“Well done, Sif Hrothgarsdottir!” Leifsson called. He canted his head sharply.
Sif felt the blow in the weave a split-second before it arrived. A scything draft caught her by the ankles. Arms waving frantically, she fought for her footing and lost. Over the side she went.
She caught sight of Leifsson’s face, watching her fall. He did nothing. It was up to her, then. She grabbed at the weave, and put a whirling hand out beneath her. A dust devil marked the tornado in miniature which set her on her feet. She let go of the weave; it remained warped, slowly melting back to its ordinary shape. As it did, random gusts battered her, whipping her hair around her face. They softened to breezes, then mere breaths, then faded altogether.
Leifsson gave her a small nod. “Effective,” he said, “but not efficient. You cannot trust the weave when it is strained. In a fight, you would have left yourself without reliable magic, a difficult position.”
Sif’s cheeks burned. She met Leifsson’s gaze for a few seconds, then looked away, studying her feet.
He faced the other students. “Her mistake aside, Sif Hrothgarsdottir shows an understanding of this task you would do well to emulate. The easiest path is not always the straightest. You may practice on the poles whenever they are empty. Bring a third- or fourth-year student or a full luftsmagiker to catch you if you should fall. That is all for the afternoon.”
As Leifsson strode toward the tower, Lilja approached Sif. Sif glanced up, smiled thinly, and looked back toward her feet. Lilja put a hand on her shoulder. “I can’t believe he did that to you.”
Sif shrugged. “He’s right.”
The corners of Lilja’s mouth twitched upward, an uncertain, sympathetic smile which said she didn’t have much to say. Einar, close enough to overhear, put in, “That doesn’t give him the right to be rude.”
Sif brought her eyes up to see the concerned looks on her friends’ faces. She managed a little smile of her own, though there wasn’t much cheer behind it. “I’ll be fine. I think he thought I needed a reminder that I’m still learning.”
“Learning fast,” Einar said. “That was a really good run. It isn’t like him to be that mean.” He looked over Sif’s shoulder at Leifsson’s receding figure. “I wonder what’s up.”
Sif turned in Leifsson’s direction too. “Maybe I’ll ask him later.”