Read Red Madrassa: Algardis #1 Online

Authors: Terah Edun

Tags: #Coming of Age, #fantasy, #Magic, #Action & Adventure

Red Madrassa: Algardis #1 (18 page)

As she closed her eyes for just a moment, she pitied the student(s) who came in late to class. They would be facing a large crowd, and obviously couldn’t sneak in behind the Initiate’s back. No doubt that was the reasoning for the location of the door. A smooth voice interrupted her pleasant thoughts: “Sleeping in class already?”

Her eyes snapped open to see Cleotin standing there with eyebrows raised and a smirk on his face. “A little early in the game, isn’t it?” he asked.

“I wasn’t sleeping,” she said quickly, “I was just, uhh, resting my eyes. Class hasn’t started yet anyway.” He just looked at her, and she shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. “Did I leave something in
Meteorology
or something?” she asked.

A voice called Cleotin’s name from the other side of the risers‌—‌a group of older boys were gathered in the corner. “No,” he answered, waving. “This happens to be my next class.” With that, he turned to join his friends. Behind him, Sitara’s mouth gaped open. She wondered why or how a
Probate
could be taking an entry level class!

It was then that Maris plopped down a step below her, dropping her satchel by her side. Books spilled out, along with an assortment of quills festooned with pink ribbons, and sweetmeats wrapped in muslin. Sitara wondered idly whether she could get fabric like that from the market. Muslin would be wonderful for the hot summer weather approaching soon.

Maris, of course, had other things on her mind. “How do you know Cleotin?” She sounded just a tiny bit envious.

Sitara pushed her long brown hair out of her face and asked, “Why?” a bit warily.

“Why?
Why?”
responded Maris. “You’ve been here a few days and you’ve already got the second hottest guy in the School talking to you!”

Sitara stared at her. “I thought you were in love with the Fire Headmaster. What’s his name….Lochi?…Loki?”

“Locus!” responded Maris, with a sniff and flip of her ponytail. “I said he’s
hot
, that’s all,” she added, then looked expectantly at Sitara.

Oh, dear, one of
those, Sitara thought despairingly. Not in the mood to argue with her, she replied aloud, “We met in my
Meteorology
class, that’s all.” Deciding that Maris might know more, since she’d been here longer, she asked curiously, “Is it common for Probates to take classes like these?”

“Classes like what?”

Sitara shrugged, “I don’t know. First year classes, I suppose.”

Maris blinked and said, “There are no first year classes.” At Sitara’s blank look, she explained‌—‌slowly, as if Sitara were particularly dense‌—‌”Classes are classes, Sitara. You can take whatever you want in a practicum, as long as you can prove you have the aptitude.” Noting that Sitara was getting a little upset at her tone, she hurriedly explained, “Do you remember getting the knapsack with the class lists?”

Sitara nodded.

“Yes, well, every person’s class list is different, even for those of us in the same School. You can choose what you want on your list, but the choices you’re given are based on your knowledge and skills in the subject.”

Well, that made sense.

At that moment the Initiate came in, and Maris turned away to prepare for the lecture. She left Sitara thinking heavily and absentmindedly chewing on her lower lip.

From Calm to Fury: Famous Air Initiates
could have been an interesting subject…‌and in a sense, it was. When Sitara cracked open her book of biographies of famous Air practitioners and began reading of their exploits and adventures, she couldn’t help but be sucked in. But the Initiate who taught the class droned on in a boring tone, of the type that made even the most interesting subjects painful.

She caught herself nodding off twice, once during his lecture on the great speech at the Nacirum Games, when the Air practitioner Lucea had interrupted the gladiators’ fight to give a rousing speech on freedom and rights and had only escaped being slaughtered by out-flying a wing of gryffn guards.
Such interesting material
…she thought wryly as she left the classroom.

“…too bad it’s Carn teaching this class,” Cleotin said, finishing her thought. Unnoticed by Sitara, he had dropped to her side as she passed through the door.

“Really?” she asked. “This isn’t just first-day teaching jitters?”

Cleotin glanced at her. “Hardly. He’s like this whatever he teaches. Last year the class was taught by Mardes; I heard he was much better.”

By then, they’d reached the School Green, where scores of students lounged on the grass‌—‌some studying, others just talking. Sitara and Cleotin stood together rather awkwardly on the edge of the grassy verge. Finally she said, “Well, see you around,” with a small wave. “Gotta head to the gymnasium.”

*****

Maride’s last class of the day was
Penmanship
. He thought the title sounded self-explanatory, but he’d already discovered that you never knew what to expect with classes in Research. Looking down at his sheet he saw that this class was physically located in the School of Research. He’d yet to see the building. He frowned once more.

The School of Research was also labeled “Colmarc Library” on his map.
How strange,
he thought. As he trudged across the Green from the main library and up the hill back towards the towers, he veered left. His School was supposed to be on the far left. When he ventured forth, he was gratified to see a rather normal-looking building. Built in the shape of a backwards L, it was three stories tall with a pitched roof.

As he walked through the main arch, he saw a chalkboard on his right, filled with class listings. He quickly scanned it to find out where
Penmanship
would be held‌—‌ah. First floor, classroom H. As he strode down the broad hallway, he noticed couches and single chairs scattered along the walls. The bright banks of windows to either side let in plenty of light. As long as it didn’t get too noisy, this hallway would be perfect for a quick read now and then.

He soon saw that after classroom F, the building doglegged to the right. Classroom H was in that wing; he quickly found and entered it. It was larger than he’d expected. At least fifty desks faced the podium in neat columns of ten. He chose a seat in the third row, fairly close to the window. Plenty of sunlight hit the pine-wood desk, and would allow for easier writing.

Three Initiates stood at the front of the class. At the appointed time, a thin Southlander stepped forward, cleared his throat, and said, “Listen closely and well. This is a large class, and I will not shout to be heard. We are here to fine-tune your penmanship, to make sure that it is legible for your future readers and for the scholars who will read your bodies of work.” At that, Maride’s ears pricked up; he imagined tomes of literature in his name.
Practitioner Maride, a scholar known far and wide
, he mused.

At that, the second Initiate‌—‌a plain brown-haired man‌—‌stepped forward with a cough and noted, “As we all would someday hope to accomplish.” If the first Initiate detected a hint of sarcasm in the second’s statement, he didn’t comment. “Now, students,” the second Initiate, “Some of you have been here before‌—‌once or even twice before. Tell your friends here what it’s like.”

After staring at a few slumping older students he turned his piercing gaze on all the rest. “None of you will pass unless you pass my standards first,” he said ominously. “You will take this class again and again until your penmanship is perfect.”

With a small smile, the third Initiate, a short man with dark hair, stepped forward. “What my colleagues have alluded to but not directly stated is this: Penmanship is important to your career and to us. Until you pass the course, you will not graduate to Probate status – even if you
are
already a third year student.”

He too seemed to be looking pointedly at a few individuals in particular. At that moment, Maride decided he would pass this course on his first try.

“Now let us begin,” the short one said. “Today we study the Sahelian alphabet. It is the classic language of Research, and its importance is paramount when consulting the texts written before our current age.”

The first Initiate reached back to the chalkboard and tugged sharply downward on a tabard covering the board. He let go and the cloth zipped upward, revealing the Sahelian alphabet written on the board. Read from right to left, the characters looped and curved with a well-defined grace and beauty. Maride could see the board clearly even from the third row, and realized that none of the students were straining to focus. He wondered if they’d put a clarifying spell on it.

As he stared at the characters, content for the moment to merely memorize the graceful swoop of their lines, he remembered a tutor from Sahelia. She was an older woman who had come to teach him and his sister mathematics. He had hated her lessons with a passion. She was a very nice woman, but ciphering had always eluded him.

In any case, her background had fascinated him. Once, when he and his sister were leaving their lessons behind for the day to join their mother in the city, he had lingered behind. The tutor had started to write characters on the board‌—‌Sahelian characters. He had wanted to ask her to teach him the letters in that moment. But he had desired the freedom of the outdoors and time with his mother even more. He’d left and never brought the subject up with her.

Now was his chance to learn.

“For the first week,” said the second instructor, “You will live and breathe these characters. Next week, we move on to grammar and structure.” With that ominous statement, the lesson truly began. When Maride stumbled outside later that afternoon, his poor fingers were cramped and crooked and he felt like he would be permanently hunched. But he remembered. He remembered the lines and flow of each of the thirty letters in the Sahelian alphabet.

 

At that very moment, Vedaris was holding up the wall outside the door of his last class of the day,
Uses of A Mage
. His arms were crossed and he was staring at nothing in particular. Five minutes until the bell rang. Ten minutes until class began. So he dreamed…

He dreamed of rain. He dreamed of his mother in the desert sand. She was dancing in a fire of her own making. She twirled round and round, with laughter ringing through the air…

Suddenly the bell rang and he snapped back into reality. Students poured from the open doorway, and when they had all gone, he walked in and took a seat.

It was a small classroom, containing no more than fifteen desks. They were arrayed in a ring, pointed towards the center of the room. Windows comprised the entire left side of the classroom, from floor to ceiling, though the panes were small to minimize cost of replacement. The Initiate teaching the class stalked in shortly after; a woman. He vaguely remembered seeing her around campus, but couldn’t place where exactly.

“Hello,” she said pleasantly. “Please come up and get a text from the closet behind me.” When he opened the closet door, Vedaris found shelves filled with texts. He grabbed three, passing two to the students in line behind him, and took one for himself back to his desk. It was a big book with a dark blue leather-bound cover. On the front was a gilt inscription:
Magic, Mages, and Myths
. Curious, he opened it. It was old, and had clearly been much used before; there were scribbles all over the margins, and some of the pages were dog-eared.

“I’m Initiate Warame,” said the woman, and he looked up. Most of the desks were filled by then. She waved a dusky hand framed with golden bangles outward in an arc to indicate the texts before them. “We will be using this text occasionally for our work in this class.” She opened her own copy, which was bigger than that of the students. “You should note that I will not follow this book from cover to cover,” she warned. “I feel that only portions of this work are useful for what we will discuss this term. Take careful note of the pages and chapters assigned, and you will not get lost.” She cleared her throat and walked out from behind the podium to lean back against the table in the front of the class. “Now: open your books to Chapter 5, ‘Magicus Typicus.’”

When the rustling had died down, she pronounced, “There are three types of magic in the world. You can see the direct definitions of each printed in your text. But I will give you a general overview now. First, there is
Innate Magic
‌—‌power that is inherent to you personally. It may or may not be derived from your family background or lineage. Sometimes it is passed from generation to generation, but may be a power that is atypical for your race. Such as a fire-breathing gryffn, or a naiad who can call lightning.”

Sounds familiar,
Vedaris thought sourly.

“Second, there is
Practical Magic
, power which is learned or acquired through practice. We teach that here. You can learn to conjure, bespell, or create many things. But you must also have the magical core needed to fuel whatever it is you are seeking to do. For instance, if you were in the School of Water, you might want to create a conveyance system for travel. It would require manipulation of water currents and flow. You can
learn
to do this.

“Finally, there is
Residual Magic,
power stored in objects animate or inanimate which any person can harness. It is important to note that you don’t have to have a magical core to make Residual Magic work, only the key embedded in it to activate the magic. You might have noticed that all gardis are outfitted with silver badges. Those badges contain Residual Magic, and can act as communicators in emergency situations.”

This fascinated Vedaris. He remembered the mention of Innate Magic from the library text. A boy next to him, who had tightly-curled dark hair and skin far darker than his teacher’s, raised his hand. “Initiate, why was Residual Magic created?”

“Very good question, Leonidas,” replied Warame. She put down her text and clasped her hands in front of her. “Residual Magic didn’t really come into effect on a widespread scale until about seventy-five years ago. This system is a product of two outcomes. First, the Initiates realized during the Wars that their attacks would be much more effective if they could harness the layman for routine maneuvers. For example, the Likans were losing valuable practitioners and apprentices every week from minor accidents with their fiery creation. They knew that magic needed to be present to safely carry and activate their firebombs, so with some experimentation they discovered that by infusing magic in the bombshell and keying it to certain objects, they could hand them out to pikemen on the front lines.

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