Two Are Better Than One Chapter 8
Magic School Blues
By Samara Secor
Orielle laid aside another stack of papers and rubbed her forehead, feeling the onset of another headache. Theres far too much work to do around here, she murmured. I really should get an assistant to handle some of this for me. This stuff barely makes sense when Ive gotten a full nights rest, let alone when Im taking care of a sick child.
She tried once more to read the top page on the stack, but it quickly swam out of focus, causing her to shut her eyes once more. She had almost drifted off into a light doze when she heard a knock on the door. She sighed and straightened, saying, Come in.
The door opened to admit four youths, two boys and twin girls, that she had never seen before, although one of the boys looked faintly familiar, but from where, she couldnt have said. As far as not recognizing any of the other three, it was no wonder. She wasnt as homebound to Vane as some guildmasters had been, but her travels had always taken her west, never eastward towards the prairie. This promised to be a lot more interesting than the massive mounds of unfinished paperwork, so she perked up a bit. Welcome to the Magic Guild of Vane. I am Orielle Ausa, the guildmaster. What can I do for you?
Arvads attention wandered soon after the introduction began, and he was mentally gauging the worth of every object in the room. It took a moment before he realized what he was doing, but it didnt spoil his good mood. Old habits die hard, he thought cheerfully. Just as long as all I do is look, Ill be fine. Oh, ho! What are these papers over here, hmm?
Reading formal script upside down was a bit more difficult than Arvad had imagined, but as long as he went slowly, the meaning became clear. So what all this legalese crud amounts to is that some merchant, Khativan, in Meribia is trying to overcharge the guild by about 30 silvers per bale for a shipment of animal feed. What does Vane need animal feed for anyway? Oh, yeah. That midterm project thingie that Edrea was talking about. So, how much extra is the guild gonna be out of pocket because of this guy Khativans greed? Lets see... With 350 bales at 30 silver each, that comes to a total of 10,500 silver, Arvad gulped. Even in my thieving days, it would have taken me quite a while to get that kind of money...
The twins had identified themselves as Alicia and Laticia. The other member of the Plains tribe that had stationed himself by the door was Neil, and the familiar looking boy was Arvad. Orielle committed the names to memory with the same skill and speed that had served her well as a student. So, Laticia, you said youre here to become a student, Orielle steepled her fingers under her chin and continued, We are always glad to have more students, but I must warn you that the learning of magic does not always come easily.
I realize that, maam, and Ill put forth my best effort to meet all the challenges, Laticia said.
Good. Ill see to it that you get a room and someone to show you around. Alicia, you and Neil may stay the night before you leave, and as for you, Arvad... Orielle noticed Arvad studying the papers and a hint of hopefulness entered her voice, You dont happen to understand that stuff, do you?
Why do I feel like Im about to step into a trap? Arvad wondered and said, If Im not reading this wrong, youre about to spend a lot more money for animal feed than you should... around ten thousand silver too much. I suggest that you either find a different supplier or threaten to do so in order to get this guy, Khativan, to lower his price to a more reasonable level.
Is your expertise in pricing limited to animal feed, or does it extend to other areas as well? Orielle asked.
Arvad could faintly hear Neil snickering behind him, but he did his best to ignore it. I wouldnt exactly call it expertise, but I do have a lot of experience making sure people dont cheat me. Minstrels dont exactly have an astounding budget to work with, Arvad replied, adding mentally, ...and neither do most thieves.
I cant believe it! This is a golden opportunity to get more time to spend with both of my children! Okay, Ive just got to... calm down. I wouldnt want to scare him off, Orielle thought, and then she asked, Do you think you could take over the management of some of this paperwork for me? My younger child is sick, and Ive been wanting to spend more time with her. Youll get free room and board, of course, as well as payment for your time.
This isnt exactly what I had in mind when I decided to come up here, but it is guaranteed employment, Arvad nodded, All right. Ill do it.
Conch flew around Edreas room, checking every nook and cranny. There were two beds, indicating that she had a roommate. It was easy to tell which half of the room was which. Edreas half was as neat as a pin, while her roommates half had books stacked precariously in piles and clothes heaped in one corner. Is your roommates pet monster under the bed or in the closet? Conch asked. I sure hope not or else it might die somewhere under all that clutter.
Edreas lips twitched briefly in what might have been a smile before she answered, Sachiko might be a little sloppy sometimes, but shed never mistreat an animal like that. Her... ah, pet is outside on the patio, but I wouldnt go out there if I were you.
Why not? Huh? Conch circled Edrea rapidly. Is it mean? Is it vicious? Has it got really big teeth?
All of the above and then some, Edrea confirmed. Now, stop flying around so fast. Youre making me dizzy.
Conch slowed to a halt in front her face and said, I think youre just bluffing.
You think so? Edrea slid the patio door open just wide enough to allow Conch to pass through and said, Go ahead and take a look, then. But dont say I didnt warn you.
She looks serious. Maybe I shouldnt go out there... but I have to! I cant let her think Im a coward! Conch flew towards the gap and stuck his head out cautiously before flying out the rest of the way. Thats funny. I dont see anything out here...
Unbeknownst to Conch, Edrea had picked up her staff and was holding it out before her as if preparing for the worst. Everything remained quiet, so Conch finally broke the silence. Edrea, theres nothing out he... Eargh!! Bronze Dog! Conch screamed and zoomed for the door as a huge dog wreathed in flames bounded out of the shadows.
This will be cutting it close, but that little furball needs to be taught a lesson, Edrea thought and waited until the dog was almost on top of Conch before pointing her staff and yelling, Water Lance!
The magically summoned water shot out of the crystal at her staffs tip, totally drenching both the dog and Conch. The dog yelped and backpedaled furiously as the flames surrounding it died out. It got as far away from the door as it could and hunched down on the ground, glaring balefully at Edrea. Conch was soaked through to the skin but otherwise unharmed. Mustering up every shred of dignity he still possessed, Conch stalked haughtily into the room and stared at Edrea, letting his wet fur drip on the carpet for a moment before saying, Okay, I admit it. You were right. A towel would really come in handy right about now.... Please.
While Edrea was in the bathroom drying Conch off, they heard Sachiko enter the main room and head out the patio door. Oh, my poor little baby! What happened to you? Sachiko wailed, trailing off into a series of croons in a sickenly sweet tone.
Edrea exchanged glances with Conch and then picked him up, towel and all, and tiptoed quietly out the door.
Keefe was pretending to study from the book in front of him, but in reality, he was watching his roommate, Wein, try to apply lotion to his sunburned back without much success. Finally, Keefe gave up his pretense of studying and said, Here, let me help.
Wein grumbled a bit, but he handed the lotion over to Keefe and stretched out on the bed. As Keefe greased up his hands, he took a closer look at Weins back. It was starting to turn a deep red, as were the backs of his arms and legs. Youve been sunning yourself again. When are you going to realize that youll always burn like this and never have a fabulous tan like me? Keefe asked.
I wasnt trying to get a tan, you muscle bound oaf, Wein said through gritted teeth.
Keefe grinned, Then, what were you trying to do, shifty eyes? Spy on someone? A pretty girl, maybe?
Weins only response was to reach for a pillow and swing it as hard as he could behind him to where he guessed Keefes head would be. Oooh... I must have guessed right, Keefe said, spitting feathers out of his mouth. So, which lovely lady did you risk charbroiling yourself for? Come on. If you cant tell me, then who can you tell?
Its... not like that. I was just wondering what Edrea was up to, thats all, Wein replied.
Uh, huh... Keefe didnt sound convinced. And did you find out what she was up to?
Well, she came back with a subject for her project, but its not a gryphon. I mean, whatever it is flies, but its blue and small and... Wein broke off with a huge yawn. I havent got a clue what it is. Four people came through the Cave of Trials, too. Three of them were from the prairie, but the fourth one kind of looked like...
The silence stretched out for a while, so Keefe prodded Weins shoulder gently. Weins only reaction was a barely audible snore. You little faker. Youre not asleep, but I can take a hint. Ill just go find out for myself, he thought.
Keefe corked the lotion bottle and put it on Weins desk. Then, he stood in front the small mirror in their room, appraising what he saw. If it werent for the wizards robe, no one would have been able to tell that he was a student. Is there some unwritten law saying that a magician cant be physically strong, too? Keefe rolled his eyes. Maybe Im the exception the proves the rule. Anyway, the ladies love me.... But then, theyd love Wein, too, if he would stop messing with everybodys minds like that. Hes managed to alienate just about everybody except for me, and even I sometimes wonder how I ever managed to see past all those fronts he puts up to the person underneath.
Well, you just sit back and relax, Wein, while your old buddy, Keefe, does a little reconnaissance, Keefe whispered and stuck his tongue out. And I wont have to skulk around and fry myself to do it. So, nyah!
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