[[ Prompt: A story about a magic spell ]]
Sorelle sniffed at the jar warily. She couldn’t be sure if it was the right kind of butterfly wings; the label was long worn off. They weren’t normally stocked in the practice rooms, she had found them in a forgotten drawer in her bedroom. In her reading, she’d looked up what they might be used for, and found something intriguing — a simple illusion spell. Most were far too advanced for her, especially someone who mostly studied fire, but Sorelle had read and re-read the butterfly wing spell over and over and she was certain that she could manage it. She’d tucked the little jar away in a pocket inside her robe and padded down to the practice rooms. It wasn’t exactly against the rules to cast after hours, but she was still wary as she didn’t precisely know what the outcome might be. If something went wrong, she’d rather not have to explain it to anyone — especially the Headmaster.
Illusion spells were especially finicky. While not as dangerous as fire spells, rooms could easily be warded to not catch flame, and you knew you’d get fire, at least. Not so with illusions; the result could vary wildly based on a hundred factors: the caster, the reagents, the location, perhaps even the lighting and time of day. The only illusion spell that Sorelle felt confident about was a simple color changing spell for objects. But if this one worked… she was getting ahead of herself. Sorelle took a tray out from the drawer and began assembling her reagents. She placed the little jar of butterfly wings on it, along with arcane powder, basilisk scales, fadeleaf, and spider silk. Checking the spellbook, she measured out the precise amounts of each into a stone bowl, and ground them with the pestle. She carefully shook the powder into a glass tumbler filled with water. If she had to breathe, she would have held it as she recited the spell, following along with her finger.
She didn’t feel any different. No tingling or even any magical residue. But the real test would be when she looked into a mirror. Sorelle rushed to the sink and looked into the mirror above it. Nothing. The same skeleton face with its sunken eyes and leathery skin looked back at her. Discouraged, Sorelle went back to her book again. Surely she had overlooked something, measured wrong or mis-spoken a word. She prepared the spell again, triple checking every step. Maybe it was the butterfly wings after all. Sorelle opened the reagent cabinet and searched for anything else that might work. There were moth wings, but that wasn’t really the same. Would they work? It could be dangerous. Sorelle put them back in the cabinet.
Once again, she ground the reagents and added the powder to the liquid. Once again, she read the spell aloud, careful not to skip or mis-pronounce any words. And once again, nothing. Sorelle sat down with a heavy sigh. It was foolish to think she could have cast such a difficult spell correctly, and foolish to think it would disguise what she really was. Every day she saw the other students, so happy and bright and alive, and she felt more and more discouraged. Maybe if she looked more like them, it would be okay. It wasn’t their fault, she could see how she looked. It was right there in the mirror.
“Sora?” Des poked her head in the doorway. “Oh, were you working? I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
Embarrassed, Sorelle started to gather up her jars to put them away. “No — I mean, it’s okay. I was finished.”
Des paused. “Let me help you,” she offered, picking up some of the empty vials and jars. “I think the cake is almost done. Did you want to go get some?”
Sorelle felt herself smile. “Yes.” Maybe she didn’t need an illusion after all.