“Let’s play with it.”
“Antoine, no!” protested Greg. The stout, gawky raccoon fumbled with his glasses. “We’re going to get into trouble.”
“Don’t you mean more trouble?” asked the scrawny, brown-and-white hare sitting at his desk with a bored expression.
“See? Vincent agrees. We’re already in detention, and if Professor Dalton comes back and you’re messing around with the training scepter we’re going to get expelled!”
“Don’t be such a wet blanket,” said Aryana, the pretty red-fox seated next to Vincent. “No one is going to get expelled.”
“She’s right,” added Antoine, the lithe red-fox, as he lifted the training scepter off Professor Dalton’s desk. “No one ever got expelled for a spot of fun.”
“Fun?” Greg frowned. “Professor Dalton explicitly warned us not to, and there’s nothing fun about this much detention.”
Antoine grinned. “See? That’s what grown-ups do. They tell you not to have fun. And what’s more fun than magic? Besides, it’s the training scepter, right? Let’s just call this some… extra-curricular practice. They won’t find out if no one tells them.”
“But they always find out!” whined Greg. “That’s why we’ve been in detention every day this week!”
“You’re wasting your breath,” sighed Vincent, his expression unchanged.
Antoine peered deep into the ornately carved open spiral at the top of the wooden scepter, trying to decipher the stored spells held within its curved length.
“It’s not my fault we tossed Duncan out the window instead of pushing him out of his chair,” mused Antoine. “I need to work on controlling my power, and he shouldn’t have been calling me an ant.”
“Find anything cool?” Aryana’s ears perked forward, looking expectantly at Antoine as she brushed aside sandy-brown strands of hair. “Anything they’ve kept from us?”
Antoine, transfixed, spoke as his green eyes hungrily hunted through the scepter. “Yeah! Wow! There are so many spells in here that we haven’t gotten to yet.
“Is there anything in there that unlocks stuff?” inquired Aryana, leaning over her desk with paws planted, nearly striking Vincent with her tail as it whipped back and forth. “You should let Squawky out.”
All eyes turned to Glendencal, the unruly and brightly colored bird-of-paradise, who shifted nervously on his perch at the sudden attention.
“Hmm. I know I saw something like that. Gimmie a second and I’ll find it again.”
Greg’s eyes bulged and his tail bristled.
“No. Antoine, no!” the raccoon’s voice squeaked. “How could he not find out if you let his familiar out? That cage is magically sealed.”
“You worry too much,” chuckled Antoine as he pulled back the billowy white-and-blue sleeves of his academy robes and took aim at the cage. “I’m a natural.”
“A natural disaster, maybe,” said Vincent, snickering.
“Vincent!” pleaded Greg frantically, “You’re the oldest. Do something!”
Vincent grumbled and his listless expression returned. “I’m fourteen, so what? I’m only a year older than you guys. What am I supposed to do, subdue him with that extra year? Besides, I am doing something; I’m not looking.” Vincent pulled his ears down over his eyes and held them there. “Plausible deniability.”
Squawky stared back at the end of the outstretched scepter as Antoine spoke the incantation, then squawked loudly as the sides of the cage exploded outward and were hurled to the corners of the room with a thunderous crash.
Aryana shot her paws into the air. “That was amazing!”
“Is it over yet?” inquired Vincent.
“What did you do! They’re going to skip the expulsion and go straight to the executions!” sputtered Greg.
“Still too much power,” lamented Antoine, his ears splayed back in disappointment.
Greg ran up to Antoine and, grabbing him by the shoulders, shook him. “Do something to fix this! Now!”
“Alright, alright! No need to start shedding, jeeze. Aryana, Still Squawky while I try and find something in here.”
“My pleasure,” said Aryana as she locked her gaze on Squawky’s resplendent form flying erratically over head. Narrowing her eyes, she slowly brought her open paws closer and closer together as she mumbled the Stilling incantation. With a resonating clap, she brought her paws together in a burst of blue light which halted Squawky’s path in mid-flight, leaving him frozen and floating through the air.
“Done and done.” Aryana feigned dusting off her paws in self-satisfaction.
Antoine grunted and appeared troubled. “Bad news, guys. I can’t find anything in here that can put the cage back together.”
“There’s got to be something in there,” said Greg. “Look harder!”
Antoine rolled his eyes, but peered back into the scepter, scanning through the stored spells until he stopped at one he didn’t recognize.
“Any idea what a con-flag-ration is?” asked Antoine.
Vincent and Aryana shook their heads.
“Whatever it is, give it shot,” said Greg. “We’ve got to try something before Professor Dalton gets back.”
“Alright, here goes.” Antoine gripped the scepter tightly with both paws and stared down his muzzle, focusing so as to not overdo it again. As he exhaled the single incantation word, the intricate spell segments aligned just as Antoine had shaped them in his mind, and fire erupted from the coiled wood.
Everyone’s eyes went wide, the burning light raging within each fearful orb. With a yelp, Antoine dropped the scepter and pawed wildly at the flames that clung to his robes. Greg ran screaming around the room with his tail-tip ablaze. Aryana scurried under her desk to get out of the way as Vincent combed his ears back and rushed to the center of the room.
Vincent closed his eyes tightly, holding one open paw out in front of him and perpendicular to the floor. The other, palm turned toward the floor, he circled above the first, increasing its speed with each completed revolution. Using the stationary paw, Vincent stabbed at the sky, bellowing his incantation. A thick sheet of water, the width and breadth of the room, rained down from above with the roar of a waterfall, dousing the flames and drenching everything.
Aryana withdrew from her hiding place and inspected the room around her. “That. Was. Awesome! Do it again.”
“What’s wrong with you!” shouted Greg through his tears, gripping his scorched tail-tip to his chest. Using a pawfinger to test the sensitive, fur-less skin, he instantly withdrew it and whimpered loudly.
“You’ll be fine, ya big kit,” reproved Aryana gently as she made her way over to Greg, splashing her footpaws in the water below. “Have a sense of adventure.”
“Why don’t you have a sense of not being insane!”
Aryana just smiled at him. “You need to work on your come-backs. Now hold still.” Aryana held her paws over Greg’s tail and chanted quietly. His tail-tip glowed with a white light as the skin turned from red to pink and the fur regrew until it was full once again. Greg grudgingly thanked her while Vincent wrung the water from his ears and Squawky tried to shake himself dry.
Aryana turned to Antoine. “So what do we-” Her words were cut off by a burst of air dryer than the sun-turned side of a desert rock. As the gust subsided, she was taken by hacking coughs, her throat bereft of moisture and her fur puffy and on end.
“It worked!” exclaimed Antoine excitedly between his own coughs. “I interweaved the fire spell with one of the wind ones we studied last week. Greg. Vincent. Hold still.”
Thrice more Antoine cast the spell and hacking coughs filled the room as his friends and Squawky ceased to drip. The residual water finished leaking through the slat-wood floor into the ground beneath as Greg scooped the disoriented Squawky up off the floor.
“I got Glendencal!” said Greg, holding him up.
“Good going!” said Antoine. “Keep a hold of him while I try find something that will actually work.”
Greg struggled to keep his hold on Squawky while Vincent and Aryana busied themselves with taming their fur. Antoine returned to the scepter, his muzzle and brow furrowed with the effort of his search.
“Hey guys!” shouted Antoine, bouncing excitedly. “I think I’ve got it. The most complex spell in here is rife with talk of reversal.”
“Lemme see,” said Greg, looking skeptical.
“Me too; I wanna see,” added Aryana.
Even Vincent looked curious as they all crowed around the scepter.
“You can understand that?” asked Greg, squinting. “I can’t make out any of it.”
“Me either,” admitted Aryana, scratching behind an ear.
“Well, I understand parts of it.” Antoine pointed to a layer of etherial runes that floated on the surface of the scepter. “See these? Those two are the symbols for the metallics and organics of earth, and those three there are their binding, essence, and alteration segments. And the sets of runes in this layer underneath are each powerful channels that allow their segment sources to flow in reverse. I’m not sure what the rest of it is, exactly, but I think it’s our best chance.”
“Are you sure this time?” asked Greg worriedly.
Antoine just shrugged and wagged with a grin.
Greg sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Just do it already, then. Professor Dalton will be back any moment.”
Vincent and Aryana shrugged.
“Alright then,” exclaimed Antoine. “Let’s do this!”
Antoine gathered his strength and began the spell’s incantation. As the spell progressed, each in the young group of students could feel the room swelling with its ever-growing energy. With the last words out of Antoine’s muzzle, the spell reached its zenith with a sound like a great snap echoing in the distance.
For a moment, each was sure the spell had failed, but then everything in the room began to slowly lift upward. Panicked shouts escaped their muzzles as all four of them, with the contents of the room following suit, left the ground entirely to float, twist, and turn between floor and ceiling.
“What did you do! What did you do!” shouted Greg as he abandoned Squawky and flailed, trying to grab onto anything he could.
Aryana laughed, and tried, unsuccessfully, to swim. “This is awesome!”
The classroom door opened wide, and from his inverted vantage point Antoine saw an upside-down Professor Dalton staring back at him with a raised eyebrow and an unfavorable expression. Antoine thought he caught the venerable wolf grinning when he snorted, but he couldn’t be sure.
Professor Dalton lifted an arm and snapped his fingers. The training scepter appeared in his paw, and with a few short commands everything that had been upended went crashing to the floor. The teens groaned as they collected themselves and slid out from under the debris, shedding chairs and textbooks alike. Professor Dalton walked calmly to the front of the room and replaced the scepter onto his desk. Raising his paws, pads toward the room, he closed his eyes, lifted his muzzle slightly, and began to chant. Desks began righting themselves as waterlogged textbook pages dried, unbent, and replaced themselves onto the shelves. Each of the students had to scurry to avoid colliding with classroom items as they found their way back to their proper place. In the end, even Squawky’s cage was reconstructed with him inside.
Once he had finished, Professor Dalton folded his arms and looked to each student in turn, but none of them would return his gaze, their muzzles down and ears laid back.
“I suppose I will be seeing all of you back here tomorrow. You must be very dedicated students to be here so often.”
With that said, Professor Dalton, once again, exited the room.
It was a while before anyone felt comfortable enough to look up, and even then their guilty silence persisted. Before long though, Antoine began drumming his claws on his desk; soon after, a sly grin worked its way across his muzzle. He looked to each of his friends before turning his attention to the training scepter.
“Let’s play with it.”