Chapter 15

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Chapter Fifteen

Kaine waited in his room for hours before the Archmage summoned him to the council chambers. The Master Mages sat behind a horseshoe-shaped table, glaring at him. He stood awkwardly in front of them, not sure whether to speak or remain silent. Finally, the Archmage cleared his throat.

"There are many on the Mages Council who feel that your shocking behavior during the day's events are good cause to banish you from the school."

The blood drained from Kaine's head and he felt dizzy. He clenched his hands so tightly that his fingernails dug into his palms, drawing blood.

"However," the Archmage said, "others have argued that we contributed to your misconduct by offering you a position of power for which you clearly do not have the maturity."

Kaine's fear was replaced by indignation, but he was careful not to show it. What did they mean he did not have the maturity? He should be a Dragon Mage right now, but the title was stolen from him. How was any of this his fault?

The Archmage continued. "It has been decided that you may remain at the Academy and continue your studies under probation. However, your powers will be locked until such time as the Council agrees you are worthy of having them restored."

The Archmage nodded to the Master Mages, signaling them to stand and file out of the council chambers. Kaine was careful to bow to each one respectfully, but inwardly, he seethed. This was a monstrous punishment, he thought. They may as well have chopped off one of his arms or legs. How was he supposed to live without magic?

The Archmage stayed behind to speak to him.

"Think of this as a test: one I have faith that you will pass," said the Archmage. "You have great talent. You have the potential to be a powerful enchanter someday."

Kaine shook his head. "All those years of study. Of practice. All for nothing."

"Not for nothing," said the Archmage. "Do not forget that you were able to charm nine stallions at one time and you are not even close to the peak of your abilities. You have time to do great things."

Kaine looked at the Archmage, trying to fight angry tears.

"But it won't be a dragon," Kaine said. "How can I ever be satisfied with other animals after touching the mind of a dragon?"

The Archmage patted his shoulder. "I understand. Perhaps it is time for you to explore other areas of magic. Remember, when one door closes, another opens."

Kaine nodded his agreement so the Archmage would finish talking and leave him alone. What a bunch of dung, he thought. He did not want to go through another door. He wanted to be a Dragon Mage.

The Archmage dismissed him and Kaine walked slowly back to his quarters, too defeated to plan his next step. All he wanted to do was make it back to his chambers without running into anyone. No such luck.

"Sorry about your bad luck, mate," said new Dragon Mage Niall, who had bound the brown dragon. Niall held out his hand for him to shake, but Kaine brushed him off. He could see pity in Niall's eyes but also something else. With a start, Kaine recognized it as a look of relief – relief that he was not the one to lose a dragon. Kaine gave the boy a withering glance and walked on, refusing to respond to such a phony gesture of friendship.

He thought he could not feel any more humiliated, but then it got worse. He neared a group of apprentice mages who were discussing the day's events. He moved behind a corner so he could listen to them without anyone seeing him, wanting to hear what they were saying.

"It was that foundling with the demon eyes," one of the apprentices said. "I always knew he was hiding something big. I didn't expect it to be magical power, though."

"Kaine-o should have been more aware of his surroundings," said a second mage. "He was too focused on winning to know what was happening around him. Classic rookie mistake. Just proves he wasn't cut out for the job."

"Meh, it couldn't have happened to a better person," said the first, "He thought he was so special. Turns out he's no better than the rest of us."

That was it: Kaine had enough and he stepped into the group's line of sight.

One of the apprentices in the group noticed Kaine and made a face at the others to warn them he was in hearing distance. The conversation stopped and the apprentices studiously stared at something in the distance until Kaine passed.

When he finally made it back to his chambers where he would not have to speak to anyone, his shoulders slumped and he shivered. The room was cold and dark. Automatically, he performed the short spell to light the candles and fire.

Nothing happened.

He tried again, his heart pounding in his ears. He had been doing this spell since moving to the Academy when he was a small child. It was as natural to him as walking.

Still nothing.

How had they taken his powers from him so quickly, Kaine wondered? Then it hit him. When the Archmage patted his shoulder to comfort him, what he was really doing was stealing Kaine's magic. Kaine had not even noticed. All that time that the Archmage was pretending to care about him and advising him to start fresh was just a distraction. He could not believe he had been so easily manipulated.

He sat on his bed, trying to hold back tears, feeling truly defeated for the first time. He grabbed his pillow and held it against his face so no one could hear him scream. He clenched his fists and pounded them on the bed. When he had worn himself out, he drew a deep breath and squared his shoulders. This would not be the end of him. Someday, he would have his revenge against them all, especially that boy who had taken his dragon.

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