The Neophyte

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History Lesson

HEIDI

I tried to pry the doors open but they would not budge. It had been twenty minutes or so. There was a rune marked on them and I knew it was the symbol of Mischief magic. Wynona had locked me in the dining room with her spell. The djinn’s claw marks in my shoulder did not have the time to heal—they ached so much I had to stop. I winced and clutched my right shoulder with my left hand.

I sat in the corner and waited, thinking of ways to escape the magic lock. I could hear the chaos just beyond the doors. I closed my eyes and began to meditate.

Vicky. My eyes opened wide as the memories of my recurring dream returned. Oh no, oh no, oh no

A loud thud and the walls shook. Somehow the aching in my shoulder got worse. What if Vicky was in trouble and I could not save her? What if my dream was an omen and it was about this?

Just as I was about to go back into meditation, the doors swung open and the spell was broken. I got my stance ready to attack but instead of a djinn, a familiar, desperate voice called my name.

I remembered his ruby eyes, glimmering wildly and brightly, like they were on fire. His dark brown hair was in his eyes and his red coat torn. His knuckles were bruised as he held his hand out to grab my wrist. I did not dare to go against him so I let him take me back to The Academy.

When we arrived, Tristan wasted no time in heading straight to his office. I was not sure if I should follow him but I did. He said nothing so I asked nothing. He opened the gate for both of us and walked ahead, shoulders tense. My shoulder was still aching.

Reaching the HQ, he glanced over his shoulder for a millisecond and instructed, “This way.” I nodded like he could see me. That way it was.

He stopped in front of a door with his name plaque on it. His office. We went in and he shut the door behind me. Our footsteps were muffled by the carpet beneath us. Tristan finally levelled his gaze on me, darting his ruby eyes on the scar above my left eyebrow.

“You all right?” He pointed vaguely to my forehead.

“Tango’d with a djinn,” I replied. He blinked, a tinge of worry in his eyes. “I mean, it’s fine.”

“Have you learnt the healing spell?” He took a step closer and held up his palm, “If you don’t mind?”

“I do, actually, but thanks,” I said, a little guilty. “I’m just not comfortable with physical contact with anyone. Sorry.”

Tristan took a step back and put his hand down. His face reddened and then unclenched his jaw. Whatever that was tense in him relaxed. “Don’t be sorry, it’s your space.”

“Cool,” I said. And meant it.

“Well,” he snapped back to his intense Tristan self. “Jessie had instructed me to bring you here because here you will be safe. And because you were suspended and sent home not two days ago, I have given your room away to another Spellcaster.”

He slid behind his desk and took a seat, “In the meantime, you may use Wynona’s room. She has permitted me and Jessie to give her room to a female Spellcaster in danger.”

In danger?” I asked, eyes wide. “Am I?”

Tristan held his hand up, “You were. You will stay with us for now, it isn’t safe in the Worldly Realm. In the meantime, you may stay here until Nurse Hilda comes to check on you.”

I took a seat near the window and looked around the office. It was big and bright with a houseplant in the corner next to an antique globe. I let out a whistle.

“Nice digs.”

He lifted his face from the desk. He was writing a letter. “Pardon?”

“It’s very well-decorated,” I explained. He thanked me and returned to his writing. He looked thoughtful for a while before looking back at me.

“How much of the counsel did you understand?”

I pursed my lips. “Well…” then I remembered about Synto the Fallen. There was a knot in my stomach that tightened. “It might have been related to this scar on my forehead.”

Tristan raised an eyebrow. He placed his pen on the desk and laid his hands on it, weaving his fingers.

“Please, spare me no detail.”

I began the story. I told him about meeting the djinn in the park—I skipped the part where I cast Arsonion onto some grass—and that Vicky and I were there. I mentioned the part about Synto the Fallen and the little poem the djinn made about him. Tristan’s ruby eyes glowed at the name.

“So you told Lord Voltaire about the name?”

“Yes. That was when he called the rest of you guys.”

His eyes traced my face and asked, “What about the scar? Did the djinn attack you?”

“It throttled me a little and left me this. But I’ll be fine, it’s not my first battle with a djinn.”

Tristan went silent for a moment. Then he asked, “Well, since you’re already deep in it, I might as well lecture you a little bit about history. Would you care to lend an ear?”

“I’m all yours,” I replied. I did not know why I cringed at that.

He continued anyway, “My ancestor, Sir Morgan Embers, founded Untamed magic while he was practising spellcasting. He was a mage—that was what they were called before we changed the name to ‘Spellcaster’. My title of a Sage can only be passed down to my kin. Not a friend or neighbour, only my son or daughter. Not even my wife.”

At this point, I had leaned in so much I did not realise until my shoulder started to ache. Tristan was beginning to sound more alive as he spoke about his lineage. This quiet, stoic man was as animated as I never thought he was capable of. He continued.

“In my childhood, I was raised by a father who was training to be a Sage. He was to take over my grandfather. Now, my grandfather was a strict man and he was not easy on either of us. He knew I was to be a Sage too, for I was the only child and for that, he trained me as well. My father gave up the title due to his poor relationship with my grandfather, so when he suddenly passed, I became the youngest Sage to ever be entitled with the position in The Academy.”

“How long have you been a Sage? You don’t look that much older than I am,” I asked when he paused for a short while.

“Ten years,” he replied. “And if you must know, my father and I are on good terms, but he did not wish upon his son such a responsibility. I, however, probably think more like my grandfather and thus chose to fulfil his wishes. When my grandfather passed, I knew I had to carry his legacy. Jessie was already a Sage at the time, and he promised my grandfather to watch over me until he retires.

“Now that you know my history, you must know Wynona’s and Jessie’s. Wynona was born into a rich family where she started training in The Academy immediately. She was trained by her grandmother. the former Sage of Mischief magic. She became a Sage some time after Jessie did. Jessie got the title on the anniversary of his wife’s passing.

There have been countless incidents where we encountered the djinns. My grandfather fought with a few while Wynona’s grandaunt succumbed to a disease spread by another. And Jessie’s wife got murdered by the Synto the Fallen.”

I froze. Somehow, flashbacks of that dreadful night replayed in my head like a fast, silent film reel. From my mother’s soulless eyes to my father picking up the kitchen knife and chasing me into my closet.

I saw my four-year-old self running in the dark, in the dead of night, scurrying from under the kitchen table to the staircase. I stumbled up the stairs and dashed straight into my bedroom. I could hear his thundering footsteps behind. As I reached the closet and entered it, I found myself in the present, hands shaking and fingers splayed.

“How much do you know about Synto the Fallen?” Tristan asked, startling me out of my thoughts.

I blinked, catching my breath. I tried not to show it but nothing escaped his scrutiny. His eyebrows knitted then relaxed.

“Are you all right, Heidi?”

“Um,” I cleared my throat, “Yeah, uh, Lord Voltaire explained. But do you think he is behind the attack at the Lair?”

“I believe so,” Tristan paused. “Sorry we had to lock you in there, but it was for your own protection. I’m sure you must be angry and helpless. I know I would be.”

I leaned back, calmer than before. My thoughts realigned as I spoke, “I was, initially, but not anymore after that. I don’t know, maybe it was because I understood that she did it for my sake. It would have been foolish to fight right there and then, only to die in the hands of reckless danger.”

Tristan raised his dark eyebrows, his ruby eyes glimmered. “You have learned your lesson on discipline and responsibility. That is a mark of a promising Spellcaster.”

“Thanks to you, O’ great Sage of Untamed magic,” I replied in an exaggerated tone. To my surprise, Tristan laughed.

“Whoa, did you just make a noise that sounded like a laugh?” I asked, bewildered. “Well, this is one for the books.”

He cleared his throat, “Well, I admit, that was funny. Anyway, now that you have understood the discipline and responsibility that comes with spellcasting, how about we continue your training? You have one more magic type to master before you can be promoted to an Acolyte.”

“You mean that?” I sat up.

“Come,” he got up from his chair, “let’s make haste if we want that new rank.”

We made our way to the training grounds. It was past midnight so it was just the two of us. Ironically, it was the same time and spot where Wynona taught me Arsonion the last time.

“Untamed magic,” Tristan spoke, casting the spell of Arsonion, “is as its name suggests. I believe you are very familiar with that. Similarly to the other magic types, when you channel your aura through your energies, you must lean into your heart. You will feel the surge coming from your lungs to your fingertips.”

“Shouldn’t I realign my energies and clear my headspace to form the magic?”

Tristan took his stance and readied his wand. “That’s for Practical and Mischief magic because they require you to be calculative and precise. But not for Untamed magic.”

He waved his wand and cast Arsonion onto a grass patch in a distance. “With Untamed magic, you must learn to embrace your emotions and learn to channel them through your energies and spirit. Through embracing your emotions, your aura becomes unstable and wild, like a highly-charged magnet.”

His ruby-red eyes glowered as he cast another spell, a freezing one, to subdue the flames and extinguish them. The gem on his cuff began to glow as well.

“Show me what you got with that spell, Danielson. Lean into your emotions. You will feel the surge in your lungs.”

I breathed. I thought about my right shoulder and held my wand in my left hand. I pointed it towards a grassy patch in the distance. Slowly, I felt the surge of current from my lungs shift and form inside me. I steadied my breathing and closed my eyes the way I did at the park. The current formed into heat and moved inside me, finding its way out through my fingertips. And it did.

The current shot out of my wand and straight onto the grass patch. The flame was small and Tristan put it out quickly. He beamed from ear to ear.

“Very good, Heidi. You’re a quick learner.”

I winced. The heat could be felt throughout my body, aching the wounds in my shoulder.

“But you don’t look okay,” Tristan walked towards me. “Let me see that shoulder.”

“It’ll heal, I’m fine.”

Tristan eyed me and stopped in his tracks. “I’ll have Nurse Hilda to check up on you as soon as possible. You get some rest. We’ll continue training when you’re better.”

* * *

“This looks bad,” Nurse Hilda said, unwinding the bandage. She made the tut-tutting sound as she did. “It could be a potential infection.”

I was seated in the middle of the nurse’s office while Nurse Hilda attended to my shoulder. She had my arm placed on a table, under the bright light to get a better look at my wounds. The white linoleum squeaked underneath her black shoes every time she turned to get an equipment. She placed a pair of reading glasses on her nose as her olive-green eyes bore on me.

“It has been aching a lot, but I thought that’s because the wounds are still pretty fresh.”

It had been two days since the djinn clawed me. I tilted my head away from my right shoulder as she bent over to take a closer look. Tristan stood behind her and watched. When he saw the wounds, his eyes widened. Nurse Hilda readied her hands and hovered over the wounds. The ache got worse.

“Hold still,” she closed her eyes and began the healing.

I could feel a stinging pain in my right torso and entire arm. They felt like knives piercing through my skin and slicing me open. I winced, teeth clenching. She moved her palms to my fingertips.

“Something is lodged in your hand. Could be poison. Do you feel any pain or numbness?”

I shook my head. “Not really, the only pain I feel is my shoulder. What’s in there?”

Nurse Hilda frowned as she eyed my wounds. There was a flash of worry in her pale green eyes. Nurse Hilda is a stout woman with strong hands. Her thick, pink fingers splayed apart as she moved them up and down my arm. She paused at my hand and looked down on me, concern written all over her face. A stray red curl from under her nurse hat looked auburn under the fluorescent light. Tristan’s ruby eyes looked a shade brighter.

“I’m going to remove the poison now,” she warned, “It may hurt a lot.”

I took two deep breaths and nodded to her. She inhaled and uttered some spell. It started with a dull ache in my fingertips, then a sting. As the pain heightened, it gradually became hot. Like fire.

“Hold still,” Nurse Hilda said.

I had not realised that I was squirming. Tristan’s eyes did not leave my shoulder nor did he budge at all. I almost forgot that he was still there. I shut my eyes and felt the heat—poison or whatever—move from my fingers to my wrist. Carefully, she brought it up my elbow and towards my shoulder—I yelped.

“Okay! It’s out! You did a great job,” she cheered like I was her daughter who had finally learnt how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle.

I let out a sigh. Nurse Hilda dabbed the poison from my wounds with cotton wool and hovered her hand on the side of my abdomen. “All right, one more area to go.”

Tristan raised his eyebrows. “You mean you didn’t get them all out?”

“The poison has been spreading inside her. There are some lodged in her torso.” Nurse Hilda readied her spell and brought me to the bed behind us. I laid there and gave the signal to proceed.

This time, the heat was heightened tenfold. The poison moved towards my right rib cage and then up my arm. My head began to spin.

“Steady, Hilda,” Tristan warned.

“Just a little bit more, hold on tight, Heidi.”

My vision blurred. Everything I saw manifested another identical self, two exact copies shifting in and out of a central focus, a kaleidoscopic pattern of colours.

“You will kill her!”

“Hold her, Tristan!”

My head fell first and I landed on someone’s arms. My blurry vision became worse but I was still conscious. I felt an arm around my shoulders and a hand on my forehead. Voices around me grew muffled and far away. Numbness. What was happening? Maybe if I closed my eyes…

“Heidi.”

I could not lift my heavy lids. I pried them open and all I saw was a dark silhouette of a man.

“Can you hear me?” He sounded like a man too.

I nodded slowly. My head felt like lead.

“Good,” the silhouette moved towards me. It stopped inches away from my face yet I could not make out its features. My heart raced. “Meet me at the old Lucky Orphans. We can talk about your visions. Tell no one.”

And he was gone.

“Heidi!”

I jolted awake. Nurse Hilda had injected adrenaline into me. Tristan was holding me while she hovered over. He had been calling me but I was not responding.

“Your heart rate lowered so much we thought you weren’t going to make it,” Tristan said. “Are you okay now?”

I was back at the clinic. I was in his arms and somehow that felt comforting...until he turned me to him and steadied me by the shoulders, “Your aura was fading and it scared us. Are you with us, Heidi?”

He was so wide-eyed that I could see the fiery-red pupils dilate. I had never seen him this up close.

“I’m fine! I’m here,” I said.

Nurse Hilda took the bandage and wrapped my shoulder. “The poison got to you so badly I had to remove it as soon as I could. Any minute longer and you would’ve been a goner.”

I felt the cold sweat on my forehead. Nurse Hilda patted me dry, “You’ll need to stay in Wynona’s room until you get better. You’re not going anywhere until we know you are one hundred percent.”

“I’ll make sure of it,” Tristan added.

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