Mirena hit the ground hard. Rocks dug into the side of her face and her hands stung fiercely where she’d scraped them by instinctively trying to break her fall, even though there was no way she could have anticipated it. Her stomach lurched with the impact as she tried to fight off a wave of disorientation and nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.
A horn sounded. Two quick blasts. Despite herself, she counted them. I made it! I’m home.
She struggled to sit up. The air around her filled with the sounds of doors and windows being flung open as every person in the Stoa rushed to see who had arrived in the courtyard of their hidden College for talented Magi. Mirena grinned, her expression half grim determination and half hard-won pride. She forced herself the rest of the way to her feet and pushed the remaining nausea aside as nearly sixty students and half a dozen staff members barrelled down on her.
The cheering started as soon as they saw it was her and that she was on her feet and relatively unharmed. Mirena’s grin grew wider. I passed my exam in record time. Only four years study to make it to this moment, where most people take decades. The Mentor is going to be so impressed!
The gathering crowd parted to let the aging Mentor pass uninhibited. With his presence, the noise died down, slightly. The grey-haired Mentor smiled at the sight of her, leaning heavily on his cane as he alone out of all those gathered made his way down the steeply curving steps to stand just outside the sizeable ring of tall standing stones.
“Well done, Mirena.” He very subtly drew upon his majik to enhance the volume of his voice so all could hear him praise her.
Mirena beamed and starting running the minute the words were out of his mouth. She crossed between two stone pillars and flung herself at the Mentor, careful to throw her slight weight at him on the opposite side from where he held his cane, so he’d be able to keep his footing.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd that subsided as they realized the Mentor was still standing. “Whoa, there!” he called out, catching Mirena in one arm. “I know you’re excited, but you’re not done yet!”
“I know, but I’ll do the next part with no problems! You’d expect nothing less from your number one student.” She winked at him.
The Mentor shook his head. “Remember what I told you: rushing into things will only lead to a job half-finished. You have to look before you leap.” He put a hand under her chin to lift her blue eyes up to his before tilting her chin to the right. “I dare say that you wouldn’t have gotten these,” he noted the cuts the rocks had left on her cheek, “if you’d been more prepared to make the trip through the Sentinal Stones.”
“I would’ve been more cautious, but I was being chased by a large winged monster!” she exclaimed, stepping back from him so she could wave her arms emphatically. “I had to think fast and perform under pressure, so a slightly bad landing should be understandable…”
“Tall tales, Mirena?” the Mentor asked, but his tone was light and his words kind.
“No, really. It’s true, it got my back with its claws, see?” She turned slightly to show him the claw marks that marred her left shoulder and the blood that she could now feel running down the length of her simple white dress.
Now it was the Mentor’s turn to gasp. He called back over his shoulder for someone to fetch the Healer.
“It’s okay, I’m fine. Just let me finish my test.”