“Was that a potion detonation?” a tiny, white haired woman was sprinting through the courtyard with a staff in her hand. “Please tell me that was a potion detonation. If it was another bad summoning circle-”
“There’s no demonology scheduled in The Cells today,” said a sharply dressed man in spectacles. “So if that isa summoning circle, that student better hope all they get is expelled!”
“Um, excuse me?” Alex got their attention. “Which way do we go to register?”
The man hurriedly jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward a set of open doors at the top of a flight of stairs. They were at the opposite end of the courtyard.
“That way! Welcome to Generasi!” he barked as he and the other wizard rushed out of the courtyard. As they exited, Alex saw them wave their hands. From out of view, two of the same stone platforms used by The Watchers of Roal appeared, and the two wizards jumped aboard and shot away in the direction of the explosion.
Alex’s group was speechless, eyeing each other nervously while approaching the doors.
They kept glancing around, only relaxing a little when they made it to the doors without hearing anymore blasts.
Just inside, there was another large, marble staircase with railings carved into dragon heads. They climbed the steps in awe, with Brutus’ nails clicking on the rough stone and breaking the silence. At the top, they emerged into an antechamber so large, that the entire church of Alric—bell tower and all—could have fit inside.
Two statues—one of a dragon and one of a kraken—framed a desk set into one of the walls where a blue-skinned man with horns silently read a book. A massive monocle sat on his face, reminding Alex of a one-eyed owl.
“I think this is the right place,” Alex whispered.
“We’ll…” Theresa’s eyes traced a mural on the ceiling where wizards battled strange, demonic creatures. “We’ll uh go have a seat while you do that.” She indicated a bench beside a wall.
The bench had clawed feet.
As they sat down, Alex could have sworn it moved its stone toes.
He approached the desk. “I, uh.” He glanced back in the direction of the explosion.
The man looked up at him. “Yes? Here for a tour?”
“No, uh, to register, actually.”
He could hardly stop himself from vibrating with excitement.
Wizard Time. Wizard Time. Wizard Time. One part of his mind screamed.
You’re going to explode. Some horrible demon is going to eat you. You could have stayed in Thamelan-
The first part of his mind stamped down the second part with prejudice.
Now was a time of joy.
“I was accepted for the upcoming year, to begin my studies.”
The blue-skinned man blinked and closed the book he’d been reading. “Well, well. Aren’t you keen: classes for first year don’t start for at least another month and a half.”
“It was uh…a long trip from where I’m from,” Alex said, not mentioning the part about using an ancient saint’s power to cross over a month’s journey in a matter of days. “Thought I should get here early in case anything went wrong. Is that a problem?”
“The opposite, really. If we had more come in early like you, then orientation week wouldn’t be such an animal house. Well, my name is Hobb and I’m the registrar here at Generasi, allow me to welcome…”
He stopped and the leather on his chair squeaked as he peered around Alex. On the opposite end of the hall, Selina sat on the bench looking at the hall’s lights—blue forceballs floating on top of columns—while Theresa was examining a hole in her sleeve. Brutus was panting and sniffing everything.
“Would that be your wife and…” he looked at Alex, squinting. “Chiiiiild?”
Alex’s face flushed. “No, just a friend.”
“So your friend and your chiiiiild?”
“No, no! That’s my sister,” Alex said quickly.
Hobb looked at him for a long time, blinking through his monocle. “I see,” was all he said. “Well, if they’re friend and family, will you be registering them as well?”
“Oh, they’re uh, not spellcasters.”
Hobb blinked. “Not even for the auditing program?”
“The what program?”
Hobb blinked again. “Hmmm, might I see your acceptance letter? Mr…”
“Alex Roth, and one second.”
He reached into his rucksack, feeling around for the paper.
Panic started. He couldn’t find it. Did he leave it in his room back in the Lu family’s inn. No, no, he remembered taking it. Maybe he left it in the Cave of the Traveller after dumping everything to get the ruby.
A horrifying nightmare of a long side journey back to the cave started taking over his mind...until his fingers touched paper.
“Here it is.” He relaxed, and handed the letter to Hobb, who examined it with his monocled eye.
“Aaaaah, recruited from Thameland, you were right, that is far.” He glanced up at Alex. “Sorry to hear about all that Ravager business.”
“Oh, uh, it’s called The Ravener actually.”
Hobb paled to a lighter blue. “Oh sorry! How ignorant of me, I meant that I hope that you and your family are safe.”
Alex thought of Mr. and Mrs. Lu, and Theresa’s brothers. He hoped they’d gotten onto a ship safely. “They should be alright.”
“Good. Good. Dreadful business that, though I suppose all the world has its own troubles. Anyway, back to the business at hand. I see you were accepted based on aptitude. With one spell, even. You must have practiced to the bone. Very well done, young man!” Hobb said enthusiastically. “That’s the sort of ethic that’ll have you flying through the spell-tiers in no time.” He paused. “Hmm, I can see the issue, though: that far out, you likely didn’t get much of an explanation as to why we’re considered the greatest institution of magic in all the world. After all, there really are no competitors in your realm as far I know.”
“Er, I thought you were called the greatest because you have so much of the world’s knowledge.”
“Oh, we do. We do. But we also take care of our wizards.”
Suddenly Alex heard a scream behind him.
He whirled to see Selina and Theresa jumping off the bench as it began to scuttle sideways like an angry crab. Brutus was barking at it.
“Don’t like dogs,” the bench ground out in a voice that was rock on rock.
“Stop that! Stop that at once!” Hobb half-rose from his chair. “You blasted, rebellious piece of furniture! I swear one of these days I willsend a request to have you carved into a chamberpot! Back to your post!”
Grumbling the bench scuttled back to its original place.
“You can sit back down now!” Hobb said pleasantly.
Selina and Theresa edged away from the bench.
“Ah, pity. It always does that.” Hobb made a face. “So, as I said, we take care of our wizards.”
He reached beneath his desk and produced a massive, leatherbound book. “Proper wizards always have an entourage. These could be summoned demons. They could be golems. They could be trained magical beasts like your handsome furry friend. They could be a party of delvers. And in some cases, they’re hirelings, apprentices, or even family. And on that note, Generasi takes people from all corners of the earth. Many like you, come with friends, parents, children and…”
He squinted at Selina. “Liiiiiitle sisters?”
“Good, good. Children most certainly need to be educated, and entourage members or apprentices, often need to be trained so that they might support a wizard. As such, Generasi has a program where up to four members of your immediate group may audit certain courses—no direct spellcasting or for credit courses, of course—so that they might better aid you when you go off to set up your own tower and bend the forces of the cosmos to your unbreakable will.”
His eyes flashed with intensity and for a moment, Alex thought he was going to leap out of his chair and start calling unearthly hordes.
Instead, he just smiled. “We also have a junior school where children may be educated in general subjects and—should they show aptitude—the preparatory courses for their own practice in wizardry. Of course, the auditing program and the junior school add additional nominal fees to your tuition…though there would be a significant discount for you as I see you are a partial scholarship student. Considering where you are from, and the aptitude you demonstrated with limited resources, Generasi would not see a bright young mind crushed by a lack of coin.”
Hobb smiled knowingly. “Now, avoiding being crushed by a miscast meteor spell is unfortunately, entirely your own responsibility!”
He laughed as though it were the most natural thing in the world to say.
Alex did not join him.
“Ah, excuse me, excuse me, just some wizard humour. You’ll get it in time. Now, since you’ll be staying with…friend and sister. And large cerberus. I take it you’ll wish for apartment accommodation?”
“For now,” Alex said. It would give him time to search for a place of their own.
“Very well.” Hobb picked up and flipped through another book, sliding his finger along a series of tables and names on a page. “Ah, this one is free. Are you and your entourage used to living in one room?”
Alex thought back to the ship and how Selina had hammered on him for kicking her off the bed. He imagined what would’ve happened if they’d been living in the same space for months…
“Separate,” he said quickly.
“Hmmmm.” Hobb flipped through the book until his eyes lit up. “Ah, the southern insula would be perfect. Two rooms off of a central living area complete with a writing desk, balcony overlooking the building’s central courtyard, fireplace—though I don’t suspect you shall use that often, Generasi’s weather is much milder than in your homeland—and immediate access to the common cooking facility and baths located at the bottom of the building. Would this suit your needs?”
“Uh, hold on,” Alex said, calling Theresa and Selina over and introducing them to Hobb.
He explained what sort of room would be available.
Theresa frowned. “How much would all that be? A suite like that would cost a lot of gold in a good inn.”
“Aaaaaah, pleasure to meet you Ms. Lu, and I can assure you our rates for our students ensure that they are able to stay in comfort for the duration of their stay in Generasi: after all, we aren’t exactly hurting for money. Twenty gold pieces per month.”
Alex balked inwardly. This was a good rate? The reward for the mana vampire would pay for two and a half months. His inheritance would be enough to pay for two years. He began to think about what Mrs. Escofier said about Generasi being expensive…
“What do you think?” he asked Theresa, who’d paled considerably at the sum mentioned. Selina was simply still eyeing the architecture. A part of him yearned to be the age where he didn’t know the value of coin. “Two of us would have to share a room so-”
Selina startled. “Theresa, can I share your room? Please, please, please, please.” She grabbed the young woman’s cloak.
“Uh, sure?” Theresa said. “I don’t mind bunking with you, Selina.”
“Yay!” the little girl sighed in relief.
Alex couldn’t help but feel a little insulted. “Are you sure you’d be okay sharing for a bit?”
“Selina’s small,” Theresa smiled at the girl. “And it’d be fun. Like a sleepover until we get a place of our own.”
“Alright, we’ll take it,” Alex said.
“Delightful.” Hobb wrote into the chart. “Alex…Roth…Theresa…Lu…Selina…Roth…perfect.” He dotted the final period. “And Ms. Lu, would you be interested in auditing courses as part of Mr. Roth’s entourage?”
Theresa frowned. “Auditing?”
“It means you get to take a few courses. No credit or anything, but you’d get to learn the subject.”
“Oh, I uh, I’m no wizard,” Theresa said.
“That is of no matter, we have a number of diverse courses here in addition to wizardry.” He glanced at the sword at her hip. “We are by no means an academy of martial arts, but the Watchers of Roal do host classes on weaponry and hand to hand combat to train more for their number. Many who have taken their courses have successfully entered their number, or have gone onto other paths. Even some of the Rhinean Empire’s elemental knights have taken the courses.”
She paused, with growing interest.
Hobb smiled in the same way that cattle salespeople did. “We also have a number of courses on tactics, general combat, general knowledge in mathematics, lore on beasts, several forms of arts such as sculpting or painting—though those are not our specialties—I assure you, your education would not be lacking here.”
Theresa paused, struck by a sudden thought. “Mr. Hobb-”
“Oh, just Hobb, please.”
“Hobb, on the way here we saw some buildings that looked a lot like how my grandfather used to describe the ones in Tarim-Lung.”
“Here in Generasi, we are influenced by most of the world’s cultures and have had many make their home here. Those of Tarim-Lung are no exception.’
“Then, does the university have any courses on…qigong?”
Hobb’s eyes flashed as though he had just clinched a sale. “Ahhhh the art of life-energy cultivation. By no means is it a comprehensive subject of study here, but Blood Magic—which is a comprehensive subject here—draws from lifeforce instead of mana. Techniques that fortify one’s lifeforce are useful in such a branch of magic, and so we have adapted a short set of courses to teach the basics of the subject. It is the only course categorized under Divinity offered at Generasi. If you look at the course guide—available in the library— you will find a course called LIFE-1075: Lifeforce Enforcement I. I do believe that if you are interested in exploring the subject, then it should be a suitable beginning. I do warn you however, there is a test of affinity before one can gain entry into the course, as it is a dangerous subject.”
Theresa blinked. A wide smile bloomed on her face.
Alex watched her smile. “How much is it for auditing and junior school?”
Hobb’s eyes were triumphant. “Ten gold coins per month.”
“We’ll take them both.”