When the reviewers post critiques of my work it's so tempting to respond to them. Not to argue with what they say, but to clarify questions they have. In the end, it's probably best to let them find what answers they can from the writing itself. If I haven't given them the information already, then I need to look to myself to fix it I'm thrilled though, to find I've done well enough to have people following along for each segment I put up. I want to shout "I have readers!"
Here is fourth and final segment of chapter one. I'll continue on with another chapter.
She was so caught up in the excitement that she completely missed the first part of what Frastil was telling her. Luckily he repeated things he said enough so that she caught on to the whole idea. Two days off to pack and get ready for a trip. So, they already had a trip in mind to start off her service to the towers. A stray thought flashed through her head. ::: Wonder how hard this trip is going to be if it’s paying for those runes. :::
She hurried through the corridors that wound around the Air Tower. The open windows let in the late afternoon sun along with the summer breezes. Her elation barely dimmed with the emptiness off the halls. She really wanted to believe that they had all given up on waiting for the seven hours she’d been testing, but she knew that none of them would have come at all. What friends she had once associated with had been distant and cold since word had gotten out about her being the niece of the fire headmaster. Actually he was a somewhat distant second cousin or something, that hadn’t even known she was in the school for the first four years.
She recalled the day so vividly too. Working as a runner for the month her puff rune had cost. On one of the many errands they sent her, she ran full into Getty Longbow, from her home town. The mayor’s daughter was famous for gossiping, and that’s what she did, telling the Norand, Head of Fire Tower, that his cousin actually thought she could be a mage. Grand old Norand had thought he was being nice sending her a book as a gift, complete with a runner to tell her how thrilled he was to have family in the tower. Nothing spreads faster than gossip, especially about a fellow student.
Aeriona had confronted him to stop the rumors, to which he told her instructors to avoid any sign of favoritism. They had done just that too, piling a double load of assignments on her. All this did was to confirm that she was getting special treatment, and what few Friends she’d once had drifted away. Even Miniah, who knew the truth, found new friends to avoid getting caught in the drama. Frastil had been the one exception to any change in his behavior. He’d been pushing her hard the entire time.
Midway through her third year, before any of the stuff with her cousin, that She had finally had enough of Frastil’s overload of work. She knew that he was giving her more than most of the others in her class. After one class where she seemed to be the focus of all the questions, Aeriona confronted him with threats of her leaving. He merely smiled and changed her assignment.
It took six hours of study to figure out that he hadn’t given her an easier one, but one that was twice the headache. It had angered her enough to storm into his office and tell him that it was reasons like that assignment that were forcing her to quit. It angered her even more that her anger didn’t upset him. He sat there and calmly closed the book he’d been reading. He even had the nerve to tell her that her reasons were utter nonsense.
“All of the assignments I give you are well within your abilities. You may have to stretch a bit, but without stretching you’d never grow. Quit if you must, but don’t blame the assignments for your lack of will.”
“There’s not a single book in that library that talks about the third era of storms.”
“So, you thought you’d go back to your father’s estate and sit around making tapastries until some addled brained lad asked you to marry him?”
“I have no intention…”
“There are in fact seventeen such notations contained within the twenty-two thousand volumes. I’m sure with a little diligence you will find them. And since you’re headed back to the archives, would you mind returning this one?”
Aeriona snatched the book from his outstretched hand, and turned to storm back through the door. She was nearly down into the cavernous maze below the five towers before she even bothered to glance at the thick tome. The winds of Kotor: Birth of the third storm. With a scream that could be heard several chambers away, she ducked into one of the study alcoves. For the next four days it was only the kitchen staff that saw her running through to grab a bit of food. Spurred on by her anger that he had predicted her so well, she didn’t stop until she knew all of the book’s secrets. Within the week she had jumped ahead another class year. Her friends became even more distant.
Now, with the celebration looming, she needed to change. Her simple dress just wouldn’t do for making an impression on the master mages. She was deciding between her favorite white dress, and the more formal brown one, when she got back to the room. It was no surprise to find Carmelin with her nose buried in a book while quickly scribbling notes on a parchment when Aerionna entered the small dorm room they shared with a third student.
It was just as unsurprising to find that book to be Aeriona’s student spell book. She tried to be very casual, as she slid the tome under a disheveled stack of parchments on the tiny desk. Aerionna, for her part, pretended not to notice as she gathered the things she’d need for the evening. This wasn’t the first time Carmelin had copied from her. Aeriona pulled the white dress out, hoping that it wasn’t too late in the season for the flowery lace on the arms and neck.
As she sorted through the myriad novelties for the particular ones she needed, she cast a furtive glance at the hiding spot in her armoire. It still bore the same wards she’d placed on it. She had sacrificed an obvious hiding spot to keep this one safe. That was a trick John had taught her many years ago on their second excursion. She hid a tiny smile as she turned to the small jewelry box on her desk. Carmelin’s fidgeting behind her made the situation even more funny.
Carmelin’s grades hadn’t improved any after breaking into the simple lock of the desk drawer to copy her notes. Small wonder seeing as how that tome contained spell weaves copied from some of the worst student. Some of them might actually work, but others could do worse. Her real tome lay safely hidden behind wards too strong for Carmelin to get past. Part of her hoped she’d try. The simplest of them would take the girl another few years of study to even recognize its existence. On the slim chance she tried to force her way past the ward, she’d have half as many fingernails to paint.
She would have done better copying off Besselie, their other roommate. Besselie was slow and struggled with every lesson to the point where the girl would be lucky to reach senior journey mage in twenty years, but she was very studious and would remember every one of her hard won lessons.
Aeriona took the time to weave a few strings of beads into her braid, to compliment the crystal bracelets dangling at her wrists. They had been a gift from an artisan she had helped a few years earlier. He’d had to pay half his profits to the tower for a year, but it was well worth it for the work she’d done. His business was not only saved, it prospered.
The bracelets were his personal thanks to her. They were rose quartz that was partly carved and partly woven to form a pattern of dragonflies and lilies wrapping around her wrist. Hidden among the lilies was a tiny Shimmerwing. He had added that little touch to the work to make it personal to her. She must have talked endlessly to him as she crafted the charms and wards that had saved his home.
She picked up her small bag and headed out the door for an evening of feasting and celebration. The many-hours long test had drained a lot of her energy and she needed to eat…a lot. The celebration was for being one of the youngest Third-Masters in the history of the tower. Of the thirty-two others still living, all were at least a decade older than her. Most of them were more than three decades her senior. Of course there was Denf that had always been more than a hundred as far as anyone knew. A grimace twisted her face momentarily at the thought that her celebration was going to be rather quiet.