This is an excerpt from George Jreije's middle-grade novel, Shad Hadid and the Forbidden Alchemies.
“I won’t practice alchemy unsupervised so long as the sun is in the sky,” I said, peeking up at the stars over the courtyard. “But Mrs. Khalil said nothing when it comes to the moon.”
I rounded a corner, turning into another hallway lit only by charmed candles. The dining hall door soon appeared in front of me. A little over a month ago, after waiting weeks for my original alchemy teacher, Kahem, to show up, I had begun taking my training into my own hands. The kitchen inside was one of the best spots to train, thanks to the stovetop flames for brewing mixtures, all of the measuring equipment, and the range of available ingredients.
Adjusting the alchemy belt hanging at my waist, I readied to find a way through and—
“Can’t we just play board games like we did two nights ago?” asked Hayati.
“Or we can go back to our room,” suggested Rey. “I’ll show you all some new magic tricks.”
My roommate stood directly behind me, scratching at his beanie while throwing uneasy glances back through the hallway. Beside him, Sarah opened her backpack for Hayati to peer inside, looking for something to help get through the dining hall lock. It was that lock, secured by a keypad flashing red, that stopped us from getting into the hall. Most students would turn away at this point. I mean, Hayati and Rey seemed ready to do just that.
Reading my mind, Sarah said, “We can’t rely on the school administration to protect us from necromancers.
They failed before, and I want to be ready to clean up their mess if they fail again.”
She was right. There’d been practically no mention of the secretive order for weeks, but what I overheard in the library confirmed my fear that the evil alchemists were still out in the world causing trouble. While we banished them from the school, they were still just as powerful beyond its walls.
“Use this,” said Hayati, drawing a vial out of the backpack.
Sarah scratched her head. “Moisture Mist? Why can’t we just take a pinch of Destruction Dust and blow the door open?”
“Because that would alert every alchemist patrolling nearby,” said Hayati, adjusting her too-big glasses. “You really love to destroy things. Did you already forget how you blew up the dining hall during the last necromancer attack?”
Hayati clearly hit a sore spot because Sarah froze, mumbling, “That wasn’t my fault.”
Although the youngest student in our class, Hayati’s brains were unmatched, and it showed as she continued, “Judging by today’s temperature and the time since use, we should be able to detect at least one clear pattern on the keypad. The Moisture Mist will illuminate the oils left behind by human fingertips.”
“Not sure what half of that means,” I admitted, “but it sure sounds right, so hand it over.”
Aside from the thumping of our hearts, the hallway and courtyard were completely silent. All the students, the teachers, and even the deans of the Alexandria Academy were fast asleep by now. That was, except for the alchemists Hayati had mentioned, those guards who were hired exclusively to monitor the halls and courtyards.
But no one would stop us tonight. I pulled the cork off the Moisture Mist that Hayati handed me, my fingers shaking, and let it rise out of the vial. Leaning away to avoid inhaling the mixture, I wafted the mist toward the keypad. Sure enough, fingerprints illuminated just as Hayati said. While I’d taught my friends about alchemy over the last year, they clearly had a thing or two to teach me as well.
The keypad flashed green after I punched in the code. As the dining hall door slid wide open, we hurried in, the door shutting behind us.
Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins. You can learn more about George and his writing here.