Practical Exercise

For the curious, Practical Exercise is now at 85,000 words and is about half-done.

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“His family tolerates killing unmen?” I asked. “OK, my House leans very hard in favor of peaceful trade.  We do interventions to protect the unmen we trade with.”  I’d been along on several of those; discouraging unmen from killing each other sometimes got seriously violent.

“House Fourbridge believes ‘unmen are there to loot’,” Adrian answered.  “Neighboring houses really don’t like them.  Fourbridge loots. Neighboring unmen become unruly.”

“My sister is in Violent House,” Rebecca added. “Next door to the Violets. Yes, Violent House. The serious Army House.  She’s looking forward to becoming an Imperial Guard.  She said that one of the guys who did not attack you had a complete record of what the idiot did, everyone except the idiot agreed that he got what he deserved, only not enough of it, and several of the Army Houses hoped you would join them.”

We talked a bit more, and I went off for lunch.  House Way was in its winds and turns was longer than I had expected.

The General Magic Table

Miller’s Refectory was sparkling clean. I picked up a tray and worked down the serving line.  The unmen cooks had done a fine job.  A long table, nearly every space taken,  waited roughly where I’d been told to find the General Magic people.  A much older man in scholar’s robes sat at the table’s head.  Dairen Charlemont was at the far end, shoulders slumped, head down.  I was reminded of something that Grandfather Worrow said, describing an unman army trudging into battle.  ‘You looked at them and saw they’d clearly lost the battle and surrendered, before they even reached the battlefield.’  That was the look on Dairen Charlemont’s face.

I marched up to Dairen, where an empty chair awaited.  “Is this the General Magic table?” I asked, not that I wasn’t sure of the answer.

“It is indeed,” the Academician at the head of the table answered.  “I am Elder Master  Courtenay.  And these are a fair fraction of our students interested in General Magical Studies.”

“Adara!” Dairen interrupted.  “You saved my life!”

“Hardly,” I responded.  “At worst you would have been roughed up a bit.  But it shouldn’t have happened.”

“Dairen?”  A boy near the head of the table asked.  “Is this the girl you claimed pulled a peldiar on three Army House thugs? And chased them off?  With a child’s toy?”  Peldiar?  Oh, right, the training tool, the one that barely holds two spells.  Sort of.  I once got four into mine, but it had been a real chore, and I’d selected the spells carefully.  “Her?”  His last question was accusatory, not believing what he had heard.

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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