The History of Magic was taught in a house that resembled a belfry or an Academy tower growing on the earth. Through the helical staircase the first years ascended to the classroom on the very top. A wide, tall, arched window occupied the whole eastern wall, and the moment the class took their seats at the desks and took out their History of Magic, Volume I, a huge bird, or rather, a gryphon (or something very much resembling a tall, skinny gryphon) flew into the classroom.
The students gasped. Some sat back in their seats, others nervously clenched their books.
The gryphon flapped its wings and, crossing the classroom, perched on the teacher's chair. Only when it took the eyeglasses from the desk it turned out it wasn't a gryphon, but something in-between an eagle and a human, with a pair of wings, but also a pair of long skinny hands and fingers. Long silver feathers grouped into wings, and silver scales covered the body.
The gryphon put the glasses on its big and looked into the class.
"As always, I will start the first lesson telling it's rather impolite to gape like that."
Many of the students closed their gaping mouths, but couldn't start staring.
"I am Magician Dalagar," the gryphon said. "I am your teacher of History of Magic. No, I am not a bird. Yes, I am a human. Used to be one at least, before I was bewitched. No, the spell cannot be overturned. Yes, I have tried. Yes, I have asked other acclaimed sorcerers. No, they could not help. Yes, I hope to one day regain my human form, even though I will be old looking, as it's been twenty-eight years already. No, you are not allowed to discuss my appearance with me. And this is going to be the only time when I am talking about this. I hope everyone heard me well." Mg Nimrod opened the History of Magic, Volume I, and every student, as if by command, did the same.
"Did you know about this?" Aram whispered to Theodore.
"Will had told me a long time ago, but it had totally slipped out of my mind," he whispered back.
“A bird teacher had slipped from your mind?” Aram asked in bewilderment, and a second ago, catching Mg Dalagar’s beady eyes staring at him, became silent.
“It’s with great pleasure that I’m telling you about the amount of books you’ll have to read. Apart from Volume I, I expect you to read three more books this semester: the Chronicles of Troubulous Times, Druids’ Scrolls on Northern Magic, and Collected Works of Volkhv Stephen.”
Mg Dalagar flapped his wings and soared into the middle of the classroom. With a smooth motion of his bony hand covered in scales, the curtains closed over the window, and the classroom plunged into darkness.
“I’m not one of those who torture the students with long, tedious and monotone tales. I am for showing.” And with these words he flapped his wings and silver dust sprayed off his feathers, drifting lazily inside the dark chamber. Aram looked at Nick and Theodore sitting to his left. They were as silent as the rest of the class, staring in awe at the silver dust. The classroom’s walls transformed into cave rocks, the floor and ceiling rumbled, and transparent figures walked in the center of the chamber.
“The first magicians,” Mg Dalagar spoke, “lived thousands of years ago. You will learn of the pacts and alliances, of the divisions and unions. As for today, see Berenghen Luingil, the First Sorcerer, perform magic.”
The class had been over for ten minutes, but Aram was still pondering about Mg Dalagar and his lesson.
“But how, how did he do that?” Aram kept repeating on their way to the Crafting class. “How did he take us back thousand years ago? And why no one in my world has ever heard of those people?”
Theodore clicked fingers before Aram’s eyes. “Wake up, pal, and look around you. We’re at the Witchcraft Academy. Witch-craft A-ca-de-my. We’re learning magic, and seeing magic.”
“As for your second question,” Nick said, “who says they haven’t. It’s just that they don’t always want to believe. Or fear others will consider them crazy if they speak of what they’ve seen. Or just keep silent, out of fear. I think this History Class will tell you a lot of new things about worlds, yours and ours.” Saying this, Nick looked at Theodore. Aram couldn’t help feeling a bit envious. Nick was right, this was their world, but then, little by little, it was becoming his too. And he loved every bit of it.
Crafting lessons passed in a wooden workroom filled with all kinds of carpenter tools. The teacher, Herr Krause Zimmerman, was a smiling old magician, who created the most amazing things with his bare hands. Aram especially loved the small walking wolves that were meticulously crafted from wood and painted red and white. They were trotting up and down the shelves, next to the japanned boxes with ugly (but funny nevertheless) creatures springing out every once in a while. There were other crafts too, soaring under the workroom roof, leaping in the corners or spinning around themselves.
For the first class Herr Zimmerman offered his students to craft walking figures similar to the red and white wolves that were now howling from the shelves. Growing up in a village, Aram had been using saw and hammer a lot, and sawing a tiny man from a piece of wood wasn’t as hard for him as it was for Nick, who, because of his stump, had a hard time with the tools. Aram wanted to offer Nick to talk to Herr Zimmerman or to their dean and swap Crafting with another class, but then thought against it. It might unnecessarily humiliate Nick, and he was already having trouble because of his arm, trying to hide it from the rest and feeling abashed whenever someone threw a look at his stump.
“Here, let me help you,” Aram said, holding the piece of wood while Nick sawed it. The tiny legs and arms and the small head weren’t perfect, but Herr Zimmerman promised the students their little men would at least crawl if they attached the threads the way he told them. The threads, Theodore said, were magical, made of some material that Aram did not memorize. Once they were done, they picked up the brushes and began covering the little figurines with blue paint.
“Baking wouldn’t be as hard,” Nick muttered under his breath, trying hard to attach the tiny clockwork mechanism to the figurine’s back. After they were done, Nick, Aram, and Theodore wounded the mechanisms and waited expectantly for them to move. Aram’s wooden man waddled sloppily across the desk; Theodore’s took three steps and fell backwards; Nick’s just raised its right leg and stood still.
“Piece of junk,” Theodore said angrily, tossing his figurine into the garbage. Nick’s wooden man followed Theodore’s. Aram placed his into his pocket. Good or bad, it was something magical he had made on his own, and he quite liked it. But the lesson he had been waiting for for the whole day wasn’t Crafting, but Flying. After Crafting was over, everyone headed to the arena. The rest of the first-years were already there, including Gwenlian, Karishma, and Meilin, who were sitting on the grass, their heads together, talking hastily. Aram couldn’t wait when he’d saddle a Pegasus, but to his great disappointment, Magician Nyala Ademola, their flying coach, told them they wouldn’t be riding flying animals until they mastered carpets, brooms, and umbrellas. Mg Ademola had a long, thick roll lying on the grass in front of her. She kicked it with the toe of her pointy boot and unraveled a flying carpet, which hovered a foot over the grass.
“Is there anyone here who’s never flown?” she asked. To his disdain, Aram was the only one who raised a hand. “Very well,” Mg Ademola said, “but to me, none of you has every flown, do you understand?”
The first-years nodded.
“I forbid any smarty showing off or performing some kind of trick, or even riding a broom without my knowledge and permission, understood?”
The students nodded again.
“Please come over here,” she told Aram, and when he approached her, Mg Ademola helped him on the carpet that was drifting calmly over the ground. The carpet that was weaved from colorful threads somehow held Aram’s weight and did not even sink for an inch.
“Magic carpets or flying carpets or just carpets, can hold a lot of weight,” Mg Ademola said, “but don’t try to climb on it with your whole class. It will simply fall down under that much weight. The carpets feel the rider, his body motions, his hand motions, so control your hands. Hold on to the loops,” she told Aram.
Feeling mortified that everyone was looking at him, Aram tucked his palms under two loops on the edge of the carpet.
“Now you can use your hands to control the carpet and tell it where to go.” Mg Ademola had just finished speaking when Aram pulled his palms up and the carpet jerked along, throwing him on the ground. The grass was strangely soft and Aram didn’t get hurt, although he turned red when some of his fellow first-years dissolved into giggled.
Theodore helped Aram to his feet.
“That’s what happens when you don’t control your body,” Mg Ademola said. One by one she helped the first-years climb on the carpet and instructed them on how to ride it. Some did it well, others not so, some even trundled down and rolled a few feet. And everyone commented on the grass that was so soft no one got hurt.
“Amonshire grass. Grows especially for your soft bottoms,” Mg Ademola said, making everyone giggle.
Dinner was splendid, as always. Roast beef and honeyed chicken legs, vegetable salads and rice with curry, shrimps under sauce and freshly baked bread. For the first twenty minutes no one spoke. Everyone was happy to end the exhausting day and was silently savoring the dinner.
“Is riding a broom harder than a carpet?” Aram asked once he was full.
“It is, I guess,” Theodore said. “I don’t ride often as I don’t live in a magical town, but in summers I used to ride a bit of this, a bit of that, and broom is harder ‘cause you have to keep balance, unlike the carpet that is much wider. It can even be used as a bed!”
“Great,” Aram said with discontent, “if next time she tells me to ride a broom, I’ll end up even more embarrassed.”
“Oh come on,” Meilin said, “you did great. I fell too. I’d never ridden a carpet before. But I’ve rode a Chinese dragon once.” She giggled when everyone stared at her. “Don’t think of the Big One, but of a much smaller dragon, a kind-hearted and gentle Chiox. My Mom took me to a ride.”
“We ride a lot of carpets in India,” Karishma said. “But I’m not very good. I’m a bit scared of heights. Just a bit.”
Aram looked at Gwenlian who was strangely silent.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her, but she just shrugged.
“It’s Natalia again,” Meilin said. “She spoiled Gwenlian’s dough during Baking. I told you you should’ve told Madame Perpetua about that.”
“My Dad wouldn’t approve of that,” Gwenlian said in a small voice. “I’m not going to tell on her.”
“I can do that for you,” Meilin said, but Gwenlian shook her head. Meilin looked at the other table where Natalia was as always surrounded by her gang of first-year girls. Peeking over his shoulder, Aram saw the golden-haired ballerina and her friend pass nearby. She was wearing a blue badge, she was a second-year. Aram followed her until she and her friend left the Refectory. When he turned back, his company was actively discussing flying. Only Gwenlian was silently biting into an apple.
“Look what I’ve got,” Aram said, placing his wooden figurine on the table in front of Gwenlian. She glanced down at the figurine and when it made a few clumsy moves, she let out a hearty laugh. Aram laughed along.
“You can have it if you want,” he said.
Gwenlian nodded and put the figurine into her pocket.