Seremon was sitting with a cup of coffee when Tiel knocked on the door the next morning. He drained it quickly, pulled on his robe and followed the child outside. The grey robe –the smallest the seamstress had been able to supply—swamped him. It was the right length, but looked as though it would go three times around his skinny frame. Seremon repressed a laugh as he looked down at the eager figure. ‘Are you ready?’
‘Yes.’ Tiel looked up at him, his eyes shining. He was practically bouncing with eagerness.
‘You’re very happy today.’
‘I want to do magic,’ was all he said.
The block housing the practice rooms was different from any other part of the Castle. Heavy with physical and magical reinforcement, it was a squat, ugly extension between one of the larger buildings and the outer wall. It had two floors, and its corridors and staircases were empty and echoing.
‘We’ll be upstairs,’ Seremon said. ‘The lower levels are for the senior mages.’ The room they were to use had Seremon’s name chalked on a board beside the door. Seremon added a tick beside his own name, wrote Tiel’s under it and ticked that, too. He had done the same on another board outside the building.
‘What’s that for?’ Tiel traced the first letter of his name with one finger. ‘That’s my name, isn’t it?’ He traced the S as well. ‘And yours.’
Seremon considered trying to teach him another letter, then thought better of it. ‘It’s so that if there’s an accident, they know exactly who is in the building.’ He expected Tiel to show some uncertainty, but he was already pushing the door open. Seremon followed him, closing the door behind them and latching it on the outside with a simple spell.
‘Now,’ he said. ‘The first thing you learn is how to produce a magelight.’
‘Like this?’ Tiel held out his hand. There was a sullen pop, and a globe of blue-white magefire appeared, about six inches across.
Seremon managed not to react although how, he never knew, then or later. ‘No. That’s magefire, not a magelight.’
‘Oh.’ Tiel looked disappointed. ‘What’s the difference?’
‘Can you make it go away first? Then I’ll show you.’
‘Yes, of course.’ The magefire vanished, and Tiel wiped his palms on the seat of his trousers.
Seremon wished he could do the same. ‘This is a magelight,’ he said, creating one.
‘It’s not as bright,’ Tiel said critically. ‘And it doesn’t make a noise.’
‘That goes to show that appearances aren’t everything. Magefire burns things, which means you have to be careful how you use it. Magelights don’t. You can use them anywhere, to see where you’re going or attract someone’s attention. You can play with them, too.’ He made the magelight shrink to the size of an acorn, and sent it scooting round his fingers.
‘Can I hold it?’
‘Well, yes and no. I can put it in your hand,’ he rested it on Tiel’s palm, ‘but you can’t do anything with it, because it’s my power and so only I can make it move. Do you understand?’
‘I think so.’
‘Good. Now, hold your hand out, and think about what you’ve just seen. You only need a little bit of power for this, it’s not like magefire. Imagine your power flowing into a ball over your hand. It’s a little ball of energy, and it has to release somehow.’ He paused, raised his eyebrows. Tiel nodded. ‘That energy can be turned into heat, or light. What you begin with is letting it turn to light, gently, so that it glows. It’s not always easy when you start, but we’ll keep at it. Do you want to try?’
Tiel held out his hand. He stared at a point a little way above it, a crease appearing between his brows.
Seremon could see the slight distortion the magic was causing, but nothing else happened. ‘You’re getting it,’ he said. ‘The power is there, over your hand, but it’s leaking away so you don’t have enough to use. Try and pack it tighter, that’s—no, stop!’
There was a sharp crack and a brilliant flash. Tiel cried out and leapt backwards. Seremon had turned his head away in time, and he caught hold of Tiel, who had pressed his arm across his eyes and was swaying, his other hand held out in front of him.
‘Stay still,’ he said. ‘Your sight will come back in a few minutes.’
‘You packed the power a bit too tight, that’s all. In fact, for certain uses, that sort of effect is perfect, but obviously you have to know when to shut your eyes.’
Tiel let his arm drop. ‘It’s getting better,’ he said, blinking. ‘So that’s it? That’s magic?