2. An Urgent Message
"Zann, you're next. Zann. Zann! ZANN!"
Zann blinked and looked at the teacher. "Sorry, Professor Liblow," he said. "Could you repeat that?"
Several of Zann's classmates laughed. "It's your turn to perform today's exercise," Professor Liblow said patiently. "Please move your assigned objects according to my instructions."
"Oh. Okay." Zann stood up. Everyone was watching him. He had no idea what instructions the teacher had given or what his assigned objects were. He'd been too busy daydreaming.
He looked at the table at the front of the room. All sorts of things were sitting there—fruit, rocks, shoes, and more. Which items was he supposed to move?
"Books," a voice hissed behind him, too softly for the teacher to hear. "You're supposed to stack them by size."
It was Perda, his next-door neighbor and friend. He shot her a grateful look.
Then he glanced at the books. Transporting stuff was easy. But it wasn't easy to do it with the control and precision that the teacher wanted. Especially for someone like Zann. He was good at bigger magic, like zapping himself to a new place or creating clothing or food out of nothing. This smaller, more detailed type of magic was not easy. It required a quiet mind, and Zann's mind was rarely quiet.
He rubbed his thumb against his other fingers. There was a crackling sound as sparks began to jump from his hand. Zann pointed at the largest book, and everything on the table flew into the air and exploded.
The other students giggled, and Zann smiled sheepishly. "Oops," he said. "Sorry about that."
Professor Liblow rubbed his hands together. "Restore!" he said. The items reappeared. "Try again, please, Zann. And try to focus this time. We don't want you accidentally transporting the entire school to the peak of Mount Mystery."
That made everyone laugh, including Zann. Then he tried again. This time he did his best to focus.
"Come to me," he murmured.
Now only the largest book rose. It flew through the air and landed gently on his desk. One by one, he brought the other books to him. Finally a slim volume titled Dragon Taming Tipslanded neatly atop the pile.
Most of the class clapped. Zann gave a playful bow.
"Pretty slow," a boy said loudly. "And you had to use a focusing phrase. I thought Reds were supposed to be better at magic than the rest of us."
"Enough, Jev," the teacher said sternly. "If you think you can do better, you may go next."
Zann sat down. "Thanks for saving me," he whispered to his friend.
Perda leaned forward. "No problem. But you really should pay attention," she whispered. "Even Reds can't just fake their way through every class they don't like."
Zann didn't answer. Physical Objects was one of his least favorite classes. It was boring—even more boring than Food and Drink Creation. When would he ever need to move things around like that, anyway? He wasn't planning on becoming a physical builder or anything of the sort. No way. He was going to be an explorer like his parents. That's why he spent most of his time in school daydreaming about exciting adventures.
"I'm finished!" Jev announced as he lined up one last shoe on his desk. He shot Zann a smug look. "Much faster than the Red."
Zann frowned. Jev always had to make him look bad.
Just then a pretty girl named Gliss pointed to the door. Gliss was the only other Red in the class besides Zann.
"An echo crow!" she cried.
A large, purple-feathered crow flapped into the room. "Message! Message!" it squawked. "Urgent message from the king and queen!"
Several kids gasped, and Zann sat up straight in his chair. He couldn't remember anyone from Magica's capital, First City, sending a message to boring old Swamp Bottom before. Especially not the king and queen!
"Hush," Professor Liblow told the class. Then he nodded to the crow. "Go on, please."
"Urgent! Danger!" the crow squawked. "Danger for all Reds!"