I bit my lip and tried to start a conversation.
“So,” I began. “Um… What’s your name?”
“Jacob… Jacob Ravencloud. But call me Jake.” He replied, smiling.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m Alexandra Stormrider. But call me Alex.”
“What level are you?” I added.
“Twelve. And you?”
There was another uncomfortable silence.
“That Mythstrider kid is a right pain, don’t you think?” I said thoughtfully.
“Mmmmm,” replied Jake, suddenly serious.
“I mean, what is up with him?” I said, trying to lighten the atmosphere.
Jake grimaced. “Seriously, Reed is nuts.”
“He beats me up. Or, that Cyclops does.”
I mentally kicked myself for momentarily forgetting that he was the guy being beaten up by the Cyclops.
“For sticking up for me. Usually everyone pretty much ignores it.”
“Oh. Well. You’re welcome, I guess.”
It was kinda awkward. I hadn’t really thought about that much. As I said, it was on an impulse.
“So, what quest are you working on?”
I blinked. “Um… I just got in Colossus Boulevard.”
“Wicked. You’ll have to take me in there some time. I’m finishing up my Firecat Alley quest.”
“Firecat Alley? So you’ve nearly done the main quests for all three streets? You’ll be in Colossus in no time!”
“That’s the follow-up quest? Great! I’ve been looking forward to it for ages!”
“Didn’t you know already?”
“You don’t have any friends at a higher level than you, do you?”
“Don’t look so worried about it. You’ll probably make some in Colossus Boulevard. I’ve heard there are lots of high-level kids there. I mean, it’s an optional area. Most people go back to it after Krokotopia.”
“So… um… What’s your secondary school?”
Jake went a bit pink. “Um... Life.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“It’s a girly school.”
“Says who?” I was angered. The life school was definitely not girly. Gosh, I would get into an all-out fight if I even suggested that to Autumn. “And why did you pick it if you think that?”
“I don’t think that.”
“So why did you say it?”
“That’s what everyone thinks.” I was getting seriously annoyed.
“Even the grandmaster theurgist boys?”
“It’s not girly! There are loads of boys in the Life School!”
“Reed says…” Reed?
“The Mythstrider kid?” I exploded. “Why are you even listening to him, let alone taking any notice of what he says?”
“It’s just what he says.” What did it take to get the message across?
“Forget about him. He’s a loser.”
“Seconding in Life isn’t a bad thing. I wish I had.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Ah… my little brother made me…”
“Who’s your little brother?”
“Oh, Nathaniel Ironheart. He’s level seven, death school. He said he’d go for storm if I went for death. He did go for storm, but I regret it now.”
“Yep. As I said, Life is cool.”
Boys were so stupid sometimes.
“Miss Stormrider, Mister Ravencloud,” Merle Ambrose beckoned, opening the door to his office. I had almost forgotten why I was there in the first place. I followed him into his office, Jake trailing behind.
“Well,” he said sternly. “I am at a loss as to what has happened here. You two seemed perfectly well-behaved until this incident! And you, Miss Stormrider, should know better than to summon creatures during classes without permission. I am very disappointed. And Jacob, where did you manage to get involved in this? As I said, I am at a loss.”
“Professor Drake lied!” I complained. “That myth kid started it! He had a Cyclops and it had Jake against the wall and it was throwing its weight about like a Helephant or something! The apprentices weren’t practicing Troll! I saw them! They were having a test! And anyway—”
“Miss Stormrider! Do be quiet. I do wish to hear what happened in your own words, but that outburst was quite unnecessary. And you do realize that you are asking me to mistrust the word of one of the faculty?”
“Of course I realize!” I sighed. “Because he was lying! Honestly! Tell him, Jake!” I turned to Jake expectantly.
“Well…” Jake was hesitating. I nodded at him encouragingly. “I don’t know what the apprentices were doing…” I frantically shook my head at him. “But Reed did have a Cyclops,” he added, taking my hint. “It was pinning me against Bartleby.”
“Are you sure this is what happened?” Ambrose was frowning.
“Yes! Of course we are!”
“Very well. I do not believe this was entirely your doing,” Ambrose said solemnly. I grinned. “But I am not inclined to trust this tale…
“But Richard – no, Ryan… no… um, whatever – did it! It was his fault!” I cried desperately.
“There is no proof that he did so, other than your word,” said Ambrose, serious. “I trust that enough to accept that you were not entirely responsible for the incident. However, Alexandra, you know the punishment for summoning without permission. You will receive a detention. Here, Monday, straight after classes. No excuses.”
I knew there was no point arguing. I still sighed.
“I suppose that is all for now,” added Ambrose thoughtfully. “But make sure nothing like this happens again, do you understand?”
Jake and I nodded solemnly. Ambrose nodded, and we turned to leave. I was just about to open the door when Ambrose spoke again.
“Miss Stormrider?” I turned around. “Sleeves.”
I looked down at my sleeves. When had I rolled them up again? Stupid habit. I reminded myself to stop doing that. I rolled them down guiltily and Professor Ambrose smiled as I left.
I sat in the library looking at books about the pyromancers’ rebellion. It wasn’t particularly interesting, and it was hard to find information that Harold Argleston hadn’t already mentioned. I made a mental note to ask Autumn if she could take me to the Krokotopia library to see if there was anything better. I flicked through another heavy, dusty history book. Nothing.
I slammed the book I was reading shut, frustrated. A couple of novice conjurers looked at me, aghast, as if to say, ‘How could you make so much noise in the library?’ I ignored them. I didn’t have the patience to fight with any other myth kids today.
I sighed. What was the point? I would go talk to Autumn later. With that thought, I grabbed my bag and walked out into the Commons. It was nice to get some fresh air, but the place was packed with loads of students who were talking at the tops of their voices. I thought about doing quests. No. I needed a break. I headed towards the Shopping District, pushing past a herd of Balance apprentices.
I breathed in the cool air. I was sitting on a ledge on the edge of Triton Avenue, next to a waterfall. I liked it here. I could watch the world go by. It was perfect for me, seeing as I was a diviner. I love water, storms, Triton Avenue itself. I watched an apprentice cast Snow Serpent on the Kraken hundreds of meters below me. I could see wizards on the other side of the water fighting Haunted Minions and Rotting Fodders. My legs were hanging off the edge of a high cliff, but I had been here too many times before to be scared. I was startled, though, when I heard a voice from behind me.
“Hey.” It was a boy’s voice. I whipped around, only to see Jacob Ravencloud. He was grinning.
“Hi,” I replied. “How’s it going?”
“Pretty dull actually,” he said thoughtfully. “Mind if I join you?”
“Not at all.” Jake sat down beside me.
“So,” he said. “Why are you here? I thought you said you were working on Colossus Boulevard.”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “But I just came here for a break. From homework. You know.” There was yet another awkward silence before I added “Why are you here? Weren’t you finishing up Firecat Alley?”
“I found out I had another side quest here,” he shrugged. “I seriously want that Three Streets Savior badge!” he joked. “Done now, though. Homework, you say?”
“Yep. History. Pyromancer’s rebellion.”
“History?” Jake looked interested. “Don’t you like it?”
“No,” I smiled. “Who does?” I caught the look on his face. “You do, then.”
“Yep. But I could help you with that homework. My history class did that project a while back.”
“That’d be cool. Thanks, I guess.”
“If I help you, we’ll be even.”
“I guess so. But I think saving you was way better.”
“Well if you feel like that…”
“No, no. I need help. Seriously. I’m awful at history.”
“You want to get started?”
“Sure. Let’s go.”
I sprinted through the Commons, barely aware of my feet thudding against the ground one after the other and the way in which I was inhaling air in huge, gasping gulps. My heart was racing. I ran over the Rainbow Bridge, glancing over my shoulder. My hand grasped my wand tighter as I pushed myself on. I knew I wouldn’t last much longer. I could see him over my shoulder, dark and tall and ridiculously intimidating, wielding his mighty staff. I could do nothing more. I tripped and fell on the ground. I tried to crawl, but my knees stung. My robes were torn and I had no energy left with which to move. My knees were bleeding. I stared up at Malistaire.
“You will not get away, Stormrider, mark my words. You will never escape my clutches! And once you’re out of the way, Wizard City will be destroyed!” He raised his staff and I could feel the dark power radiating from him. I was vaguely aware of my screams…
“Alex!” whined Nat. “Shut up! Why are you screaming? I want to sleep!”
“Sorry Nat,” I whispered. “Bad dream. Go back to sleep. It’s late.”
I struggled to recall the details of my dream. Why do they always seem to slip away as soon as you wake up? Running. From something… Something bad, evil in fact. With a staff. Running away from something evil with a staff. Malistaire.
What was that all about?
It was Monday, straight after classes, and I was waiting grumpily outside Merle Ambrose’s office. I wasn’t happy about getting a detention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a model student – let’s just say this wasn’t my first detention – but I didn’t think I deserved this one. I was only trying to help!
I was slouching against the wall, fuming, when I first heard the voices from inside. Fascinated, I put my ear to the door.
“It’s obvious,” said Ambrose. “He’s one of the children of the prophecy.”
“That may be tru-oo-oo-ue,” hooted a distinctly owlish voice that I recognized as Gamma’s, “but we cannot be sure yet. It is too early to tell.”
“We have so little time!” stressed Ambrose, his voice barely more than a whisper. I had to strain to hear. “We must let him know the truth before it is too late! Malistaire—”
“Well, look what the Firecat dragged in,” drawled a snobbish voice from behind me. I jumped, startled, turning around to see the stuck-up features of the Mythstrider kid.
“What are you doing here, troll-features?” I tried to sneer, but, as I said, he was taller than me, so it was hard to say if he was bothered.
“Detention,” he said loftily, tossing blue hair out of his face. Ugh. “What about you? Telling Ambrose about me being naughty again?”
“Detention,” I said, before what he had said had sunken in. “Wait. What do you mean?”
“After last time, I assumed you would be telling tales to the headmaster again.”
“What last time?”
“You told Ambrose I summoned the Cyclops!”
“Yeah, like he believed me!”
“Why d’you think I have a detention, squirt?”
“Don’t call me that, troll-features!”
“Fine. You don’t tell tales on me, kiddo.”
“I didn’t! Well, I did, but Ambrose didn’t believe me.”
Gosh, some people are so stubborn. As if on cue, Ambrose opened the door.
“Mister Mythstrider, Miss Stormrider.”
The Mythstrider kid walked in haughtily and I followed grudgingly, still a little annoyed about having a detention. Ambrose gestured for us to sit in front of his desk as he seated himself in a business-like manner.
“You both know why you’re here,” he began. The Mythstrider kid threw me a contemptuous glare. Jake was right. He was nuts. What was I meant to have done?
“You two know all too well what the rules we have here are. We don’t have many rules, because we know that, sometimes, young wizards’ powers get out of control. Mostly, this can be contained. But with all the havoc that causes, we can’t have any other wizards deliberately running amok and causing chaos by summoning more creatures.
“Spells are not to be used on your classmates. In Wizard City, we teach you only to use your spells in self-defense! Have you two learnt nothing in your time here?”
“It was in self-defense! He summoned the dumb Cyclops!” I cried.
“We have no proof that it was attacking you directly. Your summoning of lightning bats – though very well cast, I must say, but that is beside the point – was not really necessary.”
“What proof do you have that I summoned the Cyclops then?” said the myth kid indignantly, dark eyes flashing in anger.
“Professor Wu saw it passing the Life School. She assumed a myth initiate’s spell had gone astray. It seems that was the case.” Ambrose’s gaze was disapproving.
The Mythstrider kid looked surly, but didn’t respond.
“Your parents will be told, Mister Mythstrider. You two can write out some lines for now. No magic this time.” Ambrose looked at us sternly. “I must not cast spells without good reason. One hundred times,” he added.
With that, he teleported in a small ‘poof’, different to that of any other wizards, in a small cloud of silvery stars. It was really quite pretty.
I realized that papers had appeared in front of us. I slung my bag on the floor, pulled out a quill, and began to write.
“So,” said the Mythstrider kid.
“So what?” I said, carrying on writing. I wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible so I could work on my history project with Jake. For once, I was actually understanding what the Pyromancer’s rebellion was.
“Who are you, anyway?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Just want to know if anyone asks me if I know the name of an annoying little squirt.”
Childishly, I retorted, “At least I don’t go around summoning creatures to terrorize innocent people! Who are, like… What level are you?”
“Fourteen,” he replied snootily.
“Two levels less than me!” I continued.
“That isn’t very much,” he sneered.
“You’re still a bully.”
“Yeah. You better watch your back, squirt.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Jake was in the library, head in a book as usual. I tapped his shoulder and he turned around. I grinned but he looked almost scared until he realized it was me and his fearful grimace morphed to an expression of relief.
“Chill out, Jake,” I grinned. “It’s only me!”
His smile widened as he said, “You scared me! I thought you were Reed then!”
“Why would you think that?” I almost laughed.
“Oh… Y’know… So shall we go do some quests?”
“I thought we were going to work on that history project.”
“It’s nearly finished, anyway. Plus, you’ve just had a detention – with Reed, as well! You need some rest! And I just got into Colossus Boulevard, so can you help with the first couple of quests?”
“Sure!” I wasn’t fussed about leaving it until later, and – let’s face it – when you have the choice of sitting in the library or fighting evil snowmen, what are you going to pick?
No, I wasn’t fussed until much later, when I realized that I hadn’t once mentioned the Mythstrider kid’s name to Jake once. So how in the Spiral did he know that I had a detention with him?
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