Brave New World

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Everyone's Gotta Start Somewhere

October 2, 1999

“Are you ready for your first lesson, Reyna?” Dunstan asked his new ward. The two of them stood in his brownstone living room. All the furniture had been pushed to the side to create a proper learning environment. The only other things still standing comfortably in the room was a chalkboard and a desk across from it. Also in the room, just a bit off to the side, was a skinny stool with a crystal vase standing on it. Wiggling her bare toes against the fibers of the shaggy carpet beneath her, the young girl nodded her head excitedly.

“Good, then you’ll want to take a seat, dear. Now,” Dunstan cleared his throat and picked up a piece of chalk. He divided the board into four sections, labeling them all at the top: Caster, Vampire, Fairy, and Devil. “We’re going to go through each of the categories in detail, but first I want you to tell me what you know of these creatures.”

“Uhm . . .” Reyna stared at the mostly blank board and bit own on her bottom lip, trying to think. “Vampires look like humans. They can’t come out in the day. Uh,” she paused, thinking again, “Ooh! And they drink blood!”

Dunstan nodded and wrote down everything she’d said on the board. “How about Fairies?”

Crossing her feet at her ankles, Reyna squirmed in her chair. “They look human, but really skinny. Tall, too! Uh, and they have pointy ears.”

“Anything else?” She shook her head no. “All right, what about the other two?”

“What’s a Caster?”

Raising his eyebrows, Dunstan shook his head condescendingly, “It’s a general term for our type. Humans who can perform magic. The terms can vary. Some people prefer to be called Wizards or Witches or something like that, but they all really mean the same thing when you get to the root of it all.” Looking at his ward, Dunstan waited for her to tell him what she knew of their kind but she remained silent. Eventually he raised a single eyebrow, prompting her to speak.

“Casters can, uh, oh I dunno. They can do a lot of magic, I know that!”

“Yes, Reyna. That they can.” Something in Dunstan’s tone made Reyna narrow her eyes at him. He didn’t say anything rude, but she didn’t like how he said it either.

Twisting her mouth into a scowl, she looked over to the ‘Devil’ portion of the board. “I know there’s only one devil! Lucy or something like that.”

“Hmm? Oh, well yes, there is a Devil named Lucifer, but there are many others as well. Sometimes they’re referred to as Demons, but there’s a lot of misconception about them thanks to modern religions. They actually got the title of Demons and Devils back in the second century, I think? Yes, that sounds about right. Nevertheless, the name stuck.” Dunstan had stroked his beard during his little spiel, causing chalk dust to get stuck in the hairs. Reyna tightened her grip on the chair’s bottom to keep from giggling at the sight.

“All right then, let’s start with the Caster section, shall we?” He started again, “One of the most important thing to remember about magic, Reyna, is that any human can perform it to some extent, and—”

“Can I have a notebook?” Reyna interrupted, fearing she may forget some of this information later on. Dunstan let out an annoyed sigh, waved his hand impatiently, and a notebook and pencil landed on the young girl’s lap. “Thanks!” She said, opening it to the first page.

“So back to what I was saying,” He grounded out, “anyone can do magic. It’s like sports that way. Anyone can play baseball, for example. Anyone can simply pick up a ball and throw catch with a few friends. However, some people are better at sports than others. And then there are the people who make it into the major leagues or the Olympics; the talent comes naturally for them. It also becomes harder to be good at the older you start. Someone who starts playing young is usually going to be better than someone who starts later on. There are exceptions, of course, but they’re few. How’re you holding up? Are you understanding everything?”

“I think so,” Reyna replied. Her eyebrows had scrunched at exceptions, but besides that she had been following him well enough.

“Good,” he nodded, “Now back to those Olympic athletes, we have something akin to that in the Caster world. We have a,” he paused, thinking how to explain this for the young girl, “We have a council. Do you know what a council is, Reyna?”

“Uhm,” She stalled, “Isn’t it like a group of people?”

“Yes! We have this council, called the Council of Three because there are three people on it, that are the most powerful Casters in the world. The Council act like the police for other Casters, they make sure everyone keeps their toes in line, understand?”

Reyna nodded slowly and added a doodle of a policeman to her notes. Her notes had become mostly doodles at this point, but she figured she’d be able to figure out what she’d meant later on.

“And you, little girl, are currently in the presence of a member of the Council,” Dunstan told her. Tilting her head, Reyna’s mouth popped open a bit and she twisted her head to look around the room for this person. Her teacher sighed, “Me, Reyna, I’m talking about myself.”

“Oh,” The young girl mumbled, tucking her chin in and averting her gaze. Her cheeks felt hot, and Reyna felt like an idiot when Dunstan let out another long sigh. Gripping her pencil tightly in her small fist, Reyna looked back up at him and asked, “Do you get a special name or something then?”

Smiling proudly down at her, Reyna felt her courage flutter back into her chest, her previous mistake forgotten. “Yes, something like that. It’s nothing too creative, but only the members of the council are given the title of Sorcerer.”

Reyna nodded her head slowly and made a sound of impressiveness even though she didn’t feel all that impressed. She didn’t want to make Dunstan sigh again though. “One day, Reyna, if all goes to plan, you will take my place on the Council and earn the title of Sorceress yourself.”

“I will?” She asked, scrunching up her nose as she did so.

Dunstan chuckled with good humor and nodded, “Yes, that’s what it means to be my apprentice. One day, once I retire or the like, I shall pass my position on to you. That’s how this works you see.”

Reyna didn’t see. Somehow the process seemed a little off to her, but she wasn’t about to bring it up. Instead, she simply nodded again, hoping some conviction showed through her eyes. “Can I go to the bathroom?” She asked. Putting her notebook and pencil down on the ground, Reyna didn’t wait for an answer before scurrying off to the nearest powder room.

When she returned to the living room, the chalkboard and desk were moved to the side and the stool with the vase on it was dead center on the carpet. “Took you long enough,” he remarked off handedly, “We’ll continue with the chalk board tomorrow, but for now we’ll expand on the Caster portion. See this vase, Reyna? What do you think about it?”

Reyna stepped closer to the sparkly thing and smiled at it. It was bigger on top than it was on the bottom and had mini diamond shapes cut into the sides. The way it was placed allowed for the sun to hit it just so that it created the prettiest rainbows Reyna had ever seen. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered, almost reverently.

“It really is,” The sorcerer sighed, “I want you to break it.”

“What?” She asked. Clearly she misheard him. Why would he want her to break such a lovely thing?

“I want you to break it,” he repeated. After a two second long staring contest, Reyna reached her hands out to do what he asked when his voice stopped her, “Not like that. Break it without touching it. Use magic to force it off the stool.”

“How?” The young girl took a step away from the stool and stared at the vase. Her brows scrunched and relaxed several times as she tried to force anything to happen. Looking at her teacher, she frowned when she saw him frowning at her.

“Figure it out,” He said harshly. Reyna flinched back at his tone and refocused on the pretty vase that she had to destroy. Dunstan made a humming noise and walked towards the kitchen, “I’m going to make myself a sandwich while you deal with this.”

Humming under her breath, Reyna tried moving her eyebrows again in hopes that the two would somehow be connected. When that didn’t work, she raised her arms and began to flail them about. Still nothing. Thinking back on every time Dunstan summoned anything, she tried to mimic his hand motion, but even that produced zero results. Puckering her mouth, the young girl circled the stool and looked at the vase from all sides. How had she brought the park food to her? She remembered being extremely hungry and thinking only about food, but not doing anything particular to call the food to her.

Reyna felt she’d tried everything by the time Dunstan returned from eating his lunch. He made a scoffing noise behind her back and Reyna’s spine stiffened. Focusing all her attention onto the vase, the young girl tried once again to move it with sheer will power. Puffing up her cheeks and holding her breath, Reyna felt her face growing red with exertion.

“You’ll just asphyxiate yourself if you keep that up,” Her teacher remarked. “And before you ask,” he sighed, “it means you’ll kill yourself because you’ve run out of air. Come on, Reyna. I know you can do it. Stop thinking about this so much. This is easy! Kid stuff, for Christ’s sake! Just break the vase. Or move the vase at this point, for all I care. Think back to your days spent in the park and how alone and scared you were. How hungry you felt. Use that! Think back on your suffering and use it!”

Dunstan yelled and yelled. His face had gone red, but Reyna hadn’t noticed. She’d kept her attention on the vase in front of her. She knew if she glanced at Dunstan she’d begin to cry and she didn’t want to cry. She didn’t want him to know that he’d made her cry. She could feel the tears build behind her eyes, though, so when he began to yell at her about her parents she wanted to shout at him to shut up, shut up, shut up!

The sound of a crash broke Dunstan of his tirade and cleared away Reyna’s tears. The vase had shot off the stool top and directly into the wall across from it, shattering into a thousand pieces. They both looked at the vase’s remains, then at each other. Dunstan’s face broke into a smile a millisecond before Reyna’s did. The young girl heard her teacher’s hollers and praises, but it was muted, because at the forefront all she could hear was the blood rushing in her ears and felt the overwhelming desire to do it again.

Flinging her bony limbs this way and that, everything in the room went flying. Books, small statues, even the chalk board, nothing was safe from an adrenaline filled Reyna. Small trembles of pure exhilaration coursed through her body every time something moved and her smile felt so wide she was sure her cheeks had split.

“Whoa, there!” Dunstan exclaimed as he placed his hands on her narrow shoulders. “I’m all for celebration, kid, but that doesn’t mean we have to destroy the whole house!” Throwing his head back, he let out a hearty laugh and then picked up his young ward. Laughing with him, Reyna looked over the mess she’d made. “You did well,” Dunstan sighed. “How’s about tonight we go out for dinner. Anywhere you want!”

“Can we go to McDonald’s?” Reyna immediately asked, deeply hoping she could get a chocolate milkshake with her meal. Dunstan laughed again at her simple answer and nodded his head.

“Sure, sure,” he drawled as he looked over his living room. “Want to move stuff again?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the mess.

“Yeah!” Reyna replied jovially. Her eyes darted around the room, thinking of what else she could try to move without raising a finger.

“Good, because everything in here needs to go back to the way it was. Books on shelves, trinkets on coffee table, and black board turned on its right side. You think you can do that?”

“Yup!” With an extra pop to her response, Reyna waved her hands, slowly moving everything back into its place. Dunstan watched with a gleam in his eye. He was impressed with the amount of control she showed in moving the objects. It’d been a slow start, but the results were better than he’d ever imagined. Smirking to himself, he silently patted himself on the back for a job well done in terms of picking an apprentice.

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