G walked Paul to his next class and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before hurrying away.
Paul was wearing a smile as he walked into the classroom and was happy to see that G had been right and Vinda was already there.
"How's it going? Are you starting to get used to things yet?" Vinda asked when she saw him.
"So far everything's been fine. At least, I don't feel as lost as I did going to regular classes." Paul said honestly.
"Well, Alchemy is one of those classes that sounds a lot more interesting than it really is. You probably won't learn how to turn your enemies into frogs, but there's a chance that you'll learn how to defend yourself from a magical attack."
"Is that something that you really have to worry about?"
"It's not like someone attacks you every day. But it's one of those things that's good to know just in case."
"Well said, Ms Sodhi."
Vinda jumped and turned suddenly.
"I take it that you're the new student I was told about, Mr. Darroch, is it?"
"Yes sir. But you can call me Paul, if you like."
"I prefer to use the proper address in regard to my students. However, I will address you by your first name if you would rather."
"No. That's fine. I just didn't want you to think that I was flaunting who my father is to make it seem like I'm someone important."
"No need to concern yourself about that. I assure you that any judgements made about you will be based solely on your own performance."
"Thank you, sir."
"Forgive me for not saying so sooner, it's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Darroch. My name is Larthur Hind. I will be your Alchemy teacher."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hind."
'What a concept.'
"Since it's your first day with us, I believe that the most productive way to proceed would be to give you an absurd amount of reading to do and let you work at your own pace. Ms. Sodhi and I will be available to answer questions, should you have need of us."
Paul hesitantly nodded.
"Give it a try. If it turns out to be too burdensome, simply tell me and we'll try something else to get you caught up with the rest of the class."
"Yes sir. Thank you. I will."
"Take any available seat and I'll bring you a book so that you can get started."
"Yes sir." Paul said, then started to walk away. Vinda motioned to get his attention, then indicated for him to take the seat next to hers.
"That wasn't too bad, was it?" Vinda asked with a smile.
"He seems nice." Paul said honestly.
"Yeah. If his class had anything to do with my magical specialty, I wouldn't mind taking it as much. But since it doesn't, it feels like a waste of my time." Vinda said frankly.
"I guess that I'm still too excited about learning that magic is real. I want to learn everything about everything right now."
"That's very good to hear, Mr. Darroch." Mr. Hind said from just over Paul's shoulder, causing him to startle.
"This isn't the book that the rest of the class is using. I feel that this one is better at explaining the foundational magics involved in Alchemy. Once you've gotten a grasp of those concepts, we can ease you into the more advanced studies." Mr. Hind said as he handed the book to Paul.
"Thank you sir." Paul said sincerely as he accepted the book.
"I'll leave you to it, then." Mr. Hind said with a smile before withdrawing.
"Let me know if you need for me to explain anything... well, except for how to stay awake. This stuff is really boring." Vinda said frankly.
"I'm actually kind of interested in how everything works." Paul assured her as he opened the book to the first page.
* * * * *
Paul found the book to be well written and engaging. Each new concept was introduced, defined and demonstrated by way of detailed descriptions and sometimes photographic evidence, allowing Paul to incorporate them into his limited view of magic.
Unlike with previous classes, he didn't find anything that he was tempted to try on his own. The spells were of such complexity, yielding such intangible results, that they didn't seem to be worth his time. He was perfectly happy to accept that the reactions and results would be just as the book described them.
When the bell rang, Paul was surprised. He had become consumed by his reading and lost any concept of the passage of time.
"You seemed to really get into it." Vinda said as she got up from her desk.
"Yeah. I just got to the part about changing the states of matter. Using magic to alter something on the molecular level seems like something so incredibly small, and at the same time so unbelievably big that it's hard to wrap my mind around it."
"Yeah. I guess so. You'll probably never look at an ice cube the same way again." Vinda said as she led the way to the door, then thought to ask, "What's your next class?"
"It just says 'Spelling'. I'm guessing that doesn't mean what it does in regular school." Paul said cautiously as he followed along.
"Not really." Vinda chuckled, then happily added, "Nazzy and G are in that class too."
"What will we be doing?"
"Spellcasting. The spells that you use in class don't matter as much as how you use them. It's all about your method, style and technique. Sometimes, even if the spell works, you still don't get credit for it because you didn't use the exact right method."
"So everyone in the class is going to be doing magic at the same time?" Paul asked cautiously.
"We usually work together in small groups and take turns. The spells aren't difficult, but you have to do everything just right or you're docked points for it."
"It doesn't sound too bad. At least we'll be doing magic." Paul said honestly.
"G and Nazzy are waiting for us." Vinda said as she gestured at the pair, standing side by side in the hallway ahead of them.
Paul couldn't help but smile when he saw G.
"How's it going?" G asked as he approached.
"So far everything's been great!" Paul answered happily.
"Good. I was afraid that you were going to be overwhelmed like you were before." G said as he pulled Paul into a firm hug.
"Nope. So far I haven't had any problems. Everything's made perfect sense. In fact, it feels like instead of learning new things, I'm getting the answers to questions that I've had for a really long time." Paul said as he was released from the hug and moved to walk at G's side.
"So what's your next class?" G asked curiously.
"Us too! That's great! I was hoping that we'd all have a class together."
"Do you think we'll be allowed to work together as a group?" Vinda asked as she and Nazzy moved in a little closer to be heard.
"As long as we get our work done and aren't too distracting, Mrs Herdez probably won't care." G said frankly.
"Yeah. If we go in acting like we're already a group, she'll probably just go with it." Nazzy agreed.
"Is there anything I need to know going in?" Paul asked cautiously.
"No. We'll tell you everything you need to know. Just follow the instructions exactly and you shouldn't have any problems." G promised.
Before Paul could ask anything more, they walked as a group into the classroom.
* * * * *
"Hi Nicholas. Do you know G, Nazzy and Vinda?" Paul asked the somber boy as they entered the room.
"Did I say or do something to give you the idea that you should talk to me?" Nicholas asked cautiously.
Paul noticed that G immediately bristled at Nicholas' negativity.
"No. But you're my teammate in Wizardry, so I'm not going to pretend like I don't know you when I see you outside of class." Paul explained simply.
"I'd rather you did." Nicholas said firmly.
"Too bad." Paul said with a smile, then continued, "It's not like we're going to hang out, watch movies together or wash each others' hair or something. But if I see you in the hall, I'm going to say 'hi'."
"So there's nothing I can do to make you stop?" Nicholas asked cautiously.
"Nope." Paul said with a smile, then conspiratorially added, "But if you said something like, 'hi' in return, I'd probably just leave it at that."
"Hi." Nicholas said immediately.
Paul grinned at the response, then said, "I'll see you in class."
Nicholas watched warily as Paul rejoined Nazzy, Vinda and G.
* * * * *
"What the hell was that all about?" G asked as soon as they were away from Nicholas.
"He's on my team in Wizardry." Paul said simply.
"I got that. But he obviously doesn't want to have anything to do with you... or us. What are you trying to do by forcing him to talk to you?"
"I'm just being nice. I sort of get how he feels. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares enough to even make the effort is enough."
"I'll have to take your word for it. I don't get someone like that at all." G said honestly.
'I believe you.'
'You can't even imagine what it's like to feel unloved or insecure.'
'That's one reason why you're my Alpha.'
The class bell rang and G guided Paul to take a seat next to him.
"Those of you who have completed your previous spells, be looking for what you're going to attempt next, so that I can approve it. The rest of you, continue on and let me know when you're ready to demonstrate your completed spells for me." The teacher announced from the front of the room.
G raised his hand and waited for a moment for the teacher to notice.
"Mr. Darroch, do you already have an assignment ready for me to approve?" Mrs. Herdez asked pleasantly.
"No ma'am. But this is my new brother, Paul. He's starting your class today." G quickly explained.
"Oh yes. I had noticed that I'd be getting a new student, but then got distracted. Paul, is it? Tell me, do you have any previous magical training?"
"No ma'am. I just learned that magic was real last week." Paul said uncomfortably.
"Have you had the opportunity to attempt any spells since then?" Mrs. Herdez asked cautiously.
"Just a few little ones." Paul shyly admitted.
"Are they something that you can safely demonstrate here in the classroom?"
"Sure. If you could just step back a little, I could do it right here on the floor." Paul said simply.
Mrs. Herdez took a step back, then said, "Go ahead."
Within a few seconds, Paul's Wizard's Light spell diagram appeared, sharp and clean in every detail.
Mrs. Herdez looked at the diagram, then at Paul skeptically for a moment before asking, "Did you do the wording and gestures in an internal fashion?"
"Yes ma'am. They told me I could do it that way in Wizardry class." Paul quickly explained.
"That may be true in Wizardry, but in this class we focus on refining your technique. For that to happen, I need to see the technique that you're using in every detail as well as hear the spoken words." Mrs. Herdez said firmly.
"I should be able to do that. Do you want for me to do it now?" Paul asked cautiously.
"Yes. I'm interested to see the spelling you used to get this result."
Paul first dispelled his diagram from the floor, then after a moment to internally calm himself, he held his arms out before him and began making the arcane hand signs while speaking the words of the spell.
Mrs. Herdez listened carefully to his spoken words as she looked curiously from one hand to the other.
Nazzy, Vinda and G all stood silently and watched as Paul continued on and on, speaking every detail of his spell. He verbally described every stretch and skew of the wizard's lights to achieve the desired effect.
With his left hand, Paul was weaving the basic wizard's light spell, creating one little dot of light after another so that he could manipulate them. With his right hand, he was enacting his variation of the pi display, creating the circle that surrounded the entire diagram.
When the diagram was mostly complete, Paul found that his right hand was free, having completed his circle, so he took the opportunity to create seven little balls of flame, to serve as candles surrounding his spell diagram. He was able to work in the spoken invocation of the fire spell as though it had been there all along.
"I didn't realize how much faster that was in my head." Paul admitted as he finally lowered his arms.
"I detected variants of three distinct spells, as well as quite a bit of adaptation. Did you learn to create this diagram somewhere or did you craft it yourself?" Mrs. Herdez asked slowly.
"I learned the wizard's light spell yesterday afternoon and I've been adding things to it ever since. I added the pi formula this morning so that I wouldn't have to draw the circles the hard way." Paul said simply, then noticed that Nicholas, along with most of the rest of the class, had moved in to see his spell diagram.
"Based on what I've just seen here, I believe that I have much to teach you. You seem to have an exceptional aptitude for spellcasting. If we can just refine your technique, you should be able to achieve great things." Mrs. Herdez said seriously.
"Okay." Paul said slowly, then asked, "But what should I be doing right now?"
Mrs. Herdez smiled at the question, then said, "Find out from your group what spell they'll be working on. If you don't understand it, get them to explain it to you. The spells they're using are more advanced than what you've done so far, but there's a chance that you'll be able to manage it. If not, you'll probably learn quite a bit by trying. Take this opportunity to stretch yourself a bit."
"Yes ma'am." Paul said as he waved his hand over the spell diagram at his feet and watched as it vanished.
"Everyone else, back to work! I need some completed spells to evaluate before I can give you any grades." Mrs. Herdez said as she walked back toward the front of the room.
* * * * *
Before Paul could ask about what spell they were working on, a voice from behind him said, "Paul."
He turned and saw Nicholas looking at him nervously.
"Yeah?" Paul asked cautiously.
"What you just did there, was that it? Was that all of how you did the spell diagram?" Nicholas asked cautiously.
"Yeah. That one, anyway. If you wanted a spell diagram for another realm or locus, you'd be better off starting from scratch. What you just saw me do was the answer, it doesn't include how I got the answer." Paul said carefully.
"So you didn't just copy the spell diagram from the book?" Nicholas asked cautiously.
"I got the basic form from the book, but the formulae inside the diagram needs to be worked for the time and place that you're in just like it is for the place you're trying to reach. When I started evaluating the formulae I noticed that the locus was left out. It was easy enough to put it back in, but if you were just copying and pasting, you wouldn't know if what you were trying to do would even work." Paul said thoughtfully.
"But some of those diagrams are written in dead languages. How do you do something like that?" Nicholas asked cautiously.
"Well, to be honest, I can understand some of the obscure languages. I don't know how. But from what I saw in Numerology today, there are spells that can manipulate numbers, variables and expressions interchangeably. If there are spells that can do that, then there have to be spells that can help you translate ancient languages. This is all new to me, so you'd probably know more about that than I do." Paul said honestly.
"I guess I just thought that I could use the written diagram, kind of like a shortcut, and not have to understand what it was doing." Nicholas quietly admitted.
"That could work." Paul easily admitted, then added, "But it's also the perfect way to fall into someone else's trap."
"Nicholas, would you like to join our group and work with us?" Vinda asked as she approached Paul's side.
"No." Nicholas immediately barked, then once he'd realized what he'd just done, he said more quietly, "No, thank you."
"We can talk more about it in Wizardry class if you want to." Paul said assuringly.
Nicholas looked uncertain about what he was agreeing to, but finally nodded.
* * * * *
"So, what are we doing?" Paul asked curiously.
"Actually, we were all three able to complete our spell in our last class, so today we're picking the next one we're going to try to do." G said simply.
"No more stink bombs." Vinda said firmly.
"It wasn't a stink bomb, it was an aura manipulation." Nazzy said informatively.
"Yeah. You manipulated my aura into a stink bomb." Vinda countered.
"Here's a nice levitation spell." G said as he leafed through a book.
"Can any of us use it?" Nazzy asked, obviously already knowing the answer.
"No. You have to be proficient in Thaumaturgy and none of us are." G said as he continued to flip pages.
"How about shapeshifting? We all have magical forms, so that might be enough of a magical connection to allow us to be able to do... something." Vinda said as she looked at a different book.
"What did you have in mind?" G asked curiously.
"The one I'm looking at is a mermaid spell." Vinda said slowly as she read through it.
"No." G said firmly.
Vinda looked up from her book curiously.
"There are certain parts of my lower body that I don't want to have replaced by a fish. Thank you very much."
"You want to protect your guppy. Got it." Vinda said with a grin as she turned the page.
"So, we can just pick any spell from any discipline to work on in here?" Paul asked Nazzy curiously.
"Yeah, pretty much. We can pick anything we want. But Mrs. Herdez has to approve our choice before we're allowed to work on it." Nazzy said as he leaned forward to read over Vinda's shoulder.
"There was this spell in my numerology book that looked interesting, it was kind of a 3D graphing thing. Could I do something like that?" Paul asked curiously.
"We can take a look at it, but one thing to keep in mind is that if the spell isn't very complicated, Mrs. Herdez probably won't allow it. She wants for every spell to be cast perfectly AND for each spell to be a challenge for us." Nazzy said honestly.
Paul opened his backpack and took out his numerology workbook.
After flipping through a few pages, he found the page that he was looking for. It was an exercise that did a simple 3D plot. As Paul looked at the details of the spell, he realized the potential to manipulate the plotting parameters.
"Is it okay if I try something, I mean, like magic, or do I need to have permission before I do anything like that?" Paul asked cautiously.
"What did you have in mind?" Nazzy asked as he turned his full attention to Paul.
"I was just thinking that if I combine the 3D plotting from this numerology worksheet with my wizard's light that I could probably come up with something interesting. But I can't be sure that it's going to work until I try combining them." Paul said thoughtfully.
"Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." Nazzy said with a grin.
"Just do it. The worst that will happen is Mrs. Herdez will ask you not to do it again." Nazzy assured him.
"Oh. Okay." Paul said, then concentrated while internally weaving the hand signs for all the spells simultaneously.
Right in front of Paul, a pillar of stone emerged from the floor, stopping at about belly height. On the 'tabletop', a complex landscape appeared, complete with a lake, forest and a castle.
Admittedly, the landscape appeared to be somewhat 'pixelated', due to it being made entirely out of little cubes, but the overall structure was definitely recognizable.
"Okay. How did you do that?" Vinda asked as she walked up to the pillar.
"With a spell."
"Um, wizard's light, the 3D plotter spell from numerology, and then I threw in some of the 'states of matter' manipulations that I read about in Alchemy." Paul said as he looked over his handiwork.
"It blows me away how much detail you're able to create." G said as he cautiously reached forward to touch the top of one of the little trees.
"I think that I do it in a completely different way from you. Making something that seems 'unreal' would probably be more of a challenge for me." Paul said frankly.
"It's solid!" G said with astonishment.
"Yeah." Paul said slowly.
"I thought you made an illusion, but you actually created this thing?!" G asked in wonder.
"No. Not really." Paul admitted, then explained, "It's only real for as long as I keep the spell going. Once I dispel it, the air that I turned solid will go back to being a gas."
"From all the detail on this thing, it would probably take more than one class period for you to cast it... I mean, out loud with all the gestures and diagrams and everything." Vinda said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. But I thought that, if we're allowed to do it, each of us could take one part and we could all cast it together... isn't that what you do in here?" Paul finished uncertainly.
"We usually all work on casting the same spell seperately." Vinda responded.
"Oh. I misunderstood what you were talking about." Paul said as he raised his hand toward his construct.
"No. Wait! Don't get rid of it yet!" G urged him.
Paul lowered his hand and looked at G curiously.
"Go through this with us, one piece at a time. Maybe there's a way that the four of us can cast this spell together." G said seriously.
"Remember, I've only been here one day. None of these spells are hard at all. I've just been mixing and matching them so that they can work together to do new things." Paul said as he looked from person to person.
G had most of his attention on the little landscape and he couldn't seem to get over the fact that it was solid. He experimentally touched the water, then quickly withdrew his hand as he said, "It's wet!"
"It's water." Paul said flatly, then added, "Well, technically it's air, but I overrode its natural properties to make it think that it's water while I'm using it."
"Paul, I don't think this is as simple a thing as you think it is." Nazzy said frankly.
"Before we do anything else, we need to ask Mrs. Herdez if we can even attempt to do this spell together. If she says 'no', then we're going to have to come up with something else." Vinda interjected.
"I'll go get her." G said decisively before there could be any further discussion of the matter.
* * * * *
"Well, what do we have here?" Mrs. Herdez asked as she approached.
"Paul came up with this... construct and he was thinking that if we do all the different spells that make it, we could do it as a group." G explained.
"Is this sorcery?" Mrs. Herdez asked slowly.
"No. It's completely real. The water is even wet." G said with a smile.
Mrs. Herdez cautiously touched the water of the lake, then let her fingers drag across the tops of a few of the trees before asking, "So you were able to create a solid object from nothing?"
"No ma'am. I created the images using wizard's lights combined with the plotting spell from numerology, then I gave them substance by using the same coordinates with an alchemy spell to cause air to temporarily take another form." Paul said slowly.
"And you're proposing that each of you take a different component of the spell to recreate this, using the long form spoken spell, hand manipulations and written diagrams?" Mrs. Herdez asked cautiously.
"Yes. And I could probably even do a little sorcery overlay to even out the look of it, if you'd allow it." G interjected.
"Do you think that you'll be able to do the completed spell within one class period?" Mrs. Herdez asked thoughtfully.
"We should be able to. From the way that Paul explained it, none of the spells are that hard to do on their own. The trick is going to be to coordinate all our different magics to work together at the same time." Vinda said seriously.
"I'm interested to see what you come up with. I'll allow it. But I'm going to want every single detail of what all four of you are doing written down. If you can get this to work, I'll submit your completed report to the department head for his evaluation." Mrs. Herdez said seriously.
"This might take us a couple days. Is that okay?" Vinda asked cautiously.
"If you can manage it, I'd like to see your completed project during our class on Friday. Do you think that will be enough time?" Mrs. Herdez asked hopefully.
"I think so." Vinda said uncertainly, then looked to G and Nazzy as she said, "We're probably going to have to work on this outside of class."
"No problem for me." Nazzy said easily.
"We can do it at my house." G said simply.
"Well then, I suppose that you'd better get to it. You've taken on quite a project." Mrs. Herdez said before walking away.
'When will I ever learn to keep my big mouth shut?'
'Oh well, if we can pull this off it's going to be amazing.'
"Paul, I'm going to need for you to write down everything before you forget it." Vinda said firmly.
"Do you have some paper?" Paul asked simply as he opened his backpack.
"Yes. Here." Vinda said as she handed him a spiral bound notebook.
Paul sat down at a desk, then opened the notebook to the first blank page. He thought for a moment, then touched the pencil to the paper.
Words immediately began filling the page, giving the spoken words of the Wizard's Light spell. He turned the page and touched the paper with his pencil. The hand-signs and gestures were both illustrated and described in great detail in writing almost too small to read.
When he went to the next page, he filled it with the manipulations of the Wizard's Light spell to create the desired color and texture effects.
Nazzy, Vinda and G watched with surprise as Paul continued to fill page after page with detailed text and diagrams.
"When did you learn how to do that?" Nazzy finally asked.
"Do what?" Paul asked as he continued.
"How do you write like that?"
"I learned it this morning, in Numerology class. It's how the workbook lets you fill in the answers." Paul said absently as he filled page after page with details about the Numerology plotting spell. Once that was done, he started on the specific coordinates for the 'construct'.
"You learned this in one class?" Nazzy asked disbelievingly.
"Yeah. I just wanted to know how the writing spell worked, so I deconstructed it. It took, like, a minute." Paul said absently, then turned the page again.
"What's that?" Vinda asked curiously.
"Alchemy. It's how I make the whole thing solid... or liquid, depending on what it's supposed to be." Paul said frankly.
"I always thought of Alchemy being mostly theoretical. I mean, we'd do magical manipulations of things, just to show that it could be done, but I never really had any reason to use it for anything." Nazzy said honestly.
"I don't know how useful this is, but it seemed like it would be a good thing to include in this project." Paul said as he closed the notebook and handed it to Vinda.
"It's all in here?" Vinda asked as she opened the notebook to see for herself.
"Yeah. Well, except for whatever G comes up with for an overlay illusion. I don't know how his magic works, but he can probably use the same coordinates that I did to create the original construct. The three of us can create the 'bones' of the construct and G can give it a 'skin'." Paul said with a smile at him.
"Paul, what part do you want to focus on? To do this right, we're each going to be working on different things so we'll be dividing the work four ways." Vinda asked as she skimmed over what he had written.
"Well, G's going to have to work on the skin, I'm assuming that he's the only one who can do that. So we'll actually be dividing it three ways." Paul said thoughtfully.
"Right. One of us will do the Numerology plot, another will do the Wizard's Light effects and the last will do the Alchemy." Vinda said slowly.
"Well, even though the spells themselves aren't too hard, it sounds to me like neither of you are too comfortable with the matter manipulation, so I can do that if you want... I mean, since I've already done it." Paul said cautiously.
"I think any of us could do it using this spell, but since you seem to have the best grasp of how to manipulate the matter, it's probably best if you do it. Nazzy and I will split the rest between us. Both of us are better than average at Wizardry and Basic magic." Vinda said decisively.
"This class is almost over, when do you want for us to get together to work on it?" G asked curiously.
"I think that all of us are going to need to study our spells on our own before we're ready to try them together. How about tomorrow night? That way, if we run into any problems or have to do any fine tuning, we can do that on Thursday before we have to present it on Friday." Vinda asked cautiously, looking to see if anyone had a problem with the plan.
"Sounds good to me." Paul said simply.
"Yeah. That'll give me enough time to tweak the illusion." G said thoughtfully.
"Remember that every tweak you make will have to be documented. We want it to be nice, but we're going to have to present this in front of Mrs. Herdez. Don't make it so complicated that we can't do it in the allotted time." Vinda warned him.
"Paul, you might want to put that away." Nazzy said as he gestured toward the pillar that they were standing around.
The 'construct' suddenly vanished, leaving nothing in its wake. Paul hadn't used so much as a word or gesture to dispel it. He simply withdrew the power that was fueling the spell and it collapsed in on itself.
"Do you need for me to make copies of this for everyone?" Vinda asked as she held up the notebook.
"We're probably going to be making changes before this is in its final form. Why don't you keep it so we won't have lots of out-of-date copies floating around?" G asked seriously.
"Yeah. If you need anything from the master copy, just let me know."
"Sounds good. And if you need to make any changes to the master copy, just keep notes about it and we'll incorporate them when we get together." G agreed.
The bell ringing caused them all to look up.
"What's your next class, Paul?" G quickly asked as he gathered his things.
"My schedule just says 'Basic'."
"Basic magic. You should enjoy that one. You'll learn lots of spells that are useful in everyday life." Vinda said with a smile at him.
"Are any of you in that class with me?"
"I'm in my 'related' Sorcery class next." G said regretfully.
"I've got Astrology." Vinda said sourly.
"Potions." Nazzy said unenthusiastically.
G put an arm around Paul and gave him a firm hug as he said, "Have fun. We'll see you at lunch."
Paul was about to respond, but was too slow. G moved in and gave Paul a quick, firm kiss before dashing away.
It took a moment for Paul to get his bearings, but he finally found his class schedule and set off in search of his next classroom.
* * * * *
Paul walked into the classroom and looked around.
Unlike most of the other rooms that he had visited, this one seemed to be unusually 'cluttered'. There were benches and shelves around the room and all of them seemed to be filled to overflowing with little knick-knacks and random junk.
The teacher was sitting at her desk at the front of the room, engrossed in her reading.
Paul timidly approached and waited for her to acknowledge him.
The other students were entering the room, remaining mostly quiet as they made their way to their desks.
Finally, the woman looked up at Paul and when she saw him, she smiled before saying, "You must be Paul Darroch."
The only word that Paul could think of to describe the woman was 'grandmotherly'.
"Yes ma'am." Paul quietly responded.
"Well, let's see... I'm Mrs. Cualla. This is Basic Magic. In this class you'll be learning about charms, hexes, personal spells, wards and household magics."
"I just learned about magic being real last week. So everything's new to me."
"Then this is a good class for you. Unlike most other classes, there isn't a 'learning curve' in this one. One lesson typically doesn't build on the previous one. Those who prove to be adept at Basic Magic may advance to the point where they can create their own charms, but many won't. Instead, they'll acquire the charms that prove to be useful to them in their daily lives. Along the way you'll also be introduced to spells that every witch should know, to make your daily lives easier."
Paul remembered G's 'chicken foot' charm at home and nodded that he understood.
"Tell me, before you came to your new understanding about magic, what did you think charms were?" Mrs. Cualla asked curiously.
"I guess I thought that a rabbit's foot or a four leaf clover were supposed to bring you good luck. I didn't believe in it. But I hadn't thought about it much beyond that."
Mrs. Cualla smiled, then said, "Yes, those are some of the classics. The fact of the matter is, those things actually do exist. There are magically enchanted items that hold power."
Paul cautiously nodded that he was following what she was saying.
"Here. Let me give you this." Mrs. Cualla said as she picked up a small silver spider from her desk and handed it to him.
Paul accepted it and looked at it carefully.
"What do you think that does?" Mrs. Cualla asked curiously.
"It's a protection spell... you put it over a crib or give it to a little kid to wear on a necklace or as a charm for their charm bracelet and it keeps away sickness and evil spells." Paul said slowly.
Mrs. Cualla chuckled, then said, "It's a wonder that you didn't know about magic already if you can read it so clearly now, after only a week."
"I guess it's like the ward on the hallway to this part of the school, it was always there and I always could have seen it, but I just never looked before." Paul said honestly.
"Well, since you seem to have the ability to 'read' the spells on enchanted items, there's no point in you going through an endless list of enchanted items to learn their intended purposes. We have another student in this class who is much like you. He's only recently become aware of magic and he also has the ability to read the spells on enchanted items. I think that I'll put the two of you together so that you can work on enchanting some items of your own."
"Even though I can see the spell on this charm, I wouldn't know how to cast it. Will I be learning that?" Paul asked hesitantly.
"This one is a bit complex for a beginner, it might take some time before you're ready to take on a project of this scale."
"As long as I can cast it in the next six or seven months, it should be fine. I'd like to make a charm like this for my little brother or sister when they're born." Paul said honestly.
Mrs. Cualla smiled tenderly at Paul, then said, "I promise, if you haven't developed the skill by then, I'd be honored to enchant the item for you myself."
"Thank you, ma'am." Paul said gratefully.
"Come along then, let me introduce you to your class partner and get you two started on a project." Mrs. Cualla said as she slowly got up from her chair.
* * * * *
"Filipe, how are you doing today?" Mrs. Cualla asked as they approached.
"Not very well, Mrs. Cualla. The spell that I'm wanting to use is no problem, but I can't get it to bind to the charm." The younger looking hispanic boy said with frustration.
"Go ahead and show me what you're doing and I'll see if I can give you any advice." Mrs. Cualla said seriously.
Paul watched as Filipe placed a piece of paper on his desk with a spell diagram drawn on it. In the center of the diagram, he placed a small piece of plastic shaped to look like a 'corn on the cob'.
Felipe then touched the five points around the spell diagram as he said an incantation which Paul could tell was intended to enchant the little charm to hold a spell of prosperity for whomever holds it.
Mrs. Cualla slowly nodded at Filipe's casting of the spell, then turned to Paul and asked, "Can you see what he's doing?"
"Sort of. The prosperity spell is simple enough, but the binding seems to be off. It's like there's nothing balancing the equation. For what is given, something must also be taken. Without that, the spell won't stick." Paul said thoughtfully.
"Very well said." Mrs. Cualla said with a smile, then added, "This is probably the main reason that every witch alive doesn't have a dozen or so charms hanging off of them, automatically granting them every blessing under the sun."
"How can I get it to bind?" Filipe asked cautiously.
"Filipe, this is Paul. He just learned about magic last week and he can also read the spells bound within enchanted objects. I'd like for you two to work together. You'll have the entire magic library at your disposal to discover a way to make your binding complete."
Filipe and Paul shared a withering look at the monumental task before them.
"No blood sacrifices!" Mrs. Cualla said firmly before walking away to talk to another group.
* * * * *
"Hi. I'm Paul."
"How old are you?"
"I'm fifteen. Mrs. Cualla said that you just learned about magic too. How are you handling it?"
"Okay, I guess. My abuela used to tell me stories about witches and magic. I grew up thinking that they were like fairy tales, but I'm finding out that everything she told me was true."
"Was she a witch?"
"I think so. I don't remember her doing any magic, but people used to come to her for things and now that I look back on it, not everything they asked for was exactly normal."
"My mom never said a word to me about magic. I'm starting out from nothing."
"Well, then I guess there's only one way to go." Filipe said with an encouraging smile.
'Positive and Encouraging.'
'We have all the necessary components on hand to accomplish great things.'
"I guess so. Do you have any idea of where we should start looking for an answer on how to bind your spell to the charm?"
"Not really. I've only read through a few of the books in here, but they were mostly about how to use existing charms, not how to enchant new ones."
"Well, if these spells are anything like the others that I've been reading, they're probably hiding the most useful parts of them on purpose so that lazy people won't misuse them." Paul said as he walked to one of the bookcases surrounding the room to browse through the titles.
"So you think that they're making them difficult to understand on purpose?"
"Yeah. In my Wizardry class, they actually leave parts of the spells out so that someone who doesn't know what they're doing won't accidentally summon something that they can't control." Paul said frankly.
"You're in Wizardry?"
"Yeah. What's your specialty?"
"Basically, it's magic that binds two related things together so that when you act on one, there is a reaction in the other. I think voodoo dolls are the easiest example to understand... even though I can't do that... yet."
"I don't get it."
"If I have a little basket that will fit in the palm of my hand, and another basket big enough for a person to fit inside, I can raise the basket in my hand two inches and the basket holding the person will raise two feet."
"I bet that there's a lot more to it than that. Nothing's that simple and there's always a price to pay."
"True. The spells are really long and complicated and you have to do them just right every single time. Once you get the spell right, then you have to fuel the spell with something, sometimes that's your own personal magical energy."
"It sounds like even a simple little job could wipe you out."
"Yeah. And sometimes, if the spell gets broken in the middle of casting it, there's a backlash that can knock you out for days."
"That sounds nasty."
"It is. From what I hear, there isn't much of a use for Thaumaturgy in the world anymore. I still need to learn how to use my abilities the best that I can, but I can't depend on being able to get a job using it when I'm grown up. That's why I'm working so hard to try and learn the charms and stuff."
"I haven't really thought too much about what I'll do with my magic when I grow up. So far, I've just been reacting to what's been happening around me."
"When my parents realized that I had magical abilities, they checked with some of my abuela's old friends to find a place where I could learn how to use my witchcraft. I had to move here, on my own, all the way from New Mexico. I'm staying with a host family while I'm here."
"Oh wow! I never realized just how good I had it. Are your host family nice? Do they treat you alright?"
"Yes. They're fine. Their daughter, Stevie, is your age. She looks at me kind of like the little brother that she always wanted. Besides her treating me like I'm a little kid, everything's fine."
"If it starts not being fine for some reason, let me know. I'm still getting settled in with my new step-dad and step-brother, so I know how it feels to be overwhelmed by a lot of 'new' all at once."
"Thanks. It'll be good to know that there's someone I can talk to who understands."
"I can give you my email address, but don't send me anything to do with magic in it. I'm still working on getting a magically secure email account."
Filipe patted his pockets and took out a folded piece of paper from his left hip pocket.
Paul touched his fingertip to the paper and his email address appeared, written in his own handwriting.
"How'd you do that?" Filipe asked as he looked at the paper.
"I'll show you the spell once we've picked out some books."
Filipe nodded, then began to look through the book titles in earnest.
* * * * *
According to Paul's research, while creating the charm wasn't 'impossible', it was somewhat unlikely.
The prosperity spell required a lot of magic to fuel it, and it would need a continuous supply of magic to keep it functioning. Although such things were possible, the magic involved was uncomfortably high and decidedly dark.
Paul now understood why Mrs. Cualla had made a point of saying 'No Blood Sacrifices'.
A captured life force 'could' fuel the spell, but even so, the duration of the charm would still leave a lot to be desired.
"I want to say that it's impossible, but I know that charms like that exist. There's got to be a way to make the enchantment stick, but I just can't see how it works." Filipe said with frustration.
"Maybe that's what we're missing." Paul said in realization.
"Both of us can read enchantments. Maybe the answer's not in the books but in the enchanted items around us. Maybe there's a clue in there of how they made the magic bind to the item."
"I've tried that. I couldn't see anything."
"Have you tried it with your spell diagram? Maybe the diagram that you use to bind will also unbind."
"If you'll grab us an active charm, I'll get the diagram." Filipe said with renewed energy.
Paul walked to one of the shelves and looked at the collection of seemingly random and useless items.
He took down one that seemed to be of adequate power for them to be able to read, but also handle safely.
* * * * *
"I only have the one spell diagram." Filipe said apologetically as he placed it between them.
"No problem. Here, try this snowglobe." Paul said as he handed the object to Filipe.
"We won't be able to test it out. The spell on it only affects animals, like cats and dogs."
"We don't need to test it. The spell just looked so simple and straightforward that it seemed reasonable to assume that the binding would be too. Open your spell diagram and see if you can get a peek at what's holding the spell to the snowglobe."
Filipe placed the snowglobe in the center of the spell diagram, then touched each point of the diagram as he spoke the invocation.
Paul watched carefully for any sign of what was keeping the spell in place.
"Oh. Yeah. We're not doing that." Filipe said slowly as he backed away from the snowglobe.
Before Filipe had closed the spell, Paul was able to catch a glimpse of what Filipe had seen.
The snowglobe was indeed being fueled by a life force, or more precisely, three life forces, which were sacrificed and captured at the moment of death.
"That's just sick." Filipe said with disgust.
"Yeah." Paul said, then despite his revulsion, picked up the snowglobe and walked back across the room to put it back in its original place.
* * * * *
After the snowglobe, neither had any desire to 'peek' into the spell on another charmed item. Instead, they went back to their books with renewed dedication.
"Okay. Here's one that binds the magic with a candle's flame." Filipe said distantly as he continued to read.
"What's the spell that's being bound?"
"Okay. That sounds promising. What is the charm that it's being bound to?"
"Yeah. I see how that could work. The quartz can act like a battery, storing the energy. As far as the positivity... can energy be positive? Isn't energy just energy?"
"I don't know. The spell says all kinds of stuff about purity and light, but I can't see where it actually does anything."
"So basically you can magically use the candle's flame to 'charge' the thing, but after that, the person holding it would have to believe that the magic is something positive to get it to do what they want it to."
"So it's all in their head?"
"No. There is energy stored. It's not hard to do that part. But the spell is a cheat because it makes someone think that they've got magic to make them happy or upbeat and all they've really got is a little psychic energy boost. If they're pissed off, they could tap into that same energy to fuel their rage. It wouldn't do anything to calm them."
"Yeah. And the little bit of energy that it could store wouldn't be enough to do much of anything anyway. You sure couldn't use it to power a prosperity spell."
"Maybe not, but you said that Thaumaturgy links one thing to another with an external source of power to fuel it, right?"
"Yeah. Something like that."
"How do you bind the power to your linked objects?"
"There's a couple spells that I've come across for that. But they draw on kinetic energy or flame to fuel the spell. As soon as the power source is withdrawn, the spell ends."
"Okay. I get that. But if you can take kinetic energy and convert it to magical energy to fuel a spell, couldn't you do the same with the energy stored in a battery... or a crystal?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure of how you would do it, but it sounds like it could work."
"If we could find a source of enduring energy like that and convert it to fuel the prosperity spell, then maybe we could get it to stick. I mean, it looks to me like what our problem has been is that the energy we've been using is too weak to maintain a binding."
"Does that mean that I'd have to carry a battery around with me?"
"No. You'd take the properties and potentials of the battery and transfer that along with the energy into your charm."
"I don't know how we'd do that."
"I don't know either. But it seems like it should be able to work. We're almost out of time for this class. Do you think that you'll be able to get some batteries before the next time we meet?"
"Yes. That shouldn't be a problem. Our next Basic class is on Thursday."
"Okay. Between now and then I'm going to dig into my Alchemy textbook and see what I can come up with to magically transfer inherent properties from one thing to another. If I can manage that, then we might be able to bind the spell, since we'll have a way of fueling it."
The bell ringing caused them both to look up.
"Do you have someone to sit with at lunch?"
"Yeah. I sit with Stevie and her friends. I know it sounds kind of lame, but I really don't mind. It's kind of nice that she wants to include me."
"Okay. Well, if she starts getting boring, you're welcome to come over and sit with us. Just watch out what you say if you do. We have a friend who sometimes sits with us who's not a witch."
"I'll remember." Filipe assured him, then said, "I'll see you Thursday."
"Yeah. See you then."
* * * * *
"Is everything still alright?" G asked as he put an arm around Paul.
"Yeah. It's all great." Paul said honestly.
"So it's not like it was before, where you didn't even understand the questions they were asking?"
"No. I'm understanding things just fine. Instead of memorizing a bunch of crap that I'll probably never need to know, I've been discovering things and... I guess, learning..." Paul trailed off in wonder, then muttered, "I never saw that coming."
G laughed, then used his free arm to wave at Nazzy and Vinda who were approaching.
"How was Basic Magic? Did you get started learning about the endless selection of charms?" Vinda asked with a smile.
"No. Mrs. Cualla said that I could skip that. She wants me to work on 'making' charms for right now. From what she was saying, she's going to be teaching us some 'daily use' spells, too." Paul said honestly.
"Really? I've been doing this forever and I still haven't made a charm."
"Yeah. I guess that I can somehow 'read' the spell that's embedded in the charm, so she said that it would be kinda pointless for me to learn about what all the different charms can do when I can just tell by looking at them."
"But she's having you make charms?"
"I haven't made anything yet, but I get the feeling that that's what she's going to have me doing once I've figured out how it all works."
"New guy. First day in her class and she has him making charms... I'll never figure this place out." Vinda muttered with a shake of her head.
"Real world." Nazzy said as they stepped out of one hallway into a much larger one.
"Thanks Naz." G said with a grin at him.
"Paul! I didn't know if you were here today. I didn't see you in any of the classes." Curtis said as he hurriedly approached.
"Yeah. I guess we didn't get scheduled to have any classes together." Paul said honestly.
"So how are you doing? Is the new class schedule working better for you?"
"Oh yeah. It's great. My only problem so far has been that I can't keep my big mouth shut and I'm always volunteering to take on more work." Paul said with a self-deprecating grin.
"I don't have to worry about that. I might as well be invisible." Curtis said frankly.
"I know how that is. I think I went through one whole school year without ever talking to anyone... of course, the year after that, I was in a school where everyone was getting up in my face all the time and wouldn't shut up. It's hard to find a good balance."
Curtis looked at the rest of their group, then quietly said, "Sorry for intruding. I was just worried that Paul might not be here today."
"It's fine. Remember, we invited you to join us yesterday." G assured him.
"Yeah. And before you caught up to us, we were interrogating Paul about his day. We were all worried about how he was going to handle taking all new classes." Nazzy explained.
Before Curtis could respond, they reached the cafeteria line and started taking trays.
* * * * *
Once they were all sitting, Paul noticed a concerned look on Curtis' face.
"Those guys are staring at us." Curtis said anxiously.
Paul glanced where Curtis was looking and saw four boys about their same age looking back at him.
"What do you suppose that's all about?" Paul asked curiously.
"They don't think that I should be sitting with you." Curtis said honestly.
"What? Do they want you to sit with them?"
"No. They just think that a black guy should only sit with other black guys... even though I'm not friends with any of them."
"How 1950's of them." Nazzy said with a smirk.
"What is this that we're eating?" Paul asked as he looked at the food on his plate.
"Mushroom risotto, I think." G said as he poked it with his fork.
"It's good. I don't think I've ever had it before." Paul said before taking another bite.
"Curtis, you may have noticed that I'm not exactly lily white." Vinda said seriously, then continued, "If you need any help dealing with people who can't see past your race, let me know."
"Thanks. I usually don't even think about it until something like this happens to remind me." Curtis admitted shyly.
"Yeah. I think we're all like that." Nazzy said easily.
Paul nodded his agreement before taking another bite of his food.
"So are you guys all in the same classes?" Curtis asked curiously.
"We have one class together. We cross each other's' paths most of the rest of the day." G said easily.
"It's funny that I don't see any of you in any of my classes. What are the odds?" Curtis asked slowly.
"I think it probably has to do with you being relatively new to the school. Those of us who've been here since the beginning have been... trained... I guess, to be what they expect us to be, so they have classes that reinforce and build on what they've taught us all along. For someone like you or Paul, they have to make up for whatever you didn't get taught at your old schools, so you get put on a different course track." G said thoughtfully.
"Or maybe it's just because this is a big school with lots of little classes." Nazzy interjected.
"It could be that, too." G easily accepted.
"Do you guys have anything going on after school?"
"Since we all take vans to get home, we can't really hang around or anything." Vinda said honestly.
"Yeah. And besides that, you remember that thing about me and my big mouth? I've volunteered for so much extra stuff that I'll be lucky to have enough time to eat and sleep before this weekend." Paul said unenthusiastically.
"Did you volunteer for extra credit or something?" Curtis asked curiously.
"No. It's nothing like that. I think the teachers just want to get a handle on what I do and don't already know, so they're having me do extra projects. I'm guessing that I'll get some kind of a grade or extra-credit or something out of it, but that's not why I'm doing it. Doing these things helps to show me what I need to focus on most." Paul said thoughtfully.
"I guess that's a smart way of doing it. I'm kind of used to just waiting around for someone to tell me what I need to do to get the grade, then doing it." Curtis said frankly.
"Whatever works best for you." G said to Curtis with a grin, then continued, "But I think Paul's proactive approach works best for the situation that he's in, starting while the school year's already in progress."
"Yeah. There's already a lesson plan in place for the rest of us, but Paul's trying to jump in, right in the middle of things. So he's going to have to sort a few things out on his own before he'll be able to fit into the groove with the rest of us." Nazzy said consideringly.
"Speaking of which, it's almost that time." Vinda said as she gestured toward the clock.
"Ungh. English Lit." Curtis groaned.
"Sitting here complaining isn't going to make anything better." Vinda told him sympathetically.
"I know. But it's boring and it sucks. I feel like I should at least be able to whine about it." Curtis responded.
"That's true. Go ahead. We can wait for you to finish if you need us to." G said as he started gathering things onto his tray.
Curtis broke into an unwilling smile, then said, "It's okay. I don't need to anymore. But thanks."
"Have a good day Curtis. Maybe we'll see you out at the vans after school." Vinda said as she stood.
"Yeah. I'll see you then." Curtis said as he began to gather his dishes.
"Are you okay?" Paul asked as he waited for Curtis to be ready to go.
"Yeah. I guess I just feel like I'm doing something wrong by hanging out with you guys." Curtis said frankly.
"I don't know what to tell you except that Nazzy was right. People who are hung up on race have their thinking stuck back in the 1950's. If me and my friends have to divide people into groups at all, we mostly look at who's on their way up and who's on their way down, then we decide who we want to be associated with. A loser is a loser, regardless of race." Paul said frankly.
"Does that mean that by accepting me, you guys are saying that you don't think that I'm a loser?" Curtis asked cautiously.
"Yeah. That's exactly what it means." Paul said simply.
"Thanks." Curtis said sincerely.
"It goes both ways." Paul added, "By hanging out with us you're saying to everyone that you think we're worth something."
"Nobody cares what I think."
"We do." Paul said as he led the way to the drop off window, then added, "And I think you care what we think too, or you wouldn't have accepted the invitation to sit with us."
"Yeah. I just wish that things didn't have to be so complicated." Curtis said regretfully.
"Welcome to high school." Paul said with a grin.
"The most wonderful time of your life." Curtis said with a reluctant smile, then added, "At least, according to my parents."
"Yeah. Depressing, isn't it? It's their way of telling you that things only get worse from here on out." Paul said as he set down his tray.
"It gets worse?" Curtis whimpered.
"Only if you let it." Paul assured him and waited for Curtis to be finished at the drop off window.
To Be Continued...
Editor's Notes (1):
I am getting the idea that Paul is very skilled to a level that is beyond what most magical people can even think of doing. It's not that he knows everything, far from it, but he is able to see a spell and understand how it works. He sees its workings almost instinctively, and is able to build things together into something far more complicated and meld them together into something that is actually more than the sum of its parts.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Editor's Notes (2):
I like Curtis. I hope Paul and his friends can do something to help him get past some of his issues. I think Curtis is a lot smarter than he thinks he is.
I also think there might be something about his family that may involve magic, somehow, seeing that he has had to move from one school to another so often. There might be in interesting reason that his family keeps changing locations. I guess we will just have to wait and see.
Darryl AKA Radio Rancher