6 – Up and down

Spear got up again at first light. He went to the refectory hoping that everybody would be still asleep. The kitchen staff had just arrived, and food and ingredients were being carried in to be used to prepare breakfast. The boy was able to snatch a fruit and eat it quickly; the staff didn’t know what to make of him, but didn’t bother him. He left for the library to study. He needed to figure out where and when his intermediate physics classes were, but he thought he’d be able to do that while most students were attending the commencement speech or classes. He also needed to get an appointment with Master Bree, he made a mental note to do that at the same time.

After a while, he started hearing the noises of students walking through the hallways. As they had started to quiet down, a woman entered the library. She looked in surprise at the boy focused on his books.

“Shouldn’t you be at the commencement speech? I haven’t seen you before.” The voice startled Spear, who turned to look at her.

“Uh… orders from the schoolmaster…”, he said, uncertain. She scrunched her eyebrows.

“You’re that boy?” She kept staring at him. He didn’t know what to do, so he tried to go back to his books, but was feeling uncomfortable. After some time, he gathered the courage to ask a question.

“Uh… how do I find the schedule for intermediate physics lessons?”

She scoffed. “There are billboards posted on each floor.”

After some hesitation, he decided to head to the first floor, hoping to also find Miss Goodsmith there. He gathered his notes into his bag and got up. As he started to walk out, the woman stopped him. “You’re leaving the books on the desk!”, she said with a stern voice.

“Ah… I… will be back shortly…”, he said hesitantly, realizing she must be the librarian. She scoffed but didn’t bother him further.

He found the schedule right next to the stairs. There was a timetable for each day of the week. Classes seemed to start every day at the fourth hour, with a break for lunch at the eighth hour; there were never classes after the thirteenth hour. There were no classes on fourthday, and there seemed to be only a few things on seventhday. It also seemed to Spear that classes tended to be more theoretical in the morning and more practical in the afternoon; he thought that it somehow was similar to what he was doing with studying physics in the morning and then trying to awaken his magic sense in the afternoon.

Today was secondday, and there was a separate notice for first years about commencement speech and orientation from the fourth to the sixth hour; apparently they got the rest of the day free to get better acquainted with the school. The next intermediate physics class was on thirdday on the seventh hour (tomorrow morning); the boy noted down his schedule on some of his paper. He wondered if people here had some way to tell the time exactly. He reasoned that they must have. He noticed, above the billboard, a disk with numbers all around it; the numbers went from 1 to 24, which made him suspect it was related to the hours in a day. He remembered reading once the word “clock” in a book, and asking Jeneth about it, who explained that it was a magical device to tell the time. So, he guessed, that must be a clock, and analyzing it he concluded that the disk must rotate slowly over time, so that the number at the top would indicate the current hour. He thought it was pretty ingenious. If he was reading it correctly, it was now indicating between the fourth and fifth hour, which made sense considering the commencement speech had started not long ago. He made a mental note to check if there was a clock in the library as well, as that would allow him to not only get to his classes on time, but also get to the refectory right before everyone else and grab something to eat, without having to risk being asked questions by other students and embarrassing himself.

Then he headed downstairs, hoping to find Miss Goodsmith, but he couldn’t find anyone on the first floor and assumed she must be at the commencement speech. He reasoned that he should be able to find her during the sixth hour, and hoped he wouldn’t bump into many first year students at that time. He went back to the library; he noticed that there was indeed a clock on one of the walls. The librarian still stared at him, and he was uncomfortable, but eventually was able to get back into his studies.

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Some twenty or thirty minutes after the start of the sixth hour, Spear went back to the first floor to look for the head secretary; he found her office quickly enough, but a first year girl (he assumed) was already talking to her so he had to wait his turn; he looked at his feet when she passed by to avoid any interaction. Miss Goodsmith looked him up and down when he said his name, but he got his appointment with Master Bree on the eleventh hour of fifthday without further questions. He went back to the library and studied until ten minutes or so before the eight hour, when he ran to the refectory hoping to snatch something to eat from the kitchen. He was able to grab a big fruit and eat it before most of the students arrived, then went once again back to the library. There were quite a few students there now, and the librarian still seemed to keep an eye on him at all times; but he kept to himself, focused on his books, and nobody bothered him. He noticed, though, that students were taking books out of the library, and after some time he gathered the courage to ask the librarian. She scoffed and mumbled to herself: “What has this school come up to!”, then told him in a lecturing tone: “Depending on how many copies we have of a given book, it can be borrowed for some time. Books must be returned promptly, and must not be damaged in any way!” She really stressed the last part.

Spear decided that it was not worth it for today, but he’d try to take the books he needed to his room tomorrow, then return them in the afternoon before heading to the magic sense room. He spent another couple hours in the library then went to practice. Once again, he wasn’t able to sense anything other than frustration; he noticed a clock in the practice room as well, and was able to snatch some food from the kitchen right before dinner, then went back to his room, where he spent a couple hours reviewing his notes and finally went to sleep.

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The next day, he repeated his routine: got up at first light, snatched a fruit in the kitchen, went to the library, studied until the librarian arrived, then asked to borrow the physics books he was currently working on. She seemed to be reluctant and looked at him with great suspicion, but noted down the books he was borrowing and warned him again about returning them promptly. He went back to his room, avoiding the students in the hallways. He realized that he didn’t have a clock in his room though, and worried about how to get to his class in time. He decided to go to the practice room instead until the seventh hour.

Once the time of his class arrived, he went to search for the classroom; it took him a bit but was able to arrive before the lecture started. The teacher introduced himself as Master Correl and spent the hour listing the prerequisites for the class and the topics they would go over during the school year. Spear noted them all down. When they were dismissed, he realized that the refectory would be already almost full, and after some hesitation he decided to skip lunch and go back to his room; there, he went over all the physics topics he had noted down, trying to find them in the books he had and to figure out a study plan. He was behind compared to the class, but he thought he would be able to at least skim through the topics he needed to know before the next lecture – just enough that he would be able to take notes effectively; anything he’d miss he would hopefully find in his books afterwards, and he could still take an appointment with Master Correl to ask questions. He was relieved that this didn’t seem an impossible task, at least compared to the magic sense. He studied for another couple of hours before returning the books and going to practice some more.

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On fourthday, since there were no classes, he borrowed books in the morning, studied in his room, then returned them in the afternoon and went to practice magic sense. At some point, right before dinner time, he felt that he was able to meditate more deeply than before. He tried to hold on to the feeling as much as possible, but at some point he sensed… he could only describe it as something going up and down. He was startled and lost the feeling, opening his eyes and staring at the pendulum that was moving side to side. He frowned. Did he imagine something again? Why would he feel the weight go up and down? He looked at the time, and since he didn’t want to skip dinner he, a bit reluctantly, went to grab something to eat. Back in his room, he kept thinking about what happened. He recalled what he had studied about the physics of pendulums; he thought about the velocity of the weight, which would certainly increase and decrease over time as it moved from side to side. A glimmer of hope appeared in his thoughts: he would have to ask Master Bree tomorrow!

On fifthday, he had a two hours class in the morning. He was able to follow most of the lecture, and he noted down the parts he wasn’t able to as clearly as he could, hoping to figure them out later with the help of the books. After they were dismissed, he went to his room and went over his notes. He spent hours trying to resolve his questions, or at least note down the topics that he needed to study to be able to. He realized that he had skipped lunch, and it must be getting close to his appointment. He panicked and went to check the clock in the hallway. He had a bit less than an hour. He decided to meditate for a bit before heading down to the first floor.

✤ ✤ ✤

“Come in.”, Master Bree’s voice said. The boy entered the office and sat in a simple chair in front of the teacher’s desk. The man looked at his schedule, then frowned and looked at Spear. “Mr. Dustwater…”, he almost spat, a look of disgust in his face. The boy had seen that look so many times, from his father; his brain grew foggy with fear.

“Uh… ah… well… the schoolmaster said… I need help to learn to use my magic sense…”, the boy said hesitantly, in a low voice and not meeting the eyes of the teacher.

“You will attend the beginner classes on alteration magic, then!”, the man said with finality, but his expression said that he didn’t think the boy had any chance of ever learning anything.

“But…” the boy managed to say, working hard to hold back tears.

“You have wasted a precious slot of my time! I could have helped an actual student!”, the teacher said angrily. Spear was using all his strength to avoid crying and wasn’t able to say anything further. He ran out of the office and back to his room. He cried for what seemed like hours; he wouldn’t be getting any help from this teacher. He would fail. His father was right after all: he was worthless.

His hunger prompted him to go grab something right before dinner time; after that he hid in his bed and wasn’t able to sleep right the whole night, dreaming of failure, of disappointing everyone, and of Whip coming to torture him.

Next chapter: 7 – You’ve got to be kidding me!

Spear of Aiste by Gabriele Santilli is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0
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