The next day was the General Assembly for first year students, held in the Grand Theater. You attended Assembly and had your ward passage validated, or paid the penalty, which included standing and reading aloud the Chancellor’s welcoming speech, following which you paid an impressively hefty fine. The theater was a limestone semicircle, rows of backless seats ramping upward toward the rear, the whole being open to the sky. The wall behind the speaker was spangled with golden stars, each star marking an occasion on which the stairs or seats had worn down and needed to be replaced. First year students spread across the seats, with well more gaps than people.
I wore tunic, trousers, and hooded cape, all in the bright blue of House Triskittenion. Our family crest was embroidered across my cape and on the front and back of my tunic. The cape and hood again masked the detail that I was wearing my gnothdiar. About half of my fellow students were equally formally dressed. I say “formal”, but my tunic and trousers were pleasantly loose, the cuffs on my tunic’s sleeves only being tight enough to keep the sleeves from riding up. A few students were in formal court dress. I do own a houppelade, though I am quite sure I did not pack it, much to mother’s dismay. The two girls wearing farthingales had an interesting time with the seats. At the other extreme, perhaps a third of my fellow students were to my eyes slovenly in their dress, wearing clothing only suited for working in the fields, and that at best if you were an unman who could work no spells.
Was there anyone here that I knew? That wasn’t many of my classmates, not yet, but I didn’t see anyone. The Academy belltower began the clangour summoning Assembly. I’d arrived a bit early, but soon all of my classmates – OK, all my classmates with any brains – would be here. Students poured into the theater.
The bells fell silent. The Dorrance Faculty, at least a good number of them, filed onto the stage. The colors of their gowns marked their particular specialties. The colors of their cape marked their original Academies. Almost all of them wore the gold capes that symbolized Dorrance. I managed to spot two men in the pitch black of the New School. Chancellor Everbright was the last to enter. Her robes were purest white, symbolizing that she represented all specialties and all origins.
“Be at Peace!” she said. An enchantment carried her voice, so I heard her as though she was standing next to me. My fellow students fell silent. “Be at Peace! And welcome to Dorrance Academy. We are, of course, the oldest and best Academy in the Commonality of the Timeless. Indeed, we are a University, a place for scholarly work. You have chosen wisely, and performed excellently, to be admitted here. Standing before you are representatives of our faculty, people who are undoubtedly the best scholars and instructors in the Commonality. Listen to them and you will learn well.
“The entrance examinations required that you study and understand our actual rules, so I need not repeat them.” She then went on to repeat almost all of them, finishing when the Sun stood far higher in the sky.
“As practical advice: Some of you will have heard the word concepts, as in the phrase ‘I understand the concepts, but I can’t cast the spells.’ In this context, belief in concepts is a dangerous superstition, the false belief that there are concepts. This superstition will keep you from understanding what is going on. Said more succinctly: