Year Three: Previous
Dav, short for Davina
I’d managed to sneak a yard of fur, by stuffing it under my shirt, from the enchantment workshop. Snagged it while the professor was busy with someone else. I only had one more day before the official start of my third year at Sinslar Academy. I’d been gathering material at the school for the past few days.
Ung, its itchy. Rolling shoulders. Scratching and shifting around.
They ‘encourage’ us to return home for a visit before we start our third year. Trying to assuage some of their guilt more likely. They’ve condemned us all. Half will be dead, or wish we were. They, they’ll wish they were dead, before the end of the month and the other half will be to, um, hm, distraught? Well, really, they’ll be a magus.
Anyway, it is really dumb. Why go to all the trouble to make someone a magus? Its not like an apprentice could ever cause something like the Rift War. They should realize they’re only giving power to the ruthless ones. Then again, that’s how they got their power.
I mean, I’ve seen what a magus can do. And that’s just new ones. Imagine what I could do with that power. But I don’t want to be a magus, not really. It’d be neat and all. I bet I could shadow jump across the entire academy in one go.
That would mean I have to bind another apprentice. I don’t want to do that or become a familiar. Even if they’re all beautiful and get all the attention and constantly have sex and. . . Shudder. Remember to breath.
Those are the only options, magus or familiar. Or at least that’s what they want us to think.
But, I’ve got a plan! They’re not going to get me. Every third-year student can be challenged but I’ve figured out a way around it. To avoid the challenge completely.
Then once I’m out past the walls I’ll head south to Chongula, get lost in the crowds. Not sure what I’ll do, but I can, hmm, I can sneak and steal. Look, I know it’s not noble or right to steal, but I’ll only target rich merchants and evil nobles; like there are any good ones.
My first plan was to sneak out. I was going to disguise myself as one of the traders that brings food in. But Sinslar keeps a full group of guards. There are always at least two at each gate and they check everybody.
My next plan was to shadow walk out, but there are formations on all the walls and the gates. Every time I’d approach, I’d be pushed back. I’m not stupid. I tested at a wall, not a gate.
They seem to have every option blocked. Even the pathways form a giant rune. I checked. Probably tracking everyone that walks on it.
Stepping off the pathway and walking in the grass.
I’m onto plan C, no D now. I can’t sneak out because of the wards, but they let the apprentices leave at the end of their second year. If I can avoid becoming a familiar. Not that I’m worried about that. I’d absolutely win in a duel.
Then it came to me. I can leave at the end of the school year. Just walk out one of the gates with everyone else. By then I won’t be a second-year apprentice. They won’t think to put the tracking rune on me. I’ll be halfway to the next country before they even think to start looking.
Scratching. Stopping with a jerk as I spot someone approaching. Wynter and Rayne. Head down trying not to stare at Rayne. Gods, she’s cute. Following Wynter around on her paws like that with the white lines on her black fur.
Avoiding eye contact, as they walk by. Watching. Even though Rayne is covered in light fur you can see everything. Especially when her tail sways as she passes.
Breath hitching. Whew. Its got to be the familiars.
They’re using them to control all the magi. All those familiars, the cute catgirls, the ponyboys. Blushing and licking my lips, still can’t believe some of those sizes. I saw a puppy girl the other day. She kept begging to be mounted. Oh, that would be. . .
Shaking my head. Shifting my shoulders, the fur under my shirt rubbing again my bound breasts. Even without a personal familiar, they’re getting to me. The familiars must emit a pheromone, or maybe some sort of aphrodisiac in the water.
Continuing to walk, moisture gathering between her thighs.
It must be after the duel when the familiars strike. Their pheromones must be stronger against their specific magus. Make the magus horny, keep ‘em distracted with sex while they secretly take control.
It must be horrible for a poor magus. Having the familiar always nearby, always looking so appealing, tempting, ready to pound, um. Blushing. I mean pounce on them. Nipples hard and throbbing. They’d be noticeable if I didn’t have enough layers.
Doesn’t matter, I know it is the pheromones. That’s why I’m wearing my head scarf. I wove an air cleansing formation into it so I wouldn’t be affected. It has to the fur under my shirt.
Finally, Evon’s Hut. Can’t trust that they’re not searching all the apprentice’s rooms, so I stashed supplies in there. I wait till it’s clear then step into a shadow and slip underneath the door. Checking, making sure the chest hasn’t been tampered with and quietly retrieving the supplies. A wired together cat skeleton, a set of glass eyes, a small piece of rubber and a canister of alchemical cream.
The canister is almost full. It’ll keep the fur nice and sleek, lifelike for a couple of months at least. It also imparts a weak aura. I checked and it isn’t necromantic, that’d just be creepy. Not sure what the concoction was supposed to do, but it’ll serve my needs well enough.
When I’m finished, I’ll weave some of my shadows around my ‘cat familiar’ and make it move and even walk, kinda.
Instead of heading straight back, I head to the staff washroom. Looking into the mirror to make sure everything is in place.
A nondescript five-and-a-half-foot, including the boots, cloth covered person, with only a pair of bright green eyes peeking out. Twisting to my right, the ends of all the scarves are still tucked in. The entire outfit is made up multiple scarves ranging in color from light gray to almost black. It almost looks like one continuous piece of cloth except for the different colors.
Looking closely, I can tell I’ve got multiple layers around my chest and waist, to give me a shapeless outline. Without knowing what to look for no one else should be able to tell.
The only other items not covered by the rolls and rolls of scarves are my boots. Good, solid, sturdy boots with a taller heel, nothing suspicious. I carved out a piece of the heel and hid a small blade inside, for emergencies.
One last check. Almost missed a lock of hair escaping from the hood. Tucking it back in, adjusting the wrap, and grabbing the satchel, I’m ready. I scan the area before slipping underneath the door. Sliding out of the shadow and heading to the dorm.
Alberta Digby, the Binder
Yes, binding. I know it’s not flashy like elementalism or considered useful like healing. Its also very rare, so I’ve got that going for me at least. Although that’s turning out to be more hinderance than help. It’s hard to find anything about binding. No great and noble stories of binders turning battles, or rallying troops or really, anything. Binders are generally, no easy way to say this, jailers, glorified prison guards. One of the most despised jobs around, the only one worse being a tax collector.
At least tax collectors get to travel.
Although, there are certain, advantages. If an object can be used to bind, say a rope or chain, I can control it somewhat, at least until the mana runs out.
Mainly though, I create bindings, rings, collars, bracers, shackles, all different shapes and sizes. They’re magical bindings and I’ve been told they’re quite comfortable, no pinching or rubbing. Once I’ve got one created, I can control it and by extension what they’re binding.
The odd part is they’re not a mana drain, or at least they don’t have to be. Once on a target, they tap into the creature’s mana to stay active. I’ve used them in duels, but that part seems easily blocked, like corking a barrel. I know I’m missing something. They could be more, like a leach draining everything from the target but I’ve not been able to work that part out. Volunteers aren’t exactly lined up.
Besides the normal magics that everyone learns I’ve also mastered a few specific to binders. Like the Mooring Spike, Iron Bands, Rings of Constraint, and the Collar of Control.
I’ve also been practicing warding while enchantment is just passable. Its easier to form the spell in my mind and bind it to an object or place than working out everything for a runic array.
Being an apprentice here isn’t all bad. I know I had it better than most here growing up, given the stories. I’d occasionally find my mum crying and I know Leslie, my youngest sister, is her favorite. Although that would have been the same even if I wasn’t an apprentice. Then again, my mum and I argue.
I’ve always preferred the meadows and the company of my dad. I spent more time with him in the meadows and fields, checking hedgerows, tending the flock, that sort of thing. He taught me everything he knew and managed to put some lesson in: ‘give your all’ and ‘never give up’, ‘you don’t know if you don’t try’.
I started my third year at Sinslar Academy much like my second year, pushed off to the side and forgotten. You’d think the daughter of a squire would warrant some sort of notice, anything really. But not here, the place seems positively overrun with noble scions. In my year alone there is the son of an Earl, three daughters of a Duke (same duke different mothers), the daughter of a Viscount, a count (the old count died in a riding accident), two different barons, children of various knights, and the children of other squires. I don’t even rate notice.
Sir Viktor Hawks
Yes, that Sir Viktor. The one the ballad is about. The Duke knighted me himself after I proved myself against some bandits. Father, um, I mean Earl Hawks, commissioned the ballad himself. It is all about how the Earl lead a small group to put a stop to bandits.
They’d even managed to seized an old fort and do some sloppy repairs. From there they were sallying forth threatening the country.
As part of a grand plan, we’d arrived when most of the bandits were out raiding. We made our way in, breached the inner keep and slew the remaining guards. Next we were to re-fortify and lay a trap for when the majority returned.
But, for whatever reason, the raiders returned earlier than expected. In the heat of battle my tendrils manifested. Then, even new to my power, my pure nobility shining through, I was able to slay the returning bandit leader and force a surrender of the rest.
I’m rather enamored of the ballad. Shoulders back, standing tall, grinning, ever inch a Hawks. I do cut a fine figure. All of us do. We take after father, tall, fair of hair and blue eyes.
* * *
This place though. I expected more. They cram us into these tiny closets they call ‘rooms’. No servants. One shared bathing room, on the bottom floor. Then we must eat in the same room and the same food as commoners!
Well. I complained to Father! He promised he’d handle the situation. He even sent a messenger, but nothing changed. Something about the academy being sacrosanct and rules. Humph, rules are for others.
At least I don’t have to worry about having one as a familiar. Father promised me someone with courtly manners.
When I was readying to leave for my second year, father told me, Grace Reed, daughter of Viscount Reed, would be my familiar.
I made sure to visit her. She is quiet striking, tall, olive skinned well proportioned. I’ll keep her mostly intact with a touch of kitten. She’ll make a fine familiar and cock warmer.
Of course, I let everyone know. Wouldn’t want someone else trying to claim her. I’ll probably wait a day or two. Let her worry over it. Then issue the challenge. We’ll go into the main circle and a few minutes later I’ll be a magus. After I graduate, I’ll be the official magus for the Hawks’ court.
Callie / Calvin
Did you know cats smell better than dogs? I mean, really, that’s obvious. They groom themselves.
Cats smell like cats. And dogs smell like, well, whatever they last rolled in or crawled through or the back side of what they ate yesterday.
What I’m trying to say is, I normally wouldn’t smell this bad. But something had gotten into the hen house and killed two of our layers.
After boarding it up, Pa left to speak with the squire. He was going to ask about hunting it.
I decided to track it down for him. I mean, I knew I could change. I’ve been doing that since I was ten, going from Callie to Calvin and back.
A hunting dog is what we needed, and I’d been practicing. I could turn into one just like our neighbors, a ridgeback heeler. Not for a full day or anything, but a couple of hours. Long enough to track whatever killed our chickens.
Pa and the squire came back and lying on the porch was the finest hunting dog the squire had ever seen. Even ask Pa where he’d gotten it.
Pa just stood there, scratched his head, then nodded at me.
Bounding off the porch I headed to the coop and picked up the scent easy enough. It was a fox.
I tracked that thing through marshy thickets, across a stream and up a tree. That’s when I spooked the skunk. Look, I’d been so focused on following that fox that I missed the skunk. They don’t always smell, just when they’re scared.
Well, that skunk got scared all right. That is when the squire found out about the me being the hunting dog.
Ma yelled at me when we got home. How was I supposed to know my clothes would take on all the dirt and scrapes and the smell?
I had to sleep in the barn for the next week.
Never did catch that fox.
Well, the squire contacted the local knight, who contacted the viscount who sent word to the academy. Wasn’t long before a magus and their familiar came to visit. They said I was magic, then said someone would be by in a few years to carry me to the academy. While they were here, it was worked out that I’d get reading lessons with the knight’s children. They even taught me a few exercises to expand mana capacity.
The next time they showed up, I was Callie. That caused a bit of confusion. They stayed for a week the first time, studying me. How I could go from Callie to Calvin and back with no effort and no mana drain.
Getting poked and prodded wasn’t fun but, I did get more lessons from them. Even got a book. It was for transmuters.
That’s what they thought I was. Turned out they were wrong. I can cast transmutation spells, but no better than any other apprentice. Inorganic materials doesn’t have the right ‘feel’. Flesh and bone I get a sense of how everything works. I can see inside it, all the bits and pieces how they connect, how everything forms a pattern and works together. I can do a touch of healing, but the way I understand and the way a healer sees are different.
I flow from one pattern to another. When I heal others I have to keep their pattern in mind and restore it. Broken bones, cuts, injuries they’re all easily healed. But understanding the more complex things, like poison or disease. It would take me a week to heal someone of the flu, while a healer wouldn’t even notice the effort. Healing myself though, that’s easy.
What I can really change is me. I can manage ever animal I know of, dogs, crocodiles, cats, leopards, horses, frogs, a few fish, even chickens and hawks. Haven’t figured out flight yet.
My Pa carried us to town when a troupe came through. They had these two exotic animals. The first was a wallaby and the second they called a drop bear.
By that point I could study an animal for a couple of hours and understand its pattern. I’d even started thinking about mixing patterns.
* * *
A few years later a magus came by to escort me to Sinslar Academy. He kept going on and on about how prestigious the Academy is. How honored I should be to be allowed to attend.
By this point, I’d practically memorized the transmutation book and read every other book I could find. I’d never skimped on my mana practice.
The only thing that annoyed him was me endlessly switching between Callie and Calvin.