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Chapter 9: Academics & Dishonesty


I glance up from my studying as there is a knock on the door. It’s post curfew, but someone has obviously taken the risk, despite the late hour. Strange. I haven’t done anything of note lately, and nobody but Folas, Valkallyn, and I should know I’ve found the final exam HeadMaster’s key yet. In fact, I’m not quite sure this is even the real answer key to all the subjects. Last year, there had been multiple decoys, and numerous people had gotten into trouble for memorizing one and using it. HeadMaster Haulding had happily explained in disgusting detail the only-legal-since-they-had-already-graduated-and-were-now-technically-trespassing-on-school-grounds punishments those student’s had faced. So before I allow myself or anybody I care about to even think of using them, I need to be extremely sure these are the real ones.

The knock comes again. “Come in!” I call out. It can’t be my roommates– Grem and Kai– they never knock, and they should technically still be in night classes with Master Cellica. But perhaps they had passed out again due to over-inhalation of certain pollens in the greenhouse? It had happened once. I hadn’t been there, but apparently someone had to carry them back. It could be that the student carrying them is just trying to be polite. Extremely unlikely though. Kai wouldn’t let Grem make the same mistake twice. I frown. The knock comes yet again. 

Thoroughly annoyed now, I get up from my desk, stalk over to the door, and wrench it open. “What the blazes–” My eyes widen as they fall on two familiar faces. “Folas, Valkallyn, what are you doing out here? Quickly, come in! You should know better than to be out in the open like this. You don’t have passes to be out after curfew!” I know, I have the list of students with that pass, and they certainly aren’t on it. 

“Thanks!” Folas says, coming in immediately. “Your roommates aren’t here right now, right?” He glances over at the two messy beds and the one neat one. 

“Still out for their night lesson on Crossbreeding Parasitical Nocturnal Angiosperms.” I confirm shrugging. “Part of their Capstone Course in Magical Botanicals. You probably know the one I speak of, Folas, it’s likely you have something similar. Nevermind that though, what brings you here at this hour?”

“We need to find something.” Folas says, Valkallyn elbows him, and he amends his statement. “Or rather, I need you to find something.”  From his slightly ashamed face, it looks like it was serious and something he definitely procrastinated on until his twin forced him to face up to it. 

Chuckling slightly at their dynamic, I offer them space to sit on my bed. 

“You know I’m under scrutiny.” I gesture towards the papers on my desk. Last time we’d worked together, I’d gotten my hands on the probable answer key, but some of the Masters had noticed that something was up and… well. There are now multiple new and interesting traps around the school and a few dead magic zones where my particular talents don’t work properly. All in all, it was quite impressive work on the Masters’ parts. They probably had to bring HeadMaster Haulding in on it himself. But it is too close to the day of the finals for the Masters to rewrite the questions. And I’m set to graduate right after that. So all-in-all I think it was worth the risk. 

But now that means “ –I’m afraid I won’t be of much use if you need anything in the Masters’ Tower.” I say, referring to the large floating tower in the center of the school that is practically impossible to get into for normal students, and thus where all the interesting things are kept. 

“No, it’s likely in a student dorm.” Folas admits. 

“Oh?” My interest is piqued. “What happened?” 

“He was an idiot, and someone who is before him on the presenting list copied his Capstone Project.” Valkallyn breaks in, glaring daggers at her twin. “He tried to take care of it himself and broke his leg in the process instead of bothering to mention it to either of us.”

“The thief broke your leg?!” I exclaim. 

“I didn’t think it would go that far!” Folas replies defensively. “And besides, the Infirmary Matrons fixed me right up. Nobody even noticed the limp!” 

“Still… that sort of escalation without fear of consequences…” I frown. “They’re either desperate, have someone backing them, or both.” 

“You see now why I insisted we all work on it together?” Valkallyn says, leaning back on my bed. “You can’t take this on alone, Folas. We’re stronger as a team.”

Folas sighs and rolls his eyes. “Trust me, I figured that out once my leg broke. It hurt like blazes, I just–”

“Didn’t have the courage to admit you lost your project to Ryo Faera?”

“It was Faera?” I ask, not liking this situation the more I hear about it. “This could get bad.”

“So you don’t have any blackmail that would allow us to get it back easily?” Folas asks, dejectedly. 

“He’s trying to be squeaky clean– His family is also going into politics, and so he’s been keeping out of trouble for the most part. My parents already asked me to get as much as I could on him, but it isn’t much. To do something like this…” I shake my head. “It doesn’t make any sense, the penalty for academic dishonesty is automatic expulsion. It would tarnish everything his parents are working so hard to build. I just can’t understand. He’s not the sort of person to throw all that out the window.” 

“Makes sense to me.” Valkallyn says, “Dude won’t graduate unless he has a project, he’s not thinking about his family, he’s thinking about his personal situation. Perhaps he procrastinated, or didn’t have any good ideas, both Folas and he are Capstoning in Magical Biology, and the hard deadline for the Project Description is in two days. He needed to have something, or he wouldn’t graduate anyways, and he would get in trouble with his parents. Better to risk it all for success than mildly accept your own failure and take responsibility.”

“Wouldn’t it have been better still to not risk anything and just stay up for the next sixty hours to prep something?” The answer seems obvious to me, but Valkallyn just shakes her head.

“Not everyone can survive on your sleep schedule Adamar.” Folas chimes in, “And, stealing is easier than coming up with something, that much I can understand. Also, dude’s arrogant. I doubt he thinks we’ll be able to prove he stole it in time to prevent him from using it.”

“I still think we should go to the Masters.” Valkallyn says. “They can at least give us a temporary leave to investigate and delay the Project Description deadline.” 

Her twin contradicts her, “And what, lose both morally and pointwise? You know the point of this project is to prove our mettle without the Master’s getting involved, Val.”

“Don’t call me–!” His twin starts but he cuts her off. 

“Points will be docked if we have to go to them, not to mention this is supposed to prove that we are individually able to take on challenging research projects. No Masters are allowed to advise– on subject, resources, anything! Going to one ruins the whole concept behind this project!”

“But what’s the point of having the moral high ground if we don’t have the time to do anything?” Valkallyn protests, and then turns to me, begging me to get her twin to listen. I sigh, knowing my answer will disappoint.

“I think he’s right, Valkallyn.” She opens her mouth, but I hurry to explain. “Academic Dishonesty is a major problem out in the world beyond the borders of this school, so it fits well within the spirit of the task. The Master’s can’t provide much help, and we’ll appear weak and unprepared just by going to them. If HeadMaster Haulding gets involved– which he probably will since Capstone Projects are tied so closely to graduation– going to them will only have hurt us. No, I think we have to take this on ourselves.”

“But what can we do in two days?” Valkallyn asks dejectedly. “If we don’t do anything, he’ll just present Folas’s idea first, and then it will all be over with. Folas will have nothing!”

The elf in question doesn’t look nearly as hopeless as his twin. He grins at me, confident. “Any suggestions, Adamar?” He asks, already anticipating an answer. I smile back at him, ideas buzzing around my head. I love being the plotter for this group. Folas is a do-first, think later; and Valkallyn acts as our voice of reason; but I think I have the best job by far. 

“First I need to know a few things that will help me analyze his mental state. What was your project exactly, what did you plan on submitting for your description? And why do you think he targeted you specifically?”

“My project was on Magical Botanicals, obviously.” He says, shrugging as he easily recites the details. “I had a healing focus, I was testing three different types of plants I thought might have a beneficial effect on speeding up the metabolism, muscle growth, and healing of wounds. Not in elves or dwarves yet, of course, just in rodents.” He shrugs again, “As for the reason why me specifically, well, I don’t rightly know. We share a lot of classes, he might have overheard me discussing my topic with Valkallyn at some point. I don’t have any animosity with him that I know of.”

“Interesting.” I frown, random chance isn’t normally something I’d like to rely on for a motivator, but if that is really all that Folas can think of, I suppose it makes this easier. “You should plan for a change in that animosity level. It’s likely he’ll hate you even after you graduate if we pull this off right.”

“What do you have in mind?” Valkallyn asks, eyes widening. 

“Don’t look so apprehensive, Valkallyn,” I grin at her, “You should like this one. My thought is: we’re going to create doubles of ourselves, so no one will notice our absence in class. Then our real selves will sneak into his room and lab, and destroy everything. All his samples, all his notes, anything that could be related to the project.” The twins’ eyes gleam with excitement, already craving vengeance on the unsuspecting Ryo Faera.  

“We’ll destroy a bit more besides.” Folas grins evilly. “That will teach the brat to steal from folks.” 

“And in the meantime, we’ll have airtight alibis! He can’t go to anyone, although he’ll probably know it’s us. He’ll be furious!” Valkallyn laughs. “Just one problem, Adamar, how are we going to make the decoys? Enchanting is my Capstone Course, and, take it from me, creating lifelike figurines that move and respond as a person would is impossible.”

“Perhaps it is. Perhaps we simply don’t know how yet.” I walk over to the papers I was studying before they disturbed me. “It’s one of the theoretical free response questions on the Enchanting final. ‘Propose a method of solving the quandary– How to imitate life?’” I read off the paper directly, taping my finger on the question, and the diagram below it. “Now, you come over here and tell me this example answer doesn’t look viable.” 

She comes and stands next to me, I hand the papers to her so she doesn’t have to read over my shoulder. I’m actually a bit nervous. Enchanting isn’t one of my best subjects. But I think it works. I think…

“An enchanted base that follows a preprogrammed routine inside a giant illusion circle?” She says, startled. Her eyes rove the runes and spells carefully drawn on the paper, that directly illustrate how someone would go about doing such a thing. “This is brilliant! The illusions take care of the facial expressions, and can mimic natural responses in real time and from all angles. Of course, the base can never go outside the illusion circle, or the whole thing will break, and it really shouldn’t be touched by anyone nearby, but it just might work!”

Folas comes over to look at the paper, and says, “Sounds like a lot of work, where would we be putting the illusion?” 

“It would have to be carved into the ground just outside the school, the strand outside the wall but before the moat should do nicely.” I determine, finalizing my plan on the spot. “I can take care of that, I’ve been studying up on the basics of illusions to better check their Final’s portion of this dratted HeadMaster’s key.” I say, “You guys will have to build the enchantments and the bases so that our movements are controlled and responses are immediate.”

“We only have two days to get this done.” Valkallyn suddenly protests, probably daunted by the scale of our attempt. 

I grin at her, “Two days, and three nights.” I say. “So let’s get started!”

It takes me all night to finish half of the designs around the school. I decided not to do it on the ground, too much of a chance of people noticing. So instead I did it at the base of the walls, almost half covered by dirt. Most of the work was in figuring out how best to work the designs onto a vertical surface at a very low height. It only takes the last four hours to get halfway around the school, although, I might have to check my work tonight, to make sure that my rushing to finish didn’t smudge any of the spellwork. I walk into my Advanced Magical Artifacts class with Master Gennixia dirty, tired, but very pleased. From Master Gennixia’s look, I surmise that she isn’t nearly as pleased. But I pay her no mind, she isn’t seeing all the intricate, repetitive spellwork I painted last night, she only sees my muddy shoes this morning as I walk into her strictly tidy classroom. I don’t give her any explanation. Although I’m her best student by far, we each have good reason to dislike each other– she nearly dissected me once without realizing it was me, and I know a secret that could end her career. We had a confrontation about it a year ago, which ended in a nice little truce, but I still don’t trust her. So I don’t feel like I owe her an explanation as to what I spent my early morning doing. Let her wonder. 

I don’t see Folas and Valkallyn till lunch, but when I do see them, Folas is carrying two mugs of coffee in one hand, and a plate of pasta in the other. Valkallyn has the same, but with more cheese on her pasta. The two have very similar tastes. 

“So,” I say, sipping a mug of my steaming Oolong tea. “How did it go?” From the bags under their eyes and their dissatisfied faces, not well. But it’s always polite to ask. 

“We got the base done,” Valkallyn says, “Not much else. We’ve decided to skip our afternoon classes to work on it.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “Valkallyn, you have a test final like me, not a Capstone Project. You really should be attending the last month of classes.”

“This is more important.” Valkallyn says, “Besides, if I call in sick, I can just make up the work. Nobody will try and refute me when I’ve been going around all morning like this.” She waves at her snarly, bushy hair, grumpy face, and yesterday’s wrinkled outfit that all bear testament to her sleepless night of work. I suppose one could see those symptoms and draw the conclusion ‘sick’ so I nod my agreement. 

I attend all my afternoon classes diligently, but instead of hanging out with Grem and Kai for boardgame night, I call off saying I have a robbery to finish preparing. 

Kai nods, this is in the realm of normal for us after all. 

“Can we help?” Grem asks eagerly. Kai nods to this as well. He may be less talkative than Grem, but inside, he’s no less chaotic. 

“Unless you want to be painting spellwork onto the base of the outer wall with me all night, probably not.” I say, and then reconsider. “Wait, how much do you know about enchanting?” 

“Our Capstones are both Magical Botanicals.” Grem points out. “Are you alright Adamar? Normally you wouldn’t forget a thing like that. Especially since you helped us finally settle on a project.” 

I nod, “Oh I’m fine, just thinking Kai might have had some knowledge because of his older siblings really.” His eldest brother had Capstoned in Enchanting weapons– he’d graduated before Faladel and Briareth had managed that peace treaty between elves and dwarves. Kai might have learned some things from him.  

“I know a bit, but not anything serious.” Kai confirms quietly. “Is it related?” 

“Folas and Valkallyn need help, they’re working on the other part of our plan.”

“Valkallyn doesn’t seem like the type to instigate a robbery.” Kai murmurs, and then blushes. Lately, he’s had quite the crush on Valkallyn. 

“Neither she nor Folas really are,” I shrug, “It was my idea, and the guy robbed Folas first, so really it’s all quite fair.”

Grem notices the small flush that still permeates Kai’s cheeks, and starts yet another round of teasing him mercilessly on his crush. He doesn’t even stop as they’re on their way out the door and towards Folas’s lab space where he and his twin are hard at work. 

Hopefully, I’ve sent them a source of help instead of a distraction. 

After another night of hard work finishing my part and helping my friends wrap up theirs, I crash into bed around five a.m., almost sleeping through my alarm. But I don’t. We have to be up promptly to make sure that everything goes off smoothly. After breakfast, we send our doubles off to class, and while Folas and Valkallyn nap, I send my spying device, a small bug shaped object known simply in my mind as It. into the Master’s tower. It isn’t hard to find Cellica’s records. Nor is it difficult to find what lab Faera was assigned to work on his project in, or his dorm number, or get It back down into my palm. All in all, it takes less than an hour actually, and I’m rather scared by how easy it was. Nothing is ever this easy. Not at Mossblossom Central. 

I wake up Folas and Valkallyn, and we wait till the bells ring and students crowd the hallway before we disappear into the mass heading to their different classes. But instead of going towards the classrooms, we cut across the lawn, heading towards the area assigned to the student labs. 

Nobody stops us. Nobody questions us. Nobody is even around the labs at this time of day. I glance upwards before we enter the part of the wall housing the labs, but not even one of the Masters is on the wall above us, or the pathways stretching from the top of the wall to the gigantic tower floating in the center of the courtyard. The whole area is deserted, as it should be at this time of day. Masters and students should both be in classes. Still, I don’t like it. 

It doesn’t take to long to find the room specified. 

“Remember,” I tell Folas and Valkallyn as they put on their gloves and I pick the lock. “In, destroy, out. Leave no trace, just destruction.” 

“Of course.” Folas has a gleeful grin on his face. “I’ll wreck the whole place.” He promises. His twin looks even more ready, and cracks her knuckles while smiling maniacally. I shake my head, unsure why Kai has a crush on Valkallyn of all people. She’s even more scary than Folas’s chaos because she actually thinks hers through first. Although, I tilt my head as the lock finally clicks open, I suppose she and Kai are alike in that manner. 

Folas smashes the pots and smears the dirt samples everywhere. Valkallyn burns the plants and papers, and I destroy all chemical samples in there I can find. Then we move to his dorm room, and repeat the procedure, albeit a bit more carefully so that it doesn’t affect his dorm mates’ workspaces. We burn papers, burn plants, destroy samples, and Folas dumps a bucket of wormy dirt in the cheater’s bed and laces his clothes in the dresser with poison ivy extract, making Valkallyn burst out into uncontrolled laughter. Even I grin a little, until I glance down, and see the bracelet on my wrist, one that is decorated with a silver bead and a blue one, glowing. It takes less than a second for my mind to connect the dots and start whirling. The blue one is glowing, but not the silver. Briareth is in trouble, but not Faladel. Something has happened to them, but what does this mean for us? How to get to them, when we’re in the middle of finals?  

“Guys…” I begin, wondering how to break the news to Folas and Valkallyn. But suddenly the whole ground tremors and I hear a mighty groan from outside. 

My gaze flicks from the beads to the doorway and then to Folas and Valkallyn’s eyes. Without another word, we rush out of the dorm room, down the hallway and outside, just in time to hear a giant CRACK and see a minor explosion coming from three different rooms at once. One from each of the classrooms we’re supposed to be in. There is a second CRACK and then a third, the Master’s tower starts to tilt sideways,  three of the floating paths that lead into it are broken. The last one groans and screeches, trying to hold it in place. But it can’t, and– almost in slow motion before our horrified gazes, and probably the gazes of at least half the school that has come out to investigate– the last bridge breaks and the Master’s tower crashes to the ground. 

What in sangromancy have we done?!

It takes less than half an hour before we are all standing straight before HeadMaster Morthose Haulding, listening to what exactly our ‘interference with the school’s enchantments’ as he so delicately puts it, has done. He paces in front of us, long maroon tailcoat swishing behind his perfectly timed steps as he paces the room, long auburn braid bouncing as he twists on his high heel every time he reaches the edge of the room. 

Folas looks guilty as heck. Valkallyn stands and stares at him defiantly, looking equally guilty. I pride myself with having a decently confused and properly horrified expression on my face, but when combined with those two’s reactions, it’s absolutely wasted. Instead of focusing on that though, I wonder how we are actually standing straight, instead of standing at an angle as the current leaning of the Master’s tower would say we should. Somehow, the floor is still beneath our feet, instead of us having to stand balanced on the corner between a floor and a wall. I shelve that as something to think about later though as HeadMaster Morthose turns his cold, red eyed glare on me. “Would you three care to explain yourselves?” He asks cooly. 

It wasn’t too hard for him to settle on us as culprits. It was ‘us’ who had exploded in the classrooms after all, and we were found outside the dorms– where we shouldn’t have been. It could have been worse though, we could have been found at the labs. However, with the HeadMaster’s glaring red eyes fixed on me, I have a feeling he knows exactly what we were doing and why we were there, and I haven’t even opened my mouth yet. 

I breathe out, careful and slow, trying to calm my emotions. “You think we were involved?” I ask, allowing just a bit of my fear to come into my voice. Just enough to make me seem confused and innocent, not enough to make me look guilty. Perhaps I’m a student who needed sleep, and had a double attend class in my name. I know nothing about what happened or why. I blink at the HeadMaster. 

He doesn’t look convinced, but I don’t get discouraged. I knew that he knew we were guilty as soon as we stepped into the room. Still, it is good to practice on him. And I don’t know how much he knows so the less I appear to know the better. 

“Oh stop playing around.” He snorts, “Your mimics overloaded, exploded, and set off a chain reaction along all the delicately balanced major enchantments this school holds. Even most of our illusionary defense went offline! You all are in serious trouble if you can’t give me at least a viable explanation of your actions. I hate to expel students so close to graduation, but you three have been in almost constant trouble since you started here. Not all of it you were caught in, and most of it was even amusing, but I draw the line at crashing my tower while I’m still in it and trying to take a dump!” 

Valkallyn can’t hold in a giggle at the mental image, and Folas is also smirking. Even I have to avert my eyes from those piercing red ones so I can control my facial expression. That at least explains why he’s so pissed then.

“We didn’t mean to.” Valkallyn says. “We just–” She looks at me helplessly, clearly asking how much she should tell. I debate taking center stage. But Folas beats me to it. 

“We were busy trying to uphold our academic honesty.” He chimes in, his earlier fear almost completely gone from his expression. His eyes still have a twinkle of that fear though, but he controls the tenor of his voice and his talking speed quite admirably. I feel inordinately proud of him for that, even though I groan internally at his excuse as he continues. “Somebody stole my Capstone Project, Sir, so I was making sure they couldn’t present it as their own. We were trying to use the doubles to hide our absence from class as we destroyed all the research he had stolen from me.” 

“And you used research stolen from me to do so?” HeadMaster Haulding smirks slightly. “An interesting definition of academic honesty you have, Folas Danala, do your twin and friend share that definition?” 

I sense a trap here, and I turn to Folas, desperate to warn him about it, but the nitwit just blazes ahead. “What? You suggested the problem’s answer?” 

Great, now he’s basically admitted that we crashed the tower, broke into two separate off limits areas, and were responsible for stealing the HeadMaster’s answer key.

“Of course I did,” The man flops into his swivel chair, which spins slowly to the side before he stops it with one booted foot. He pulls his bowler hat off and tries to smooth his hair beneath it. It is slightly frizzly where it escapes from his braid, and won’t calm down beneath his hand.  “I write all the questions for the finals, with advice from the Master’s of course. But I have the final say.” Satisfied with what he can get from the hair, he puts his hat back on and leans forward, lacing his fingers together on his desk as he stares up at us. Somehow, this calmed down man is even scarier than the pacing version. Probably in how his gaze analyzes us and begins to pick me apart at the seams. It sets me on edge, and I gulp, unable to stop Folas’s rambling reasoning. “So you use stolen work to destroy stolen work. Tell me, children, how do you possibly deal with the cognitive dissonance?”

“We weren’t going to ever claim credit for your work!” Valkallyn strikes in her twin’s defense. “If all had gone according to plan, no one would have discovered the ruse!” 

“And you would have, what, carefully disposed of your products?” HeadMaster Haulding tsks and shakes his head at us, almost like he’s disappointed. “I somehow doubt that all three of you would be able to hold back from the delight of being the person to gleefully declare that the impossible is now possible. I assure you, it is a delightful feeling to be the first. And it is quite profitable. And also brings all the right sort of attention in today’s political environment.” His eyes travel from Valkallyn to Folas and finally land on me, and I know what we’re both thinking. My parents could use that sort of boost. Although their idea to mass produce magic enhancers is going according to plan, they could always use extra publicity. If I had ever deigned to tell them about this, they wouldn’t have thought twice about using it. 

“Honestly,” The HeadMaster continues, “I was rather impressed that you tried to implement it on such a large scale so quickly. Setting the whole school wall as the boundary for the illusion was quite ambitious. All you needed to do really was cover a few classrooms, right?” 

The question is obviously aimed at me, so I step up to meet it. 

“Sir, anyone who has any knowledge of illusion circles knows that they are called circles for a reason. The only unbroken circle that covered all the necessary area was the school walls.” The HeadMaster smiles, apparently delighted with my answer. 

“So you have been studying to check the HeadMaster’s key. I’m glad you learned from last year’s examples, Adamar. I heard you had ‘friends’ amongst the group that got caught, so I had hoped it would make an impression.” 

I nod, confirming it, while my stomach roils at the memory. We hadn’t been friends, just useful to each other. And what he had done to them wasn’t as bad as the spell that had turned the group of dwarven invaders in our second year inside out, but it still had made a more than lasting impression. 

“So,” Folas says, still shunning all traces of his fear. “Did we get the right key?”

“Want to test it?” The HeadMaster says, and his face transforms into a slightly cruel grin. “You know what, that might just be a fitting punishment. You all will have to take the finals early. This afternoon in fact. While all the other students are busy presenting, you shall all be taking your finals. Folas, I’ll just use a previous year’s questions for you. I’m sure I still have some archived finals for Magical Botanicals.” He smiles at me, and I can barely resist the grin that I feel stretching my insides. There’s no way he can know, and yet…

“Since we are taking the finals early, will we be graduating early as well, HeadMaster?”

“Of course.” HeadMaster Haulding’s face falls into a flat expression and his voice dips in seriousness, “I want you troublemakers out of here as soon as possible. And I believe you want to be gone as well from the look of your wrist.” 

Folas and Valkallyn first look at their own wrists and then turn to look at mine with Briareth’s bead still glowing clearly. I frown at the HeadMaster, how did he know about that? I know he knows a lot about what goes on in the school, but isn’t this a bit much?

“Sir–” I begin, but he cuts me off. 

“You should probably write a note to your parents about this whole punishment and eat some food.  I doubt you’ve had anything substantial since breakfast. You have an hour to prepare, and then I want you to meet me back here ready to pass or die trying on those tests.” 

I stare blankly at him for a few seconds, already trying to pen the note to my parents in my head while struggling to understand how much the HeadMaster actually knows, and how literally he intends the ‘or die trying’ part of the tests. Tugging at my hand, Folas urges me from my position and I turn to move towards the door.

Morthose Haulding tilts back his head and swivels in his chair slowly, chuckling softly as he calls out after me. “Ah, Adamar, you’ve grown so much since you first came here ready to kill Master Gennixa.” 

I freeze in my tracks. Why is he trying to bring that up now? How did he even know about that? I thought my parents and I were the only ones who knew.

Folas turns to stare at me, “You came here to kill Master Gennixia?” He asks, and instinctively I lie. 

“I’m afraid you’ve lost me HeadMaster,” I turn to gaze back at him, my carefully innocent and confused face fully in place. “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

The HeadMaster grins at me, red eyes sparkling with mirth. “‘Don’t try and pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about because we’ll both know you’re lying.’  Loved that quip by the way, thought I’d make it my own.” 

I can’t stop the blood from draining from my face, much as I want to. That conversation was far outside Mossblossom Central, from before I ever thought of going here. I’d been trying to get information out of my kidnappers, and we’d never actually found out who was behind the whole incident. The idea that HeadMaster Haulding had been watching me even back then, that he might have been involved in it all–. 

I stumble my way out of the Master’s tower, Folas and Valkallyn at my heels. 

I need to send a letter. I need to pack. I need to figure out where we’re going. But most of all, I need to take a test and then a nap. 

But what weighs heavily on my mind, isn’t what is weighing on my friend’s minds as they both turn to stare at me as soon as we’ve left. 

“Did you really come here to kill Master Gennixia?” Folas asks in a breathless whisper.

I groan, covering my hands over my face. “It’s a long story. And if my guesses are right, and we don’t die in the next 24 hours, I’ll have plenty of time to tell you all about it.” 

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