Autumn Spiritamer, novice pyromancer, stood before the door to the exam hall, trying to tame the butterflies that had suddenly appeared in her stomach.
“There is no reason for you to be nervous for this test,” her shoulder dragon whispered into her ear. “If there is one thing you excel at, it is making a fire endure.”
“Thank you, Hakon.” Autumn scratched his scaly chin. “I was just thinking that.” Hakon blinked his green eyes at her.
“And yet you’re still nervous.”
“Alas.” Autumn sighed. Before she could think and worry any longer, she pushed open the door to the exam hall.
“Welcome, Autumn,” the instructors greeted her from their observation table high above her. There were three of them. Her pyromancy teacher, Madame Morgan Le Fey, sat in the center. To her left sat the ghost of Queen Cleopatra, Merlin’s substitute for balance. Autumn was relieved that Madame Le Fey’s brother wasn’t here. Being judged by the most famous wizard in the land would be terribly nerve wracking. Being judged by the famous pharaoh wasn’t much better, but Cleopatra just seemed interested in what she would do. At Cleopatra’s right sat Mikasi, teacher of diviners, who looked extremely bored. Deirdre Moondancer swore up and down that he always looked like that and had told Autumn not to worry if he found something wrong with her magic.
Deirdre gave an encouraging smirk from her place outside the circle. Yes, an encouraging smirk was possible; Deirdre made it that way. The white-haired teenager was a skilled diviner, and Autumn’s best friend.
“Autumn Spiritamer.” Madame Le Fey’s clear voice echoed throughout the exam hall. “You are taking the exam to graduate from novice to apprentice. The test for pyromancers is a five minute fire endurance demonstration. Twenty-seven points are needed to pass this test. You may begin now.” Autumn nodded, and summoned fire.
Hakon launched himself off of her shoulder, and the demonstration began. Autumn knew that if the fire didn’t last the entire time, she would immediately fail. Whether she passed or not depended on how much the judges were impressed. Autumn inserted her will into the fire, and began to walk the line between control and wildfire. Hakon would let her know when her time was up. That was the nice thing about having a familiar.
Outside of Autumn, her magic stretched its fiery fingers toward Hakon playfully. The dragon dodged, as was planned. The fire knew its boundaries, and that there were few. It curled toward its spectators a couple of times to give them a scare, but never went outside the boundaries. Autumn was master, and all three of the participants knew it. The fire danced with the shoulder dragon. After five glorious minutes of existence, the dragon dove toward the wizard. It was over.
Autumn felt Hakon land on the shoulder of her human body. She came back to herself. The fire roared in protest, and then died. Deirdre stared, her silver eyes like moons. Finally. Something I do impresses her.
“Fascinating.” Autumn looked up at Mikasi. He actually looked interested. “I’ve never seen fire used that way. Tell me, did you give it rules, then let it have free reign?”
Leave it to the diviner to figure out the nature of her trick. “Yes, sir. I told it not to go outside the circle and to play with Hakon but not actually hurt him.”
“Fascinating…” he murmured again. With his storm-gray eyes lost in thought, mist over his head formed a ten, the highest praise he could give.
“Spiritamer, you suck,” Autumn heard Deirdre mutter. Autumn flashed a grin at her while bowing to Mikasi.
“Thhhhe balance you showed was wonnnnderful…” Cleopatra’s echoing sigh made Autumn smile. Two ghostly snakes formed a ten.
Her teacher’s fiery brown eyes shone. “For making me proud.” A ten made of fire roared into existence. “Welcome to the rank of apprentice, my young pupil.” Autumn bowed. She would thank Madame Le Fey later; in the hall it was forbidden. She turned, and Hakon and Deirdre followed her out of the hall.
Once the door was closed, she turned to Deirdre. “I suck?”
Deirdre punched her arm, but not too hard. “Way to embarrass me in front of Mikasi. I want your teacher.”
“He doesn’t seem that bad.”
“I love getting praised, and believe me, he doesn’t do it with his special students. So… I heard that those who pass their exam get free food for the day.”
“Parasite,” Autumn muttered, but smiled.
“Come on . . . you love me.” The three walked away from the hall to celebrate.