I made a point of eating at each Refectory, returning once a day to Miller’s and the General Magic table. At the Table, people sitting next to me would turn slightly in their chairs, so I would see more of their shoulders than their faces. I could listen, but when I said something I was ignored, even by fellow first-year students. Each first-year student would mention when they would be tested on the Campus Martius. The combat magic tests sounded to be complete jokes, but for each test everyone at the table other than Master Courtenay went out to watch and cheer our fellows on. I hadn’t heard about the custom until now.
Dairen had vanished. I felt really sorry for him. I did ask Master Courtenay where he was. Apparently the local Order-Master of the Order of the Axe had taken a personal interest in seeing he was someplace safe.
On Threeday I received a directive, telling me to report to the Campus Martius on Fiveday for combat testing. I went over the day before to survey. My assigned location was a good mile out from the places where other students were being tested. Each student was put up against a simulacrum, a creature of straw and twine, something barely able to walk. A good number of them did not take the exercise seriously. They got pummeled by a bag of straw and the feeble spells backing it. Others seemed to have only an unclear idea of what they were supposed to be doing. Many had clearly only been in mock duels in which you were expected to pull your blows. If I’d quoted the family rule on kicking a man in the head, ‘best done while he’s flat on the ground; he can’t dodge as fast then’, they’d have been distressed. Too bad.
The rules were simple. Each location had two warding circles. You stepped into the outer circle, raised the circle, prepared your weapons and spells, and stepped into the inner circle. Then you raised the inner circle. At some point, probably not instantly afterward, you were attacked by a simulacrum. You were expected to defend yourself.
On Fourday I reached a lecture. I’d seen several postings on Faculty boards, all announcing it. Some of the were strictly polite. Some were more critical. “More nonsense from the New School” sounded excessive, but perhaps it was true.