I looked again at the piece of paper in my hand. This couldn’t be right; I was a magician? I displayed magical ability to the whole world!? This couldn’t be right.
I dropped the paper. It floated down to rest on the ground at my side. Three days? I had three days left with my family, my grandpa. I couldn’t believe it? My family meant everything to me. All those icy mornings running with my grandpa, those evening breakfasts with my dad and sister. Those late nights tracing the constellations with my mom. What was I going to do?
I stepped on the paper and ground it into the dust. They couldn’t do this. How could they just take people from their family just because they…
Everything froze. My arms and legs, even my thoughts. I have magic? Those three words were just now sinking in. I could cast spells and manipulate the world. I searched my mind, searched for when it was possible that I had ever done anything magical. I don’t ever remember doing anything special. That’s when it clicked in my head; I had beaten the sun. I had gone from one end of the valley to the other before the sun was able to. Wait, but my grandpa would do that at least once a month, he would stand at the top of the valley until the sun disappeared behind him and then show up at our house before breakfast. He wasn’t a wizard, he didn’t have the mark of the arcane anywhere on his body.
The third day came faster than any of us had imagined. I sat in my room with my little sister reading to her the tales of coyote. My words caught every now and then. I wouldn’t see her again for seven years. I nearly cried when she asked what was wrong. How could I tell her? My parents came in a short time after the knock from the door sounded. My mother was an absolute mess, my father, stoic as usual, did his best to hide the sadness. I could see it though. I stepped out the door when I heard him. I turned my head to see my grandpa standing on top of the house in his native ritual clothing.
“Don’t you ever forget boy, our ancestors are watching, but more importantly the village is watching; make us proud.”
With those words he closed his eyes and sang to the heaven.
“I can’t.” I threw my gaze to the ground. I couldn’t look him in the eye.
“What do you mean you can’t?!” The man’s words thundered through the room.
“I don’t know how.” My voice was tiny against his. I never felt so worthless before. I stood in the middle of the battle room with the entire batch of new recruits as the Herald called them. They stood off to the side with huge grins on their faces. They were laughing at me. I couldn’t do anything special. I probably wasn’t even a wizard at all.
“You don’t know how.” The Herald held his face just inches from my mine. Then he yelled a single word.
“APPRENTICE!” The sound of his voice echoed through my entire body. I felt the word as it hit my bones. I could feel them vibrating. Then I felt in my head. I collapsed to the ground. The last thing I saw that day were his feet as he simply walked away.
“Let’s go Prent.” I opened my eyes to see a girl my own age leaning over me. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the scowl on her face. “You have a punishment to serve.”
I sat up and took in my surroundings. I was in a hospital. At least it was close to one. I saw people laying on beds in different places but no trace of any medical equipment. “Where am I?” The girl turned and started out the door.
“You’re in the infirmary, we have several healers so we don’t need conventional medical equipment. You had better hurry before you get lost, I will not wait for the likes of you.”
I got out of the bed just as the door closed. I pulled on the door knob and walked through to the hall way. I saw the girl’s hair as she turned the corner. Every time I turned a corner, I could only catch a glimpse of the girl I was supposed to follow, and no matter how fast I went, I never caught up to her.
I followed just a few seconds behind the flowing hair as she exited the building. I stopped just outside looking for her when a man came up to me.
“You’re just in time.” The man gave me a smile. “Nice to meet you Atsa, my name is Johnson since you don’t have any control over your magic, the only thing we can do for you is to make you physically stronger right now.” He held out his hand and I returned the handshake.
“How do you know me?”
“Your name was on the ‘punishment’ slip. Speaking of that, get running.”
“What?” I had just about no clue what Johnson was talking about. How did he know that the name Atsa went with my face? And how long did I have to run for? Johnson never answered those question I just remember his last words to me.
I didn’t know where I was going at first, but I was soon met by several others who were running. I just fell in line with them and followed. Some of them looked to be in really bad shape. I found someone in the group who wasn’t too tired and asked the most pressing question.
“How long do we have to run?” The kid’s response didn’t exactly improve my outlook on the school.
“Until you drop.”
The run consisted of intervals where you had to sprint, and areas where you kept a moderate jog. I was the one who started the latest so it was no surprise when I was the last one left. I could hear the pounding of my feet. Thump Thump. Thump Thump. The course consisted of lap around the entire school property, and then a short trip into the surrounding forest. Those were my favorite parts. Apparently the school was on a different continent, the trees around the property were like no other I had ever seen. I would gaze up as I ran past them and almost completely forget that I was being punished for something.
As I came out of the woods and back through the outside combat arena where training apparently took place, I saw that Johnson had been replaced by Herald. As I passed Herald stuck out some kind of wand and pointed it at me.
“I have more important places to be you maggot and I can’t leave until you drop so if you would be so kind as to hurry up and feint.”
Something in me snapped. I couldn’t believe this asshole. There was no way I was going to let him get the best of me, not this time. I could feel it now, that fire in my legs. The same thing happened when I raced the sun. At first my legs burned, then I pretty much was able to run back across the valley without really getting tired. I grinned as I jogged past. Can’t leave until I drop? Looks like I just hit a runners high.
I was passing by the Herald for the third time when I saw the fury in his face. He had changed the course settings so I had to run the whole time. I didn’t want to keep going, I was really tired by now, but for some reason I just couldn’t stop my feet. They just kept moving. Every pass by the Herald gave me strength though, it took a little over 15 minutes to go the entire course, I had kept him out here for almost an hour. The sight of the veins popping from his face lifted my spirits. I was spiting him during my punishment.
The Herald raised his wand again and my heart dropped, he was going to change the course again, I felt the tingling of magic in my legs as I was forced to speed up. My feet pounded against the grass, I had no choice but to sprint now. Every footstep sent fire through my legs. There was no way I could keep this up. I was gasping for breath with every stride. How was I still going? Before I knew it, I was exiting the woods again. I could see the hate Herald produced at the sight of me still running. He dropped the wand and raised several different objects as he yelled out.
“If you won’t drop by yourself, I will make you drop!”
The components (I assumed they were for a spell) suddenly combusted. Now I was running towards the Herald as he held a huge fireball in his hands. The running spell was still in place, I couldn’t stop or change direction; he knew right where I was going to be. As he raised his hand to throw the mass of flames, something changed and the Herald twitched. The fire immediately burnt out and a horrible stare was all that came my way. I looked to the school to see a small man with a beard longer than me walking out of the doors.
I heard those words before I rounded the corner and they were out of earshot.
“How long has it been Hector?”
“Nearly 11 hours Headmaster.”
“And still going.” The headmaster closed his eyes in thought. “It appears that the child has the power of perfect body, he simply just doesn’t know how to tap into this power.”
“What good is a wizard who can’t use his own spells?” The Herald sneered as the words came out. “If you can’t cast a spell you might as well just be a normal human.”
“The boy will learn with time, we may have to force the ability for a while until he learns to recognize the power. Doubt can be a very powerful weapon and the boy is filled to the brim with it. Right now Atsa has no control over his power, the necessity of running caused by the magic of the course is causing it.”
“He is a lost cause master, the amount of time and magic power to get him to recognize his own will surely out-weigh the benefits of having a trained wielder of perfect form.”
“You will train him…
“I absolutely will NOT!
“Here is why, if you can awaken the boy’s power, his apprenticeship will be yours.”
“Yes, I will pull some strings and make you an official master of Magic.”
As the two wizard’s watched Atsa come out of the forest, the clock tower of the school rang out to declare midnight. And at that exact time, Atsa collapsed.