7 – You’ve got to be kidding me!

Spear woke up late the next morning. (Luckily he had no classes.) He was still tired and didn’t feel any better. It was too late for breakfast already. He glanced at the books on his desk: technically he hadn’t broken any rules, but he was afraid of talking to the librarian. Then he glanced at his bag, the stack of paper, and the pencil. He remembered Miranda’s words: “Don’t disappoint me”. He wished he didn’t always disappoint everyone. He wished he could be like Barry Hotter. He cried some more.

After some time, his hunger prompted him to at least try to get some food. He tentatively opened his door and peeked at the hallway. He gathered his courage to go check the clock; when he did, he found out that he probably needed to wait a couple hours before going to the refectory. He was going to go back to his room, but without a clock, he’d have to keep coming to check the one in the hallway; he was afraid of encountering someone. The practice room had a clock and was still always empty, so after some hesitation he went there.

Out of habit he sat in front of the usual pendulum. He stared at it. He made it swing and kept staring at it, his thoughts about being a failure and a disappointment still spiraling in his head. He spent a long time staring, his gaze empty, his thoughts swirling. He felt like crying again; he decided to try to meditate in order to escape his thoughts. Maybe if he managed to focus on the exercise he wouldn’t have to think about what was going to happen to him. But focusing was really hard; no matter what he did, he couldn’t chase away his thoughts, and could never flee from them for very long. He tried to remember the sensation from the other day; he tried as hard as he could to focus on that memory and shut away all the other memories – memories of failure, and pain, and helplessness. He opened his eyes, the pendulum had almost stopped; he pushed it again and kept trying; he wanted to forget everything, he wanted to stop feeling anything. He remembered the feeling from last time clearly. In fact… he wasn’t remembering, he was feeling something going up, and down, and up, and down. He focused more on it, he tried to escape to it. It was like… a number, increasing and then decreasing. But… there seemed to be more to it. He felt that if only he could reach it, if only he could actually escape into it, he would find so much more in there; he would be able to get away from his thoughts and his pain.

It was like passing a threshold; suddenly, a cacophony of numbers assaulted his mind. It was like being in a very crowded room, with thousands of people screaming at him, each voice saying something different and drowning the others. He recoiled; his head hurt so much he couldn’t even think anymore. It took the boy quite a while to recover from the pain; the headache wasn’t gone, but it had subsided enough that he could somewhat ignore it. He glanced at the clock: it was almost time to go grab some food; between the hunger, and the pain in his head, he struggled to get up and walk. Slowly, he was able to make his way out of the room.

✤ ✤ ✤

Miranda glanced at the clock. It was getting close to lunch (her food would be delivered to her office, as that saved her time). She had spent the entire morning doing paperwork, and she still had a bunch of letters to write and problems to deal with. She sighed. She would probably need to reschedule some of her afternoon meetings. Instead of calling the head secretary, she decided to go to her office: a little break would do her good. She got up and walked out.

As she was walking towards Miss Goodsmith’s office, she noticed Spear walking down the stairs; he looked pale and unwell. She frowned. When the boy noticed her, he recoiled and tears started flowing down his face. She grew concerned and ran to him.

“What happened?”, she asked, but he only sobbed. It was like they were back in Dustwater. She grabbed him and dragged him to Master Nantee’s office. As she entered his room with the boy, he lifted his eyes from some papers on his desk, looked at them, and frowned.

“John, please check if he’s hurt.” The man got up from his chair and walked to him; he put the boy’s head in his hands and concentrated. After a bit, color seemed to come back to Spear’s face, and the healer turned to look at Miranda wide eyed. “Why is he malnourished?”, he asked.

“Malnourished?”, the schoolmaster frowned. The man made the boy sit on a chair.

“Malnourished and sleep deprived…”, the man added. The woman kneeled in front of the boy and grabbed his shoulders: “Spear, listen to me. You are safe. Nobody will hurt you here. Please, I need you to talk to me.” She tried to speak as calmly and soothingly as possible. His sobbing calmed down a little bit.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” he kept saying, still avoiding to look at her.

“Spear, everything is ok. You are safe. Please tell me why you haven’t been eating?”

“I… all the students… I didn’t know what to say, didn’t want anyone to find out…”

“Did some students say something to you? Did anybody hurt you?”

The boy shook his head.

“Why did you start crying when you saw me?”

“Master Bree… I… I didn’t want to disappoint you! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”, he said and started crying again. She sighed and turned to Nantee.

“Can you keep an eye on him and try to help him calm down? I’ll go talk to Lina.” The man nodded, and she got up and walked out the door. She quickly reached the head secretary’s office, who was surprised to see her coming in.

“Lina, can you please go find Master Bree and bring him to John’s office?”, she told her, then after some thought she added: “Also, see if you can find Claude Penrose too, and bring him there.” Miss Goodsmith nodded and got up from her desk. They both walked out and Miranda went back to the healer’s office. Spear had calmed down a little bit. She grabbed a chair and sat close to him; John moved to give them space.

“Spear, can you please tell me what happened with Master Bree?”

It took the boy a minute to calm down enough to speak intelligibly.

“I… took an appointment with Master Bree… like you said… to ask for help with the magic sense… and I also had questions…”, he said, then after a few moments he added: “He got angry because I wasted his time…”. Miranda frowned. A few moments later, someone knocked, then opened the door; it was the alteration magic teacher.

“Ah, Master Bree. I have some questions for you. I believe Mr. Dustwater, here, came to see you?”

Bree saw the boy and his expression changed to one of disgust. “If he wants to learn magic, he will attend the classes like every other student!”, he said, then he mumbled to himself (but loud enough that Miranda could hear): “Not that a savage could learn anything!”

Miranda pierced him with her eyes. “I see. In that case, you are dismissed for now.” The man scoffed and left, closing the door a little bit too loudly. As soon as he had turned away, she covered her face with the palm of her hand and shook her head. Then she turned to the healer again.

“John, can you give him something to sleep, and get one of your students to watch him? Make sure he comes to my office once he’s awake and feeling better.”

He nodded, and helped the boy to get up. As they were walking outside, they found Claude and Lina about to knock.

“Ah, Mr. Penrose, come inside for a moment. Lina, I’m afraid you’ll have to clear my afternoon. Let me know if there are any issues, and please ask Minrog if he can join me sometime after lunch.” Claude walked in, looking surprised and confused, as well as concerned for the other boy, while Lina nodded and walked away.

“Apologies for interrupting your lunch, Mr. Penrose. I have a favor to ask of you.”, Miranda said.

“Of course, schoolmaster.”, the boy nodded.

“Mr. Dustwater is having trouble adapting to the school. There are some exceptional circumstances that make things especially difficult for him. May I ask you to keep the following to yourself?”, she said, and the boy nodded again.

“I won’t give you the details, but in short, I saved him from slavery and torture.” As he heard this, Claude’s eyes grew wide and he stared at the schoolmaster.

“I would like you to make sure he eats his meals in the refectory, but also, if any other student asks questions, please make something up, or change the topic or something. I don’t think he knows how to deal with other people, it may take him a while to learn to relax and speak to others.” The boy’s eyes were still wide, but he once again nodded.

“Also, please report to me immediately if you notice anything unusual. He doesn’t seem to know how to ask for help when he’s in trouble… we’ll all have to keep an eye on him until he learns.”

“Yes, schoolmaster.”

“That will be all, for now, and thank you for your kind help.”

“Of course, schoolmaster!” The boy bowed and left. Miranda sighed again and walked back to her office.

✤ ✤ ✤

“You know, Minrog, the main reason I created my own school was that I was tired of being surrounded by idiots…”, Miranda complained, looking at her friend, Master Sparrows, with her piercing eyes.

“There’s nothing to be done, Miranda, and you know it. Even if you could find a new teacher, you can’t make an enemy of the Bree family. You already have too many enemies if you ask me!”

“And you worry too much about idiots!”

“Idiots are the most destructive force in the damn world! You’d do well to fear them!”

They stared at each other for a while. They weren’t angry with each other, of course, they just needed to vent their frustrations; they both knew there was nothing they could do, that stupidity was unavoidable. But, Miranda thought, nobody could stop them from being angry about it.

✤ ✤ ✤

Spear woke up just before sunset. The orange rays of the sun streamed through his window. It took him some time to make sense of where he was and why; there was still pain in the back of his head, and when he focused on it his brain was once again flooded with too much information. He sat up on his bed and breathed heavily.

“Are you ok?” There was a girl sitting on his chair, a book on her lap. She looked at him with concern. He looked at her in confusion, while rubbing his head with his hands. She reminded him of Sara.

“Are you in pain? The potion shouldn’t have any side effects…”, she said, while getting up and putting her hands around his head, then concentrating. He remembered taking the sleeping potion from Master Nantee. Remembering everything that had happened made him feel like crying again.

“Strange… I don’t feel anything wrong…”, she said after a few moments. “Does your head hurt?”

“Uh… I’ve had this headache since meditating this morning…”, he said. She frowned.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that. Perhaps we should talk to Master Nantee… He’s probably left the school for today though.” She looked deep in thought. “The schoolmaster wanted to see you as soon as you woke up, she’ll know what to do!”

Spear didn’t feel like facing Miranda, but he didn’t have any excuses… so he hesitantly got up.

“My name is Silvia, by the way.”, she said while they walked out.

“I’m… Spear…”, he said awkwardly.

“I know!”, she chuckled. He looked at his feet and kept walking. She scrutinized him a bit but said nothing more.

When they reached the schoolmaster’s office, she knocked, and when asked to come in they both entered and bowed.

“Miss Grommer, thank you for your kind help. How is he?”, Miranda said. They talked about Spear for a bit, and she told her about the strange headache. The boy felt uncomfortable listening to them. Then the girl bowed and left, after Miranda thanked her again.

“Spear, please sit down.” The boy did as told, but he was clearly nervous and on edge. She tried to calm him down: “Everything is ok, there is nothing to fear. You have done nothing to disappoint me.” He calmed down a bit after that, but it was clear he didn’t fully believe her words. “Will you tell me exactly what happened this morning when the headache started?”

“Uh… I was in the magic sense practice room… I was meditating in front of a swinging pendulum… The other day… this is what I wanted to ask Master Bree during our meeting… while I was meditating I felt… I can only describe it as a number going up and down? Not sure if that makes any sense…” Miranda’s eyes grew wide as he said this. “Anyway, I was trying to sense that again… and when I did I kept focusing on it… until at some point… it was like my brain was flooded with too much stuff, and it was really painful, and I’ve had this dull pain in the back of my head since then… But if I focus on it the pain comes back in full force…”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”, she yelled, getting up from her chair. Spear recoiled. Realizing her mistake, she calmed down and tried to speak soothingly. “I’m sorry… Everything is ok, I’m not angry, you have no reason to be afraid. Please look at me.” It took a minute for the boy to calm down and look at her. “You don’t realize the meaning of what you’re saying, do you?” He shook his head, confused. “Ok… listen to me. I’m going to teach you personally. I’ll try to find all the time I can, but I want you to spend at least an hour every day focusing on that feeling. That is your magic sense. Even if it’s painful, you need to learn to control it.” Spear didn’t like the sound of that, but nodded. “It’s late for today, and you need to eat dinner. Claude will make sure you eat properly from now on. Tomorrow… try to study, as soon as I can I’ll come find you and start training you.”

She got up, and went to open the office door. Claude was waiting outside, and bowed to her. She gestured at Spear to go. He left with the other boy towards the refectory. She stared at him walking for quite a bit. Then she ran to Sparrows’ office. “Minrog! You’re not going to believe this…”

✤ ✤ ✤

Spear and Claude ate in silence. Most other students had already eaten – it was quite late. Claude didn’t ask any questions. Spear thought the food was incredible and kind of regretted avoiding the refectory so far. After dinner, they went back to their rooms, and Claude told Spear that he’d wait for him in the morning for breakfast, and to not be late. Spear wasn’t entirely comfortable but the other boy didn’t give him any choice on the matter. In his room, Spear glanced at the books on his desk and worried about what the librarian would say. Technically, he was not in trouble yet, but he didn’t like monopolizing those books like this. Since he had slept all afternoon, he wasn’t tired yet, so he decided to do some studying; it was also a good way to escape his thoughts.

After a few hours he decided to try to sleep; as he laid in bed, his thoughts were torn between excitement and fear. For the most part, he thought that he would surely disappoint everyone and fail at everything – he couldn’t even sense things right. But, at the same time, the chance to become a wizard – a real wizard! – excited him; being trained personally by Miranda Wellspring was something that he couldn’t even reconcile with what he thought was reality – him being worthless and a failure. With all those thoughts, and his headache still there, it was hard falling asleep. He laid there for a long time. He eventually fell asleep, but only a couple hours before sunrise.

Next chapter: 8 – What I want to do

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