“This is Professor Rimes. If it’s okay with you, we’ll send Rana with him to test her whilst I talk with you.”

“Test?” Rana didn’t like the sound of that.

“It won’t hurt.” Rimes said, and held the door open. “Come along.”

Rana looked at her parents, who said nothing, but Mortimer smiled at her so she proceeded out of the door and then followed the Professor as he led the way into a large Hall.

It was even bigger on the inside then the whole village hall was on the outside, Rana thought as she looked around the space.

Professor Rimes clicked his fingers to get her attention and then bade her to come and stand by a plinth.

Peaking at the top, there was a large metal ball sitting on top of the plinth.

“To start off with, I want you to touch this orb here.”

“Just touch it?”

“With both hands, flat palms. If you can reach.”

Rana stood on her tip toes and reached out for the orb as he had called it. “Ouch.” She snatched her hands back. “You said it wouldn’t hurt.”

“It doesn’t, put your hands back on it.”

Rana delicately touched it again with the same result. “It does too hurt. It’s boiling hot.”

Professor Rimes frowned and then placed his own hand on it. Surprised to see he didn’t yell out in pain she looked at him. “But it’s hot.”

“It isn’t. It might grow a little warm when you touch it, but not hot. Now try again.”

It was still boiling hot to touch when Rana put her hand against it for the third time, and after that she refused to touch it again. With a quivering moustache Professor Rimes eventually stopped trying to make her.

“Right, moving on. Stand there.” He indicated a spot on the floor and then stood opposite to her. He clapped his hands and Rana was fascinated as an orb of what looked like light sprang into existence as he drew his hands apart.

“What can you see?”

“A light.”

“Not in the room, anything between my hands?”

“I meant between your hands. There’s like a ball of light there, you created it after you clapped.”

His mustache quivered again as he clapped his hands again.

“And now?”

“Four balls.”

Again he clapped his hands and Rana gave a gasp of delight. “They’re all different colours now.”

“Point to the red one.”

She pointed to it, and then each other colour in turn when he barked out the colours. She could follow them round the room as well when he moved them.

The professor let the orbs fade and went over to a piece of wall which was black. He picked up a white stick and then drew on the board.

“What’s this?”

Rana shrugged.

“Come on, what rune is this?”

“What’s a rune?”

That set his mustache quivering again. He drew other strange symbols on the black wall, a blackboard he told her, and the white stick was chalk, but Rana didn’t recognise any of the strange squiggles.

Giving up on that he went to a nearby tap and took two glasses out from a small cabinet beside it and filled them both up with water, then handed one to Rana.

“What is this test for?”

“This isn’t a test, this is a break.”

“No, like everything.”

“We’re testing you for magical potential.”

“Like you do with mages?”

“Yes. Every mage is tested like this.”

“I could be a mage?” Mages were so awesome, so powerful but wise as well, even slightly mythical to her. It filled her heart with trembling excitement to think that she might be able to join them. Mages were in all of the stories that were told round the fire, all of them.

“Does this count?” Rana waved her fingers over her glass of water and it jumped and spouted at her touch. Looking up she saw that his moustache was quivering again and let the water drop back into the glass, and her gaze fell to the floor. She was going to get yelled at again.

“What patterning did you use to do that? Head up child.”

“Patterning?”

Professor Rimes didn’t like that answer.

She shows him other stuff that she could do, at his insistence. He started barking things out at her. Half of the stuff he asked her to do or show him she couldn’t, and when she tried to show him what she could do, with little winds, water, lightning, even reshaping the bench into something interesting, all he did was demand what patterning she has used. And she still had no idea what patterning even was.

It felt like hours later when he finally stopped barking at her.

“We’re done.” He strode towards the door and held it open for her.

“Did I pass?” Rana looked up at him with hopeful eyes.

Professor Rimes looked down at her, “No, you didn’t.”

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