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Aaron Franks, Boy wizard, written by Edward J. Coburn.

   When Aaron Franks turned sixteen he was accepted into the Order of Magic. Because of his membership he would be expected to spend the next school year at the Montana Academy for Advanced Magic and Wizard Studies. At his party his Uncle Randy tells him his father, Jefferson, whom he thought was dead, is alive and in hiding from a black-hearted wizard named Boragon. He's hiding because Boragon wants Jefferson to tell him where the Suit of Levathian once owned by Leonardo De Vinci can be found. Unfortunately, Jefferson doesn't have any idea where the Suit is hidden if it even exists. At the academy Aaron and his five friends will have to deal with several attacks by followers of Boragon known as black-hearts. Along the way they'll meet a number of magical creatures including Waggery, the half-dog, half-elf or delf, Flittery, the half-cat, half-owl or cowl, and the half-beaver, half-dog or deaver.

Here, read the first five chapters of Aaron Franks, Boy wizard. Then, if you like the book, you can order the ebook in Kindle format at Amazon.com .




Chapter 1

     Birthdays weren’t generally noteworthy, but those like Aaron Franks’s were often given space in the Wizard’s Voice because such birthdays definitely weren’t an everyday event. Randy Asmet, Aaron’s uncle, glanced at the article before setting the newspaper aside as the music for the crystal ceremony began.
     Aaron’s crystal ceremony had been planned as well as any important celebration. Precisely at two o’clock the twins who were scattering what looked to be butterfly wings before him preceded Aaron out of the kitchen into the living room. They weren’t actually butterfly wings but merely representations which symbolized Aaron’s new freedom. He looked resplendent in his custom-tailored, purple robes which were nicely offset by the bright red of his fifteen-year-old neighbor Margie’s dress following immediately behind him. When the twins reached the opposite side of the living room, they split onto either side of Randy leaving Aaron room to stand in front. Margie settled herself in the front row of chairs.
     Randy glanced down at his notes although what he had to say had been memorized several days earlier. “Welcome friends and family to the crystal ceremony of Aaron Franks. As most of you know, this ceremony is a necessary prelude to Aaron’s receipt of the power crystal which has been chosen especially for him. This ceremony will, of course, usher Aaron into the welcoming arms of all wizards currently in The Order of Magic and the many who’ve gone before. Now, if all wizards will take out their wands, we’ll begin the rainbow cascade.”
     Everyone in the room, sixteen years old and older, did, indeed, take out their wands. Raising them over their heads, almost as one, they intoned, “Cascadenorum.” Each of the wands produced a bright stream of a unique shade of colored light. As Aaron and everyone else watched, the lights began vibrating and moving about the room to merge with the other lights. They joined forming a series of brightly colored circles above Aaron’s head. As he watched, they slowly descended to the floor where they dissipated. Each beam seemed to be sucked back into the wand from which it had emanated. At this point, Randy took a step forward, stretching out his hand to Aaron. In his hand lay the egg-sized crystal which glowed green then blue before becoming a final shade of orange, one of the most powerful colors for a wizarding crystal. Such crystals were known as Varsimonous crystals. There were a few gasps from those assembled which quickly faded into silence as the enormity of Randy’s gift to Aaron sank in.
     As soon as Aaron had the crystal in his hand, he flashed from one corner of the living room to another until he’d been in each corner three times. This is what Randy had earlier instructed him to do. Fortunately, everyone expected this and they’d all moved out of the corners to give him complete access.
     Aaron and Randy had discovered the Varsimonous crystal in the primary Alaskan cave for finding wizarding crystals earlier in the year. This, however, was the first time he’d actually used its power. The realization dawned this crystal held power unlike any other crystal he’d used in the past. The crystal infused him with a feeling of strength and well-being well beyond anything he’d ever before experienced. He was certain this crystal would allow him to perform virtually any type of magic spell or incantation he’d been taught in the past or would be taught in the future.
      When Aaron had returned to his place in front of Randy, everyone gave him a polite but slightly stunned round of applause. Aaron smiled and bowed in the other three directions of the room. He overdid it a bit, becoming dizzy. He'd forgotten the toll the flashing would take even though his crystal made the process easier than did the ones with which he’d practiced. “Now,” Aaron said, “you’re all welcome to stay to partake of ceremonial cake, cookies, punch, and whatever else my marvelous uncle has managed to arrange.”
     Before anyone had taken a step, Aaron’s best friend, Don Harper, appeared beside him. “From your house?” Aaron asked.
     Don shook his head of inky-black, unkempt hair. “From the alley. I still haven’t quite mastered longer distances. But I’m getting better. I flashed from my bedroom to the park yesterday. I had to rest for a few minutes after I’d done it though.”
     Aaron noted Don’s lack of timing. “Where have you been, might I ask? You realize you missed the ceremony, don’t you?”
     Don nodded. “Yeah, I know and I’m sorry. Mom sent me out for some groceries. Our car broke down and I had to wait for the service people. They finally got there a few minutes ago. They let me leave telling me they’d make sure the car got to my house.”
     “Okay, I guess I can forgive that. Now, let’s eat, as if I’d have to tell you twice.” Don’s never satiated appetite had always been a source of amusement for Randy and Aaron. After a full breakfast at his house, Don would invariably show up at Randy’s house for another breakfast.
     When people migrated to the dining room table, led by Don, Aaron did as well. For the first time, he saw the cake, in the shape and color of his crystal. He turned to Randy. “You’ve really have outdone yourself this time. When did you have time to bake the cake and how did you manage to hide it from me?”
     Randy shook his head. “I’m sorry to say I did neither. I bought the cake from the Altimore Bakery. Thomas picked the cake up for me on his way here.” They actually lived in the remote town of Altimore, Montana, a small village high in the mountains of the Lolo National Forest. The majority of the town’s residents were wizards and their spouses and children who may or may not be wizards.
     After the ceremony, Aaron received the more ordinary presents from those who’d come to celebrate his birthday. From Margie he received a hand-knitted wand holder that would attach to his belt. Alice, Randy’s sister, gave him a large bag of special chocolate-covered jellies she knew he loved. She also gave him a leather holder for his crystal. Like the wand holder, the holder for his crystal attached to his belt. From others he received various types of chocolates and other types of candy as his sweet tooth had long been well-known. He unwrapped everything putting it on the dining room table for everyone to share. Then he noticed a gaily wrapped package he’d not seen before. He unwrapped the package and was shocked to see its contents. It turned out to be a picture of his home run in the state baseball playoff at the precise moment the ball impacted the bat.
     He stared at the picture so intensely Randy couldn’t help but notice. “What do you have there?”
     Aaron held up the picture. “I didn’t know anyone got this picture. Did you?”
     Randy stared at the picture for a moment. “I did not. Who sent the package?”
     Aaron shrugged. “It’s from someone named Boragon. Is he someone I should know?”
     Randy sucked in a breath so quickly it made him choke. “Did you say Boragon?”
     Aaron’s eyes widened at Randy’s reaction. “I did. Why?”
     Randy shook his head. “Never mind now. Set the picture and the package aside. We’ll concern ourselves with it later.”
     Aaron didn’t like Randy’s tone, but did as asked.
     Before long, people started to come up to give Aaron final words of advice and wisdom before flashing or simply walking out of the living room. When the only ones left were Aaron, Randy, Margie, and Alice, Aaron turned to Randy. “Where do I go from here?”
     

Chapter 2

     Randy looked thoughtful for a few moments. “In the fall you’re off to the Montana Academy For Advanced Magic and Wizard Studies.”
     Aaron looked at him with knitted brows. “Come on, Uncle Randy. You know I meant sooner than that.”
     “Before I answer that question, you need to know something important.”
     Aaron thought his next statement would be construed as a joke, but he’d immediately be proved wrong. “Have you been keeping secrets from me?”
     Randy knitted his brow frowning slightly. “Actually, I have, but only because I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”
     Aaron wondered what could be so vital it would have been kept from him. “What is it?”
     “This secret has at least something to do with that last present you received.”
     Aaron looked back at the table as if he didn’t remember what his last present had been. Although he’d never be able to forget that present even if he’d wanted to. “The one from Boragon?”
     Randy nodded. “I’ll only tell you if you promise not to hate me.” As no smile crossed Randy’s face, Aaron knew he wasn’t kidding.
     “After all you’ve done for me, I could never hate you. Now what’s this big secret?”
     Randy wasn’t so sure Aaron wouldn’t hate him, but Aaron had to be told and now seemed the most appropriate moment to break the news. Randy glanced at Margie. He thought maybe he should ask her to leave. The fewer people he told, the safer the information would remain. However, Margie had become such a part of Aaron’s life, he thought making her leave might be unfair. Besides, it might be too much to ask Aaron to keep the news from her. Therefore, making a quick decision, he let her stay.
     All right, Randy breathed deeply, here goes. “Margie, what I’m about to tell you and Aaron cannot leave this room. It’s vital it be kept a secret.” He also glanced at Alice who already had known the truth for a long time. Therefore, she needed no admonition for secrecy. Besides, he knew without a doubt, she could be trusted.
     Margie looked a bit taken aback. “Of course if you say to keep it to myself, I certainly will. I won’t tell anyone. But what in the world could be so important?”
     Randy turned back to Aaron with the most solemn expression Aaron had ever seen on his face. ” Your father is alive.”
     Aaron couldn’t have been any more surprised if Randy had told him he’d actually been born on the moon. “What did you say?”
     Randy nodded vigorously. “You heard me right. Jefferson is alive.”
     Aaron stood there completely nonplussed. “What…How...Why?”
     Margie had been almost as surprised as Aaron. She’d heard about Aaron’s father more times than she could count, but she kept silence, letting Randy and Aaron have their moment.
     “It’s a long story, but I really think the time is right for telling you especially in light of the present from Boragon.” He took in a deep breath and held it until he could tell Aaron was about to burst. Then he let his breath out slowly. “Not everyone knows, because it has been a closely-held secret, but Leonardo De Vinci was actually a wizard.”
     “Considering what he accomplished in his life, it’s hardly surprising, but what the heck has that to do with this Boragon guy and my dad?”
     Randy held up his hand in a defensive posture. “I’m getting to the heart of the matter. De Vinci died at sixty-seven, which, as I’m sure you realize, is quite an advanced age for that time frame.”
     Aaron nodded.
     “One thing wizard lore attributes to his longevity is his ownership of the Hide of the Leviathan, which had been turned into an impenetrable suit of armor. The Suit of Leviathan also had been rumored to impart wellness to its wearer.”
     Aaron was growing impatient. “Again I ask, ‘What’s any of this got to do with my father?’”
     Randy shook his head. “An infamous wizard, with the blackest of hearts, by the name of Boragon, was told your father has some clue as to the whereabouts of the Suit of Leviathan. As Boragon has been looking for the Suit of Leviathan for many years, when he heard the rumor, he immediately sought out Jefferson. Jefferson managed to elude Boragon then, but figured it would only be a matter of time until Boragon kidnapped you to use as leverage to force Jefferson to tell Boragon whatever he knew. Thus, Jefferson figured the only way to ensure your safety was to be dead, so to speak.”
     Aaron stared out the window without saying anything for a long time. “So that’s why that present was so surprising? But why now?”
     Randy shrugged. “I’d guess Boragon simply wants us to know he hasn’t forgotten us, or more specifically, you. Why he’s interested in you if he still thinks Jefferson is dead, I can’t fathom. Perhaps he thinks because Jefferson supposedly knew something about the whereabouts of the Suit of Leviathan he may have given some of that knowledge to you or me.”
     “But if he thinks that, why would he wait until now? After all, Dad had been absent and I’ve been with you for six years.” Aaron’s mother, Randy’s sister, died in a boating accident when Aaron was four. Therefore, when Jefferson disappeared, and supposedly died in a rock slide while climbing in the Alps, it fell upon Randy to take care of Aaron.
     Although his father had taught Aaron a few rudimentary spells, incantations, and curses, his real training hadn’t begun until his time with Randy. The timing to begin this serious training was not unusual in the least. It was generally forbidden for wizards to teach their offspring anything powerful until they were at least ten years old. Any younger and they wouldn’t have the maturity to handle the consequences of their actions should something not go as planned.
     “Do you have any idea where Dad is now?”
     Randy shook his head. “Actually I don’t, but I know how to get a hold of him. I’ve talked to him every-once-in-a-while over the years to keep him abreast as to what you were up to.”
     “Well, contact him. I want to see him.”
     Randy shook his head. “Sorry, no. I promised him I wouldn’t.”
     Aaron huffed in exasperation. “I don’t care what you promised. I want to see him. I have a right to see him. It’s been way to long.”
     “It has been a long time, but unfortunately, your father is still not willing to risk your safety.”
     Aaron merely shook his head. “But I’m older now and you’ve taught me to take care of myself. I’m not afraid of this Boragon character.”
     Randy smiled. He knew Aaron was only being blustery and didn’t really believe all of what he’d said. “If you mean you think you’re ready to take on the likes of a black-heart as evil as Boragon, I would submit you’re still too young. Even though you’re now a member of the Order, you’re a new member. You still have a lot to learn. People such as Boragon are an extremely dangerous breed and never to be taken lightly.”
     

Chapter 3

     Aaron huffed, casting his eyes about the room as if thinking of what to say. “That doesn’t mean we should continue to allow Boragon to force my father into hiding merely to protect my safety.”
     “I’m not saying we should. But that decision has to rest with Jefferson. Besides, instead of going after your father, I’m going to make you an offer I don’t make lightly.”
     Randy now had Aaron’s full attention and then some. “What’s that?”
     “If you’ll be patient and wait until after this school year at the academy, I’ll set everything else aside to take you to your father. Then we’ll see what’ll come afterwards. After all, it’s only a month until the school term starts, so you don’t have long to wait.”
     This proposition took Aaron by surprise causing him to arch his eyebrows and grin lopsidedly. “You will?”
     Randy nodded. “Remember, Jefferson isn’t only your father, he’s my friend. I miss him almost as much as do you.”
     “Which is why I’m surprised you’ve let him stay hidden as long as you have. For my part, I really do want to see him”
     “Don’t think it’s been easy keeping his whereabouts a secret. I’ve wanted to tell you every time I looked at you. You know how much you like him. But I had you to look out for along with giving you your preliminary training. I simply couldn’t ignore your needs to pursue my desire to be with my staunch friend and advocate. Another thing you don’t know is before Boragon forced him into hiding, Jefferson helped me get permission from the High Council for the Prevention of the Illegal use of Magic to search for the gold mine that now supports Altimore and gives me the income to take care of you. Then after Margie moved in—”
     “Please don’t put my training into the mix,” Margie interrupted.
     Randy and Aaron both looked at her. “I’m sorry,” Randy said. “That would be unfair of me. You didn’t actually ask for my tutelage.”
     “Though I’ve been more than happy to have benefited from that training. If I haven’t said so before now, you are one heck of a teacher and I’m extremely appreciative you were willing to take me under your wing as it were.”
     “My, my,” Alice said, “it is getting deep in here. And me without my shovel.”
     “Not funny, sis.”
     “Maybe not funny but factual. Why don’t we cut through the seriousness and have a bit of fun. This is supposed to be a celebration after all. Anybody up for a game of sebbor?”
     “In a minute.” Randy looked from Alice back to Aaron. “First I need an answer.”
     Aaron gazed at Randy pretending not to know what question he wanted answered.
     Randy wasn’t buying it, however. “Don’t give me that look. I want to know if we have a deal. Will you wait until after your term at the academy if I help you afterward?”
     “Oh, all right. I guess as I’ve waited six years already, so I guess I can wait a bit longer although I’m not happy about it. At least I now know he’s alive.”
     “I wouldn’t expect you to be happy, but the wait and your advanced training is necessary. Besides, it is what I promised your dad.” He looked directly at Alice. “Now, shall we play some sebbor?”
     Sebbor consisted of a series of regular crystals hewn so they each had a different number of sides with numbers painted on those sides. Alice sat down at the dining room table pulling a small leather pouch out of a pocket. She held the pouch out to indicate she’d brought her sebbor crystals with her. Randy, Aaron, and Margie sat at the table. Alice gave each a number of mints for betting, she had pulled from a bag someone had brought for Aaron’s. They played the game until Alice and Aaron each had approximately the same number of mints while Randy and Margie didn’t have any.
     Randy looked around the table. “What’s everyone want for supper? I haven’t planned anything as I thought we’d go out to celebrate Aaron’s entry into the Order.”
     “Sounds good to me,” Alice said. “Are you paying?”
     “I think I can afford to buy supper. I certainly wouldn’t expect Aaron to pay as he doesn’t have any money anyway.”
     “True enough,” Aaron said. “I’m only a poor high school student. Without Randy I’d be out on the streets.”
     Alice shook her head. “All right. Let’s not get maudlin.”
     Aaron smiled. “I know that was a bit dramatic but nonetheless true.”
     Randy held up his hands. “What was I to do? This poor homeless waif ended up on my doorstep, bedraggled and starving.”
     “Now who’s being dramatic?” Aaron said. “I didn’t end up on your doorstep. You went to Denver to get me.”
     “All right, enough. Let’s go out for supper,” Randy got up and headed for the front door.
     “Hang on a second,” Aaron said. “Don’t you think I should get out of these robes? I’ll look a bit conspicuous, don’t you think?”
     “It might be better,” Randy conceded.
     The other three waited until Aaron joined them again. Upstairs in his room, he took off his robes, tossing them on the bed. He donned a pair of jeans and slipped into his favorite purple shirt. He put both his wand holder and his crystal holder on his belt. He smiled mouthing a thank you to Margie and Alice when he showed them he’d put on their gifts.
     On their way home, they dropped Margie off at her house. Then Randy, Alice, and Aaron settled in front of the TV to watch the evening news on one of the normal without (a without is a non-wizard) channels Randy had recorded earlier. Then they switched to WNN. The Wizards News Network carried only news about wizards.
     After the final story, Aaron excused himself to go upstairs for bed. When he went into his room, the first thing he did was hang up the robes he’d carelessly tossed on the bed when he’d changed earlier. He took his wand out of its holder placing it on his bed-side table. He did the same with the crystal, marveling again at the feeling of well-being the crystal gave him the instant he held the crystal in his hand.
     Aaron couldn’t help but think about what the future held for him. He thought about the academy along with his and Randy’s possible, and he hoped, probable visits with his father next year. He also thought about his birthday presents, especially his crystal. He was even pleased to have the picture of his homerun though not happy about its origin. It took a while, but he did manage to drift off to sleep.
     

Chapter 4

     The next few weeks passed by uneventfully, although, truth be told, Aaron often had trouble sleeping in anticipation of what his future held. He couldn’t put out of his mind either his coming adventures at the academy, or the anticipated reunion with his father after he’d finished his magical education. Both future events made him nervous. He didn’t know if he was actually ready to go to the Montana Academy For Advanced Magic and Wizard Studies.
     A week before Aaron’s time to leave for the academy, Randy and Aaron were in the kitchen eating lunch when they heard the soft tinkling of an eaglegram arrival bell in the living room.
     “Adelaar, what’s up?” Randy said, walking into the room. Adelaar shook her golden head leaning down to lick her bloody talon. “You had lunch too, I see.” The message she was carrying had been secured on her other leg. She looked up as he approached. She affectionately rubbed her head on his hand as he undid the rawhide tie so he could unroll the small piece of parchment. Wizards used parchment for their messages because the special parchment would lose its message should the parchment somehow come off the eagles’s leg. Many wizard messages consisted of information withouts should not be privy to. Thus, the safeguard.
     Randy looked at the message then handed it to Aaron. “It’s for you.”
     “What is it?”
     “Read it and see.”
     Aaron read the message. “It’s from the academy telling me I’ve been assigned to the Eaglesnest dorm. Is Eaglesnest a good dorm?”
     “All the dorms are pretty much the same. It all depends on who’s living there as to whether the dorm is a fun place or not. However, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble fitting in if that’s what you’re worried about.”
     
     When the time finally arrived, Aaron packed his one trunk. He didn’t have much to take to the academy. All he was required to take were his crystal, wand, clothes, and whatever personal items he might deem necessary such as comb, tooth brush, toothpaste and so on. However they weren’t allowed to take was a cell phone. Randy told him cell phones wouldn’t work at the academy anyway. Randy had bought him a backpack knowing it would come in handy carrying his books and other necessary supplies from class to class.
     Randy had already told Aaron the academy was actually more like a college than a high school. Everyone lived in a dorm room with one roommate. Randy told him unlike college dorm rooms, academy rooms came fully furnished including beds for both students with sheets and blankets. Each student also had a desk, chair, and simple bookshelf for books and other supplies. The rooms were even furnished with an overstuffed couch to allow visitors a bit of creature comforts. Everyone ate at a common cafeteria at times that varied a bit depending on the dorm in which one lived. The lunch room wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the students at the same time.
     The academy was well hidden deep in the Sawtooth National Forest with a four to five mile fenced border which kept the academy away from the prying eyes of withouts. Although there were four forest rangers keeping watch over the National Forest, all the rangers were wizards to avoid as many problems as possible with withouts. When withouts were camping in the forest anywhere close to the academy, they were under close supervision.
     When Randy and Aaron drove up to the academy offices, Aaron was ready for Eaglesnest dorm. After checking in and receiving a map of the academy campus showing the location of all the dorms and the classroom buildings, he received his schedule of classes. He glanced at the schedule as Randy and he took his trunk out of the back of the minivan. They sat it on the ground and Randy took out his wand.
     He waved his wand over the trunk intoning, “Floateronomous,” whereupon the trunk rose two feet off the ground and hovered there. As they walked forward into the dorm, Randy waved his wand and the trunk followed them. They wandered the halls for only a minute or two before locating Aaron’s room. As the name of the dorm implied, the entire lobby had been decorated with eagles. The walls were papered with different species of eagles and there were several stuffed eagles. As they looked for Aaron’s room several girls wandered by.
     Aaron’s eyes widened as he watched them go up the stairs. “There are girls in this dorm too?”
     “There are. I presume you noticed this building is four stories tall. The first and third floors are for boys and the girls stay on the second and fourth in all the dorms. This arrangement better integrates the students into academy life along with preparing them better for how things are in the real world.”
     Aaron smiled. “I certainly wouldn’t argue with that concept.”
     “I didn’t think you would.”
     “Here’s my room,” Aaron said as he opened the door with the key he’d been given earlier. Naturally, a locked door wouldn’t keep out a wizard who really wanted in. They were merely used for the peace of mind of the students who occupied the rooms. Aaron immediately noticed a suitcase already rested on one of the beds. “Looks like my roommate’s already been here. I wonder who he could be, and more importantly, I wonder what he’s like.”
     Aaron’s questions were answered at that very moment when Don flashed into the room. “Don,” Aaron exclaimed. “What…how…”
     Don smiled enjoying the surprise on Aaron’s face. “Yes, it’s me. I’m your roommate. As to how, I simply asked. Apparently they try to accommodate such requests when possible. Naturally they verified with Randy I’m not someone you’d want to stay away from rather than be with in the same room.”
     Aaron couldn’t resist. “Are you sure that’s really true?”
     “We’d both better hope so because now we’re stuck together.”
     Randy simply nodded. “They checked with me several weeks ago shortly after you’d gotten the eaglegram specifying you’d be staying in Eaglesnest. However I did warn them they’d better stockpile a lot of extra food if Don was going to stay here.” Randy grinned at Don.
     “Now cut that out,” Don said. “I don’t eat that much.”
     He doesn’t really believe that, does he? Aaron thought shaking his head in disbelief. “The heck you don’t. I’ve never seen anyone as skinny as you eat as much as you do. I really think you could win the state gluttony contest.”
     Don grinned. “If only there was such a contest, I’d be first in line.”
     “I’m sure you would.” Randy looked from Don to Aaron. “That being said, what time does your paperwork say you get to eat lunch?”
     Aaron scanned the paper quickly then looked at his watch. “Right now, as a matter of fact.”
     “Let’s go then,” Don said. “I’m starving.”
     “Now that’s a surprise. Not!” Aaron said. “However, I’m a bit hungry myself. Let’s go.”
     Randy looked at Aaron. “Do either of you know where the lunch room is?” He winked at Don. “As if I really had to ask.”
     Aaron laid the map on top of his desk and smoothed it out. “According to the map, it’s on the first floor of the classroom-administration building known as Mesopotamia, in the center of all the buildings and it’s the only one five stories tall.”
     “Okay.” Randy turned to the door. “That certainly ought to be easy enough to spot.” He opened the door and walked out into the hallway.
     Aaron folded up his class schedule stuffing it in his pocket. He thought he’d look his schedule over while he ate lunch. He wanted to know what he’d be taking this year.
     The three of them turned right outside the front door easily spotting the five story building. Naturally Don had already visited the building several times. Inside the cafeteria they found no trays, no plates, no silverware, and no glasses to use at the drink dispenser. Don walked to the steam table and asked the guy standing there, “What’s up with the dishes, or lack thereof? I thought our schedule said it was time to eat.”
     “It is, but the director, Dr. Marshant, likes to give a brief introduction to all the students before the first meal.”
     Don started to say something else but a sudden burst of thunder overwhelmed his words. Don wondered about the thunder as he’d seen no storm clouds outside when they walked here from the dorm. He idly glanced up to see ominous storm clouds forming above them, inside the lunch room.
     A very tall man in bright green robes stood behind a podium at the left side of the room. He had a slight overbite, long white hair, extremely bushy eyebrows, but was clean-shaven. “Please excuse the dramatics.” He raised his wand, intoned “Dispelladorum,” and the storm overhead immediately dispersed. “I’m Director Imar Marshant, Dr. Marshant if you like, and I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Montana Academy For Advanced Magic and Wizard Studies.
     “We,” he held out his arms to indicate the people seated at the long tables on either side, “the faculty and staff of this superb establishment, hope you’ll enjoy your year here and you’ll take advantage of the myriad of opportunities afforded each and every one of you. Now, let’s eat.” When he waved his wand again, doors on either side of the steam table, which fronted the cafeteria, opened. Tables of plates, silverware, and glasses rolled out, settling themselves on either end of the room.
     Most of the student got up to begin filing by the tables to get what they needed before getting in the line at the steam table. When Randy, Aaron, and Don got to the steam table, they were impressed by the variety of hot food available. The available fare consisted of roast beef, ham, turkey, meat loaf, potatoes with several different kinds of gravy, along with fried, baked, and barbequed chicken. Another large table away from the steam table held every kind of salad fixings imaginable for the vegetarians and vegans among the students. After they’d gotten their fair share of food, they settled at a table in the center of the large room.
     

Chapter 5

     Don immediately began eating rapidly. Randy and Aaron ate more slowly knowing they’d never keep up with Don. All of a sudden, Aaron stopped eating. He nudged Don, pointing at a blonde girl several tables away. “Don, isn’t that Marion from Altimore High?”
     Don looked at her intensely. “I don’t know. I never knew a Marion. Maybe she’s somebody you know, but I like blondes. Should we go say hi?”
     Aaron looked at Randy. “Do you mind?”
     Randy shook his head. “Why should I mind? It’ll be good for you to make friends or is it renew old acquaintances?”
     Aaron looked over at Marion again. “I think we’d have to classify this meeting as somewhere in between. I’ve met Marion before, but I don’t actually know her. I didn’t even know she’s sixteen and would be here.”
     “Well, then, I’d suggest you go reintroduce yourself. She might not have known you’d be here either.”
     “Probably not.” Aaron turned to Don again. “Are you going with me?”
     “Let’s go.”
     Aaron and Don were soon standing next to Marion. She heard them, looking up as they approached. She had shoulder-length blonde hair, a slightly turned up nose, a quick smile, and sparkling green eyes.
     “Hello,” she looked at Aaron. “Don’t I know you?”
     Aaron nodded his head. “You do. I’m Aaron Franks and this is Don Harper. We’re from Altimore.”
     She nodded. “Now I remember. We were briefly introduced at the basketball game by, let’s see, I think it was Jamie.”
     “Good memory.”
     “I hope so,” she said. “Have you looked at the class schedule? It’ll require a good memory to make it through this year. Excuse my lack of manners, would you two like to join me?”
     Aaron grinned. “I cannot tell a lie. That’s why we came over. Let us go get our food and we’ll be right back.”
     “Sounds good.” Her eyes followed them as they went back to their table. Before they turned back around, someone else distracted her.
     “Marion. I thought you said you were going to Idaho,” Harriet Jipsome said.
     “Hello, Harriet. Yes, I did think I was going to Idaho where my dad is, but my mother talked him into letting me come here so I could be closer to home. Would you like to join me? I must warn you, however, I also have a couple of guys joining me.”
     Harriet smiled. “I’m always up for meeting new guys. Are they hot?”
     Marion turned to see Aaron and Don approaching her table again. “Judge for yourself.”
     “Hello again.” Don sat his tray of food on the table.
     “Hello yourself,” Marion said. “I’d like you to meet my friend Harriet. Harriet, this is Aaron and Don,” she pointed to each of them in turn. Harriet sat her own tray of food down on the table next to Marion across the table from the boys. She nodded at each in turn with appreciation.
     “Always happy to meet a pretty girl,” Don said with a smile. His statement wasn’t an exaggeration. She had dark brown hair, cut short and shaped for her thin face, large, expressive blue eyes and a small mouth with well-cared for teeth.
     Marion looked down at her class schedule again. She shook her head. “I really thought we’d be through with regular classes when we came to the academy, but according to the schedule, we still have to take third year English, chemistry, and Algebra II.”
     Aaron pulled out his schedule. “I have English and chemistry too, but I have Trig rather than Algebra II. I took Algebra II last year. But have you seen the wizard classes? Spells and Counter-Spells, Protection Against Evil Magic, and Wizards through the Ages.”
     “Don’t forget Crystal Gazing for Fun and Profit,” Harriet said.
     Aaron looked at his schedule again. “I missed that one. Crystal Gazing for Fun and Profit actually sounds like fun.”
     “It does, doesn’t it? I wonder what it’ll be like.” Marion said.
     “I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. May I see your schedule?” Aaron said. “I want to see what classes we have together.”
     Marion laid her schedule next to his. Aaron thought it would be good to have someone he knew in so many of his classes although he didn’t really know Marion all that well. However, the little he did know, he liked. She was pretty, friendly, and ue knew it wouldn’t hurt to have a few riends to help him over the rough spots in his studies. He really did plan to hold up his end of the agreement he’d made with Randy to learn as much as he could during his year at the academy.
     “This is all very interesting,” Don said, “But how about we get down to some serious eating.”
     Aaron looked from Don to Marion, and then to Harriet. “Don’s a regular eating machine. He’s never met a plate full of food he didn’t like.”
     Don frowned at Aaron. “Don’t give away all my secrets.”
     Aaron grinned. “The way you eat, it wouldn’t have been a secret for long.”
     “That’s true enough.” He looked at the girls. “But it’s okay as I’m only a growing boy.”
     “Who loves to eat,” Harriet said.
     “Guilty as charged.” Don looked back at Marion. “Are you two roommates?”
     Harriet shook her head. “No. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know Marion was going to be here until just now. I thought she was going to school in Idaho.”
     “I thought so as well. You see, my dad lives in Idaho but my mom convinced him to let me come here.”
     Aaron winked at her. “I, for one, am glad he did.”
     “I’m glad too. As for roommates, starting tomorrow, I won’t even have a roommate. My roommate is from Bozeman and her best friend is also here. The girl scheduled to be her friend’s roommate came down with mono at the last minute so she won’t be able to come to the academy until next year. I don’t know what you know about mono, but as serious as it is for withouts, it’s much worse for wizards. Any wizard with mono has to be hospitalized, sometimes for months, and closely monitored. Because her friend now won’t have a roommate, my roommate asked for a transfer and she’s moving tomorrow.” She looked back at Don. “How about you two. Are you roommates?”
     Don nodded. “Yeah, I arranged it. Though, in truth, all I did was ask. They’re pretty flexible, as your soon-to-be ex-roommate found out.”
     After lunch, Aaron and Don bid farewell to Randy. The new friends adjourned to the bookstore to buy their books and other supplies they hadn’t brought with them.
     “My goodness,” Marion said as she picked up the Spells and Counter-Spells textbook. “I had no idea these books would be so expensive.”
     “There’s no reason you would’ve since we don’t buy our high school textbooks. I did have some idea as I’ve been checking a bit on the prices on the Internet. I wanted to make sure I brought enough money with me.”
     “Apparently,” Harriet said, looking at the price of the Wizards through the Ages textbook, “bringing extra money was a good idea.”
     Aaron looked at the three of them in turn. “If any of you need a short-term loan for supplies, I’m sure I could spare it. Uncle Randy made sure I had some extra in case something like this came up.”
     Marion looked from Aaron to her other friends. “I can only speak for myself, of course, but I think I’ll be okay. But thank you for the kind offer.”
     “But what’s up with that ‘short-term’ nonsense?” Don said with a twinkle in his eyes.
     “What, you want, a grant instead of a loan? What do I look like, the national bank of Aaron?”
     “Oh come on,” Don said. “I was only kidding.”