THE EGRATIA SCHOOL (working title)
PART I: THE IRON CHAIR OF FLIGHT
Fyod Merevig swept like the wind of an on-coming storm down the grand corridor of Tarsengaard Magic School. Dressed all in fine black, but for the peacock plume that adorned his hat and the jewels that glittered on the dagger sheath in his belt, with his thick, raven black hair tied behind and black beard trimmed to an elegant point in front, the Dwarf could have been taken for a wealthy and powerful benefactor of the school. The steps of his boots echoed among the lofty marble columns. His black cloak whispered in the cold air as he passed. In his hand he clutched a scroll, and his strong, dark features were set in a scowl.
Reaching the enormous doors of the Meeting Hall, he pushed them both open without hesitation and entered.
That day’s lecture in Advanced Spell Conjugation had been in progress for more than an hour. The Sigils Master of Tarsengaard, Urdo Viy, fell silent as the doors burst open. The vision he had been conjuring to illustrate some point fizzled to nothing in the air above his head. The assembled students, who filled barely half the center rows of the cavernous hall, turned as one to see short, stocky Fyod Merevig sweeping towards them.
Without a word, the young Dwarf marched down the auditorium tiers, right amongst the seated students, to an empty chair in the second row. There he cast off his cloak and dropped it over the chair, hung his beplumed hat on the chair-back, and sat himself down. One leg he crossed over the other and rested the scroll upon his knee.
The student next to him, a tall, pale, Elf maiden who had been taking careful notes in a book on her lap, stared at the latecomer with mildly affronted surprise. Fyod glanced at her sideways, up and down, appraising her with his bright black eyes. She, with her own sunset-colored eyes, looked right back at him. Then the Sigils Master spoke up.
“Master Merevig!”, he intoned in high disapproval, his small voice made smaller in the vast empty space of the hall. “What do you mean by walking in here at this hour?”
Fyod Merevig looked at Urdo Viy as if he had not realized he was in the room. “I thought we had a paper due,” he said in a deep, cultured voice, holding up the scroll. “This is the 3rd Worun of Zartia, is it not? Please,” he added with a bit of drama, “don’t tell me I’m early.”
The Sigils Master flushed a florid red from his neck all the way up and over his bald pate. “No, indeed,” he retorted, “you are far from early.” Furious, he brushed imaginary dust from his purple robes and returned to his nearly finished lecture with a little cough and a muttered, “Where was I?”
A student from the other side of the hall raised her hand and reminded him where he had left off, and the teacher began to speak again, but Fyod Merevig did not listen. Sighing, he settled back on the wooden chair. His mind wandered idle for a moment, but then was caught again by the fair figure of the Elf beside him. She was tall and slender like all Elves, and wore a clean white dress of simple design. Fyod noted her long soft hair, the color of ripe wheat, the long ears poking through it, the delicate beauty of her profile. She seemed to glow like a morning mist pierced by the sun. How do Elves do that?, Fyod wondered.
She noticed him looking at her and turned towards him with a silent challenge in her eyes. He smiled and bowed his head. A moment’s hesitation, then she extended her book a little towards him, as if offering to let him read her notes on the lecture. He gestured a polite no-thank-you.
Thus it happened that Fyod Merevig first set eyes on Galian Starhawk, who would become his closest and most trusted friend.
When at last Urdo Viy stopped talking, the students all gathered up their books and scrolls and left the papers that were due that day on their chairs for the teacher to pick up at his leisure. Just as swiftly as he had entered, Fyod took his leave again. If he heard the Sigils Master calling “Master Merevig, come here, please,” he acted as if he hadn’t.
Galian Starhawk always found Master Urdo Viy’s lectures useful, if not for their content, then at least for the mental discipline needed to stay awake through them. Such control of the mind was vital to mage craft, so she welcomed every chance to practice it.
She had been deeply focused upon the thin drone of the teacher’s voice, effortlessly scribing notes into her book, when the great doors of the meeting hall burst open with an echoing bang that shattered her concentration. With annoyance, she watched the interrupter stride down the aisles of the auditorium and straight to the empty chair beside her, the one she had hoped would stay empty. An overdressed little mountebank of a Dwarf, he marched in as if he owned the school, talked back to Master Urdo in front of everyone, and then had the effrontery to stare at her in such a forward manner. Really, she thought, such nerve!
Master Urdo resumed the last part of the lecture, but Galian had been completely distracted. Anyway, she already knew what he was going to say. She had already read all his writings on the subject. So she rested her book on her lap and her hand, holding her pen, upon the book and let her golden eyes rest on the purple-robed Sigil’s Master and his last few conjurations. After a little while, though, she found herself distracted again.
The well-dressed Dwarf was looking at her again. Such a frank gaze aroused defiance in Galian, so she looked right back at him just as openly. Actually, truth be told, he was nice enough to look at. She had seldom seen a student so impeccably groomed, so spotless and flawless. Normally, they were liberally spotted with ink, dust, ale and soup stains. Her own hands and the cuffs of her white sleeves were smudged with the brown nut ink into which she dipped her quill from a tiny, portable vial. The Dwarf’s cleanliness made her all the more aware it. His luxurious black hair and beard set off his smooth, pale complexion, which gave a kind of fineness to his strong features, and to the arrogant half-smile on his lips and the gleam in his dark eyes. But somehow, that arrogance did not offend Galian. There was something rather charming about it.
With an ironic little smile of her own, she offered her book to him. Not surprisingly, he declined to look at her notes and get caught up with the class.
At the end of the lecture, in the small rush of students gathering up their papers and leaving, Galian dutifully collected the study papers that were due that day for Master Urdo, for whom she was serving as a clerk. She noticed that the Dwarf was the first out of the hall, leaving a single, thin scroll on the chair. When she handed it over to Master Urdo, he sneered at it.
“Another lackluster attempt by Fyod Merevig,” he remarked.
Galian decided to feed her curiosity. “Who is he?” she asked.
The Sigils Master shrugged dismissively. “A scholarship student.” He said it in a tone that indicated his opinion of the poor students who gained entry to Tarsengaard by the generosity of wealthy patrons. “Too big for his breeches by half. Thinks very well of himself, does Master Merevig, but I assure you, there’s no mage potential there.”
“I wonder why I’ve never seen him before,” said Galian.
“My dear,” replied Urdo Viy, “you have never seen him before because you spend your time studying, not carousing in taverns. Do not trouble yourself over him. With luck, you will never see him again.”
Urdo Viy fussed over his essences and diagrams as he spoke. Galian found herself looking down at the bent, bald head of the elderly Human who seemed so small and weak in his ornate robes. On the surface, there was nothing of the mage about him, either, but when he cast the spells he used in class, Galian could sense the ease with which he shaped the Magic to his words and his will. He was an acknowledged expert in the language of sigils and the delicate art of spell crafting. A mage of great power and great learning, but easily taken for a tailor dressed up for a costume ball.
If people could be mistaken about Urdo Viy, perhaps, Galian thought, they could be mistaken about that Fyod Merevig person, too. She resolved to keep an eye out, just in case she ever did cross paths with him again.
She had not long to wait. After the Sigils Master left her, she carried a heavy armload of books and papers up to the library to be put away. Among the silent and dusty stacks of the nearly empty library, she was reshelving books of air-based spells when the whisper of a passing cloak caught her attention. Looking about, she spied Fyod Merevig down a long aisle, running his fingers over the spines of books as he scanned their titles. But what was he doing in that section? That was nothing but formulas for enchanted weapons. Why would he be reading that? She saw him pull a large and ancient tome from the shelf, tuck it casually under his arm and walk away. Curious, she ducked down the other end of the aisle she was in to see where he went. She saw him sweep past the librarian’s desk without a word or nod, but with the book now hidden beneath his cloak, and out of the library he went.
Galian found this rather interesting. For a moment, she thought she ought to turn him in to the librarian for not signing out the book, but she quickly decided it was no business of hers, and went back to shelving the books.
Edited by peino, 13 April 2008 - 07:14 PM.