Archive for category Final Exam
When I return to the window the figure has reversed the binding spell and banished anything it might have summoned. If a deity was involved I’m not certain I would have been able to dismiss it so easily. Dean Matthews is looking up at my window from under a leather hat. He easily slings the muscular shape of my opponent six feet up onto his shoulder. I assume he’s unconscious from the unweaving of his binding. I can hear his voice as though he’s behind me in the room. I fight not to turn around.
“You should be asleep.”
“Sir, it’s a good thing I wasn’t, sir.”
“You’re not one who strikes me as the kind to be nervous.”
“I respectfully disagree sir. I’m not one to let my nerves be obvious.”
“Get some rest. I’ll see to Jonathon’s disqualification.”
I nod down below and turn away from the window. The violent retching has left me tired, and the nakedness means I can just crawl into bed. I’m trying to remember Jonathon, but the most I can pull is that his senior specialty is infantry, focusing on up close debilitation and elimination. That explains why he fumbled on the binding spell: he’d be better skilled in covert approach. Probably also why I didn’t know he was there until he started the incantation. I remember Allison talking about him as my head hits the pillow. Something about dreamy in tight shirts… wanting him to “covertly debilitate” her… they’re specializing together…
I wake up to a stock song on my phone. I left it on the desk last night. My eyes open slowly, I roll over and my phone is vibrating against my desk. There’s a knock on my door.
“Evan? Are you up? It’s almost time.”
I have to work my jaw a couple times and swallow before I can respond audibly. “Yeah, I’m awake.” I throw on a pair of boxers, and open my door. Allison and Chase are at the door. Both of them look down and then up. The good thing about short hair is that it isn’t all over the place.
Allison responds while Chase is just staring at me. “You don’t have time for a shower. Get dressed, eat some trail mix if you need to eat, but skip it if your stomach is upset.” She wrinkles her nose at the smell from last night’s trash-can incident.
“Shit…” I walk over to my closet, “Come in guys.”
“I’ll stay right here thanks.”
Chase walks over and wraps his arms around me as I’m pulling clothes out of the closet to wear. I pause for a second, smiling. “Heartburn?”
“Jonathon tried a binding. I responded. Dean Matthews rebounded my response. And yes, heartburn.”
“No way, really? What time?”
“Early, two a.m. or some such.”
“Is he still competing today?” Allison asks.
“No. Dean Matthews disqualified him last night.”
“But you got away with just vomiting?” There’s a certain solidarity that I have apparently stepped in the middle of. I need something to wake me up, and coffee is out of the question since my stomach is still displeased.
“I was defending my chances for today. If I did get in trouble no body’s mentioned it yet.”
Chase is still nearby. Quiet. He hands me a stick of gum as I pull my shirt over my head.
“It’s caffeinated. Since you can’t use magic.”
The benefits of people who know me as well as they do.
I get ready to cast the misting spell. The detail I need out of the image of what I want to happen makes it a longer cast than the war magic I’m more intimately familiar with. It’s going to be a close call between us. I can see he’s nervous, stumbling over the words of his spell. I briefly wonder what sort of incantation I’m going to use, then decide to just let the spell happen naturally. I see the mist coming out of the ground, surrounding him, invoking fear, causing him to stumble, buying me time, the mist will rise up, a greenish-gray vapor, with a foul smell, sulfur, or brimstone; somewhere in between. It will rise up, encompassing his body with the speed of smoke, clawing its way up his nostrils, into his opening and closing mouth, working deeper into his lungs, preventing him from taking a breath. It would be a killing spell if I release it now, but he’s getting close to finishing his spell. I refocus, adding a phantom element, enough to scare and incapacitate, but not enough to kill. I’m hardening the image of the spell, working every turn of vapor, every blade of grass and tree-leaf. My mouth is moving as I chant an invocation to a chthonic deity, Greek, magic and the underworld. Removing the death element is getting harder, but that’s what I get for not thinking this through. I can feel the energies creeping up, through my feet, up my legs and groin, into my stomach, not fast enough. I rush it, not certain if the spell will kill, shoving the energy out of me. It hovers in the air, a thick, electric pressure, and then his gone. His hand is about to drop the package into the earth, and I see the mist rise up. He fumbles the incantation, having to repeat the last verse. I can see the sweat on his brow from the window. His formulations are mediocre, strong on the verbiage, most likely effect-focused, but his image and visualization are weak. If I’d taken the time to think it through beforehand I would have realized I could brush off the binding, not threatened his life with a possible killing spell.
I’m preparing a countering spell when I feel the pressure of the vapor-spell return. Like a sudden tropical rain, the room is suddenly dense, the rebuffed energy burning. I focus outside and see that someone else is out there, hand over the student’s mouth, reversing his incantations, taking the package from his hand. The energies from my spell are lighting across my skin, a fire so hot it’s cold. I grit my teeth, open my mouth, and gasp, taking the energy back into my body. The acid in my stomach disagrees violently with this plan, but I close my mouth before it can come out. The burning in my esophagus is mind-numbing. I call a prayer to divinity, forcing the magic back into the earth, neutralizing it. I have enough time to get to the trash can before I retch up the bile.
I couldn’t sleep. Tomorrow was the final exam, the free-for-all tournament of the graduating class. None of the other students are on the grounds tonight. Although they are welcome to return to watch the tournament through the looking glasses, the year is over for them. The vent for the air conditioner turns on, finally. The early June weather isn’t terribly hot, but the humidity feels like an extra layer of woolens, even when you’re naked.
I throw the thin blanket off and walk over to my desk. It’s empty of personal effects, just a sheet of paper describing the rules of the tournament sitting on top of the glass-covered dark wood. Reading them over by moonlight, it still sounds like complicated laser tag. The school records the time it takes you to cast every offensive spell you know, then programs each time increment into your gun. You’re allowed to switch between spells, just like you would in real life, but its time consuming and dangerous, so most people stick with one spell. Participants are also allowed to cast any non-offensive spell they choose.
Participants seems like an odd choice of words. No one except the seniors participate in the event, unless you count faculty acting as referees. That would make more sense. I’m too tired to think clearly and too nervous to get good sleep. Allison and Chase will be participating tomorrow; my best friend and my lover, the only two people on campus who know my skills and tricks possibly better than I do. We’re the top three in our class when it comes to spell casting; however, tomorrow is about tactics and warfare as much as it is about raw magical power. I can feel the acid creeping out of my stomach. Deep breaths, trying to relax, de-stress, and go to bed.
I hear something outside my window, someone talking. I creep towards the wall to peek around and decide whether or not I need to put on pants and step into view. On the lawn a floor below me, someone is chanting nonsense words; sounds like Greek. They’ve managed to dig a hole in front of them, and are holding something pale. I lean more to the side to try and see what it is. Square, pale, looks heavy with a small dark spot through the top; parchment covering a lead ring with a nail through the middle is my guess. The air conditioning muffles what the person is saying. Their face is covered by a hood, so I don’t know who would be trying a binding spell the night before the tournament; more importantly where they stashed the materials for it since the school keeps strict inventory of lead rings (‘cause, you know, they’re poisonous).
I step in front of the floor to ceiling window, naked. The ring is drooping lower and I’m guessing I have a very limited time to decide what to do. My fastest spell, a bolt of lightning, will blow out the window. A choking vapor from the ground would solve the problem, but only if I can finish the spell before he does.