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The Erhorn Home Part Two (II): Tests

 Although Adamar has questions, he doesn’t want to be the first one to ask anything. Being first could be noticeable, and he doesn’t want to be noticeable. The HeadMaster seems to expect something from their group though, and appears to be ignoring eager hands from other parts of the room. Tension spreads as seconds pass. Eventually, Kai gives in and raises his hand, and the HeadMaster calls on him, as if he was waiting for Kai and Kai alone. Adamar breathes a sigh of relief.

“Um… What should we call you sir? How do we address our teachers?” His voice is strangely amplified by the room and carries all the way to the front even though it is weak and shy.

“Certainly not ‘Sir.’” The HeadMaster says with a snort. “We’re not in the army. The other teachers and I normally prefer if you address us by our titles and last name, for example if you wanted to catch my attention you would say ‘HeadMaster Haulding’”

The HeadMaster calls on the next few students, and they all ask him questions about the school or how classes will work, or if they can test out. Simple things, easy non-personal questions, not what he is looking for. Adamar can almost feel his disappointment, but the HeadMaster keeps up his smile. 

Eventually though, gives up on the students and turns the direction of the questions himself. 

“I have one now for one of you. Mr. Erhorn, what do you fear the most?”

Adamar freezes. Is this his punishment for not asking a question at the beginning, or is it for not agreeing to drop his mission when he first met with the HeadMaster? No time to consider, he has to answer the question. Since it is personal, he can probably stall for a while. “Umm…” He hesitates, trying to think. What is he scared of? What can he admit to? His brain freezes up, the only things he can think of is that time, that one awful time when he went too deep into It. But he can’t say that. That would lead to more questions. Too many dangerous questions. 

The best thing would be to lie. His time is up. Time to answer.

“Ah, well, it’s being called out like this.” Adamar scratches the back of his head, and tries to appear sheepish and shy. Many in the crowd chuckle at him, probably grateful they aren’t in his position. 

The conversation moves on, more personal questions are asked, and Adamar’s answer is quickly forgotten by most. But Kai looks at him strangely and says in a whisper “I wouldn’t have expected that sort of thing from you Adamar. I thought shyness was my forte.”

“You don’t have the claim on all of it.” Adamar responds lightly. This could be dangerous. “Besides I thought it would be better to give him a half truth than an outright lie.” He can’t tell them everything, but giving them nothing might seem overly cold.

“You mean that wasn’t your greatest fear?” Grem looks surprised. He isn’t as quick to pick up on things as Kai. 

“Of course, why would I announce my greatest fear in front of the entire class? That’s like begging to be picked on. I bet over half the personal questions being asked here are receiving lies as answers.”

“I never would have thought of lying though.” Grem says. “I suppose I’m lucky I haven’t been asked anything yet. Your acting skills are on point though Adamar, you looked really panicked when the HeadMaster called you out like that.”

“Thanks.” Adamar says, deciding it’s his best response possible without opening up further conversation opportunities. 

As they were chatting quietly, the whole question/answer ring had turned into a barrage of personal questions, from students for students, with the HeadMaster sometimes adding fuel to the fire by introducing a new topic. The questions flying around could be aimed at anyone, and included things such as: “Have you ever had a romantic interest? Who was it?” “Have you ever been so drunk you forgot what you did?” “What did your family earn before taxes last year?” The HeadMaster eventually called off the session looking quite pleased with the results. Adamar thinks that the HeadMaster is probably one of the people he mentioned who mentaly notes down everyone’s answers and refusals to answer, and that this whole thing was probably designed to stir up emotions to make for a more ‘entertaining’ school year for him. Not quite disgusting, but certainly selfish and unnecessary. 

After the ‘get to know you session’ Adamar and his friends don’t have any classes, apparently the HeadMasters intervening meant they have the entire day off. Adamar is disappointed by the delay. Things are heating up here, Kai catches on to things too fast, the HeadMaster’s intervening is quite likely to be dangerous, and he still hasn’t learned who Gennixia is. He wants to finish this as soon as possible. He idles away the rest of the day in his room, sending It exploring corridors he knows from above, but learning them from Its perspective.

His first class the next day isn’t delayed any longer. He arrives fifteen minutes early with Kai and Grem, both of whom have the same classes as he does. He isn’t sure if that fact is annoying or useful. The class is empty when they arrive, but it doesn’t stay that way long. Soon enough students start pouring in and filling up empty seats. Grem had decided to make their seats front and center, so they get to watch as all their other first year classmates crowd into the room. Some are alone, most are in groups, and five minutes till the beginning of class the teacher arrives. Her blond bob bounces around her smiling face as she enters the classroom and sets her bag down on her desk. When the bell rings everyone quiets and she goes to stand next to the black board.

“Hello newbies.” She chirrups. “My name is Elane Swit, and I’m going to be your Math teacher this year. Please get out your notebooks and pencils, as we should start right away to make up for the time lost yesterday.”

True to her word, she starts right on the lessons, confirming everyone knows the basics and then moving on to the syllabus of what they’ll be doing this year. Adamar is only halfway listening, if all his classes are only first years and teachers, how is he meant to find Ms. Gennixia?

Kai interrupts the teacher as she is going over one of the points in the syllabus with a question. “Um, Master Swit? What if we’ve already learned much of this?” This, Adamar thinks, is an interesting question that he’d like to know the answer two as he hasn’t heard something in this syllabus that his tutors haven’t taught him ages ago. 

“Master Swit?” Their teacher says, blushing. “Oh!” She chuckles a bit “Nobody told you did they? I’m not a master, I’m merely a ST. You can address me as Ms.”

“What’s an ST?” Grem asks. 

“It’s short for Student Teacher, I’m a student just like you, but I’m nearing graduation and I wanted to go into teaching, so working with you newbies is practice, kinda like an internship. As to your question Mr. Respen, unfortunately you’ll have to go through all of this review with your classmates, although since you’ve learned it all before it should be easy if that’s any consolation. Everyone has to take the same classes with the same classmates before 5th year when you can branch out into your specialites, then your classes will get smaller, but you’ll be able to focus on what you want to do instead of covering the basics of each curricula.”

Adamar sighs, he’ll have to make those connections with older students outside of classes then, that will be a lot harder. The rest of math passes slowly and with much plotting. Then it was time for Magical History. As they start making their way to the next classroom, Grem asks Kai “Wait, you asked Ms. Swit what you should do if you already knew a lot of it, so how much of that have you done before?”

“Um.. about half.” Kai said, “What about you Adamar, you looked pretty bored in there, did you already know some of the stuff too.”

Adamar decides not to lie. “I already covered all of that stuff at home with my tutors years ago. If this were a normal school, I’d try to test out.”

“What!” Grem shouts. A couple people glance at their group confused. “You can’t be serious! All of it? I barely knew the basics. Then again, my parents mainly focused on magic training.”

“Welp, you have your answer then, mine wanted to give me, and I quote ‘a well rounded education’ so they sent me to a primary school that focused on all subjects equally.” Kai responds. “Course when I was accepted into Mossblossom Central they were still thrilled.”

“I guess since there are so many people of different backgrounds that’s why they force everyone to go through the basics.” Adamar says, “To make sure everyone has at least the same ground to start off on.”

“I guess it kinda makes sense.” Grem says, as they walk through the door to their Magical History class. “But I still think they should let students like you test out Adamar. I mean what’s the point of wasting your whole year if you already know the stuff?”

The teacher for this classroom is already here, but he seems to be meditating in the center of the room. Either that or he’s sleeping while floating. The seats are divided on two sides of a puddle in the center of the classroom, and, after hesitating for a few seconds Grem decides to lead the group onto the right side. They continue their conversation in lowered tones. 

“I would guess that they want to keep all the students of one year together.” Kai says, “Perhaps the HeadMaster wants to ensure that one student isn’t ostracized by his or her peers because of jealousy. If someone was able to acend that much faster than others up the school ladder because of previous knowledge, they wouldn’t get to bond with any of their yearmates, and they wouldn’t have many classes with those outside their year.”

“I think you’re given the HeadMaster too much credit here.” Adamar says. “From what I’ve observed of him I think he wouldn’t care one bit about a couple of students being ostracized. He might even find it amusing. Remember how he turned that little Question-Answer session into that mayhem yesterday?” 

Adamar was going to continue on with his thread, but then the teacher at the center of the room opened his eyes and announced.

“Alright class, quite down. Welcome to Magical History, I’m Master Vaeril. Today we will be having a Pop Quiz.”

“But we haven’t even learned anything yet!” One of the students exclaims. Master Vaeril’s silver eyes flash in annoyance at being questioned. 

“This isn’t to test what you’ve learned, it’s to test what you know.” He lands on a small island in the center of the puddle, reaches into a pedestal on the island and pulls out a stack of papers. “Get out your quills and ink and get ready while I pass out the quiz. If I see any attempted cheating, you get an automatic zero on your grade. You have the whole class period to work on it.”

When Adamar receives his quiz he immediately checks the number of questions on it. 50 questions, a little less than fifty minutes. Should be doable. He answers the questions in order, most are multiple choice, a few fill in the blanks. It’s all general facts: who was the first to accidentally create a magical hybrid? At what point in history was the charm music note used in battle, when was it banned, and why? When were dragons declared extinct? What King created the Sorcerer’s Corps in the army? Which King created the King’s Archer’s Group? What was that group’s original purpose?

Adamar fills out all the questions he can, guessing at some but confident on most. He finishes checking over them with five minutes left, and so observes the classroom itself. Master Vaeril has gone back to his meditations above the pedestal, but Adamar’s eyes are more drawn to the room itself. The layout is impossible, windows on three out of the four walls, even the one with the door, all somehow showing the outside. Cracks in the ceiling and grass growing through cracks in the floor. On the wall furthest from the door is a rack of weapons, Adamar can feel their magical power from here. His parents would be delighted with Master Vaeril’s collection. Artifacts are well within their realm of expertise, and his assortment is astoundingly large. Perhaps he could gain access and knowledge of these if he can talk with Master Vaeril later. They could be quite useful.

Lost in his thoughts he startles when Master Vaeril opens his eyes again and calls “Pencils down everybody, Pop Quiz is over. Class dismissed.”

Kai drops his quil with a clatter. “That was hard. How did you manage to finish early Adamar?”

“I thought it was rather easy.” Grem says happily packing up

“Yeah, yeah, magic based education, we get it. But how did Adamar manage to finish early?” Kai responds, grabbing his bag and starting to head out. 

“I’ve always been good at memorizing.” Adamar confides. “And if I didn’t know something, I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it, especially if it was a fill in the blank.”

“I have this awful feeling that I’m going to start out with a bad grade in that class and never be able to bring it up.” Kai admits. 

“Well, look on the bright side. It’s a pre-quiz, he might not take it up for a grade.” Grem says, turning around to walk backward in the hallway.

“But he said we’d get a zero on it if we cheated!” Kai seems determined to be upset. 

“It could just be a 0 out of 1 point possible for participation.” Adamar offers. “It seems likely that this was some sort of pre-quiz, as he said it was a quiz over what we already know.”

Grem bumps into an older student who was staring down at a book while walking. After hurried mumbles of apology on both sides, they both continue on their way paying more attention to where they are going. Shortly afterwards Kai, Grem and Adamar arrive at their next class, Natural Magic.

The layout of this classroom is much more traditional than the last, black board at the front, teachers desk to the side and students all grouped together. The decor is also more traditional; cute posters with motivational sayings, framed pictures of older students, and a bookshelf in the back of the room. However, the teacher seems to be a lot more busy than Master Vaeril. It’s the first day of school, and all that can be seen of her beneath all the paperwork piled on her desk is a wispy grey bun. 

When class starts, she comes out from behind her desk, and Adamar can finally see her face. It is elderly and kind, but behind strange goggles on her face, her eyes are sharp.

“Happy Tuesday Peeps! My name is Master Cellica, and I’m your Natural Magic teacher. We have a lot to get to today so let’s get started. First we have to hand out textbooks, so all of you come up here and line up in alphabetical order by last name. I should hypothetically have a textbook for each of you somewhere around here.” She smiles cheerily as her students chatter and finally get themselves into some semblance of a line. Adamar is near to the front, but his textbook isn’t in the pile. “Probably because you were a special circumstances entry. Not to worry, I have spares for this reason.” Master Cellica says, with her ever present smile. “Here you go dearie, I’ve signed your name in it, so it will be yours for the year.”

“Special circumstances?” Kai asks when he finally gets back to their seats. As his last name begins with an R, he was close to last in the line. 

Before Adamar can release his rehearsed answer to that question, Master Cellica begins talking to the class again. “Now that that’s done, you all will follow me! It doesn’t matter if you’re in the same line or not. No, no, don’t take your stuff with you! You won’t need those, I’m just going to show you the other places we could have class. Come on! Chop chop! We don’t have enough time for all the things we have to do today, but we’re going to get through as many as possible.”

She leads them to a small greenhouse and then gives them a crash-course on what plants they can and can’t touch. Kai looks enchanted, and when Master Cellica says that students can volunteer to take care of the plants for extra credit, he insists on signing all three of them up. Master Cellica is delighted. 

After she is done explaining the plants, Master Cellica rushes over the syllabus and then class ends. Grammar is next, another ST teaches that, and it is dull as the dead. Adamar wonders if the kid is truly cut out to be a teacher, or if she was just stuck with a really boring class. 

After that is a lunch break, and then there are just two classes left. and Grem  leads the way to their next one excitedly, exiting the Great Dining Hall a whole ten minutes before their official lunch time ends. According to himself, this is the class that he’d been looking forward to the most. Adamar had already gotten used to tuning out most of Grem’s chatter, but when Kai joined in it was more difficult to block out, as he had grown used to listening the few times when Kai had something to say. 

“Since you’ve heard so much about this class, what’s the teacher like?”

“Oh Master Gennixia’s-”

Adamar doesn’t hear the rest of the sentence. So Gennixia’s a Master? 

“Well of course she’s a Master, you wouldn’t expect a class like that to be taught by an ST would you?” Grem responds. Adamar starts, he hadn’t realized he’d said that aloud. 

“No, of course not, I-I apologize.” He says quickly, trying to rectify his mistake.  

“You almost sound like you knew of her, have you two met before she was made a Master?” Kai asks. Adamar mentally curses both Kai and himself, Kai for being so quick, himself for making such a stupid mistake. 

“Woah, I can’t believe we walked right past it!” Grem suddenly exclaims, turning around his bright green eyes sparkling. “I was so lost in thought talking about it that I didn’t realize how close we were to it!” He laughs at his mistake. “Come on you two, stop dawdling!”

As they head inside, Adamar breathes a sigh of relief. The immediate threat diverted, he now can contemplate what Gennixia being a Master means. It makes sense of course, why would anyone ever trust the blueprints to a mere student? But it also makes his job so much harder. Now he has to figure out how to assassinate a teacher. They’re better trained, better equipped, and much more likely to have their death noticed and heavily investigated. Also, their rooms are far harder to get into, he’s already searched a lot, and they don’t seem to be anywhere on the grounds, which means they’re probably in the flying building above. With all those shifting hallways, it would be impossible to locate the same room twice, much less sneak up there to assassinate someone and then successfully escape to the ground and get back to bed before any alarms go off. No, killing her would have to be more subtle, poison? But how would he get into the food, much less make sure it got into her food? 

“What an intriguing device! Mind if I take a closer look?” Adamar startles and glances up at a severe looking woman, who is looking straight into his eyes. No, not into them, at them, or at least at the creation covering them. She is looking at his glasses. She wants to take a closer look at his glasses. 

“Um… Excuse me?” He says, pretending to be politely confused.

“Your glasses, mind if I take a closer look at them?” She holds out her hand expectantly. The air of authority about her would suggest she probably is Master Gennixia. Should he give them up? Not giving them up would be suspicious, but he can’t risk her realizing what they are. The real question is, is there any way he can avoid giving them up without it being suspicious? Adamar can’t see one, and so carefully takes them off and slowly bends the temples of the glasses together. 

“Please don’t damage it, I’ll need it for classwork, and my parents might not be able to send another pair for a while.” He says with a smile, handing the pair to her. 

“Of course.” She smiles back, pleased with his acquiescence. “I’ll give it back before class starts.” Adamar watches her go, and relaxes his disguised facial features. They fall into a worried frown. 

“Wonder what she wanted your glasses for.” Grem says from his seat right next to him. Adamar glances at him surprised and reforms his facial disguise, in his momentary panic, he’d forgotten he wasn’t alone. Kai glances up from his seat right across from him. 

“Maybe she’s never seen glasses before?”

“Don’t be silly, she’s the Magi-Tech teacher, of course she’s seen glasses before.”

“Well, I was just saying, because most people have it fixed through a magical ingress, seeing actual glasses is rare.”

“True, but surely not all the families here are rich enough to do that, I’m sure there are other students here who wear glasses. By the way Adamar, your parents are rich right? Why do you wear glasses?”

“My parents left it up to me, and I enjoyed the appearance it gave me, so I kept them.” Adamar says, shrugging. He glances over at the woman who took his glasses, based on his friends’ commentary and the fact that she is now sitting at the teacher’s desk, he gave up his parents’ invention to the one person who shouldn’t get her hands on them. Drat. 

When class starts though, despite Adamar’s fears, Master Gennixia returns his glasses and starts the class without further ado. She hasn’t done anything to them as far as he can tell, he even does a few small spells but everything seems to be in order. She doesn’t ask for them again after class, and even though Grem insists they stay a while so that he can ask her some questions, she doesn’t even mention them. Adamar is befuddled. Did she figure him out? Or did she really lose interest?

The last class of the day though, Gym, supposedly doesn’t take much brain power. Perhaps he can ponder it over then. They nearly arrive late for that class, but the teacher, the same staff member that guided Adamar up to the HeadMaster’s office on his arrival day, doesn’t seem to notice. He is busy muttering over some maps while the other students mill around. This class is outside, so there aren’t seats to sit in, but some students have sat themselves down on the grass nonetheless. 

When the class is supposed to start the Master snaps the lid on his case of maps and roars “UP!”

The students sitting down hurriedly scramble to their feet and dust themselves off. 

“What a lot of lazy brats you are!” He says disgustedly. “If I were your army major, I wouldn’t even waste time trying to get you lot into shape, I’d just hand you off to the corporal and make him do it.” Grem snickers at this comment. It was the wrong reaction. The Master turns to him, map case held out like a sword and says “Do you think that was funny Mr. Narsyr.”

“Wasn’t it supposed to be a joke Master-” Grem hesitates.

“Siraye, and no it wasn’t. For laughing out of turn, you’re doing thirty extra pushups today.” 

Grem looks shocked, and like he’d like to protest, but a swift elbow to the ribs from Adamar knocks him to his senses. 

“Yes Master Siraye.” He says, and snaps his mouth shut. 

“And you.” Master Siraye stares at Adamar. “Aren’t you a bit old to be in school?”

Adamar has no clue how Master Siraye learned his age, but smiles and says blandly. “Never too old to learn something new right?”

“Hrmmph!” Master Siraye responds. “Time to get started you lazy layabouts! Five laps round the greenhouse, doubletime!”

As they are running Kai glances at him and pants out, “How old are you?”

“Early two hundreds.” Adamar replies quietly.

“What!?” Kai is so startled he forgets to look where he’s going and trips on a loose stone, falling flat on his face. 

“NO LOLLYGAGGING!” Master Siraye yells on him. “Back on your feet Mr. Respen! There’s another two laps to go!”

The rest of class is spent running laps around the greenhouse and doing push ups and sit ups. It is brainless, but requires just enough concentration to not trip on random rocks or tiny hills as to render any consideration of the events of the previous class period to be completely impossible.

(Authors Note: Yes, this is the same Master Siraye that is abysmally boring in tactics in Faladel’s Journey. He becomes much livelier when torturing students in Gym class, it’s his army training sticking out.)

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