Authors: Terah Edun
Tags: #Coming of Age, #fantasy, #Magic, #Action & Adventure
Allorna said, “Mine was a bit…different. More strenuous.”
Vedaris, who was trailing along after Allorna and Maris, pushing Sitara in her chair, snorted; and Allorna glanced back at him, smiling slightly. Sitara, meanwhile, had been busy observing weavers working at a loom off to the side as they passed. She frowned at the yarn; she could tell at a glance that that they were handling it wrong. The yarn would soon be a tangled mess. After they passed, she turned her attention back to her companions’ conversation.
“How so?” inquired Maris. “I mean, flying is
But being an Air Initiate will be worth it!”
“Well,” Allorna replied, “When I tested, there was fire everywhere and Locus…”
“You tested with
?” exclaimed Maris. She practically swooned when she uttered his name.
“Yes,” Allorna said, a little annoyed at the interruption.
“OoOo, the Fire Headmaster is sooo handsome!” continued Maris. “Every female—and I do mean
female—on campus is in love with him. Well, except for the lesbians of course, but they don’t count!”
Without even stopping to take a breath, she continued to extol his virtues: He was young but mature and super-cute with his stubble and long lashes and cheeky grin.
Ugh, I’m getting a headache. Will this bleater ever shut up?
“Alas, he’s married. But that doesn’t mean a girl can’t look,” Maris concluded with a wink.
Vedaris scoffed, “You’ve known this guy all of, what, three months? And you’re drooling over him. Girls!”
, Mr.-I-wouldn’t-notice-a-hot-guy-if-he-dropped-in-my-lap,” replied Maris, with a roll of her gray-green eyes.
Meanwhile, Allorna examined a couple of nice tunics, and started haggling with the merchant standing by the wooden cart.
“La, la la!” exclaimed the merchant upon hearing her first offer. “Three shilings? What, you wish me to die of poverty? Eleven shillings!”
Allorna, who was in her element, didn’t back down. She could tell he was Toshi, and they
to bargain. “La, shukran Sai’id,” she said.
That caught Vedaris’ attention as he mentally translated her phrase,
No, thank you sir,
and he turned to look at her in surprise. “She speaks caravan tongue?” he muttered.
Allorna and the merchant continued to negotiate until she emerged triumphant with a price of eight shillings for three tunics, two pants and a snug jacket. Vedaris was much less picky and accommodating. He plumped down six shillings for roughly equivalent clothing, stared the merchant in the face and said, “Take it or leave it.”
The merchant took it.
Sitara waved her hand dismissively when the merchant turned to her. She had no intention of buying from him. She’d rather buy the cloth directly from the weaver; she could make better clothes herself at the prices he was charging.
By that time, they had thirty minutes left in their hour, ten of which would be needed to return to the gate. Maris turned to them and beckoned, “If we go a little farther south, we can grab some snacks
you can order some things for your room from the tradesmen.”
As they turned and walked towards her suggested route, Vedaris noted that they weren’t the only ones headed in that direction. Sidimo and Maride were just a few paces ahead. “Hey, hey!” shouted Maris, while waving frantically to get their attention. “What are their names?” she asked Allorna.
“Sidi!” said Allorna, her voice carrying over the crowd. That stopped the others long enough for her group to catch up.
“Hi there,” Maris said. “OoOo, I can smell the sweet bread from here!” Sidimo and Maride reminded the bubblehead of their names, and then they all followed her toward the scent of roasting meat and fresh bread.
y the time they returned to the Northern bab, they were all sorely tired of Maris’ chatter, and happy to see that Tara was waiting at the gate. “Ready for a tour of the Madrassa?” When they all chorused in the affirmative, she asked, “Well then, what do you know of the academy?”
This time Sitara, who had read the handbook the previous night, raised her hand. “It’s been here since before the Initiate Wars a century ago,” she said. “The school was originally built as a summer retreat for the children of the Five Families. It has since grown to include children from all noble families and the lower classes as well. One spring forty-seven years ago, for reasons that are still unclear, all the trees within the Citadel grounds budded red leaves and have ever since. Their trunks slowly turned red as well. Hence the academy’s popular nickname, ‘the Red Madrassa.’”
“Very good,” Tara said, “but our Powers That Be prefer to think of it simply as ‘
Madrassa.’” She set out across the campus, the others following, and soon pointed to the left. They all headed in that direction. “As new students, you will have some of your classes there in Windas Hall.” It was a five-story brick structure with gigantic doors. “Today we’ll register you for second semester classes,” Tara continued, “but first let’s head into orientation.”
They filed through the open entrance and thence to the left, immediately entering a classroom. Benches took up the greater portion of the room, with a lectern at the front where an older man, creaky with age, stood. They sat in the back row next to the bank of windows opening onto the green.
There were a handful of other students in the room, some alongside their guardians and kith. At Tara’s nod, the elder at the lectern began, “I am Ames, Head Librarian and Initiate of the School of Research. I’m here to give you an overview of the academy and what to expect. In your first year at the Madrassa, you must take four academic classes, plus a work class. The four can be of your choice, but since you are all students of specific Schools, I
that three of those classes pertain to your future practicum.”
To Allorna, his version of
sounded a lot like
. “As new recruits, however, your fourth course will be a light defense course,” Ames continued. At the mention of defense, Vedaris’ ears perked up, and Maride looked a bit sulky. “We expect all our graduates and those who continue on to become Probates to be able to defend themselves, with or without magic.
“So to reiterate,” he said, rapping a stick on the lectern, “Five classes—three of your practicum, one defense, and one work. You’ll each receive a list of classes tailored specifically for you personally. Choose well. Your life depends on it.” He ended his speech with a chilling little cackle.
They left Windas, and entered the Citadel green—a vast area of drooping crimson trees, vivid green grass, and open benches placed on secluded knolls. On the green, students and Probates mingled freely, laughter erupting often on this last day before classes began. The clatter of cowbells drifted up from the town below, adding to the bucolic ambience.
There was a lawn table set up in the far corner, with two students manning it. Maris walked over and started chatting with a young girl in green, apparently an Earth student. She beckoned them over with a smile. “Hi,” the girl said, “I’m Karin, an Earth student— although I guess you can tell,” she said, with a tug on her green tunic. “This table is for new recruits.” There were knapsacks piled on the table with a ribbon tied to each, bearing the colors of the schools: red for Fire, green for Earth, blue for Water, white for Air, gold for Politics, purple for Healing, black for the Unknown, and brown for Research. The bored Probate next to Karin handed each of them a knapsack filled with books and sundry academic materials, and afterward, Tara gathered them back to her.
“Now,” she said as she led them across the green, “Across the yard is the dining hall that you will use for most of your meals, and the main library is just to the left of it. The library is used by all the Schools, and no use of magic is allowed within.”
At that, they paused on the open path. Tara pointed down the path that forked to the right. “There’s the way to the Marsea Gatehouse. If you take the path to the left, you will go directly to the towers where the Schools are housed. Your practicum-related classes will be held in the towers.”
She nodded deeply, just short of a bow. “The rest of the day is yours. Don’t waste it; classes begin tomorrow, and you must be prepared. Your peers have had a semester and a winter solstice to study; you have less than 12 hours. Off with you.”
They split up. Maride, Vedaris and Allorna headed off toward the library, while Sitara went to the Healing Center, and Sidimo walked back to Marsea to supervise the unpacking of his purchases.
When Maride arrived at the library, he headed directly to the shelves on Madrassa history; he wanted to learn more about the School of Research and Marsea Gatehouse both. Allorna, aware that she should study, was nonetheless more interested in Maride. As soon as he entered a private nook, she stepped inside and said, “We need to talk.”
He looked up quickly, frowning. “There’s nothing to discuss. I told you and I told
I had nothing to do with Damian’s death.”
“And yet you were still imprisoned,” she retorted.
With a sigh, he closed the book he’d been holding, “Look, I enjoyed being around my fiancé, but I spent most of my time in books. I don’t know what happened.”
“Do you at least know how he was killed?”
He paused, “Yes, the woman said…she said he’d been beaten.” At this, Maride bit his lip. “But he didn’t die right away. I wasn’t with him then. I have no idea why he was out so late, but you have to understand…we weren’t
. It was an alliance of our families, nothing more. We wouldn’t have married for another three years.”
“And yet you stand accused of having him attacked out of jealousy,” she muttered. “Who would benefit from such a crime?”
“If I knew, I wouldn’t have been in that tower.” He sighed. “How long before the gardis realize we’re here?”
“Recruit rosters aren’t sent to the royal palace until late summer,” she replied.
At that point they heard a loud crash; it sounded as if an entire bookshelf had come down. They raced towards the noise. At the bottom of a pile of books, they discovered Vedaris. Flames licked at the frayed carpeting on the floor near his still form.
Allorna focused on the flame, urging it to behave and remove itself from the carpet. It jumped from the floor to the palm of her hand, where she carefully doused it. By then, a Library Apprentice and Research Initiate had rounded the corner. The Initiate looked from Vedaris to Allorna, and then to Maride off to the side. “How d-d-dare you!” he sputtered, “This is a place of l-learning, not a child’s playground!”
“Sorry,” Vedaris muttered, sitting up. “It…I don’t know what happened.”
“You don’t know what
?” said the Initiate scornfully. “Are you not a
? Do you think that you can just set fire to anything you please?”
“That isn’t what happened!” protested Vedaris. “I wasn’t lighting!”
“Hmph. You are hereby forbidden from re-entering these hallowed halls,” the Initiate sniffed.
“But it was an accident!” shouted Vedaris.
The Initiate looked ready to breathe fire himself, and with that Allorna and Maride decided it would be best to leave. They each grabbed an arm and dragged Vedaris out of the hallowed halls. As they left the building, Maride leaned close and asked, “What was
Vedaris, rumpled and disquieted, growled, “None of your business.”
“You made it our business whether you like it or not, Master Saracen,” replied Allorna, using the polite title for his kind as she blocked his path. She felt like using something less diplomatic, but restrained herself. “I felt magic from whatever that was. And we might not be friends, but uncontrolled magic isn’t good for anyone, Vedoris.”
is,” he corrected. He looked at them for a long moment, then admitted, “I was reading a book. I was looking for a primer on basic magic. When I sat down, I saw that some snot had left another book open on the table. It was on something called
magic. The book said that if I want to use magic, I had to use my feelings as fuel, trusting my instincts.” He sighed deeply. “The next thing I knew, the table blew up in my face and I was under a pile of books.”
Maride whistled. “Wow, that’s tough. Innate magic isn’t something to play around with. It’s not necessarily what you think it’s going to be.”
Vedaris turned to him with a frown. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just something my uncle mentioned when I was a kid. He once met a waterwalker with Innate magic. You know what his power was?
. Try handling that when you live in water. He accidentally killed his entire family one night during a big storm.”
Vedaris shuddered involuntarily, and hoped the others didn’t notice.
When Sitara returned to the Gatehouse that evening, no one else was around. She decided to curl up in the study with a book. Maybe picking her classes wouldn’t be so bad after all. She took a look at what the School of Air had to offer her:
Meteorology, Tradewinds and the Economy, Nature’s Skies, From Calm to Fury: Famous Air Initiates
Thin Air: Practical Uses,
Pegasi and Windriders.
Her eyes widened in excitement. What were “Pegasi”? She scanned the page for further details—ah. The Pegasi were a form of kith, nonHumans with Human intelligence.
I could learn about others in the craft through Famous Air Initiates,
or perhaps the merchants’ use of tradewinds.