Chapter 9: The Red Wand
For fire, for life, for lust, for light. May a sturdy soul carry me deep into life. For darkness, for love, for blood and for night may darkest wings take me far from this fight.
I heard a voice from behind me, “Where were you, bitch?” I’d heard Demi yell. I turned quickly “what do you mean? You stormed off!” I responded. “You were supposed to follow me, Ugh!” He said throwing his arms down, I started towards him still grinning, “what are you so chipper about?” he asked, “nothing!” I responded, we began walking down the hall. “You almost killed them, huh?” I asked. “Nooo” he said, acting distraught. “But I was about to give every one of them the wedgie of the eons!” he nearly sang, I ugly laughed at this. All that intensity for a super wedgie. From what I’d known so far, that was totally a Demitri thing to do.
As Demi and I walked towards a quick-shelf at the end of the hallway, an old man turned the corner approaching us, he was dressed in an old frizzy, blue robe. He had a long beard dangling to where his belly button would be. The man seemed to hunch and wobble as he walked. Using a large cane of twisting wood for stability, upon his nose sat large thick glasses that contorted the shape of his eyes. What you could see of his face was wrinkled and folded by the unrelenting years that it had surely seen. “Oh it’s the mad wizard, that’s what they call him at least, Ooowwwww.” Demi said, trying to sound spooky, while giving me his wide-eyed look i was becoming accustomed to. “He’s the first person I met when I got here, also the librarian” he paused “If you could have heard what I was thinking when this old wizard walked up to me!” Demi said, shaking his head. “I almost walked right out!” he continued, now whispering as the man hobbled closer. “Good day Demitri, and Miss Frost it’s been too long.” The man said, as he hobbled past us.
I froze immediately as the old wizard called me “Miss Frost”. I turned around and faced him, “Sir, why did you call me Miss Frost?” I asked, knowing the answer already. I looked like my mom and there was no denying that after seeing the pictures my aunt showed me. I asked only because it was so shocking to be called this. The man adjusted his glasses, “oh, why I’m so sorry!” he answered, then taking off his glasses and cleaning them with his robe. “Pardon my eyesight. It’s been good to me for many years, but recently has decided that it doesn’t want to work anymore… You look so much like another student I used to know, I apologize again for the mix-up.” The old man said, putting the glasses back on his face, adjusting them again. “I’m Mr. Domas, the long-time librarian here at Crimora. Who might you be youngin?” he asked. “My name is Ellie, sir.” I responded, “oh, Ellie. As in Eleanor Hadley, one of our newest?” he asked, examining me. “Yes, sir” I answered. “Very nice to meet you then.” The old wizard said, nodding then turning around and hobbling away. “Oh Elllie” i heard the old wizard call, i turned around, “yes sir?” i asked, “don’t be shy to drop by the library if you need any help, i hear you’re new to all this and there’s endless information stored around there” he said, following with a smile. I nodded in agreement. Once we’d turned and taken a few more steps towards the Bookshelf, “see he’s crazy… That’s why they call him the mad wizard,” Demi said.
But Demi hadn’t known my mother’s last name was Frost, I hadn’t gotten around to telling him yet. There was no doubt this old man must have known her, better yet, thought I was her. I knew that I’d looked like her, but she’d been out of the academy for so long now, it just seemed absurd that someone would mistake me for my mom, at least I’d thought. We came to the bookcase and stopped, “I’m visiting Mrs. Blot next, you?” I asked. “No, I’m supposed to head to the courtyard to go over some stuff with the overseer.” Demi responded. “That’s where I’m headed after this.” I said. “Ok, if you see your wand blinking you’d better pick up.” Demi responded. “How do I do-” I began to say, but Demi had pulled a book and was taken away.
I’d felt like walking, so I looked up at the nearest crow and asked, “Mrs. Blot’s please.” The crow nodded and began to point me to the left. I’d walked down a few halls, until I was directed into a room with an already open door. An older woman with puffy ash colored hair sat at a desk, she wore a strange pointy hat. Not far off from what a witch in a movie might wear.
She looked up at me, “ah Eleanor, oh, oh sorry, Mr. Devin told me you like to be called Ellie… Ellie, so nice to meet you.” she said, standing up then walking over to great me. “Nice to meet you.” I responded, she put both hand on my shoulders and looked closely at my face, she then appeared perplexed, “a Frost girl”, I heard her mumble under her breath, followed by. “No, no that cant be can it.” Then followed by more inaudible mumbling. I noticed this was becoming a trend, “My mother was Lena Frost, if that’s what you’re wondering.” I said, “Oh I figured that much darling, my divinations this morning told me i’d bump into a frost girl. I assumed Emily was dropping by for some ingredients, then i seen you. I’m just trying to figure out why my best friend Emily didn’t mention anything to me when we went out for tea the other day!” she said, sounding aggravated.
“Well Emily is my aunt, and I’ve only just met her a few nights ago,” I answered, not getting into detail. Mrs. Blot had been looking at me wide eyed now, she glanced up at me and back down. “Oh, indeed, that’s nice to know. Interesting events arising eh?” She asked but seemed to be talking to herself. Then her eyes shot up slightly to my wand that I had slid into my grimoire strap, “what a beautiful wand, may I?” she asked, gesturing to it. I took it out and gave it to her, “what a stunning red she said.” Shortly after, her face seemed to whiten.
“You’ve seen this tree yes?” She asked, “no” I responded, “well, well” she replied looking again perplexed, “you found the wood you made this wand with from a shop then, no?” she asked. Again I said “no”, followed by “I visited Ashwind with my aunt, where I found it on the ground”. She looked stumped, “oh, how is Emily?” she asked looking up at me gravely, “She’s doing good.” I answered, slightly nervous. Mrs. Blot looked back down, she kept twirling my wand about within her hands, examining it. “Can I try something with it?” she asked, “of course” I responded, as soon as I’d answered, Mrs. Blot darted to the other side of the room, setting my wand down on a stone countertop, she placed a large shallow bowl next to it, then threw a bunch of different things together into the bowl. Once she had finished, she snapped her fingers and a roaring fire started within. Picking up my wand, without hesitation she then threw it in the flames, “NO!” I screeched, now running quickly towards her, attempting to grab the wand from the bowl, she stopped me. No sooner than she stopped me, did I see what she was gazing at within the fire, “it remains un-burnt,” she said, ominously. Then looked up at me, I began to relax now. After a moment she pulled my wand from the fire, handing it to me. It hadn’t even been hot, I noticed.
She took a few steps over to a shelf many books had been set upon, there were some words on the spine I couldn’t read, others were in English, I noticed the books I could read were all on botany, she pulled a book from the group that I couldn’t read as it was in what they called the “high tongue”, opened it up and flipped through.
“Peculiar you’d stumble across a branch from this tree.” she said pointing to a photo in her book, “once these branches separate from the tree itself, they would normally incinerate!” she added. I looked at what she was pointing at, there was a realistic drawing of a tree, in brown ink, it had looked like a willow tree, except a flame was drawn around it, small swirling branches that dangled to the ground beneath, hung gracefully from the larger above. At the trees base, a depiction of burnt plant life, even a deer skull for added theatrics.
The drawing read; Corteilloe, pronounced court-willow, is a tree red of wood, dangling curling branches, not unlike a double helix. It is known as the burning tree, the unburnable tree, the devils willow and or Satans willow and finally the phoenix-tail. “Never have I seen a wand made from this wood, as none can touch it, demanding all who see one keep their distance, as the heat it gives off is unbearable… Not to mention I’ve never heard of one in Ashwind” she added. “So… it seems to me as if this branch was placed there by someone, maybe even for you yourself to find.” she said gravely, my chest felt tight now, as my heart started to beat faster, I found the strength to speak. She looked on at me ominously “oh but that’s ridiculous, i sure do need to stop reading all these murder mysteries!” She said with energy, i calmed down a bit “I think I might have seen the tree in Ashwind.” I said, fighting to get something out and change the subject. I continued “but I’m not sure… I seen an orange glow, does it glow orange?” I asked, Mrs. Blot paused for a long moment, staring at me as if in deep contemplation. “I’m not sure, I haven’t actually seen one” Mrs. Blot said, who then abruptly closed the book, from there she quickly put it back where she’d gotten it.
“Hmmm” she said and paused, “Has anyone tested you for your affinity?” she asked, I remembered back to my aunt using them on me, “Yes! i said, the green one glowed bright when my aunt placed it on my hand” i answered, “interesting, did Emily test all the rocks with you? Particularly the yellow one?” she asked, “no, she was certain i’d have an affinity for the forest like my mother. She only placed a few in my hand before the green one. Blue, white and pink i think.” i responded. Mrs. Blot gave me a perplexing look. Then walked over to her desk and dug through pulling out a velvet looking bag, she then dumped out all of the stones and picked up the red one. “Seems strange to me you hold an un-burnable wand, when you have an affinity for the forest don’t you think. You don’t know your father do you Ellie?” she asked, “no Mrs. Blot” i answered skeptically. “Ahhh, then it seems the blood of the sun god may flow through your veins, what do they call him in nowhere?” She paused looking up. “Ah Apollo i believe is one of the names, do you know it?” She asked and I nodded. “You were apparently drawn to this wand wood, but why? Though rare the conjuring of fire is powerful.” She added. Then as the tension was growing, i was told to open my hand. Mrs. Blot didn’t immediately put the stone in my hand, she held it over my palm wearily for a moment. And then suddenly dropped it onto my palm, i almost jumped from the release of tension as it touched my palm. We both stared at the stone, but nothing. “Huh!” She said, “i guess it was worth a look” she added, sounding defeated.
“I wonder Mrs. Blot, Emily didn’t try the rest of the stones on me. I’m just curious what if i have an affinity for something else?” i asked, “Well, it can’t hurt can it?” she obliged, I didn’t want to give up on this yet so that made me happy. She placed all of the stones in my hand, one by one, reciting what they represented. “Orange, representing The goddess of wisdom and strategy” she placed the stone into my hand but nothing. “Red, representing the color of blood, or the War God,” she placed it in my hand and again nothing, “Purple, The bull god of wine” she placed it in my hand, “i didn’t think so, you don’t come off as a party animal to me.” she removed the stone then picked up a gray one, “could you be a psychic or oracle, my dear?” she said before placing it in my hand, “nope, i guess not!” She continued with every stone, but none reacted with me. She started to put them away, when i noticed she never tried the black stone. “And the black one?” i asked, “hah!” she blurted, “i couldn’t see the point, a child of the fallen one couldn’t exist here!” she added, “couldn’t hurt to try?” i asked, i don’t know what compelled me to push it. I was growing more and more nervous at the thought. “Well it very much could now couldn’t it? That’d make you -” she cut herself off with laughter. I half smiled and held out my hand.
I don’t know why, but i became growingly more nervous. I wasn’t sure but when Mrs. Blot picked up the stone and held it over my hand i began to shake, it almost looked like her hand was shaking too. But i couldn’t tell exactly. “What happens if it glows?” i asked, “well if it glows then, if we go by the prophecy. You’re the child that sees the end of the world as we know it!” she said, then just as she was about to place it in my hand she paused. “I think we’d better move on to the lesson” she said, but i wouldn’t accept that. I quickly reached upwards and grabbed the stone in my hand, clenching it in my fist. Mrs. Blots face looked shocked, we both stared down at my closed hand curious as to what we’d see when i opened it. I took a few deep breaths, even Mrs. Blot seemed feverish now. Then slowly i opened my hand. Upon revealing the black stone within we both paused, I sighed in relief when we seen that it wasn’t glowing.
“Ok, ok, you’ve had your fun! Please sit down miss Fr… Hadley, we must go over the basics!” she said demandingly. But I was rattled now, due to more than one thing. Mostly the thought that someone might have pre-meditated my being at Ashwind, and planted a rare wood for me to find made my skin crawl, I found it hard to pay attention to anything Mrs. Blot attempted to teach me. The following hour I learned the basics of premonition and how it worked, following with the uses for herbs and many other methods of divination, I’d had fun with Mrs. Blot though she came off as very eccentric, she’d seemed somewhat bothered by something during the time I spent with her. What I enjoyed the most had been the study of stones and their uses, Mrs. Blot touched a bit on the stones we used to find my affinity, and she went over all the styles of sorcery. Then how they interacted with each other. She also mentioned many sorcerers had wands of different stone, all depending on their affinity. Certain stone could enhance abilities, though they also were weaker or susceptible to sorcery from others that they contrasted with.
I’d learned that white colored stones related to life energy and healing, black related to death and necromancy then that blue represented the mind and control one who drew their power from the ocean like my Aunt Emily, and then green represented the forest and power of life and growth, also an aspect of wildness, which I drew my power from. But the other types is what really interested me, I learned that yellow represented the use of sorcery based in the realm of light, or fire, this was said to be powerful and rare along with orange which represented wisdom, experience and strategy. Red on the other hand represented the power of blood and war, those with an affinity for turning the life force of another creature or sacrifice into powerful sorcery of another kind.
Indigo represented the power of darkness, but not in an evil sense, just in the sense of saying the opposite of light. This was based in the abilities of absorbtion such as spells that could absorb another sorcerer’s energy so they could use it as their own. Then Violet represented the tie between life and death and was usually used to represent a style of sorcery used in summonings and creature bonds, but also travel through portals.
Towards the end of my time with Mrs. Blot an announcement echoed throughout the room, a statue of an old wizard on the wall began to talk and address me personally, I assumed this was Crimoras version of an intercom, broadcasting only to this room. The announcement addressed me by name, stating I should skip my time with Miss Swansin, and report right to the courtyard to meet with the Overseer.
Mrs. Blot quickly wrapped up her lesson for the day. I was off to find the overseer for flying lessons and other things I wasn’t exactly sure about. I exited the classroom asking the crows nearest me to take me to the courtyard, I followed the crows to a quick shelf and looked up saying “I’d like to walk please.” The statue nodded and pointed, I began to follow, soon approaching a large outdoor courtyard. Within it students sat around upon stones and benches that formed themselves from roots. They were sitting and talking, some playing games and I’d even seen a few flying around.
Taking a moment to glance around the courtyard, my eyes seemed to play tricks on me, its beauty was immense, the walls enclosing it had been made of cobblestone, but there were trees growing within them, seeming as if the walls were built around the trees and using them for support. Though it had been night, the trees throughout the courtyard seemed enchanted to give off their own light, or maybe this was just how trees were here, I wasn’t sure. Small glowing creatures had also drifted about casting a glow of their own, more tall mushrooms grew about casting dim light from underneath, like an umbrella of light. This was amazing, everything about this place showed the bond those who lived here had for nature, making sure to not only leave it untouched, somehow mending seamlessly together with it, what was needed nature offered and what nature asked of them they respected.
I noticed a lady standing firmly in the middle of the large courtyard, she was wearing a multi-layered robe adorned with the academy colors. She had been looking in my direction as I walked in, aware of my arrival. So I had presumed this was surely the Overseer Selene who I’d come here to meet. I started towards her. She stood properly as I approached, her robe tossing gently in the ambient breeze. “Eleanor, very nice to meet you and welcome to Crimora academy.” She said with strength. “We are very happy to have you here, it’s not typical that someone in your situation comes around, and there is no better or well rounded place that can help you adjust to everything.” She added.
“Thank you, it’s been a pretty amazi…” she cut me off, “ no thank you, do you have a vehicle for flight?” she asked sharply, “no, not with me. I answered taken back. “No problem, I expect you wont forget it next time,” she said, pulling a black velvet bag from the side of her robe. From it she pulled out a plain staff about as thick as my arm and nearly as tall as me, it had a wide flat spot near the center. The small bag must have had properties similar to my grimoire, as there was no physically possible way the flying stick could have fit. As once it was completely removed it was the size of me. ”You will use this for today, and the typical term the kids are using for it is a “Float”… I wouldn’t want you going around seeming un-hip! ” She said with a wink. Though i already knew this.
“The most important thing for your first day will be understanding safety, starting with flight since it’s the easiest, then we’ll move on to some sorcery basics. We definitely don’t want you killing yourself or anyone around you by accident now do we?” She said sternly. What the overseer just said was one of the main things that stuck out to me so far about this whole place. “We don’t want you killing yourself or anyone else around you now do we?” That statement said it all. Because the truth of this place was, every patron and student of this place had the power and ability to kill or harm another at any time using sorcery. Yeah there were scuffles, I’d almost witnessed one myself earlier today. But even though every person here has the power to kill another, literally anytime they wanted. Nobody did it. I wondered how, because where I’d come from crime, murder, rape and just overall people treating other people like trash was rampant. My fleeting thought was then interrupted, the answer to my question seemed to soar into my mind but then it was lost.
“Have you flown before?” the overseer asked. “Yes, when I went to Ashwind to get my wand, I did pretty well.” I answered, “well isn’t that great, let’s be sure though.” She said handing me the large plain stick, “first I’d like you to balance the float on end using only your pointer finger. Control is primary!” she added, now I had thought this was crazy as this float was large and very heavy, though I could fly it with ease I was sure, this seemed like much more of a challenge.
I’d given it a few tries and failed, the overseer stood closely watching patiently, a serious look still plastered upon her face. “Continue!” she said, as I failed repeatedly. “You will get it, I see already you have a poise others among you lack.” She added, then paused “this time stop focusing on the float itself and focus on your finger, transfer your energy through it, telling your float where to go, command it to be still upon your finger once you do it will feel as if a pencil.” she said, her voice now slightly less serious. I paused for a moment, taking a break, concentrating on what I was told, I reflected on the flight with aunt Emily, it had felt seamless and easy, I had just thought it and went where I wished to go.
I took a small break, after a moment I tried again more focused, my mind now pointing in the right direction thanks to help from the overseer. I lifted the float, putting it on my finger then steadying it with my other hand. For a moment it stood weightless and straight, it swayed from right to left then fell. I glanced up at the overseer who’d now worn a subtle smile. Without saying anything I picked up the large float and again balanced it with my opposite hand, again putting it on my finger. This time I didn’t spend much time steadying it, I let go and I’d felt in control, the float had felt like an extension of my finger now, similar to how my wand felt in my hand. I moved my finger to the right and it followed, swaying then recovering, standing perfectly straight upon it. This lesson that seemed silly at first I now understood.
Shortly after mastering my first trick with the appointed flying stick, the overseer was chatting with me about wand pointing etiquette. An energetic boy burst into the courtyard with what he announced as a new, revolutionary way to fly, the boy looked familiar, I’d thought. Then it dawned on me, this was the boy who’d told Demi and I about his new card game. Then let us, well basically forced us to hang out and watch as he played with his friends in the dining hall.
Wooden shoes and Skis, adorned the boys feet, I assumed made of floating oak. The boy strapped them on and awkwardly walked to the center of the courtyard, looking very odd as he did so. The Overseer and myself both paused to watch the spectacle, I could see her slightly grinning as the boy attempted to walk awkwardly in his new flying skis, once he reached the center he began to float floundering through the air, as if to find his balance. “Don’t mind Mr. Pritchard.” The overseer said, as the boy bobbed around in the air like a broken toy, “focus Miss Hadley,” the overseer said, her eyes now on me,
Over the next twenty minutes or so, I had learned to hail my float and call it to me easily, riding was also still a breeze, I chose to sit with my legs to one side opposed to straddling as it felt more comfortable, I’d even seen a boy riding one as if like a skateboard, he was doing really intense tricks like kicking it away, letting it spin around a protruding tree branch, then landing effortlessly back on it, and sailing off as if it was cake. But i was more concerned that in this world, out of sight to me before, that hover boards existed. Though in a different manner than i always expected.
The boy who had made the skis was bobbing around the courtyard rather comically for a bit, now effortlessly skiing through the air rather gracefully. I’d heard him bragging about how awesome it was, that’d it’d be the new way to fly. I might have even noticed the Overseer roll her eyes. Shortly after this the boy spewing with confidence, began telling everyone how he’d found a new method of bursting his flight speed for racing, how it could be used safely without his “float” exploding. Apparently if you attempted to put too much energy into anything made from floating oak, it’d just blow up and leave you stranded, or tumbling out of the sky to your gruesome death. Because of this every sorcerer was required to know emergency stopping or floating spells. This was unlike a wand, as a wand would begin to glow or vibrate as to dissipate the pressure being forced into it.
No sooner I heard the boy say, “I’ve figured out, if you quickly expel a bunch of your energy. Focusing it to only to the back of your float, only then you’ll receive an immense burst of speed! Sending you casually into first place if you were to be racing!” he shouted proudly. The entire courtyard was now watching. “Allow me to demonstrate! And after, I will be offering lesson for 20 packs of jelly beez a pop!” he continued.
The boy skied one last lap around the courtyard preparing for his bout, the Overseers eyes now glued to him in angst, as were everyone around. I seen a boy to my right pull his wand, then create some sort of shield wall in front of him by drawing a large square with it and reciting something. Then suddenly as the boy looked to prepare for a jolt, a huge explosion occurred, echoing loudly through the courtyard. The place in the air where the boy had just been was now a large plume of gray smoke, pieces of wood from his flying skies shoot off into every direction, one even smashing a young girl in the head, who was quietly sitting reading a book. She looked as if she might have been knocked out cold.
The boy was now flailing through the air, coming towards us he nearly took off my head. Smoke trailed behind him as he fell, he tumbled into a large bush at the edge of the courtyard. Fortunately but strangely, once he hit the ground. Dirty hand sewn airbags burst from his entire body, cushioning his fall but then bouncing him higher into the air, off the wall that he was nearing speedily then bouncing off into another wall. Once he’d finally came to a stop, the airbags that had engulfed his body squeaked and deflated, the students watching all began to laugh hysterically in unison. As if they expected this the entire time, what I’d looked upon nervously, was maybe something they’d even seen before multiple times.
The boy sprung up, throwing his arms up. “Thank you everyone, and if you’d like to purchase my full body cushioning device. Just come and find me, I’m selling them for 50 jelly beez a pop!” he announced, as if everything that just occurred was all part of the plan.
I looked back at the overseer, my jaw still on the floor. Her face bright red with anger, eyes fixed on the boy, her wand pointed at him making swirling motions. “Jonathan Pritchard! I’ve told you a million times to stop with your crack cauldron ideas, you know putting too much energy into your float causes it to explode!” She screamed, “and now you’ve put others in danger, which is absolutely unacceptable!” she added. The boy turned looking at the overseer and I, “but it does work overseer, it gave me a burst of speed, I swear I did it last night!” he answered, “yes it did work Mister Pritchard, it gave you a burst of speed right to my office!” And if I hadn’t broken your fall, you’d be headed right to Wilda’s for a body cast!” she continued.
“But before you go there, first you’ll pick up your mess!” she yelled, marching back towards me. “And please call someone for poor Miss. Fayad a piece of your ski knocked her out cold. I was trying not to laugh as the boy walked near trying to hide a limp along with his bruised dignity. He glanced at me “I can show you how it works since you’re new… If you’d like.” He said with a smirk upon his face. The overseer gave him a sharp glance, “don’t you go getting others blown up now Mister Pritchard!” she responded sharply. As he walked defeated through the courtyard picking up pieces of wood, laughter had still been echoing throughout, one boy still rolling on the ground grabbing his stomach hysterical, another commenting that he may have peed his uniform. The tiny plump goblins ran into the courtyard with a stretcher like a group of scurrying rabbits, they picked up the unconscious girl and scurried back off. The boy had his head down the entire time, as he picked up the remnants of his destroyed float, then exiting the courtyard through the far door. I couldn’t help but feel terrible for him. He’d been so nice it felt wrong for people to laugh at him like that.
I continued my lesson with the overseer, we’d moved on to discussing all the endless possibilities of building a float. That even entire ships had been built from floating oak, these were tourist traps she explained advertising sunset cruises upon the clouds. She also commented that the cruises were far too overpriced for what was offered, and the drinks were nothing short of atrocious. The sun was beginning to rise over the horizon, soon we wrapped up my lesson and the overseer explained that she’d wanted to see me here tomorrow during the day. I had finished my lessons on flight safety among other things in no time. It had actually passed quickly as I felt very interested in learning and challenging myself. Also the overseer seemed very happy with my fast progress. So my very first day of academy had ended, and now all I needed to know was how to get home.
I exited the courtyard and walked the halls without direction, a confused look must have been sitting across my face, because I’d encountered Mr. Devin who already knew what I was trying to figure out. “Trying to figure out how to wake up?” he asked, “yeah I guess,” I responded, with a shrug “no problem that’s easy he said putting his hand on my shoulder then walking me over to a quick-shelf, if you’re astral projecting and you would like to exit, you just visit one of the bookshelves” he said pausing, he then grabbed my hand and guided it to a small statue that sat upon the bookshelf, his touch sent another shock through my body, but i knew this wasn’t from astral projecting to the academy this time. Thee oddly shaped statue was carved of a silvery transparent stone and looked like what I can only describe as a butt plug, then the moment my hand came in contact with it I was awake, laying comfortably within my bed.