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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2260133
Winner. A sorcery student aces a question on her exam...she hopes.
Clarinda was sweating over her Level Three sorcery exam. Tongue clamped between her teeth, eyes squinting in the candlelight, she peered at the arcane spell in the fourth and final question. Painfully she translated the runes: 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 make it,” she sighed. “I barely made it past Novitiate. 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 entirely 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 complete translating 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!

Edited for submission to a fantasy magazine
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