Chapter 3: Magic is Hard
"Well, I'm Corrie," Dawn's friend said, smiling her usual cheerful smile, "and I want to learn magic because I grew up knowing about it and believing in it, but not really having any idea how to make it work." That surprised Dawn; she knew Corrie had mentioned her mother and grandmother doing spells, but she hadn't known Corrie just believed in it. That made her think of Rico, and she wondered why he wasn't in this class. Maybe he didn't care to learn more about magic, thinking it was only for witches. Then again, this wasn't the only introductory magic class.
When the introductions were over, Professor Lal looked up at the clock and nodded. Then she began speaking again. "I'm glad to hear none of you took this class because you thought it would be easy. Then again, you wouldn't have said so if that was the case, would you?" She paused, smiling wryly, for most of the class to laugh. "But if that is the case and you just didn't admit it, let me tell you right now you should drop out." She turned as she spoke, seeming to catch each student's eyes in turn. "Take another class. Communications is good if you just want a few easy credits. This is not an easy class. There's a lot of reading, a lot of work, and a lot that you probably didn't even know existed before."
She produced a pile of papers from the lectern in the center of the room and dropped the stack onto Brian's desk. "Syllabi. Pass them around." While the pile went around the circle, she continued speaking. "The first half of the class, up until mid-semester break, is pure theory. I hope you've all purchased your books from the bookstore; if not, go today, as there's reading to do for Wednesday's class. Thankfully, some of our readings are so old that they're not under copyright anymore, so they're available online. If you don't have your own computer, you can use the library's. Only print them out if you feel you need to."
She leaned against the lectern, the tiny glints in the centers of her eyes flickering from side to side as she watched the syllabi go around the room. "The second half of the semester will focus on the practice of actual magic. Only the basics, of course; that's what this class is for. You'll learn the basic procedures that make magic both possible and safe." She paused to let that sink in for a moment. "Another warning: you will have different levels of natural ability to use and control magic. Like some people have greater or lower levels of artistic ability, it can be trained to be better, but the more natural ability you have, the further you will able to go. However, unlike art, when it comes to magic, not everyone has ability. As long as you honestly try as much as you can, you will not fail this class for a lack of natural ability. However, you won't be able to take any other magic classes for credit. There's no point in trying to train people who have nothing to train."
Dawn glanced through her syllabus as she passed the diminishing pile on to Corrie. Sure enough, there were no fewer than two different readings for each class prior to the midterm, and it looked like most of them added up to a hundred pages or more. She gulped, thinking of all the classes she had signed up for. Would she be able to squeeze it in with her social life as well? She had always been a quick reader, but she had to admit, if only to herself, that when she had signed up for as many introductory classes as had caught her attention, she'd had no thought she would have actual friends, not to mention a boyfriend. Fitting all this in was going to be tough. Then again, if Naomi's alarm was going to wake her up every day, she'd have those mornings to catch up on her reading.
"Everyone has a syllabus?" Professor Lal asked. "Good. Take a moment to look over the classes, the rules, and the grading rubric. I don't care if you eat in this class for the most part, but on some of the practical days I'll have to ask that no food be in the room--in fact, there will be a few days when I'll ask you not to bring anything. It can get dangerous in here with so many partly-trained students. Also, we may be moving to a different classroom, depending on how many people drop, so if you're staying, watch for an email from me. Any questions?"
A heavy, droopy-eyed girl raised a hand. Professor Lal nodded at her. She hemmed and hawed for a moment before speaking. "How dangerous will it get, Professor Lal?" she finally said. "I'm not afraid of hard work, but I don't think my parents would like it if I was injured in class."
The professor nodded. "A valid question. I can probably prevent anyone from getting too badly hurt by throwing up a shield--I'm just less likely to react quickly when it's things that are threatened instead of people. But just in case, I make sure either Professor Agnew or Professor Rook is aware and available during each dangerous class; they have healing skill and can reverse an injury if it's caught quickly enough. So there's no serious danger. Anyone else?"
There were no other questions. Professor Lal smiled. "All right then, you're free to go for today. Do your readings and be on time on Wednesday. Dawn and Lin, stay behind for a moment?"