Practical Exercise

OK, that was certainly not a question I expected to hear, not that directly, not this early in the term.   The main point was not relaxing the unaging spells, but what you did afterward.  “Not interested, thanks,” I managed.  “Nothing against you in particular, but you heard what Master Courtenay said about doing that.”

“He’s so old-fashioned.  The rest of the first-year people are doing it.  Why aren’t you?” Antoine tried fast-talking me into agreeing with him.  “With two people it’s safe. And a lot of fun.”

“I said ‘no’.  It’s not something wrong with you, but I’m not interested, thanks.  Go find someone else. It can be done.”  I was trying to stay polite, but it was about to get challenging.  He got up, not saying another word,  turned his back, and walked away.  The whole first-year group, I wondered?  Really?  Were they all that dumb? I tested my wards.  They weren’t quite called, but they were entirely ready.

At the end of the appointed six minutes,  Serene Master Aduriel reappeared, followed by a half dozen students.  He waited while they took their seats.  “Are there questions yet?” he asked.

I waved.  He nodded, raising his eyebrows.  “Where is your office,” I asked, “what are your consulting hours, and where if anywhere did you segregate books in the library to match your lectures?”

“Did your parents tell you to ask those?” he answered.  I shook my head.  “Those are the best questions a smart student should ask.  As it happens, that’s the start of my lecture.  You could have stepped out during recess, you know.”  That last bit was phrased as a question.

“I already knew I wanted to be here,” I answered politely. “Those questions I learned at Barlow Prep.”  Triskittenion Hall had tutors, but many things are learned better in a large class. That’s why I attended Barlow.

“Barlow.  Far Northwest.  He was a student of mine, you know,” the Serene Master said.  “Absolutely brilliant.”  Barlow Prep had been founded almost six thousand years ago.

“Honor to his name,” I whispered.

The Serene Master nodded.  Honor indeed, he mouthed.  “In any event,” he said,  “the screen displays my office and the hours at which I may be approached for questions.  For reasons you should try to figure out, I have *not* set aside books in the library for you.”  I made a note to myself.  Why didn’t he?  The library has a reserved book hall.  He said we should try to figure it out…that was a hint.  The question will be on the exam.  Of course, some of my fellow students would need to be whacked cross-side the head with a clue-by-four before they noticed.

About George Phillies

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