Chapter 30: The Wind in the Trees
Friday, November 14
Dawn woke that morning feeling empowered. She could do trance. She'd tried it on Wednesday, and been able to sense the power; she'd tried it again on Thursday, and been able to use it, drawing on the power in the grass around her to fill her palms with water again. It was harder to get started than it was with her own magic, but there was more power available once she was connected to it. And it had tasted sweet.
Corrie had also tried doing trance again, but had not been as successful as Dawn had. Dawn felt bad, but also a little superior, since this was the first time she was better at magic than Corrie. And she was sure they would figure out why Corrie couldn't do it eventually.
So she felt great walking to class until she remembered that they were supposed to be outside that day. It was much too cold for that. The sky was thick and grey with clouds, and snow was in the forecast. The cold nipped at her nose and cheeks.
They all assembled in the classroom like usual, but when Professor Lal arrived, she just gestured for them all to get up. "Outside, class," she said. "Come."
With many sighs and grumbling, they followed her out, walking in a straggling, quiet line. Dawn walked with Roe and Corrie like usual, but neither of them seemed to have anything to say.
They walked west, toward the side of campus Dawn was less familiar with, across the grass, and then, surprisingly, into the woods. "Professor Lal?" called someone from near the back of the line. "Should we be going in here?"
"There is no need for concern," the professor called back, cool as ever. "I will make certain we do not pass from the college's land."
Dawn, near the middle of the line, shared a concerned look with Corrie and Roe. They knew land ownership wasn't the only reason to be worried about going too far into the woods. But, despite the worries Corrie had about the professor not answering their questions, Dawn trusted her to keep them in the safe area. At the very least, they weren't anywhere near the court faeries' territory.
They traveled (though more slowly, picking their way past exposed roots and piles of fallen leaves) for a few more minutes, then Professor Lal stopped and clapped her hands. "Please gather around, students. I assure you that this is where you wish to be."
Curious, Dawn hurried forward with the others to cluster where Professor Lal was. Once they reached it, she saw why; there was a large fire pit there, with what was apparently a freshly laid fire. Bright orange flames were licking up and around the high-piled wood.
"I will be calling you one at a time," said Professor Lal. "The rest of you, please do remain around the fire. I do not wish for any of you to have difficulty using your hands."
Dawn noticed that no one worried about Professor Lal and the way she was completely ignoring the cold. True, she was wearing boots and a long coat, but she had no scarf or hat, and showed no signs of discomfort. But Dawn would have been more surprised if she had. She wondered how Professor Strega and Belara, both of whom seemed to be part snake, were dealing with it. Were they cold-blooded, as their appearance suggested?
She didn’t have much time to ponder, though. She was the second one called. And here she’d thought the problems inherent in having a last name near the end of the alphabet had ended with high school. She sighed, waved her fire-warmed fingers to Corrie and Roe, and walked the ten feet away to where Professor Lal stood. Kira, who’d gone first, gave her a small, encouraging smile as they passed each other.
Dawn couldn’t help staring when she saw where Professor Lal was. There was a small clearing, and on the other side of it was a young tree in full leaf, green and vibrant. “How did you do that? Sorry, I had to ask.”
The professor nodded. “It is an advanced use of earth magic. If you take the Advanced Elementalism class, you will learn to grow plants out of season as well. Though I must say, this lesson is easier in the spring.”
Dawn grinned weakly. “For all of us.” She wiggled her fingers. At least they were still warm from the fire, though she was starting to wish she had a scarf in addition to her hat and coat.
“Indeed. But this should be fairly quick. It is, once again, a stronger use of air than you did in the previous class.” Professor Lal gestured at the tree. “You may use both hands. Please send a breeze, as strong as you can, toward that tree. It is there in order for me to gauge the strength of your wind.”
Dawn, her stomach churning slightly with anxiety, nodded and lifted her hands so both palms pointed toward the little tree. She had barely been able to get the pinwheel to move on Wednesday… but today she had a new source of power. She took several deep breaths, connecting herself to the earth, reaching for its magic. Then she sent a wind whipping toward the tree.