The first

Her eyes follow the birds flying around the castle, their blackness in stark contrast to the pearl white stone. The animals spiral up around one of the many towers, following the round shape up to the pointy roof. They scream as they dive down as one. Before they can repeat the process, half of them disappear in a puff of feathers.

Felegra clicks her tongue in annoyance.

‘Muds, they still do that?’

She grits her teeth before turning the corners of her mouth up. Better to avoid someone telling her she’d look lovely if she smiled, than to get more frustrated to hear it. With an effort, she relaxes her eyebrows to normal. She smooths out imaginary wrinkles on her deep burgundy robe.

Upon walking through the large, heavy wooden, open doors—only breathing a little bit heavier after the arduous climb on the stairs’ fifty steps—the entry hall still takes her breath away. The floating chandeliers in perfect contrast to the luxurious red-brown panels on the walls. A floating banner shows the way; ‘annual incantation revision day for cum laude graduates’.

After following the directions, she stops at the door to the second largest auditorium. Mage professor Garfunkel stands there, a floating thick paper in front of him.

‘Wizard Felegra.’

She clenches her jaw but pastes a smile on her face anyway. His thick bushy eyebrows drop into a scowl.

‘Where is your beard?’

Her smile slips.

‘Before graduation, we established that women don’t need a beard as a mark of our wizardess. It has been set in the rules as an amendment. I’m quite certain you are aware of that, mage professor.’

‘Hm, yes. Well, I still disagree.’

No surprise there. He’d been against her acceptance as the first woman in the supreme school of wizardry from the start.

You know women don’t grow beards naturally. Most anyway.’

‘Yes, well. You are a wizard, you could make one. Either way, go in now, you’re holding up the line.’

When the day ends, she nearly cries with how little the protest and actions she did as a student had changed things. Animals are still used to experiment on, she is still the only woman wizard graduate, and everyone was still ignoring her.

Her posture looks deflated as she walks through the hallways. When a perky voice calls out her name, her head shots up. Tears brim her eyes at what she sees.

Seven girls, all in the yellow robes indicating their student status, look at her, expectation in their eyes.

‘Wizard Felegra, miss, we’ve been waiting all day for you, can we ask questions about how to do actions? We heard so many things about you and what you did, paving the way for women here and we want to know how to go against the old-fashioned rules and change things, and—‘ The young woman cuts off abruptly, a blush on the cheeks. ‘Sorry, I prattle when I’m nervous.’

Felegra’s grin is genuine for the first time that day.

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