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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Fantasy · #2261082
A few scenes from a developing children's story about a sorcery student's misadventures.
Target Audience: Children.
Backstory, yet to be written. Clarinda Klanquer, maybe 14 years old, is an accident-prone child, constantly in trouble for unintentional mischief. Her exasperated father has arranged her marriage to the son of the town blacksmith. She considers the boy, Darrel, to be horse manure. To escape the marriage, at least temporarily, she persuades her merchant parents to place her in the local magic school, a small and unpretentious if not rag-tag institution. Her parents send her off gladly as relief from her misadventures. At the school, Clarinda finds a friend in her room-mate Gloria, a serious and steady child, and an enemy in the Mistress for Novices, Ms. Fangustin.

Fire and Rain Draft 2

Clarinda stared glumly at her spell book. Nothing was going right. The dark night and the heavy rain pelting against the dormitory window only reinforced her gloom.

“Gloria,” she said to her best friend and room-mate at her desk across the small room, “can you help me with these fire spells? I can’t seem to raise so much as a single spark. Maybe it’s all this rain.”

“I doubt that. I know you’ve been trying hard, because I’ve seen the smoke coming out of your ears. I thought for sure your brain was smoldering.”

“Ha, ha. Look here, does this or does this not say ‘Ignis imperatus creatarus’? And is that or is that not the spell for starting a fire?”

Gloria came and peered at Clarinda’s notebook. “I’m not sure what that says. It looks like a tiny gargoyle with inky feet hopped across the page. But it should say ‘creatatus’.”

Clarinda took her quill and scratched at one of the gargoyle footprints. “Thank you. Now, what about this one? To warm a small room. Use the general preparation followed by incantation of ‘Ad calefacto adamo vulva’”

“Oh, Clarinda!” Gloria giggled and blushed. “Wherever did you get that one? That spell will, um, warm up a part of a girl’s body. I’m absolutely certain Ms. Fangustin wrote no such thing.”

“Come to think of it, Anthony Cressida whispered it to that chesty Ferina Plumkin while I was taking notes. I guess I got them mixed up. At least that explains why I got hot pants, but no fire.”

“Here, copy from my notes while I take a break.” Gloria passed over her spell book and headed for the toilets, muttering to herself as she went, “Ad calefacto adamo....”

Her tongue clamped firmly between her teeth, Clarinda diligently checked her notes against her friend’s, and made several careful corrections.

Magic is so capricious. Hold your tongue wrong, or forget to look cross-eyed, or say one stupid word wrong, and the spell fails, or turns your pencil into a worm, or something. Well, let’s try again.

She ran through the general preparation instructions, which in this case involved placing tinder--a crumpled page from her notebook--on an altar--a tin pie plate--and focusing her attention. She incanted, “Ignis imperatus creatarus!” Nothing happened. Oh, right. Should be ‘creatatus’.

Just as she recited the corrected incantation, more firmly this time--IGNIS IMPERATUS CREATATUS!--lightning streaked the sky and thunder shook the entire building.

She blinked in sudden darkness. There were shrieks and curses from up and down the dormitory. Apparently all the candles and lamps had gone out. She heard doors bang open and girls began wandering the halls, calling to each other and laughing.

Clarinda realized that she could see her room in a dim red light. She felt warm, even hot, but noticed a smell of smoke. Looking at herself, she realized with horror that she was glowing cherry-red, and that her clothes were on fire. So was the desk where she had rested her hand.

She rushed into the hallway, not realizing that wherever her feet touched the floor, she left a tiny blaze. Everyone gasped and drew back from her. “Clarinda, you’re on fire!” several shouted. “Stop! Drop! Roll!” called one. “Leave,” yelled others. “Get outside in the rain!” someone sensible advised.

Leaving a blotch of fire with every step, she fled.

# # #

The downpour sizzled off her heated skin. Her clothes had pretty much burned away, but she found it pleasant being naked in the rain. She pointed at a nearby bush, murmured the fire incantation, and was delighted when it burst into flames. A few charred saplings later, she realized she need only think the words and she got fire. She held out her open palm, and despite the pooling rain, created a handful of fire. Wow, this was great stuff! For the first time, she felt like a real sorceress.

She looked back at the dormitory. Smoke streamed from a few windows, and groups of soggy students milled around in the quad, but the downpour and the spells of the masters and some senior students had evidently extinguished the blaze.

The rain tapered off to a drizzle. Her inner glow and its accompanying euphoria faded, and she began to shiver in the damp night air.

Oh, Aerlon, what have I done? I almost burned down the whole girls’ dorm. I am in so much trouble! If the headmistress doesn’t kill me, I’ll be in detention for the rest of my life.

She brightened at that thought: a lifetime of detention meant she wouldn’t be expelled and forced to go home and marry that horse’s back-end, Darrell. She brightened even more at another thought: there was no need for her to be cold. She conjured a cheerful glow in her cupped hands, wrapped herself in flame as temporary clothing, and set off to face her punishment.

# # #

A hall monitor led the cooled and re-dressed Clarinda to the office of the headmistress. As they approached, they could hear a loud argument through the closed door.

“The girl is a menace, a walking disaster,” Ms. Fangustin screeched. “She is distracted in class, takes shoddy notes, fails to complete assignments and those she does attempt she messes horribly.” Clarinda squirmed: that was all true.

The monitor knocked, opened the door, pushed Clarinda into the room, and fled. The trembling novice found herself facing the furious Fangustin, while the headmaster and headmistress, calmer but clearly disapproving, looked on.

“Well, close the door and come in, child,” invited the Mistress Leafbrook.

Clarinda sidled in, shoulders hunched as if anticipating a blow. The adults were seated, but there was no chair for her. Evidently she was to stand while they sat in judgment.

“You stupid amateur!” began Ms. Fangustin. “Of all the fool stunts to pull! You nearly--”

“A moment, please, Ms. F.,” interrupted Master Runebluff. “Would you be so kind, girl, as to tell us what happened in the dormitory earlier this evening? Leave nothing out, please.”

She told them everything. When she got to the girl-part-warming spell, Ms. Fangustin looked like she’d swallowed a rat, while the Heads merely nodded for her to continue.

“Very good, thank you,” said the Master. “Do you think you could demonstrate? It’s quite all right. With us here, it will be safe. We’ve prepared a fire in the grate. Would you light it, please?”

Clarinda looked over at the fireplace and saw tinder, kindling, and logs ready to go. Without moving from where she stood, she ignited the tinder and watched it blaze.

“Excellent. Now can you do the Handful of Fire spell for us?”

Clarinda held out her cupped hands and created a soft bed of coals. When the Master nodded, she grew it into small flames; at another nod, a roaring blaze. At a gesture from the Mistress, she folded her hands and the flame cut off.

“See? I told you she’s a danger to herself and others,” snapped Ms. Fangustin. The Master waved her quiet.

“Does it hurt you to work with Fire, child?”

“No, sir, Normal magic gives me sniffles and stuffed sinuses, but the fire spells are fun and easy.”

“It is intriguing that you find it easy. Clarinda, what you are doing is advanced Elemental magic,” began Runebluff.

“What she is doing is risking the lives of every student and master in this school,” interrupted Fangustin, “and she needs to be punished and then expelled!”

“Please do not interrupt again,” snapped Runebluff. The teacher responded with a haughty huff.

“Clarinda, there are post-graduate sorcerers who cannot do this as quickly and easily as you. I daresay even Ms. Fangustin would struggle to match that speed and ease.” Fangustin turned red and looked furious.

“My concern is for the safety of yourself, others, and the school. You are known to be impulsive, and to attempt spells without due concern for preparation or correct incantation. For this reason, we will restrict your ability with a binding spell. Your access to the element of fire will be limited, as will your control. Further, for the sake of student discipline, you will serve one month of detention, under direction of Ms. Fangustin.” He looked at the teacher. “Does that satisfy?”

“Not nearly, but I suppose it will have to do.” She looked pleased, though, and was clearly already thinking of ways to make her student’s life miserable.

“Very well. Your first detention will start after supper tomorrow night. Damage to the dormitory was minor and your room is restored and ready. Go and get some sleep. You are dismissed. Ms. Fangustin, please do remain.”

Clarinda wandered back to the dorm deep in thought. A month’s detention was not harsh. A limit on her ability to harm was reasonable. Just as an experiment, she tried to ignite the paper in a near-by trash basket: nothing. She held out a palm and was able to call up a small fire.

Good enough, and definitely better than being sent home to a forced marriage to Darrel-under-the-horse’s-tail.

# # #

<Another scene to come here, dealing with Fangustin's treatment during the detention?>

# # #

A Spell to Calm the Wind

A month after her detention ended, Clarinda was sweating over her Level Four sorcery exam. Tongue clamped between her teeth [she does this a lot!], eyes squinting in the candlelight, she peered at the arcane spell in the fourth and final question. Painfully she translated the runes: {Something, something) To calm the wind. In the center of a hexagram, place (or was that mix?) (illegible) with (unintelligible) and (she hadn’t a clue).

“Why do they print the questions in stupid old runes instead of in Common? I’ll never get it,” she sighed. “I barely made it past Novitiate. What makes me think I can pass Level Four? I’m gonna flunk out and get sent home and be forced to marry that horse’s back end, Darrel. Talk about a fate worse than death!”

She leaned over to the next carrel and whispered, “Gloria, what in the name of Aerlon are the ingredients in question four?”

“Shhh! No cheating. I have a different exam so my question four is not the same. You have to do this on your own, Clarinda. Conjure the dictionary and look them up, for Aerlon’s sake!”

At a glare from Ms. Fangustin, the proctor overseeing the exam, Clarinda sank back into her carrel and tore at her hair. Sure, just conjure up a dictionary. She flipped through her spell notes, which were incomplete at best and indecipherable or missing at worst. Ah! There it is. "To invoke Google, open web browser....” No, surely that wasn’t right? She flipped more pages. To start Spell Check... That one got her excited, but the rest of the page was blank. Must have been a time she fell asleep in class. At last: To conjure dictionary, cross eyes and recipe (Was that it? Or was it recite?) dictionarius creatatus. She had carefully printed those last two words, so they just might be right.

Hoping against all odds, she crafted the spell and was amazed and pleased when Wilbur’s Dictionary of Ancient Runes and Cupcake Recipes fell with a clunk onto the carrel shelf. She was a bit perplexed at the cupcake part—she didn’t remember that being there before—but was able to find most of the runes she needed to translate question four. The more she worked, the worse she felt: doing magic always gave her stuffed sinuses.

“Okay, then, let’s see what we’ve got.” To calm the wind. In the center of a hexagram, mix 40 cc sodium tetrachlorosorcerate with 100 mL benzoaerlodine in an Erlenmeyer flask and heat until bubbles form on the bottom of the flask. So far, so good. She had no idea what those ingredients were, but a step forward is a step forward. She recognized the flask, at least. Remove from heat and add 1 cc sarcasium. Swirl flask gently to mix. Blow fumes into wind. For light wind, blow gently. For strong wind, blow hard. For hurricane, stop blowing and seek shelter. Caution: Do not inhale fumes.

Clarinda was reasonably confident in her translation, and her spirits rose. She might pass this exam after all! She was just reaching for the dictionary to check the last few runes when it faded from view. Oh, drat! Like most spells, it was temporary, and she’d forgotten to set the timer.

Speaking of time...she checked the hourglass at the front of the exam hall. Only about 300 grains of sand left! She scribbled a hasty hexagram on the exam paper, flung open her ingredients box and grabbed the spell ingredients, dumped them into the flask (where did that come from, anyway?), flashed flame into her palm (to her amazement, that still worked great!) and waited impatiently for bubbles. She glanced out the window to see the wind lashing the trees, and took note of wind direction and strength. She closed her fist on the fire to douse it. With a quick prayer to Aerlon, she recited the incantation then dropped in the sarcasium and swirled. Or should it have been the other way around? Whatever. Fumes began to billow from the neck of the flask.

She took in a deep breath to blow, and inhaled a wisp of the fumes, which simultaneously cleared her sinuses and triggered a sneeze. GAZHOOF! The fumes from the flask whipped through the exam hall like snow in a blizzard.

Clarinda looked around with horror. Ms. Fangustin was frozen in place. Every student was like a statue. She stared out the window at walkers caught mid-stride, birds caught mid-flap, and a gargoyle with one leg suspended over a fire-hydrant.

Then she looked at the forest. She'd never seen the trees so still. Her consternation turned to delight. She'd aced it!

# # #

SpellMaster Petrushkov stormed into the exam hall, the stomp of his boots echoing like thunder from the walls. “Who?” he bellowed? “Who was it? Who did this?”

Clarinda hid in her carrel.

Petrushkov glared at the frozen Fangustin and glowered at the suspended students. When he scowled in Clarinda’s direction, she did her best to be invisible and frozen like everyone else. She didn’t think she’d fooled him, though.
Raising his hands over his head, he gave three sharp claps and uttered a long incantation in words that Clarinda didn’t recognize.

Ms. Fangustin and the students blinked and peered around in bewilderment. Clarinda, looking out the window, saw suddenly revived people stumble, disoriented birds smack into trees, and the gargoyle sniff in confusion at the hydrant.

The Master loomed over the carrel where Clarinda hid. “You!” he growled. “It had to be you. The fire in the dormitory.”

His massive paws grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her out of the carrel. He held her up to his face like he was examining a loathsome insect. “But what I don’t understand is this: No novice has that power. That was a Level One spell. Fortunately, it was highly localized.”

He shook her like a terrier shakes a rat to break its neck. “HOW DID YOU DO THAT?” he roared. “You were only supposed to translate the spell, not perform it.”

She plopped back in her seat when he released her. Oh. So that’s what those last few runes meant.

Petrushkov studied her carrel and pointed to the ingredients box and flask. “Where did you get those? They are not supposed to be in your carrel.”

Clarinda blinked in confusion. They weren’t? “Ah, they were just here. I had translated most of Question 4 and they were on the shelf. I thought everyone had them.”

“Where did you learn the spell to do that? Material transposition is not taught until Level 2.”

“I didn’t use any spell,” protested Clarinda. “They were just there.”

It was the SpellMaster’s turn to look confused. “Autonomous substantive creation? Wait, were they in your carrel when you sat for the exam? Or did you just find them when you went to work on Question Four?”

“Um, I don’t remember seeing them when I first started the exam. But when I came to the last question, they were on the shelf when I needed them.”

For a second, Clarinda thought she saw an odd expression in Petrushkov’s eyes. Fear? Uncertainty? Amazement? He swelled like an over-inflated balloon, and she drew back from the expected explosion. But it was not directed at her.

“Ms Fangustin! You are the fourth-level master. You are expected to maintain control of your class. You and this-- this-- this-- STUDENT will report to the Discipline Committee. I will inform you of the time and place.

“And you,” he turned to Clarinda, “you are grounded, effective immediately, and suspended from all classes and activities, until further notice. Go to your room this instant.” With his back to Ms. Fangustin, he gave her a slow and obvious wink.

Petrushkov spun about and lumbered out of the exam hall, leaving in his wake a shocked and silent class. The students looked at her with what she thought was fear and loathing. And Ms. Fangustin.... If looks could kill, Clarinda would have shriveled and died on the spot.

Clarinda ran to her room, threw herself face down on the bed and closed her eyes. Last time a month detention. This time totally grounded. Surely she would be suspended. Her imagination tormented her with wedding bells and that horse-patootie Darrel. She tried not to cry, and failed.

# # #

Once again Clarinda found herself in the Masters Lounge, digging her toe into the carpet under the stern gaze of HeadMaster Runebluff. HeadMistress Leafbrooke, and SpellMaster Petrushkov were there, but Mistress Fangustin, to Clarinda’s great relief, was absent.

“Miss Klanquer, the Level Four results will be posted this afternoon. It will no doubt relieve your mind to know that you have passed your examination,” said Leafbrooke.

Clarinda’s eyes widened in wonder. “I passed? Wow, I passed! That’s great! In Level Three I’ll have Master Simon, and he’s not mean, and I’ll pay real good attention in class, honest I will!”

The SpellMaster cleared his throat and growled, “That is well and good. But our concern is your haphazard approach to magic. Almost burning down the girls’ dormitory. Stilling not only the wind but every living thing in your vicinity. Most spells, if done incorrectly, simply have no effect. Yours, on the other hand, are.... Interesting. Unpredictable. Hazardous.”

“Regardless of your examination results,” said Leafbrooke, "you may not progress to Level Three because your classwork has been so poor that Mistress Fangustin recommends your expulsion. What have you to say to this?”

“Oh, please, no! I don’t want to go home!”

“There is an alternative, child,” the Headmaster said, “that we have considered. You do show great promise in many ways. SpellMaster Petrushkov plans to stay over the summer to research new spells. He has suggested your remaining here during the summer break to make up your missing classwork. Your parents have agreed—I believe your father’s words were ‘Oh, please, keep her out of my shop. She breaks more than she sells’—and a Level One student, brave lad, has agreed to tutor you under SpellMaster Petrushkov’s supervision.”

Clarinda heaved a great sigh of relief. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.” She wouldn’t have to marry Darrell after all. At least, not this summer.

# # #

“By Aerlon, it is so hot in here,” Clarinda complained. “Scott, can’t we leave the common room and go outside? At least for a while?”

Her tutor hid his sigh behind a patient smile. “Let me think about this. We’re three weeks into your summer review and so far—thanks to SpellMaster Petrushkov’s binding spell on your Fire magic—you haven’t burned anything down or blown anything up, and my burns are healing nicely. Given the damage from your little windstorm yesterday, being outside for today’s lesson sounds like a marvelous idea.”

“Oh, Scott, I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to blow out all the windows as well as the candle, I just forgot the part of the spell that set the strength of--”

“I know, I know. But Clarinda, for three weeks we have worked hard on having you pay attention to detail. You are a delightful little scatterbrain, and I enjoy your company when you’re not casting spells. But the SpellMaster and I constantly try to impress on you that magic requires attention to detail and careful craftsmanship. Now, grab your notebook and let’s go outside and try the next lesson.”

Part of her work with Scott had been to copy her friend Gloria’s notes, redoing her entire Fourth Level, with Scott checking every page and Petrushkov reviewing her work at the end of every day. Anything that was not copied correctly had to be redone, up to six times at first. It was tiresome, tedious work and she hated it, but eventually realized that slowing down and doing it right the first time saved a lot of effort. Now she at least had a Level Four spell book that was complete and error free.

Guaranteed 100% by Petrushkov. That part, she had liked. He would come and sit beside her, check her work, and if it was all correct he would leap up with a bellowed “Ochen khoroshoh! Very good, very good!” He would grab her with one huge arm and Scott in the other, and call her moya malen'kaya studentka, my little student, and Scott moy khoroshay instruktor, my good teacher, and whirl them around the room until they had laughed themselves breathless. He was a gruff old bear when she disappointed him, but joyous when she did well.

Clarinda and her tutor settled in the shade of a tree well away from the girls’ dormitory. The air was hot and still and the cool of the shadows was wonderful.

“A spell to call the wind,” Scott said, “is your next lesson. Find it in your book, but don’t say a word. I don’t want you setting off a spell before you understand it all. I don’t want you to blow the tree down on top of us.”

Clarinda started to stick out her tongue, but remembered yesterday’s mishap and changed her mind. She found the spell and read it through. “To call the wind, purse the lips and face the direction the wind is to go; mentally incant sibilus enim ventus while whistling. The volume of the whistle will set the force of the wind.” Easy enough, and written in Common instead of stupid runes, which were reserved for more powerful spells.

“Now, your goal is to make the leaves of the tree rustle. How hard do you think you should whistle”

“Not very hard, I shouldn’t think.”

“A wise answer. Now, in which direction should you whistle?”

“Looking up at the tree.”

“Absolutely. Do you have the incantation firmly in mind?”

“I think so. Yes, I do.”

“Excellent. By having you think things through ahead of time, we hope to give you better control of your magic. So, now, go ahead and try the spell.”

“You do it first, Scott, please. Show me how it should look.”

Scott tipped his head back and whistled a single, barely audible tone. The leaves shimmered in the sunlight, stirred by a gentle breeze. He lowered his face to hers and she giggled as the breeze cooled her. It was not his breath she felt, but a real wind. She studied his pursed lips, imagined hers against them, and wished she were beautiful.

“Your turn,” he said, breaking the spell.

She pursed her lips, tipped her face to the tree, thought the incantation, and blew nothing but air. Drat! She had never tried to whistle that way. She knew only one way to whistle. Without thinking, she put two fingers in her mouth and blew.

The resulting shriek of wind hurled a torrent of leaves and protesting birds helter-skelter into the sky. Horrified, she looked over at Scott, who was tumbled over in the grass. He was shaking, and she was afraid he had been hurt by the wind. When she rushed over to help him, she found him laughing hysterically.

“Every precaution the SM could think of! Every bit of training and planning! Think and plan and practice! And still you launch a hurricane against a poor innocent elm.” He paused for breath and sat up. “Thank Aerlon you weren’t facing the dorm. We just had the windows replaced.” He grabbed her hand and hauled himself up. “And it’s a good thing you didn’t whistle at a cow. It would have been an udder disaster.”

Clarinda stared at him wide-eyed. Had she blown away part of his brain?

“What’s a wind’s favorite color? Blew! What do you call a cold wind with feathers? A Brrrrrr-d!” He giggled then started to hiccup.

“Oh! My spell-book has a hiccup cure.” She rubbed her dripping nose absently on her sleeve while she looked around to see where her book had blown to.

“No, oh, no! Never mind!” Scott had turned white, and his hiccups vanished. He strode over to her spell book where it lay on the grass and snatched it up. “I’ll just keep this, thank you.”

Quiet, chastened, and depressed, Clarinda followed Scott back to the girls’ common room.

“You just sit here,” Scott ordered. “Sit on your hands. Don’t practice magic. Don’t move. Don’t even think. I’m going to find SM Petrushkov.” Still clutching her spell book, he fled.

Clarinda slumped in her chair. She’d failed again. Well, actually, she’d succeeded rather spectacularly. She thought of the naked tree and grumpy birds and smiled. She pursed her lips and blew, but again could not whistle. She simultaneously pursed her lips, blew gently, imagined herself making the same gentle, low tone Scott had, and recited the incantation. To her surprise, a paper on a desk beside her shifted. She looked at it, repeated the exercise with a louder mental sound, and the paper flew off the desk.

By the time Scott and the SM came rushing in, she could select one of several papers and move it however far she wanted, from across the room.

She surprised Scott with a gentle breeze in his face. He looked startled. Did he realize she’d just blown him a kiss?

Petrushkov was infuriated at first, but calmed down when she did her paper-blowing. “Da, da, very good. You have shown self-discipline. You have learned control. Do you think you could make wind as strong as you did outside?”

“I think so. I’d blow hard and think a loud whistle. Shall I try?”

“Thank you, no, it is not needed. What is needed is a binding.” He recited a long spell in what she assumed was his native language. “Good, now you have limits and world is safe. And you are grounded for a week to practice small and simple--and I pray to Aerlon harmless--elemental Air magic.”

Clarinda sighed. It was going to be a long summer.

# # #

You can see that Clarinda is developing as an Elemental sorcerer. She has mastered Fire (sort of) , and is growing into a sort-of-mastery of Air. Subsequent episodes will see her explore Earth and Water, with similar disastrous results.

My original thought was that after her four years at school she would return home and find that Darrel is not really the horse's ass she thinks he is, now that they've grown up a bit. But Clarinda seems to be fighting that outcome.

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