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by Destrier

Timbrell wiped his perspiring brow and wiped his hands at his sides. Though nervousness made him feel faint and nauseous, he was confident he would succeed. He could Draw Power and Hold it. He had studied the theory of magic for four long years, and he was finally ready, here! now! to take the Test.

The High Council of the Tower of Sorcery was coldly efficient in its selection of novitiates. No young hopeful was even admitted into the formidable citadel until he proved himself worthy by passing the Test. Not merely a test of ability, but one of courage and commitment, for the Council permitted no failures to embarrass or inconvenience them. You either passed the Test and were admitted to the Tower or you didn't: no one knew what happened to failures: they were never seen again. Ever.

Timbrell opened the mage scroll with trembling fingers. It had arrived magically, materialising on his work table, addressed in letters of fire. It was a very simple, quick Test: one spell: one small cantrip to see if he could, in fact, get magic to perform his bidding. A double-edged spell that would be the end of him should he fail to cast it correctly. He shivered.

But there was no reason to delay. A few gestures, a word or two, and he would know if he had what it took to be a wizard.

He scanned the curt instructions one final time and began. He felt for magic and felt its heady power tingle within his veins. He spoke the words. His fingers wove intricate patterns in the air. He reached for the intent of the spell with all of his will.

The universe bucked, suddenly, the proportions of his work-room seeming both to explosively expand and crushingly contract at the same time. His innards tried to boil out through his ears, or so it seemed to him. Hellish light blinded him. He screamed in mortal terror of the oblivion he was sure was about to swallow him, another failure of the Test.

But oblivion did not call. The room returned to its proper dimensions and the horrible light faded away to leave calm morning sunlight, and himself still alive and healthy.

He had done it! He had survived the Test! The fact that he was still here, with his own soul and body proved it beyond a doubt!

Swishing his tail, he pushed out through the door and into the garden, there to begin grazing on the succulent lawn. It was a few hours before he began to realise there was something rather different about himself.

It was a little longer than that before he began to entertain the possibility that, just perhaps, the High Council might have a vested interest in keeping any potential young rivals in check. By that time however, there was no outward sign that the novitiate wizard Timbrell had ever existed...

The End