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V. The Enchantress Daisy

 

1.

Mom is most unhappy with the result of our look-see in Valen. To her, it’s profited nothing and it’s cost me a week of work. But she doesn’t contest Janet’s prescription of bed rest. So a couple of days after they get me back home to my bed, I’m sitting up having some toast and tea with Jan and Fen. Fenric’s even brought some berry jam he copped from someone’s windowsill.

“They have to cool the jars,” he says. “So they leave them right there out on the windowsill. There were at least a dozen. I think of it as a form of taxation.”

“Seems right to me,” I say, looking at Janet.

“Normally I would say that the Virgin frowns on this sort of thing,” she opines, “but it’s definitely your calling, Fen, and besides, it would be a sin to keep all this jam to oneself.”

“So,” says Fenric, “heading down to the Institute to convince the faculty you’re worthy of the rarefied air of Grade Two?”

“Dang,” I say. “I need an artifact. An orc knife or something.”

Janet puts her pack on the floor and pulls an arrow out of it. It’s short and blackish with a tip that’s just whittled, hardened wood, and it has a little dried blood on it. My blood.

“Oh,” I say. “I think that might do.”

 

And it does. I had no idea how this would work, and I’m a little relieved to find that at Grade Two the examination process is pretty perfunctory. I find Stintsing, who’s in her lab trying to help Miss Lucette Barnswallow flail her way through a potion of waking. Try some strong tea, dear. Stintsing finally tells her, “Just keep at it, I’ll be back to check on you,” and comes over to see about me. “Oh my,” she says, “you’re looking quite pale.”

“Could be to do with this,” I say, holding out the arrow.

“Oh my.” She takes it and examines it. “Not orc. Maybe mountain orc, but I doubt it. Kobold?”

“Yes, Professor, exactly. Is it enough?”

“Let’s go round up two more masters,” she says.

So we do. We find Professor Eald right away in her office; she teaches Holds and Locks. I haven’t had her yet, but she seems really nice. They ask me who else I’ve had and I mention Shmoke, and they find him in the library gabbing with the head librarian, old Wooly. Then the three of them sit me down in an empty classroom and have me tell the story of my big adventure in the dungeons. Despite their universal need to go off about what they all did when they were my age and exploring the dungeons—in Eald’s case, it was under a ruined monastery in Hartway—I do manage to get to what they think are the salient points. These are: one, that I made it down a couple of levels; two, that I actually slept down there; three, that someone threw a cease spell on me; four, that I brought back an artifact, even if I brought it out of Valen sticking out of my stomach.

I thought they might object to my learning rok from an archer as opposed to taking Eald’s class, but quite the contrary—they seem to find my resourcefulness refreshing.

In any case, I leave with a pile of homework to do while I continue to recuperate, five mantras to meditate with as I let my magic energy grow into its new power, and two new spells: xu, just to make invisible things visible, which seems useful, and paf nis, the lock spell, since Barb seems to have disappeared.

“You don’t think it’s a bit wimpy for my first enchanter spell?” I ask.

“No, no, no,” says Shmoke. “That was my first enchanter spell. You have to have that. You need to be able to lock yourself behind a nice sturdy door before you go picking something offensive.”

“I agree,” says Stintsing. “Of course I’m brewing up something nasty behind my locked door. I remember one time when I actually made a stone stink potion. It’s perfectly benign until it’s thrown on stone. We had a bunch of ogres pounding on the door, so I locked up and made the potion and then we tossed it out the door and shut ourselves up for the night. No one bothered us after that—we could’ve stayed the week.”

“Lock spells are not wimpy,” says Eald. “You must take my class next semester. Maybe you could be my student assistant.”

So I’m feeling pretty buoyant when I get back to the house. Also pretty exhausted, and my wound is bleeding a little again. Fen and Jan come by and see to my nutrition and my bandage, and Gurth comes with them, with the news that Yanos is hanging about Sleepy’s trying to talk up another look-see in the Dread Dungeons of Dread Valen.

“Crapola,” I opine.

“Don’t tell me you’re not going,” says Fenric. “Don’t tell me you’re putting your little foot down.”

“Oh, I’m going,” I say. “Someone has to keep an eye on that guy.”

 

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