“Again!” I strengthened my magic shield and braced myself, digging the heels of my boots into the grassy turf of House Medeis’s front lawn.
Felix hammered at me with a chunk of ice that was almost bigger than me—which, given I could only break five feet tall when wearing heels, wasn’t quite as impressive as it sounds.
My shield held, but the ice did push me back a few inches. I pulled more raw magic through my blood and added it to my shield constructed of my blue tinted magic, then leaned into it, pushing back.
The ice gave, but Mr. Baree was on me next with a wave of molten lava.
The lava hissed and popped, slapping against my shield with the consistency of thick sludge—though the grass underneath and around it went up in flames.
I kept my expression even—it was only two weeks ago that Mr. Baree had finally stopped asking me if I was okay after every attack he made. If I gave him an inkling that his lava freaked me out, he was going to stop and apologize for at least five minutes.
Last came Franco—Felix’s older brother—and Franco’s wife, Leslie. Leslie wielded a spear wrapped in fire, while Franco stood just behind her with a crossbow. Franco shot first, the bolt of his crossbow glowing blue. Rather than aiming at me, he’d hit a spot in my shield that had been weakened by the ice and lava. The bolt stuck to the shield and made a tiny crack, though it didn’t poke all the way through.
My right hand buzzed—I was both holding and maintaining a sword made of electricity magic. I hurriedly tossed it in the air as I forced more magic into my shield just before Leslie jabbed her spearhead at the little crack Franco’s bolt had created.
Even though it was cold, sweat dripped down my spine from the effort it took to hold my shield up. I leaned my forearm against my shield and caught my lightning sword with my free hand.
Felix created three stakes of ice that narrowed into a sharp point, then slammed them at the weakened spot of my shield.
I held it for the first two, but the last one broke through, making my shield crackle. I gritted my teeth, but it took me a couple moments to restore it.
Franco crouched on the ground and shook his head. “I gotta say, Adept. You are a powerhouse.”
I pushed a frizzy lock of blond hair that had escaped from my ponytail out of my face. “You guys broke through that time—those were some impressive attacks!”
“But it took four of us to match you.” Leslie frowned as she peered down at her spear. “And we’ve had years with our level of magic, but you haven’t even been unsealed for half a year.”
“Maybe, but all of this is different from what you learned when you were first taught magic.” I gestured around with my lightning sword.
Scattered across the front lawn, the rest of the wizards of House Medeis were focused on practice, too. Off to the left, Momoko was going through some of the newly minted attack and defensive formations with half a dozen other wizards. A shout from her and they’d scramble from a straight line to a V position, their magic-forged shields linking up to create an impassable wall. Closer to the long driveway, Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Yamada—Momoko’s mom—were using some bushes and magic to test just how thick a magic-reinforced bush had to be to stop a car. Farther back it looked like some House Medeis wizards were working on a seemingly average ball of electricity that exploded into a lightning storm on contact.
None of this was even remotely normal for regular wizards. A good fireball was the typical fare for our kind. What we were practicing was a heck of a lot more effective—and deadly.
“Yeah, I’m not convinced.” Felix used his shirt to wipe sweat off his face, slightly mussing his movie-perfect, golden hair. “Unless those vampires fed you something weird, you’ve gotta admit you’re a near genius at this stuff.”
I stared Felix down, daring him to push the subject of vampires. When he guiltily looked away, I tapped my lightning sword on my thigh, shedding sparks on the bright red and orange leaves that covered the lawn. The sword wasn’t really good for anything, even though when I first tried creating it I had high hopes I could use it like a Taser. (Spoiler, it didn’t work like that.) The lightning sword was just another way for me to hone my magic while I did my best to coach my House through practice. It took a lot of concentration to keep up, so I figured it had to help my stamina. “I have the Paragon’s book.”
The Paragon was the top fae in America—but if you asked him he’d be sure to stress that he was a representative only, and didn’t actually rule all the fae courts.
I met the Paragon during my time at Drake Hall, and he had lent me a book to study. I’d been forced to leave the book behind when I left Drake Hall, but a couple days after my Ascension ceremony he showed up with the book and shoved it in my arms.
“Yeah, but you can’t even read that old book.” Felix—who was shockingly beautiful for a human, even a magical one—blinked, flashing his long eyelashes. “The words are so faded you can only look at the pictures.”
“And it’s responsible for most of the attacks I’m teaching you.” I pointed at him with my lightning sword. “And don’t forget, I practice for an extra hour during the day while everyone else is at work.”
Even wizards had to make money somehow. Most members of House Medeis worked in libraries or at one of the local museums—though we had two accountants, a computer programmer, and, my favorite, an electrician. Officially, my career was Adept. I had to manage House Medeis and the wizards who had sworn to it, and I served as the contact with magical society. (In other words, I had to make sure all our paperwork was filed correctly, and I was slightly involved in local politics.)
But this meant I could make my own schedule. And since I knew firsthand how important it was to be battle-ready, I made time to train alone so I could keep improving and didn’t stagnate as I taught the rest of my family everything I had learned from…
I shook my head, cutting the thought off. “You should switch with Momoko’s group and practice battle formations,” I said.
Mr. Baree raised his thick eyebrows, revealing the soulful brown of his eyes. “And you’ll let a new group hammer at you?”
“I’m the only one who can take multiple attackers at once,” I mildly pointed out.
Mr. Baree frowned. “While I understand, don’t overwork yourself, Adept. We’re safe now. Mason can’t make trouble anymore.”
Mason had been a senior wizard of House Medeis, but he turned on me when I first inherited the House several months ago, in spring, after my parents died. He attempted a coup, and the only reason he didn’t succeed was because I made it out and took shelter with the most feared vampire in the Midwest, Killian Drake.
Killian had kicked me out in late summer, and I’d come back to the House and beaten Mason in combat, earning my place as the rightful Adept. Mason hadn’t agreed, and tried to kill me once the fight was done and my back was turned, so I eliminated him in self-defense.
I stared at my magic-forged weapon, which crackled and vibrated against my palm. “He can’t. But just because he’s gone doesn’t mean the danger is over. He had allies, after all. Lots of allies.”
Felix scowled, and Franco and Leslie exchanged looks.
Leslie stood straight and raised her chin, reining in the flames so they once again danced around her weapon of choice. “Again, then, Adept?”
I turned around, a smile blooming when I saw Great Aunt Marraine picking her way across the front yard.
Strictly speaking, I wasn’t related to Great Aunt Marraine, or any of the House Medeis wizards. They swore fealty to the magical House and to me, and then fell under my protection. But I had grown up with them, and I considered them my family, Great Aunt Marraine especially so.
Great Aunt Marraine waved a clipboard—the papers clipped to it were a stark white in the dimming light as the sun threatened to set. “A moment of your time, if I may?”
“Of course.” I turned back to my training group. “Pair up, and switch on and off raising a shield and attacking.”
Franco playfully saluted me. “Whatever you say, Adept!”
“I’ll attack.” Leslie shot-putted the butt of her spear at her husband’s gut. Franco wheezed and folded in half when he didn’t raise a shield in time.
He coughed. “Couldn’t give me more notice than that, could you?”
“Not if you choose to make light of a very serious matter.”
“Okay—AHH! Stop jabbing that spear at me, woman! I get it, I’ll take it seriously!”
I chuckled as I turned to Great Aunt Marraine and let my magic shield flicker and die out. “What’s up?”
The older woman flipped through her papers, pausing only to fix a button on her bright, fuchsia pink jacket. “You missed your afternoon update, and I don’t want you working after dinner, so I thought I could get you caught up now before you’re finished for the day.”
Since Great Aunt Marraine was old enough to be my parents’ grandmother, she hadn’t started training with everyone else in the House—though she knew all the formations and helped me set up traps around the perimeter of the property. Instead, she took on more of a secretarial role because I was swimming in more paperwork than my parents had ever faced.
When I Ascended—the ceremony where an Adept officially bonds with their magical House so they can use it and share magic at will—House Medeis had drastically grown. We’d gained another floor of the mansion, and another wing had popped out of the ground. Typically, the size of a House is correlated to the power and esteem the wizard House receives in supernatural society. House Medeis was now the second largest House in the city of Magiford, and one of the largest in the Midwest. As a result, our rank among wizarding Houses had skyrocketed…which meant I was a lot more involved in politics than I ever wanted to be, and brought on a new wave of paperwork.
Great Aunt Marraine waded through the papers for me and helped explain what all the legalese really meant.