Queen Sara Memorial Academy, Feldaren, Union of the Etciv
Early afternoon

I was interrupted in my reading when the bus stopped. The road we were on ran beside what looked to me more like a college campus than a high school, but the sign made clear that this was our destination. There was a low masonry fence on either side of the entrance, which consisted of a narrow driveway and wide sidewalks. A few small buildings were near the entrance, with larger ones farther off. A streetcar stop was just outside; judging by the uniforms, the handful of people waiting were students.

Legatus Matsumoto got out first, entered the nearest building, and after a few moments came back and told us it was time to get off the bus. A few minutes after we’d unloaded, a bearded man, possibly younger than my parents but probably not by much, came down the driveway. He greeted the Legatus, and she introduced him to the rest of our group.

“This is Henry Jerdew, Dean of the Upper School,” she said. “For the Americans, that’s grades ten to twelve; the lower school is grades seven to nine. As I understand it, that’s not quite how you divide Junior and Senior High School, but it may be easiest to think of it that way.”

She went on to introduce us all, notably introducing Joel with his family as the potential visiting student being co-sponsored by her government and the Americans, and no mention was made of Joel’s mother or why he was actually here. I was introduced as Joel’s friend, purely here to observe. She ended with “...and you may remember Carl, Count Dormer?”

“Yes, of course,” said Dean Jerdew. “Does Obdrest have some interest in student exchange these days?”

“Obdrest has the same interest in increased trade as the Union, of course,” replied Dorner, “but in this case I’ve been borrowed to help with security arrangements.”

One of the Dean’s eyebrows went up, but he did not press further. Instead, he addressed our whole group, saying, “Welcome to Queen Sara. It’s an honor to host the first young people to be allowed through the Gate, and doubly so if Joel and his parents choose for him to attend next year.

“The academy has been here for 110 years, we were funded by a gift from Queen Sara of Penrose and Kala, to commemorate the young men from Feldaren who died fighting as her ally in the Second Slave War. We moved to this location about 20 years later; the land here was a gift from the Senate on the condition that we admit young women as well.”

“If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you around campus and the upper school buildings in particular.”

The main driveway ran a short block, ending in a small roundabout at one end of a fairly large open area; a narrower alley or driveway threaded off to one side away from the open area. Along the way, there were a number of small

s which he mentioned as being for staff use. The open area was about a short city block on each side, grass in the middle with sidewalk around it. The grass was broken by a few benches and picnic tables around the edges, and in the very center was the statue of a woman made of a smooth white stone, atop a low pedestal.

When we got to the roundabout, Dean Jerdew pointed out the statue. “That’s Queen Sara on the center of the green. It's a pity you couldn’t come earlier; we could have dropped by a class in session, and on a nice day like this the green is a popular lunch spot.”

I think I grimaced, and Joel spoke up. “So, there are Saturday classes?”

“Yes,” said the Dean. “We’ve a five-and-a-half-day schedule. It does vary, but most Saturday morning classes are science labs and electives. A fair number of clubs use Saturday afternoon to have a longer block of time on campus for club activities.”

Joel’s dad asked the next question, “What are the electives here?”

“I’ll go over a little more about our electives when we tour the academic building,” said the Dean, “but we have a pretty set curriculum in English, math, history and sciences unless students place ahead in one or more of those. Second years can take one or two electives; a lot take an advanced honors follow-up to one of the first-year classes, and we offer a fair number of other subjects. We’ll send you back with a full curriculum.”

From there, our first stop was the high — or as he said, upper — school buildings, which were an L shaped pair of structures connected by open walkways at one end. Each was three stories, and when we entered the nearer one, the first sight was a large bank of lockers. From there, the first thing he pointed out was the cafeteria, which was mostly empty but there were a few students still hanging out after lunch. They had uniforms, and fairly formal ones to my eye — almost a suit, although rather than matching, the pants or skirts were grey and jackets dark blue. The Dean pointed out the hot lunch line — already closed, and the menu blackboard wiped clean — and a separate line for packaged snacks that remained open with a very bored student behind it.

Joel and I went up to check it out; it seemed picked over, but there were several wrapped sandwiches and pastry, as well as potato chips and similar snacks. Most amusingly, the main brand of chips was “Wiz” — with a cartoon wizard, but oddly close to a brand from our world.

When we came back, the Dean was talking to Joel’s parents. “As you can see, we’ve got a formal uniform. The new student council president ran on changing it. Those discussions will happen after final exams, but I expect if Joel joins us, that things will be a little more relaxed by the time he starts.”

I wanted to ask how much more relaxed, but I wasn’t the one who might be attending, and Joel didn’t bring it up. His father moved to asking about when exams were — around three weeks off at the end of June — and it sounded like the school year ran about the same as ours in New York, just a little longer into the very beginning of July.

We went on to tour the rest of the building, which was mostly similar looking classrooms. They were very nice and modern, and well provisioned with windows. William Jennings Bryan HS, where we went, was an old and dark building and like many NY schools had bars on the first-floor windows, but it could have been worse — I’d visited Hunter once, and their converted armory had almost no windows at all.

One thing that caught my attention was that the first two rooms we checked out had no clear specialty, so at the second I asked, “What subject is taught here?”

“Except for subjects needing special equipment, like science labs or music, students stay with the same room throughout the day,” replied the Dean. That seemed odd, coming from the system in NY, but I didn’t suppose it actually made much difference.

After that, we took the walkway over to the second building. Apparently, the homerooms were mostly divided by a year per floor - 1st year on the 2nd floor of the first building, 2nd years on the top floor of that one, and 3rd years on the top floor of the other. The lower floors were a mix of science labs, specialty classrooms, and the school nurse’s infirmary.

Our next stop was the central building on the river side of the green — the Dean pointed out that it was the oldest academic building on campus. At one point it had been the main school building, but when the new upper school building opened it was repurposed into the “arts center,” with specialty classrooms and studios, and from the sound of it, club rooms used by both the upper and lower schools’ non-athletic clubs. Unlike the academic building, that was mostly cleared out, many of these rooms were occupied and busy, and we got to peek in at a few. The building was also home to a big auditorium at one end, called the main hall. The dean said it was big enough to hold the entire upper school or lower school student body and faculty, although not both at once.

We skipped the lower school building on the far side of the arts center, which was a single structure although floor taller than the upper school buildings. We next went to the sports center, which was again shared between the upper and lower schools; it consisted of a few low, connected buildings all along one side of the green. As a gym building, it lost my interest, right up until the Dean said something that caught my attention — “Most students don’t take physical education classes in the upper school, but instead satisfy the requirement by joining one of the athletic clubs.”

“Are there try-outs for the teams?” Joel asked.

“It depends on which,” replied the Dean. “Right now, for the boys, only baseball has a separate competitive team and open club. Some of the others like soccer have a single club, but still have try-outs within the club for a competitive team.”

They had a large pool, although from the look of it, it might not be usable socially; the entire thing was in use by boys and girls swimming clubs when we looked in. One other thing that caught my attention was at the stairs at the back of the main gym, a sign said “Dueling Club.”

When I asked about that, the Dean replied “The school was founded a long time ago and has some equally old traditions. Keeping that sign up is one of the odder ones that the Fencing Club has kept.”

Our last stop was the main administration buildings; we were all briefly introduced to Doctor Mittari, the head of school, and Joel and his parents met with him briefly in private. During that time, the Foreign Service officer, Hull, decided to strike up a conversation with me. “That book you were reading on the bus — did I see right that it was a biography of their first emperor?”


About the author


  • California, USA

Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.

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