Sif knew Lilja much better. ‘Timid’ seemed to her too mean a word, but it wasn’t wrong, if she was honest. Lilja was nearer the bottom of the class than the top, Sif would admit, but that didn’t justify how little trust she had in her own talent.
She approached the poles, looking them up and down. She bent her knees, jumped, and caught herself with a powerful updraft which left her directly above the lowest platform. Knees still bent, she took the impact cleanly. She straightened up, arms out and moving minutely to keep her balance.
Sif wanted to cheer, but it didn’t seem like anyone else was. She settled for catching Lilja’s eye and clapping silently. A smile flashed across Lilja’s face, and grew bigger when Leifsson said, “Well done. Can you make it to the next one?”
The answer turned out to be no, although it was close. Leifsson again touched the weave, catching Lilja before she hit the ground, and dipped his head as she passed to rejoin the other students. Sif clapped her on the shoulder and grinned.
Nine of Sif’s fellow aspirants took a crack at the poles, one by one. None of them matched Einar’s success; most didn’t even do as well as Lilja. Sif found herself shifting from foot to foot. She wasn’t sure if she was impatient or nervous.
Finally, she was the last one left. “Sif Hrothgarsdottir,” said Leifsson. “Why do you think you are the last to go?”
His tone set off warning bells in Sif’s head. The elder luftsenmagiker were always going on about philosophy. Each school of magiker had its own strengths and weaknesses, its own way of approaching problems. She couldn’t argue with that. She did, on the other hand, find it annoying that they tried to turn their ways of approaching problems into ways of thinking about everything.
On top of that, the luftsenmagiker had a particularly maddening way of thinking. Don’t stand against the gales in life. Go where the wind takes you. You’ll often find it’s where you were supposed to be all along.
Nonsense, Sif thought. Sitting around and waiting for things to happen to you was no way to live. Still, it paid to stick to the script. “Did it just happen that way?” she wondered aloud.
Leifsson showed a smile. “A good guess,” he said, “but I do have a reason.”