“Miss Moyrvane, Leonidia,” her year adviser looked at her from across the desk over the top of his glasses. “Are you certain you can’t find a Master to supervise your studies? There are a number of faculty members who don’t teach first year students-.” He stopped as she reached over the desk and placed a sheaf of papers in front of him. After he glanced through them he said a touch more kindly, “And I see you’ve already approached most of them.”
“Is it my father, my mother or something else?” The dark haired girl seated opposite him asked the question bluntly, if with some resignation.
“There are, unfortunately, those who view your mother as a jumped-up mud witch, unworthy of the higher instruction your father gave her. I personally believe her work at Chessel was the perfect answer to those views, but some people like to cling to their prejudices. However, when your father was at the height of his rampage against the learnéd community,” the adviser, Professor Inglan, rested his elbows on his desk and templed his fingers in front of him, “a great many of our milieu vowed to give no succour, aid or sustenance to him, his heirs or successors. Those vows have never been rescinded and are still binding.”
“I’m surprised the university accepted me then,” Leonidia said wryly.
“Our charter requires us to give you the education you need to understand and manage your abilities,” the Professor said austerely, “but I admit that there have been…rearrangements to accommodate various persons’ sensibilities and honour. Additionally, your father won several academic prizes during his time here that oblige the university to accept you whether you meet the standard entry criteria or not. As much as some people might prefer it otherwise, you were always going to be admitted as a student here.” He leaned back in his leather chair, “Which is why you will be provided with a suitable Master of Studies. Please come and see me again at the same time tomorrow, Leonidia, and I should have some news for you.”
“Thank you, sir.” Leonidia stood to leave.
“Not at all, my dear,” he waved a vaguely dismissive hand. “Please send Mr Sairbryce in as you go out.”
Later, while she was eating lunch in the dining hall of her student dormitory, a cafeteria-purposed room with a bank of bain-maries, Leonidia was approached by an older girl. “Hi, I’m Martine Helgaflu.” As the other girl sat down opposite with a pen and note book, Leonida couldn’t help notice the three wandering streaks of auburn meandering their way across her brown hair. The moving pattern was almost hypnotic but also somehow reminiscent of snakes. “I’m with Behind the Fumes, the Student Association newspaper and I’m interviewing first year students with interesting backgrounds for the year’s first issue.”
Leonidia looked at Martine with a polite expression and waited for her to continue.
“I mean,” apparently Leonidia hadn’t followed Martine’s mental script because the other girl flailed a little, “what’s it like to be the daughter of Leonides Moyrvane?”
“My father died two months before I was born, so I never met him.” Leonidia continued eating, hoping that the other girl would take the hint.
“But you must have grown up with his influence all around you, at Ambix Hall?” The student journalist apparently intended to push.
“It was claimed by his brother, Sylvester, after my father’s death,” it was a quiet, matter of fact correction.
“Hemlock Place, then?”
“Seized by the government. Please,” Leonidia turned her full attention to her questioner, “very little was left after the government and my father’s family were finished with his estate and we wouldn’t have gotten that if he hadn’t made specific provision for us in his will. So, rather than running through a list of everywhere my father used to own, can you just accept that that I had an unremarkable upbringing and let the matter go? I’d make a very boring paragraph in your article.”
“So where did you grow up?” The pen was poised over the notebook.
Leonidia sighed. “Wherever my mother was working at the time. Chessel, Limrock, Cal Highburg. She works in the intersection between rivers and engineering with a side helping of environmental clean-up.”
Martine brightened. “You must have met Moraghavanaseyena then,” she said brightly.
Leonidia looked at her coolly. “Moraghavanaseyena is my mother,” was the quiet reply. “Perhaps you should do a little more research before you start trying to interview people?”
“You seem disappointed, but you’re not mad?” The pencil wasn’t moving.
“People have tried to interview me about my father before. You’re the first one who seems to think my mother might be just as interesting.” Leonidia put another fork full of food into her mouth and started chewing.
“But she’s brilliant! I did a summer study project on her work at Chessel. None of the source materials mentioned her husband…” Martine trailed off.
“Well,” Leonidia shrugged, “Father is only relevant to her work because he was her Master of Studies.”
“Didn’t she come here?”
“Twenty five years ago one of the Braghachandra wouldn’t have been allowed on campus even as a member of the grounds staff. There are still people that claim my mother can’t be full blood because ‘Braghachandra don’t have true high magic.’” Leonidia took a drink from her glass. “The only reason people don’t go around pointing at me is because I have my father’s hair and not my mother’s. No dreadlocks for me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have five minutes to finish eating if I’m going to make it to my next class on time.” With that, Leonidia turned her full attention to her plate and ignored Martine. After a few moments the older girl got up and moved away.
The next morning Leonidia returned to Professor Inglan’s office and found a man and a woman dressed like staff from one of the campus residential colleges seated on the chairs in the vestibule outside. The professor’s door was closed. When she heard the murmur of voices from inside the office, Leonidia almost hesitated but then knocked firmly. The worst that could happen was that she would be told to wait.
Instead she heard a firm, “Come in,” from inside the room, so she turned the handle and opened the door. Inside were Professor Inglan and another middle-aged man. “Miss Moyrvane, please come in and close the door behind you.” Her year adviser smiled at her then, when the door was closed, continued, “This is Professor Rasmussen who has agreed to be your Master of Studies.”
“How do you do, sir?” Leonidia smiled at the tall, spare, black haired man and offered him her hand.
His hand was on a larger scale than hers and the handshake was dry, quick and firm. “I had the pleasure of being your father’s classmate,” he told her as he looked down at her with hooded eyes, “and I can see him in the cast of your features. I assume the dilution of his visage in you comes from your mother. A good thing I must say, your father was a handsome man but I don’t think his face would have looked well for a woman.”
“Thank you, sir.” Leonidia’s voice sounded uncertain as she withdrew her hand.
“I must commend you on your good sense in not getting involved in any of the campus sororities or fraternities,” Professor Rasmussen went on benignly. “Their members are rarely serious students of magic; they’re much more likely to have been sent here by fee paying families who want them to have the ‘right’ background and meet the ‘right’ people – by which they mean members of families who’ve spent generations paying fees to come here. You should continue to avoid involvement with such groups. In fact,” he paused and drew in breath, “because my colleagues will hold me to a higher standard in supervising you, I will be moving you into the student residences in Gefrywen Hall. They’re meant,” he waved dismissively, “for postgraduate students but as you’ll be here at least six years it will save you the trouble of moving when you achieve your Bachelor’s.”
“I’ve only just begun my first undergraduate year,” Leonidia protested, “I might not-.”
“Three years simply isn’t long enough,” Professor Rasmussen interrupted her. “Four is barely enough to learn control. In my experience at least six years of study and training are required for a reasonable level of proficiency. Besides, it isn’t until they’re about twenty-four and the brain’s finished maturing that anyone knows the full gamut of what they have to work with.” He added as an aside, “I’m always sorry for the poor sods who only become able to do magic then, it’s why I support the university’s summer program.” Somehow he didn’t look quite so stern with that revelation.
“I’ll move this afternoon after classes,” Leonidia agreed.
“No,” Professor Rasmussen corrected gently, “you’ll move now, before classes. It should be comparatively easy to pack yourself up again this early in the academic year and with Burndock and McCarthy to help you,” he indicated the door and Leonidia understood him to be referring to the two people she’d passed on her way in, “it should be relatively easy.”
Later, standing in her new room and with everything still to unpack and arrange, Leonidia had to admit that it had been relatively easy. Mrs McCarthy, Leonidia couldn’t bring herself to call the older woman by just her surname, had helped her pack everything and Mr Burndock had done the heavy lifting. Leonidia had left a note for her former roommate in the student dormitory explaining what had happened and signed the forms from administration moving her out of the student dormitory. In exchange she had a ground floor corner room to herself. Twelve foot high ceilings, mullioned windows in both external walls letting in the sun and giving views to the north and east, floor length drapes tied back with cord, a polished red cedar floor and door, and antique-looking furniture.
“The bed and mattress are new,” Mrs McCarthy interrupted her perusal of her new living space. “Mr Toomay, who had this room last year, managed to break the old bed in half, somehow, on his last night. Just before he went off to Tawantinsuyu to study preunification rituals.”
“My bed clothes aren’t going to fit it,” Leonidia said doubtfully. “All the beds in the student dormitories are singles.”
“We can lend you some to be going on with,” Mrs McCarthy assured her, “but you’ll be wanting to get your own and, come winter, you’ll need a heavy quilt or a doona. These rooms can get quite cold, even with the fire lit.” She indicated the large fireplace occupying the middle of the common wall with the nest room.
“That works?” Leonidia hadn’t noticed it before but then realised that the firescreen was folded neatly beside it and the fire irons were neatly lined up in their stand. Now she looked she could see it had a hob grate and an arm for suspending a kettle or a cauldron from.
“We have the chimneys cleaned every term break,” Mrs McCarthy told her. “It sounds like an extravagance, but the things some of the graduate students burn or stuff up their chimneys… At least Mr Toomay had the grace to apologise about the bed.”
“Although he never did explain what happened,” added Professor Rasmussen from the doorway. “Miss Moyrvane, you need to be on your way to class. Before you leave you will need these.” He held up a set of three keys. “This one is for your room,” it was an old fashioned brass key. Then he held up a modern-styled silver key, “This one is for the student entrance you used just now and this one,” he held up another old fashioned key made of a silver metal, “is the key to the door in the hallway that leads through to my apartment where you will take your meals with me. Lunch today will be at one to suit both our schedules. Please do not be late.”
Leonidia returned to her new room after a morning of three back to back lectures: Mathematics 101; Introductory Magical Practice; and Basics of Magical Theory. She had just enough time to put her morning’s note books down, dash to the bathroom to wash her hands and then use the key to let herself into the Professor’s quarters. The professor was waiting for her in a small, red cedar panelled foyer lit by a large globe light hanging from the ceiling. “I’m glad to see you’re punctual, Miss Moyrvane.” He smiled at her. “The dining room is this way.”
He led her down corridor off which several rooms opened. One, on their left, appeared to be a study or library while on the right the open door revealed a lounge/sitting room. The corridor turned right but Professor Rasmussen led Leonidia through the door that went straight ahead. “And here we are,” he announced.
The windows, framed in dark velvet, faced south and east. The polished, dark wood table, running almost the length of the room, could seat at least twenty people. At the western end of the room was a fireplace covered in a screen of pieced mica. The eastern end of the table was draped in a white cloth and set for two with an amount of cutlery that suggested two courses. The professor seated Leonidia facing the windows and himself at the end of the table.
As they sat, a man whom Professor Rasmussen introduced as, “Marriott, my factotum,” brought two plates of chicken salad into the room and placed one in front of each of them. He gave a half bow when Leonidia said hello after she was introduced to him and a nod of his head when she thanked him for the food, then left the room.
“Breakfast and dinner,” began Professor Rasmussen as he was cutting up the food on his plate, “will be at seven am and pm, respectively. Lunch will be each day to fit in with our schedules, except for Fridays. I’ve looked at you timetable and it’s not humanly possible for you to get back here, eat and return to the Forsythe Building in that time. Cook will be happy to make you a packed lunch, the food options down that end of campus have always been appalling.”
“The kebab place seems pretty good,” Leonidia offered as she cut cautiously into her chicken.
“They can’t have had their annual bout of salmonella and botulism yet,” he said drily. “Our arrangements will be subject to change once the graduate students commence. Although the undergraduates have been moved to the public school calendar, the graduate academic year is still run on the lunar calendar. This year that means they commence almost a month after the undergraduates.” He looked at how Leonidia was eating and asked, “Is there something wrong with your food? Don’t you like chicken?”
“Oh no, it’s fine,” she assured him. “I’m just not used to it. When we have poultry at home it’s usually duck or goose because my mother understands how to cook them. This orange stuff on the outside of the meat is nice.”
“I’m sure the cook will be glad to hear that you like it,” the professor smiled at her. “But is there any food you can’t or won’t eat?”
“Raw egg,” Leonidia replied promptly. “Either on its own or mixed into things. When you cook with duck you don’t eat raw eggs, ever.”
“I’ll be sure to let the cook know,” he promised. “Now, as I said earlier, my colleagues will hold me to a higher standard in supervising you. Because of that, I’m imposing a curfew of ten pm for your first month here. We’ll review it at the end of the month. Additionally, on nights of the full and dark of the moon, your curfew will be sunset.” He paused to take a drink. “There are some very strange ideas out there about the importance of the moon in various magical practices and, in some circles, the university has a reputation of being some sort of mystical hotspot. Despite campus security’s best efforts, we get at least one incident a year where an outside group comes in and cuts badly thought out or unwise runes and symbols into the grass on one of the ovals or the Student Lawn. Those sorts of people are also the type who are likely to have an unnatural or otherwise unwanted interest in the daughter of Leonides Moyrvane. I prefer to have you safely tucked up in these walls when they’re likely to be around.”
“I’ve run into people like that before,” Leonidia said quietly. “There were some people, when I was about six, who thought they could take me away from my mother.”
“Then you have at least some idea of the problems I’m talking about,” the professor nodded in confirmation.
“The only problem I have with the whole curfew business,” went on Leonidia, “is that my Elementary Symbology study group is meeting on Thursday nights after dinner. We were planning to meet in the library, they don’t kick you out until half past ten.”
“There’s a library upstairs in the student section of the building you could use,” said Professor Rasmussen. “It’s small compared to the campus library, about twice the size of your room, but it has a large table and enough chairs for six or seven. That should probably be enough for your group and even when the graduate students arrive, I don’t imagine most of them would mind not using the library on Thursday nights.”
“Thank you.” She smiled. “That solves that problem then, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” he smiled back, “but I’m sure there will be more.”
Part 2 is here.