“I could have been anything”, she told herself, dipping the large spoon in the copper cauldron. It was not the first time this thought popped into her head. She had a lot of time to think, you know, as a mage's apprentice. Her mother and father had been proud at first, when she told them she was going to be a mage, the kind that does good deeds and that everybody respects. There had been a farewell party at her village. Everybody gathered and waved her goodbye. Or at least, that's how she told the story to her city-born fancy-dressed fellow students. A calling, a vocation. She needed that to make them forget she didn't know any good place to eat in the city, she never went drinking with this or that famous poet, or she didn't dive in the mud lake on the day of her 18th birthday.
As she mumbled to herself, she didn't notice the yellow mixture turning to light chestnut brown. Her magister, rigid and grey as usual, came behind her and extended his neck like some kind of vulture, plunging his nose in the white smoke that rose from the bubbling soup. "Burnt. Throw it. Do it again.” She was never yelled at, never chastised because she didn't know the basics that everybody else learned during the preparatory year. She would have preferred remonstrances like her father did, a small slap behind the ear, rather than this haunting silence. Behind the too scarce words that her teachers spoke to her, she felt it all : the contempt, the envy, the lack of understanding. She didn't question it at the time, when the headmaster accepted her in the school, without having to study one year for the preparatory exam, and despite her clear lack of culture and style. It felt normal. She still had hope and dreams. The looks of the other students, the laughs of the administration people, the distance of the teachers made her realise, little by little, like the drops of Philiane Essence that filled the first jar used in the making of the potion, that she was not supposed to be there. She was not even a brilliant student. She had to do everything twice and it took her twice as long.
Soon, she was alone with her teacher, everybody else having cleaned their alchemy tools, pilled up their books and placed the result of their afternoon work on the upper right corner of their enchanting table. The wind was blowing hard against the stone wall of the south-west tower. The grey sky darkened to match the exact colour of Magister Romuald's eyebrows. When she saw him objectifying (– to objectify : to become an object under a spell, often thrown by someone else – she learned it last month), she wasn't even surprised. It felt he was already part of the furniture. She managed to blow the fire under the cauldron and crouch under her desk before the spellcaster smashed the window and landed on the teacher's platform. She almost expected the man to speak to former Magister Romuald – and now an antique coat hanger –. Revealing his identity, his grief and his plan, like any good villain in the tales she read as a young country girl under the blanket when she was supposed to be asleep. Sadly, the man went straight for the desk's last drawer, took a small piece of paper and flown back into the darkening sky.
She counted until she got bored with numbers and thought there was no more light outside, then she tiptoed to Magister Romuald and said : “I'm gonna go get some help”. She was not bright, but at least she was reasonable. She wasn't gonna play the hero and try a fourth-year disobjectifying spell on her own. Better get someone. Magister Pumplid, or mister plump as she called him sometimes. Or anybody else.