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Sorcery test. The first day of March, the first hour after dawn. They actually make us take tests: sit down, short answer and essay tests. The worst are the true-false and explains:

A. vas nyk ekt as used against a five-word Cease spell will improve the user’s resistance but not enough for a sorcerer or sorceress to fully overcome the disadvantage faced against a practitioner capable of a five-word spell.

B. A sorceress successfully holds an archer opponent. She is then subjected to the spell neur goth, which she fails to resist. The archer becomes unheld, but only for the duration of the neur goth.

C. An enchanter throws a poj conjury of an ogre with an extra head, and at the same moment, a sorceress throws za nyk za on the enchanter, who fails to resist. The second spell lasts a full thirty seconds, and in that time the enchanter, forced to repeatedly throw poj, simply adds extra heads to the already-conjured ogre.

D. Any attack made out of an invisibility spell renders the attacker visible.

Let’s see: I have no idea offhand if Cancel Cease is better than or worse than a two-grade advantage. But a “practitioner capable of a five-word spell” would be a wizard, and presumably would have other advantages besides being (literally) hard to resist. For instance, wizards often tame familiars, and sorcerers almost never can do that, and familiars can throw spells too, if they’re so inclined. Shmoke says he has friends with cat familiars who may or may not feel like bothering, depending on the situation; still, it’s an advantage. So I think True on that one. I’m going to guess that B is false—the temporary Cease doesn’t cancel out hold spells the way the three-word, regular Cease spell does—but I’m basically flipping a coin there. C sounds so wacky I really start to think it’s true, but I’m too wise to do that. I vote False and say that instead the enchanter conjures up a bunch of ogres, all with one extra head. D? It has to be a trick. Any?? What if you’re invisible but also hiding behind something? So: three falses? Knowing Shmoke, they could all be false, or all true in some tricky way.

Done with A through D. Only sixteen more of those.

In the afternoon, which is cold and sunny, we have Orals. You can imagine what that’s like. It’s me and Lucette and Gregorio and two others, this dark-skinned girl named Igbo from the Narrow Land who’s very good and very quiet—she could have problems but Shmoke likes her—and this guy named Ralph from South Thomasport who’s kind of a doofus. I know what will happen with him: they’ll give him heck and make him absolutely sure he’s failed and then post a Pass before he quite gets around to pitching himself off the cathedral tower.

Lucette goes first. She comes out with a frozen smile on her face and goes off to throw herself on a bed somewhere. She still lives with Daddy and Mummy, but I imagine she avoids old Reginald till she’s sure she’s passed. Gregorio is after me, and I’m after Igbo, and Ralph is last. I am a wreck, of course; I don’t even want to talk about that hour while Igbo is in there getting all the answers right and making them all very proud. She comes out all smiles, and they call me in.

I proceed to babble for one hour. Time plays no particular tricks on me: that would be piling on, because I’m playing all sorts of tricks on myself. Shmoke has me over five different barrels at once, while Stintsing is cross examining me seven different ways. By the time I’m allowed out, I’m not sure of anything: my name, whether down is up, the meaning of the word “the.” I’m not sure I could reliably spell the word “the.”

And I go out into the garden and Padric is there to make me feel better, but I don’t cooperate, and we argue because there’s actually a lot of issues between us we never resolved such as why the hell we’re even together or what the hell he thinks I’m going to do with the rest of my life. So we have one of those arguments you have when you’re not actually mad about some specific thing, you’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to settle some things and instead you mess everything up. It finally comes to this: So you want me to take that commission even though it would mean I’d go to Edscastle, and you won’t come with me? Yes, I think you should take that commission and no, I’m not going to Edscastle, there’s nothing for me to do there. Well, if you were serious about this like I am, you’d find something to do there. Well, if you were serious, you wouldn’t take the commission. So you don’t want me to take the commission? No. No, Padric. I do want you to take the commission.

“You’re saying you want us to not be together.”

“I am saying that I want us to not be together, yes.”

“You think we should break up,” he says.

“I think we just did,” I say.

He gets up, jerkily, like he’s not sure exactly which leg to move first, and it takes him a second or two to get straightened out, but then he walks away without looking back.