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Parvenu 3:

Otherland

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Chapter 1

Paul was still coming to terms with being a world traveller. Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that he'd ever have an opportunity to do anything like visiting another country.

Even so, the next challenge before him was to adapt to a whole new way of life... and beyond that, a whole new state of being. His disorientation was compounded by the fact that he had only just arrived back in the United States the previous evening.

Sitting in the car, Paul tried to focus his attention on what D was saying to him. "It may take a little arm-twisting, but I'm sure that I'll be able to get your status changed this morning so that you can get right to your classes. Who knows? Maybe you'll be placed in some classes with G."

"Is that okay with you?" Paul asked his newly adopted brother with concern.

A roll of G's eyes in Paul's general direction before turning his attention forward again was his only acknowledgement.

               'It's not that G accepts me that makes me feel good.'

               'It's that he's so certain of it that he wouldn't dignify the question with a response.'

"There's a good chance that Nazareth and Ravindra will probably be in your classes too." D added.

"I couldn't even keep up with regular classes. I don't know how I'm going to do in... what do you call it? Witch school?"

"We just call it school." G said with an affectionate grin at him.

"Try thinking of it like transferring from the general education to the college prep courses. You'll be expected to learn different disciplines but the format is basically the same." D said frankly.

"Except that I'll be learning about magic and spellcasting and..." Paul trailed off anxiously with freshly renewed panic.

"How did you end up doing with the math classes, before we left?" G asked in a tone of voice that demanded an answer.

"I never even got the first clue about what they were talking about." Paul said despondently.

"So, no matter how good or bad things go today, you're no worse off than you were before." G said reasonably.

I thought about that for a long moment, then quietly responded, "Yeah. But at least I know the basics in regular school."

"Paul, you have nothing to base your expectations on, so I can understand that you're feeling uneasy."

               'Uneasy? Ya think?!'

               'See: Understatement.'

"Although I'm not on staff at the school, as the parent of an active student, I like to keep abreast of current policies and procedures."

Paul cautiously nodded that he was following along with what D was saying.

"Every year the school has a small number of students admitted who have only just awakened to their powers and need some help to come to terms with being exposed to the greater world. The school has experienced people and well proven procedures in place to help new students, just like you, exactly in your situation."

"But what about me being a half... you know." Paul asked reluctantly.

"Although it's not necessarily common, it's not unheard of. I wouldn't go around announcing it to everyone you meet, but if people find out, they'll probably look upon it as a curiosity for a day or two, then forget all about it." D said frankly.

"Who knows, maybe if you're lucky the people who find out will be demon fanboys, like Nazzy." G provided with a smile.

"I don't know if that's better or worse than people not liking me because of what my biological father is." Paul said honestly.

"When you get past all the magic and secrecy, I'm sure that most of what you'll be facing is the same kind of thing that you'd face at any other high school." D explained.

               'Oh? You mean living hell?'

               'That's all you had to say.'

               '"It's going to be living hell", and I would have understood.'

* * * * *

"Hopefully I'll see you in class." G said as they walked into the school, then he quickly added, "If not, I'll see you at lunch."

"I'll see you then." Paul said quietly as he watched G walk off in another direction.

After a long silent moment of walking down the hallway, D quietly said, "It'll be alright. I'll see to it."

"Thank you." Paul said sincerely.

He still believed that it was going to be horrible, but it meant the world to him that his adoptive father would take the time and trouble to try and make things better.

* * * * *

When they walked into the office and the woman behind the desk jumped to her feet to attend to D right away, Paul couldn't help but smile.

"Mr. Darroch, how can I help you today?" Janice asked eagerly.

"It seems that my son has had a change of status recently, so I'd like to see that his schedule is updated accordingly." D said diplomatically.

               '"My son." I'll never get tired of hearing him say that.'

"Oh? I see. Well, since your son is already enrolled, that shouldn't be any problem. I assume that he'll be needing an evaluation before his placement." Janice said in a leading tone.

"Yes. Although I have some inkling of what it will reveal, I believe that a professional evaluation of Paul's strengths will assure that he will receive the most appropriate education." D said seriously.

"Yes. Dr. Williams is very thorough in his evaluations. I'll personally see to it that your son will be scheduled to have everything that he needs to succeed." Janice said eagerly.

"While I'm thinking of it, Paul's mother and I were married day before yesterday..."

"Congratulations."

"Thank you." D said with a courteous smile, then continued, "Paul has expressed a desire to have his surname changed to Darroch, so I was wondering if it would be possible to reflect that in his school records. It may take a day or two to get all the official paperwork in line, but it seems as though it would be least confusing for all involved to have his name listed on all documentation as 'Paul Darroch' from this point forward."

"That's no problem. Although his original name will still be listed in the computer until we receive the official paperwork, all his class schedules and such will show his preferred name." Janice assured him.

"Thank you." D said with another hint of a smile, then asked, "What else will I need to do to get Paul's status changed?"

"Nothing. Paul is already enrolled, so all I have to do is make the status changes to his file and wait for the results of the evaluation." Janice said confidently.

"Then I'll leave you to it." D said simply, then turned to Paul and said more quietly, "Don't hesitate to call me if you have any problems at all."

"Okay." Paul agreed, feeling inordinately pleased at his new father's show of concern for him.

               'I don't know if this is what all dads are like.'

               'But I think that maybe this is what all dads should be.'

While Paul and D were talking, Janice darted behind her desk for a moment and made a quick call.

"Dr. Williams is expecting you. His office is just next door, down the hall on your right." Janice said as she hung up the phone.

"Thank you again. You've been very helpful." D said gratefully, then pulled Paul into an unexpected hug.

Paul didn't know how to react to that, but took a moment to appreciate the wonderful feeling.

"Have a good day." D said quietly as he released Paul.

"You too." Paul said warmly.

Paul watched as D left the office.

He took a moment to collect himself, then forced himself to follow, taking the next steps on the path to his new future.

As anxious as Paul had been earlier, he now had the sense that there was a chance that things might possibly turn out alright.

* * * * *

Paul walked into the office to find a rather imposing figure waiting for him.

"Dr. Williams?" Paul guessed.

"Good morning. And who might you be?" The large black man asked as he stepped forward to shake Paul's hand. Paul wasn't sure, but he took the man's accent to be Caribbean in origin, possibly Jamaican.

"My name is Paul Darroch, but it still might be listed as Paul Hiller in my file." Paul said quietly.

Dr. Williams walked to his computer and typed in a brief inquiry. He read the results before turning and asking, "Do you understand why you're here with me today?"

"It sounded to me like you were going to test me or something to figure out what kind of magic I should be studying." Paul said frankly.

"I will be evaluating your strengths and presenting my findings to the educators. They will make any decisions regarding your studies."

"So, what do I have to do now?"

"Come back to the examination room and let me have a look at you. After that, I'll have my assistant run a few tests, then I'll send you back to the administration office so that they can schedule your classes."

"Is it going to hurt?" Paul asked as he reluctantly followed.

"Most certainly not! I use only the latest and most advanced diagnostic spells and charms." Dr. Williams said firmly.

Something occurred to Paul and before he could think better of it, the words just slipped out, "You're a witch doctor."

Dr. Williams looked at Paul with surprise at the revelation, then considered his words before carefully saying, "That could be taken in two distinctly different ways, one being the fact that I am both a witch and a doctor, and the other referring to me being a practitioner of a particular type of ancient magic, derived from centuries old tribal customs and beliefs."

"I'm sorry..." Paul began to say, but was interrupted.

"As it happens, I am both." Dr. Williams continued.

Paul looked at him with surprise.

"I don't know anything about your ancestry, so I can't presume to draw any parallels between us. But in the magical practice of my own culture, most commonly referred to as Vodou, witch doctors used various ritualistic methods to inspire them to achieve the desired results. Onlookers would see a particular ritual and believe that it was those actions that caused the magic to happen. In fact, some of the witch doctors themselves didn't understand that the ritual was only there to inspire the desired emotion to allow the magic to coalesce in the proper way." Dr. Williams said as they walked into the examination room. He finished by gesturing toward an elevated bed, indicating for Paul to take a seat.

"I don't understand." Paul reluctantly admitted.

"Different magics require different emotional states. If your spell requires concentration and you attempt it with passionate resolve, the spell will be more likely to fail. Likewise, if your spell requires passion and you attempt to cast it solemnly and ritualistically, it will also be prone to failure. You need to be in the proper frame of mind for your magic to work predictably." Dr. Williams carefully explained.

"I kind of thought that it just... happened when you wanted it to." Paul said weakly.

"That's why you're here, so you can learn what is required to make the most use of the gifts that you've been given." Dr. Williams said with a smile of accomplishment, then pulled a large multi-colored magnifying glass on a swing arm from beside the bed and started looking at Paul through it.

After a moment, Paul cautiously asked, "What do you see?"

"Your aura. This reveals a person's magical essence, if you know how to interpret what you're seeing." Dr. Williams said slowly as he examined Paul carefully.

Paul waited, not knowing if he really wanted to know what the doctor could tell about him.

"You're a cambion, aren't you?" The doctor asked as he carefully moved the magnifying glass aside.

"I'm sorry. I don't know what that is." Paul reluctantly admitted.

"A half-demon. I can make out some prominent infernal influences in your magic." Dr. Williams quietly explained.

"Oh, um, yeah. You can really see that, just by looking at me with that thing?" Paul asked anxiously.

"As I said, it's there if you know what to look for." Dr. Williams confirmed, then continued by asking, "Is this your resting form?"

"I have no idea what you're asking me." Paul said honestly.

"When you wake up in the morning do you look like this, or do you have to change yourself into a more 'human' looking form to go out in public?" Dr. Williams asked seriously.

"No. I wake up looking like I do right now." Paul quietly answered.

"Good. Then, have you learned how to make yourself transform?"

"Yes. I mean, it happened by accident the first time, but I've learned how to make it happen when I want it to since then." Paul rushed to explain.

"Would you mind changing for me now?" Dr. Williams asked hopefully.

"Okay. But I'll need to take off my shoes and... I don't want to mess up the uniform that G loaned me. I'll probably need to take it off, too."

"Go ahead. No one will interrupt the exam." Dr. Williams assured him.

Paul reluctantly got off the bed, then started undressing, feeling uncomfortable under the doctor's clinical gaze.

As Paul was undressing, Dr. Williams quietly said, "Although not many cambion's attend our school, it isn't unheard of. I don't think we have any currently enrolled, but all the staff have the experience of helping someone of mixed parentage."

Paul stepped out of his pants and carefully folded them, then placed them on the foot of the bed.

"I think I'm ready." Paul said nervously, standing in front of the doctor, wearing only his underwear.

"Go ahead. I simply need to see your manifestation so I can determine if any special accommodations will be needed in your training."

"Like what?" Paul asked as he gave the internal 'push' to start the change.

"For some, it is wise to have a fire extinguisher close at hand. For others, it's necessary to be in a wide open location, well away from anything fragile." Dr. Williams said casually as he watched Paul growing taller and gaining body mass as well as horns.

"This is about it." Paul said in his much lower voice, and once again had to adjust his balance as he fought to remain standing on his newly formed hooves.

"Very nice. You seem to have reasonable control of your transformation and your resulting demonic visage appears to be temperamentally stable. There are some who, after years of training, are never able to achieve this state. You're starting off with quite an advantage." Dr. Williams said approvingly.

"Does that mean that some people go crazy when they transform?" Paul asked cautiously, still feeling uncomfortable with Dr. Williams watching him.

"Some, through no fault of their own, will cause magical eruptions while they struggle to transform; fire mostly. Once transformed, there are those who are 'feral' for lack of a better term. They lose the ability to use their higher reasoning." Dr. Williams said informatively.

"To be honest, when I'm like this I feel like I want to use my strength. I want to beat and break and tear through things. Standing here and being quiet is making me antsy." Paul reluctantly admitted.

"That's perfectly normal and natural." Dr. Williams assured him, then absently added, "You can change back and dress now, if you would like."

"Thanks." Paul muttered, then immediately reverted to his 'human-looking' appearance.

"As I have said, I play no part in assigning your academic requirements, so I can't make any promises on that front. But I feel safe in saying that in the course of your training that you will be given tasks to perform that will challenge you, thereby satisfying some of your more primal urges." Dr. Williams said as he walked to the nearby computer and started typing.

"Tasks? Does that mean that you're going to be training me to... do stuff, like jobs?" Paul asked cautiously as he dressed.

"Not specifically. You're not going to be groomed to be a 'fighter' or 'assassin' or anything like that. You'll be trained to use your strengths and overcome your weaknesses so that when you leave here, you'll have the skills you need to pursue whatever course in life that you choose."

"I guess it's my, um... normal, upbringing that made it sound to me like you were training a team of superheroes... or villains." Paul said timidly.

"I suppose that there might be some parallels in our training techniques. We encourage students to learn to use their abilities in concert with others to achieve greater goals than they could on their own. But in the outside world that's called 'teamwork'. It's an important social skill to develop. And to be honest, witches have a tendency to isolate themselves. So we do our best to foster the social skills to minimize that." Dr. Williams said frankly.

Paul looked himself over to be sure that he hadn't missed anything while dressing, then he looked at Dr. Williams uncertainly.

"Just remain here and my assistant will be joining you in a moment to do some tests. They're nothing invasive or embarrassing, I promise you. They'll simply gauge your magical aptitude to aid in your placement." Dr. Williams assured him.

"What about the cambion thing? I didn't know about witches at all until a few days ago, so I don't know how things work. How big of a deal is it?" Paul asked cautiously, remembering D's advice from earlier.

"That's going to be up to you. I'm sure that there will be those who will look down upon you if they find out. But for others it will be a point of interest that will make them want to get to know more about you. If you let people know, there will undoubtedly be consequences, but try to keep in mind that not all consequences are negative." Dr. Williams said before leaving the room.

Paul hoisted himself back onto the examination table and sat for a long quiet moment as he tried to assimilate all that had been revealed to him.

               'I'm a cambion.'

               'So what?'

               'I'm still me.'

               'In fact, I'm more me than I've ever been before.'

               'I'm not trying to fit myself into a mold that wasn't made for me.'

               'I'm becoming the person I was born to be.'

* * * * *

At the end of testing, Paul didn't know anything more than he had at the beginning.

Dr. Williams' medical assistant, Indra, was pleasant enough, but also completely professional as she went about her duties.

At one point, Paul was asked to hold a wooden ball in his left hand. He did so and sat still and silent as Indra intently watched. At some cue that Paul couldn't determine, Indra seemed to be satisfied and told him that he had done well.

There was another point where Indra asked him to sit still as she held a ziplock bag of something that looked like mercury over his head. She didn't ask him to do anything, she just held it there until she was satisfied, then put it away and made more notes on the computer.

Near the end of their testing, Indra took him into a different room where a box of about fifty rocks sat on a table. She led him to the box and asked him to sort them. When he asked her 'into what', she said that that was the test and left him to do it.

A few of the rocks were crystals, but most of them appeared to be uninteresting, ordinary rocks. Some were rough, some rounded, some large and others small. In the end, Paul divided them into five categories, with just a few odd stones being in the fifth. He didn't really have names for the categories, but certain stones just seemed to go together.

When Indra returned, she seemed unaccountably pleased with his method of sorting and happily entered the results into the computer.

Following the rock sorting, Indra left the room and Dr. Williams returned a few minutes later. All he really said was that the testing was concluded and that Paul should return to the administration office and wait for them to assign his new class schedule.

Paul thanked the doctor and shook his hand before leaving.

* * * * *

As Paul walked into the office, Janice immediately noticed and told him, "Mrs. Bright is evaluating your test results right now. If you'll have a seat, she'll join you in just a minute."

"Thank you." Paul stammered with surprise. Her suddenly solicitous behavior made him wonder if Marsha might have had a little talk with Janice regarding 'customer service'.

               'Who am I kidding?'

               'This is what it's like to be D's son.'

               'He's respected and admired. And no one who knows who he is wants to piss him off.'

               'This seems like something that it would be really easy to abuse.'

               'I'll have to watch out for that.'

* * * * *

"It looks like you came through the testing unscathed. I hope it wasn't too unsettling." Marsha said as she walked out of her office, carrying some papers.

"It wasn't bad. I just didn't understand the point of most of it." Paul said honestly as he stood to greet her.

"We test for several things. Most of them won't have anything to do with you, but we test just the same in the event that you might have a particular talent that we should be aware of." Marsha said, then indicated for Paul to have a seat.

Before Paul could ask for an example, Marsha continued, "I've created a new class schedule for you, based on your strengths. You'll have your academic classes and foundational magics before lunch each day. In the afternoons, you'll be in your specialty class, learning the skills and control for your primary ability."

"What's my primary ability?" Paul asked cautiously.

Marsha referred to the paperwork in her hand, then said, "You seem to have an aptitude for fire, so you'll be receiving a foundational study course in that. Once you've mastered the basics, you'll be encouraged to go into a more specialized subset."

"Oh. Okay." Paul said hesitantly.

"As often comes with fire, your specialized field of magic would seem to be based in wizardry, more specifically necromancy. It turns out that we have a rather talented group of students in that specialty this year, so you should have ample opportunities to work with others and benefit from their accumulated knowledge."

"Is it going to be a problem that I don't know what I'm doing? I mean, I didn't even know about witches a few days ago." Paul asked anxiously.

"That's actually fairly common. But at least with Mr. Darroch being your father, I know that you'll be getting the support you will need at home. Some aren't so lucky." Marsha finished regretfully, then continued, "No matter. The teachers all understand that new students many times won't know the basics. I've even heard it expressed that some of them prefer that, since it means that the students won't have to 'unlearn' bad habits or erroneous knowledge from previous, inadequate teachings."

Paul slowly nodded that he understood what she was saying.

It actually served to put him somewhat at ease, knowing that there were other students who started out further behind than he already was.

"Since second period is nearly over, I'll have Janice walk you down at the start of third period and introduce you to your teacher. Your morning classes will be different from day to day but every afternoon you'll be attending your primary training." Marsha said pleasantly.

"What's my next class going to be?" Paul asked cautiously. He wanted to brace himself.

"Magic theory. The professor sometimes gives lectures on procedures or theories. Other times, the class will focus on the bookwork required for your afternoon class. Every student in the class will likely be studying a different thing, learning the specifics that they'll need to know for their practical application course in the afternoon."

Paul nodded dumbly, somehow both understanding and not understanding at the same time. Either way, he couldn't think clearly enough to form a coherent question.

"This actually works out quite well. You'll have the opportunity to do a little preparation before you're thrust into a lab situation where you might be expected to perform."

"Do you mean that I'm going to have to get up in front of everyone and try to do magic?"

"No. Not everyone. You'll most likely be teamed with other students with similar or complementary abilities so that you'll be able to work together and support each other. You may have to 'perform' in front of them, and your instructor, of course, but not the whole class."

"Oh. Okay. I think I can do that."

"Don't worry. If things aren't going well, just let a member of the staff know and they'll work to help you. We're all here for that singular purpose."

               'How many times have I heard someone say crap like that before?'

               'And how many times did it turn out that they were saying it to justify the shitty job that they were doing?'

               'They say something like 'we're here to help you', then turn a blind eye when three guys jump you on the playground and steal your money.'

               'They watch people be horrible to each other, both teachers and students, and they don't do a thing.'

               'Considering our first encounter, I don't have any reason to believe what Marsha is telling me...'

               '...but for some reason I kinda do.'

               'At least, I'm willing to give her a chance.'

"I'll do that. Thanks." Paul stammered.

Marsha smiled at his response, then glanced at the clock before saying, "If you're ready, you can go with Janice now. She'll show you the entrance to the hidden part of the school."

Thanks to Marsha's assurance and words of encouragement, Paul was able to honestly reply, "I'm ready."

* * * * *

When Janice led Paul down the hallway, just past the cafeteria, Paul was surprised to realize that he hadn't noticed another hallway being there before.

Before Paul could formulate a question, saying as much, Janice said, "There's a ward in place which encourages those who don't already know about this wing of the school to overlook it."

"So you don't have to cast a spell directly on a person for it to work?" Paul asked curiously.

"Look here." Janice said as she walked to the entry to the hallway and pointed out an ornamental filigree pattern along the wall, so bland and beige that it was barely noticeable.

"This is where the spell has been placed. If you look carefully at the pattern of the design, you'll begin to see the disguised text of the spell. Those who approach are drawn to turn their attention elsewhere. Just knowing that it's here negates the effect."

As they continued their walk, the class bell sounded.

Within seconds, students emerged from the classrooms up and down the hall, making their way to their next classes.

"You'll be getting a double block class today before lunch, so you should have plenty of time to discover some new things that you'd like to try when you reach your practical lab setting. Just keep in mind that everyone is different. We all have our own talents and interests. You will likely be asked to learn and practice some things that don't interest you. Please accept that it's part of the learning process and that once you've learned the basics, you'll have more opportunity to pursue those things that do interest you." Janice said as they walked.

When they arrived at one of the classrooms, Janice knocked on the open door, then cautiously said, "Professor Ortega, I have a new student for you."

"I recently noticed that I still had one empty desk in my classroom. This must be divine providence." The professor said warmly as he covered a teapot with a quilted cover.

Despite any fear that Paul might have been harboring, the man's jovial nature served to put Paul at ease.

"It must be." Janice said with a barely restrained smile, then continued, "Professor Ortega, this is Paul Darroch. His status was just changed from regular classes."

"Does that mean that you only recently became aware of the existence of the greater world?" Professor Ortega asked Paul curiously.

"Yes, sir. About three days ago at my parents' wedding, in Scotland." Paul said uncertainly, since it seemed like it had been so much longer.

"Since you've been enrolled in my class, can I assume that you've discovered that you have a supernatural ability?" Professor Ortega asked curiously.

"Yeah. Well, you see, I kinda summoned a demon..." Paul muttered uncomfortably.

"At the wedding?" Professor Ortega guessed.

Paul reluctantly nodded.

"That must have been quite some event." Professor Ortega chuckled good naturedly.

"It was. But no one seemed to be bothered too much by it. My new cousin, Lenn, said that more marriages would probably work out if the old ex-wives and ex-girlfriends were dragged off to hell as part of the wedding ceremony." Paul said a bit anxiously.

"He might very well be right about that." Professor Ortega said with a laugh, then turned to Janice and said, "I was just about to have some tea before my next class begins. Would you care to join me?"

"No, thank you Professor. I need to get back to the office." Janice said gratefully, then turned to Paul and said, "Here are your daily class schedules. Be sure to come to the office if you have any questions or concerns."

"I will." Paul promised.

"If you will excuse me, have a good day." Janice said before hurrying away.

"We have a few minutes before the next class group will start arriving. Would you care for a cup of tea?" Professor Ortega asked as he removed the quilted cover from the teapot and began to pour a cup for himself.

Although Paul's first impulse was to refuse, mainly because he didn't particularly like hot tea, he couldn't help but feel that spending a few relaxed minutes in the professor's company might end up being a rare and valuable experience for him.

"Yes sir. I'd like that. Thank you."

* * * * *

"May I assume from your surname that you are related to Mr. Darroch, who is such a prominent figure in the community?" Professor Ortega asked as he handed a filled cup of tea to Paul.

"Yes sir. At least, now I am. He married my mom a few days ago." Paul said quietly before taking a sip of the tea.

"I can't say that I know him personally, but I've heard only favorable things about him."

"I haven't known him that long either, but from what I've seen so far, there's no one else that I'd rather have as a father."

"It's good that you get along. It's not always the case with blended families."

A group of three students walked into the room and made their way immediately to their desks.

After another sip of tea, Professor Ortega said, "As I recall, Mr. Darroch has a son about your same age, doesn't he?"

"Yes. His name is Gwayne, but everyone calls him G."

"Yes, of course. He's a close friend to some of my students. I hope that you and he get along as well."

"He's the brother that I always wanted." Paul said warmly, then noticed more students filing into the room.

"Very good. Many times students who don't have satisfying or supportive homes have trouble learning the basics of magic. Having so much turmoil in their lives makes it difficult for them to form a solid foundation. From what you've told me, you shouldn't have any such worry."

"I grew up not knowing anything about magic or witches, so I feel like I've got a lot to learn. But as far as having people at home who support me, I think I've got that covered."

"If they will provide you the support, I will be honored to provide whatever knowledge you are lacking. It will be up to you to put these things to good use."

"I'll do that." Paul said sincerely, then noticed that more of the class had joined them.

Professor Ortega held out his hand and Paul gave him his teacup.

After setting the teacups aside, the professor said, "If you'll take a seat over there, we will begin."

* * * * *

Paul was happy to see that Nazzy and Vinda were in his class. He looked around and recognized a few other people from the lunchroom, but was disappointed to find that G wasn't among them.

The class bell sounded as Professor Ortega took his rightful place at the front of the room.

"Everyone, if I may have your attention. As you may have noticed, we have a new student amongst us this morning. It is my hope that you will share some of what you have learned so that he may participate with you on your own level."

Paul was understandably uncomfortable being the focus of so much attention, but had been through the experience enough times that he wasn't too terribly bothered by it.

Thankfully, Professor Ortega began his lecture after that and Paul settled in to listen. Most of what the professor was talking about was general and theoretical, Paul found that he was able to follow what the professor was saying reasonably well.

The professor spoke of the balance of forces and the relationship between spellcasting and the spellcaster's emotional state. Although Paul was no nearer to being able to actually cast a spell, he was at least beginning to understand some of the basic theory behind it all.

* * * * *

The class bell rang and Professor Ortega told the students to enjoy a few minutes break before returning to the lecture.

A few members of the class left, presumably to visit the restroom. However most of the students remained in the classroom and gathered into small groups to talk quietly amongst themselves.

"You made it! So, what do you think?" Nazzy asked as he and Vinda approached.

"It's great so far, but where's G?" Paul asked curiously.

"I think he's got Sorcery this period. We were in class with him earlier and he was really worried about you." Vinda said somberly.

"Yeah. It was all he could talk about." Nazzy added.

"What can you tell me about what we'll be doing after lunch? I don't know what to expect." Paul said honestly.

"That's going to be up to Professor Ortega and whatever teacher he assigns you. Most times they'll team a new person with some of the advanced students and let them work together to get him caught up." Vinda said frankly.

"Do you think that I'll get to team up with you?" Paul asked hopefully.

"Probably not. Neither one of us has any talent for demon summoning so we probably wouldn't be of much help to you. Professor Ortega will probably team you up with someone closer to your specialty." Vinda said seriously.

"Does that mean that there are other demon summoners in this class?" Paul asked cautiously.

"Nicholas." Nazzy and Vinda said in unison.

At Paul's questioning look, Nazzy explained, "There are a couple others but Nicholas has a demon imp that he keeps with him during class. Even though other students have been able to summon demons, Nicholas is the only student in our year who's been able to consistently summon and control one."

"I guess that sooner or later I'll have to do that, even though the idea of commanding or controlling someone sounds totally wrong to me." Paul said honestly.

"I doubt that Nicholas feels that way about it, but I think that most decent people question the ethics of how they use their magical gifts." Vinda said seriously.

"I thought demon summoners were rare. In fact, I remember G saying that he'd never met one before." Paul said slowly.

"He might not have." Nazzy said frankly, then explained, "People like us, who use the 'darker' magic, usually don't go around telling people about what we can do. I mean, when we're outside of school and we're sure that we're around people who will accept us, it's a whole different thing. But here, some of the 'fluffy bunny' types will try to shame you for being anything that they're not. It's best not to reveal too much outside of your class group."

"Besides that, Nicholas isn't very sociable... or friendly." Vinda added with a withering look.

"Right. And with G being so happy and carefree all the time, he's kind of the opposite of Nicholas." Nazzy agreed.

"And even if they did meet, G wouldn't have any way of knowing that Nicholas is a demon summoner. Being in our class doesn't really tell anything about your ability except that it's based in Wizardry." Vinda explained.

"Yeah. As far as I know, Corabeth can't summon anything at all, but she's one of the best students in the class." Nazzy added.

"If she can't summon anything, what can she do?" Paul asked curiously.

"I know there's a word for it, but I don't remember what it is. She creates this 'wall of force' or something. It's really impressive." Nazzy said with a smile, then looked up when the class bell rang.

"I can't wait to see it." Paul said as he noticed that the others in the classroom were breaking away from their little groups.

"We'll talk more at lunch." Vinda assured him.

"Yeah." Paul responded with a smile as he watched Nazzy and Vinda return to their desks.

* * * * *

Professor Ortega's next hour of lecture had to do primarily with 'field manipulations', which Paul didn't understand in the least.

When the class bell rang, heralding lunch, Professor Ortega called for Paul to stay behind for a moment.

"Yes sir?" Paul asked as he approached, noticing that Nazzy and Vinda had stopped to wait for him by the door.

"Mr. Darroch, I just wanted to be sure to let you know that when you return from lunch, you will be working with Mr. Gilbert and he will let you know what will be expected of you during your practical class time. I will, of course, be present in the classroom, but in more of an advisory than a teaching capacity. Should you have any need of assistance, please feel free to seek me out." Professor Ortega finished with a sincere smile.

"I will. Thank you sir." Paul said respectfully.

"Go on now. You wouldn't want to keep Mr. Couleigh and Miss Sodhi waiting." Professor Ortega said warmly.

"Yes sir. Thank you again." Paul said before joining his friends at the classroom door.

* * * * *

As Paul walked out of the classroom, Vinda quietly said, "Remember that we're going to be around normal people in the cafeteria. Make sure that you don't talk about magic while we're in there."

"I don't think it'll be a problem. I don't know anything yet." Paul said honestly.

"Don't worry. You'll get there." Nazzy assured him.

"How did it go? Are you alright?"

Paul turned and smiled as he saw G approaching. "I'm fine. All I've had to do is listen so far. No one's asked me to do anything."

"Good. Just hang in there. I know that you're smart enough to learn everything that you need to. You just have to give yourself a chance." G said confidently.

As they turned the corner to the cafeteria, Nazzy said, "Paul is in our class group. We're going to have class together every afternoon."

"That's great! I was worried that you might get put into a class where you didn't know anyone. Having Nazzy and Vinda will help you out a lot." G said honestly as they automatically got into the serving line.

As Paul looked over the food selections he couldn't help but say, "I can't believe how you guys eat here. At my last school, the food tasted more plastic than the wrappers it came in."

"I've heard that before. But since this is the only school that I've ever been to, I don't have any way of judging for myself." Nazzy said frankly.

"So have you known about... stuff... since you started school?" Paul asked curiously.

"Yeah. I know that some parents pretend that they're normal around their kids but mine never did that. I went to a 'special' elementary school, it's run by the same people that run this place; that's where I met G and Vinda. After elementary school, we all started going here." Nazzy said frankly.

There was a long silent moment as everyone made their lunch selections. Once they all had their trays filled, they made their way into the dining room and easily found an unoccupied table.

"Paul?" A boy's voice asked as they were all settling in.

Paul turned and had to search his memory for the name of the boy that he'd spoken to once before.

"What's up, Curtis?" Paul asked cautiously, hoping that he was remembering the boy's name correctly.

"I thought you must have moved away or something. You went to school for a few days, then all of a sudden you just stopped."

"Yeah. Well, the reason I started going to this school is because my mom met this guy who lives here and she decided to marry him. We just moved into his house. I was gone last week because their wedding was out of town."

"So you're back now? You weren't in class today." Curtis said suspiciously.

"Yeah. I was having some trouble before, so they tested me and decided to move me to another class where I might be able to do better."

"I noticed that you looked kinda lost when you were here before."

"I never did figure out what those ordinal things were that the teacher seemed to be so excited about."

"Introductions?" G asked quietly.

"Oh! I'm sorry. Curtis was in one of my classes before the wedding. Curtis, this is my new brother, G and our friends, Nazzy and Vinda." Paul said quickly.

"It's nice to meet you." Curtis said as he looked at the group, then his focus seemed to stop on G as he said, "I've seen you around at lunch, but I don't think that I've had any classes with you."

"Yeah. It's a big school." G said easily.

"Would you like to have lunch with us?" Vinda quickly offered.

"If you're all friends, I don't want to get in the way." Curtis said uneasily.

"Paul's still new to the group. Having a friend of his join us will kind of even things out." Vinda said cheerfully.

Curtis glanced at Paul and quietly asked, "Is that okay?"

"Yeah. Go on and get your food. We'll save a seat for you." Paul assured him.

"Okay." Curtis said happily, then to the whole group he said, "Thanks!"

* * * * *

"What was that all about?" Paul asked Vinda as soon as Curtis was out of earshot.

"Just what I said. We three are old friends, so I can see how you might feel outnumbered sometimes. Curtis seems nice and I thought that maybe he'd enjoy hanging out with us." Vinda explained.

"But he's not a... you know." Paul urged her to understand.

"Neither were you, at least as far as you knew, before last week and you were always welcome to sit with us. You and Curtis each have a lifetime of believing that the world works a certain way. The only difference is that you recently discovered that that was wrong." Vinda finished with a smile.

"So it's okay that he's not like us?" Paul asked as he glanced to be sure of where Curtis was in the serving line.

"It's fine. We'll just talk about normal stuff when he's around." Vinda assured him.

"While it's true that we don't have any 'normal' friends, that's not because we don't like them or don't want to associate with them. It's just because we don't really get a lot of opportunities." G said frankly.

"And we don't really have a lot in common." Nazzy quickly added.

"That's right. Just because of who and what we are, we have to grow up differently from them. It doesn't make us hate them or anything, but I think the differences make it more difficult for us to find common ground to get to know each other." Vinda said thoughtfully.

"I think I get it. If Curtis is my friend, then I can act kind of like a bridge for you to maybe give you enough in common so that he can become your friend too?" Paul asked speculatively.

"If it works out that way, then great. But if not, then he'll just be someone else that we can invite to sit with us at lunchtime." Nazzy finished with a smile.

"So, what are you guys talking about?" Curtis asked as he set his tray on the table.

"You." Vinda said with a grin.

"What about me?" Curtis asked warily.

"Paul was just making sure that we weren't trying to prank you or something mean like that by inviting you to sit with us." Vinda said simply.

"I hope you told him that you wouldn't do that." Curtis said cautiously.

"No. There are a few other people around here who've cornered the market on that kind of behavior. But we've only known Paul for a couple weeks, so I can understand it if he hasn't completely figured us out yet." Vinda said with an easy smile.

"Thanks for watching my back, Paul." Curtis said gratefully.

"I've got you covered." Paul assured him.

               'So... they want for me to be their friend AND have friends of my own besides them?'

               'What kind of witchery is this?'

               '...'

               'Okay. Maybe I do need more friends if I'm making snarky jokes to myself.'

* * * * *

The group ate their lunches and talked for a few minutes about general topics.

Finally it was G who said, "Curtis, I've been going to this school forever and I haven't seen you around here before. Are you new here too?"

"Well, yeah. My family moved here during the summer and heard that this 'private' school was really good, so I started here this fall." Curtis said uncomfortably.

"So when you saw Paul on his first day, you could relate to what he was going through?" Vinda asked speculatively.

"Yeah. From what I can tell, most of the people here are like you, they've been going here for years. No one seems interested in getting to know someone new." Curtis said regretfully.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that when we have a new person in one of my classes, I usually don't want to get too close to them because if they moved here all of a sudden, then they're probably that much more likely to turn around and move again." G said seriously.

Paul couldn't help but nod in agreement. He had been the one moving away 'all of a sudden' for most of his life.

"I hadn't thought of that." Curtis said honestly.

"Well, you don't have to worry about Paul moving away. I think our parents are going to be together for the long haul." G said confidently.

"I wish I could say that I'll be staying, but it's not really up to me. If something happens and my dad has to relocate again then I'd have to move. I don't really get a choice in the matter." Curtis said regretfully.

"I know how it is, Curtis. I've had to move so many times that I can't count them all. And every time I'd have to move it'd be just a little bit harder to try to get to know new people and a little bit easier to let them go the next time that I moved." Paul said honestly.

"This is only the third time that we've moved, but I think the thing that makes this time worse is that I like it here. The school's nice and the food's good and if you guys really don't mind me hanging around with you... the thing is, I can't let myself enjoy it too much because it could all end at any moment." Curtis said anxiously.

"Newsflash: Life's not fair." Paul said simply.

The others around the table looked at him with surprise.

"Once you accept that, maybe you'll be able to enjoy what you have for as long as you can have it." Paul added, directing his statement mostly at Curtis.

"But what do I do if they suddenly have to move again?" Curtis asked desperately.

"I wish I could give you some advice about that, but when you have no foundation, no security, all you can really do is deal with it the best way that you can. For me, sometimes that means feeling bitter and resentful. Other times it means feeling nothing at all." Paul said frankly.

"But you're better now that you're here, aren't you?" G asked Paul cautiously.

"It's not that simple." Paul answered regretfully, then explained, "When you move from place to place, always wanting a 'real' home, eventually it becomes impossible to believe that such a thing could ever happen to you. Even though my brain knows that I have a stable home now, in the back of my mind there's this thing that's warning me not to get too comfortable, not to allow myself to get too attached."

"Yeah. That's exactly what it feels like." Curtis said quietly.

"What can I do to make you feel like you can stay here?" G asked anxiously.

"Nothing." Paul said simply.

               'Hey, you guys wanted to be my friends.'

               'Here it is. This is the real me.'

               'I don't have all the answers and certain things do bother me.'

               'If you can't handle it, I need to know now.'

Nazzy, Vinda and G looked at him with surprise as Curtis nodded his understanding.

"It's not like I have my bags packed and I'm ready to leave at a moment's notice. I've just never known what it feels like to be someplace that I could really call 'home'. Every place that I ever lived was temporary, so I don't know how I could talk myself into feeling like I've found something permanent." Paul tried to explain.

"I don't mean to disagree with you, but you actually do have your bags packed." G reminded him.

"Oh, yeah. That's just because we got in so late last night." Paul admitted, then added, "But I'm not planning on leaving. I'm just saying that it's not in my nature to believe that I'll be staying. My life has taught me never to believe that because I'll always be disappointed."

"It's almost time for the bell. What's your next class?" Curtis asked as he gathered everything onto his tray.

"It's a lab class. I haven't had it before, so I really don't know what to expect. But Nazzy and Vinda are in the class with me, so I'm not too worried about it." Paul finished with a smile.

"Oh. I was kind of hoping that you'd be having history next. I know we wouldn't be able to talk or anything, but maybe it would be less boring if I wasn't in there facing it alone." Curtis said honestly.

"Misery loves company?" G asked with a smile as he stood and picked up his tray.

"Yeah. I guess so." Curtis chuckled.

"Well, you may have to suffer through history class on your own, but you don't have to think of yourself as being alone. Why don't you plan on having lunch with us again tomorrow?" G asked pleasantly.

"Yeah. I'd like that." Curtis happily agreed.

"We'll see you then." G said, then carried his tray to the drop-off window. Nazzy and Vinda were soon to follow.

As Paul was standing, Curtis quietly asked, "Is it true, what I've heard about you and that guy?"

"What's that?" Paul asked as he picked up his tray.

"That you were hugging in the hallway and that he's, like, your boyfriend or something." Curtis said anxiously.

               'Oh no.'

               'Please don't ask me any questions about being gay.'

               'I've only been officially gay for one week.'

               'I'm not very good at it yet.'

"I don't see that it matters except when we're alone, but yeah, it's true." Paul said cautiously.

"I just wondered. You hear stuff and I wasn't sure." Curtis said slowly.

"Does it bother you?" Paul asked curiously.

"No. I think it's good that you two can be honest about who you are. I'm not... you know, like you. But if I was, I think that I'd like to be like you... I mean, I'd want to face it and not be ashamed and hiding it." Curtis stammered.

"I'm gay. G is my boyfriend. I've got no problem with you knowing that. And it looks to me like you've got no problem accepting it. Now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, how about we not make a big deal about it?" Paul asked hopefully.

"Yeah. I just wanted to be sure so I wouldn't say the wrong thing and find out that what I thought was true really wasn't." Curtis babbled.

"Fair enough. And not everyone has the guts to just come out and ask about something like that. Thanks for doing that." Paul said sincerely before picking up his tray.

"Yeah." Curtis said with a smile as he followed.

               'That. What Curtis just did. That's what friends do.'

               'If they want to know something, they ask you, even if it might hurt your feelings.'

               'I wonder if G, Nazzy and Vinda realize what a good guy he is?'

               'Is that why they invited him to join us?'

               'Nah. They just see my friend.'

               'And that's enough for them to include him.'

* * * * *

Paul caught up with Nazzy and Vinda just outside the cafeteria.

"Did you two have a good talk?" Nazzy asked as they began to walk.

"Yeah. He asked if G and I were boyfriends." Paul said simply.

"Do you think he's interested in you?" Nazzy asked suddenly.

"Or G?" Vinda added curiously.

"No. I don't get that vibe from him at all. I think he just wants to understand what's going on."

"So what did you tell him?" Nazzy asked cautiously.

"The truth. Everyone whose opinion I care about already knows, so why bother trying to hide it?"

"Good point." Vinda said easily, then indicated for Paul to turn right at the next intersecting hallway.

"Any last words of advice before we go into class?" Paul asked anxiously.

"Some people are just too full of themselves. Don't let them get to you." Nazzy said frankly.

"That bad, huh?" Paul asked slowly.

"We'll just have to wait and see who you get partnered with, but yeah, it'll probably suck." Nazzy regretfully informed him.

Paul nodded that he had heard as they walked into a large central room.

* * * * *

As Paul walked into the oversized meeting room, he could feel the stares of everyone on him.

The students seemed to have formed into small groups, talking quietly amongst themselves.

"Professor Ortega is probably meeting with the teachers. They're usually a few minutes late." Nazzy said quietly.

"Don't we have any desks or anything?" Paul asked curiously.

"We have tables in our work rooms." Vinda explained as she pointed toward a series of closed doors.

"We usually meet out here for a few minutes, then break into groups to do our work." Nazzy added.

Before Paul could think of a response, Professor Ortega led a group of teachers into the room.

"Today while you're doing your exercises, I'm going to ask that you keep in mind how you're balancing the forces at play. Your instructors are going to be paying particular attention and offering their advice." Professor Ortega said to the entire room.

Paul noticed that everyone had silenced and were paying him their full attention.

"Mr. Gilbert, Mr. Spencer, Miss Watson and Mr. Darroch, if you'll stay behind with me everyone else can begin their practice exercises." Professor Ortega said firmly.

"Don't worry. You'll be fine." Nazzy said quietly, then gave Paul's shoulder a firm squeeze as he passed by.

Paul was actually surprised at how comforting Nazzy's words, actions and general attitude were to him.

It took a moment for him to get his mind back on track, but when he did, he cautiously made his way to the front of the room as everyone else seemed to be scattering in different directions.

"Mr. Darroch, may I present Mr. Gilbert. He will be your instructor while you're in my class." Professor Ortega said as he indicated a thirtyish man at his side.

"It's nice to meet you." Paul said timidly, even though it wasn't entirely true.

"A pleasure for me as well. Would you prefer that I address you as Mr. Darroch?" Mr. Gilbert asked cautiously.

"No, thank you. Paul will be fine."

"Very well, Paul. Have you had any formal training before this?"

"No. I didn't even know about magic before last week."

"Has anyone warned you about the powers that you will be accessing?"

"No. No one's said much of anything about it."

"You will be opening doorways, which will be your responsibility to close. You will also be drawing beings onto our plane of existence and you will be responsible for the consequences of that."

"If it's so dangerous, then why teach me?"

"Because it's far more dangerous for you to have the power to do such things without training in how to use it responsibly." Mr. Gilbert said frankly, then continued, "These two are going to be your teammates, Nicholas and Amelia."

Paul turned to see two of his classmates looking back at him. Before he could say anything, Mr. Gilbert continued, "I will need your help to get Paul up to speed."

"Shouldn't he be placed with someone nearer his own level?" Nicholas asked derisively.

'What a dick!'

"Perhaps Professor Ortega is trying to determine if what you have is really an exceptional understanding of the material or if your ability to summon is a fluke." Mr. Gilbert said simply.

"Can I summon Frederick now?" Nicholas asked coldly.

"Yes. I think that Mr. Darroch might benefit from a demonstration." Mr. Gilbert said as he gestured toward one of the doorways surrounding the room.

Nicholas gave a huff of exasperation, then stalked away at a deliberate pace, leaving the rest of the group behind.

"Amelia has demonstrated an aptitude for a variety of the disciplines of Wizardry. I believe that she will be a valuable resource for you to draw upon." Mr. Gilbert said as the group followed Nicholas more slowly.

"Don't expect me to do your work for you." Amelia said bitterly.

               'I don't care if she's a girl. She's a dick too!'

"I won't." Paul said slowly, not understanding her immediate animosity toward him.

* * * * *

By the time Paul had entered the study room, Nicholas already had a metal cabinet open and had placed candles around a diagram on the floor. He was currently drawing symbols around the diagram with chalk.

"Can you light the candles?" Amelia asked Paul as she broke away from the group and walked to another metal cabinet.

"Sure. Where are the matches?" Paul asked as he looked around.

Amelia rolled her eyes at him before opening the second cabinet.

"I believe that Amelia was asking if you had the knowledge and precision to magically light candles." Mr. Gilbert explained.

"No. I haven't learned anything about magic." Paul said honestly.

"According to what Professor Ortega told me, you have the aptitude for fire, so it shouldn't take long for you to learn the skill."

"What do I have to do?"

"While Nicholas is preparing, I'll show you the proper form. Once you've learned that, I'll give you the incantation." Mr. Gilbert said then demonstrated a hand gesture which resulted in a small flame appearing in his palm.

Paul tried to duplicate the movement, but found that it wasn't as easy as it looked.

"Watch me, I'll show you the individual movements more slowly." Mr. Gilbert said patiently.

This time, Paul was able to mimic the movements exactly.

"The next part is what might take some time. I'm going to say the incantation aloud, and you can repeat after me. Once you've mastered the skill, you should be able to say the incantation in your inner voice, so all that anyone will see is the gesture. In time, you may reach a level of proficiency where the gesture becomes unnecessary."

"Inner voice?" Paul asked slowly.

"Yes. I can't speculate on what it's like to be a mundane person, but among witches it's not uncommon to have an inner voice that we can use to internally incant a spell." Mr. Gilbert explained.

"How do you make a flame appear on a candle instead of in your hand? Do you change the incantation or gesture or is there something else?" Paul asked curiously.

"That's a very intelligent question which leads us to the third part of the lesson. If all it took to cast a spell were words and actions, then a mundane person would be able to do it. The third component is your magical will."

               'Oh, that's right. Dr. Williams was saying something about that.'

"When you use your inherent magic, you offer up a piece of your personal magical energy to fuel the spell. Some call it your spirit or soul, others look upon it as an ectoplasmic reservoir that you can tap into. When you perform the gesture and say the words, at the same time you will be directing your will to make the desired result happen. If you're focused on your objective, you will get the result that you want. If not... notice that we have a plentiful supply of fire extinguishers around the room." Mr. Gilbert said as he gestured toward a few of them.

"Dr. Williams said something about being in the right state of mind when you're using magic; that certain types of magic require different moods or attitudes. At least, that's how I understood it."

"Yes. Although that theory isn't universally accepted, my own experience would seem to bear it out."

"What kind of attitude should I have?" Paul asked cautiously.

"Fire tends to be fueled by your passion. Being tired, bored or indifferent will negatively impact your spellcasting. If you're enthusiastic, you'll have a greater chance for success."

"Since this is all new to me, I don't think that a lack of enthusiasm will be a problem."

"I agree. You appear to have more than enough for this situation."

"Let me see if I've got this right." Paul said, then performed the hand gesture.

After watching, Mr. Gilbert said, "Yes. That should produce the desired result."

"Okay, what are the words?" Paul asked hopefully.

Mr. Gilbert said a short phrase which sounded somewhat poetic in its cadence. It was in an ancient language that Paul couldn't identify from the tone and inflection of the words, but within him there was a recognition. Although his ears heard the strange foreign language, Paul's mind registered the meanings beneath the words.

Paul began to make the gesture with his right hand as he said aloud, "I summon flame. Do no harm. Be here, not there. It is by the power of my will. I command it to be so."

Before Mr. Gilbert could react to Paul's translation of the spell, a small ball of flame appeared in Paul's open palm.

"Are you sure that you've never had any training in spellcasting before?" Mr. Gilbert asked in surprise.

"No. Never." Paul confirmed, then nervously asked, "How do I make it stop?"

"The flame in your hand is created entirely by your will. Withdraw your will for it to be so and it will extinguish." Mr. Gilbert said calmly.

It took a moment for Paul to trace the tendril of his internal power lending itself to the external manifestation, but once he identified it, he was easily able to stop the flow. He watched with a smile of accomplishment as his little ball of flame simply ceased to be.

"Mr. Gilbert, we're ready." Nicholas interrupted.

"Allow me a moment to verify your diagram, then I'd like for Paul to try to light the candles." Mr. Gilbert said decisively.

"Do you really have to check the diagram every single time I do it?" Nicholas whined.

"Yes. I do." Mr. Gilbert said firmly, then explained, "What you're doing is dangerous and regardless of how highly you think of yourself, you are capable of making mistakes. It is my responsibility to act as a safeguard."

Nicholas snorted derisively, then muttered, "Whatever."

After a moment of looking over the diagram, Mr. Gilbert turned to Paul and asked, "Will you try to light the candles?"

"Sure." Paul said, then looked around at each of the candles surrounding the seven pointed diagram before internally saying the words of the spell.

               'I summon flame.

               Do no harm.

               Be here, not there.

               It is by the power of my will.

               I command it to be so."

All seven candles lit simultaneously.

The teacher and two other students looked on in awe at Paul's achievement.

"You didn't speak the words or do the gestures." Mr. Gilbert said slowly.

"I decided to try doing it like you said and did them in my head." Paul said simply, then cautiously asked, "That was alright, wasn't it?"

"That was exceptional!" Mr. Gilbert enthusiastically assured him.

"Can I summon Frederick now?" Nicholas asked belligerently.

"Yes. Go ahead." Mr. Gilbert said as he guided Paul to take a few steps back.

To Be Continued...



Editor's Notes (Part 1):

I find this story to be very interesting. I'm glad that Paul seems to be starting off well. Perhaps some or most of his fears will turn out to be incorrect, and things will be a lot better for him. As always, I am eager to find out more, as soon as possible. That shouldn't surprise anyone.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

Editor's Notes (Part 2):

Nicholas, it seems, really is a dick. Or is he a dick head?

It seems that Paul has begun to find his place and has friends who care about him. Some of the other students are making judgements about Paul without knowing anything about him on which to base those judgements.

I suspect they will find he is much more than they give him credit for. I can hardly wait for the next segment.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher