Chapter 15

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            Slowly opening her eyes, Kallai was treated to the familiar view of her grey ceiling. She studied the familiar stones, every dip, curve, and pockmark an old friend. She slowly sat up in her bed and sighed. It had been such a nice dream, one she wished she hadn’t had to wake up from.

            It wasn’t at all long before she was slipping into the dining room, this morning hiding at a table of Yellows, hoping her much darker sash didn’t stand out too much. After she hurriedly ate, she was equally as quick to get to class, knowing the less time she spent in the open, the safer she would be.

            Settled into her far corner, Kallai set her books up carefully, ending up rereading the section of her spatial book that they were on as the rest of her class slowly trickled in. No one paid her any attention, just the way she liked it. Soon the room was filled with its usual pre-class chatter, the acoustics of the classroom only amplifying the volume, which in turn forced everyone to talk louder. It was a cycle that only ended with the arrival of their teacher.

            Magi Namin spun to face them as she got off the last step, her black overrobe flaring out behind her. She swept them all with one of her freezing gazes, stopping every conversation dead, before she spoke. “This is our third day on blind transportations. You should have all mastered those done within short distances, so today we will review while having you stretch yourselves. I’ve set up your painted stones in the practice range. I will be choosing a few of you to demonstrate what you should have learned, by bringing your individual stone here. Now, let’s start with Master Sissely. Please come to the front.”

            Tupiz stood, shoving one of his friends good-naturedly as he sauntered down the stairs, his glasses catching the sunlight that streamed through the windows. He saluted Magi Namin, who thinned her lips and flapped her hands at him. Grinning, he haphazardly drew the symbol limiting the range of his target on the blackboard, before beginning the quick movements, jerking movements of the transport spell. He finished with a clap and the shouted word of engagement. A moment later, there was a clatter as not one, but three stones fell to the ground at his feet. One was his red and blue one, complete with his name, but the green and white and yellow and pink ones were clearly not. “Whoops,” he said, smiling and shrugging.

            Magi Namin glared. “You didn’t properly set your area.”

            “But I got my rock, didn’t I?”

            “Sit down,” she snapped.

            Chuckling, he strolled back to his seat, high-fiving one of the other boys on his way up. Kallai didn’t pay him any attention, focusing on watching their teacher through her hair, doing her best to keep their gaze from meeting. She couldn’t help the cold, prickling feeling of her stomach at the thought of being summoned to the front, to fail in front of everyone. Magi Namin’s call of “Master Maolt.”

            Kallai watched Eran slink down to the front. He took his time drawing the limiting symbol, hesitating a few times, before finally finishing. His movements were equally hesitant, but in the end perfect. When he spoke the word of engagement, only one stone, his scarlet and black one, appeared at his feet.

            Magi Namin nodded in satisfaction. “Good,” she said, releasing him back to his seat with a little flick of her fingers. “Master Maolt has the right way of it. Take your time as you need it. Speed will come with practice. Now, let’s see,” she said, eyes running over all of them, before finally stopping. “Master Magan,” she said, her voice making Kallai freeze in place. “You haven’t demonstrated anything for us in a while.”

            Kallai flushed then paled. With trembling hands, she stood, knowing Magi Namin wouldn’t let her out of it, no matter what she said or did. Doing her best to ignore the almost audible mental groans of the rest of the class, she trudged down to the front of the class, hearing the occasional hiss of “Spellless,” and “Don’t blow us up.”

            She swallowed, her mouth gone dry, when Magi Namin gestured to the blackboard. Biting her lip, Kallai picked up the chalk and set it against the cool, dark expanse. Sketching the right symbol was easy, one of the hundreds she’d practiced endlessly, believing when she was younger that her problem lay in her drawing.

            Carefully placing the chalk back down, Kallai tried not to look at the students hiding behind their desks, but their movements were hard to ignore. She swallowed again, mind flickering briefly with the memory of her dream, of Shuu teaching her, the spellless wonder, how to do magic. But that had been a dream. Even she knew that she had no magic apart from the ability to make any and every spell explode.

            Feeling ready to cry, Kallai began the movements, her arms feeling heavy even as another tremor ran through her whole body. She barely whispered the engagement word when she was done, praying that what was about to happen wouldn’t.

            As she’d expected, the air in front of her, where she’d set the spell to send her stone, exploded, sending both her and Magi Namin stumbling backwards. Kallai lost her balance and fell over, adding new bruises to her body’s account, before she could clamber to her feet.

           Magi Namin said nothing, only shook her head, expression of disappointment and irritation speaking volumes. Shoulders hunched and head down, Kallai scurried back to her seat among hissed insults and catcalls.

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