Caroline finally makes an appearance in the Guild!
I walk silently alongside Cliff. His height still surprises me; how is he so tall and muscled yet so jovial and talkative?
“I think the only water teacher on the grounds at this time is professor Naum. He’s very kind and very good with water magic. He’s the best of the lot.” Cliff explains beside me.
Despite his assurance that Naum is as kind as a butterfly I remain utterly nervous. I don’t understand magic at all. I’m not even sure I completely believe that all this isn’t a dream. What if back in that tunnel we all really died or were kidnapped?! Both of those things seem more probable than a girl with fire magic fighting off a boy who controls monsters.
And yet…. Andrei. He was also acting peculiar. I doubt it is just my imagination but he continuously claims he can time jump, and that stunt he pulled on me with the water bottle… How would I explain that? Exhaustion? Maybe I was poisoned by mold from my leaking dorm room after all.
Ahh… The leaking dorms. I never understood what the problem was, but wherever I moved, even at home with my parents, I seemed to have a problem with water damage and leakages. My parents never understood why, so naturally, neither did I.
But with magic, all of that stuff made more sense; The girl with the fire – Kaitlyn, Andrei and the water bottle, the rooms always leaking water – it all fit. But why me? Why did I have to have magic? How does one acquire it? These are the questions I hope to answer by studying here, and I want to make the most of it.
We climb a flight of stairs and turn left at the intersection of a bridge leading from outside before coming to a stop at a large set of oaken doors carved with another moving image, this time of water rippling in the wind.
“And here we are!” Cliff shouts joyfully. “If you need anything you can ask professor Naum. Don’t be afraid. And if you get lost, well, I’ve always been told you can ask the walls and they’ll help you out.” He laughs, like it’s some brilliant joke that I’m supposed to understand, but I don’t get it and I watch him, confused and speechless. “I’m heading down to the library with your friends to investigate the break in. Enjoy!” He waves before turning and leaving.
I’m now standing here shaking, wondering who the man on the other side really is and if we’ll get along. I stretch out my hand and notice it trembling. Why am I scared? I should be stronger than this. I am stronger than this. Get a grip Caroline.
I push the door open and slip inside, only to stop and stare in wonder. The room inside is nothing like the first hall we went into with the Headmistress. The floor is frozen over like an ice rink, the walls are covered in dripping water and the columns supporting the ceiling above are tubes of water with sea creatures swimming within them.
I slide my feet across the floor and into the room, afraid of slipping. At the other end of the room I see a large pool before the glass windows that make up the far wall. I step up to the edge if the pool and peer over the side into the waters. The water is crystal clear, and I see deep below the surface, the shape of a man swimming about.
Many minutes pass and he still doesn’t come to the surface. I begin to panic. I kneel at the water’s edge, gloved hand stretched out over the water. I dip my finger into the water to test the temperature and I am suddenly splashed as he comes to the surface.
I gape at him, dripping wet. “Welcome daughter of the sea.” He has a thick accent from a South Eastern country and a mop of curly graying hair. His blue eyes stand out against his dark brown skin. He’s scrawny too, gangly long arms hold him afloat effortlessly in the water. I’m suddenly reminded of my days on the high school swim team and how we all looked like that, lean and long.
“Hello.” I whisper. I think my voice is gone. Again, I ask myself, why am I so nervous?
“Why do you wear these things, these gloves? They are not natural!” He says, looking at them with disgust.
I finally find my voice. “These things are keeping me from flooding the space around me.” I say a little angrily. “Please, professor, I’ve come to learn how to control this… this magic!” There! I’ve finally admitted it. I have magic.
He looks at me, bright blue eyes, the colour looks similar to my own, piercing through my very soul. “Child, it’s not control you need. It’s freedom.” He states, slipping below the surface and vanishing.
I panic. I don’t even see his shadow beneath the water. “Wait! Come back! Please! Won’t you teach me!?” I cry out, reaching towards the water like some fool talking to a mirror.
The water ripples gently, touched by some unseen breeze. The crests get bigger and bigger, swelling over the sides of the pool and soaking my pants even further. It’s pointless, this magic is water; I’m going to get wet. I wish I’d worn my swimsuit. I peel off my shoes and, hesitantly the gloves. I doubt my water will effect this room like it did Kaede’s.
I stuff the gloves in my shoes and immediately feel a strange wave wash over me. It’s like the gloves had been a barrier between the magic inside, holding it in, and now that it is gone, it’s flowing like a geyser. The water in the pool calls to me, it laps at my feet like the ocean on a sandy beach.
I dive in. At first the water feels cold as ice, sharp against my face and arms. The feeling of being in the water is familiar and right. I angle upwards to reach the surface. It seems I may have dove too deep. I kick harder, trying to reach the top. What’s taking so long? I open my eyes, trying to discern how far the surface is and I realize I’m not moving at all.
I gasp and the air escapes my lung in bubbles. No!! I need that! Come back! Somebody… help!
Let go. Be free.
I hear a voice in the water. It sounds like the professor, but I’m too panicked to listen. I try kicking, but it does nothing.
I can’t! It’s water! Are you dumb?!
It repeats. I squeeze my eyes shut as dark spots begin to cloud my vision. I hug my body and curl into a ball in the water. This is how I’m going to die… A swimmer who can’t even swim to the surface. I need air. I need oxygen. I need to breathe.
I exhale one last time, I feel the bubbles ascend against my cheeks and I gasp, expecting the water to choke me. But it doesn’t. In fact, the water feels like air. I take another deep breath, and another, and soon I feel as if I was above the surface.
“I can breathe.” I speak into the water.
“Yes.” His voice comes from my right. I turn, opening my eyes to see him watching me. “You’re magic is water. It cannot harm you. It is your life. You need to free yourself, like the water. You cannot contain it easily. Water should not be contained.” He says to me. No bubbles raise from his lips as he speaks. It’s strange, speaking underwater – unnatural. But then, so is everything at this school and over the the past week.
“How do I let go?” I am genuinely confused. All my life I’ve tried to be in control, and Kaitlyn tried to have me control the magic to keep from flooding the house. Why would I need to let go?
I hear a humming in the water around me. “Think of it like the water is you and you are the water. Don’t confine yourself to yourself.” He chuckles.
I frown… so he’s a riddle speaker like Gandalf the grey.
Feel me? Is that the water… talking? I look around, looking for someone or something else in the water with us. I see nothing.
“It speaks. Listen to it.” Naum says.
“So water can speak?! You know how crazy that is?”
“You’re first lesson was to breathe. Now you must listen.” He says swimming away and disappearing into the blue.
I cross my arms, floating under the water in a zero gravity environment. Feel it… How does one feel water when they are already in it? All these cryptic messages aren’t helping me understand how to control the magic. But then, maybe that’s my first problem; I’m still trying to control it.
Hours slide by as I sit cross legged under the water. I tried telling Naum I was hungry, and he said I could leave when I felt the water, so I don’t leave to eat lunch. This is too important to figure out.
The water continues to whisper into my ear and I continue to try to understand. Maybe I need to feel it like that wave I felt when I removed the gloves. It wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. I focus on the water around me, how it pushes and pulls on my limbs as I sit beneath the waves. The water is strong, yet gentle. It’s vast, and small. It’s many parts move together as one.
I take a breath and the water expands with me. When I exhale, the water contracts with me. It slides over my skin and blends with my clothes and hair. The water is never still, it’s always moving in some way, big or small; just like our own bodies with our beating heart. I move my hand through the water and it moves over me. But what if I were to turn my hand sideways, to push the water?
I can move the water too, not just be moved by the water. I push the water out, away from me with my hand and I feel a strange wave run along my arm and over my fingers, outwards from my hand. I watch closely and see the water move forward into the wall ahead of me. Even though I’m under the water I can see it moving. Above me I see the effects as the light breaks the water’s surface and shifts.
“Ahh excellent. Daughter of the sea, you are doing splendidly. What is your name?” The Professor asks me after hours being together.
“My name is Caroline. Caroline Gillian.” I say, looking around for him. I look up and I see him floating above me, like a giant flying spider.
“I am Naum. I will be glad to be your teacher in water.” He smiles, a very toothy smile.
I laugh to myself, feeling the water moving in and out of my mouth and around me, like a new consciousness. All this time I thought he was already teaching me. What did he consider it?
I step out of the hall of water, shivering but dry. Naum had pulled the water from my clothes and told me to come again anytime. I only decided to leave because I’m starving. I hold the gloves in my hand, nervous about not wearing them, but eager to see what will happen now that I’ve freed the water within me.
I look around, already lost. How do I get to the dining hall? Or the dorms? I recall what Cliff said earlier this morning. “Sometimes I ask the walls.”
Haha, sure… The walls? I look at the wall curiously. Yea right… Am I really going to try this?
I cough, “Umm… How do I get to the dining hall?” I ask out loud.
“Stupid.” I mutter to myself. What did I think the wall would do… answer me? I shake my head and look down at my feet. There I see an arrow, glowing yellow in the stones. I lean over to get a closer look. It’s definitely an arrow, and it wasn’t there before. I take a step closer and I gasp as it moves forward two inches. What?!
I take another step and it moves forward. I can’t believe it! I actually works! I take step after step, following the arrow down the hall until we come to a staircase that crosses the hall. One side goes up, the right goes down. The arrow in front of me blinks, and showing a right turn. I look down the staircase. Does it want me to go down?
I turn and take a step down the stairs and the arrow moves ahead. I take that as a yes. I follow my arrow across bridges, down stairs, and through the halls until at last I reach the dining hall. Finally! Some food!
I’m not so gifted in the kitchen as Andrei, and I know it disappoints Kaede. I wish I was better at it, but I just don’t enjoy cooking. It’s not for me. I look at the menu and hum. What to eat… what to eat? I finally decide on the simple stew. It’s warm and thick; something I feel I need after spending an entire day underwater.
I order at the kitchen on the strange pad of paper. I’m still confused how this food makes itself, as there are no staff that I can see. The stew magically appears, I sweep it off the counter and grab a seat near the window. I gaze out at the late afternoon sun, relishing in it’s warmth before I dig into the stew. I’ve barely taken a bite when someone sits across from me.
“Hey, whatchya got there?” She asks. I look up at her long bangs and short brown hair which hangs at her ears. She’s got small features and a pointed face. Almost like a little fox. Her eyes, though, are purple and I pause awkwardly to make sure I’m seeing them right.
“Uhh, Hi.” I say, placing the spoon in my stew. “Can I help you?”
“Oh, no. I just… You’re new here right? I’m Ryan. What’s your name?” She asks me. She’s certainly not shy. It takes me by surprise, and I’m not really sure what to say.
“Umm… I’m Caroline. Nice to meet you.” I almost make it sound like a question. God, I need to relax.
“Cool! You came in with two new guys and the fire girl right?” She asks, counting them on her fingers.
“Yes. I did. Why do you want to know?”
“Oh no reason. Just… the fire girl, Kaitlyn – think her name is, well, I’d be careful. She’s a bit of a hazard, you know?”
I frown. “Are you friends?”
“No, I just thought you should know.”
“Well, I am her friend,” I say a little too defensively, “And I don’t think she’s a hazard at all. She’s actually really nice.” I pick up my spoon again, and try to ignore her.
“Oh, ok… I don’t really know her. It’s just, everyone here tells stories about her, like how she lit the whole east wing on fire once. Scary, right?”
“Not really.” I reply, not wanting to give this girl my attention.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I don’t know her. Geez, that was dumb… So… what’s your power?” She asks, curiously.
I glance at her quickly as I take another bite of my stew. “What, so you can gossip about me? No thanks.” I say rudely.
“No… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to… I really need to bite my tongue. Ok, if it makes it up to you, I’ll tell you mine first.” Like she has to make it up to me, it was Kaitlyn she was gossiping about. She holds out a hand and points her palm upwards. I watch closely, curious of what she’s going to do. Slowly I begin to see a faint wisp of smoke curling from her calm. I expect to see a flame but nothing comes.
“Honestly, I’m a bit jealous of her. I’m a smoke mage. I can create smoke. It’s like having half of the fire girls ability.” She leans forward, like she’s going to reveal a secret. “She’s got a lot of talent though, really. I wish I could be her friend and maybe learn something from her, but… So many people here talk bad about her, so I’m afraid to talk to her in case they start talking about me too.” She sighs and leans back in the chair. “You’re so brave Caroline, for walking around with her.”
I wouldn’t call it brave; If it weren’t for Kaitlyn I wouldn’t even be here. I feel more like her lackey, but maybe I’ll be strong like she is someday. “She actually found me.” Ryans eyes pop as I say it. “It’s true. I didn’t even know I had magic until Kaitlyn showed up and saved me from being attacked by this guy with monsters.”
“Wait… What!?” She looks ready to burst. “She saved you? And then brought you here?”
“Yup. This other guy, had these monsters and he attacked my friends and I, the other two you saw. She pretty much single-handedly took the other guy down.” I say. Maybe I can help spread some good things about Kaitlyn and negate some of the bad energy going around.
“A guy with monsters you say…” She rests her chin in her hand and thinks. “I think that’s Logan right?” I nod. “Apparently they used to date, until he ran off one day. Kaitlyn disappeared after him. We thought they were ditching the Guild together.” Ryan says.
“Well, apparently she was trying to bring him back.” I defend. “Wait, they were dating?” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Logan was scary and mean and, according to what Andrei told Kae, Logan was a coward. Why would she date someone like him?”
“Yea, for a while before he left. Someone told me they were caught having sex in the training room. Gross right?” She claps her hands to her face with a surprised look and shakes her head. “Opps. I did it again! I’m sorry!” Her face turns red and she starts pinching herself really hard, leaving marks on her wrist.
“Stop that!” I snap, catching her hand to make her stop. “You shouldn’t do that. And yes, you shouldn’t be spreading gossip about my friend like that.” Though, if Andrei likes her, I might need to warn him about her strange behaviour later. I thought she was as innocent as me, but maybe I was mistaken.
“I’m sorry…” Ryan says again, relaxing in my grasp. When I’m sure she’s not going to start pinching herself again I let her go and return to my stew.
“How old are you, Ryan?” I ask.
“I’m nineteen. You?”
“Twenty one. When did you come here to the Guild?”
“A year ago. I was in high school and apparently I kept setting off the smoke detectors. The fire department kept coming to our school to investigate for faulty wiring. Then, one day, the school said a specialist had come, and asked to see me in the guidance office. Turns out it was a Guardian from the Guild. They came and recruited me to learn here after I got my certificate.”
“Wow, that must be nice.”
“Yea, now I don’t have to worry about what college to go to.”
“Where are you from?” I ask, detecting a slight accent.
“I’m from the US of A. Missouri. You?”
“Toronto, Canada. I was studying in University, Fine Arts.”
“Cool!” Ryan cooes. “So do you draw or something?”
I smile, “Yes, but mainly I take photos.”
“Wow, a photographer. That’s cool! I’d like to see your stuff.”
“Well…” I hesitate. Most of it got ruined in the flood at Kaede’s place. I still feel upset of all those ruined pictures and films. “I left it at home when I came here.”
“Ahh, I get it. Can’t bring everything. Maybe when you take some new stuff.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice.” I finish my stew.
“So…” She pouts her lips, noticing I’m done.
“Well, I’m pretty tired from my first day.” I stand up, taking my bowl in my hands. “See you later?” I ask.
She jumps up and smiles. “Yeah! I’d love to hang out or something. Maybe, we can be friends?” She asks, clasping her hands in front of her and intertwining her fingers.
“Yeah, maybe.” I say with a smile. “Depends on if you can quit gossiping.” I say rather boldly. It doesn’t feel right for me to put a condition on a friendship, but this girl’s still young and I don’t know how I feel about a younger, gossip prone girl yet.
“Ohh, I’ll try really hard! I promise!” She bounces on her toes then waves her hand energetically. “See you around Caroline! Bye!” She runs off down the aisle and out the dining hall. Somehow, I don’t recall what the stew even tasted like.
I use the same method of asking the walls to help me get back to the dorms and slip into my orange hued room. The setting sun is brilliant from this side of the building. So bright and colourful. I sit in the cushy chair set by the window and lean against the sill until the sun sets and my eyes droop. Tomorrow I’ll return to the hall of Water and learn more about my magic. That reminds me, I never told Ryan what magic I could do. Maybe we’ll meet again. Maybe.