Dawn moved down the hill obediently, smiling at Rico as she did. “You sensed the current?”
He nodded. “It was weird, because it was going in a completely different direction than the air I could feel. Professor Lal must have been doing that distance magic thing.”
Dawn nodded. They had learned early in the semester to do elemental magic at a distance, rather than letting it pour only from their own bodies as they had in Intro to Magic. When she’d told Corrie about it, Corrie had said she would definitely have to take Intermediate Elementalism the next time it was offered.
Professor Lal was speaking with the students at the top of the hill, but then she came down the hill to organize the larger group of students that had sensed the air. “All right, I want you to get into pairs and spread out, facing your partner.”
Dawn and Rico immediately grabbed each other, walking a few feet away from the others and standing face-to-face. Dawn saw Michelle choose Annie as her partner out of the corner of her eye, and the others paired up as well.
Professor Lal continued her instructions. “One of you will create an air current, somewhere close by but that your partner cannot feel, and the other will try to sense it. Once you have sensed the air current successfully, trade jobs. I will check on you in a few minutes.”
Dawn looked at Rico. “Which do you want to do first?”
He shrugged. “I guess I’ll sense first.”
“Okay.” She looked all around him for a moment, trying to find a place that she could create an air current that wouldn’t be mistaken for anyone else’s, but that he couldn’t feel. Finally, she made it go behind him, just a few inches behind his legs, moving downhill.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. It took a several seconds, but he said, “Is it behind me?”
“Yes! Which way is it going?”
He pointed to his right. “Downhill.”
“Good job.” Dawn let go of the air current, allowing the air to return to its natural state. She would never again do so much air magic that she messed up the local climate system—not like she had back when they were first learning air magic. That had been a lesson she would never forget. “Okay, your turn.”
“Got it,” he said after a moment.
She closed her eyes and touched her air magic. It seemed to take almost no time at all before she laughed out loud. “You’re making a little swirl in the air right in front of my face. Like a tornado.”
“Right.” He was grinning when she opened her eyes. “You’re good at this! That was fast.”
They spent several more minutes trading air currents back and forth, making them sillier and sillier each time. She was just accusing him of trying to make her cheat, since an air current had flipped her hair, when Professor Lal approached to check on them.
“How many times have you swapped partners?” the professor asked, glancing between them.
“Uh… I think we lost count,” Dawn said, looking questioningly at Rico. He shrugged.
“That’s all right,” Professor Lal said, but she sounded approving. “Very well, then, I want you to move a bit apart again and try to stretch your abilities. Report to me the farthest air current you believe you can sense.”
Dawn squeezed Rico’s hand before stepping away from him and closing her eyes. She’d felt air currents as far as off campus without really trying. What would she do now that she was attempting to stretch her abilities?
When she focused, she could sense the ways that the air currents spun and broke up next to buildings and even next to people. She got a sense of how the air moved around campus—the prevailing wind was blowing north to south, but between the trees and the buildings it was broken up so that some breezes went west and others went east, none of them having enough time to build up any speed or strength. If the north-south wind were much stronger itself, of course, it would be a different story.
There was still that cold pocket near the wall. But she wasn’t going to report on that—it wouldn’t stretch her abilities. She sent her sensation off campus. At first she tried every direction at once, but that would only stretch so far. So she tried north, then west, then south, then east. She could sense the currents, but couldn’t define anything, until she stretched far, far to the east. There was a roiling, spinning space of air, a heavy, cold wind blowing it and something sparking inside it.
There had to be a storm to the east. From here, she might even be able to guide it if she chose to. But she had absolutely no sense of what lay underneath it, whether it was over land or sea, where to send it so that it would bother the fewest people—so guiding it would be a bad idea. She would leave it alone and report it to the professor.