On House Way, my first stop was Gray House. It did not live up to its name. Whatever stone it had been built from, it was now painted in bright colors. If some color had been overlooked, it must’ve been an accident. The balusters on the porch railings were milled spirals, no two the same. You could easily tell that the cross-section was a hexagon, because the six sides of the spiral were painted six different colors. Dad had warned me that repainting the outside of the house was viewed as an important task for the House’s new members. The grounds were surrounded by a low fence, the front gate having an arch and two formal iron latticework doors, both open. The walk to the front door curved left and right, its stone pavers surrounded by a deep green ground cover I didn’t recognize. Crossing the threshold, I felt a gentle ward probe me, probe me enough that whoever had cast it could tell I was wearing enchanted clothing and had something fairly potent across my back.
The House’s front door swung open before I reached it. Okay, someone inside was actually paying attention to their House’s wards. Two people, a fellow and a gal who were obviously in the middle of passing from young adult to adult age, came out.
“Peace be unto you,” I said. “And to the House of Social Wisdom.” The latter was not a secret password, but it was supposed to establish I was related to a House member, namely my father.
“And to you also,” the fellow said. “I’m Adrian Chalmers, and this is my fiance, Rebecca Stone.”
“I’m Adara, Adara of House Triskittenion,” I explained. “My father once lived here. He asked me to stop and say hello, so soon as I reached the Academy. My father said to say his nickname was Eats Always Slowly. But he refused to tell me the story behind the name.”
“Your father?” Rebecca answered in surprise. “Eats Always Slowly was House Rector for a decade. Are you here to claim his place? You’d be entitled to his rooms.”
I shook my head. “My two older brothers are already into Governance. That only works because Heath prefers provincial studies and Moore prefers financial operations. No, I’m just here to say hello, and promise that Dad still remembers this House.”
“Did you have a House in mind yet?” Adrian asked. “We couldn’t turn you away, but Gray House really is focused on people looking to rise into Governance.”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said. “No, I’m interested in General Magic. Not Construction, General Magic. So far as I can tell, there isn’t a General Magic House. Is there?”
“Construction Folks tend not to look down their noses at their General Magic aspects,” Adrian offered.
Rebecca shook her head. “I think there was, once upon a time, but not in recent millennia. The closest you can get is one of the Army Houses. They all think new spells are cool, especially ones that destroy things. At the moment they’re all in a commotion. One of the less-well-advised members of Violet House decided to revive the ancient forbidden custom of beating up freshmen who weren’t properly armed. Apparently his first victim pulled an enchanted sword on him and had a couple of spells set on her left hand, ready to launch. His friends say if they hadn’t intervened she would have flattened him. Now the Proctors are preparing to send the fellow on his way, at least for a century or two.” “This morning?” I asked. She nodded. My father said that gossip is the only form of communication that can travel through space in negative time. Here I was seeing it.