Although I had never noticed Fyod Merevig around Tarsengaard before that day, now that I was aware of him, I began to see him everywhere – though truth be told, never in a classroom.
Like all of us students, he appeared promptly and regularly in the dining hall, where he usually ate while reading a book on his lap. Like many of us, he held a job in the school for a small stipend to supplement whatever allowance he had to live on. Fyod worked for the Keeper of Supplies, and I frequently saw him toting equipment, chairs and whatnot around the complex. However, no matter what he was doing, he was always so lost in intense thought that it was impossible to approach him casually.
Beside the store rooms and dining hall, he also appeared frequently in the library, and that was where I first realized that Fyod Merevig was engaged in unusual study.
In my own job as a student clerk, I spent a lot of time in the quiet retreat of the library, doing research for the masters and professors I served as well as my own class work. One day, as I as haunting the aisles, I heard what had become the familiar swish of Fyod Merevig’s cloak rushing by. Curious, I stuck my head around a bookcase and saw him at the far end of the aisle, running his fingers along the spines of large and dusty tomes.
What is he doing there?, I wondered. There was nothing in that aisle but ancient books about enchanting, books no one had touched in a long time. Fyod was clearly looking for something particular. I could not imagine what he expected to find in those obsolete works, which were of use to no one but those studying the history of magic. As far as I knew, Fyod was no historian.
I saw him finally pull out a big, leather-bound volume. He ran his hand over the worn cover. Then t§ucking the book under his cloak, he hurried out of the aisles, past the librarian’s desk, and out of the library.
I should have informed the librarian that he had taken a book without signing for it, but there was something about his intense concentration, that dark face always lowered in thought though I knew for a fact it was capable of smiling, that made me hold my tongue. I told myself it was not my business, but really, I just wanted to see what he might be up to.
That same spring month I attended Master Urdo Viy at the monthly breakfast of the senior faculty in the private apartment of Grandmaster Jerun, the Mage of Air. Seated around his spacious table laden with fresh fruit and bread and tea spiced with spirit enhancing potions, the heads of the various departments took the opportunity to discuss affairs of magic, the business of the school, and other matters of academic interest. As usual, some portion of the collegial morning was taken up by the complaints of Urdo Viy.
“...And, he steals,” the Sigils Master exclaimed on this particular morning, concluding a catalogue of recent offenses he had been laying at the feet of Fyod Merevig, who I realized was his most common annoyance.
Several of the other mages laughed. Some shook their heads. “What does he steal?” the Summoning Master asked with a broad smile.
Urdo Viy waved a dismissive hand. “All sorts of things,” he said impatiently. “Tankards from the kitchen, tools and scrap from the workshops.”
“Scrap is waste,” said the Weapons Master. “Free for the taking.”
"Chairs!” said Urdo, pointing at the other mages with a piece of bread. “He steals chairs.”
This brought even greater laughter from the assembled company.
“Why would anyone steal chairs?” one asked, and another added, “Aye, and where does he hide them?”
“I wouldn’t know,” said Urdo stiffly. “Perhaps he sells them for ale money.”
“I wasn’t aware there was much of a market for stolen chairs,” remarked the Summoning Master, and Urdo Viy shot him an irritated look.
“All I know is that the housekeeping staff have said that these sorts of items have been going missing over the last six months, which just happens to be the time that Fyod Merevig has been working for the Supply Keeper.”
“Have they accused Merevig himself?”, asked Grandmaster Jerun quietly.
Urdo briefly met the clear, cool, blue-eyed gaze of the Air Mage, arguably the most powerful human mage in all of Draia, renowned for his calm mind and swift intellect.
“Not as such,” said the Sigils Master, tearing at his bread, “but the inference is there.”
“Well,” said Jerun, “I am sure that, when the housekeeping staff have evidence of the thief, they will bring it to me directly.”
I could see by his expression that this gentle reminder of the school’s hierarchy grated on Master Urdo’s nerves.
“I tell you,” he insisted, “Fyod Merevig is trouble. I do not understand why none of you will listen to me.”
“Because we do not see why he bothers you so much,” said the Summoning Master.
Urdo turned his attention directly to the other mage and said, with some heat building in his thin voice, “I have dedicated my life to following the path of wisdom and the teachings of Unolas.”
“As have we all,” remarked another of the mages.
“But Fyod Merevig has no respect for the ways of Magic or the will of our god. He disdains the honored traditions, ignores all protocols of decorum and safety alike. He makes jokes in class -- when he bothers to show up at all. He insults the staff, pokes fun at everything, runs his own experiments without supervision or authorization. He is a danger, I feel it in my bones.”
“Oh, really, Urdo,” laughed the Summoning Master, but the school’s Chief Physician demurred.
“Now, now,” she said, “let us all remember the respect we share for each other and not upset ourselves over our meal.” The other mages subsided into calm at her words, and waited for the white-robed healer to continue. “I cannot say what Fyod Merevig has or has not done beyond my own experience of him, but I can understand Master Urdo’s feelings. The lad worked for me briefly last year in the healing chambers, but I had to let him go. He is too intense, too driven, too impatient. He seemed more interested in the processes of the magic than in the well-being of the patients. In fact, a few of the healers complained that he had disobeyed their instructions for treatment of their patients. I got the feeling he just wanted to see what would happen if the potions were mixed or the spells cast a little differently. That is why I dismissed him. Perhaps it was just the over-eagerness of youth, but in the practice of medicine, such an approach is irresponsible, at best.”
“See!” cried Urdo Viy. “He is unfit! How did he even gain entry to this school?”
“He passed the tests,” said Jerun, “which is the same standard we apply to all students. Young people come to Tarsengaard with nothing but talent and spiritual potential. It is up to us to guide and shape them into mages. If one of them takes the wrong path, the fault is not his, but ours.”
This time, Urdo met and held the Grandmaster’s gaze. “With respect, Master Jerun, you have great faith in your students, but mark my words, this one will betray your trust.”
“You are right, Urdo,” replied Jerun. “I do have faith in my students, and I also have faith in my teachers. I know that you will find a way to settle your conflict with Merevig, for the good of the school.”
Urdo Viy bowed his head and said nothing more, but I, seated nearby like other student clerks attending their masters, felt uneasy at the exchange. I had never before seen anyone defy Grandmaster Jerun in such a manner. The wisdom of the Mage of Air normally could clear away any dispute, but Urdo would not let go of the issue of Fyod Merevig easily. In fact, I would come to learn that he had his own ideas of what best would serve the good of the school, primarily that Fyod not be a student in it.