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«EASTRIDGE ACADEMY: SCHOOL FOR ADVENTURERS BY KARA LOO AND JENNIFER YOUNG Eastridge Academy: School for Adventurers Prologue Explain why you would be ...»

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Then, he slowly made his way down the empty hallway to his room. Back in the safety of his own room, Fell let out a shuddering breath and shut the door softly. Javen was already snoring soundly from his bed, so Fell quietly put his books down on his side of the room and silently curled up in the corner of his bed. He pulled the blanket around him and pushed the pillow around so that he barricaded himself into the smallest corner.

There, Fell buried his face in his mattress, ignoring the pain from his broken nose. On his application he had written Fallan, the name of a Warrior. What a fool he had been. Changing his name on a piece of paper didn’t make a scrap of difference. He was Fell Farmington still, through and through. The same boy who was always being beaten by Lanks and Yan. The same boy who would be a bonded laborer for the rest of his life.

The only thing that had changed with Fell’s acceptance to Eastridge was how thoroughly he was getting beaten. Fell painfully replayed the fight in his mind, wincing at all of his movements. That first swing of his had been ridiculous. No wonder Rakam had caught his punch. When Fell had pulled back his fist, the motion must have shown Rakam exactly what he intended to do. How had Rakam managed to punch him with that much force without pulling back as obviously?

Fell turned the matter over in his mind, unsuccessfully trying to figure out how it worked.

What could he have done differently?

–  –  –

Fell opened his eyes. He didn’t have the answers yet. And that, he realized, was why he was here. Classes started tomorrow. All these guys had on him was training...and muscles. It hadn’t escaped his notice that all the other Warrior majors were twice as muscular as he was. But what did that matter? This was just the starting point. From now on, Fell would work twice as hard. He’d study twice as much. And he’d get there faster because he wanted it more than they did.

Fell Farmington was no Warrior, that was true. And yes, Fallan was just a name, a name of a Warrior who didn’t exist. But, Fell decided, that didn’t matter so much anymore. What mattered was that someday Fallan would exist and Fell would be a Warrior. And each day, starting with tomorrow, would bring him one step closer.

–  –  –

Wisteria woke up as the clock tower tolled the sixth hour of the day. At Ling Monastery, everyone kept early hours, and Wisteria intended to keep those hours so she wouldn’t be out of practice when she returned. When Yui Wei had made her point, Wisteria was certain her mother would let her come home. Surely she would be home in only a matter of weeks. Wisteria slipped a sensible blue tunic over a gray work habit. She grabbed her mage’s cloak and left while the Princess still slept, effectively avoiding her roommate entirely.

Eastridge wasn’t so bad when it was completely deserted. The morning air was cold and refreshing, and mist drifted along the grounds, briefly reminding Wisteria of the Divide. Wisteria frowned: thinking of home reminded her of her mother, someone she didn’t want to think about at the moment.

She meandered through the maze of walkways around the school grounds, following a small, cobblestone path into the gardens. Taking the path to its end, she found a rough enclave.

There was a bench and enough space to constitute a clearing. Surrounded by trees and bushes, it seemed that this corner of the grounds had been forgotten.

Wisteria smiled slightly. Here, at least, she could get away from the rush and clamor of the Eastridge students. She reclined on the bench, already feeling more at ease than she felt in her room. She hadn’t slept well after Averi’s visitor had left. Something about Wraith Ravinswood had bothered her.

It might’ve been the way he seemed to have already charmed her roommate, which she took as a bad omen that she’d be seeing more of him. It might’ve been that he’d already gotten her in trouble with the upperclassman who oversaw their floor, though Wisteria had never been

–  –  –

one to be afraid of trouble. But increasingly Wisteria realized that what bothered her was the fact that she had opened the window when, by all rights, she should have ignored him and alerted Evelyn herself. That’s what she’d do the next time she saw him.

That settled, Wisteria took advantage of the quiet to meditate as the sun climbed in the sky and the mist burned away. The tolling of the clock tower reminded her of her classes.

The first Mage class was Introductory Rune Magic, which was held in one of the main blocks of classrooms. Wisteria arrived early and slunk into a seat in the back corner. The room was huge, easily twice the size of most rooms at the Monastery. The high ceilings were held up with pillars, and there were rows and rows of stone benches. As Wisteria marveled at the workmanship, wondering to what extent magic had played a role in the construction, a group of giggling girls sat down in front of her as the professor walked in.

Wisteria might have mistaken him for an upper-level student if it hadn’t been for the casual way he carried himself. No students were that at ease on the first day of classes. But for that, Wisteria wouldn’t have thought he was a professor. Still young, he had dark brown hair swept messily over deep black eyes. When he took the center of the room and began to write his name on the board, the girls in front of Wisteria took note of him in hushed exclamations.

“That’s our teacher?” “I’m never missing this class.” “Aren’t you glad you minored in Mage work?” It took all of Wisteria’s will power to physically refrain from rolling her eyes. Yet, somehow she managed.

As the clock tower chimed the eighth hour, Professor Valint, or so the board read, began to speak. In what could only be described as a drawl, he said, “Welcome to Introductory Rune

–  –  –

Magic. As you know, runes are the alphabet of spell-casting, so this class is required for all majors and minors. You wouldn’t be in this class if you didn’t already know the fundamentals of using runes in mage-work. So this class will move quickly. We’ll meet three times a week here.

There’ll be two mid-terms and a final examination. Halfway through the year, you can apply to have a rune inscribed on you, and if your grades are high enough and your application is compelling enough, you’ll receive one on Rune Day. Now please pull out your textbooks and turn to the beginning of ‘Chapter One: A Brief History of Runes’.” Wisteria pulled out her textbook, but it held little interest for her. The entire first chapter was some blathering explanation about the mysterious origins of the rune system and how mages first discovered that runes could be used to work greater magic. Instead of following along with Valint’s lecture, Wisteria pulled out her the one book she had owned at the Ling Monastery, her Book of Runes. Discreetly flipping it open to a new page on her lap, she began studying, still keeping an eye on the board so she could follow Valint’s lecture.

~*~ The Combat Casting classroom was unlike any classroom Wisteria had ever seen. Instead of desks and chairs, the room was an open stadium, full of varying types of terrain, from rocky surfaces to a trickling stream that ran from one corner to another. The class met at the center, in a dusty dry patch of dirt surrounded by scattered clumps of rock and rubble. At the front was one long wooden table that Wisteria guessed was where the teacher would stand.

As the students waited for the tolling of the clock tower that would signify the start of class, Wisteria took the opportunity to size up the other Mages. From a variety of places, the young Mages-in-training mostly wore light training clothes that allowed for easy movement.

–  –  –

Only her roommate was dressed richly, though she had traded her ball gown for simple breeches and a golden tunic embroidered with flowers and jewels.

As the clock tower began to toll, the slight chatter of conversation that had been bubbling fell flat. By the time the bell had tolled nine times, marking the ninth hour, the class had parted and settled, and Wisteria was able to see the woman standing at the front of the group.

“As some of you already know, I am Professor Colwyn,” she said, “and this is Combat Casting.” With auburn hair and ice blue eyes, Professor Colwyn towered over most of her students.

She wore her hair pulled back in a braid, and her dark blue mage robes fastened all the way from her neck to her knees with golden clasps. She had a commanding presence, partially due to her unusual height, but equally due to the easy authority with which she spoke.

“The books for this class are The Basics of Combat Casting and Dangerous Magic:

Attack Spells and Counters. For now, we’ll be working with the first one. Have the first three chapters read by tomorrow. This won’t be like your other classes,” Professor Colwyn said. “You won’t have to wonder whether some obscure fact will ever prove itself useful. Although, you can take my word for it, in magic, you’ll end up using everything you’ve ever learned.” She gave them a thin smile. “But in this class, my dear magelings, you’ll learn how to fight and how to survive. And we begin right now. Pair up.” Most people paired with their roommates, and while Wisteria knew she should think twice about this, she found herself seeking out Averi. But before she could get to her, she found herself surrounded by the four boys from the rune test.

One of the light-haired boys got to her first. “Wisteria, do you have a—” “Wisteria Ling, I’m facing you today,” Vane interrupted, pushing past the other boy.

–  –  –

“Not so confident?” Vane baited her.

She surprised herself by laughing. Vane reminded her of the boys she used to train with at the Ling Monastery. “Overconfidence is a sign of weakness,” she quipped back as they squared off. The other boys snickered, pairing up with each other.

There was one left partnerless, and he turned to Averi doubtfully.

“I guess it’s you and me,” he said. “I’m Sariil.” “Averi,” she said, sounding equally doubtful about this pairing. But it was too late.

Professor Colwyn was already beginning her lesson.

“Casting and combat casting are worlds apart, children. There are five main differences that you’ll notice immediately. These are called the Casting Factors. The first and perhaps the biggest difference between the two is Time. Obviously in combat, you need simpler runes or assurances that your team will be able to protect you long enough to get the spell off.” Wisteria glanced around and realized many students had pulled quills and bound notebooks out of their robes and were jotting down notes. Averi seemed to be copying every word verbatim. Wisteria felt a pang of homesickness. No one at the Ling Monastery ever took notes.

“The second is Energy,” Colwyn was saying. “In your workshop, you can use up all your energy on one spell and then rest for a week to replenish. In the field, you might have to cast several times a battle over hours, or even days, without rest. The third factor is Counter-Casting.

If your spell is easily countered, it probably isn’t worth the trouble. Fourth, Peripherals. What do you need in order to cast the spell? If you have a few choice items, casting can be a lot easier and a lot more powerful.”

–  –  –

Professor Colwyn paused, looking over the class. Some were furiously scribbling notes, trying to get every word down. “Lastly,” she said, continuing at the same rapid speed, “there’s the little matter of Accuracy. Can you get the rune right? Can you hit your target? A botched spell in combat is the worst thing that can happen to you and your team. And it nearly always means injury if not fatality, either from the backfire on your spell or a casting from the other side, which now has the upper hand.” Even the people taking notes paused for a moment to appreciate the chilling reality of what Professor Colwyn was telling them.

“This week,” she continued, “we’ll be concentrating on the first of these five factors, using Water Orbs and the Bounce Rune.” A ripple went through the students, some expressing disappointment, others apprehension.

“We’ll start with a Water Rune and put a little variation on it so it suits our purposes.

Half of you will cast the spell, and the other half will cast the counter.” As Colwyn spoke, she drew the spells in the air, the magic hanging in shimmers as students scribbled down the lines. “The first is for Orb of Water, the second is for Bounce.

Create the water sphere, then Bounce it back and forth.” “Someday, you’ll be throwing and reflecting Fire Balls, but for now, this is safer and the idea is the same. Focus on the timing of the casting and counter casting. Stand at least twenty yards apart to give each other ample time. Now, begin,” Colwyn said.

Wisteria and Averi found themselves next to each other, facing off against Vane and Sariil respectively. Wisteria called out, “Ready?” Vane nodded off-handedly.

–  –  –

Wisteria carefully etched out the Water Orb spell and executed it, calling into being a perfect sphere of water. It rippled and sparkled in the sunlight as Wisteria nudged it towards Vane, wondering if her partner would even be able to return it if he hadn’t paid attention to the spells.

To her surprise, Vane drew the rune with the quick hand of someone familiar with magic and sent the Water Orb speeding back to her twice as fast as she had sent it to him. Wisteria narrowed her eyes. So that was how it was going to be.

She just barely had time to draw out and execute the familiar Bounce Rune. She slammed it into the Water Orb, the water rippling in protest where the rune impacted, and the orb hurtled back towards Vane.

Vane had a Bounce Rune ready and waiting, and by now, the Water Orb had built up momentum. With each Bounce back and forth, its speed quickened. Glancing at the pairs around them, Wisteria saw that theirs was clearly traveling much faster than anyone else’s. The speed accelerated until Vane and Wisteria were barely hesitating in between spells.

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