Avaline stood facing Shantir in the practice room early the next day. Excitement coursed through the apprentice's veins; at last, they had found time to begin her training. Shantir began the lesson. 'You will learn a spell today, Avaline. But first, there are some basic facts about magic that you must be aware of. Do you know where our magic comes from? What is the source we draw on?'
'The Wells of Magic,' Avaline replied promptly.
'And what are the five wells from whence our magic comes?'
'Spirit, Life, Death, Light, and Darkness.'
'And there is another. What is it and what has happened to it?'
'The Well of Evil; it was sealed off tens of centuries ago by the five most powerful wizards then living.'
'Good. Where are these wells?'
'No one knows; the records were destroyed to prevent anyone from finding the Wells and opening the one that was sealed.'
'Correct. Which Well do the Adani most often draw from?'
Avaline paused and thought. She did not remember ever reading that. 'Life?' she guessed.
Shantir shook his head. 'No. We draw equally from all five at once, as do all who wield magic. It is not a conscious choice, which Well to draw on. Only the Well of Evil could be drawn from alone, when it was open, and that is only because the other magics would not work with it. Understand?' Avaline nodded. 'Good. Onto the planes. Do you know any of the planes?'
'Well, three of them bear the same names as the Wells. The plane of life, the plane of death, and the spirit plane. We, for obvious reasons, live in the plane of life. When we die, we move to the plain of death, which is mildly dangerous for any living being who enters there.'
'You can enter it before death?'
'Yes, but there is absolutely no reason to want to, as it usually happens only by mistake. The spirit plane, on the other hand, is quite dangerous; it is inhabited by all the souls of the dead who do not deserve the peace of sleep the plane of death offers. They will attack any living soul who enters there; again, it is usually visited only on accident.'
'Couldn't you just return to this plane?'
'Only if you are equipped with the necessary items to do so; if not, you are trapped there for eternity, or until someone else comes to rescue you. Another danger of the spirit plane is that if you are attacked and killed there, you will become one of the spirits of that plane and the plane of death will be beyond your grasp. Therefore, do not, except in the most dire of emergencies, enter either one of them.'
'Are there any other planes?'
'Oh yes. Thousands of them. More, even; I will not say that we know of every single plane in existance. The immortal plane, the half-life plane, the fire plane, earth plane, wind plane, water plane, lost plane, plane of torment, plane of desire, plane of chance... The list goes on and on.' He gave a small chuckle. 'Some of them are actually quite boring.'
'You've visited other planes?'
'Indeed. Most of the ones I just named, in fact.'
'How do you visit another plane, besides on accident? And what does 'on accident' mean, anyhow?'
'There are certain spells that transport you there. On accident is when a spell for something else goes wrong and you are taken there.'
'I see. Did you go there on purpose, or not?'
'Most of them, it was my full intention to visit. But enough of my journeys; they can be spoken of an evening. On with the lesson. The spells we start you with here are simple. Do you know what type of magic many of the more advanced spells use?'
'Umm...' She tried to remember the myriad of spells she had witnessed at the meeting the day before. 'Shapeshifting?'
'Yes, more or less. The movement of matter, really, be it from one form to another or from place to place. The most advanced spell is...'
'Teleportation.' She recalled Katiye's shout from the day before and hid a smile.
'Correct. Well, that is not to say it is the most advanced spell ever created, but it is the hardest apprentices learn before becoming a wizard. And it is very difficult.'
'Does Rodair know it?' Avaline asked out of curiosity.
The wizard's face became void of emotion. 'Well,' he replied after a moment, 'he knows how it is done, but has not yet mastered it.' He reverted to his usual self and went on. 'You see, merely knowing the words and gestures that form a spell does not mean you can make the spell happen. You have to be able to meld the forces the way you desire in order for it to work.' He smiled at her. 'So, shall we try it now?'
Avaline almost shrieked with barely-contained anticipation. Forcefully, she mastered herself. 'Yes!'
'All right, then.' He approached her and took her left arm gently by the wrist. 'As a general rule, at least for the easier spells, the left hand is the base hand, meaning it is the one that holds the spell and helps to call it up the most. The right hand does most of the gesturing, earlier on.' He took her right hand and turned it so that it was over her outstretched left wrist, palm facing directly away from her body. 'You will first learn a spell that summons light, or rather, a spell-ball of it. The movement is not complicated. See.' Guiding her right arm's motions with his hand about her wrist, he brought it around her left hand in a nearly complete circle, then bent her wrist backwards so her right palm was at a right angle to her left. 'That's all. Try it on your own.' Avaline copied the gesture. Shantir nodded in a satisfied way. 'Well done. Now for the words. They are simple as well: By the power of the Wells, light, I call you forth. You say it as you bring your hand around, though it doesn't matter if the circle and the words do not end at exactly the same time. You will probably not get anything when you try it the first time; these things take practice. But you will get it soon enough. Go on, try it.'
Avaline began the motion of the spell. 'By the power of the Wells, light, I call you forth.' To the surprise of both her and Shantir, a ball of light, slightly larger than both of Avaline's fists together, sprang up above her left palm. Avaline was so startled that she dropped the ball, which flickered out of existance.
Shantir clapped her back with his lined hand. 'Well done! You do have an incredible talent. You will have no trouble learning all the spells in three years. Perhaps even less time. But don't drop it next time; it won't hurt you. Try again.'
Avaline repeated the spell, and this time, held it. The ball of light remained steady above her hand. 'Excellent,' said the wizard. 'You can move your right hand away now. It won't destroy the spell.'
At that moment, there was the sound of an explosion from outside and a supremely frustrated shout. Shantir muttered something Avaline could not hear and hurried from the room. 'Wait here.'
He was a few minutes in returning, in which time Avaline explored her new spell further. She walked the ball around the room and tried to will it to move higher, with no response. Then Shantir came back. 'And don't try that spell again without me watching,' he was saying over his shoulder as he came in through the door. 'You could hurt yourself, and I do not want you as a dead apprentice, do you understand me?'
'Yes, Master Wizard,' Rodair's voice replied from somewhere behind him.
'Don't look so anxious; I'll be with you soon enough.'
The wizard shut the door behind him with a sigh. 'Forgive me for the interruption. Rodair was having a bit of trouble with a spell.'
'Oh, some higher level one.' Shantir was unusually vague.
'What exactly makes a spell higher level or not?' Avaline wondered aloud.
'A very good question, and I'm not quite sure of the answer. It's just the way it has been established over the ages. Really, everything above a warding spell is considered higher level. And,' he added confidentially, 'if you continue to learn as fast as you picked up on that one, you'll be doing them in almost no time. But don't tell Rodair that I said that; he'll be even more jealous of you than he already is.'
'And one other thing, while I'm thinking of it. Did Katiye really steal his book yesterday?'
'Yes, she did.'
Shantir shook his head. 'I suspect he didn't like that very much.'
'Not really.' Avaline suppressed the unremorseful smile that wanted to creep onto her face at the memory of the look on Rodair's face.
'Well, would you mind trying to keep Katiye away from Rodair? I don't want to make him miserable; he has enough troubles as it is. More than he's willing to let on.'
'I'll try, but with Katiye, it might be hard.'
'I thank you for the effort, at least. Speaking of Katiye, why don't you go find her? We shouldn't rush your learning too much; one spell a day is enough. Besides, I'm sure you'd like to show her your spell. You can practice it at any time, by the way.'
'All right.' Avaline hid her disappointment at not being able to continue. 'Thank you, Shantir.'
'Nothing but my duty to you, Avaline. Send Rodair in on your way out, will you.'
As it turned out, there was no need for her to send Rodair anywhere; the apprentice was waiting outside the door and brushed past her as soon as it was open. Avaline shook her head and went off to hunt out her friend.
As soon as the door was shut, Rodair spoke. 'What did she learn?'
Shantir eyed him sharply. 'Frankly, it's none of your business, but this once, I'll tell you. She learned the light-summons, of course. Now stop worrying about it and let's get back to that transformation spell. What on earth were you thinking, trying it alone out there?'
'Well, I didn't think it would explode,' Rodair returned by way of sulky defense.
'Why don't you show Rodair what you've learned today?' Shantir
suggested that evening as they sat around the fire.
Avaline leaned forward and held out her hands. 'By the power of the Wells, light, I call you forth.' The luminous orb appeared.
'Most impressive.' Dry sarcasm tintied Rodair's voice. A quiet superiority glinted in his eyes. He leaned forward and imitated her gesture without a word. The ball appeared above his fine-boned hand as well.
Surprised to say the least, Avaline let hers die out. 'How did you do that? You didn't say the spell!'
Rodair leaned casually back in his chair, very self-satisfied, like a cat who has just caught his first bird. 'You don't need to say anything when you get better at this sort of thing.'
'Actually,' Shantir interjected, 'it's really a special talent of Rodair's. Most his age need to at least whisper the spell. Most wizards do, in fact. I do.' Rodair's thin chest looked almost puffed-up with pride at the wizard's statement.
'That's amazing,' Avaline said admiringly. For once, Rodair's glance at her was not disparaging. 'I wish I could do that.'
'You've hardly begun your training,' Shantir reminded her. 'All in time, all in time.'