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The Legacy of Androva Series

The second book in the Light Mage Series will be set partly in the earthbound dimension and partly in the magical dimensions, giving me the chance to define life there in more detail. Today's blog post concerns the seven magical professions. There's some variety within the definitions, but each profession has a lot in common. Like the colors of magical energy they use and the spells they know by heart ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ.

All magicians attend the Academy of Magic in the primary magical dimension until they are sixteen years of age. Their aptitude for each profession is continuously tested until their professors agree on a likely match. Then they go earthbound. One earthbound lifetime equates to a year in the magical dimensions. Magicians usually graduate before their twentieth year.

Luca's society believes a magician's true self is only revealed once all magical ability and memory has been taken away. Kind of like an extreme nature versus nurture test! In order to qualify for a profession, every magician from the lowliest Spell Mason to the most exalted Spell Master has to follow an earthbound life path, reincarnating their way along a series of predetermined choices and challenges all the way to graduation.

1. Spell Masters
Orange/gold spellwork. Elite magicians in terms of both power and skill, second only to the High Council. Responsible for magical law enforcement and the smooth running of all three dimensions. Must prove themselves incorruptible throughout their earthbound life path. The most lucrative profession (alongside Healers).

2. Healers
Purple/silver spellwork. Not as powerful as Spell Masters, but equally skilled. Highly rewarded and well-respected due to the personal impact of the spells they perform. Responsible for all aspects of medicine and physical, mental, and magical health. Must demonstrate compassion to all, irrespective of status, throughout their earthbound life path.

3. Spell Masons
Bronze spellwork. The most common profession with the widest variety of day-to-day responsibilities. Considered generalists. Carry out maintenance and building spells, replenish magical objects such as mage-gates, and also monitor/archive earthbound records on dimension-fabric.

4. Spell Techs
Light-blue spellwork. Equal parts creative and technical. Responsible for maintaining and developing the mage-net and other associated forms of magical communication. Design new spells so frequently that the High Council can barely keep abreast of them. Most other professions use Spell Tech infrastructure without having the first clue how it works.

5. Spell Weavers
Green spellwork. Extremely creative. Entertainers. Generators of art in all its forms: music, writing, painting, sculpture, fashion, dancing, and live performances using all-senses spells. One of the most envied professions due to the spellwork being (incorrectly) perceived as easy and because Spell Weavers occasionally become celebrities.

6. Animal Mages
Red spellwork. The least common profession. Usually requires the magician to live apart from the general population alongside the animals they look after. There is a snowdragon colony in the secondary magical dimension, and part of the next book will take place there ๐Ÿ‰๐Ÿ”.

7. Spell Brewers
Dark-blue spellwork. Providers of magical sustenance in the form of spell shots. There is no eating, drinking, or sleeping in the magical dimensions. Magicians only require a regular supply of magical energy. Each profession earns an allowance that can be exchanged at the mage-market for spell shots. The more complicated the shot, the more expensive it is. Different shots are combined with different flavors and other spells according to the magician's preference. Anything from a change in hair color to a headache remedy. If a Spell Brewer invents a new shot that becomes popular with students at the Academy of Magic, they can earn enough to retire in a single semester ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Luca, of course, as a Light Mage, never had a choice of profession. He was destined to be a guardian from an early age, as soon as his magical core began to grow around his heart instead of inside his head. Most ordinary magicians view Light and Shadow Mages with a combination of awe and suspicion, which is something else that will be explored as the trilogy progresses. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the world behind the Light Mage Series!

My first blog post of 2019 and it's time for Chapter Ten of Spell Tracker! In this chapter Luca will get to know Gabe a little better. After Gabe reacts badly when he interrupts Luca's and Dev's second kiss, Luca feels like he has nothing to lose by trying a friendship spell. Past memories of his final earthbound life continue to resurface too. However, the Spell Tracker doesn't miss the opportunity to introduce an additional restriction. These restrictions are mainly for the Spell Tracker's own amusement—he doesn't think for one second Luca will actually emerge from their contract the victor. The Spell Tracker is a Shadow Mage, and he thrives on negativity.
You can catch up on earlier chapters by using the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading ๐Ÿ’•

10 An Interruption

I don’t know how long it was before we were interrupted. If I’d even considered keeping track of time, I’m pretty sure my ability to do so would have been a little impaired. Where did Devin learn to kiss like this?
“Dev, are you in her—”
The words stopped abruptly and so did we, the sound of our breathing impossibly loud in the shocked silence. I was facing the door where Gabe stood, unmoving, his knuckles white where he was clutching the doorframe.
Devin turned slowly. I realized I was still holding onto him and hastily let go. He and Gabe stared at each other. The tension in Gabe’s expression was more like pain than anger. No one spoke. Should I apologize?
“You’ll be late for tryouts if you don’t go now,” said Gabe in a low voice.
“Oh God, tryouts. What time is it?”
“Ten after. If you run, you’ll still make it,” said Gabe.
Devin glanced between the two of us.
“Go,” I said to him.
“Will you… come and watch?” he asked.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I replied.
“I don’t give a shit,” said Gabe. “Just in case you’re worried about my feelings all of a sudden.” He kept his gaze fixed on a point somewhere over my shoulder. Silence again.
“He doesn’t… I haven’t told him anything,” said Devin.
“Nothing to tell,” said Gabe.
“Right,” agreed Devin. “I’ll… I’ll be going, then.”
There was another excruciating pause. I almost wished Gabe were ranting and raving rather than keeping his emotions locked away behind gritted teeth and pretend disinterest. However, there was no time for a confrontation, and I was sure neither of us wanted Devin to miss his chance to make the team. I leaned into Devin and whispered, “Apoculo.” He left the classroom at a run, his sneakers squeaking on the floor of the corridor when he turned the corner.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Gabe.
I narrowed my eyes, bracing myself for the inevitable onslaught of anger and disgust. But when I looked at him, I saw that he meant it more literally. His face was ash-colored and he was swallowing over and over, like he was actually on the verge of throwing up.
“Do you want to sit down?” I asked, dragging a chair toward him. As he sank into it, his legs wobbling, I turned away and placed my hands on one of the tables.
Calix,” I murmured, quickly followed by, “Aqua frigus.” I picked up the glass of cold water that appeared and turned back to offer it to Gabe, keeping my fingers well away from his.
He took it from me without comment, immediately raising the glass and drinking half the contents. A few drops escaped his mouth and fell down his chin, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Thanks, I suppose.” He looked at the floor next to his feet as he spoke.
“You’re welcome, I suppose,” I replied, equally unsmiling. “Are you feeling better?”
He didn’t answer. Tentatively I reached out to assess his emotions and had to grab hold of the table to steady myself when a wave of shame hit me in the chest. He hated himself. That wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting.
“I’m not stupid,” he said eventually. “I don’t care what Dev says. There’s something different about you.”
“I never said you were stupid.”
“Don’t try to be clever. Every time you lied about what you did—making Dev scream with pain… and you did do that… you took me for a fool.”
“I didn’t lie.”
He gripped the glass a little tighter. “You never corrected Dev when he kept on defending you.”
“Dev wasn’t lying either. He just remembers it differently from you.”
He finally raised his head. “How? We were both there, together, in the same place, at the same time. You’re not suggesting I hallucinated?”
“No.” I wished I could think of a way to get past this without either telling him the truth or making him forget. I didn’t think he would believe me if I told him what I really was, but if I used dedisco and it backfired…
“I swear I didn’t mean to hurt him. I also swear it won’t happen again,” I said quietly.
His gaze sharpened. “Will you swear it on your life? On the lives of everyone in your family?”
“Yes,” I said straight away, keen to prove my sincerity. “I swear on my life and the lives of my family.” Inexplicably, my eyes blurred with sudden tears. I hadn’t thought of my earthbound mother for centuries, but now I could see her face as clearly as if she were standing right in front of me.
Our ancestry had been complicated, just like the Roman Empire. By the time I was born, the people of Gaul had long since been chewed up and digested by the empirical machine. The final battle, Vercingetorix’s last stand at Alesia, had taken place in 52 BC. I’d grown up listening to the stories. Although my mother had both Gallic and African blood, our owners had chosen to give us the name Sequani. It amused them to mention one of the defeated Gallic tribes whenever they were demanding we satisfy their every whim.
My mother had been a survivor. Her dignity had always remained intact, no matter how she was treated. She’d made our parting seem like an opportunity, protecting me from the full knowledge of how precarious my future was likely to be.
Placet accipere cura te ipsum, Avi.”
Promitto,” I’d replied, squaring my small shoulders.
Please take care of yourself, Avi. That’s what she’d said, and that’s what I’d promised to do. I’d failed. Even as a slave, I should have lived longer than seventeen years of age. I’d been sold for the first time at the age of five, which was the last time I ever saw her.
Gabe was watching me with a puzzled look, and I blinked the tears back.
“OK,” he said. “I believe you.”
It was so unexpected, I smiled before I could help myself.
“Don’t smile at me,” he said. “Believing you doesn’t automatically translate to liking you. Even if you didn’t hurt him deliberately, you still did something. We are never going to be friends.”
I put my hands into my pockets. Never is a long time. I don’t think he realizes how long.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said. I shrugged. “Maybe one day I’ll convince you to give me a second chance.”
“Don’t hold your breath. Here,” he added, offering me the glass. I kept my hands in my pockets, shifting to the side to indicate he should put it on the table next to me. I wasn’t going to run the risk of his skin touching mine. Not when we’d only just agreed to a truce.
He looked at the glass more closely before he set it down. “This doesn’t belong to the school. Where did you get this?”
“Uh… Cass and I were practicing our lines before and the water fountain is all the way down the hall.”
“Oh, right, the play. Cavi,” he said. He made a face, too distracted by the reminder of me and Cass to notice that I hadn’t actually answered his question. “Keeping it in the family, aren’t you?”
“Get lost. What are you, Mina?” I said, glaring at him.
He raised an eyebrow. “Did I hit a nerve?”
“You said yourself we’re not friends. So my personal life is none of your business.”
“Except you’re mixing your personal life with one of my friends.”
“Are we back to square one here, or what?” I asked.
He sighed. “No. I don’t know. Look… I’m going to watch Dev. Are you joining me?”
I was about to shake my head but then changed my mind. I wanted to see Devin again and I had a long and lonely weekend ahead of me after everyone left the school this evening. I’d have plenty of time to worry about how to behave with Cass next week.
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
We walked in silence to begin with while I racked my brains for something to say. Guardians didn’t have to make conversation as a rule, so it wasn’t surprising I was bad at it. It simply wasn’t a necessary skill. We were always invisible, hidden in our separate dimension, providing hints and silent encouragement to our assignments as they went about their lives.
What the hell. Here goes nothing. “Amicalis,” I murmured.
“What? Did you say something?”
“Er… Devin says you’ve been friends a long time,” I said.
“Since fourth grade,” Gabe replied.
“Oh. Did you know him when his father…?”
Gabe stopped walking and turned to face me. “He told you about that?”
“No,” I said. “Well, not the details. Just that it happened.”
Gabe continued along the corridor, kicking a screwed-up ball of paper to one side on his way past. “His father was a real piece of work. No one can believe he got away with it for so long. Dev won’t hear a word against him, though.”
“He won’t?”
“No. Says he refuses to judge someone who isn’t around to explain themselves.”
“Really? He never got angry?” I said, surprised.
“Oh, he did. He went off the rails big time. He just got over it.”
Now I was even more convinced Devin had been helped by a guardian.
“He got over it,” I repeated.
“Yeah. Does that shock you?” He slanted me a sideways glance.
“No,” I said. “I don’t know him very well, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of person to hold onto things.”
“He’s not. Not like…” He trailed off.
Not like you? Not like his sister? I wondered what Gabe had been going to say. Before I could think of how to ask him, we arrived at the doors to the gym. Gabe pulled one of them open, releasing a wave of emotion so strong I would have felt it whether I were paying attention or not.
Anticipation. Hope. Disappointment. Resolve. The spectators were just as invested in the outcome as the players. Tryouts were a big deal. The coach’s voice, by turns encouraging and exasperated, rose over the background noise to direct proceedings.
I spotted Devin immediately. He was standing on the sidelines, and I couldn’t tell if he was waiting to play or if he was already done. He was wearing shorts. Of course. Because an even bigger distraction is just what I need right now.
Gabe climbed the steps to an empty bench and I followed him. As we sat down, I noticed a lone figure on the other side of the gym, high up and right at the end of a row. It was Cass. She was slouching against the wall, earbuds in her ears and eyes half closed.
What is she doing here?
I got out my phone. “The Globe must have been a bit like this during auditions.
After I tapped Send, I waited. If I hadn’t been watching so closely, I might have missed it, but one corner of her mouth definitely lifted.
What are you doing here?” she typed back. “No one will believe in Cavi if they catch you eyeing up my brother like that.
I froze. I hadn’t realized she knew about Cavi, let alone me and Devin. If “me and Devin” was even a thing. My stomach flipped like someone was bouncing a basketball inside it. Unable to help myself, I looked at him again. When I glanced back at Cass, she rolled her eyes.
Subtle,” came her message.
Would you rather I came and sat next to you?” I typed quickly. “Or shall I just stare at you until everyone notices?
Her hair fell forward while she typed a reply, and I couldn’t see her expression. “NO,” said her message.
“Dev’s up,” said Gabe, nudging me with his elbow.
I put my phone down and turned to watch. Devin was good: fast and accurate. The determination he played with was kind of exciting. He kisses like that too. As soon as the thought entered my head, I was cringing, grateful Cass couldn’t read my mind. Or anyone else, come to that.
Gabe shouted encouragement when Devin walked up to take a free throw. He turned his head and our eyes met. My stomach flipped again. He grinned, like he knew. I didn’t dare look in Cass’s direction.
When he lined up the shot, I muttered, “Intra.” The ball fell through the hoop without touching the sides, and Gabe and I applauded, along with most of the other spectators.
“I think he’s made the team,” said Gabe. “Coach just said something to him, look.”
The coach was lifting his hand from Devin’s shoulder, and Devin stared back at him with a smile that lit up his face.
“I think you’re right,” I said to Gabe.
“I’ll tell Mina.” He got out his phone. “She didn’t stay because of all the arrangements for this stupid party she’s throwing tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I’d forgotten.”
Gabe huffed a laugh. “How the hell did you manage that? I suppose you’re going with Dev.” He looked up from his phone. He obviously wasn’t delighted at the prospect, but at least he wasn’t outright glaring at me.
“No. I can’t go,” I said.
“Does Mina know?” he asked.
“She won’t notice.”
Gabe stared back at me. “You have met Mina, right?”
I wondered if Cass had been invited. I looked across the gym, but the bench where she’d been sitting was empty. I wished I had seen her leave. Was it too late to go after her?
I was hopeful that her messages were a sign she was relaxing a tiny bit. Especially after we’d just had our first proper conversation about character motivation. I smiled as I remembered. Then my phone buzzed.
Well, isn’t this all nice and cozy. Making friends, are you, Luca? Feeling confident? You just lost half a semester. I’m moving up the deadline. Let’s see you smile now.

We're almost at the end of December, which means a new calendar year is right around the corner ๐Ÿ—“. It's traditional to think about setting some goals and, as usual, mine are going to be about reading and writing ๐Ÿ˜Š. One of the benefits of having a blog is that I can also see exactly what I planned to do this time last year. Given that life never goes the way we expect, it will be interesting to compare my plan with reality!

Strictly glass half-full though. I can't change the past, but I can choose to focus on the good bits. And the New Year is more likely to go well if I approach it with a smile.

Here are the ABCs of my New Year's resolutions:

A is for Authors, old and new
"Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people--people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book."
- E.B. White

I usually read a lot, and I wanted to keep that going in 2018. As it turned out, life was a lot busier than I expected, so I have several more unread books on my Kindle than I would like going into 2019. There were times I sacrificed reading time in order to meet my writing targets. I think next year I will turn it around and focus on the reading if I ever have to choose between the two. After all, being an avid reader has to come first. I don't think I would enjoy the writing nearly so much if I didn't read a lot.

In terms of new (to me) authors I discovered in 2018, my top recommendation is William Ritter for the amazing Jackaby series.

B is for Book(s)
I aimed to write two books in 2018, and I achieved that particular goal (but only just!). I completed the Legacy of Androva Series in May and the first book in the Light Mage Series was released in December. If I were to aim really high, I'd love to complete the trilogy in 2019. However, I have some ideas/reader suggestions for Legacy of Androva bonus content, and I'm also thinking about a brand-new series set in one of the worlds Androva discovered when they were first opening portals all over the place. So... we'll see ๐Ÿคท‍♀️๐Ÿ˜Š.

C is for Characters
Characters are the most important element of any story. They're the reason I fall in love with the books I read and also my motivation for writing new books. Once the characters exist inside my head I have to carry on writing to find out what happens to them. And even though the Legacy of Androva is finished, I like to think that Jax and Shannon are still having adventures in a fictional world somewhere.

I discovered a few memorable new characters in 2018 and hope to do the same in 2019. Two books I would recommend because of their protagonist are Madame Tussaud, by Michelle Moran and Slated, by Teri Terry.

Looking ahead to 2019, the second book in the Light Mage Series will be written from Devin's point of view. Whereas Luca was more of a thinker, Dev is most definitely more of a 'take action' kind of character. He's proving to be a lot of fun to write, and I'm looking forward to knowing him better. And as for the final book in the trilogy, I'm not sure about that yet. It will be first person again, but the identity of the narrator will depend on who's still standing at the end of book two.

Finally, I hope your dreams come true in 2019 (and that you discover some amazing books to read as well!). Are you making any resolutions? Or are you going to figure things out as you go along? I wish you good health and happiness in the New Year, and thank you for stopping by my blog today!

Season's Greetings! Last year I wrote a Christmas short story in the Legacy of Androva world, which you can find here. Today's blog post includes extracts from a few of my favourite Christmas poems ๐ŸŽ„.Perhaps next year, I'll figure out a way to create a Christmas story for Light Mages ๐Ÿ˜Š.

A Christmas tree! A Christmas tree!
With dark green needled memories
Of childhood dreams and mysteries
Wrapped present-like in front of me.

A Christmas tree! A Christmas tree!
I glimpse a past wherein I see
The child that then grew into me
Not forward fast but haltingly.

from A Christmas Tree! by David Keig

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

from Christmas Bells, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

from Ring Out, Wild Bells, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season's here;
Then he's thinking more of others than he's thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.

He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime.
When it's Christmas man is bigger and is better in his part;
He is keener for the service that is prompted by the heart.

All the petty thoughts and narrow seem to vanish for awhile
And the true reward he's seeking is the glory of a smile.

from At Christmas, by Edgar Albert Guest

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
(or even a mouse-hunter... ๐Ÿ˜)

from A Visit From St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the festive theme! Happy Holidays to everyone ❄

At the time of writing this blog post, Christmas is only ten days away ๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿ˜ฒ. I'm not ready, and it's going to be a busy ten days!

However, in and around all the excitement of the holiday season, I'm hoping to have a little time for reading and writing. On the writing side I need to make some progress with the second book in the Light Mage Series. I'll be expanding on Devin's character and personality, as he'll be telling the story this time. However, today's post is all about the reading, and I've been searching for some new (to me, at least) YA Christmas-themed books.

Here are the three I've chosen and why:

The Afterlife of Holly Chase, by Cynthia Hand

Tagline: YA re-imagining of A Christmas Carol

Why I chose it:
I love the story of A Christmas Carol. Taking a severely unlikable character on a journey of self-discovery in such a way that the reader ends up rooting for them isn't easy, but when it's done well, it can be very enjoyable to read. I also like happy endings, particularly if they're hard-won. Finally, the cover of this book is beautiful ๐Ÿ’•.
Three interesting quotes:
- “Without stories, we’re all just lonely islands.”
- “It’s never too late to become what one could have been.”
- “I'm not that bad, I thought. I'm just a realist.”

Let It Snow, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Tagline: Three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love

Why I chose it:
I'll be honest--it wasn't the cover that attracted me to this one. I clicked on the link because I usually enjoy John Green's books and a short story of his with a Christmas theme sounded like a guaranteed winner. Also, this book gives me the chance to discover and hopefully enjoy two other authors at the same time ๐Ÿ˜Š.
Three interesting quotes:
- “Once you think a thought, it is extremely difficult to unthink it.”
- “It's always awkward when someone doesn't realize you're joking and devotes thought time to what you've said.”
- “Being sixteen means you have to be a genius conversational editor.”

Snowglobe, by Amy Wilson

Tagline: Enter a thousand worlds

Why I chose it:
First off, I have to admit this is the wild card choice! It's more upper middle grade than YA due to the age of the protagonist, and it's not a pure Christmas book like the other two, (although snowglobes do tend to be seen a lot more at this time of year ❄). I'm not even sure how I found it, but I'm glad I did. The writing style drew me in almost immediately, and the story sounds fascinating. There's a mysterious house full of snowglobes, each containing a magician trapped by an enchantment. The protagonist, Clementine, unknowingly unleashes a power struggle that will put "the future of magic itself in danger."
Three interesting quotes:
- “Pa may not have it in his blood, but he's known about magic for longer than I've been alive. And me?
I guess there's not much use in denying it now.”
- “She is the space between us, sometimes. We don't know how to talk about her.”
- “That was their lot. But lots can change, and change can be chaos.”

Day job, writing time, and Christmas preparations permitting, I hope I can finish all three before the end of 2018. Are you reading any winter-themed books this month? Have you read any of the three on my list? Thank you for visiting my blog today!

Today's blog post is a little extra world-building for the Light Mage series. Throughout most of Spell Tracker, Luca, the protagonist, is trying to make the best of an impossible situation. He's forced to break a lot of rules for a chance to save the boy he loves, and in doing so puts himself at the mercy of the Spell Tracker. The magical contract between Luca and the Spell Tracker works almost entirely in the Spell Tracker's favor. He uses Luca's desperation to negotiate extremely one-sided terms, then throws in a bunch of additional restrictions almost entirely for his own amusement.

The document below captures all the elements of the code of conduct Luca is supposed to be following and highlights his most significant transgressions. However, irrespective of the fact that Luca is a rule-breaker, he's also very well-intentioned ๐Ÿ’™. If I were to live in Luca's world, I'd be happy if he were my guardian and looking out for me.

In the second book of the series, the story will spend some time in the magical dimensions to explore the seven listed professions and how they contribute to the society Luca and Devin come from. I still haven't made up my mind which profession I prefer though... I think being a Light Mage instead might be more fun! Thank you for visiting my blog today!

I hope everyone's December is off to a great start! The countdown to the holiday season seems to have come around faster than usual this year ๐ŸŽ„⛄. Today's blog post is the ninth chapter from Spell Tracker. Luca attempts to make friends with Cass while doing his best not to be distracted by Devin. Unfortunately, neither situation works out quite the way he wants it to!
You can catch up on earlier chapters by using the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading ๐Ÿ’•

9 A Decision

I tried to convince myself it wasn’t so bad. My mind refused to play along. I couldn’t stop thinking about the code of conduct I should be following.
Before an undergraduate magician goes earthbound, their future profession in the magical dimensions is preselected. The choices/lessons they will encounter as they reincarnate their way along a personalized earthbound life path are set in stone and cannot be manipulated by any guardian.
Devin didn’t know it, but the earthbound dimension was a precise illusion, created from layer upon layer of spellwork. He was here to live a few lives and qualify—or not—for his chosen profession. When he graduated, his magical identity would simply leave. My presence was already something of a glitch in his life path.
A guardian may disperse negative emotion and/or remind a magician of their potential, but may not show a magician what to do for the best. The earthbound dimension tests non-magical skills, and each undergraduate has to remain ignorant of their magical identity, the magical dimensions, and their intended path to graduation. Guardians are to be invisible and impartial at all times.
OK, perhaps I was more than a glitch. But I was going to be very careful. I had to make this work.
Guardians’ assignments are chosen at random from a list of undergraduate magicians living in the earthbound dimension at any given time. There is no bias in the selection process, irrespective of a magician’s intended profession, their perceived risk of failure, and their status in the magical dimensions. Furthermore, a guardian may not be assigned to any magician with whom they have a personal connection.
I’d broken a major rule by deliberately looking for Cass. I knew her, and I was here because her chance of success was low.
Guardians will acknowledge all seven professions—Spell Masters, Healers, Spell Masons, Spell Techs, Spell Brewers, Spell Weavers, Animal Mages—and treat them equally. Guardians may not favor one profession over another, no matter the relative life path difficulties and/or rewards of each profession.
At least my conscience was clear on that part. I didn’t care about Cass’s future profession. Unfortunately, the clause had a second section.
The High Council recognizes that Spell Masters and Healers are elite professions attracting significant privilege. In order to discourage fortune hunters, magicians aspiring to these professions will therefore be bound to a Spell Tracker contract with life-limiting penalties for failure. A guardian may not prevent the Spell Tracker from carrying out this contracted penalty should one of their assignments fail to graduate.
I gritted my teeth. Cass was not going to end up in his hands. I could only hope he would be satisfied with my life instead if I failed to help her learn the requisite life lessons and graduate successfully.
Those first two weeks at Sherbourne High passed so quickly. Two weeks gone already out of fourteen weeks in the semester. To the average high school student it was a lifetime. To me, fourteen weeks was nothing. I’d never completed an assignment so quickly before.
And Cass was not exactly an average assignment. Even if I’d been helping her in the normal way, from my own dimension, I would probably have lost her. As it was, though, I was screwed. My attempts to become her friend achieved nothing. No, that’s not quite true. They’ve made her dislike me even more than she already did.
She ignored my efforts at small talk. Polite conversation was never really my forte, but I tried. I asked her about things like books, music, Netflix, and college. On one disastrous occasion, running out of ideas, I managed to combine a comment about politics with one about the weather, at which point she gave me a disbelieving look and walked out.
She didn’t appear to have any friends. She seemed to view Devin with the same animosity as she did everyone else, perhaps even more so. She didn’t want to talk about anything. Every single question I asked her was met with silence.

After the first week I changed my approach and stopped asking questions, talking about myself instead. That was better, temporarily. She was interested in Europe, even asking me a question about the Globe Theater in London and what it was like inside a replica of an Elizabethan playhouse.
I didn’t have to fake my enthusiasm. Even back in the seventeenth century, when girls were not permitted to act on the stage and the crush of unwashed bodies gave out an aroma that would stun an elephant, the playhouse had an immediacy and an energy to it that modern theater lacked.
Then I ruined it. Conscious of how little time I had, I listened to the anxiety in my heart rather than the years of training in my head. I tried to go beyond casual conversation, and I did it way too soon. I can only cringe at how clumsily I mentioned other things we might have in common.
I don’t know what I expected her to say. Oh, you come from a broken home? That’s awesome! I come from a broken home too! We should be best friends!
She must have either pitied me for my oversharing and tragic lack of social skills, or thought that I was making it up as some kind of spectacularly inept way to get into her pants. She walked out again before I could figure out which it was.
So far, we had practiced together as Benedick and Beatrice four times, not counting the two other occasions when she’d left before we could get started. We met most days after school in one of the empty classrooms. Miss Randall had given us two additional scenes to learn for the following week’s lesson, when we would audition officially for our parts in the play.
Even without a confirmation text message, I could have guessed that he had “helped” Miss Randall with her choices. The two scenes might have been hand-picked to cause me the maximum amount of disorientation.
The problem was that when I performed them properly I was almost on my knees by the time we finished, confused, desperate, and unable to differentiate between my past and my present. The classroom would shimmer around me, and it took all my strength to prevent it from turning into the training area in the Ludus Magnus. The area I’d just happened to share with Cass.
That was a lose-lose situation in the making. If she recognized the Ludus, she’d probably remember it all, and it would be game over. If she didn’t recognize it, she’d probably freak out. I mean, who wouldn’t? Don’t worry, Cass, it’s just that I’m a Light Mage and I can’t seem to control my magic around you. Surprise!
At the end of the second week I came up with the idea to protect myself with a spell before performing. Unfortunately, my ability to act disappeared as soon as the spell was in place. I was as wooden as the rudis I’d used when I was a gladiator-in-training, sleepwalking through the lines with no passion whatsoever.
“What was that?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips.
“No good?”
“Is that a serious question?”
“I was… er… trying something new,” I said.
“Unsuccessfully,” she replied.
She was talking to me. This was the most engaged she’d been since her question about the Globe. Usually she just nodded at the end of each scene and we moved on.
I reached behind me for one of the chairs and sat down. I had the beginnings of an idea.
“You know that, right?” she added. “It was awful.”
I twisted the hem of my sleeve around my wrist and kept my eyes on the floor. “The thing is… I find you quite intimidating,” I said.
“We never discuss the play. I have no idea what you think or how to improve what I’m doing.”
“That’s… ridiculous.” She hesitated. “It’s not my responsibility to make you feel good about yourself.”
“Well, that’s not what I said.” I looked up. At least I could now make eye contact without worrying about the consequences, given that I was prevented from making any new connections. “I just want to talk to you about the dialogue so we can do the best job possible at our audition.”
“Did you deliberately mess up that scene?”
“No,” I said truthfully. “I was trying something new.”
“It sucked.”
“Yeah, I get that.” I risked a smile. “But does that mean it was good before? And could we make it better?”
She sat down opposite me. “Maybe. I don’t know. What were you thinking?”
Soon we were having a conversation about how we could improve our respective performances. I was careful to keep my comments to the play and only the play. Nothing personal this time. After we’d discussed our acting, we moved on to the characters.
“What’s your view on Benedick’s motivation?” she asked. “Is he deliberately horrible to Beatrice because he’s secretly attracted to her?”
She looked me up and down. Is she asking about Benedick or me?
“Um,” I said. Do I find her attractive? Gods, Luca, don’t go there. She’s a girl, anyway. I don’t… with girls. Except… I would with her. I… what?
“Um?” she repeated. “That’s all you’ve got?”
“No. Sorry. He does think she’s attractive. He says as much to his friend Claudio. I think it’s more that they have a history and he’s being defensive.”
Cass shifted her chair closer. “How do you know they have a history?”
“She talks about it. What does she say, again? Something like he won her heart with false dice and she ended up losing her own heart and his too.”
“Really? I didn’t know that. I haven’t read the whole play yet. So… he’s an asshole, then.”
She blinked. “Calm down. It’s not real.”
“I just don’t think their relationship is black and white like that. They’re both as bad as each other. It’s no one’s fault.”
“Huh. Very charitable of you, but trust me. It’s always someone’s fault.”
I wanted so much to ask her why she would say that. It was the first hint she’d given me of what was going on inside her head. Who did she blame, and for what? Herself, or someone else? With an effort of will Hercules himself would have been proud of, I said nothing.
“So why does Beatrice give him another chance?” she asked. “Is it just because he offers to avenge her cousin Hero’s honor?”
“Yes, but it’s so much more than that,” I said. “She asks him to prove his love by challenging his best friend to a duel. And he has to do it based on her word alone. As far as he knows, his friend has done nothing wrong.”
I leaned forward. “It’s a defining moment between them. He asks, ‘Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?’
“She replies, ‘Yes, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.’ If you deliver that line effectively, the audience will be on the edge of their seats.”
I knew it by heart. Magicians had excellent memories, and I’d reread the play the night after that first Drama class.
Cass tilted her head, considering. I waited, worried I’d overdone the enthusiasm, but then she broke into a smile. It was so unexpected and so beautiful I could only stare.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll read the play and let you know what I think next week.”
Carefully, I returned her smile. It turned out smiling was more complicated than I’d realized. The more I tried for sincere and low-key, the more I feared I was veering toward creepy.
I nearly threw caution to the winds and said, “Concesso,” but lost my nerve before the word reached my tongue. She left the classroom with a promise to message me if she came up with anything new over the weekend.
Dropping my head into my hands, I sighed. Had I made the right decision? I was second-guessing everything. Concesso was a serious spell, designed to immobilize an assignment without them actually losing consciousness. From their perspective they would just zone out for a few seconds—nothing too scary. The earthbound frequently did that anyway.
Concesso would enable me to look at her life path, which I could only do when she was awake. Cass wasn’t like Mr. Mason. I couldn’t expect her to stand by obediently while I inspected her energy. Not to mention that her armor was so thick she would probably feel me doing it.
I wanted to see her life path. I needed to see it. Without a connection, her life path was my next best hope of learning enough to be able to help her. But I hadn’t used a single spell on Cass yet, and every time I came close, I chickened out. I’d convinced myself I would somehow be playing into his hands if I did so. I was sure that the minute I used any magic on her, my phone would chime and it would be too late to undo the damage I would have caused.
There had been no more restrictions since the first four. No more texts. At first their absence had been welcome and I thought perhaps he was done. Then I realized how stupid I was being. He was a master manipulator. There was an agenda to everything he did. I would never figure it out because my magic did not work like his. His silence had to be deliberate.
The shadows bent to his will as easily as the light obeyed mine. He might not cross over, but his influence was powerful nonetheless. There was more than enough darkness in the earthbound dimension for that. And I’d agreed to a magical contract. I’d given him more power than he would usually have.
 I resolved to use a simple spell the next time Cass and I were alone. I had to try. Feeling better at having made a decision, I lifted my head and gave a start of surprise.
Devin was standing in the doorway.
“Hey,” I said, the smile sliding off my face when he didn’t return it.
“Are you avoiding me?”
“Er…” I’d been about to deny it, but I changed my mind about lying to him. I hadn’t avoided him so much as I’d hidden behind a subtle, “Non video,” to make sure he never quite noticed me outside the classroom. “Maybe a bit,” I added. “I thought after what happened you might want some space.”
More like I can’t deal with you and Cass at the same time. More like I need some space from you.
“More like you want some space,” he retorted. Heat rose up my neck and into my cheeks at how easily he saw through me. I’d been nervous of my feelings. It wasn’t the connection so much—I’d made plenty of those before. I’d fallen for assignments, even. The problem came from being earthbound. It was the way this physical covering was becoming part of me. I didn’t trust myself with him.
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Do you have any idea how difficult these two weeks have been?” He took a couple of steps into the room. “Your messages were all so polite. I thought I was losing my mind. Spells on teachers, snow falling backstage, the best kiss I’ve ever… I mean… did I imagine it? If you laugh at me right now, I’ll hit you.”
I held up my hand to my mouth to hide the smile that had reappeared when he’d mentioned our kiss. As my fingers touched my lips, the memory of it obliterated every other thought in my head.
The connection between our magic was making my skin tingle. I was hyperaware of everything. The sound of his breathing. His emotions. The color of his eyes. The light on his skin. Having a physical covering is dangerous.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he said.
“Like what?”
“Like…” He walked up to me. “Like you looked at me before you kissed me last time.”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s my turn.” He put his hands on my shoulders and moved them up and inward until they were resting on my bare neck. One of his thumbs stroked my collarbone. “Shit,” I muttered. “What are you doing to me?”
He shook his head slightly. “I was going to ask you the same question.”
Then he kissed me and I forgot anything else I might have been going to say.

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