The coachman was examining the gold I had given him. I could not tell if the silence was disconcerting to him or if he was surprised that a hatchling my age could afford the price of fare. I reached a hand under my hood to check my forehead. My horns had not fully grown, nor would they for some time. I could, however, feel the nubs. They were large enough that they would be noticeable. I would have to keep my forehead concealed, lest I reveal my identity.
“Hey kid, we’re almost there.”
I said nothing. The landscape was familiar. I had never been here, but I had racial memories of this place. It had undergone some changes. Some statues had been erected. There had been some construction, eliminating greenery for buildings. It was still recognisable.
“What business do you have in Wicadia anyway?”
“I intend to enter the magic academy.”
The driver laughed. “They won’t take you.”
“Under normal circumstances that would be true. However, the academy has a history of making exceptions for magical prodigies.”
“You think you qualify, kid?”
“I was ha—” I stopped myself, remembering that I had to appear human. As such, I could not reveal my true age either. Were I to say that I had been born a mere three years ago, it would surely arouse suspicion. “born seven years, twenty seven days ago, and I am already capable of casting spells.”
My driver stopped at the city gates. Wicadia was built like a fortress. It was surrounded by a wall with a single gate. Five turrets were built up at the corners of the wall to allow for strong vantage points. I had no doubt that even the buildings that had arisen outside of the walls were well guarded. This was, after all, the capital of magic. I watched the crystal spire that rose from the city’s centre. A guard came over and peeked into the coach. He was carrying a trident and had a stern look on his face. I ignored him. I did not believe that he would harm a child.
“Sir, do you have anything else in the coach?”
“Just the kid and his things.”
The guard looked back at me. “Son, why are you wearing that cloak?”
I thought for a moment. I needed an answer that would sound nonchalant and distract from the truth. “I am trying to become a mage and wearing a cloak makes me feel like one.” I tried to say it with as much youthful exuberance as I could muster.
The guard laughed and turned back to the driver. My façade had worked. “Do you have any business in the city?”
The driver shook his head. “I was just chartered to bring the boy.”
“Son, can you reach your destination from here without help?”
“In that case step out of the carriage with your things.”
I grabbed my small bag and emerged from the carriage, keeping my head down. The guard waved the carriage driver away and I was free to proceed.
After entering Wicadia it did not take me long to locate a mage. He was wearing the loose, dark-purple robes that were a clear sign of an academy teacher. He was leaning on his staff as he walked. I reached out and pulled on the hem of his robes.
He turned towards me. His grey eyes studied me. He stroked his white moustache. For a moment, I was concerned that he might see under my hood. “Can I help you, Kid?”
I nodded. “I wish to join the academy.”
He smiled. “I’m sorry, but you’re too young. Maybe you can try when you’re older.”
I stuck my palms out at a barrel; I felt the wind currents in the area. I concentrated on them and bent them to my will. Under my direction the currents surrounded the barrel. Then, at my mental command, a strong up-draft lifted it into the air, while the currents on top formed a barrier against resistance and light blasts of air from the sides stabilised it. The instructor stared at the floating barrel, wide-eyed.
“Tell me boy, how old are you?”
“I am seven.”
He knelt down to look at me. “What’s your name?”
I adjusted my cloak to ensure that he wouldn’t see my forehead. “Michael Ryufan.”
“Michael, do your parents know you’re here?”
“My parents are no longer alive.”
He extended a hand to me. “Well Michael I think that given the circumstances and,”—he looked at the still-floating barrel.—“Given your obvious abilities, I’d like to invite you to join us at the academy.” I had anticipated this. It was simple to use very basic magic when you had a clear memory of others.
I felt guilty for deceiving him about my abilities however, I needed the Academy to master stronger spells and to provide a safe haven for my practice of them. I also knew that it would be folly to reveal the truth. Even if he and the other mages were to believe a draconian hatchling over a magi it would not accomplish my goal.
I manoeuvred the wind in order to lower the barrel to the ground undamaged. I took his hand. “Please take care of me.”