“This is a dark day for the potions department, I want you all to know that.” A voice cracked like a whip as Alex opened the door to the lecture hall.
The door emerged onto the back of the class, which was set up like a half-bowl with built-in long tables for students to sit at on each level, like how the stadium was built. At the bottom of the incline, a woman stood on a stage in front of a massive slab of obsidian, which was covered in half-erased diagrams and formulae.
Alex recognized her as the white haired woman who had first ran to investigate the explosion with the sharp-dressed man.
He also recognized two students, to his surprise.
One was Isolde, sitting at the front of the class, with her eyes forward and back straight. She gave off a powerful aura—a towering confidence similar to the one coming off of Cedric.
This was in contrast to a person sitting in the upper rows of the back of the class.
Her ex-partner Derek had his face clutched in his hands, and his entire body shook. His skin was pale and sweaty. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Alex quietly eased the door shut and slipped into the closest empty seat. A couple of the students and the professor glanced at him, but they didn’t really seem to register him much.
Whatever was going on had drawn all of the attention in the room.
“Brewing potions is not the same as making wine in the countryside.” The professor shook her head and her face looked like someone had told her that a family member had just suddenly dropped dead. “I said this repeatedly. And what do I see?”
Iron-grey eyes leveled at the class. “Irresponsibility. Childishness. Foolishness.”
Alex nearly startled at that last word.
“The university trusts that you are all adults—ones ready to wield forces that few others in this world can fathom. Instead, days ago, one of our number decided to cast away that responsibility. They are now maimed and someone is dead. This would be bad enough, but on top of this: Mr. Warren!”
Derek jumped up from his seat. “Professor Jules!”
She gestured at him. “As we have discussed, you have something to tell the class, don’t you?’
The redheaded man swallowed. “I uh…I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I…on the project for the potion of flight, I copied another student’s assignment. In, uh, in doing this I have tarnished my record as a wizard of Generasi, I have harmed the department, the student I copied from, all of you and myself. I um…” He shook. “...I showed that I am not ready to advance to POTI-2000. I’ll be withdrawing from the course and repeating in the fall semester. And I apologize to you all.”
Isolde turned toward him, watching him for a moment, before giving a short nod and returning her attention to the front of the room. Most of the other students turned away from him, while Alex’s eyes lingered for a little longer.
“You may sit now, Mr. Warren,” Professor Jules said.
Derek collapsed into his chair, deflating as he did.
“Cheating is a high penalty offence at Generasi. Cheating in the mundane scholarly arts will lead to you not bearing the knowledge you should. Cheating in the Arts of Wizardry is putting your own life and the lives of others at risk.” Her eyes swept the room. “As you heard from our Chancellor. Were it not for Mr. Warren’s public apology, then he would be expelled even as we speak. I ask that all of you learn from these mistakes and conduct yourselves properly.”
She sighed. “I was a student once too. I know how it can be. The graduate programs require very high marks to enter, and some even examine your first year performance. The pressure is strong, and I have felt it too. But remember, wizardry is a dangerous subject: cutting corners will only increase this danger. High marks in an exam mean nothing if you lack some fundamentals that will kill you a year from now. That is all. I’ll be ending class early today. Read chapter 45 from Dexter’s General Alchemy of Potions. Two more weeks until the final and then your break. Stay the course. We are almost there.”
As students rose and began to file out of the room—Derek tore through the doors at half a run—Alex immediately took out a piece of paper and wrote down the name of the textbook. His course selection was still being processed, and he hadn’t received his list of texts yet. Better to get a head start on study.
He glanced up as the towering Isolde glided up the stairs. She frowned and her eyes were down even though her head and back were straight. Another couple of students were walking and talking with her, but the young woman hardly said a word as she pushed through the door.
When the room was empty, Alex got up from his seat and slowly made his way to the stairs and down toward the stage at the front of the class. Professor Jules was quietly packing her own bag, though she looked up as he approached.
“Hello, is there something I can do…” Her eyes narrowed. “Are you in my class?”
“Not yet,” he said. “I’m a new student here and I’ll be starting in the fall.”
“We, uh, met once before.”
“We have?” She squinted at him. “Were you in someone’s entourage?”
“No, uh in the courtyard when you were on the way to the explosion in The Cells?”
“Hrm…wait, were you the young man with the cerberus?”
“Uh, he’s not my cerberus but I technically was with him. I’m surprised you remember, professor, you were a little bit busy that day. I’m Alex, by the way.”
“Professor Jules, though you already seem to know that. ‘A little bit’ he says,” she muttered. “I noticed the dog more than you, I have to admit. Either way, welcome to Generasi. Apologies that today’s class was not more of a good impression.”
“We all have our bad days. Even magic departments, I guess. Professor, I wanted to ask you a question.”
“I have to supervise a practicum in The Cells shortly, so it will have to be quick. Follow me?”
They stepped out of the classroom together as the short woman hurried through the halls of the main castle. His longer strides easily kept up. “Professor, I was wondering…and I know maybe this isn’t the thing to get out of the Chancellor’s speech this morning but, he said something about the potions department having something they analyzed the explosive residue with?”
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“Ah, I was just wondering how that worked?”
She chuckled. “‘How it works’ is about an entire month of the curriculum for POTI-1000. Much of the course involves the careful analysis of ingredients.”
How did he ask her: ‘Hey can I use it to analyze the remains of one of the horrible doom cores that have plagued my country for centuries? Oh and it might be able to be controlled by humans? Okay if I just toss that into your magical analysis thingy?’
“Can…” he thought his way through the question. “Can we use the equipment to study things on our own? Like…herbs and monster parts and stuff like that?”
“O-oh. Because it’s too dangerous?”
They had stepped into the courtyard of the main castle and she waved a hand at the air. One of those floating disks emerged from behind a rooftop and shot toward them.
“Exactly. This isn’t a cooking class.” She turned to him. “You can’t just dump a bunch of ingredients into a pot and hope it turns out for the best. If one makes a bad stew, that might cause indigestion. Here? The wrong sort of material used in the wrong apparatus could ruin the magic circuits, and our equipment is very expensive. At worst, you could cause an unseen reaction that would lead to catastrophic results.”
He thought about the explosion. “Yeah, that makes sense professor…but what about projects we run ourselves? Is that something we can eventually do?”
“Of course, though that is not usually for first years.”
The disk floated down beside her. “I can see you are very keen.” Her eyes both held sympathy and warning. “I was the same. My suggestion to you is that you focus on the curriculum. Depending on how quickly you advance, you are afforded more freedom. Fill the basics first, and maybe we can have a chat about personal projects in your second year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t want to be late.”
She boarded the disk and shot off through the air toward The Cells.
Alex watched her go, thinking about what she had just said.
‘Though that is not usually for first years.’
So, not impossible then.
Training Day 8
Push-ups: Rest Day
Experimentation Day 3: BEGIN
Skills: Writing (Other), Reading, Running
“You should stay here and study,” Selina said as she finished chewing her last hunk of cheese. “Why do you need to go outside?”
He quickly took her plate, piling it into the bucket to take down to the scullery by the baths. “Because you’d just be bored,” he said.
“No I wouldn’t,” she protested.
“I’m just going over books for my classes.” He waved Dexter’s General Alchemy of Potions at her before slipping it into his bag. “You’re going to be bored and then you’re going to want to come back home.”
“I won’t! I won’t!”
He sighed, turning to Theresa. “You exercising Brutus this morning? Maybe she’d like to come with you?”
“I want to come with you,” Selina insisted.
Theresa sipped from a cup of weak tea and made a face. “Food from all over the world here, and no pine needles to boil for a drink. I’m just taking him to the beastarium.”
Alex blinked. “The what now?”
“It’s a place on the north side of the campus where students can let their beasts run, and explore this wilderness area. Some of the Watchers of Roal were telling me about it last night.”
“Oh? Making friends already?”
She shrugged. “They’re strange…they’re like two different people at once.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like…” She struggled for her words. “When they’re training, they never smile. Never laugh. When one of them falls or gets hit, they’re completely restrained, and don’t make a sound. They hardly talk.”
“They sound like walking statues.”
“Yeah, but when their training ends, it’s like they become completely different people. It’s so weird. Suddenly they’re smiling and joking and laughing—hammering each other on the shoulder—like they’d just come out of our inn after a few pints.”
She shook her head, wearing her ‘deathstalker face’.
Brutus whined and shoved one of his heads into her lap. Her face immediately softened, and she smiled as she pet him. “It’s okay boy, we’re going soon. Anyway, it’s strange, right? Watching someone change so fast?”
When she looked back up at him, she had her ‘deathstalker’ face back on.
“Oh yeah, who would be like that?” His mouth immediately began to go renegade. “There’s no one we know who would just go from terrifying killer to ordinary wom-” He coughed. “Person in about a second.”
Theresa’s eyes bore into him. “What do you mean by that, Alex?”
“Well...uhm...not...uh...you. You see...the thing about that is...this-Selina, why don’t we all go to this beastarium? I could study and you could see the animals and stuff at the same time!”
“Can we? Yay!” Selina immediately slid from the table to get her bag.
“Now, I know what you’re thinking,” he turned back to Theresa. “But if you murder me, I want you to know that you’re going to make Selina hate you for life.”
“J-just a thought,” he said.
Her chair scraped the floor as she stood. “Remember, it’s all about patience when it comes to hunting, Alex. It’s all about patience.”
Ominously, she went to get ready with Brutus following after her.
Was it just him, or did Brutus give him a dirty look?
No, he probably just imagined it.
He went into his room and—checking to see that no one was watching him—he made a new entry in his notebook on a page he’d carefully folded in the back.
Project Fetch Progress.