Chapter 2

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            Rolling her wrist to relieve some of the cramping from copying down everything off the blackboard, Kallai glanced around the room. Most of her fellow Indigos were still busy writing, their heads down at the long semi-circular tables that ran around the amphitheatre like room they sat in, with the only breaks in them being for the stairs. At the bottom of the room, in what would have been a stage if they had been in one of the grand theatres down in the city, stood Magi Rendan, just to one side of the chalk covered blackboard.

            He was watching them all, his pointer tapping against his leg, the billowing black robe-coat of a true Magi worn as naturally as he wore his salt and pepper hair. He walked a quick circuit around his stage before he spoke again. “Well then, my bright Indigos, who here can tell me what symbols would be best used when combining a colour transformation with a growth spatial change?”

            For several seconds there was no sound except for the furious scratch of quills against paper as students frantically tried to finish copying down the notes off the board. After turning her blonde head this way and that, Rheta put her hand up.

            Magi Rendan nodded. “Yes, Master Zek?”

            “I would use a fourth level growth symbol along with a first level colour one, linking the two with a third level binding symbol.”

            Their teacher frowned, but nodded. “That would work. Of course, it would also make your whole spell unstable, and likely to collapse in on itself. Even if you used a fourth level binding, there are still too many weak spots for the spell to be truly safe. Remember, the simpler the magic, the stronger it is. Anyone else have an answer for me?”

            Not a hand moved, only eyes trying frantically to stare anywhere but at Magi Rendan. He swept them with his gaze before finally sighing. “Alright then. Master Magan,” he said, his eyes shooting over to Kallai. “Would you please tell us the correct answer?”

            She shrank back into her seat, feeling her cheeks go pink as some of her classmates turned to stare. Rather than prolong the scrutiny, she said, in a voice that was only barely audible, “Colour and growth symbols are compatible, so a hybridization of the two along the Delta twist would keep you from needing anything further.”

            “Very good,” Rendan said, smiling. “Master Magan is quite correct. Whenever your symbols are compatible, combining them together will not only save you time and keep your spell more stable, but the additional act of combining for a combination spell nearly always boosts the power. This will allow you to go with the lower level spells while getting the effect of the higher ones. Any questions?”

            The class shook their heads, some still staring at the blackboard as their hands raced along their papers. “Now that you all understand how to combine colour and growth into one spell, and I presume from you lack of questions that you all do, why don’t we have a little demonstration? Master Magan, since you answered the question correctly, it’s only fair you get the first chance at trying it.”

            Kallai felt her whole body go hot then cold, her face draining of colour as she met her teacher’s eyes. She shook her head, letting her gaze drop. When she glanced back up, Magi Rendan was still watching her. Seeing he had her attention, he waved a hand at her, leaving her no choice.

            Trembling faintly, she trudged down the stairs, doing her best to ignore the stares and snickers that followed her progression the centre of the classroom. Rendan smiled encouragingly as he flipped the blackboard around to the blank side. He pulled a small rock out of the desk and laid it on top. “This will be the focus of your spell. I leave it to you to decide the colour and how large it should be.”

            She nodded, not looking at the way the first two rows of students were ducking down, trying to put the desk between them and her. With a hand that felt weak and like it didn’t quite belong to her, Kallai began drawing the colour symbol. She added the right loop for red, letting the sinuously curving lines flow, her mind focusing on the spell, though part of her was still praying that this time, this time please, let the spell work.

            Drawing the Delta twist on the colour, she turned it into the same on the growth, limiting the rock to doing no more than doubling its size. Just in case this ended poorly, she didn’t want to try anything more powerful. Especially not when she, and Magi Rendan, were so close to the focus of her spell.

            The symbols finished, she bit her lip for a second before, at her teacher’s nod, speaking the word of engagement, her eyes locked onto the rock, keeping the symbols she’d drawn firmly in mind. Kallai could feel the heat a moment before the spell went into effect.

            The rock and spell both exploded, sending a wave of heat and pressure out, forcing Kallai back a few steps. Magi Rendan was thrown right off his feet, not stopping until he slid into the first row of desks, behind which most of the students still hid.

            Eyes full of tears, Kallai hurried over to her teacher, feeling her throat catch at hurting yet another person with one of her failures. “I am so sorry, sir,” she said, bending over to offer him a hand. “Are you alright?”

            He blinked at her for a few seconds before nodding and accepting her hands. “I’m quite alright,” he said, allowing her to pull him to his feet. He began brushing dirt off his waistcoat as if one of his students sent him flying every day. “Accidents happen.”

            “Yeah, but the spellless wonder is a walking one,” came a female hiss from Kallai’s left.

            She bit her lip, but otherwise did her best to ignore the whispers that had sprung up around the room. Only the clang of the clocktower’s bells saved her from having to thread her way back through the crowd.

            As her classmates began to hurriedly pack up their books, Magi Rendan called out “I want each of you to draw me three colour and growth symbol hybrids by tomorrow. And no sloppy work!”

            Kallai just ducked her head and rushed back to her seat, only stopping long enough to cap her ink bottle before grabbing everything and bolting, just barely beating the crush out of the classroom.

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