Chapter 2: Reaching for the Sky

Of course, the greatest of the schools was Tricapon. They took in the great and good, both in their intake of mundane and magical students. Removed from the world, it taught every piece of knowledge known to man. Even in its waning years, it never stopped providing the very finest of educations. Indeed, it was the quality of its teaching that was its undoing.

Magical Education During the Fall of the Great Schools by ****. Published 1736.

With a small sack slung over her shoulder, Celeste headed out into the light. She shielded her face with her hand. She'd never been trapped inside for this long before, so her eyes were not used to adjusting like this. A strong wind caught her, shaking her bag and causing it to jingle.

She'd spent far too long deciding what she needed to pack. Her chest had ended up nearly as full as before. She'd taken a spare set of clothes and a few bells to remind her of home and a few pieces of jewellery she owned. She didn't know what they believed at this school and she didn't want to be left with nothing to worship with. Still, she didn't find she had all that much she wanted to keep with her. There was nothing left of her here, not now.

"You're ready to go then?" Came Tesni's voice.

She jumped. In the midmorning glare, she'd not noticed him approaching. "Yes, I think I have everything I need."

"If there is anything you desperately need, I can come back for it at a later date."

He placed his hand on her back which forced her into motion. Celeste took a final look behind her at the house. She'd said her goodbyes to her parents, she couldn't go back now.

They passed through the village on their way. Celeste felt herself holding closer to Tesni, as though he might hide her from the eyes of her neighbours. The eyes of the only people she had ever known. She was a freak in their eyes. A hairless killer. Is that what they thought? None of them could know the truth. But maybe they could sense her guilt.

Tesni led her to the edge of the plateau, where a large metal box was waiting for them. The lifts didn't see much use, except when government officials would come to collect tax. Most highlanders didn't trust the lifts, but tax collectors couldn't be bothered to climb anything themselves.

They stepped in and Tesni slammed the iron grate door closed, locking it in place. He then pulled the heavy lever beside them. The mechanisms of the lift whirred into motion. Celeste had never understood how it worked. She watched as a large metal wheel swung into place under a waterfall. As the wheel began to spin, the box shuddered and they began to move, slowly creeping down the side of the plateau. All the holes in the box began to make Celeste a little queasy. She didn't understand why the floor couldn't be more solid.

"How much education have you received until now?" Tesni asked. She was grateful to be distracted from staring out of the box.

"A little, from the missionaries when they were here. Only letters and number really."

"So, you can read and write then?"

"Some stuff, yes..." Celeste said, sounding very worried. She hadn't considered the pressures that a school might place on her.

"Don't look so scared. You're not in trouble. Plenty of accidental wizards have even less formal education than that. I will have to take this information back though, so we can decide on a course of study for you. Many lessons are in Taoanid, since people from across the continent still learn it. Do you know any?"

Celeste looked blankly at him. "I thought that Taoanid was an empire..."

Tesni laughed softly. "It is a confusing name, I admit. The Taoanid Empire spoke Taoanid. It is a dead language now of course, but Laocienan hasn't changed much from its Taoanid roots. You should be able to pick it up quickly."

Celeste swallowed, uncertain if she would be able to. She looked to the side as she heard something rattling, seeing another empty box heading up past them. "Aside from magic, and I guess this language, will I have to learn anything else?"

"As I said, we won't force you to do anything apart from learning to control your magic. But if there is anything you would like to study, it can be arranged. We're running classes on all kinds of things, slipping an extra student in is no trouble."

The lift jolted as they hit the stone floor. Celeste felt her teeth chattering and was glad to step out once Tesni opened the door. Water crashed down near them, running into the valley's river. It was a fairly narrow area, no wider than a sheep pasture. Sunlight flooded into it, unblocked by the sheer walls either side of them.

The only times she'd left the plateau before, she'd taken the steps down which were on the other side. She'd never seen this stretch of valley. Looking up she felt so small. The Wind barely seemed to reach down here. She was without guidance.

Tesni took a moment to breath in the still air before strolling off, down the path. Celeste took a moment longer, before jogging to catch up with him.

"So, what is the school like? I mean physically. I don't even know where it is?"

"Worried you'll be home sick?" Tesni asked, smiling.

"Maybe a little," She admitted.

"I shouldn't worry," He said, patting her back. "It's a magnificent place. I forget not everyone knows much about Tricapon. If you are lucky, you will have a view of it when you first arrive. But however long it takes, that first sight of it is amazing. You will feel right at home, I promise."

They reached a small wooden jetty where a boat was tied up. The boatman had been packing supplies when they approached. He initially greeted Celeste, and it was only when Tesni loudly coughed that the man acknowledged him, looking slightly confused as he did.

Tesni explained where she needed to go, handing the boatman a bag of metal that clinked softly. The man got back to preparing the boat while the wizard turned back to Celeste.

"I am sorry but this is where I must leave you for now. You should be is safe hands for the time being."

"Didn't you say that you were a teleporter yesterday?" Celeste asked, a little confused.

Tesni laughed. "I am indeed. But magic is a little more complex than that, I'm afraid. You will learn all about that soon enough. I can teleport people with me, but only if I've formed enough of an emotional attachment. Though you seem like a nice young woman, I'm not able to just yet." He grinned, standing back and holding his arms wide. "Besides, the journey is important. You've never even left your village before have you?"

"I've never been very far from it. And never for very long."

"Well then think of this as making you more worldly." Tesni produced another bag of metal from inside his robe and threw it too her. "This should be enough to keep you going."

She opened the bag, looking curiously at the content. "What exactly is the metal for?"

Tesni looked blankly at her for a moment before slapping his own forehead. "Oh, of course. You've not used money before having you? Right," He pulled out a circle of gold. "These are worth five. If someone asks for twenty, you give them four of them. If they ask for less then five, expect other coins back. There's two-hundred and fifty worth in there, far more than enough to pay for travel, be sure to question any price you're told. We've had students scammed before."

Celeste felt no clearer on what to do with this, but she nodded anyway.

"Right, I really must be off now. Once the boatman drops you off, find a cart or coach. Tell them you're going to Tricapon. They'll know the way. I will try and visit you on your way, but if I don’t get the chance, safe travels."

Celeste didn't have a chance to say anything more before Tesni took a step away and vanished. She stood dumbstruck for a moment before she heard the boatman.

"That's wizards for you. Well, I suppose you must be one too, taking a trip up to the big school."

He spoke her language with the fluency of a native, but his accent was alien to her. She forgot how little she'd interacted with lowlanders until now. She nodded at him, uncertain what to say.

"So when are we leaving?"

"I've just got to pack a few more things, then we will be off. Get settled in if you like."

The boat was a shallow barge loaded with various crates. She tucked herself in between a couple, feeling a security in the enclosed space. She leant back on the side of the boat and sat quietly, waiting for them to set off.

She breathed, slowly and deeply. She'd been wrapped up inside for far too long. The cool air of the valley was unbelievably refreshing. Everything had felt so overwhelming for a while. Her life had been falling apart. But now she was on her way to...somewhere. She didn't know what she would find, but she knew what she was leaving. She turned her eyes upwards, following the cable of the lift. The village was completely out of view of course. For a moment she considered making a sprint for it, returning home.

Then the boatman kicked off. She'd never actually been on a boat before. Maybe that was something she should have told Tesni. It didn't feel good. Not for the first few hours really. Or any of the first day. She spent a lot of it leant over the side, feeling as though her stomach might fall out of her mouth.

"I thought wizards were tougher than that. I brought that other one up a way and he seemed fine." The boatman commented.

"I guess he's taken boats before," She said with a groan, hauling herself back into the barge for a while, before the nausea took hold again.

The summer heat was beginning to close in on them. The air grew fetid as the water around them was heated in the sunlight. She fanned herself and muttered.

"You'd think heat wouldn't be such an issue for me now."

Don't worry, heat will be something you will get very good at handling. The voice promised.

"Is that a threat?" She asked, trying to keep quiet. She didn't want the boatman thinking she was mad. But maybe he knew more about wizards than he was letting on.

There is nothing I could or would want to threaten you with. Your interests are my own.

"You told me not to trust Tesni. Not to go to this school."

Of course. Do you really believe you can trust them? They will use you for the power I give you. Make no mistake, power is all they are interested in. So, you must seize it first.

"I'm not going to listen to you anymore," She said sternly, and she meant it. She had become good at blocking it out after the last week, not that it wasn't annoying.

When the evening began to set in, the boatman pulled them to the side of the river and set up a small camp. He cooked up a simple stewing, handing her a bowl of it. It looked unappetising and smelled fairly bland, but she wasn't used to travelling etiquette.

"Am I supposed to pay you for this?" She asked, nervously.

"The Master Wizard already paid for your trip in full. Food is included. Though he didn't pay enough for me to get good at cooking for you."

Despite its blandness, she was happy to eat warm food. After spending a week doing nothing, evening the mild exertion had left her with some appetite.

She travelled with the boatman for nearly a week, slowly winding their way between the towering plateaus and mountains. Down a few valleys she could see vast buildings. Great lumps of wood and stone. She'd never seen a city, never mind gone to one before, but she didn't find it all that appealing. Fortunately, they never took a fork that would lead them to one.

Finally, they pulled up at a small village. She'd never seen one built in the lowlands like this. She wondered where they could graze their sheep with so little land around them. The boatman tied up and helped her to step off. Moving from the rocking boat onto static land threw her off more than she like to admit. He pointed her to the other end of the settlement, where he said she would find wagons headed her way. She wanted to thank him but he was already busy talking to a man on the docks about cargo, so she headed on her way.

She had packed a cloak and she pulled this on now, using the hood to hide her strange hair and to some degree her scared face. With her hair short she didn't look so out of place around lowlanders. Yet they still seemed different. They spoke faster and louder. They skin was more pallid, worryingly so she felt.

She kept her head down and soon found the wagons the boatman had mentioned. After asking a few if they were going to Tricapon, she found one that could take her. They asked her for fifty, which she didn't question. With a happily lightened pack, she hopped onto the wagon.

It was being driven by a couple. They were kindly enough to her, though clearly they were a little unsettled by carrying someone bound for Tricapon. Were there stories she hadn't heard? Of course, she'd heard stories of wizards, but mostly a mix between men of hubris and helpful if inept types. Still, the couple looked warmly to her. She wondered if they had children somewhere else. Or had had children.

A few days into this trip, the mountains melted away and she saw something she'd never seen before. Rolling plains. They stretched out all around them, so open. Far in the distance, she could see villages and cities, with nothing to obstruct her vision.

She sat up front with the wife for a while as her husband took a nap, and the woman pointed out various villages and other landmarks they could see. Forests, lakes, rivers.

"Where is the sea?" Celeste asked, curiously, as the woman explained.

She laughed. "Oh, not for another few weeks travel. You can't just find everything a few minutes’ walk from Laociena."

"Are we not there any longer?" Celeste asked, shocked.

"Not for some time now. We're in Tirborfa."

"So Tricapon is in Tirborfa?" She asked.

The woman shook her head. "Not as I understand it. They're kind of their own thing. The kingdoms leave them alone. Meaning they don't pay taxes like us humble merchants," She scoffed.

Celeste decided not to push her on this. "So, have you been to the sea then?"

"Only a few times. Great when we do go though, you take some fresh fish a few miles inland and you can sell them for a great price."

It was after they'd been travelling for another few days in this strange land that she encountered Tesni again. She'd been sat in the makeshift camp as the sun was waning in the horizon.

"I take it your travels have been comfortable enough."

Celeste jumped, looking up at him with annoyance. "How do you manage to sneak up on me every time?"

Tesni chuckled, sitting cross-legged opposite her. "I should have explained earlier. I'm to phrase it...hard to see. Your mind has difficulty focusing on me. It's an effect of being bound."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, the spirit brings a bit of itself into you. And that manifests physically. Mine is one of the subtler changes, but you shall soon see plenty of others who have been changed by their binding."

"So my hair is just like this now?"

"Ah, yes. I am afraid to say it will grow back those same colours for ever. I hope you didn't like the colour before too much."

"It's alright, I wasn't in love with it or anything. It was hair. I just feel so different now. I'll probably keep it shaved."

"Well, you are different now. But that difference isn't something you need to be ashamed of. You'll find people who've ended up looking much more unusual than you." Tesni reached over and patted her knee, trying to be comforting.

They sat in silence for a few moments before Celeste became curious again. "How many people are actually at the school?"

"Let me think..." Tesni tapped his chin. "Around five-hundred mundane students. Plus, all of those professors. And some staff."

Celeste's mouth hung open. "That's more people than I think I've seen in my whole life."

Tesni smiled. "Don't worry, you won't be expected to learn all their names. There's only, if I remember correctly, forty something other magical students. We have a few others who are your age so we'll put you with them. It usually helps learning with others of a similar age, we find."

Celeste nodded, her mind beginning to race. She couldn't imagine what it was going to be like, surrounded by all these people. Would she get on with them? Would they even understand her, if they spoke different languages, or spoke her own differently? Her nervous look must have caught Tesni's attention.

"Trust me, plenty of the older wizards came from similar backgrounds as you. Not many of us were planning to become bound and then travel half-way across the world, but well, life does like to surprise you." His warm smile gave her some comfort, even if just a little.

Tesni left her to her travels. As they kept going, mountains rose up on their right. She watched the peaks, rising up the pierce the clouds. She hadn't seen mountains this tall ever before. It was incredible. She expected them to peak in sharp points, but several of them didn't. On clear days she could make out their mangled tops, though they were only a vague sight.

After several weeks travel, she finally arrived at Tricapon, or so she was told. The village at the base of the mountains didn't seem all that impressive to her. In fact, she couldn't fathom where five-hundred students could be hiding.

As she wandered into the main square of the quiet village, her eyes eventually managed to catch focus on Tesni. He grinned wider as he saw her confused face.

"I don't know what I was expecting but...This wasn't quite it for sure," She said slowly.

He laughed, shaking his head. "Don't worry. You're not actually there yet, though some people do call this village Tricapon. No, the school is up there," He said, pointing upwards.

Celeste looked up, seeing the mountain rise above her, clouds ensconcing it. "Um...How do I get up there?"

"Sadly, we don't have lifts like you. You will have to walk."

"All the way?"

"All the way."

Celeste sighed, and nodded. "How long does that take?"

"Two days, usually. There are four little villages on the way up. They will be happy to feed you and give you a place to sleep. I would recommend not spending the night on the mountain away from the villages though. It gets very cold."

Celeste nodded again. "I'd better be on my way then."

"Keep your chin up, it will be worth it. The path is that way." He said, pointing to a snaking path that crawled up the rocky face of the mountain. "I will try to check up on you on your way up."

She had been walking along the path for five minutes when she let out a loud groan. "Why couldn't they build this school somewhere nearer to me?" She complained.

Were it anywhere else, it wouldn't be Tricapon. The Voice said.

"What do you mean? How do you know so much about this?"

Spirits know much. For example, I know a way to get you up there in record time.

" is that?" Celeste asked cautiously.

Well, it is one of the powers I give you. You may remove the effect of gravity on yourself.

"Okay..." Celeste paused. "What exactly is gravity?"

I should have anticipated that. The voice sighed. It is the force that holds you down. That makes things fall. With my power, you can remove that.

"So if I jumped, I would just keep going up?" She questioned, seeing the use of this.

Not completely. There are other forces acting on you, of course. But a single jump might take you as far as a day's climb.

Celeste considered for a moment. She had been told not to trust the voice, the spirit. But then again, she really didn't like the sound of walking all the way. "Alright, how do we do this?"

Simply think of yourself soaring. Imagine the planet that holds you down melting away. Think of the freedom, feel it, and the power shall come.

Celeste did as she was told. She imagined. She felt the ground below her melt away in her mind, and for a moment it seemed to do so in reality. She looked down to find she had drifted several inches into the air. She yelped and dropped back down.

Good. Good! You must not be scared by the power, embrace it. You don't want to suddenly be forced crashing down the mountain. Just, don't force yourself down too hard before you start, or you will drift off.

The spirit's advice was surprisingly helpful. This time she felt the earth below her drop away, but she was still planted on it. It didn't seem like the best plan, but she went for it anyway. She crouched and then pushed up, jumping with all her might.

She soared into the sky. For a moment nothing held her down and she accelerated faster than she anticipated. Wind whipped at her cloak, and she clutched her sack tighter so as to not let it go. Still, she began to slow, and panic filled her. What did she do if she was left dangling on the side of the mountain?

Wave your arms. The Voice said, urgently. You need to push yourself closer to the mountain so you can launch yourself off again.

She did so, feeling ridiculous as she frantically flapped her arms like an incompetent bird. But soon she landed on the side of the mountain, grabbing hold of a rocky outcrop with one hand. With nothing pulling her down, she was easily strong enough to hold herself there.

"What now?" She called out, trying to be heard over the winds billowing past her. Looking down she could see the village was some ways below her, but she was certainly not halfway up.

Keep going! The spirit urged. Pull yourself up. Then jump when you have to. Keep going and we'll be up there in no time.

She followed the instructions once more. With a single movement, she was soaring again. The world continued to shrink below her. With a few more bounds she was as high as her home plateau. She glanced over her shoulder. She could see a long way on the plains anyway, but now her vision seemed to stretch off endlessly.

She gritted herself and kept going, pulling and leaping. The wind felt amazing, like she'd never known it, after so long on the lowlands it felt good. Tesni was right, this place would feel like home. Occasionally she would find stretched of the path she was supposed to take.

After some time moving like this, she saw the clouds above her draw near. "How do I get through them?" She asked.

They're just water vapour. You'll move right through.

"I know that, I meant how will I see? What if I hit the side of the mountain?"

Just try not to do that. The voice said dismissively.

Celeste scowled, though she wasn't sure if the spirit could see her expression. She pushed herself up again. The cloud was terrifying. She could see nothing. She began to wonder if this was some kind of magic. Was there a wizard up there stopping her getting in like this?

But then, just as she thought her luck was going to give out, she broke through the clouds and there was the school. Tricapon.

The school was not a single building, as she had imagined in her head. In truth, all she pictured was a scaled-up version of the mission building. Tricapon was colossal compared to that image.

Perched on three peaks were three enormous stone buildings. They were adorned with windows and turrets, balconies and bridges, and so many more architectural features that Celeste could not name. Each of the three buildings had a unique style to it, as though they had been built hundreds of years apart. Several bridges connected the three peaks. On her left she could see people passing along the bridge, on the right she saw no one.

She angled herself for the middle building and rose up above it, seeing the entrance where the path up ended. She managed to position herself above this area and let gravity return. She then stopped it again as she started falling. This didn't instantly slow her, and she ended up touching down reasonably lightly. She glanced around, seeing that no one had watched her landing, and then headed into the school.

She was greeted by a grand foyer, a tall, circular room adorned with incredible carvings. A few, she assumed, students were passing through, their dark blue clothing reminding her of the military uniforms she had seen.

She walked slowly, looking all around her, until she heard someone shout something. She looked over at them, confused. He was looking at her and kept talking, only to stop once he realised she didn't understand what he was saying. He tried a couple of other languages before speaking to her own. He smiled, continuing.

"I said, are you another one of those peasants the school lets run around in your weird little tower?" He paused to let her respond.

She stood stunned for a moment before speaking back. "Well, yes. I am one of the magical students," She offered uncertainly, not sure how he was going to respond.

He laughed, turning to talk to a friend beside him. The boy looked like he'd spent his life being told the sun shone out of him, but never standing in it for more than a few seconds. His immaculate uniform was made all the more obnoxious by his fake medals that glistened in the light. His voice was as irritating as his face, though Celeste couldn't tell what he was saying to his friend.

"Laocienan then? Are you one of those heretics they have in the highlands, or just another street urchin they took pity on?"

Celeste was still confused by what he was trying to get out of her. "I...I don't know that I'm either of those things."

The boy opened his mouth to speak again, when another voice boomed over him.

"That is quite enough of that, Edward."

Celeste turned to see the man who spoke and was stunned by his appearance. He was an unnaturally tall man, as bizarrely proportioned. His arms dangled almost to his knees, though currently he held up his long fingers in a motion to silence the boy.

"I know you come from a desperately important house back home, but in my school, everyone is treated with respect."

"I was just playing around, headmaster..."

"I told you I had had enough of that." He said, holding two fingers against his thumb. "Now go to your classes." He smacked Edward round the back of the head as the boy hurried away. "I am very sorry about that." He said, turning to face her. "I am Tristan, headmaster of Tricopan."

Celeste was stunned by his eyes for a moment. They were entirely white, and in the middle instead of pupils were small symbols. He reached out a hand, and as she shook it, they changed shape.

Tristan laughed. "I'm sorry, many do find me disquieting at first. I promise you'll get used to it. I did. Now, you must be the young Celeste that I've heard so much about. But...err, Tesni said you wouldn't be here for another couple of days at least."

Celeste smiled awkwardly. "Well, I guess I'm just a fast climber?" She tried.

"Clearly. I would love to stay and give you a tour of the place, but as I said, I wasn't expecting you, so I will leave you in the capable hands of..." He paused, looking around before pointing up to a crevice in the stonework. There was a girl sat tucked in it. "Sabina!" He called out. "I have asked you to not sit up there. Please come down, there is someone for you to meet."

The girl dropped down from the hiding place she'd found. Celeste would not have spotted her if the headmaster hadn't pointed to her. Sabina approached, and Celeste was awestruck by her appearance.

Her whole person seemed to shimmer. Her hair, eyes, and skin were all their own luscious shades of brown, but over all of that there seemed to be a coating of gold. She caught the light, as though she has just emerged from a cool mountain pool. Celeste's eyes were stuck to her. The school's uniform fit her perfectly, though she'd put a lot of work into customising it. Her sleeves and trousers were folded up to her elbows and knees. Her exposed limbs had a sense of precise power, as though she could move faster than you'd ever anticipate.

"What did you need from me then, sir?" She asked cheerily in Celeste's language. She spoke fluently, though with a distinct lowland accent.

"This here is Celeste, our newest student. Around your age, I suspect, and from Laociena as well. I was hoping you could get her settled in while I attend to other matters."

"That's no problem." Sabina turned to look at Celeste, grinning. "There's a spare couple of rooms on our floor still."

"Excellent. I will have bedding and uniforms sent to you as soon as possible. I will try to catch up to you tomorrow as well. Until then, I hope you feel very much at home with us." He said, bowing his head a little to Celeste, who returned the motion, more in confusion than anything.

The headmaster slinked away and Sabina started talking to Celeste.

"So, you're a highlander then?" The other girl said as she started to lead Celeste right, towards the quiet bridge.

"Yeah, I am."

"Interesting. Never met any back home. Didn't think I would bump into one up here. So, what's your story?"

"Well, I was bound. And then I was invited here." Celeste said neutrally.

"No, I didn't meant...I meant, what's your spirit?" Sabina leant in a little closer, her eyes glinting with curiosity.

Tell her nothing.

"I'm not sure I should really say," She answered nervously.

"Ah, I get it. It's okay, I forget not everyone's been bound as long as me." Sabina said with an almost prideful tone. "Mine's the spirit of a marketplace. It's very helpful." Her hand flipped up, a coin appearing between her fingers. She moved it side by side for a moment, letting it glint, before slipping it back into her palm. She released her hand and suddenly she was holding a cloak.

Celeste's cloak! "Hey!" She cried out, spinning around and feeling a coin drop from her neck and clatter on the floor. "How did you...?"

"Magic, my dear," Sabina said with a laugh. "A fair trade I think." She tossed the cloak back at Celeste. She moved around to stand on the other side of her, a small bag suddenly in her hand.

"Hey!" Celeste said again, realising it was the bag of metal Tesni had given her.

"Sorry but if you will be so easy to pickpocket."

"That wasn't magic?"

"Only my magic hands," Sabina said, wiggling her fingers playfully. "You didn't spend too much, come far?"

"It was only a few weeks travel."

"Oh, lucky. Took me over a month. I was down in a little southern town."

Celeste was distracted by Sabina's talking for a moment as she looked past her and out of an open window on the bridge. Open was inaccurate, there were only large holes, with no kind of covering. She walked over to it, feeling the cold mountain air blowing in over her. She couldn't see the base of the mountains through the clouds, but she could see where the mountain blocked out the setting sun. A great spike of shadow rolling out over the land. She hadn't properly looked around since passing the clouds. It was incredible how far she could see. Though still no glimpse of the ocean.

"Pretty amazing, huh? I guess you're used to views like this up where you're from."

"Not like this," Celeste said quietly. "You're surrounded by other plateaus so you can't see much further than at ground level. Less, probably, because they're not all the same height. But this must be the highest thing for miles around."

"Oh yeah for sure. Only mountains higher is the Taoan range, I heard. Or maybe they're just impassable, I don't recall."

"How long have you been here?" Celeste asked.

"Only a couple of weeks myself. Still getting settled if I'm honest. I still haven't finished scoping out the other side of the school, but once I have those posh kids will be finding all sort of things missing."

"You're going to rob them?"

"Only a little. They have been rubbing me up the wrong way the whole time, so I thought messing with them would be fair."

"That boy I met was pretty obnoxious."

Don't worry, you are more powerful than he could imagine.

"Edward, yeah he's like that. I guess us common as muck girls have got to stick together," She said, wrapping an arm around Celeste's waist and squeezing the other girl close.

Celeste smiled, liking having such a friendly face to rely on already. She moved an arm around Sabina to hold her too, relishing the contact. After all that time on the road, she'd been left feeling a bit disconnected from people.

"Besides," Sabina added. "I can insult him with words he'll never even have heard. In languages he doesn't even know."

"You've already learnt new languages here?"

"Oh no!" Sabina said with a laugh. "I'm quick-fingered, not that quick a learner. One of my powers. I can speak every language fluently."

"That's amazing!"

"Eh, I try not to brag too much." Sabina shot her a wink. "Now come on, let's show you to your room."

Celeste was led across the bridge and into a corridor that curved off both ways. Sabina took her left, and they went around a quarter of the length of the building before reaching a heavy door. Sabina threw it open. It led to another circular area that must have been a tower attached to the main building. In the centre was a small garden, protected from the cold mountain winds.

"We can check that out later," Sabina called, already hurrying up the stairs.

Celeste followed after her. They went up a floor and then around again. Large shards of glass set into lead allowed one to see into the garden from the corridor. They passed two doors, the second which Sabina identified as her own room, before reaching a door which she said was to be Celeste's.

Celeste slowly swung the door open and was astonished to find a room at least as big as her parent's cottage. It was furnished with a desk and seating, as well as another giant window that looked out across the plains.

"All this is for me?" She asked in disbelief.

"Yep," Sabina said, grabbing a key off a hook by the door and handing it to her. "Plus, the upstairs of course."

Celeste hadn't even noticed the spiral staircase in the centre of the room. It led up to a second level. Here was a large bed, chests and dressers, more seating, and windows on both sides, leaving it extremely well illuminated in the day. The outside window also led onto a small balcony. She couldn't believe the space and decadence given to her alone.

"Pretty nice, huh?" Said Sabina, moving to sit on the bed, testing the mattress with one hand. "You hungry? I'm famished. Drop your stuff off and let's head down to eat."

Celeste did as she was told. At the suggestion of food, she realised how hungry she was. All the excitement of the day so far had really helped to work up her appetite. Sabina led them back the way they came, but as they approached the final door, it swung open and someone, another student presumably, stepped out.

Her skin was darker than any Celeste had seen before. It was a cool tone, that matched her icy blue eyes that slowly examined Celeste. Unlike Sabina to whom the word posture was a foreign concept, this girl carried herself with an almost regal air. Her uniform was immaculate, with no attempt to personalise it. Although, she wore a blue scarf around her head, similar in style to some of the especially devout missionaries Celeste had met.

"Ah, so that was what all that crashing about was." The girl said. Her voice was stern, and in another accent Celeste had no clue about.

"Heya Mel," Sabina said cheerfully.

"What is your name then?" The blue-eyed girl asked.

"Um, Celeste," Celeste said, feeling nervous under the intense gaze.

"Family name?"

"I...don't have one?"

"I see. Another one like her then. Well, I am Melanie al-Masri. I hope you will be taking your studies here seriously."

"Well I intend to do my best."

Melanie made a small noise that might have been approval or disdain, before retreating into her own room.

"See you another time then!" Sabina called after her.

"What's her problem?" Celeste asked.

"Posh, that would be the illness I see. Even wizards aren't immune to being born into too much money."

Sabina led her back into the main building and through a door into a low, round room, that seemed to be at the centre of the building. Round tables with chairs were dotted around. At one end was a counter with steaming food on it, yet no apparent fire. They went over and began to collect up some food. Celeste was amazed by the metal plates it all sat on that seems to radiate heat.

"Is this magic then as well?"

"You've never seen anything like this up in the highlands?" Sabina asked in confusion.

"I've seen stoves before. But this..."

"They've got a lot of very cutting-edge technology around here. All that posh money lets them pay for some of those science types to come and test their new ideas out." Sabina's explanation was of course not enlightening, but Celeste enjoyed listening to her speak.

They sat and ate, Sabina telling her more about her past. She'd grown up a street orphan, working as a pickpocket, if you could call that work. After she got bound she became an even more effective one with the help of her magic. But, hubris got the better of her, and after pushing her luck and being arrested, Tesni had shown up to bring her to the school.

As they spoke a few of the older students appeared to get food. They stopped in to talk with the pair, introducing themselves to Celeste. They were all nice enough, though there was an intensity among the older students she didn't find encouraging. Fortunately, Sabina informed her they would mostly be doing different classes, ones more advanced than the ones the two girls would be taking.

By the time Celeste returned to her room and Sabina let her be, she found that sheets and a uniform had been left for her. She examined the cut of it, impressed with the craftsmanship. She glanced at her reflection in one of the polished brass buttons. The her in the reflection was still the strange, scarred girl she was when she'd left home, but here that didn't feel like as much of an obstacle anymore. She tried it on, finding the fit was a bit loose on her. She guessed they had only given her one since they didn't have her measurements yet.

She washed with a basin of water they'd left her and settled into the bed. It was incredible. Triple the width of her bed back home, she guessed. Or the bed back...Well, back in whatever that place was to her now. She tucked in, almost sinking into the mattress. She lay with her eyes closed for a while, before opening them again.

Is something the matter? The spirit asked.

"Can you see what I see?"

I can only see what you see. And what you hear. Taste and touch too. I am bound to you and all your emotional experiences.

"Can you hear my thoughts then?"

No, but I can tell how you're feeling.

"How am I feeling then?" She asked.

The spirit seemed to think for a moment. You...Are pleased to be here. But scared. Uncertain. I suppose that is a normal set of emotions for a human to have.

She thought on that for a while before saying, "Thank you for helping me today. I'm glad I can sleep here tonight, instead of in some cold village."

I only wish to help you. I hope you enjoyed just a taste of the power we have together. Though I also hope you are cautious of this place.

"I'm not sure I trust your caution," She responded with a yawn. "I hope you can feel how tired I am though. Good night," She muttered, rolling onto her side and pulling the blankets around her.

Rest well. We shall need it. The spirit said, as softly as a voice within her mind could say anything.