December 29th, 2013

Giraffe

Revelations Part 1

This is written in response to aldersprig's prompt.  For those with time and/or spoon restraints, this part runs to 2,977 words.

“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 Those vows have never been rescinded and are still binding.”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.



Giraffe

Revelations Part 2

Revelations Part 1 is here. For those who need to ration time and/or spoons Part 2 runs to 2,553 words.

The next Thursday night, the other five members of Leonidia’s study group were duly impressed. “So, this is quite swish. Is the rest of the place like this?” Liam Garford, a blond and freckled eighteen year old, was taking almost exactly the same subjects as Leonidia with the exception of Nisian instead of Faerese as an elective.

“Pretty much,” Leonidia admitted. “Some of the furniture is older or newer and my room doesn’t have this many books yet.”

“Where did all the books come from?” Tiarmata Manesfels, looking around curiously so her long, dark ponytail swung from shoulder to shoulder, was the darkest of them with the type of honey brown skin that would turn near black after exposure to the summer sun.

“Most of them belonged to Gervais Gefrywen, whose bequest built the Hall, and the rest were left behind by past professors and graduate students.” Leonidia claimed a spot down one side of the study table.

“Any of them on the Marchunian declension of Hendran symbol sequences?” Will Marshall, the sandy haired son of a solicitor with professional and social ambitions for his son, sat down opposite Leonidia.

“Not that I’ve been able to find,” she replied, “but all the text books in the world wouldn’t help us memorise this stuff in time for the quiz tomorrow.”

Warner Fall, the son of an old money, paid-fee alumni, sat down beside Leonidia and Agneta Warm, a girl with handsome eyes and a hooked nose, sat opposite him. When the four of them started opening their books, Liam and Tiarmata joined them at the table.

“Well,” began Agneta, “I know the third phase already. They’re all used in maledictions, my gran uses them a lot so they’ve always been around, if you know what I mean.”

Warner ventured, “So if the third phase are maledictions does that make the fourth phase curses?”

Three hours later Professor Rasmussen opened the library door. “I believe I should send you all home to your beds,” he said gravely, “tomorrow being a day of scheduled classes.”

“Is it that time already?” Tiarmata looked at her watch. “It is isn’t it? We’d better pack up and get going. My roommate gets really shirty if I come in after she’s gone to bed.”

As the group packed up their books and other goods, Leonidia introduced them all to the professor who had a few words for each of them.

“Tiarmata? You’re one of the Rotopangas then?”

“My mother’s a younger daughter of a cadet branch,” Tiarmata blushed, “so, not really, sir.”

He asked Will, “So what do you intend to do with Symbology, young man?”

“Probably trademark law, sir.” Will smiled back, “After just a few weeks I know there are some companies out there using some very ill-advised marks.” That gained him an approving nod.

With Agneta, the Professor gravely enquired as to the health of her mother and grandmother, while he reminded Liam that they must have met some twelve years ago at Liam’s uncle’s fiftieth birthday party.

To Warner he said, “You must be the son of Lorene Huxley. I heard that after she had to leave the university, she married the better Fall scion.”

“I’d never heard that my mother was a student here, sir” Warner said politely.

“Oh yes, she was in the same year as myself and Leonidia’s father. She was brilliant. Her having to leave was a tragedy all round.” Professor Rasmussen looked sympathetically regretful.

Warner looked surprised but replied, “I will remember you to her when I speak to her next.”

“Thank you.” Professor Rasmussen added a courteous nod to his acknowledgment.

A few minutes later, he and Leonidia were seeing the rest of the study group out the students’ front door of the Hall. She said her good byes and he closed the door, making sure that the lock caught.

“A good group. The solicitor’s boy, Will, may prove to have unexpected talents,” the professor was saying when a female scream rent the air from outside. Professor Rasmussen spun on a proverbial sixpence and as he commanded, “Stay inside the Hall. Do not cross the threshold,” Leonidia would have sworn the locks clicked open before he touched the handle. The injunction to stay inside did not, apparently, apply to him and as he descended the front steps to the middle rung, he was proclaiming, “Isik nurs luculum!”

Beyond him, Leonidia could see columns of light arranged in a ring blaze into life. In the centre were the rest of her study group and double that number of hooded men. The hooded men weren’t having it all their own way with their burlap sacks and rope but Leonidia didn’t like the odds. Neither, apparently, did the professor who followed up his earlier spell with, “Accrae innulue!” That was followed by purple tapes or tendrils emerging from the ground to tangle in the arms and legs of the hooded men.

One of the hooded men appeared to look defiantly at Professor Rasmussen, the hood rather spoiling the effect. “You have no right to interfere with our ancient traditions, old man. Set us free and go back inside!”

“You may be permitted a certain amount of hazing of your new recruits,” Professor Rasmussen retorted, “but I don’t believe that the Javian Society admits young women. So, despite your efforts to restrain them, you have no legitimate reason to be bothering these young ladies. Do I need to remind you that the Society is under notice from the Archchancellor?”

“They’re our tributes, old man, and you can’t make us do anything.” Whoever he was, the speaker was snarling under his hood.

“Can’t I?” Professor Rasmussen’s voice was calm. “Apparently not only have you forgotten everything that was covered in your ethics classes, Mr Rockefeller, but you seem to have spent your years here not paying attention.” The professor made a hand gesture and an oval image appeared in the air beside him. “I’m sorry to bother you, Archchancellor, but the Javian Society has broken their parole.”

The man in the oval moved. “Is that what’s disturbed the wards at your Hall, Rasmussen?” The voice coming from the image was perfectly clear. “Campus security is already on their way, of course, and I’ll be along as soon as I’m decent. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you not to let that wretched set of moneyed-up buffoons go anywhere but, oh, I suspect it’s going to be a long night.” With that the oval winked out of existence.

“Our elders let you run this university and think you’re in charge,” the hooded spokesman sounded shaken to Leonidia’s ear. She suspected he hadn’t expected to be recognised with his face covered. “Don’t free the tributes whatever he says.”

“Sadly, your elders may even believe that’s true,” replied Professor Rasmussen. “You, however, are about to receive a crash course in reality. Firstly, I’m sure you’re all aware of Mr Maguire from Security.” Peering past the professor from within the doorway, Leonidia could see the hooded men begin to relax. “Well, this is Arrius Black, the man he works for and the real head of Campus Security.”

The new arrival was over six foot tall, dressed in a black cape over black and was flanked by ten Campus Security officers. “Evening all. Now, all of you, except Professor Rasmussen, who are holding someone else against their will are going to release that person.”

“You can’t make us.” The spokesman in a hood was talking again. “If you’re ‘arresting’ us, we demand our solicitors.”

“You will release your prisoners or I will invoke the authority of my position as an Officer of the Star Court and I will make you.” The hooded figure holding Tiarmata let her go and pulled the burlap sack off her head. “One of you has some sense I see. You may desire a solicitor all you wish, Mr Rockefeller, but there is no right to legal representation before the Star Court.”

Agneta took advantage of her captors’ distraction to elbow one in the guts and stamp on the second’s instep before taking the burlap sack off her own head. She looked magnificently furious. Will didn’t manage to break free but one of his captors probably had a broken nose under his hood. Liam and Warner were being held but both of them, though upright, were oddly still.

“You are naughty little gentlemen, aren’t you?” Arrius Black’s tone was conversational until he cast, “Zennam!” and made a dismissive gesture.

The purple tendrils disappeared, there was a silvery popping sound over Liam and Warner who startled and pulled the sacks from their heads, and the security guards moved in, one per hooded man.

“Coercive magic?” Professor Rasmussen sounded coolly disdainful. “They are going to have fun with you in the Star Court, Mr Rockefeller.”

“This will never get there, then you’ll see who’s in charge, old man.” The hooded spokesman was back to snarling threats.

Arrius Black ignored the snarling to ask, “Thejs, can you take the intended victims for tonight and keep them safe?”

“Of course, we’ve no shortage of beds.” Professor Rasmussen added, “Will, Liam, Agneta, Tiarmat and Warner, pick up all your things and come back inside. You can stay here tonight.”

Leonidia’s study group re-entered the Hall, shaken and dishevelled. Professor Rasmussen followed them and locked the door behind him.

“Right.” Professor looked over the impromptu sleep over. “We’ll assign you rooms and get you nightclothes from our emergency supply. The beds will be made up while you shower and your clothes will be washed overnight – that should get rid of any lingering traces of enchantment left by those idiots. Leave your books and shoes outside your bedroom doors so I can double check those for you too. We have plenty of hot water and bathrooms, so I’ll see all of you, including Leonidia, in my study in three quarters of an hour for hot chocolate and a bed time snack.”

Forty five minutes later the six of them had been ushered into the Professor’s study. Liam was complaining bitterly that the nightwear on offer, which had apparently been laid in some time in the nineteenth century, was long nightshirts. Leonidia was the only one who wasn’t wearing a dark blue, calf to ankle length dressing gown with matching slippers. Will’s left on display a pair of surprisingly muscular, and hairy, legs. Leonidia’s own muted green linen wrap covered her to just above the ankles and had been a gift from her maternal grandmother.

When the hot chocolate and fresh biscuits had been distributed and Marriott had left the room, Professor Rasmussen said, “After this evening’s events, I thought I should have a chat with you to let you know what’s going on. Firstly, you may have been in deadly danger tonight.” He let the murmurings and exclamations happen and then went on, “When you study advanced ritual magic, you will become aware that the word “tribute"’ is used interchangeably with “sacrifice.” This is particularly so when the speaker is trying to skirt around the truth and implications of what they’re doing. The Javian Society have a ritual they use when inducting their new members every year. No-one outside the society knows where they got it from and they’re not telling. They’re a tight knit group from the ‘right’ families who’ve been paying to come here for generations.”

Warner put in, “My grandfather, father and uncle were all members but Dad told me to have as little to do with them as possible. When they asked me to join, I told them I wasn’t interested.”

Will added, “My father wanted me to try and at least be friends with them for the connections, their alumni have a lot of influence, but they weren’t interested in me. Now I’m not interested in them, I mean what sort of idiots go around abducting people?”

The professor sighed, “What we, the university, do know is that the ritual’s incomplete. It seems that every year the Society experimented to try and get it right. In my first year here as a student it seems they came close and that was when what they were doing came to the university’s attention.”

Agneta, frowning, asked, “What is this ritual supposed to do, Professor?”

“Transfer mental capacity and talent from a donor to a recipient.” Thejs Rasmussen sipped his hot chocolate.

“So what does the donor get out of it?” The others let Agneta ask the question.

“Nothing. That’s why they’re called tributes.”

“That’s black magic,” said Agneta tightly. “I had ancestors burnt at the stake for less.”

“Yes,” agreed the professor blankly. “In my first year here they used thirteen tributes and had results beyond their wildest dreams and nightmares.”

Tiarmata asked, “What do you mean?”

“Apparently they expected to skim a few IQ points and a little magical off the top, so to speak, so they grabbed some of the brightest in our year because the Society’s members thought they’d miss it less. The results were three dead, four comas, three persistent vegetative states and three survivors.” The professor turned to look at Warner, “One of the survivors was your mother, Warner. She did survive but she completely lost her ability to comprehend and manipulate magic. She’d been…brilliant.”

As Warner sat back in his chair, stunned and thoughtful, the professor turned to Leonidia, “Your father was another of the survivors, Leonidia. Everyone thought he’d escaped without any injury but later when he started hunting down the members of the society who’d participated in the ritual-.”

“Wait,” Leonidia interrupted, “my father wasn’t just raining terror randomly over the populace and round the countryside, he was after specific people?”

“Very few people knew enough to realise it,” agreed the professor, “but yes. The matter should have gone to the Star Court but strings were pulled and it never got there. The worst that happened was an Archchancellor’s Order that if there was ever a repeat, then the Javian Society and all its members would be expelled and banned from the university with full confiscation of property. They’ve been on parole ever since. Matters with your father escalated because his targets brought in more and more protective security and they had enough cash to bring in anyone who was willing to hire on.”

Will asked, “So what happens now?”

“As we speak, all the student dormitories are conducting a headcount to see if anyone is missing. Security is searching the grounds to make sure we haven’t missed any little boltholes of the Society’s.” Professor Rasmussen smiled

“So my father didn’t go insane,” Leonidia was talking more or less to herself. “Well he might have, but it was something that was done to him and not something that was in him from the beginning.”

“Revenge is a much more acceptable motive than insanity,” Agneta agreed.

“And it’s not inheritable,” added the Professor, “unless you choose to take it up.”

“I don’t,” replied Leonidia, “but I find this gives me an unexpected lightness of heart, a release from a dread I didn’t realise I had.”

“Your doom has been taken from you,” put in Tiarmata, “and there is nothing but light and joy to go in. Just like at the end of the Tales of Laurentia.”

“Yes,” agreed Leonidia, “just like that.”