It was a light, fluttering sensation, and the world around them melted away to a warm softness. There was only blackness to see, but there was a deep rumbling sound—like a cat's purr—that rang in Rose's ears.
The sound disappeared, and when Rose opened her eyes once more, found she and Nigel stood in a massive, vividly colorful courtyard.
Bright green grass covered the ground as far as Rose could see until it disappeared behind thick white fog. Trees dotted around the courtyard, along with a few hills. Many of the trees seemed to be dancing on their own, swaying gently in a breeze Rose didn't feel and stretching out their branches to the fog that shrouded them.
At the top of one of the larger hills stood a towering castle made of a shining white stone. There were numerous windows on every side of it, and Rose could see gleaming and colorful designs on them.
Many vines and flowers grew around the castle, wrapping around its walls and blooming brightly and warmly. Most of the flowers were odd blossoms Rose had never seen before: there was a purple flower in the shape of a star that had a glowing white middle, growing on dark, thorny vines that wrapped around one of the towers. Another looked like a sort of bright yellow snake, waving about in the breeze.
"Careful of your step around here," Nigel warned her lightly, still holding onto her hand. "We have the bubble up, but sometimes she likes to play tricks."
Rose turned to look at him curiously. "Bubble—?"
Her breath caught in her throat as the fog slowly lifted.
It wasn't a fog at all. Blue—vibrant blue—skies surrounded them. Numerous white fluffy clouds swirled above and beside them—one of them lazily passing through the top of the castle.
How high up are we? Are we at the top of a mountain?
Rose swallowed roughly. She could feel butterflies of all kinds fluttering in her stomach, excitement and anxiousness fighting for domination within her at the wondrous sights. Crisp air entered her nostrils and she inhaled deeply, catching many odd scents.
"And, hmm, as I suspected: you belong with the Warrior Kingdom,"
Nigel commented, peering down at her. His tall stature leaned towards her, and there was a slight tilt of his head as he regarded her.
Rose shook her head, clearing her bewilderment—everything was so... so... magnificent.
She followed his gaze... down... to... her...
"What...?" Rose whispered in confusion, staring down at a skirt she was not wearing a moment ago.
"A quick changing spell," Nigel dismissed her incredulity. "Used often by parents to change their children whenever they are having a tantrum, also used frequently for groggy adolescents that oversleep and are in a hurry to get to class."
He seemed to be smiling at her behind his mask, his tone tinged with warmth that was not there before. "It's not taught in class, but I would be delighted to show you later when your Blue Magic is at an acceptable level."
"My what? And what did you mean by Warrior Kingdom?"
Nigel gestured towards her uniform. It was a simple white blouse—and Rose had already begun to immediately push up the sleeves in irritation, not fond of their full length—with a blood-red tie. She wore a red and black plaid skirt, long black socks, and adorning her feet were a pair of matching ballet flats. Lastly, she wore a red cloak that fell to the small of her back, its hood pulled down.
"Red and black are the Warriors' colors," Nigel explained before he cleared his throat. "In our school, we welcome all magical Neheburs. Every student is sorted into a kingdom that will help them prepare to join the Community after graduation. Red and black belong to the Warrior Kingdom. Your uniform will change its colors to show whatever kingdom the school has chosen for you. It's how we figure out where you belong, if you will, so we can better prepare you for the future."
Rose's brow furrowed. "What exactly does that mean for me? What's the Warrior Kingdom?"
"Neheburs that fall under the Warrior Kingdom most commonly have an affinity for Red Magic," Nigel seemed to hesitate, choosing his words carefully and wringing his hands, "they are usually those that require a more hands-on approach to life. They are the more physically active side of the Community."
"Like athletes?" Rose asked. She enjoyed playing outside and sports, so she supposed she would be okay with learning to be an athlete.
Nigel cocked his head. "I suppose that would be an appropriate example."
"What about the other kingdoms?" Rose inquired.
"There are five kingdoms in total," Nigel said, slowly pulling away his hands. "There's the Hero Kingdom, Logicke Kingdom, Aisling Kingdom—"
"Ai—what? And why do those two have weird names in comparison to Warrior Kingdom and Hero Kingdom?" Rose asked, her mind still reeling from all this information.
Why were students separated in the first place? To help them learn? Did that mean they would have different classmates? How many students were typically in a kingdom? Did they have kings?
"Hero and Warrior is what they refer to themselves as now. The Logicke and Aisling are the last two Kingdoms to adopt a more modern-day name for their kingdom. Why? You would have to ask them that," Nigel said, seemingly amused by her question.
"And what about the fifth kingdom?"
"The Chasm Kingdom," Nigel answered her. "Ah, but you will learn more about them later. Come with me, Miss Rose, and I will take you to the other first year students, and soon, to your kingmates. I must alert the other teachers that you have arrived so we can begin orientation."
Nigel held out his arm and Rose reached forward, taking it. With ease, Nigel began to guide her through the sunny courtyard, and Rose looked about it with renewed wonder. They walked along a multi-colored stone path that led up to the castle in which everything was brimming with life. The scents of numerous things Rose had never smelled before dominated the majority of her senses. She never thought she had a particularly good sense of smell, but at that castle, it was almost overwhelming.
There was a constant conflict of unique smells. Cinnamon. Willow trees. Rivers. Oceans. Violets. Moss. Dust. Rock. Dirt. Then there were things that she couldn't identify, smells she had no idea of what they could be.
As they neared the castle, however, the smell of running water began to overtake the others, and for the moment, her thoughts were able to quietly settle as she absorbed everything Nigel told her.
It's certainly a lot to take in, Rose thought.
They walked up the stone steps to the front of the building, and the wide glass doors opened before them as they entered a brightly-lit hall.
Rose entered the castle, surprised to immediately find other students within. The entranceway was large and beautiful with colorful glass artwork carved into the wall. They depicted tall men and women with big butterfly wings, all clad in shining armor. They held up their weapons towards the ceiling, glimmering like jewels. Large bubbles of rainbow lights filled up the ceiling, lighting a kaleidoscope around the room.
Eyes turned towards Rose, mostly curious. Everyone else was in their uniform, but she didn't see any other red and black colored outfits.
Nigel raised his voice to address the students, "Hello, students. I am Professor Nigel. I welcome you all to Gardenia and I hope you will remain patient for a little longer while I fetch your advisors."
The students returned to their quiet conversations and Nigel disappeared in a black swirl of smoke. Rose barely managed to stop from squeaking in surprise at a person disappearing in front of her.
How was that possible? Where did he go? Did he go to some dimension first before coming back here? Were there other dimensions? Was there a dimension filled with talking cats, or a dimension filled with talking dogs?
A glimmer of light pulled Rose out of her thoughts, drawing her attention to her surroundings.