Magic Appreciation Tour Flash Fiction – "Final Exam"

The Magic Appreciation Tour is running a flash fiction contest through the end of this month, and I promised my fellow authors that I would write an entry of my own. Since I’m running the contest, my entry doesn’t count for winning the prize, but it was fun to write anyway.

Magic Appreciation Tour and Book SaleThe rules are pretty simple. The entry has to start with the sentence, “Some days I wish I had never met that woman,” and it has to be 500-750 words in length. My entry Final Exam is exactly 750 words. My first pass ended up being over 1,000 words, so I had to do quite a bit of editing to chop it down.

Final Exam features Jaylan Forester, the main character of my Vaetra Chronicles series, and Lissy Aragard, a new character who gets introduced in Vaetra Untrained. This scene takes place long after the events of Vaetra Unveiled. It may find its way into Vaetra Untrained or Vaetra Unleashed, the forthcoming novels that round out the Vaetra Chronicles trilogy.

I was careful to avoid spoilers relating to Vaetra Unveiled, but the nature of the scene gives away Jaylan’s final decision regarding whether or not he will pursue the study of sorcery. If you plan to read the first book and discover the answer for yourself, you may want to stop reading now and come back to this post later.

Final Exam

Some days I wish I had never met that woman.

I knew Lissy meant well, but tasking me with creating a lycanthropy potion for my alchemy final exam seemed unnecessarily cruel. She knew I had a bad history relating to a lycanthropy potion gone wrong, and I still had misgivings about creating one.

Nevertheless, here I was, setting up my equipment in the middle of the night at the edge of Castle Tarn. The waters of the small lake were absolutely still, reflecting the bright stars above and the jagged shapes of the surrounding peaks. The full moon was high in the sky and nearly bright enough to work by, although I augmented its illumination with a lantern on either side of my small work bench.

I checked the potion recipe one more time to make sure I had everything I needed. If I had forgotten anything, I could always run back to the Archives Castle behind me and retrieve it, but once I started the potion, that wouldn’t be an option.

When I determined that the moon would soon be directly above me, I picked up a thin metal rod from the bench. Lissy had loaned me her personal spark stick, and I used it now to light the oil burner under the crucible that was partially-filled with oil.

This was it. Once I started enchanting the ingredients for the potion, there would be no turning back. A thin breeze caused the burner’s flame to waver, and I silently asked the spirits to keep the air still.

Unable to delay any longer, I placed the first ingredient into the bowl of the enchanting press and pushed down with the curved lid. I channeled vaetra into the press and spoke the matching runephrase of the incantation. I then poured the newly enchanted ingredient into the heating crucible and started on the next ingredient.

I hesitated when I got to the vial of crushed wolf bone. It was the one ingredient that was unique to a lycanthropy potion. I could have used hair, teeth, or bone, but my research indicated that bone was the most effective.

When the final ingredient was all that remained and the concoction was starting to bubble, I looked up to see how well I had anticipated the moon’s progress across the sky. I smiled when I saw the white orb directly above me. I enchanted the final ingredient and added it to the crucible while speaking the runephrase that would fuse the potion. The crucible emitted a loud “tong” sound, and I let out a breath I’d been unaware of holding.

“That looked promising,” said a female voice from behind me. I started when she spoke, and it was a good thing I had just let go of the crucible handle or all my work might have ended up in a puddle on the ground.

I turned to find Lissy standing a few steps behind me. Her dark hair framed a pale face that seemed to glow in contrast.

“Yes, and you nearly ruined it by scaring the life out of me,” I responded.

She nodded toward the workbench. “You could be in for quite an experience,” she commented.

I froze as her words sunk in. I took a step toward her and looked directly into her eyes. “What do you mean by that?”

She raised her eyebrows and grinned. “It’s customary for a Novice to demonstrate the product of his final exam before being granted Apprentice status. Surely you knew that.”

“I surely did not!” I nearly shouted. If I had known I’d have to consume the potion myself, I would have been more insistent about making something else. When I drank my potion, I would turn into a wolf for some or most of the night, depending upon how strong the elixir turned out to be.

“Don’t worry, someone will go with you.” She looked over at the crucible and smirked as she added, “Although you may be by yourself for part of the night.”

So, she thought the potion might be strong too. I seriously considered “accidentally” bumping the work bench and tipping over the crucible, but that would mean failing the exam. I turned back to the bench with a sigh, and decanted the potion through a filtering funnel into a waiting bottle.

I sealed the bottle and stared at it with trepidation. I looked up at the bright, full moon again and wondered how it would appear when seen through canine eyes.


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