Monday, September 11
After having gone through two full weeks of Ritual Magic classes, Dawn had to admit that Mardalan did seem to have some understanding of knot magic. She performed a simple spell right in front of them on the first full day of class, using a knot to capture smoke from a small candle; they all watched the smoke disappear into the knot in her rope, and when she untied the knot, the smoke was completely gone. Dawn couldn’t even smell anything.
Mardalan had also avoided touching any of them, even in passing. She was obviously not an experienced teacher, but at least she seemed to have no interest in doing them harm.
Annie seemed to have gotten more comfortable with Mardalan, too, though she and Dawn had started sitting in the back of the classroom after that first day. Celeste had been joining them, and the three of them supported each other in figuring out the knots, talking through Mardalan’s stilted instructions and pointing out when they seemed to have something wrong.
After two weeks of knot magic, Mardalan proclaimed them all competent, and Dawn did feel some sense of pleased satisfaction when she knotted a piece of yarn into complex shapes and was able to lift her backpack from the ground with zero effort. Edie would like this class; Dawn wondered how complex knot magic could get if you were using knitting needles.
Today they were supposed to be starting candle magic. Mardalan was late. Maybe she was gathering candles. Dawn didn’t see any in the classroom, though she would have expected them to be in the large storage locker in the corner, where the yarn and string for knot magic were stored.
Dawn glanced at Annie, who was staring at her desk with her nose only a few inches from it, tracing the grain of the wood with her finger. “Are you okay?” Dawn asked her quietly.
Annie looked up quickly, seeming startled. “Yeah. I’m just still not sleeping well.”
Dawn frowned. “Are you sure you don’t want to leave this class? I think you can still drop it without a penalty, and you might be able to get a spot in one of the other classes. I doubt they’re all full.”
Annie shook her head. “At this point I’m pretty sure it’s not because of Mardalan.”
Dawn raised her eyebrows. “You really think it’s a ghost?”
“What about a ghost?” Celeste leaned toward them. “Are you talking about the one that lives in—well, doesn’t live, I guess. It haunts Mary Thomas.”
“Yes,” Annie said, straightening up further. “Have you heard about it? You don’t live in Mary Thomas, do you?”
“No, I live in Sayer,” Celeste said. “There was a weird situation with roommates—I guess you guys know about how people got shuffled around so they could close some of the dorms.”
“And because people’s roommates decided to transfer,” Dawn said, nodding. “My boyfriend got stuck with a random roommate.”
“Oh, is that right?” Celeste said. “So he’s kind of like me. I was supposed to be roommates with my friend Jeanne, but she decided to transfer, so I got stuck with this girl, Lin. She’s super quiet, but she’s nice—I’m not complaining. She said they were going to put her in Mary Thomas originally, but she insisted on a different dorm because she’d heard there was a ghost there and she didn’t want to risk it.”
Dawn frowned. “There was a Lin in my Intro to Magic class last year. I wonder if she’s the same person.”
“You hadn’t heard about the ghost before?” Annie asked her.
“No,” Celeste said, “but I didn’t know anybody who lived in Mary Thomas last year. Except, didn’t the girl who got killed live there? The first one, I mean. Christy.”
Dawn was saved from having to figure out how to navigate that conversation (the first person to be killed the previous year had indeed lived in Mary Thomas, but he had been a male faerie masquerading as a human woman named Christy) by the belated entrance of Mardalan. She didn’t seem at all abashed about being late. Instead, she was proudly holding up a sheaf of papers.
“Hand these out,” she said, slapping them down onto the desk of one of the students sitting in front. As he began to pass them to the others, Mardalan surveyed the class.
“I have located an article for you to all read on candle magic,” she announced. “You will read it before the next class. This will be your homework.” She smiled proudly. Dawn had the distinct impression that she’d just heard that classes were supposed to have homework and was pleased that she’d found some homework to assign to them. Dawn hoped the reading was actually relevant.
When the paper stack came to her, she took one and passed the rest to Celeste, looking at the title. Somewhat to her surprise, it actually seemed to be about candle magic. It sounded like it was more history than instruction, but that was okay; presumably Mardalan would be instructing them during class today.