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Read an Extract from Sorcery and Small Magics by Maiga Doocy

Sorcery and Small Magics by Maiga Doocy

Sorcery and Small Magics by Maiga Doocy


Desperate to undo the curse binding them together, an impulsive sorcerer and his curmudgeonly rival venture deep into a magical forest in search of a counterspell – only to discover that magic might not be the only thing pulling them together. An irresistible cosy fantasy for fans of A Marvellous Light and Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries.

Leovander Loveage is a master of small magics. He can summon butterflies with a song or turn someone’s hair pink by snapping his fingers. Such minor charms don’t earn him much admiration from other sorcerers (or his father), but anything more elaborate always blows up in his face. Which is why Leo vowed years ago to never again write powerful magic.

That is, until a mix-up involving a forbidden spell binds Leo to obey the commands of his longtime nemesis, Sebastian Grimm. Grimm is Leo’s complete opposite – respected, exceptionally talented, and an absolutely insufferable curmudgeon. The only thing they agree on is that getting caught using forbidden magic would mean the end of their careers. They need a counterspell, and fast.

Chasing rumours of a powerful sorcerer with a knack for undoing curses, Leo and Grimm enter the Unquiet Wood, a forest infested with murderous monsters and dangerous outlaws. To dissolve the curse, they’ll have to uncover the true depths of Leo’s magic, set aside their long-standing rivalry, and – much to their horror – work together. Even as an odd spark of attraction flares between them.

Read on to enjoy the first two chapters!


It was not my intention to cause mischief immediately upon arriving back at the Fount, despite what anyone else may tell you. And yet, by the time the night was over, I was drunk, my nose was bleeding, and Sebastian Grimm was furious with me.

It should be noted that only one of these things was unusual.

In order to understand these happenings, you must first understand the circumstances of my return to the Fount. Chiefly, that I was lucky to be there at all. My previous year of study had come to a close with an unfortunate incident involving a spell that caused one of my instructors to think she was a duck for a full hour, and no matter how much I argued that this was how the spell was supposed to work, no one seemed to agree that explanation made things better. I’d been allowed to come back, but it had involved quite a lot of hand-wringing and promises of good behavior (on my part), as well as some stern lectures and threats of immediate expulsion if I did not meet certain standards (on the part of the Fount’s academic board).

In short: I was on thin ice before even stepping foot on the Fount grounds.

The sun was setting as I passed through the city gates, and I delayed further by grabbing my violin case and hopping out of the carriage, directing the driver to deliver the rest of my belongings without me (“Care of Agnes Quest, if you please. She’ll know where to put them”).

The Fount was situated in the city of Luxe’s southern quarter, with towers of pale stone that rose high above the surrounding buildings, and paper-choked depths that sank far below the city streets. Inside those walls existed a separate world that revolved entirely around magic and discipline. Not being in the mood to subject myself to either of those things a moment sooner than necessary, I veered off course and made my way to the boisterous streets of the northern quarter, where I proceeded to distract myself with music and cards and good company.

The night air was mild when I stumbled out onto the street hours later, summer still clinging to it. I decided to take the long way back in order to enjoy both the breeze and my last few moments of freedom. Despite that, I’m certain I would have reached the Fount gates before the midnight bell struck were it not for two factors:

  1. I was slightly tipsy. Only slightly, but that was enough for me to be distracted by the moon, peeking out from between the building spires above me, and I took a wrong turn.
  2. I was followed by two of my companions from that night’s card table.

Perhaps they were upset by the amount of their coin I’d managed to walk away with, or perhaps the celebratory winner’s song I’d played whilst perched on top of the bar had rubbed them the wrong way, who’s to say? Usually, I was better at spotting sore losers, but I’d entered the game already inebriated, which improved my opinion of most people.

I had just enough presence of mind to make a few quick turns and then scramble up a drainpipe before my followers could match my pace. Perhaps if I was a Caster a more direct approach would have been possible, but there are two kinds of sorcerers: those who cast spells, and those who write them. I was the latter, and not even an impressive Scriver at that.

I held my breath as my two erstwhile gaming companions rounded the corner and looked around wildly.

“Lost him,” the man with the deep voice said.

“Well, we know where he’s going,” the woman replied. She wore tall, red boots that I had complimented her on, back when we’d been friends an hour ago. “The Fount is back in session tomorrow, and only a sorcerer would be seen about town in one of those hideous coats.”

I bristled at this. My coat was mid-length and black with many pockets, both on the outside and running along the inner lining. A sorcerer’s coat is a wonderful thing to have, with spells on the pockets so you could carry far more than the space should have allowed for, and more magic woven into the fabric to keep the wearer cool in summer and warm in winter. I also thought it happened to be an unquestionably stylish piece of clothing and that I looked quite dashing in it.

My would-be robbers, unaware of my outrage, continued on in the direction of the Fount. Once their footsteps had faded, I pulled myself from the gutter and onto the roof proper. It wasn’t the first time I had avoided attention by scrambling over Luxe’s rooftops, and it was a faster (if more dangerous) route.

The journey went mostly without incident, though I did lose several minutes untangling my boot from a wash-line full of someone’s clothing. Nevertheless, when I finally caught sight of the Fount’s grand front gate, my followers were still nowhere in sight.

I shimmied down another drainpipe with more haste than grace, clutching my violin case awkwardly, then darted across the road. It wasn’t until I slid to a stop in front of the gate that I realized something that should have been clear to me from first glance—it was shut.

This was a fairly new development. Until recently the Fount’s doors had been open all hours of the day, but the previous year a troop of Coterie members had gone rogue and broken into one of the library’s locked vaults, stealing an undisclosed number of extremely rare spells. Needless to say, security measures had been heightened in the wake of the robbery. These measures included closing the gates at midnight, as I now belatedly recalled.

I swore softly and looked over my shoulder.

“You missed the midnight bell by twenty minutes at least.”

The voice was flat, remarkable only for its deep tenor and the unmistakable disapproval lacing each word. I flinched in surprise and looked back towards the door just as a figure stepped forward from the collected gloom of the gate’s arch.

“Oh. Hello, Grimm,” I said, with little enthusiasm.

Sebastian Grimm lived up to his name in every way imaginable, like a thundercloud in human form. His hair was a shockingly pale gray and had been that way even when we first met at seventeen. A permanent line of displeasure was etched between his dark brows, and his mouth had a habit of settling into a thin line, turning his expression sour. Or at least, that was the expression he wore whenever he caught sight of me.

Grimm’s usually immaculate sorcerer’s coat was covered in a thin layer of dust, and the indigo Caster’s sash wrapped around his waist was creased. A bag hung from his shoulder, packed so tightly the seams were straining. It looked heavy. Grimm looked tired.

Grimm was always easiest to annoy when he was tired, and I have always been unable to resist low-hanging fruit.

I shook my head and made a tutting sound with my tongue. “Sebastian Grimm, out cavorting the night before our final tier commences. What is the world coming to?”

Grimm’s lips tugged down at the corners. “My return was delayed when a stream decided to forge itself a new path directly across one of the main roads. It took the Coterie nearly two hours to spell it back in place.” He gave me a once over, making note of my rumpled clothes and flushed face. “What’s your excuse?”

“Lost track of time,” I said, and winked for good measure. “What are you waiting here for?”

Grimm looked down his nose at me like I was a particularly stupid bug he was thinking about stepping on. “No one answered when I knocked.”

I laughed. “Do you mean to say, in nearly five years of attending the Fount, you’ve never bothered to find another way in besides the front gate?”

Grimm, tellingly, said nothing. It was not so surprising, considering what I knew of his habits. No reveling with friends in the streets of Luxe for Sebastian Grimm. I could not imagine he had ever found himself in a situation that demanded sneaking back into the Fount after hours.

It was tempting, very tempting, to turn around and leave him there without another word. It’s undoubtedly what Grimm would have done to me, had our positions been reversed. But I couldn’t help but think what would happen if my pursuers arrived and found Grimm outside the gate instead of me. I wasn’t concerned for his safety, understand, but the last thing I needed was for Grimm to discover I’d been gambling. I was sure he’d be only too eager to share my transgressions with the Fount’s board of sorcerers and I’d already received a very clearly worded letter from them detailing exactly what would happen if I so much as thought about breaking a rule this year.

I sighed heavily. “Are you coming? Or do you intend to sleep in the dust of the street tonight, simply to avoid following me?”

Then I started walking.

After a moment I was rewarded by the sound of Grimm’s footsteps, leaving the gate to trail reluctantly after me down the road.


Around the eastern side of the Fount, there is a particularly pretty stretch of wall where trees border the walkway and their branches stretch up and outwards, leaning over to kiss leaves with the trees overflowing from the Fount’s garden within. By day, this area is a popular place to stroll because of the shade and the view. By night, it’s the perfect place to sneak over the wall, making use of the natural handholds provided by greenery.

There were, of course, spells in place to prevent outsiders from doing this, but Grimm and I were not outsiders, we were simply residents resorting to inconvenient measures. I’d climbed these trees many times on my own since the midnight bell’s implement, when I’d been unwilling to let the Fount’s rules deprive me of a full night of fun.

“There’s no need to climb with me here,” Grimm said impatiently, once I’d explained this. “A Lightfoot charm will see us over the wall easily.” He looked at me expectantly.

“Oh,” I said, surprised. “You want me to write it?”

“It’s only a charm, Loveage,” Grimm said. “You should be capable of that much, yes?”

Yes, I could write charms. Cantrips too. I could even transcribe other Scriver’s Grandmagic spells without issue. It was when I wrote my own that things went wrong, that was what Grimm was hinting at. Grandmagic had a habit of turning out so poorly for me that I avoided writing it altogether. My last brush with it had been an accident in second tier, when I’d unintentionally written a wind spell with a bit too much power built into it. The demonstration of said spell had destroyed an entire classroom, knocked one person out a first story window (Grimm), and resulted in the cracking of three ribs (my own). This had earned me a bit of a reputation, as well as a fair amount of laughter and whispers behind my back. A Fount-trained Scriver who couldn’t write Grandmagic? What was the point?

I had said something very similar to my father when he insisted I enroll. In fact, I believe my exact words were, “Why would I want to spend five years as a laughingstock?” I’d been considered a scriving prodigy when I was young, but that talent had withered on the vine. I’d held more promise as a child than I ever would again, but my father had yet to accept this.

“You’ve had a place at the Fount since you were born,” he’d said.

“Well, I don’t want it,” I told him, which had led to a week of heated arguments and ended with him making it clear that, if I didn’t attend the Fount and become a fifth tier sorcerer like my older brother had, I could kiss my portion of the inheritance goodbye. The money, the title, the land holdings, all of it.

I didn’t much like to think about that confrontation, but sometimes my father’s parting words still echoed in my ears.

You will learn to control your magic and your attitude and become a fully trained sorcerer, or you will become nothing at all.

After four years at the Fount, I rather thought my father had overlooked the possibility that I could become a fully trained sorcerer and still amount to nothing at all. But Grimm was right; I could write charms, at least.

I reached into my pocket to retrieve paper and quill. The words of the Lightfoot charm Grimm mentioned were lost to me—I was shit at memorization—but it was the work of a moment to come up with my own version of the spell, combining what words in the old language I remembered with a few more I found fitting. When it was done, I blew the ink dry and handed the spell to Grimm.

“Your penmanship is awful,” was the first thing he said. There was plenty of light from the street for him to read by, so I thought the show he made of squinting and frowning down at the paper was a bit much. “This is incorrect.”

“It’s not,” I said. “I just couldn’t remember the words to the Lightfoot spell so I wrote my own. It should work the same. Mostly.”

Grimm stared at me. “Surely you’ve memorized something as basic as that by now?”

I shrugged. “Didn’t stick.”

Grimm looked horrified by this admission. He took ages reading over the spell again, probably searching it for traps. This was insulting, but perhaps not entirely unwarranted. Grimm and I had been collecting grievances against one another since first tier, like honey catches flies. I’d once tricked him into casting a charm that turned his pale hair a delightful shade of pink. I’d thought it rather fetching, but he vehemently disagreed. That incident had been the launching point for the enmity that had stuck like a thorn between us ever since.

Once he’d assured himself the spell was as I said, Grimm motioned me closer and gingerly grabbed my left arm with one hand. With the other, he held the spell-paper between thumb and forefinger and began to cast. His brow furrowed in concentration. Smoke gathered in his hand and rose up into the air as magic ate the words I’d written, burning away the paper as it went. He didn’t even have to speak the words of the spell aloud.

I will passionately deny admitting this if asked, but Grimm is a brilliant Caster. Most sorcerers can’t cast silently, but he did it as a matter of course. If he’d been even a little bit better-natured, this kind of careless display of power might have been attractive. As it was, I found Grimm about as appealing as the austere marble statues that graced the Fount’s hallways— just as haughty and twice as cold. Most of our tiermates disagreed with me on that front. Grimm had plenty of admirers who were willing to overlook his personality in favor of his talent. Little good it did them. Grimm had just given more attention to studying my spell than I’d seen him devote to any of his followers over the years.

The paper wasn’t even completely finished burning when Grimm tugged me forward and our feet left the ground. This spell was undoubtedly more exciting than a Lightfoot charm, which floated you upwards with all the urgency of dandelion fluff drifting on a light breeze. My version hit with the same adrenaline as a gutless drop, only in reverse. A sort of falling upwards, if you like. We had nearly cleared the wall when Grimm’s free hand shot out and grabbed the nearest tree limb, halting our progress before we could descend on the other side. I was hardly tipsy anymore, but our landing was awkward enough that only Grimm’s unsteady grip on my arm kept me from tumbling down. I wobbled on top of the wall like a toddler, laughing and giddy, buzzing from the rush.

“That was brilliant. Why did you stop us?”

“We were going too fast,” Grimm said, scowling. “Your spell likely would have catapulted us head first into the ground had I let it continue.”

A little of my rush faded, replaced by annoyance. It was one thing to have everyone turn their noses up at me for something I was admittedly bad at, but my charms worked just fine. I wouldn’t have dared let anyone use them otherwise.

“Climb down on your own then, if you don’t trust my scriving.” I pulled my arm away with a quick tug, intending to move towards the nearest tree and away from Grimm. But ‘hardly tipsy’ is not quite the same thing as absolutely sober, especially when one is standing on a narrow bit of stone ten feet above the ground.

I leaned.

First one way, then the other. My balance was further thrown off by my violin case, heavier than usual thanks to the winnings I’d stashed there. My free arm flailed for something, anything, to hold onto, and the only thing within reach was Grimm.

My fingers caught on the sash at his waist, causing Grimm to cling even tighter to the branch he held, rather than offering me any assistance.

“Let go,” he snarled, but I clutched that sash like a lifeline, silk twisting in my grasp. Briefly, I thought it would hold, but the fabric was too delicate. It gave way under my fingers with a hushed riiip and I tumbled over the wall.

It was fortunate that there was grass beneath me, rather than stone, but the impact still rattled my bones and sent the case in my grasp bouncing forward to connect with my face, hard enough to leave me seeing stars. I lay there, dazed, as something wet trickled down from my nose and the metallic tang of blood bloomed at the back of my throat.

By the time I managed to sit up, Grimm was just finishing making his way down one of the trees, landing with an elegant hop. He slowly leaned over to pick up the pieces of his sash. It had been torn neatly in two.

Sorcerer’s decorate their sashes, you know, or at least most of us do. I’d never bothered, but Grimm’s sash was covered in careful stitches that depicted droplets of water and waves. Now the threads trailed through the air, ripped down the middle of the design.

Grimm folded the pieces carefully and put them in his pocket. Then he looked down at me, coldly furious, and said, “I don’t know how you manage to keep your place here. You’re useless, Loveage.”

There were many things I had argued with Grimm about over the years, but this was not one of them. I didn’t say anything now, either, as he walked away. My own uselessness was something I’d spent years perfecting. Not all sorcerers could be like Grimm. Some of us had powers best left untouched.


Beginning my last year at the Fount with a blackened eye wasn’t ideal, but at least it gave me an air of mystery. Though I caught several people looking at me curiously the next day, it wasn’t until I was eating lunch in the refectory, book propped open in front of me, that anyone asked me about it outright.

“Your face looks like shit. Did you walk into a door?” This question was accompanied by Agnes Quest plopping herself down onto the bench beside me and stealing a piece of fruit from my plate.

“No,” I said, lowering my book. “I walked into Sebastian Grimm.”

Agnes’s eyes widened comically behind her gold rimmed spectacles. “You fought? Already, Leo?”

I told her the story of my evening, not bothering to hold back the details of my less than legal activities. Agnes didn’t exactly support my lack of regard for rules, but she never condemned me for it either. Our lives had been intertwined since long before the Fount, through both the friendship and the politics of our parents. The number of people with a seat in the      Citadel, Miendor’s department of magical governance, formed a very small circle, and their children an even smaller one, which meant Agnes and I had shared near identical childhoods full of high expectations and too many fancy parties. We had emerged from the experience bonded. This bond was cemented during the time after my mother’s death, when I lived at her family estate for several months. We knew each other’s best and worst qualities, and in general supported or forgave them, but this time Agnes’s forehead creased in a frown.

“I thought you were going to keep your head down this year.”

“I wasn’t even back on Fount grounds yet!” I protested. “It was a last hurrah. A parting kiss with revelry before I commit myself to turning over a new leaf. You really needn’t scold me.” I prodded gingerly at the sore skin underneath my eye. “Not when I’ve already paid for it.”

Her dark braids bounced as she shook her head at me. “Well, it serves you right. Do you know how long it took me to haul your luggage inside last night? The least you could have done was send along a charm to make the chest weigh less. Now hurry up. I’ll give you worse problems than a black eye if you make us late to Duality.”

I closed my book without further prompting. The passage I’d been reading had focused on obscure words anyway, and I did my best to avoid those in my spells. Anything too obscure and the magic might think I was actually trying to write something complicated, and that was a problem.

The first time such a problem had occurred was when I was eleven and set fire to my tutor’s beard.

It would have been amusing if I’d intended for it to happen (it was a small fire, and he was an odious man), but that wasn’t the case. And facial hair wasn’t the only victim of my warped compositions. I wrote a spell meant to help my brother practice his sword forms and he ended up with a broken collarbone. Agnes still has a tiny scar on her cheek from where one of my spells had exploded in her face. I nearly killed my cat trying to use magic to get him down from a tree. The list went on. Any time I attempted to write Grandmagic, it twisted to something wrong in my hands.

Depending on who you asked, I was either a menace or a waste of space. Neither option made Casters particularly eager to test out my spells. Fortunately, Agnes had no such compunctions, and she was who I’d been paired up with for Duality class.

The seats were mostly taken by the time we got there. Grimm was stationed at a table, on the far side of the room, impossible to miss thanks to his pale hair and height. He had a clear view of the doorway, and I watched his eyes narrow and lips grow pinched as he noticed my arrival.

“Don’t start,” Agnes muttered, and pulled me past Grimm’s table, further into the high-ceilinged room.

Like everything at the Fount, the lecture halls were beautiful in an austere sort of way, marbled floors and dark, wood-paneled walls offset by tall windows that lined one side of the room. Beyond the glass lay sprawling, sunny gardens, still flourishing in the last few weeks of summer.

Agnes and I had just found our seats when, from the front of the room, came the sound of a throat being cleared.

Silence fell immediately. The few sorcerers not yet seated scurried to find their places as Sorcerer Phade rose from their desk, cane in hand. Phade had been at the Fount longest out of all the instructors and it showed in the wrinkles creasing their dark skin, and the stark white of their hair. Phade was not the type of old that grew feeble. Instead, they had gathered their years around them like the assembled rings of a tree and used them to become formidable.

The cane they carried was a souvenir from the same library break-in that had left the Fount’s security so heightened. Supposedly, Phade had arrived first on the scene and taken on the thieves single-handed. During our fourth tier they had barely been able to walk at all, but now they simply moved with a pronounced limp.

“Scrivers, please rise,” Phade said in a carrying voice.

Chairs scraped and feet shuffled as we complied. There were fewer Scrivers than Casters in the room, which was not uncommon. It’s easy to test whether someone can cast magic, harder to tell if someone is capable of writing it. You need a Scriver to imbue the words of a spell with magic, otherwise it was just ink on paper. But even someone who did have the gift for scriving still needed to use the old language to write spells, and not everyone learned it as children. Gentry families, like my own, usually passed the language on, or hired tutors to do so, but if you weren’t born into a family of sorcerers your chances of learning it were small. As a result, plenty of Scrivers went unnoticed and untrained.

To make up the difference, some of the tables in the room housed groups of multiple Casters working with a single Scriver, while a few of us remained in pairs. This was similar to how the disparity was dealt with in the Coterie, where sorcerers usually worked together in troops, but occasionally operated as a duo.

Phade’s eyes flickered over us, face stern and remote in a way that reminded me of Grimm.

Rumor had it Phade was the one who had nominated Grimm for admittance into the Fount when he was discovered as a child. I’d often wondered if this early association was to blame for Grimm’s character. Perhaps he’d imprinted on Phade like a baby duckling, and decided to emulate their forbidding nature.

Phade began to walk down the line of tables, cane tapping lightly, and as they walked, they spoke.

“For the past four years I’ve endeavored to teach you how to work with a specific partner, or partners, learning what you can of their skills as a means to hone your own. Partnerships such as this are useful and essential to much of magic. But the situations that arise outside this room are not nearly so neat and controlled. The Coterie will have its eye on many of you this year, and they want sorcerers who are versatile and cooperative. Sorcerers who can work well with everyone in their troop. It is my job to make sure you are ready to meet this challenge. Which is why I will be assigning all Scrivers to new tables for the rest of this tier.”

A murmur of surprise rose and then subsided just as quickly when Phade brought their cane down on the floor with a bang.  “The new partnerships will be chosen at random and will not be reconsidered. When I call your name, please come to the front of the room.”

I looked at Agnes. She shot me a sympathetic look back, but shrugged her shoulders slightly. There’s nothing to be done, that shrug seemed to say.

Someone was about to be very disappointed by hearing my name called. No fifth tier Caster would be satisfied practicing charms and cantrips.

“Cassius Bethe,” Phade said, and the sorcerer who had been seated next to Grimm stepped forward.

Cassius was short and slender, with mousy brown hair that flopped forward to cover half his face. He had the sort of soft voice and wide eyes that made people underestimate both his age and his skill, but he’d already had two of his own spells added to the Fount’s library, a fact I was heartily tired of being reminded of. Cassius was too inoffensive for me to truly resent him, but the way our instructors fawned over him made it a near thing.

He paused in front of Phade’s desk and picked a slip of paper from the basket they held out. Unfolding it carefully, he read aloud, “Agnes Quest.”

Agnes let out a little sigh of relief, which I tried not to take personally. With Coterie recruitment beginning soon, Cassius was a good match for her. I stepped aside to let him take my place at our table and stood awkwardly in the middle of the aisle as I waited for my name to be called. I hoped that I would at least end up at a table with only one Caster, so as not to dash the hopes of too many people.

“Leovander Loveage,” Phade said.

I don’t think I imagined the little pause that ran around the room when my name was spoken. Like all the Casters who had not been matched up yet were suddenly bracing themselves.

Ignoring this, I walked up to Phade’s desk and plucked a piece of paper from the top of the pile.

While I had many acquaintances in the crowd, there were none in particular I would have picked to work with besides Agnes. There was one person, however, who I definitely would not have chosen.

“Sebastian Grimm,” I read aloud.

This time the hush that fell over the room was of a different variety, crackling with a certain level of amusement.

It was no secret Grimm and I did not work well together. In fact, we’d been actively banned from interacting in most classrooms, the results having been deemed “too disruptive” by our instructors. Now every eye in the room fixed upon me, waiting to see if I would drop the piece of paper with Grimm’s name on it right back into the basket.

I nearly did just that, thinking that the same rules that normally applied to Grimm and myself must apply here as well, but then I caught Phade watching me, keen-eyed with interest. They had not said a word of protest when I drew Grimm’s name. Abruptly, I remembered their promise that no new pairing would be reconsidered, as well as the letter of warning from the Fount board that I was under strict orders to heed.

Not one toe out of line. That’s what I had committed to, or else the past four years would be for naught. I just hadn’t expected that commitment to be so soundly tested, and so soon.

I met Phade’s eyes squarely over the scrap of paper. Then, after the briefest hesitation, I crossed to my new seat.

The atmosphere in the room seemed to lighten as everyone realized all at once that they no longer had to worry I would end up at their table.

Grimm said nothing as I placed my bag down and slid onto the bench next to him, only sat there, straight-backed, looking deeply displeased. This close, I noticed Grimm’s sash was held together by a neat line of stitches. He had obviously gone to great effort to make the stitches as careful and small as possible, but the repair still stood out, like a stain on a white shirt. Perhaps I should have felt a glimmer of remorse. Instead, all I felt was a savage sort of glee at witnessing the blemish in his otherwise perfect image, knowing I put it there.

Once partners had been assigned, the Scrivers were instructed to choose one of the spells we’d written over break for our new partner to cast. My offerings were slightly more intricate than usual, given that I’d had all summer to devote to their making, but they were still only charms and cantrips. Nothing that would be a stretch for any Caster in the room. Yet, similar to the night before, Grimm spent an inordinate amount of time studying the spell I handed him. In fact, he took so long looking at it that many of the other sorcerers finished casting before we had even begun.

I watched the woman at the table in front of us flicker in and out of sight as her partner recited a lackluster invisibility spell. Across the room, a spell meant to freeze someone in place went wrong and left broken bits of ice melting on the floor. The Scriver of that spell swore as Phade pursed their lips at the mess. Many different Grandmagic spells were being tested, with varying levels of success, but the most ambitious one by far was cast by Agnes. I looked over at her table just as the spell in her hand finished burning away and Cassius’s form shimmered and began to wiggle and shake like jelly. It was both uncomfortable and fascinating to watch but after only a few seconds of this display Cassius disappeared altogether, replaced by a small, brown sparrow.

The spell lasted less than a minute, but this was still very impressive. Successful transformation spells were rare.

A petty part of me couldn’t help but notice that Cassius didn’t quite dare test out his wings. He simply sat on the chair for the duration of his birdhood, occasionally letting out an excited chirp.

My spells may have been small, but they were fully functional.

Grimm cleared his throat pointedly and I turned back round to face him as he began casting. Gray tendrils of smoke drifted up from his hands. The windows in the room were all cracked open but I knew my hair would smell like fire for the rest of the day.

Once the paper was gone, Grimm brushed the ash from his hands, unphased. Not for the first time, I wondered what it would be like to have that kind of power at your disposal.

Scrivers can’t cast. Or at least, we can’t cast anything that requires more than a thimble-full of magic. It was dangerous to try for anything more than that. Bite your cheek. Feel the softness in your teeth as you bear down. Press to the point of skin breaking. You could keep going, but why would you? There’s a line there, between pressure and pain. No one needs to tell you where it is, you can feel it for yourself.

That’s casting a spell.

I don’t know exactly what Grimm felt, but wherever that point lay for him, it was far past anything I could even imagine.

Grimm frowned. “Your spell didn’t work.”

“Oh, it did,” I told him. “Maybe too well.”

He looked me over, clearly confused. “What is it meant to do?”

“It warms your clothes. So that you never have to put on cold socks, or cold anything, really. I probably should have just taken something off for you to cast it on, though.” I was already sweating.

Grimm looked around the room, at Cassius, who was marveling with Agnes over the fact that his bird form had left behind a downy feather on the bench, and the woman who appeared to be holding a very tiny lightning bolt in her hand, and even to the partners who were busy cleaning up the puddles on the floor. Then he looked back at me.

“I see,” he said.

Those two little words, spoken with such cold formality, managed to convey far more than if Grimm had said twice as much. It was the verbal equivalent of someone looking down their nose at you. Phade had been keeping an especially close watch on our table for the duration of the class, so I could not respond as I wished to, but I resolved then and there to only give Grimm spells I knew he would hate for the remainder of our partnership. I would smother him in cosmetic charms and prank cantrips. I would give him exactly what he expected of me, and nothing more.

I didn’t linger over this choice at the time but, in hindsight, I think it’s what sealed our fate. This one simple, petty decision, not so different from others I had made before. All because I couldn’t stand the way Grimm looked at me.

I did it to spite him but, really, I have always been my own worst enemy.


Sorcery and Small Magics