With yesterday being a big travel day–it’s two and a half hours to Indy, then two and a half back, so a lot of time taking in the sights and fighting traffic–I was pretty well worn out later in the evening. It happens. Driving the Two Lanes of Hell that is I-65 from Indy to Indiana 10 it something I used to do twice a week, every week, in 2012, and I do not miss it one bit.
Really, though, I needed to get a scene started. It was time for the summoning, for my kids to appear before Professor Wednesday and get–well, they seem to feel it wasn’t going to be good . . .
(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)
There was as knock against the open door to her office.
She looked up from her monitor and found Annie and Kerry standing just outside her doorway. Both looked a little frazzled, and she couldn’t blame them for being worried about why she wanted to see them. She stood up and waved them forward. “Come in, come in.” As Wednesday walked out from behind her desk she pointed to the two chairs she’d set in front that morning when she’d arrived. She looked at the door and it shut quietly.
With Annie and Kerry in their chairs—Wednesday noticed immediately that they sat as they always did, with Annie to Kerry’s left—it was time to get to the point of why they were summoned. While most instructors were able to lean against their desks with few problems, Wednesday’s height made that act a touch difficult, so she planted herself on the surface and let her legs hang. “Thanks for coming, guys. I’m glad you could come out this early.”
Annie and Kerry shifted their eyes in each other’s directions before Annie asked the obvious question. “Is this about yesterday, Professor?”
“Yes, it is, Annie.” Wednesday leaded forward, her hands in her lap. “First off, let me say this: what you did in the spell cell was astounding. I was shocked, if you couldn’t tell. That was . . .” Wednesday tried to find a word that didn’t sound like she was spouting so much hyperbole. “Incredible. Some of the best spell casting ever. And . . .” Time to shift the dialog. “Also some of the most dangerous I’ve seen, too.”
Yeah, even though she’s young and pretty much the Witch with the Mad Skills, Wednesday wasn’t happy. See, in the world I have set up, the Spell Center handles the normal spells–you know, the regular stuff you throw out for shits and grins–while The Witch House handles all that deadly sorcery stuff. You know, like the spells that are labeled as Morte, because having seven or eights different ways to kill someone is really the way to roll.
And while cold fire isn’t really a Morte spell, well–it is fire.
The moment Wednesday mentioned The Witch House Annie realized her mistake. Though neither Professors Douglas or Lovecraft mentioned that sorcery could only be practiced in one location, with all the time she’d spent in the Black Vault Annie should have known—or at least asked ahead of time. But I didn’t think I’d have a problem with it. And if there hadn’t been that slight problem at the end . . . “I’m sorry, Professor. I didn’t think about telling you.”
“I’m sorry, too, Annie, because I didn’t think about asking.” Wednesday slid off the desk, because she was afraid she looked too much like another student wearing jeans and slip-on boots, sitting there swinging her legs. Despite how much he didn’t like doing this, she did her best to lean against the edge of her desk. “I know you had a little problem shutting down the spell yesterday, and that was enough to trip the alarms—but what if it’d gotten away from you? What it if had gone out of control when you started casting? The alarms would have went off, but the enchantments wouldn’t have done a thing. There wouldn’t have been any stasis fields protecting you, and nothing trying to drain the energy out of the spell.” She looked at the floor as she paused for effect. “It could have engulfed the entire cell; you both could have burnt to death.”
Students burning to death inside a big, blue fire–yeah, that’s what you wanna hear right after breakfast on a Saturday morning. Yesterday it was zombie zapping up close and personal; today it’s “This is Your Death From Sorcery, Kids!” I guess you develop a cast iron stomach, or you start skipping breakfast, and probably lunch as well.
Now here’s the strange thing: that first paragraph you see above, I finished that last night about ten PM. I was falling asleep pretty quick at that point. I’d written almost seven hundred words–which including a few that I added to some old scenes I was cleaning up before getting into this one–but I simply couldn’t write anymore beyond that.
So where did that second paragraph come from? Well . . . I was up at five-thirty this morning, and I just couldn’t simply leave the scene like that until tonight. It was bugging me too much.
Which means . . . I was writing. Early. Probably the earliest I’ve written in a long time. And it’s all about Wednesday getting into some faces, particularly Mr. Time Lord in Training–
“Right: we’re just across the courtyard from Earth Sciences and the Greenhouse.” She slid down until she was directly in front of Kerry. “And you with your time spell—those are tricky, Kerry. There are people who do nothing but work with them, and even they’ll tell you to watch out when working with them, because futzing around with time is serious business.” She leaned in towards him. “What if your spell had gotten away from you? What if the field had expanded and filled all of the spell cell? You two could have been trapped inside, and you would have been unable to interact with anything outside the field—which means you couldn’t have opened the door to get out.”
He looked up at Wednesday, his eyes reflecting what he was seeing in his imagination. “I didn’t think . . .”
“Right: you didn’t think about what could have happened. What if you’d gotten stuck in there for a half-hour? Or an hour? Or even two hours? One hundred and twenty hours, Kerry—how many days is that?”
He did the calculation in no time. “Five days.”
“Right. Five days without food and water. It probably wouldn’t have killed you, but could you imagine Annie and you trapped in a field with no food or water for that long?”
Annie didn’t want to imagine that, but at the same time she felt she needed to speak up for them both. “Professor, we were—”
Wednesday held up her hand, cutting Annie off. “Please, let me have my say. You’ll have your chance to speak in time.” She turned her attention back to Kerry. “What if you’d screwed up the temporal variation? What if you’d managed several hours per minute? Or weeks? Or months? Or years?” She again paused to let the kids to take in her words. “What if I’d went down there after an hour and found your dead and decaying bodies? Hum?” She shook her head as she began pacing about her office. “I don’t want to be the one who not only has to report your deaths to the Headmistress, but then has to write a letter to your parents telling them how you died.” She moved next to Annie. “I should say, write a letter to your parents. Since we can’t yet tell Kerry’s parents what he’s really learning here, we’d have to lie and say he fell out of the clock tower, or something.”
Wednesday watched the children closely. Annie was quite, stoic as usual, but her body language gave her away: she’d grown tense and her her eyes had taken on a dull, almost lifeless sheen. Kerry was easier to read since he was far more openly emotional: he was squirming in his chair and clutching his hands, mostly looking at the floor. He particularly didn’t like her comment about having to lie to his parents: he was well aware that The Foundation didn’t allow students from a Normal background to tell their parents what actually went on at the school until after finishing their B Levels, believing that after two years of working in the shadows parents would see that their now not-so-Normal children didn’t represent a problem, or threat, to them.
Well, doesn’t that suck? For the first couple of years you can’t even tell your own parents what you’re doing if you’re a Normal kid. So, technically, Kerry could get offed by one of the students and the school would have to cover up his death and tell the parents he walked in front of a bus, or something lame like that.
Of course, Annie would probably torture the shit out of any student dumb enough to go after her soul mate like that–hum . . . that would make an interesting scene. Maybe later.
Where is this all leading? I mean, Wednesday’s a pretty nice teacher–but there are times she’s gotta be the bad witch, right?
It’s time to bring this to a close, to tell them why they’re really here. Wednesday returned to the front of her desk, but stood before Annie and Kerry instead of using it to prop her up. “Kids, I don’t want to see something bad happen to you—”
Kerry barely managed to whisper a reply. “We won’t do it again.”
“And I believe you mean that, Kerry—for now. But in a few weeks, when you guys get bored and decide you want to try something a little more challenging, what then? And don’t tell me it won’t happen: you’re both showing a remarkable aptitude for blowing through simple stuff and throwing yourself into . . . let’s say harder things.”
Wednesday set her hands upon the desk and leaned back slightly. “I’ve spoken with the Headmistress, and I told her that I feel it’s necessary to . . .” She waved one hand about as she searched for a word. “Rein in this propensity you both have for trying out magic well beyond your level of expertise. The Headmistress agrees with me, and has given me permission to follow-through on my suggestions.”
After sitting quietly for so long, Annie needed clarification. “Professor, are we getting detention?”
“No, Annie.” Wednesday shook her head slowly, her expression grave. “I’m afraid it’s more than that.” She looked away for a moment, allowing the tension to build. “Effective immediately, you and Kerry are out of the Tuesday Basic Spells class.”
Hum . . . looks like Bad Witch is in the office today–
“WHAT?” Even the normally unflappable Annie’s voice rose in pitch and volume, matching that of Kerry’s, as they spoke as one. Kerry looked like he was about to lose it completely. “You’re kicking us out?”
Annie gripped the arms of her chair tightly. “You can’t do that, Professor.”
Wednesday nodded. “Oh, I can, Annie, and I have. And it’s necessary . . .” She peered over their heads at nothing for a few seconds before speaking to them directly. “Because I’m moving you both to my Advanced Spells Class on Wednesday nights.” Wednesday—who’d remained grave and serious from the the moment she motioned for them to enter—broke into a huge smile as she held her arms wide as if to reach down and give them a hug. “Congratulations, kids. You just made history.”
And there it is: when I said everything that happened the day before on 30 September was gonna lead to a major change in the kid’s lives, it led to this. When someone says “You just made history,” then you can bet things are going to happen that haven’t happened before. There will some clarification at a few points beyond this, but for now, things have just got dialed up to eleven, and Annie and Kerry are about to feel that rarefied air.
Almost a thousand words this morning, putting me at almost sixteen hundred and fifty words for the scene–
I can finish this tonight. And maybe even start on the next part/chapter as well.
You’re moving on up to the Big Time, kids.
Um . . . maybe that wasn’t the right phrase to use.