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Eryn was staying in Hejje with Duchess Alise's brother, Lord Yurri of Nancutè, for the last few days before the term started. "You'll be fine," he told her with a last smile and a wave, turning to leave while she waited her turn. Finally her name was called and she entered the Apprentice Master's office alone.

The mastermage looked up from his papers. "Ah. Come in." He picked up the letter in front of him, written in Sir Yurri's loose script. "Eryn of Hechara." He raked her with a critical gaze before motioning her to sit. "You understand, Eryn, that this is not an easy task you have agreed to undertake. It takes about four years for most apprentices to complete their coursework... some have taken as long as six. When your masters feel you are ready, you will undergo the examination to become a journeyman. If you are lucky, a master will choose you as his or her assistant. If not, you will travel the realm to continue your education, as well as to serve the people. On rare occasions our journeymen find young children with magical talent, and bring them back."

"I understand the process, my lord."

He sighed. "Very well, then. The man outside will show you to your rooms. Your things will already have been brought up. When the bell rings for supper, be out in the hall, and you will be assigned to a guide. Your guide will give you the tour, and give you some hints as well, I'm sure."

Eryn stood and bowed, then went outside to find a man in the white and brown servant's uniform waiting for her, two folded white garments in his hands, which he handed to her.

"This is you, miss." He led her to a door with her name chalked carefully on a slate. "Your bags have been brought up already, miss. If you need anything, Tessa's in charge of the apprentice's wing." He pointed at a door further down the hall.

"Thank you." Eryn was beginning to feel overwhelmed.

"Then I'll leave you to your unpacking." He smiled. "Good luck, Apprentice Eryn." She smiled at him then opened all the windows as he left, letting the end-of-summer weather into the fusty room.


There. That was the last of the clothes that Alise had given her before she left. She fingered the fancy dress and silk shirt in her family's colors before shoving them away. She'd dressed in boys' clothes in hopes that she'd fit in more with the other apprentices; most of which were boys.

"So you made it." Duke Lansil had come to check on her.

She bowed, smiling. "Yes, your grace. Thank you for sending me those letters over the past few years."

"Hechara has come a long way in a six years."

"Yes, and I thank you for it. Oh." She went to her locked chest and withdrew a folded paper. "Lady Alise had this for you, your grace."

"Thank you, Eryn. I'm glad you got here all right. I must go, but I wanted to wish you good luck."

Eryn bowed, touched that he would take time out of his day to wish her luck. She watched as he opened the letter and wandered off down the hall, looking up only to greet Mastermage Weinlen who was entering the apprentice wing exactly as the supper bell rang. Eryn gulped, and then hitched her blue tunic to a more comfortable position, pulled the white overrobe straighter, squared her shoulders, and walked out into the hallway, shutting the door behind her.

The similarly white-robed apprentices lined up outside their doors as Mastermage Weinlen walked down the hall, senior apprentices flocking to him from both directions. Eryn joined her classmates as the Mastermage faced the line. Glancing both ways, she counted twelve other apprentices, making her the thirteenth. What a wonderfully lucky way to start her time here at the school.

"Some of you have clearly begun learning some magic," the Mastermage began, looking up and down the line. "I can see that a few of you have even found your specialty. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, there are six schools of magic. Life, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Illusion. I am the Mastermage of Fire." He gestured at his red robe, worn open over simple clothing. "It will take most of you some time to learn which school comes naturally to you. When this happens, you will specialize." Her beckoned one of the senior apprentices over. "Farin here is one of my apprentices." The apprentice's white robe was altered, with bands of color at the cuffs; red in this case. Weinlen looked down the row, pointing at an apprentice. "You there. Your name?"
The apprentice bowed shakily. "Ralf, sah." The boy named as Farin nodded at the Mastermage, then went to stand next to Ralf.

"Farin will guide you through the first few days of classes. He can also introduce you to the fire-mages here." The mastermage quickly directed several of the senior apprentices to specific other boys, though how he had picked them was a mystery to Eryn, and then he began assigning down the line. When he got to Eryn, however, he skipped her.

The girl was surprised, but waited patiently until all the boys had been assigned, each slowly breaking off from the group to begin their tours, or meet the mages of their school. Eryn got uneasy as the last of the boys left, leaving her in the hallway with the Mastermage.

"You are Eryn." It wasn't a question, so she just bowed slightly. "Apprentice Eryn, who taught you what magic you know?"

She frowned, but quickly wiped the expression from her face. "I don't understand the question, master."

"Who taught you?"

She shook her head, looking at his boots rather than his face. "No one has taught me anything, mastermage. I watched Duchess Alise do some magic, but I have not had any training." When she glanced up, she couldn't read the expression on his face.
The mastermage muttered something under his breath, then sighed. "So be it. Follow me, Eryn. The Mastermage would like to speak with you."

‘The mastermage of what?' she was about to ask, when she realized he meant the Master of the School. The Mastermage was old enough that his true name had been forgotten, and there was a chance not even he knew it now. Simply referred to as ‘The Mastermage', the elderly mage was the master of all six schools of magic, not confined to one specialty as other mages were.

Master Weinlen led her up several flights of stairs, getting the apprentice well and truly lost. Finally they reached a tall door, two halves reaching well above their heads. The mastermage straightened his shoulders, then knocked on the door. Instead of a call to enter, both halves of the door swung open. The fire-mage entered slowly, Eryn gulped before following him.

"Mastermage," Weinlen acknowledged, bowing before a large chair, and Eryn quickly followed his lead. For a moment nothing happened, then the chair turned - seemingly on its own - to present them with the Mastermage himself.

"Master-Pyralis," the Mastermage nodded, shrewd eyes regarding them both with a keen gaze. "What can I do for you?"

"Master," Weinlen began, "I do not recognize this new apprentice's magic. It is not something I have come into contact with." To Eryn, who was listening carefully to every word, it sounded like the fire-mage was upset that he needed to ask for help.

"Come here, apprentice," the Mastermage said quietly, and far more gently than Eryn had been expecting. She stepped forward, then knelt by the Master's chair, bowing her head respectfully. "Your name, child."

"Eryn of Hechara, Master."

"You are the girl the Master-Isaura spoke of?"

It took Eryn a moment to remember which school of magic that was, but then she nodded. "Yes, Master. Master Sonde was there when I was rescued from Hechara."

"Look at me, child." Eryn looked up, gaze immediately caught by the gentle gray-blue eyes of the Mastermage. "What training have you had?"

"None, Master."

"Can you light my candles? It is dark in this chamber." Eryn blinked and looked away from the Mastermage, pointing at the nearest candles, which burst into flame, along with all the rest of the light sources in the room. The Mastermage sat back in his chair, chin resting upon a fist as he regarded the apprentice. "Where did you learn that, Eryn?"

She looked up, trying to decide how to explain. But then she saw his eyes, and had the odd feeling that he already had some idea. "From the mage who spent some time at Hechara when I was two."

She heard something resembling a snort from behind her, rather like the fire-mage didn't believe her. The Mastermage heard it too, looking up from the kneeling girl. "You have much to learn yet, Master-Pyralis. She speaks the truth. Eryn, you will attend lessons with the other pages, but instead of choosing a specialty to begin working on, you will come to me."
She quickly looked down, trying to hide her amazement. "Yes, Master."


Eryn sat silently at the midday meal, idly listening to the apprentices around her discussing the wonderful things they had seen while touring the School that day. She was busy staring at her plate, pushing the food around with her fork, trying to understand what had happened in her meeting with The Mastermage. She was distracted enough that she didn't notice when all the apprentices at her table fell silent. "Eryn?" a woman's voice inquired from behind her.
She blinked, spinning quickly, then stood and bowed, unsure why the mage had spoken to her, a lowly apprentice. "Yes, master?"

"The Master-Zoei has asked me to show you a few things after lunch. After you have cleared your dishes, meet me in the courtyard."

"Yes, master." Eryn bowed again, eyes wide for the second time in the past hour. After the mage had left, she sat back down, wondering what on earth had singled her out already, within her first day. She could see the other brand-new apprentices eyeing her from along the apprentice table, as well as several of the senior apprentices. She didn't get a chance to count how many were staring at her, as a hand on her shoulder spun her around.

"Sucking up to the masters already, girl?" Behind her stood the boy Farin, the fire-apprentice. From his mouth, the word ‘girl' was an insult.

Her face hardened, but she refused to be rude to someone who had some rank in this school. "Not at all." She returned stonily. "It's not my fault that the mages like me." It was a veiled insult, as someone near her realized.

A small snicker sounded from her left, making the senior apprentice glare down the table of the new apprentices. "Look here, girl." He spat at her feet. "You have no rank here. I will show you what happens to apprentices who decide to be rude to their betters." He cupped his hand, which glowed red for a moment, before there was a small fireball growing in his palm. Sneering, he threw the fire at Eryn, who put up her arms in a poor defense.

To her surprise, she didn't feel the flames. The flaming ball bounced off her, flying back at the surprised fire-apprentice. "What's going on here?" called an authoritative voice as the fireball splattered on Farin's chest, lighting his robe on fire, as well as the shirt he wore underneath.

The fire became water as a mage wearing a completely blue robe walked up. All the apprentices fell silent as Eryn and Farin turned to the Mastermage of water magic. "Mastermage," Farin said quickly, "She threw a fireball at me."

"Now that I won't believe," the female mage said as she looked over at Eryn. "It is you, not she, who has fire magic. So," she looked around then pointed at one of her own apprentices, wearing the blue cuffs of the school of water magic. "What happened here?"

The apprentice stepped forward and bowed. "Master, he threw a fireball at the new apprentice. She put up her arms to shield her face, but the ball bounced off her." The boy bowed again, then stepped back to his tablemates, all wearing similar blue cuffs.

"Farin, isn't it?" the Mastermage asked, and the boy nodded. "You will report to your Mastermage, who will give you penance duties." When Farin didn't move, she added, "Now." He bowed, then headed out the door towards the wing of the school dedicated to fire magic. The mastermage turned her gaze to Eryn. "You are very lucky. Most apprentices couldn't have used a spell like that."

"A spell, mastermage?" Eryn asked, confused. "I didn't. I just didn't want to get hit."

The mastermage's gaze grew more intense, as if looking at something within the girl. "So I see. I would suggest, however, that you avoid Farin until you have learned the spell of shielding."

Eryn bowed, trying to hide a smile. "Thank you, my lady." She held the pose until the mastermage had walked away.

The other first-day apprentices crowded around Eryn, all asking questions at once. "How did you do that?" "What did you do?"

Eryn waved her hands, pushing the apprentices a bit further away, giving herself some personal space. "I don't know," she told the questioning eyes as she reached for her tray, then turned to try and figure out where she was supposed to put the dirty dishes. "I don't know any magic yet."

"I'm not sure that's accurate," a cultured male voice said from behind her. An apprentice with yellow cuffs on his robe stood behind her, also carrying his tray of empty dishes. "You wouldn't have been able to deflect a fireball of that magnitude otherwise."

Eryn shrugged. "I don't know any spells."

"That doesn't mean you don't know any magic." He gestured that she follow him, leading her to a semi-circular stone shelf along one wall that rotated past them and into a hole in the wall a few feet to their left, reappearing just to their right. Eryn placed her tray on the shelf, following his example, and watched in awe as the stone slid silently away, taking their dishes into the kitchen. "You'll get used to it," the older boy told her. "I am Riemann. Welcome to the School."

He offered a hand, which she took with a return smile. "Eryn. Thanks for your welcome." She glanced back at where she'd been sitting. "You'd be the first to offer it."

Riemann chuckled. "There are very few girls here, as you'll notice. There is no difference between female mages and male mages, though some would like you to think otherwise."

Eryn sighed. "There are two female mastermages. Where would he get a stupid idea like that?"

"Insecurity," the other apprentice returned, making Eryn laugh.

"Then he's certainly not going to like getting shown up by me," she said wistfully, realizing that she'd already made future trouble for herself. She glanced at another tray of dishes sliding into the wall, then looked back at Riemann. "A master told me to meet her in the courtyard after lunch, but I have no idea where that is."

His smile was kind as he took her elbow and led her out into the hall. "What school was she part of?" He asked as they found themselves in a crossing of several hallways.

Eryn looked at him, blushing with slight embarrassment. "Er... she wore yellow, too."

He smiled, beckoning for her to follow him as he chose one of the six identical-seeming hallways. "Yellow is life magic. You've already seen red is fire, and blue is water. Green is earth magic, and pale blue is air. Illusion magic, which isn't as common, is gray."

She sighed in some relief. "Thank you! I was hoping to figure out the colors, but it's too much all at once."

"Of course it is. The mages here seem to frequently forget that apprentices don't know everything they do." He held up one sleeve of his robe. "I'm apprenticed to the Master-Zoei, the Mastermage of life magic." He slowed as the hall they were in opened out, splitting in two directions to circle the edges of a large garden several feet below. Riemann pointed at a staircase along one edge. "There. Those lead down into the courtyard. If you wait at the fountain in the middle, I'm sure whichever mage will find you there."

"Thank you, Riemann," Eryn said with a large smile.

"Indeed, thank you," said a voice behind them. The two apprentices turned to find the mage in black with yellow bands that had spoken with Eryn earlier. "I'm sorry, Eryn, I didn't realize you were a brand new apprentice. Thank you for showing her the way, Riemann."

The apprentice nodded. "Of course, Master Leia. I'll see you at dinner, Eryn. Come find me if you have any more... trouble." The boy winked at the new apprentice, then turned and headed back the way they had come.

"Trouble?" the mage asked.

Eryn nodded. "One of the fire-apprentices tried to show off and throw a fireball at me."

The master's eyes widened. "I'm glad Riemann was there to stop him, then."

"Actually... he wasn't. It bounced." Eryn was still confused as to what had happened.

"It bounced? The fireball?" the mage addressed as Leia asked, one eyebrow raised.

Eryn nodded. "It bounced off me and hit the fire-apprentice."

To Eryn's surprise, the mage burst out laughing. "Oh, I am sorry, Eryn. But I do enjoy it when untrained fire-mages lose their tempers... they tend to make mistakes. For me, it's quite amusing. Likely less so for you, especially if you'd been hit." Eryn nodded, shrugging. "Well, enough stories. The Master-Zoei asked me to show you some of the things we do here: mostly the work of journeymen trying to become masters, but also a few projects undertaken by those who have achieved master status."

"Like you?" Eryn asked quickly, then blushed. "I'm sorry."

"That's quite alright. I will show you something that has been my work for some time now, but that can wait until after I show you around. There is a lot to be seen." Eryn nodded, falling into step with the mage as the older woman began walking towards the courtyard. "The fountain there? That was the work of two of the journeymen; one is now a master in the water magic school, the other in earth magic. The earth-mage crafted the sculpture, and the water-mage gave it an unlimited supply of water. The water is always clean, and the fountain is never dry." The mage grinned at Eryn. "The schools of water and earth fought over who would get to keep the fountain, so in the end, neither did."

"Why the school of life?" Eryn asked, interested.

Leia paused to think for a moment. "Do you know the history of the elements?" she asked finally, but Eryn shook her head. "Earth, air, fire, and water were the first four elements. Their combination became life, so life magic is tied to all the other elemental schools. Since the fountain was a combination of elemental magicks, it was given to the life-mages. She held up the cuffs of her black master's robe to show Eryn. "I am a life-mage, as you can tell by the yellow color. But the pale blue embroidery shows that I am tied to air as well."

Eryn squinted at the embroidery, trying to see the picture it made on each of her cuffs. For some reason, after a moment, she could have sworn the threads shifted, making clear the bird pattern. "Birds?" she asked.

The mage blinked in surprise. "Very good! Master-Zoei was right, you are a special apprentice."

"What do you mean?"

"These are runes," the mage replied. "They spell out the word for birds in the ancient tongue: oraneo. No apprentice I know of can read runes such as these." The life-mage began laughing again at Eryn's shocked expression. "Don't worry, Eryn. It will make things a fair bit easier for you if you can already read the runes. Most of the spells you will be learning are written in runes."

Eryn wasn't going to bother trying to explain that she couldn't read runes, any more than she knew the spell of shielding that she had inadvertently used at lunch. "What's next?"


After filling her tray, Eryn walked down the apprentice tables to where Riemann sat with a group of other life-apprentices. "Er, can I join you?" she asked, unsure now when presented with the second-year students, and she quickly realized that some had definitely been here longer than that.

"Of course, Eryn," Riemann responded, pushing the apprentice next to him over with a grin. "I hope you're ready for the magic talk, however. It's likely to drive you crazy."

She sat down, smiling timidly at all the senior apprentices. "I'm already going crazy," she told Riemann seriously. "According to Master Leia I can already read runes, and I know most of the basic magicks the apprentices learn, as well as some of the life magicks taught to senior apprentices." The group of boys at the table burst out laughing at the expression on her face. "What?!"

"My dear girl," one of the older apprentices said, trying to stop laughing. "You are luckier than you know. Runes deserve to..." the boy next to the speaker elbowed him harshly, clearly aware of what the young man was about to say. "Ouch!"

"Ignore him," the elbower told her. "He just enjoys complaining." He gave her a wide grin then offered her a hand. "I'm Kraig, these wonderful people you've chosen to sit with are Pauill, Lev, Arlen, Litsin, Edger, and you have obviously met Lord Riemann already."

"Lord?" she asked, surprised, turning to him.

Riemann sighed. "I'm not a lord," he told her with a glare at the boy who'd said so. "My father is Baron Paltrun." She blushed, making him ask, "What?"

"I'm... er... Baroness Hechara," she told him. "My folks died in the earthquake six years ago," she added by way of explanation when she received shocked stares from the boys around her. "It's just a title. I'm not actually allowed to do anything at the moment. A fourteen-year-old isn't allowed to run a barony."

Riemann patted her shoulder as most of the other boys made rude noises. "Don't worry, Eryn. They're just jealous. None of them has two coppers to his name."

"Hey!" The older boy who'd been named as Pauill cried out. "I'll have you know I have three coppers, thank you very much!" At this, everyone relaxed, all of them breaking out laughing yet again.

"Found someone else to suck up to already?" a rude voice called from behind her. When she spun, Riemann put a hand to her shoulder before letting her respond.

"Just because she's a better mage on her first day than you ever will be," he told the fire-apprentice showing some signs of healing scorch marks, "Doesn't mean you have to be rude, Farin. Didn't you say just earlier that apprentices should respect their betters?"

"I hope the slut is proud that she has men to fight for her," Farin sneered, turning back to his meal.

Before Riemann could stop her, Eryn threw a bit of pure magic at the apprentice, forcefully sending him face first into his soup bowl. "Enough, Eryn," the life-apprentice told her. "You're just making it worse..." And he was right. All the apprentices around Farin were laughing hysterically at the boy dripping with stew. Eryn turned back to her meal, but was unable to stop grinning.

At his place at the front of the room as the Apprentice Master, Mastermage Weinlen rose. "Attention!" he called, voice resonating around the room, the echoes making his strong voice much louder. "All apprentices are to meet in the apprentice wing hallway to be assigned their schedules for the coming months."

Eryn turned back to the boys she was sitting with. "Schedules?"

"The schedule of what classes we get to take this season. We'll change when it begins snowing, and then again once we've reached nice weather next spring. There are different things taught in nice weather compared to things in the winter." Kraig looked around him with a sigh. "I think we get animal magicks this season, right?"

Riemann shook his head. "That's a springtime class. We get to cuddle the baby animals," he told Eryn with a grimace. "For now, I think it's plant magicks with the earth apprentices. It is autumn, after all."

The other boys sighed, nodding as they rose. "What are you going to specialize in, Eryn?" One of the boys she hadn't caught the name of asked her as they went to put their trays away, then headed as a large group for the apprentice wing.

She shrugged. "Mastermage Weinlen said he didn't recognize my magic. So I don't know where that puts me."

Kraig gave her an odd look. "What do you mean, didn't recognize it?"

"That's what he said. He took me before The Mastermage, then said he didn't recognize my specialty." She shrugged, but the boys around her exchanged glances.

"You've already seen The Mastermage?" Riemann repeated. "No apprentices get to meet The Mastermage, and not many of the journeymen, either."

Eryn blinked. "I'm supposed to take lessons with him starting two days from now," she told her companions in confusion. "Instead of working on my specialty. I guess he's going to try to figure out what my specialty is." The boys shrugged, none understanding the situation any better than she.

After the apprentices had all gathered, separating themselves by school of magic, the six mastermages entered the hallway. Each went to their apprentices first, leaving the first-years to stand in an uncertain clump, waiting. Eryn stood on tiptoe, trying to make out the Mastermage of Illusion. Finally her eyes found the gray robe of that mastermage, only a few apprentices gathered around him.

Slowly, the senior apprentices filed away, each examining a piece of parchment with their classes written out neatly. Within twenty minutes, the only people remaining in the hallway were the new apprentices and the mastermages.

Weinlen folded his arms, sighing as he looked over the white-robed boys and Eryn - the only girl. "You will be taking some general classes taught by masters of all the schools of magic, things all mages need to know before beginning any higher level spells. Once a day, you will have a class with one of us." He indicated the other mages next to him. "We will begin teaching you the most basic spells of each of our schools, in an attempt to find out which magicks each of you take to. Some of you won't need to attend all six classes, as your specialties are already obvious." He pointed at the boy he'd singled out earlier, Ralf, and spoke a word that received blank looks from the apprentices understood. "Iruhos."

All the apprentices stared at Weinlen, then Ralf. For a moment, nothing happened, but then the cuffs of the boy's robe turned red. He looked up with a smile and bowed to the mastermage, who just nodded. "You need only attend my lesson." The boy nodded.
"For the time being," the mastermage in the yellow of Life said, "None of you seem to be in my school."

"Kloros," said the mage in green, and two of the apprentices' cuffs turned green. "Likewise," said the man, "You need only attend my class."

The mastermage in blue shook her head, turning to the Mastermage of air, who Eryn recognized from years before. "Uranos," he said simply, giving the apprentice whose sleeves changed color a smile and a nod.

Master Weinlen seemed about to continue, when the mage in gray stepped forward. "I had not expected to see any apprentices with any previous knowledge of illusion," he told one apprentice, who smiled. "Skios," and the boy's robe took on gray cuffs.

The other mastermages spoke among themselves at this, seemingly interested at an apprentice to the uncommon school. Then the Master-Pyralis extended parchment rolls. He started at one end of the line, handing one to each new student. Eryn peeked at the schedule of the boy next to her, finding them to be exactly the same. "These are your schedules for this season, and possibly for the winter as well. Most apprentices have found their specialty by midwinter, and will take on other classes once you agree to follow that line of coursework." He looked along the line, nodding. "You are dismissed. I would suggest you find your guides, and continue your tours of the school. This is a very big place, and the sooner you learn it, the better."

The apprentices bowed as one, then they turned away. "Eryn," called a female voice, and the girl turned, walking back to bow to the Master-Zoei.

"Yes, my lady?"

"You spoke with Leia earlier?"

"Yes, my lady." Eryn nodded. "I was surprised at what she says I can do, but it's not my place to argue with a mage."

This brought a laugh from the Master of Life magicks, as well as the mastermage in green, standing nearby. "Argue all you like," he told her. "It's a trait very common among mages. We find it... amusing... to disagree with each other."

The Master-Zoei nodded, smiling. "My brother is right, Eryn. Do not hold anything back when you feel you are right. You will either prove it, or learn from the discussion. Both are encouraged here."

Eryn smiled at both. "Yes, my lady, my lord. I will make sure to do so in future."
The life-mage smiled down at the girl. "I would like to make sure you attend my class each week, Eryn, as well as the one taught by the Master-Naiya, my only female colleague. We women must stick together." Eryn nodded, still smiling. "If you would like, I can ask the other mastermages to have someone show you around the other schools, if you liked mine so much."

Eryn's smile widened, but before she could speak, the woman looked up at the ceiling as if she were listening to something. Finally she nodded solemnly, exchanging a surprised glance with her brother, both of whom had that thoughtful expression for a split second.

"Eryn, the Mastermage has decided that you will not attend any of our classes," the yellow-robed mage told her, refocusing on the girl.

Eryn blinked. "Oh. Yes, he said I was to report to him instead."

The mastermage nodded. "Crusos," she said, and Eryn blinked. Nothing was happening with this word... and then her cuffs turned gold.

She blinked up at the Master-Zoei. "Gold? That's not a school of magic."

The earth-mage moved to his sister's side, their resemblance obvious. "No, Eryn, it isn't."

"The Mastermage wore gold," Eryn said slowly, looking between the two mastermages.
The earth-mage nodded. "The Mastermage wears gold with black cuffs showing that he is master of the masters. Gold is the color of all magicks. For the time being, you will study all the schools of magic."

Eryn nodded, that making sense. "Oh. Thank you," she told the two. "If you'll excuse me, I need to learn my way around. I've got to learn now if classes start tomorrow morning." She bowed formally to the two mastermages, then turned to hurry off in the direction she'd seen Riemann go with his schedule. He'd probably show her around.
In turning away, Eryn didn't see the look passed between the twin mastermages, speaking a world of shocked uncertainty.


Eryn followed the simple hallway for a ways until she found the room with 'Riemann' marked on the slate, at which she knocked. "C'mon in!" a muffled voice called from within. Eryn opened the door a crack so she could poke her head inside. Instead of Riemann, she found three of the other boys she'd eaten dinner with. "He'll be right back," Kraig said, sitting up from his lounging on Riemann's bed.

Eryn stepped inside, unable to not grin at the three boys in various positions of laziness about the room. "I was just hoping someone could show me around. Master Weinlen never gave me a guide."

Her grinning became laughter as all three boys sat up eagerly. "I'll..." they all started, then they all grinned as well. "We'll show you around, Eryn," the boy Lev offered.

"Or you three could get your minds out of the gutter and get out of my room," Riemann offered from the doorway behind Eryn. All three boys blushed, and Eryn did as well. "Don't blush, Eryn," the Baron's son told her. "It's not your fault that boys will be boys."

This only made her blush a deeper shade of red. "I'll go elsewhere, then," she muttered, heading towards Riemann to move around him and out the door.

"I meant no offense, my lady," he said quietly, lowering his voice enough the other boys couldn't hear, restraining her with a hand on her arm. "Let us show you around. Just... watch out for the boys around here. They were raised differently than you."

Eryn sighed, face still red, but fading slowly. "No difference, Riemann. I may have stayed in Nancutè the past few years, but that doesn't mean I only wore fancy silks and locked myself in my rooms."

He looked surprised for a moment, then stepped back and bowed to her. "I apologize, Eryn. I didn't mean that, but I can see that it was rude of me. Forgive me."

She reached out, trying to stop him from bowing. "I'll forgive you if you don't do that again," she told him. "You have a higher rank than I here. Don't bow to me."

He sighed. "I will bow to whomever I like. Which includes those I insult through my poor choice of words. But," he held up his hands as she glared, "I will avoid doing it in the future."

Kraig stepped up to Eryn's side, offering quietly, "While you might want to watch out for us, Eryn, that doesn't exclude his lordship in the least." Riemann's glare made both Kraig and Eryn start laughing again, and Kraig gently steered her into the hallway. "He likes his long words and fancy etiquette. In my opinion, be polite, but you don't need to overdo it." The last few words were directed mostly over his shoulder at the red Riemann following them to the door.

Eryn smiled, cheeks mostly returned to a normal shade. "Thank you, Kraig. I'll remember not to trust any of your pleasantries." She grinned at the boy, who sighed but grinned as well.

"That doesn't mean we won't try anyway," he told her. Then he looked down at the sleeve he'd grabbed to steer her out of the room. "Gold?" he asked in surprise.

Eryn sighed, pausing to turn towards him, expecting the other boys to be following as well. When they weren't, she raised her eyebrows, and then continued walking with him as she answered. "I am to study all schools of magic. Like I said at dinner, Master Weinlen doesn't recognize my magic. It would seem that no one here does. So I will study it all until someone can figure it out."

Kraig nodded slowly, gently taking her elbow at one point during her statement to steer her down a hallway she thought she recognized as the one she'd gone down earlier when Riemann showed her to the courtyard with the fountain. "Makes sense, I suppose," he told her, leading her out to look down on a similar courtyard, but one without a fountain. "This is the school of earth magic." He pointed down at the garden. "In case you couldn't tell. If there's a dead plant in this entire building, I'll be very surprised." He neatly withdrew her schedule from her robe's pocket without her notice. "You've got a class here tomorrow," he told her, grinning as she pointed at her schedule with a mock-glare. "This is the apprentice classroom, in general."

He led her to a nearby door, opening the door just a crack to make sure there was no one inside before leading her in. "On the occasion of more than one apprentice class at the same time, there are several similar rooms on this level around the courtyard."

Eryn stepped in past him, wandering around the room to look at the different pictures on the walls, as well as the desks set facing the large blackboard. "Are all the classrooms this gloomy?" she asked, looking around and not finding any candles.

"Look up," Kraig told her with a smile. High above their heads there were crystals embedded in the stone of the ceiling. "The mages want things to last. Once you become a journeyman, you learn the spell to make the crystals glow. The rooms get very well lit." As Eryn nodded, he led her back out to the courtyard. "I'll show you around here. All the school buildings are built the same way, so once you learn one, you'll learn them all. The trick is finding your way from one to the other within the time given between classes."

Eryn nodded. "That sounds like every other place I've been. The layout isn't hard, it's the size."

He laughed, nodding. "I swear the journeymen either know secret passages or they learn some kind of spell to get themselves places faster. I've left before one and arrived in the same place well after he arrived. I hope I learn that soon..." he trailed off, sighing. "Anyway..." he pointed at several doors spaced evenly around the outside of the circular hallway. "These are all classrooms, and as far as I think you'll need to go into any of the schools. But," he said with a smile, "I might as well show you a bit more before we head back and I explain the center building."

Eryn smiled. "Is this something I should be seeing, or..." she looked at the scroll of paper still in his hand, "Or something that I will get to see though I shouldn't?"
Kraig sketched a quick bow, gesturing with the roll of parchment as if it were the scepter of a king. "My will is law," he told her. "And I say you may see it." Laughing, the two headed up the stairs in the corner.

As Kraig reached out a hand to open the door at the top of the stairs, Eryn jumped as a voice spoke in her head. {I wouldn't suggest breaking and entering on your first day here.} She froze. "Er... Kraig? Maybe some other time. I'm getting tired, could you show me the main building?" She was shaking slightly, unused to the open show of advanced magic. And she couldn't be sure, but she had a feeling that the voice in her head was The Mastermage.

The senior apprentice turned on the stairs, rolling his eyes. "You're too good, Eryn. I'm sure we'll break you of that sooner or later." But he did head back down the stairs past her. "C'mon then, I'll show you the rest of the school, and then show you your room again, since you look rather lost."

Eryn's dazed expression had a great deal more to do with her master's voice in her head, but she wasn't going to correct him. "I am not lost," she complained, but she stuck carefully beside him as he led her back the way they'd come, not ready to put her assertion to the test.


Hours after she had left it, Eryn returned to her room, unlocking the door before turning to smile at Kraig. "Thank you. I really appreciate the tour, though I'm afraid you'll be stuck with me asking a lot of questions for awhile."

"Stuck with you?" Kraig laughed. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Eryn. Please ask any and all questions, and I shall do my level best to answer them to the best of my ability." He sketched a slightly mocking bow, which she didn't mind so much as Riemann's serious one.

She smiled, sighing as she realized she truly was tired. "It's been a long day. I'll probably see you tomorrow at breakfast, if I wake up in time."

He rolled his eyes dramatically. "You won't be able to sleep. There is a... bell. The masters decided we needed a bell to wake us up in the morning. Trust me, you won't be able to ignore it."

She winced. "Thanks for the warning then." When her eyes returned to his face, he wore an odd expression. "What?"

Kraig smiled slowly, making her uneasy. She was about to say something else when he leaned over and kissed her cheek before turning to hurry away. Eryn stared after him, shocked.





Atremus Delacroix
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Atremus Delacroix
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