Category: Possibilities

It only took about a half an hour to reach the city of Piedmont by train. As the train rumbled up into the station, they could see a crowd of children with their parents getting ready to board the train. As with the children from Lyroron, they varied greatly in age.

Amelia saw one girl who looked even younger than Miles head back to say good-bye to her parents three times before she finally boarded the train. Others were boarding the train boldly and with a great deal of enthusiasm. She sighed and returned her gaze to the Ballards.

Miles was dozing, in spite of his father’s words. Emery was, like she had been, gazing out the window. He watched everything keenly for several moments, and then rose to his feet. “How long is the train going to be here?” he asked.

“Not long now,” Amelia said. “They only planned on stopping long enough for the passengers to embark.”

Miles sat upright and looked over at his brother. “Stay put,” he said sharply. “I know what you’re thinking, Brother, and the answer is ‘No’. If we miss the train, we have neither the time nor the money to get the next one.”

Emery sighed heavily and settled back into his seat. “We’ve never been to the city before. I was hoping for a little time to explore. I guess it’s near enough to lunch-time.”

Both boys opened the bagged lunches they’d been given. Within each was a sandwich wrapped in wax paper, a small box and a bottle. After examining the sandwiches for a moment, they traded.

Amelia chuckled and said, “I’m sure there’s an explanation for that?” By all appearances both were bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

“Miles gets dressing on his sandwiches and I get mayonnaise,” Emery said around a bite of food. He chewed for a moment before he continued, “Otherwise everything is the same; so Dad mixed them up.”

“He did it all through school too,” Miles said. He took a sip from the bottle and made a face before handing it over to his brother. “Peach nectar,” he said.

“He doesn’t like peaches, but they’re good for my aura,” Emery explained. He rolled his eyes as he handed the bottle that was in his bag. “I think this is orange juice.”

“Thanks, Brother,” Miles replied. He looked keenly at Amelia for a moment before he asked, “Did your parents pack you a lunch?”

“Grandmother gave me some money for something off the snack cart,” Amelia said with a shake of her head.

“They have snack carts?” Emery asked. He glanced toward the door, then beamed and said, “Hi.”

Miles and Amelia both looked at the door then. There they saw a girl about their own age. She was tiny with short dark hair. Her eyes looked huge behind a pair of thick glasses. “Is there room here?” she asked softly.

“Sure,” Emery replied as he pointed at the seat across from him. “I’m Emery Ballard and this is my little brother, Miles. This young lady is Amelia Fairisle. We all come from Lyroron. Are you from Piedmont?”

“Yes,” the girl replied. “My name is Michelle Drummond. Do you all know what year you’ll be in?”

“Fourth year,” Miles said in a quiet voice.

“Wow, I’m only going into second year,” Michelle said. She leaned forward in the seat. “Next year you’ll specialize. Do you know what in?”

Emery shook his head and grinned, “Not yet. If we’d stayed back home, we’d have been research mages, like our dad, but I’d like to see what other specialties there are before I narrow my focus.”


Almost a month later, Amelia stood with the other children on the platform to wait for the train that would carry them to the city of North Lake. She’d been told that she would start as a first year, though that didn’t seem the case with all the students. She was startled when two boys she didn’t recognize bounded up to her, grinning brightly.

“Hi, Amelia,” one said. He paused and looked at the other boy. “Brother?” he murmured.

“Amelia,” the other boy said, aggravation creeping into his tone. “It’s us; Emery and Miles.”

“Oh,” she said, looking from one to the other and back. “You – you look so different.” Then she looked around, wishing to change the subject. “Is Althea coming?”

“No, the tests said she had the wrong kind of magic so she’s staying her to be her father’s apprentice,” Emery explained. “She wants to be a healer, like him, and the school isn’t set up to teach that yet.”

“It’ll be so strange not to have her to play with anymore,” Miles said softly. He glanced back over his shoulder as their parents approached. “Dad, Amelia’s going to the school with us.”

Emery grinned and said, almost conspiratorially, “We’re entering as fourth year students. Next year we’ll specialize.”

“So soon?” Amelia whispered.

“That’s what those tests were for,” Emery said. “They were to determine what kind of magic you had and what kind of prior knowledge you had. We’ve been apprenticed to Dad since we were little kids. We’re nearly finished with all the preliminary stuff that you’ll learn as a first year.”

“It’s not polite to brag, Emery,” Mr. Ballard said in a soft but firm voice. Emery, immediately looked contrite and nodded. “No, children, the train will go through Piedmont but you are to remain in your car. Don’t disembark. You don’t want to miss the train when it leaves for North Lake.”

“Dad, what if… what if,” Miles paused and looked away, suddenly embarrassed.

“If you have an emergency, speak to one of the adults on the train – the ones in the uniforms. They’ll make sure you’re taken care of and don’t miss the train,” Mr. Ballard said. “The bus station isn’t far from the train station in North Lake. You’ll be able to take a bus to the school. Remember that you have to be there by five o’clock. Don’t be late or there’ll be consequences.”

“What sort of consequences?” Emery asked.

“Most likely demerits, Emery, but you don’t want to push your luck,” Mr. Ballard replied. “They might send you to bed without supper. Now, I know we couldn’t get all your supplies here in Lyroron, but you should have about an hour between your arrival in North Lake and when you’re due at the school. If you don’t dilly-dally, you’ll be able to stop at a magic shop and get the last of your supplies.”

“You have your list and the money we’ve saved?” Mrs. Ballard asked.

“Yes, Mama,” the boys replied.

They turned their gaze back to their father as he continued, “Be good on the train and don’t go to sleep. You don’t want to wake up and find you’ve missed your stop.”

“Nathaniel,” Mrs. Ballard scolded softly. “We’ll see you at the holidays, boys. Behave and study hard.”

“We will,” they promised as she kissed each of them on the cheek. She handed each of them a lunch bag and whispered into Miles ear before they bounded up onto the train. Amelia followed them and found a compartment quickly. She wasn’t at all surprised when the boys sat across from her.

“Didn’t your parents drop you off?” Emery asked. “They seemed thrilled that you could go the other night.”

“They are thrilled,” Amelia said. “They’re just too busy and grandmother dropped me off, but we said our goodbyes at the ticket booth.” She sighed and looked out the window as the train pulled away from the station. Most of the parents were waving at the train as it departed. She smiled as she spotted her grandmother in the crowd.

A soft sound caught her notice and she looked up to find Miles crying silently. “We’ll see Mama and Dad again before you know it, Mi,” Emery assured his brother. “Meanwhile we’ll be learning so much and having such a good time that the time’ll fly right by.”

“But – but Mama’s sick,” Miles argued as he rubbed at his eyes. “What if – what if she gets worse while-while we’re gone?”

“It’s going to be alright, Miles,” Emery whispered as he hugged his brother gently. Amelia noticed that he was rubbing circles onto the younger boy’s back just as her grandmother did with her when she was upset.

“Oh, is the little baby crying?” an oily voice said from the doorway. Amelia frowned and looked in the direction to find a familiar boy with dark brown curls standing there.

“Want a pounding, Charles?” Emery growled. “It sure sounds like it, from the way you’re talking.”

“But it wouldn’t be at all lady-like, would it?” the older boy teased.

“Keep talking,” Emery said, rising to his feet. “I wasn’t very lady-like when I wore skirts. In case it skipped past you, I’m not in a dress anymore.”

“Brother, Mama said to behave,” Miles warned.

“I’ll be have, Mi,” Emery said. “If I know Charles, the only thing I’ll need to do is defend myself.”

As if the words were a signal, Charles threw punch after punch, Emery ducked and dodged, allowing the older boy to strike the walls of the compartment instead of himself. Soon enough, Charles gave up with a growl and stomped off to find someone else to bully.

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All The Possibilities

Amelia watched all around her as the whole town, it seemed, filed into the meeting hall for the vicar’s party. He’d invited every family – every child – in town. He’d said the governor had written to him with an important announcement. The town was all buzzing with speculation as to what it might be. Even those without children came; not wanting to miss the excitement.

Everyone was told that the announcement would be made just before the party ended. First would come dinner and dancing. The dinner was wonderful but Amelia was young enough that she tired of the dancing quickly. When she could, she headed out into the garden. As she’d expected several of the other children in the village were outside already.

“Hi,” she greeted, bounding up to some of the children that were her own age.

“Hello,” Althea and Miles returned as they bounded over to join her.

“Hi,” Emery, Miles’s older brother, said at nearly the same time. He jumped up and caught a low hanging branch of a nearby tree. He climbed up onto the branch and sat there, grinning down at her. “What d’you think the announcement is about?”

“I can’t imagine,” she replied. She crossed her arms over her chest and stepped closer to the tree as she scolded, “You’d better hope that your father doesn’t catch you up there, Emery Ballard.”

“It isn’t lady-like, Brother,” Miles added.

“We’re nearly finished with our apprenticeships, Mi,” Emery replied, apparently ignoring Amelia. “We don’t have to act like girls any more. Dad’s already told everyone our proper names even.”

All heads turned as a voice emanated from the doorway of the meeting hall. “Miles, Emery, the vicar’s calling all the children together.” It was their mother and the boys immediately responded to her voice.

Emery gripped the branch he was seated on and swung nimbly out of the tree. “Coming, Mama,” he called at nearly the same time as Miles.

As if the reply was the starting gun for a race, the children all ran toward the building. Most ducked past Mrs. Ballard as they entered the building. Emery and Miles paused to grin up at her before gathering with the other children in front of the vicar. They were neither the tallest, nor the smallest of the children so they stood somewhere near the middle of the assembly.

“I thank you for your patience. I know that it can be particularly difficult when one is young and I know you have been eagerly awaiting this announcement,” the vicar said. He smiled at all the children then at their parents before continuing. “The governor has asked me to announce the founding of a school for magic. All children over the age of ten will be tested in order to see if they will be allowed to attend in the fall.”

Amelia glanced over at her parents. Both of them were smiling, obviously pleased by the news. She looked at her grandmother and found the older woman was frowning. Her gaze turned to Miles and Emery, but they were focused on their father. If her grandmother seemed unhappy, Mr. Ballard looked positively thunderous.

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Monica Ferris

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A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

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