I guess I was kind of surprised when Finn decided to join us- though he did spend most of the time ignoring us, lost in whatever he was thinking about. We stayed there without saying anything, until a bell went off somewhere in the building, and a loudspeaker crackled to life.
“All mages report to the main hall immediately for training.”
Finn’s eyes snapped up, meeting Annella’s eyes, than mine.
“Well,” he said simply. “This should be interesting.”
Honestly, does he not care about anything? I’d only seen him startled once, and he recovered from that quickly enough. He stood, and we followed him out into the hall, and down a few others until we entered a large, grand room that must have been the main hall. The teachers were already there, along with several students.
Naturally, we were ambushed as soon as we entered the room. Tara came sweeping over, choosing her target before she got to us.
“Finn!” She threw an arm around his shoulders. “Ready for training?”
He tried to pull away, but she held on. “Oh, come on, calm down I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Last time we talked, you threatened to crack my head open,” he said quietly. “That’s a threat.”
She rolled her eyes, then noticed Annella for this first time. “Who’s this?”
“None of your business, now is it?” Elle said, her voice on edge.
“Ooh, you’ve got another hard tempered one!” Tara smirked. “Nice to meet you.”
“Wish I could say the same, love,” Annella smiled bitterly at her, “Anyone who threatens my friends, threatens me.”
She laughed. “Oh, I’m not threatening him. Finn and I are old friends, after all.” She shook her head. “Kind of a shame. You think you know him, don’t you? You don’t. You never will. Deal with it.”
She was interrupted by the teachers calling for us to partner up for some training activity. Her eyes lit up.
“Perfect. Finn, you’re my partner today.”
“I don’t-” he muttered.
“Yes, you do!” She laughed, tightening her grip around his shoulders. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
I had a strange urge to punch her right then and there, but Finn met my eyes and shook his head slightly, as if to say, I can handle this one. Stay out of it.
“Elle? Partners?” I asked.
“For sure,” She said, but her head wasn’t in it. She was glaring at Tara menacingly and it leaked through into her voice.
Tara gave us one more smile, before vanishing into the crowd, pulling Finn with her.
We faced each other, waiting for instructions. “I hate her,” I muttered.
“I think I agree,” Elle whispered back.
“Why does he let her be like that? I mean, he stood up to her earlier.”
“He probably just didn’t want to make a huge scene.” Annella suggested.
“I don’t know, if you say so,” I shrugged.
The teachers began to walk through the hall, giving instructions to all of us. By now there was a rough line stretching across the entire hall. The teacher came to us, and explained what we were supposed to do.
“Wait, we’re supposed to attack each other?” I demanded.
“It’ll be perfectly safe,” the teacher reassured me. “We’ll be on standby in case anybody gets hurt, and none of you are powerful enough to deal too much damage to each other yet. Magic is best practiced by being used, so this will give us a general idea of your skills.” He moved on.
I turned to look at Annella, eyes wide. “Well… that’s crazy.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry. You won’t hurt me, I’ll even go first if you want.”
All around the room, the other students were slowly testing out. There were bright flashes coming from where Finn and Tara were- they were locked in a full-out duel. I sincerely doubted that either of them ‘weren’t powerful enough’ to hurt each other.
I turned to look back at Annella. “Okay. Go. Throw something at me.”
“Um, okay,” Elle said, closing her eyes. I saw her mouth the word, ‘Control.’ She put her hand out and water materialized in front of her. It flew out towards me, turning into sharp ice. I held my hand out and shattered the ice in front of myself. Elle gasped as the ice dropped and grinned at me.
“You’re up,” she said, her voice smiling.
Don’t hurt her, I reminded myself. And don’t use darkness. Metal. Use metal.
Concentrating, I did my best to make metal form, but nothing happened. I tried again, and nothing came. With growing anger, I tried a third time. That time, I felt a weird tugging sensation in my mind, and I opened my eyes in time to see one of the weird brackets in the walls- probably for torches or magical lights- fly off the wall and into my hand. I launched it at Elle without a second thought. She could summon water. Why couldn’t I summon metal? She managed to form a shield that must have been made of water. I hammered at it with the metal, and after a moment it broke inwards, and the bracket clattered to the ground.
“You’re up,” I told her. “Go.”
She smiled as though she had an idea. She pulled her hand up and water came up around it. As Elle swirled her hand, water surrounded her in a cyclone shape until it was large enough to hold a person. It came whirling towards me, and I became enclosed in the water - an air pocket surrounding me. It pulled me up off the ground and I was floating in the air until Annella lost the large surge of strength. I came tumbling down to the ground and crashed loudly. I saw Finn move to help me, but then stop and go back to being absorbed in his battle with Tara.
Oh, so we’re showing off? I thought. I prepared another attack, and launched it again.
We went back and forth for who knows how long. Slowly, we got a general idea of each other’s skills, so the duel became harder and more involved. Some partners began to get eliminated, either by the teachers, or because of injuries caused to each other. One pair- water and fire, I’m assuming- had to be broken up, because the water was choking the life out of the fire, and the fire had been at the point of burning the water to a crisp. One of the teachers lectured them for pairing up with their opposite element, and the fire had to been taken to the infirmary.
More and more partners became eliminated, giving us more room to move. Eventually, we began darting back and forth across the room. I tried to stick as close to metal as I could, and Elle tried to lead me away from it. Finn and Tara remained in the center of the room, each of them concentrating hard.
Eventually, it was down to just us. I was about to ask Elle if we should call it off, when there was yelling from the center of the room. I turned, in time to see Tara put a hand against Finn’s head. Her palm flashed white, and he called out in a loud shout before collapsing. I had no idea what she’d done, and I was about to run over, when I felt something cut into my cheek. Probably one of Elle’s icicles. My mind instantly went into the defensive, and just for a second, I forgot I was dueling one of my friends for practice. I launched another piece of metal at her as a distraction, then followed up using darkness. I don’t know what I was intending to do, but whatever happened, it was stronger than I’d intended. Annella became encircled in a dark cloud of black. I couldn’t see her, and I felt a panic settling low in my chest. As the dark cloud dissipated, I felt myself run towards the darkness. In the middle of the cloud, Elle collapsed to the floor.