I brush the corner of a table in the half-light given off by everburning torches far above. It's just a gentle touch; I'm starting to tell myself to be more careful when a terrific smash shatters the silence; apparently there was a vase or something on that table moments ago. I freeze, eyes on the door halfway across the room that leads toward the faculty quarters; Nim dives under the long table next to him, and we wait.
It doesn't take long before the door pulls open and an instructor I don't recognize enters the hall, flanked by two self-important-looking students wearing golden Prefect badges, gleaming with lights of their own. Out of the corner of my eye I see Nim begin to creep toward them under one of the long benches.
I take a few steps forward, bowing just enough for it to be believable. "Good evening, sir. Forgive me for disturbing you; I was just on my way back upstairs." I continue walking forwards, breaking eye contact and making for the door on the far end of the hall.
"Not so fast, young lady. What is your name? What are you doing all the way down here past curfew?"
I stop, turning around. The instructor's puffed-up goons are striding towards me; any second now they'll see that I'm not a student. I look at the ground, hiding my face as long as possible and feigning a whole different kind of nervousness than I actually feel. "I was... uh..."
I flick my eyes up for just a moment; see Nim crouching under the table just feet from the instructor.
"Ah, I see. Out on a tryst? Do the words 'Indefinite Suspension' mean anything to you at all? Who is he? Tell me, and perhaps I'll ask the Headmaster to lessen your punishment... Who are you? Stop hiding your face!" He takes a couple steps forward, putting Nim behind him. I raise my face defiantly, pulling back my hood and brushing the hair from my eyes so the silver slivers in my irises are clearly visible to the meatheads in front of me.
"You," the instructor whispers. "You're--" but he gets no further, interrupting himself to stare down at the dark, thin blade protruding from his chest. Nim lets the man slump to the floor. One of the Prefects looks back at the sound, sees the shadowed figure blocking their retreat, then looks back at me and whimpers softly.
"Sorry, boys," I reply softly. "Silmoor fe Cefis!" Five tiny globes, invisible except for the swirling path they leave through the dust motes suspended in the still air, streak from my lowered hands into the chests and stomachs of the unfortunate students. They're thrown back several feet by the force. They stay where they land.
Nim softly makes his way to me, and we wait, listening for anyone else who might have heard the commotion. After several long minutes, we move on, across the hall, through the light wooden door and up the stairs.
The living quarters at the Academy are in the Tower of Scholars, a vaulted spire directly on top of the main Academy building with fifteen levels of bunkrooms accessed by two long, twisting stairways. We ascend the eastern stair in silence, Nim somewhat ahead of me looking out for anyone still awake. We reach the top without seeing anyone, and look around in the dim torchlight.
As on each other level, there are several rooms arrayed about the outside of the tower, with a large empty practice room in the center, flanked by the two staircases. There would be almost fifty students on each floor; the most senior on the privileged lower levels and the youngest at the top of the tower. The next generation of xenophobic, hate-filled Wizards. I know the dimensions of these halls by heart, but I pace it off anyway just to be sure, measuring the length and width of the hallway and extrapolating the size of the small bedchambers. As I had suspected, two casts will suffice.
Silent, I motion Nim to retreat back down the stairwell, and I follow him quickly, stopping just before I lose sight of the top floor around a corner. Nim looks to me and nods, ready to move. My hands twist into a painful configuration of digits, and I mutter as quietly as I can, "A draelis vaum abbadek. A draelis vaum abbadek." Yellow-green vapor coalesces in the hall above, first on the west side of the tower, then more, closer, nearly on top of the east stairway. Most of the students wouldn't even wake up; wouldn't notice the deadly mist creep into their rooms and their beds. Nim and I hurry down the stairs as the cloud begins its slow descent through the tower. We pause halfway down so I can repeat the process.
We stop again at the base of the Tower, in a large circular room dominated by a large central pillar covered in gently-glowing grey-blue glyphs. There are six doors leading from this nexus, off to all the other parts of the Academy. Nim draws a pair of potions, handing one to me, and I point at one of the doorways. "That one leads to the Library. We'll be able to get in and then out a window there without any trouble; it's never locked." I pause as Nim starts toward the Library. "You know, I always thought this rock might be the only thing holding this tower up," I muse aloud.
I follow Nim to the Library, looking back occasionally. We reach a window just across from the door, and drink our potions. "Can you get this open?" I ask Nim, gesturing to the heavy glass between us and the open air, twenty feet or more above the ground. He goes to work without a sound, and I turn back towards the door to the Library and the hub beyond, eerie blue pillar quietly glowing to itself in the darkness.
"Got it," Nim whispers from behind me.
"Alright," I reply without turning. Holding my hands about a foot apart, I hiss the words and feel a suction between them, building, building until I turn my hands and let the void escape across the room, out the door and into the pillar in the hall beyond. The blue glimmer instantly goes out. Then everything lights up with a brilliant green as I point my finger into the hall, following my last spell, and a thin line strikes across the empty space, illuminating the column for a brief moment before reducing it instantly to ash. An ominous groan sounds from above, and I finally turn to Nim and the window. "Time to go!"
As we fly into the night air, the creaking and rumbling intensifies behind us, growing inexorably until I can't help but to look over my shoulder and see the whole tower crumbling and smashing down on top of the Academy. The sound is incredible, trampling through the air like a horde of hell-bent ogres. At the Palace in the distance, lights rise into the air and begin speeding towards us. I utter a bark of exhilarated laughter, lost in the cacophony, as Nim and I race away from the scene, shrouded by darkness.