Spencer stifled a yawn, his fourth one in almost as many minutes. He usually slept like a rock, but last night none of the Eagles slept well due to Alexia’s outbursts, which continued through the night. Even Dexter had bags under his eyes and sighed more often than usual. Sam had arrived back during the morning’s early hours, but spent another four hours pacing across his floor, his boots adding a constant thudding that filled the quiet time between Alexia’s episodes. Finally, the man burst into the bedrooms and summoned the Eagles for their first training session. As he pulled on his leather jacket, Dexter saw that the clock next to his bed read 5 a.m.
That was hours ago. Spencer glanced at the large grandfather clock in the storage room. 10 a.m. He tried to hold back another yawn, but failed, drawing Sam’s attention. “Let’s take a break, we’ve been at this for a while. Be back here in ten minutes.”
“Could we perhaps eat something?” Lilly sat in an old armchair, her head resting in her hand and her eyes closed. Her and Elania received the brunt of Alexia’s screams, but instead of showing her tired state, Elania spent the last five hours glaring at Alexia.
“Eat?” Sam asked, confused.
“Yes, you know,” Spencer said, “food? Breakfast? Bacon? Eggs?”
“Biscuits,” said Jonathan dreamily.
“What are biscuits?” Spencer asked, curious. Both Jonathan and Lilly looked at Spencer in disbelief.
“Food. Right.” Sam stood and stretched his back. “Back in fifteen minutes then.”
More than one teenager rolled their eyes as they began to file out of the cramped room and down the hallway into the storefront. Vince sat behind the glass counter shoving an egg and cheese bagel into his mouth, washing it down with a huge cup of orange juice. In moments he was face-to-face with six pairs of eyes staring hungrily at his food. He slowly pulled the sandwich towards him as he chewed, not willing to lose even a bite to the hungry crowd before him. He swallowed. “Hey guys.”
The group watched his sandwich hover in the air until Vince jammed the rest into his mouth. All six empty mouths let out a long sigh once the food disappeared. Vince watched, puzzled and slightly distrusting. Sam pushed his way between Dexter and Elania. Handing Vince a few bills, Sam asked him to make a run to the nearest fast food joint down the street. He took the bills and pulled a cap on over his ears. He left the store quickly, not looking back to see if the starving group would wait patiently for him to return with food, or resort to cannibalism. He didn’t know where those kids came from, but he knew they weren’t what he considered “normal.” Who knows what they’re capable of? He shrugged his shoulders and hurried towards the restaurant.
“Ok, let’s get back to it,” said Sam as he closed the storage room door. Already tired before they filled their bellies, the teens were nearing comatose now. Sam frowned as he scanned the sleepy faces staring back at him. “Right,” he said, “why don’t we start with-“
“If you start going on about the histories of some one or something, or why someone did something and what someone else did about it and what they were wearing and what their last meal was, I think I’ll just lie down on the floor and take a nap,” Dexter was rubbing his eyes as he spoke. The rest of the teens nodded their heads in agreement, except for Lilly, who seemed to enjoy Sam’s historical ramblings all morning. She opened her mouth to object, but a quick glare from Elania stalled the words in her throat.
Sam cleared his throat. “I was going to say we should start with the basics of magic. But if you’re too tired,” he let his words trail off as he watched each pair of eyes widen with a new found excitement. “That’s what I thought.” He leaned against the closed door and crossed his arms. “Before we start this, you need to understand some rules. Number one: no magic in front of the common population. So that means no magic outside of these walls. Unless you have no choice, which brings me to number two: you are not to leave this building. Now-“
“Isn’t the entire reason we’re here is to learn about and use our abilities?” Elania had smuggled a hash brown into the room and was nibbling it as she spoke.
“Not necessarily,” answered Sam. “You are here to learn, yes, but hopefully not use outside of your worlds. My hope is that any help we need from you outside of your worlds will not require your abilities.” He watched as multiple pairs of eyes rolled, but noticed that both Elania and Dexter’s eyes narrowed in confusion. Sam continued before they had a chance to ask what help outside of their worlds meant. “The survival of Sunrise and Sunset have always been directly linked to the magic abilities of those living there, but the last couple generations have not produced many with the ability. Your homes are dying, and you are the only chance they have, and that possibility is only available if you can effectively use your abilities and reset the balance.”
“So, right now, we are useless, is that what you’re saying?” Jonathan asked.
“Ok,” said Dexter as he sat up straight in his chair and ceased rubbing his eyes. “You seem to know a few things about situations like ours, so tell us, how much longer do you think our worlds have?”
“Before we cross the point of no return?” Sam thought for a moment. “Two years, three at most.” Dexter frowned.
“How long will it take for us to become useful?” Jonathan asked.
“I think I can get you guys to a working state in a few months. A few others and myself will be training you, individually and as groups. But you must put your whole hearts into this, or it will be for nothing, understand?” He was met with glassy eyed stares and a few slight nods. “Right,” he clicked through his teeth. “Ok, so, before we jump into it, does anyone know anything?”
Silence. Sam nodded to himself and repressed a sigh.
“Alright, we’ll start from the beginning.”
They had been shuttered in the small room for hours yet again, but this time they didn’t mind a bit. After a brief overview about basic magic knowledge (Sunseters practiced Black Magic while Sunrisers practiced White, a fact that only Spencer seemed surprised at), Sam began instructing the group on the most basic, and yet most important, element of magic: focus.
The first step was to picture something calming, something repetitive: a sun, perhaps, for the Risers, and a flame for the Setters. Next, they were to clear their minds of everything but that calming item. The first hour after breakfast was spent in a frustrating silence, that finally began to relax once the students began successfully achieving their goal. Spencer was the last one to cease his mumbling and groaning in frustration. Once he was quiet for a five-minute span, Sam interrupted their meditations and instructed them on the next step.
Step two was more difficult, and took up the better part of the next two hours. The goal was to hold their focus, and then to direct their energy into that focus. Sam explained that sometimes it helped to picture waves of light moving into the sun or flame. To a common person, this could be seen as a routine step of meditation, but to those with magical abilities, this could be disastrous. To focus your energy was to focus your power. Any well-trained magician would never focus their magic to this degree, but for novices, this exercise was vital in understanding their abilities. It was with this exercise that Sam finally began to feel the strengths and weaknesses of each person. He could feel that Alexia was the strongest White and Dexter the strongest Black. Jonathan was the weakest White, and Spencer was the weakest Black. This wasn’t surprising to Sam; he knew that the teenage years were a stage where abilities mature alongside bodies and personalities. Spencer might be weak now, but that was only because he was young. Give him a year or two and he just might equal his counterparts. Alexia, on the other hand, was troubling. She, too, was still young, and her strength would continue to grow for a few years. Sam imagined that she had the potential to become extremely powerful. Given her shy and skittish personality, he’d have to tread carefully with her.
As the students concentrated, Sam inspected each with his own powers. As time progressed, he noticed the lights flickering occasionally and the portal stones nearby began humming quietly. Clearing his throat, Sam interrupted everyone’s deep concentrations and suggested the group take another break before they move onto the next lesson. Once the Eagles had filed out of the room, Sam pulled out a small notepad and began jotting down his observations and any other relevant thoughts. Then, he jotted down a quick shopping list and sent Vincent off to the grocery store. After locking the door behind Vincent’s retreating back, Sam headed upstairs to begin gathering a few items to help with the next lesson. As he was turning to go back downstairs, a small wad of paper flew out of the small fire and bounced on the wood floor. Sam hastily set the items down on a dresser before swooping the paper off the floor.
Tutors, tomorrow, 10 a.m. Use them wisely.
Sam frowned, then wadded the note back up and stuffed it into his pocket before heading downstairs.
“Both Magics are rooted in the Four Elements: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Black and White Magic can often do the same things, especially basic abilities, but they do them differently. Whites have better control over Air and Water, which means they are more skilled in the healing arts, while Black Magic tends to have more control over Fire and Earth. It’s not uncommon for them to be referred to as soldiers.” Spencer grinned widely and looked at Dexter, but his excitement was met with a furrowed brow as the older Setter listened to Sam.
Everyone sat in a circle, now, and a small circular table had been placed in the center. It the room felt crowded before, now it was completely stuffed. Each chair was pushed against a wall or shelf, while Sam’s sat halfway between the portal stones. The occupants had at least one knee resting against the table before them. Atop one of the shelves, Sam had placed a small fan that hummed in the quiet between his words. On the table sat the items he had gathered from his room moments before.
“You’ve already learned the basics of reaching your abilities. Usually, you would have been trained from a very young age, and slowly, but you don’t have that kind of time. The next lesson isn’t taught until students have proved a mastery of the previous lesson, and even then, they are taught under strict supervision.” Sam sighed, scratching the stubble on his cheek. “But, I’m all you’ve got. Until tomorrow that is, and I don’t know how long the others will help.”
“So, let’s get to it, shall we? Now that you know you can draw your abilities inward, you must understand the divisions and abilities of each of the Four Elements. We’ll use these items here,” he gestured to the table, “to help distinguish between the Four, and then to help harness and direct the different powers to be found in each Element. The candle represents Fire, the crystals Earth, and, well, the bowl of water is self explanatory.”
“What about Air?” Spencer asked.
Sam pointed to the empty space next to the bowl of water. “Air is the easiest Element to work with because it is everywhere, but it is the last Element studied. Young students are typically not trusted with the knowledge because they haven’t developed the discipline needed to work with an Element that is so easily accessible.” The Eagles stared blankly back at Sam. “Ok, say you haven’t eaten for days, and you come downstairs to find a giant plate of donuts on the counter. You’d eat the entire thing in one sitting, wouldn’t you? Without any thought to how it might make you feel after, or perhaps to how it would affect others. It’s the same with Magic. You spend years knowing about this power that can be harnessed, but you just don’t know how. Until one day, you begin to learn, and once that door is opened, there is no closing it. Fire is usually the first Element studied, because out of the Four, Fire is the hardest to harness, and the hardest to study in secret.” Understanding showed on only Elania and Dexter’s face at first, with the others slowly realizing the facts. Only Spencer didn’t catch on.
“What are donuts?” he asked. Next to him, Elania rolled her eyes. Sam blinked.
“Right,” said Sam, shaking his head to clear his thoughts, “step one, go back to the previous exercise. Envision your focus, then feed it again. Only this time, I want you to pay close attention to how each wave reacts to the items on the table. You won’t notice any visible reaction to Air because it is reacting from the start. Ready?” They nodded and closed their eyes. After a few minutes, Sam could feel the energy begin to concentrate around certain kids, the strongest being around Alexia. It came as no surprise when a slow grin spread over her face. Strong indeed, thought Sam.
A few minutes later, Elania and Lilly also smiled, and Sam knew his students were not average magicians. He felt Dexter relax a moment later as he was able to see the differences of Elemental Effects. Jonathan took a little while longer, and Sam could feel his frustrations begin to mount, but eventually he found what he was looking for. Instead of pulling back, he picked one anomaly and directed his energy into it, and the flame atop the candle winked out. Instantly, the Eagles opened their eyes and looked at Sam, confused.
“Jonathan blew out the candle, which caused the Fire effects to disappear,” he explained. All eyes shifted to stare at Jonathan who slouched down in his chair. “No worries,” continued Sam, “just don’t do that yet.” Jonathan nodded sheepishly.
Sam pulled out a lighter and relit the candle. “Again,” he said, and the teens closed their eyes once more.
Sam was mid bite when his ears popped. Chewing slowly, he waited for a moment until everyone in the room was either busy chatting or eating, or, in Spencer’s case, both, then snuck away to the portal room to greet his guests. A tall, elderly woman stood beneath the stones and smiled at Sam as he entered the room. She stepped forward and extended her hand, introducing herself as Bernice. Sam could feel her strength in Black Magic and was immediately confident in her abilities to help train the Setters. Frowning at his lack of a White Magic instructor, Sam led Bernice into the storefront was making introductions when his ears popped again. Excusing himself, Sam returned to the portal room to meet what he hoped was a White Magic trainer.
Sam froze when he saw who stood under the portal stones. “Kellen.”
“The one and only,” Kellen smiled smugly and adjusted his diamond cuff links.
Damn it, Agatha, Sam thought. He gave a slight nod at the White trainer and stepped aside, inviting Kellen into the store front and into the Eagle’s nest.