The moment Jules awakened, she sensed a change. She felt vibrant and
reborn with her perceptions heightened. Could it be?
“Yes! Finally!” she exulted. After months of being blind, deaf, and dumb
to magic, she could sense the Seven Sources again! Her seventh sense had
returned. Aire whistled. Rok rumbled. Fyren roared. Illumos shone, Watar
splashed, and the Green rustled around her, the world full of enchantment.
Jules sprang out of her canopied bed to throw back the apartment shutters
and see anew. For two months she had lived on Avion Island. The granite
landscape was colored by lichen covered boulders, towering evergreen trees,
and hillsides alive with dazzling wildflowers—rainbow-splashed snapdragons,
golden banners, and purple mountain columbine.
Yesterday, the world had been beautiful to behold, but in the distant way of a
photograph. Today the island seemed to burst from winter’s hibernation. The
air was thick with the fragrances of heather and bee honey. The Seven Sources
permeated it, making it all larger and richer than Common life.
To be sure she was restored, Jules snapped her fingers and channeled the
source of fire. The flames of Fyren danced on her thumb. Now that she could
channel again, she would unlock the secret vault under the falls.
Her mother and her brother would want to know the kewl news. Jules flew
down the short hallway of warm stone to her twin’s room and jostled him out
of bed. “Dari, guess what?” she asked.
“Huh? Jules, it’s morning. I was up all night with the owls,” her twin
groaned. Dari squinted at her, then his dark eyes brightened upon seeing her
magical light. “Let’s tell Mom! We can unlock the secret vault now!”
They raced to their mother’s room and leapt onto her bed, where Jules
juggled balls of water, fire, pumice, and light. The good news instantly erased
months of worry and aging lines, making their mother appear young. “Thank
Shewhoishe! Something inside might tell us where your father is! Come on!”
she said. She grasped their hands and levitated directly across the campus to the
edge of Faa Lake, past the water wheel and halfway down the lower waterfall.
They landed on a rock ledge under the tumbling water, where they
channeled Illumos through a family staff set in the granite. Their magic
unlocked the stone door, and Jules exulted. Finally! We’re coming, Father! Her
mother channeled a breeze to push the door open, revealing an inner chamber
crammed with a variety of astounding art, unusual inventions and spectacular
treasures. Jules could barely take it all in before an illusionary spell of her
father greeted them with a sweeping bow.
“Where’s Darrin Magnus?” Jules demanded.
He gestured to an alabaster statue of a bald eagle sitting atop a pile of
glistening gemstones. The raptor seemed to be a twitch away from animating.
Jules picked up the figurine, surprised by its feather weight. “Faster than a
falcon, take me to my father, Darrin Magnus!” she commanded.
The homing eagle stirred to life, fluffing its feathers and stretching. It
gathered itself then launched, flying outside and leaving the falls behind. Jules
channeled Fyren through her staff to make her lighter than air and launched in a
burst of flames to tail her guide. “Let’s go!” Jules shouted.
“Here we come, Dad!” Dari yelled.
Mom said nothing, but she was thrilled and radiant.
Looking down caused Jules to her first trip to the academy. Avion Island’s
fog had smelled like Everybody’s Favorite soup as they had been drawn in a
sleigh by dragonflies above the campus. The Ring, the Cube, the Dome and the
seven-storied granite library still looked like a giant’s toy blocks, but all the
stone sculptures were gone, accidentally destroyed by one of Jules’ juggling
“Yahoo! I finally put my stupid mistake behind me,” Jules announced. Just
last month, she had mistakenly assumed that she had discovered how to open
her father’s vault. Her impatience had led to the stunning of her seventh sense,
cutting her off from the Seven Sources.
Since then, life had been a gloomy existence without magic. Even blue sky
days had seemed overcast. Being raised in the borderlands and prohibited from
casting magic had been frustrating. Coming home and being void was far
worse. She had spoken Commonly, seen mundanely, listened with tone
deafness and taken smells for granted, missing the wonder of the Seven
Sources in everything. “Thank Shewhoishe! My magic is back!”
They followed the eagle high above Emerald Bay. Avion Island hunkered
low in a western bay named for its gemlike water. The inlet sat on the western
edge of Skye Lake, a sapphire-blue body of water made of melted snow from
the jagged peaks of the Serria Mountains. Channeling Fyren kept Jules warm
in the high cold air.
The homing eagle wheeled north, blown by a strong tailwind along the far
eastern shore. It soared speedily higher, over the frosty peaks and into the blue
beyond. Once past the crest, Jules realized that her brother and her mother were
gone. She paused, finding no trace of them, then she glanced ahead to watch the
homing eagle fly on. “Dari! Mom!” Where had they gone? She wondered.
“Go! You must not lose the eagle!” came her mom’s whisper.
Jules raced off. She nearly caught it before it swooped into a hole in the
side of a green-blue glacier set between jagged gray peaks. The cracked granite
around the earthen mouth reminded her of monstrous jaws.
She never hesitated, flying in. She brightened her staff with Illumos and
held it high to light her way. The darkness grew thick with an oppressive air,
muting her spell’s radiance. Even so, her light flashed off white tail feathers.
The eagle glided just ahead through an icy gap and into a great chamber. It
landed atop a monolith of blue ice where it started pecking. Jules rubbed her
forearm across the frost to clear a spot. “Oh, Father! I’m here!”
Gaunt and pale, her father hung frozen in the ice. Was he alive? Life
suspended by the cold? She directed fire to slowly melt the block when she
really wanted to vaporize the ice. Waiting was difficult. It had been so long
since she had hugged him. He would bring smiles and laughter back to her
dour mother and grim brother.
The ice receded to below his waist, then it melted down all the way. As soon
as she could touch her father, Jules felt he was dead, but she refused to believe
- There must be a mistake! She wasn’t too late!
She carried him outside, laid him to rest alongside a river and wept. Her
tears turned into flames as they slid from her cheeks to land on her father and
smolder. She tried to catch them, but they dripped through her fingers, setting
her father afire. He vanished in a cremating roar of flames. Breezy gusts carried
the fire into the forests. The inferno surged up wooded slopes, carried by
sparks to mountain spires, then on into the sky to burn worldwide.
How could this happen? Just yesterday, she had been magicless and now . .
. She tried to get a grip and used the TEARs approach to problem solving. She
had awakened with her magic. They had opened the vault, and as she recounted
what had happened, she realized her mother would have told the headmaster and
others about opening the vault. And where was she now? And Dari?
This wasn’t the real world! It was a nightmare! It played to her emotions.
Her body didn’t know this wasn’t real. Jules sat and focused on juggling. Each
pebble she caught was a choice to be awake.
Instead, her world darkened, eclipsed by a dark beast looming over her. It
wasn’t a winter dragon like the one before. It was flat and black, looking like
shadow but crushing her chest so she couldn’t breathe.
“There is no escape. Fire is your fate,” the hulking beast sneered.
With her free hand, Jules found her lever. She seized the staff and poked it
into the beast’s right eye. The dragon staggered back, and she sucked in a
welcomed breath. She swung it like a bat, connecting, and hearing a strange
noise, a jarring, discordant ringing. The nightmarish beast faded into the
darkness, leaving her with a blaring alarm clock. Her swing hadn’t hit the
dragon, but it had violently cleared off her night stand. The ringing rattled on,
threatening to wake the world. Jules untangled herself from her bed sheets and
angrily smashed the clock, silencing it forever.
Wide awake now, Jules figured, and in her bedroom jumping at shadows.
The sneak attack came from above as a feathery mass crashed atop her. “Back
off!” she cried. She whirled and smacked it, dead on, only to drop her staff in
embarrassment. One of her wild swings had dislodged her set of Lance-made
wings from the ceiling.
“Stupid nightmare,” she whispered. To settle down, she walked around her
room, touching things to reassure herself that she was wide awake and home.
She lived in what they called the instructors’ apartments on the campus of
FAA. The Familiar Academy of Avians was renowned as a school where the
best and brightest of birds and dragonkin learned how to be wizard assistants.
Her mother was a teacher, returning to the position of the Mistress of Reading.
Jules eased into the hall, listened and looked around. The apartment was dim
with gloomy, gray stone walls and floors. Instead of effervescent and full of
possibilities, the air seemed stifling. Julietta Magnus didn’t want to live without
magic. It encompassed all the senses and beyond. What was life without
magic? Pedestrian. Common. She refused to slip back into a lackluster
Except for the annoying buzzing of a fly, the apartment was quiet. Dari’s
door stayed closed, but their mom’s was open. Wavering lights spilled from the
master bedroom, calling to Jules’ curiosity. She found her mom sleeping
fitfully among a wealth of pillows and three scrying crystals sitting on short
pedestals. The strange lights emanated from the balls. She imagined them
having personalities—each’s coloring and gleam were distinct. Did they stare
back at her? If this had been a story, just by picking up the crystal balls, she
would be able to scry and find her father.
She gently lifted an orb cut from clear citrine. She concentrated, peering
deeply within its yellow depths. She cleared her mind and closed her eyes to
imagine her father. He was tall, dark, and broad-shouldered. His kind face and
intelligent eyes were eager to learn, to share, and to smile.
The ache of missing him recalled the time when he had spoken to her about
concentration. “Jules, listen to me. You are more than just a spell caster. The
world is full of distractions to critical thinking. Watch how marketing and peer
pressure befuddles the Commoners, and you will see what I mean. A wizard
must be in tune with what is important, and to do that, we must relinquish our
belief that the world is only about us. TEARs, that time of critical thinking,
helps with getting past our emotions and ego.”
She opened her eyes. “Show me, my father. Show me, Darrin Magnus!”
Jules whispered fiercely.
Nothing. While she fumed, Jules reset the crystal ball on its perch before
covering all three. She tenderly laid a blanket on her mother then left the room.
The void couldn’t use scrying orbs, Jules reminded herself. Dari couldn’t
either. He scrambled them, just as he had done to her. For forever and a day,
Jules would remember when her brother and her best friend had attempted to
stop her from opening her father’s vault. They were both partly at fault for her
current condition, but she reluctantly accepted blame, too. A wave of despair
rolled through her. She might as well face that she was magicless and
Jules washed her face in the bathroom sink, only to wind up striking a
match to study her reflection in the mirror by candlelight. She had been forced
to use a match to light the votive, instead of channeling. How mundane. Her
freckles had faded, and her eyes had lost their green luster, paling more like her
mother’s blue. She twirled a finger through her hair. For a while, it had shone
coppery, but now she called it strawberry blond. What was happening to her?
Was she fading without magic?
She tried to change her thinking. What was today? Thursday and Friday
they had run assessments on the students to see how much they had learned
during the first trimester. By her calculations, today was Saturday. Something
important was going to happen today. Was there a visitor coming?
Walking back in her bedroom, she saw the wings and remembered. Today
Lance was going to teach her how to use them to fly. She checked the feathers
and straps, making sure she hadn’t damaged them. They looked fine, which
couldn’t be said for the destroyed alarm clock or the crumpled gift box that had
once held her staff. Her father had planned to present it to her on her fourteenth
birthday before he vanished.
Jules angrily kicked the gift box. It flew apart, the top flying off, leaving a
piece of paper sticking out. She unfolded the note and skimmed the writing.
Her heart skipped beats as she continued to read her father’s scrawl.
To my loved ones: Audrey, Jules and Darius—
If I am missing, this will help you find me. Like twins, the staves work best
together. They should be placed beneath the lower Faa Falls in a circular
depression in the ledge. When three Magnuses channel, no door shall be
barred. Find and unleash the arrow that seeks me.
Her world spun off kilter. A swelling nausea forced her to sit. She could be
the poster child for the Law of Unintended Consequences. Seeing this note
earlier would have changed her life. She wouldn’t be void. How was she going
to tell her mom? She had been right about her impatient fire.
Jules despaired, utterly wiped out and unable to stand. She threw herself on
her bed. With each passing hour, she grew more afraid that her Arcane
birthright might never return, leaving her magicless forever and her father lost.
She tried to put it out of her mind that illusions and sleight-of-hand might be
the only magic left to her.
And yet, the note gave her no choice. Nobody else had been able to help.
Neither set of grandparents had saved the day when they had visited last week,
but it had been wonderful to see them.
She must restore her seventh sense. Somehow! Some way! She would do
anything to regain true magic. But how?
The teachers and staff had provided her with worthless poultices and salves
to rub into her skin, and mixing up awful concoctions, including an overload of
sprouts, hoping to reopen her third eye. Instead it had turned her green and
failed to inspire her.
Nothing worked. It was hopeless. And yet, if she couldn’t justify her
father’s faith that she was more than just her magic, he would die.