“Look at the book, Romeo,” my instructor told me, sitting across from me at the low table of his study. He was an old man with the face of a doting old grandpa. His long beard was only a few shades lighter than his aged gray robes. With his wide brimmed conical hat, a traditional sign of his advanced training in mystic arts, set casually on the table, I could see his hairline had receded far past the crown of his head.
“I am sir,” I tell him, staring at the book in question, floating a few feet above the table. I furrowed my brow and forced my eyelids as wide as I could get them.
“Then do you see it?” he asked me with a knowing tone. The question may as well have been rhetorical. He knew what I was going to say. He just wanted to hear it out of my mouth.
“No, sir,” I answered, dejected. I tried harder and harder but I still couldn’t see the spell.
“Of course you can’t. How could you see the spell if you’re too busy trying to burn a hole through it?” he said as he reached out with his hand, and rubbed by forehead hard with his palm, pushing me back into my chair. “You can’t pierce through it. You have to let it in, which you can’t do if you get nervous and tense up.”
“Yes sir. I’m sorry sir,” he says as I stare down at my hands. Elio Fabrizio was a master mage, of a station so very far above me, and deigning to teach me magic for a pittance to what he could earn teaching royalty, and I disrespected him by having to be told instructions more than once.
“It’s fine, Romeo,” he assures me, “Just stop tensing up when you think you get it wrong. It’s okay to be wrong. That’s how we learn.”
“Yes sir,” I answer. I bite back my true feelings, that I haven’t learned anything until I get it right.
“Alright, we’ll try to relax you again. Close your eyes.” I follow his instructions. “Now breathe deeply. In… then out… In… then out. Now open your eyes.” Having been tentatively relaxed by the breathing, I opened my eyes as instructed.
He had moved the book closer to me. Something about it seemed fundamentally different about it. This had happened before, many times, but I had always told myself I was looking for excuses and that I should look for something more obvious. My initial reaction was to stare harder at it, but trying to follow my teacher’s advice, I try to just wait for it to show itself to me. That’s when I noticed it. It seemed impossible that after a week of trying to see the allegedly simple spell that levitated the book, it would come to me so easily. I raised my hands to try and rub my eyes, to make sure I wasn’t seeing some defect of my eyes. The book smacked my hand before I could reach my eyes.
“Don’t rub your eyes. Don’t doubt you see it or it will close your mind again. Tell me what you see,” Elio said, trying to keep my focus on the spell. I looked at the book again, but it was already gone.
“Saw,” I mumbled, ashamed to have let it slip out of sight.
“What was that?” my instructor asked.
“Saw, sir. I had it but I let it slip away. I’m so sorry, sir.” I didn’t deserve these lessons. The court mage had wasted a precious month on my ridiculous notions of learning magic from him. I stared down at my lap, trying to prevent myself from running out the door.
“You went tense again,” he surmised quite easily. “Me smacking you didn’t help any, I suppose. Here, let me try something different.” He put his old hand over my eyes. “Tell me exactly what you saw. I know you caught a glimpse of the spell.”
“It was a hand, sir,” I began, “down to the wrist. It was clenched around the book.”
“That’s good, Romeo. Describe the hand for me.”
“It was large and blue and clenched over the book,” I said, trying to recall as much about the fist as I could. “It was spectral as well, sir. I could see the book through it.”
“Was it blue like the ocean?” he asked.
“No sir it was blue like the sky? Almost exactly.”
“Alright Romeo,” he said in a calming voice, “Now breath like before. In and out. Slowly.” Without another word I began breathing again. I tried to open up, prevent myself from tensing, this was another chance. He slowly removed his hand from my eyes, and I opened my eyes. “What do you see, Romeo?”
“Blue? Blue! Sir, your robes are blue!” His clothes had changed color. Or did they? It was the same color as the spell I saw on the book. Elio would often pull strange and random objects from his sleeves. His robes may have been enchanted all this time.
“Are they now? What about the book?” He waved his hand and the book floated into my field of vision. Not only was the hand there, grasping the book, clear as day, but the same blue spectral light had surrounded the hand of my teacher.
“I see it! I see it, sir, I see it!” I shouted with joy as I rose from my seat in excitement. “On the book and around your hand and on your robes!”
“Congratulations!” the master mage said. Raising and opening his aura bathed hand, a stream of colorful strips of ribbon and paper flew out of his hand with the sound of festival noisemakers. “It took longer than expected, but congratulations, Romeo Firé. As your reward, the book is now yours. It shall be your first spell. Care to guess what it is?”
“Levitation, sir?” I guessed. It fit with my mentor’s strange sense of humor, floating the secret of the flying object directly in front of me. Right on cue, he laughed softly, like he does when he’s the only one in the room who gets the joke.
“Very astute. You’ll make a fine wizard yet,” he complimented me.
“Thank you, sir,” I said gratefully, taking the book from the air as the spell faded away. This raised an interesting question. “Sir? Is it possible to turn the sight off?”
He thought about that seriously for a moment. “It eventually becomes another form of sense, but I suppose with mental exercise one could open and close it at will. Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that your robe looks blue now instead of gray like before, and I can’t make it change back.”
“One spell at a time, my boy. Changing the color of clothing is fairly simple. I can teach it to you later.”
“Sir?” I ask, unsure what he meant. He started laughing softly.