Chapter 3

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            The winds on top of the dormitory were strong, but with the sun beating down, Kallai didn’t feel cold. She sat, tucked into a corner between the crenellations that lined the edges of the school’s roof for decorative, rather than defensible purposes, and carefully untied the cloth she carried her lunch in.

            Again, she was glad that the school had instituted the carry away lunch several years before she’d started. Identical packets of food, today’s containing a sandwich, some rolls, an apple, and some cheese, were left in neat lines on the dining room tables. Lunch was the only meal they were allowed to eat outside the dining room, and barring their rooms and the classrooms, they were free to eat wherever they liked.

            Kallai relaxed as she bit into the first roll, this one filled with berry preserves. The roof had so far been the safest place she’d found to eat. It was out of the way, the wind made it difficult to hear other people speak, and it was up four flights of stairs, so no one ever came up there. She didn’t know what she’d do in winter, but for now, it was a haven for her.

            Roll held in her mouth, she pulled out one of her books, flipping it to the section on healing spells. Magi Evana had said that they were finally going to move on from basic cut wounds, and that she’d asked Magi Althan to come in to show them more about healing broken bones. Kallai hoped that with Magi Althan running the class, Magi Evana would leave her alone. She already knew, from her various trips to the physiker’s office, that Magi Althan was a kind person.

            Reviewing what she’d already studied the night before took Kallai no more time than it did to finish her second roll. Closing her Outer magic books, she grabbed her Inner one. She flipped through the pages, stopping at the section she reread almost daily. The advanced defensive spells.

             She traced the symbols for the transparency spell with a finger, mouthed the words for the egg shield, and practiced the gestures for the stone skin spell. For a second, Kallai considered trying the latter again. But the thought of losing her lunch spot had her shaking her head, leaving the spell words unspoken.

            She re-opened her Outer magic book, turning the pages until she came to the offensive spells. Between bites of her sandwich, she studied the words and gestures intently. Knowing what her fellow students were capable of, or better yet, identifying the spell before they completed it, was one of the few defenses she had against her tormentors.

Kallai wondered if she could somehow disrupt their casting. Sevilen had hinted that it was possible in his last letter, but he thought a great many strange things were possible. But as an inventor, that was part of his job. Though, she supposed if you were to force them to stop speaking the words, or mess up their symbols, or even interrupt their gestures, that would likely cause the spell to abort. Still, something like that would require some fast spellwork and wasn’t of much use to her.

Not that her causing another explosion wouldn’t stop any nearby spells before they were finished. The downside, as she’d discovered the first time she’d tried a spell to keep the bullies away, was that she wasn’t immune to the effect either. She’d gotten enough bruises after being forced backwards by her own failed spells. And she’d recover right about the same time her tormentors did, and they were quite willing to share their unhappiness with being exploded with her.

A shadow crossing over her had Kallai looking up. Powerful wings banks as it spiralled upwards, the hawk above her was everything that was strong and free. She wished that she could fly, that she could escape school and just be Kallai, without magic. There were plenty of people who didn’t have magic and she imagined they lived lives just as happy as mages did. Of course, her parents would think it a scandal that any Magan, and doubly so for their own daughter, were to give up learning to be a Magi. As they’d told her often enough, a Magan without a magic license wasn’t a true Magan at all.

            Pulling her knees up to her chest, Kallai hugged them. She wished Sevilen was still at school, instead of working for the government. She thought she could get through the daily taunts and attacks, that she could even manage to be happy, if she just had someone to talk to. Someone who wasn’t out to trick her or who’d  be scared off by the bullies. Someone strong and kind, like Sevilen.

            She sighed. She might as well wish for wings. She was as likely to get either. Leaning back against the dark grey stone that made up all the school buildings, Kallai closed her eyes and let herself daydream about what it would have been like if she’d had magic all along.

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