Her academic robes and square, black scholar’s cap were crisp and new. She dressed quickly, fumbling with the buttons in her eagerness. Flipping the cap’s tassel out of her eyes, she grabbed Vroomie the Broom from under her bed and slipped out of the room. She pelted down two flights of stairs before becoming impatient and jumping on her broom. Leaning close over the handlebars, she flew down the rest of the staircase and outside, pausing only to open the front door. The windy wake of her broom blew papers around as she passed through the foyer. Outside, she gasped at the chill of the early autumn air and then shot upward, high into the sky.

Rachel loved to fly. Every morning, she spent her first waking hour in the air. Every day, she saw the same thing: the forests, moors, and rolling tenant farms of her family’s estate, Gryphon Park, and the accompanying town Gryphon-on-Dart in Devon, England. Today, for the first time, there were new sights—her first glimpse of the place that was to be her home for the next eight years. Flying as high as she could, she drank in every sight.

The dawn colors still flamed in the east, gold and dusky rose. From up here, she could see the brown waters of the Hudson River, where it ran to either side of the once-floating Island of Roanoke. Storm King Mountain loomed on her left. She could see the path of the railway cut into its slope. Beyond it rose the Berkshires, their green rounded peaks rolling off to the west.

To the north, on the island, she could see the rocky tor in which the evil spirit, the Heer of Dunderberg, was imprisoned with his storm imps. To the south, she could see the spires of the Lower School, for elementary students, the campus of which was separated from that of the Upper School and the college. Beyond the Hudson, to the east, lay civilization.

Everything was so beautiful in the soft glow of the early morning light, as if not only the subjects taught here but also the very school itself was filled with magic. Up this high, the air was surprisingly still. A flock of geese passed by, getting a head start on their journey south. They flew in a V, honking loudly, their cheerful cries echoing off the side of Storm King.

Gazing down at the place that she now called home, Rachel’s heart swelled with an unfamiliar longing, as if she yearned for something to which she could not give a name, something just outside her grasp, something she could not bear to go without.

Something wonderful was about to happen.

Or something terrible.

Or both.