Dawn grinned as she saw Rico on the path and waved at him. He waved back and waited for her to catch up, and they walked arm-in-arm to their next class—which she was glad to be having outside.
As the semester had gone on and the weather had improved, they’d had more and more of their Intermediate Elementalism classes outdoors. Both water and air magic were safer and better to do outdoors, so Professor Lal explained, and that explanation made sense to Dawn. If it hadn’t been for their specially designed magic classrooms, fire might have been safer to do outside, as well. With earth, it didn’t matter.
She wasn’t sure what today’s specific focus would be, but she knew they were doing air magic, because Professor Lal had told them to meet at the top of the hill at the north end of campus, where air magic would be the strongest.
Dawn wasn’t enthusiastic about going to the very edge of campus like that, especially with the campus on edge like this after the death. The only bonus to being there might be sneaking away after class to talk to Tom, but she doubted he knew anything about the death on campus, and she didn’t have any other reason to talk to him. They would be all right, though; she was sure that Professor Lal would be able to protect them from anything that went wrong, and so far nothing had gone very badly wrong during class.
Half the class had already gathered by the time Dawn and Rico made it to the top of the hill, and the rest weren’t far behind. There were only a dozen of them; Dawn didn’t know whether that was a limit imposed by Professor Lal or just that not very many people wanted to take the class, but she thought it was a good number.
Professor Lal was the last to arrive, and she nodded at the group. “Good. I would like you to all spread out, far enough that you cannot touch another person with your arms outstretched. Do not move down the hill if you can avoid it. We should be few enough to accomplish that.”
Dawn smiled ruefully at Rico as they finally let go of each other’s hands, then moved apart. They raised their arms to make sure they couldn’t quite touch each other, but didn’t move beyond that. Dawn found herself on a little hummock, just big enough to stand on with both feet, that raised her a tiny bit above some of the others.
When they had all arranged themselves, Professor Lal said, “Good. Today you will not be creating anything. You will be learning to sense the elements, beginning with air. Please close your eyes and make contact with your magic.”
Dawn did as she was told, wondering how this was going to work. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go into trance for this?
“Now,” Professor Lal said, her voice seeming more distant, “think of air and move your focus above your heads. Do not pay any attention to any physical breeze you may feel. Seek to understand the movement of the air magically only. When you can sense air movement above your heads, please raise one hand.”
Dawn thought about air, the same way she would if she were doing air magic, but instead of creating a breeze she tilted her head back. Her eyes were still closed, but it felt as if she were looking above herself that way. The air moved a foot above her head—of course, she couldn’t feel that, but she knew that a steady breeze was blowing from her right to her left. Physically, she could only feel a light gust hitting her knees. She must be doing it already!
She raised her hand, not opening her eyes to see how everyone else was doing, even though she was curious. After a few minutes, Professor Lal said, “Those of you who are sensing it, please point in the direction that the air is moving.”
Dawn confidently pointed to her left. Above that air current, she could now sense others, swirling about each other, moving up and down—but the strongest one, which she now suspected was being created by Professor Lal, was moving inexorably right to left.
She let her consciousness expand, exploring the air currents. There, at the bottom of the hill, was a slight updraft. Among the trees, the breezes buffeted and split, moving in every direction at once. Out on the road, the winds had space to move and could sweep across it, moving south with strength. On campus, against the south wall, was a tiny pocket of a chill breeze, huddled in one place.
Dawn’s eyes popped open in confusion. That didn’t make any sense. A breeze couldn’t huddle in place. Maybe she was imagining the whole thing.
“Excellent work,” Professor Lal said. “Dawn, Rico, Annie, Dale, Michelle, Emily, Yvette, and Gavin, please move down the hill, behind me. If I have not called your name, come together at the top and we will work more.”