Of Tutors and More Trouble
Arikian sighed and shook his head. "Surier, I have a great respect for yer da. And fer yer potential. Do ye truly wish to become Gond's Servant?"
I started at him, shocked. Not become...? I could say nothing.
He must have read something in my expression, for he continued brusquely, "I reviewed yer work for this class. For the most part, it's been just barely acceptable, and lately, not worth reading at all. If ye wish to graduate at harvest-time with yer classmates, ye'll repeat every section, every assignment since the beginning of the year. And it will be of above average standards. Karien's got an extensive knowledge of the histories and hierarchies. He'll be yer tutor."
Karien! That brainless clothes-horse!? I glared at Karien, daintily propped against a desk, one foot swinging lazily.
He returned my glare with his ever-present sleepy gaze.
"By Oghma's Beard!" I remember thinking, "He doesn't look like he knows what day it is, much less the intricacies of politics!"
"And, Surier?" Arikian's voice broke into my thoughts. "I want the first assignment on me desk termorrer mornin'."
"But, sir," I started to protest. "I had promised --"
"Choose, young man. The first assignment ye fails will be yer last. And assignments not handed in on time are automatic failures." With that, he rose from behind his desk and left.
The silence was deafening, my thoughts dark.
"We have..." Karien began.
"We have nothing," I snarled, angry beyond measure; at Arikian, at Karien, but mostly, I think, at myself. I stalked to the door.
"Directly after supper, then. In the orchard." Karien's voice had an unexpected steel to it.
I said nothing. I didn't dare. I slammed the door hard enough to make the very stones of the walls rattle.
By the time I had calmed enough to be even remotely civil, the bells were ringing for the evening meal. I still hadn't found the opportunity to speak with Brainard.
Our current experiments were with something he called 'el-eck-tri-sity'. He discovered that some metals, when joined by a thin wire, would create something that felt like a 'lightning bolt' spell has been cast upon the person touching the wire.
Brainard had hoped that he could invent a way to control this lightning, perhaps use its innate properties of heat and light to mimic equivalent spells. "Surier, my boy," he once said, "Not everyone has the talent or tolerance to become a priest or a wizard, but why should that prevent the common man from enjoying the same luxuries - a warm fire without the constant need for firewood or a light that doesn't dance in the slightest breeze? I tell you, lad, there will come a day when even the Temple will be grateful for my elecktrisity! Mark my words!"
I marked them. As I discovered in later years, I had marked the words, but forgot the subject.
But on this disgustingly pleasant spring evening, sitting on a bench behind the gardening shed in the orchard, I wasn't paying attention to either Brainard or Karien's words. To be quite honest, I think I was sulking instead of studying. I sighed.
"You know," Karien mused from beside me, "If Master Arikian hadn't spoken to the Master of the Novices, you could have joined the others in cleaning out the rain gutters of the school. It would be far easier for you to have slipped away from them and find..."
"Shut up, you little toad. I know what I could be doing now!"
Karien just laughed. "Do give over, Surier. You're starting to sound like a spoiled brat!"
I jumped to my feet and grabbed Karien by his shirt front and lifted him off the ground. "You snot-nosed little thief!" I snarled. I drew back my arm to plant my fist in his smiling face. He kicked my shin. I dropped him. He'd changed from his normal soft shoes to riding boots and I hadn't noticed.
I don't remember much after that. We traded blows for the space of several minutes. He was stronger and faster than he appeared to be.
The fight stopped as suddenly as it had began. We were both tumbled to our knees by an enormous explosion.
Our eyes met, and suddenly, mine widened as the implications hit. Brainard's experiments!
"The school!" I managed to choke out.