We designated Adrian as our carpool driver. "Jeez," I said when she hurriedly got in the car. "Do you have somewhere to be after this?"

The smile she gave me was strained, and I couldn't help but notice how pale she looked. "No, but we do have a schedule to follow. I cast a large spell this morning that won't last forever. The countdown is on."

She wouldn't say any more until we reached the park, and that silence unnerved me. It gave me the opportunity to imagine all sorts of frightening outcomes. And although I trusted her, I suddenly felt relieved that Adrian was along as a chaperone.

Although it wasn't the busiest place, Lone Rock Park still had the occasional hiker. Ms. Terwilliger - who was actually in hiking boots - set off across the rocky terrain, searching for a suitably remote space to do whatever it was she had in mind. A few stratified rock formations dotted the landscape, but I couldn't really appreciate their beauty. Mostly I was aware that we were out here when the sun was at its fiercest. Even if it was almost winter, we'd still be feeling the heat.

I glanced over at Adrian as we walked and found him already looking at me. From his jacket pocket, he produced a bottle of sunscreen. "I knew you'd ask. I'm nearly as prepared as you are."

"Nearly," I said. He'd done it again, anticipating my thoughts. For half a heartbeat, I pretended it was just the two of us out on a pleasant afternoon hike. It seemed like most of the time we spent together was on some urgent mission. How nice would it be to just hang out without the weight of the world on us? Ms. Terwilliger soon brought us back to our grim reality.

"This should do," she said, surveying the land around her. She had managed to find one of the most desolate areas in the park. I wouldn't have been surprised to see vultures circling overhead. "Did you bring what I asked for?"

"Yes, ma'am." I knelt on the ground and rifled through my bag. In it was the spell book, along with some herbal and liquid compounds I'd mixed up at her request.

"Take out the fireball kindling," she instructed.

Adrian's eyes went wide. "Did you just say 'fireball'? That's badass."

"You see fire all the time," I reminded him. "From Moroi who can wield it."

"Yeah, but I've never seen a human do anything like that. I've never seen you do anything like that."

I wished he didn't look so awestruck because it kind of drove home the severity of what we were about to attempt. I would've felt better if he'd treated it like it was no big deal. But this spell? Yeah, it was kind of a big deal.

I'd once performed another spell that involved throwing a painstakingly made amulet and reciting words that made it burst into flames. That one had a huge physical component, however. This spell was another of those mental ones and essentially involved summoning fire out of thin air.

The kindling Ms. Terwilliger had referred to was a small drawstring bag filled with ashes made from burnt yew bark. She took the bag from me and examined its contents, murmuring in approval. "Yes, yes. Very nice. Excellent consistency. You burned it for exactly the right amount of time." She handed the bag back. "Now, eventually you won't need this. That's what makes this spell so powerful. It can be performed very quickly, with very little preparation. But you have to practice first before you can reach that point."

I nodded along and tried to stay in student mode. So far, what she was saying was similar to what the book had described. If I thought of all this as a classroom exercise, it was much less daunting. Not really scary at all.

Ms. Terwilliger tilted her head and looked past me. "Adrian? You might want to keep your distance. A considerable distance."

Okay. Maybe a little scary.

He obeyed and backed up. Ms. Terwilliger apparently had no such fear for herself because she stayed only a few feet away from me. "Now then," she said. "Apply the ashes, and hold out your hand."

I reached into the bag, touching the ashes with my thumb and forefinger. Then I lightly rubbed all my fingers together until my whole palm had a fine gray coating on it. I set the bag down and then held out my hand in front of me, palm up. I knew what came next but waited for her instruction.

"Summon your magic to call the flame back from the ashes. No incantation, just your will."

Magic surged within me. Calling an element from the world reminded me a little of what the Moroi did, which felt strange. My attempt started off as a red glimmer, hovering in the air above my palm. Slowly, it grew and grew until it was about the size of a tennis ball. The high of magic filled me. I held my breath, scarcely able to believe what I had just done. The red flames writhed and swirled, and although I could feel their heat, they didn't burn me.

Ms. Terwilliger gave a grunt that seemed to be equal parts amusement and surprise. "Remarkable. I forget sometimes what a natural you really are. It's only red, but something tells me, it won't take long before you can produce blue ones without the ashes. Calling elements out of the air is easier than trying to transform one substance into another."

I stared at the fireball, entranced, but soon found myself getting tired. The flames flickered, shrank, and then faded away altogether.

"The sooner you get rid of it, the better," she told me. "You'll just use up your own energy trying to sustain it. Best to throw it at your adversary and quickly summon another. Try again, and this time, throw it."

I called the fire once more and felt a small bit of satisfaction at seeing it take on more of an orange hue. I'd learned in my very first childhood chemistry lessons that the lighter a flame was, the hotter it burned. Getting to blue anytime soon still seemed like a long shot.

And speaking of long shots . . . I threw the fireball.

Or, well, I tried. My control of it faltered when I attempted to send it off toward a bare patch of ground. The fireball splintered apart, the flames disappearing into smoke that was carried off by the wind.

"It's hard," I said, knowing how lame that sounded. "Trying to hold it and throw it is just like an ordinary physical thing. I have to do that while still controlling the magic."

"Exactly." Ms. Terwilliger seemed very pleased. "And that's where the practice comes in."

Fortunately, it didn't take too many attempts before I figured out how to make it all work together. Adrian cheered me on when I successfully managed to throw my first fireball, resulting in a beautiful shot that perfectly hit the rock I'd been aiming for. I flashed Ms. Terwilliger a triumphant look and waited for the next spell we'd be moving on to. To my surprise, she didn't seem nearly as impressed as I expected her to be.

Tags: Richelle Mead Bloodlines Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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