Chapter Eight: School
Rhysel was not equipped to handle a link-broken Samia. <Keo!> she called. <Keo, Samia says Narax is gone. What could have happened? Is he all right? She's -> Samia was barely conscious. She looked worse than Kanaat had when Keo had disentangled from him, and Rhysel had a terrible fear that Narax was dead.
<Narax is alive,> Keo said immediately, <the idiot, what was he thinking? He should have asked me if he wanted out - could undo half of her repairs ->
<She's that fragile?> Rhysel asked, alarmed. <Is there anything I can do for her, or...?>
<I can put her back together again, but yes, this soon after the fix, that kind of trauma could easily dislodge something. Checking her over now.> Keo went silent in Rhysel's mind, and, one tense tick later, said, <She's intact. Apparently had time to brace herself before he split. That idiot, that complete idiot. She wouldn't be any happier about it if I'd done it, but at least it wouldn't be so dangerous.>
<What should I do?> Rhysel asked.
<Stay put. Make sure she doesn't fall off her chair,> said Keo. <If she talks to you, you can talk to her, but don't push it. I'll be there to take her - home to her stepdad, I guess - after I've finished yelling at Narax and apologizing to Samia's family.>
Rhysel sent back her assent, and watched Samia where she was slumped over the table. There was a little pool of tears under her right eye. "Narax," murmured Samia.
"It was probably just some kind of misunderstanding," suggested Rhysel, though she had no idea. She hadn't even known that people other than Keo could break mindlinks, until she'd seen it happen. Presumably they could only break their own.
"No," murmured Samia. Her jaw moved awkwardly against the stone she was leaning on, but Rhysel's translation spell didn't broadcast any slurring of her words. "He doesn't like what I was thinking."
"Narax loves you," said Rhysel.
"Maybe," said Samia.
"Wouldn't you know?"
"Not now," sobbed Samia. She slapped one of her hands onto the table, hard enough that Rhysel winced in sympathy, and pushed herself up into a sitting position. She still hung her head, and her hair fell like a curtain around her face. "He... loved me, ten years ago. I know that." Rhysel waited, and Samia went on: "Keo didn't think we should re-link right away. She said it was a bad idea."
"I confess I don't know a lot about how it works," Rhysel said.
"It's the last thing you do," Samia said. "Keo says you have to be close as can be before. You have to make it a small step." She paused between sentences, and between words, like she had to retrieve vocabulary and grammar from deep storage. "Keo and Kanaat were married for two years first. She didn't want to do it for us the first time either. We hadn't been together long enough, we'd only just gotten engaged, we - but we told her it would be fine, and it was, it was wonderful, it was - I wanted that back. So did he. Once I found him again."
"You seemed all right at dinner the other day," murmured Rhysel.
"It takes a while to acclimate. To - look at everything once you're able to see it," Samia said miserably. She brushed her hair out of her face, but didn't tuck it behind her ear, and it fell forward again. "And then you made your stupid offer and I couldn't even wish I could take it, without... he couldn't stand having it in his head, having me in his head, so he tore away."
"I'm sorry," whispered Rhysel.
"I don't care," Samia snapped. She planted her palms on the table and hauled herself to her feet. "Now it doesn't much matter how long I live, and maybe you won't even have to wait until I die to go after Narax. There's no way he ripped out our link and plans to stay married." She made a strangled choking noise and said, "At least we agreed on a name for our baby first... I'm going home."
"Are you sure you should be -" began Rhysel, but Samia's hand danced in the air and she spoke a word, and she was gone.
Rhysel heard an update from Keo, an angle later. Samia was back home with her stepfather, and divorce proceedings had been rushed through by the Ertydon government, who were eager to disentangle one of their citizens from a dragon. Narax was still planning to move to Paraasilan and teach, since he'd have his daughter alternate months when she was born. And Keo added a ranting editorial about how she was never going to mindlink anyone else, ever again, however much they begged.
And then Rhysel was alone in her tower, not even Keo's voice in her mind.
She set up her ward stones into an open cube, matching pairs at opposite corners. She poured all the lifeforce she could spare into it, and recharged, looking listlessly over her Leraal words for household objects blocked out in her own hand. When she had more energy, she poured that into the box, too. And again, and again, storing up enough that usually she'd want to tap at least six, maybe ten, people to do a working that draining.
When the box held enough, and she was recovered enough to stand and wolf down two bowls of leftover soup, Rhysel picked up the ward stones - which adhered to their box configuration even when she held only two in her hands - and carried them up to her library.
She drew a circle on the floor in dancing firewriting, and crisscrossed it with lines. She sat down on the floor, set her power-box beside her knee, and rested her hand on the top face, causing her whole arm to thrum with energy.
Focusing on the lines in her circle, and hauling at the power in the box with all her might, she made a transfer point in the same place as the one in her tower on Barashi.
Rhysel dozed off - well, passed out - and when she woke up, it was dark, all her firewriting extinguished and the setting sun only feebly wafting light in through the windows. Her ward stones, emptied of stored power, had clattered inertly to the ground. But from the circle of stone in front of her - visually indistinguishable from every other part of the floor - came a gentle thrum. A transfer point's unique signature.
She read it, and memorized it, and then she pulled herself to a standing position with the help of a chair, stood on the transfer point, and tried to go home.
Of course it didn't work. She remained exactly where she was; if the transfer point could have made a whine of confusion, it would have. It wasn't touching the same ground as the one she'd meant to go to.
Rhysel glanced out at the sun. It was sinking; she hadn't slept through the whole night in a heap on the rock. She lurched to her bed, and fell into it gracelessly.
Maeris came every day to teach Rhysel more Leraal. Kolaan arrived at the tower whenever called for, his hover platform heavy with groceries; when he had access to tickets to his play, he sold one for a few weeks after opening night to Rhysel at two aaberik shy of the printed price. Rhysel had Keo, Kanaat, Korulen, and the baby over once a week, partly for company and partly to practice speaking Leraal with more conversational partners. (She still couldn't hear Leraal when they spoke it, but when she halted through an offer of pie, everyone but the baby understood her.) And she continued to blow up crucibles, until she finally forced the funnels of air to do her bidding and moved on to water. Water tended to dissolve its cups rather than exploding them, and after a long session her workroom was duned with sand.
Four tendays (no: almost six weeks) after Rhysel's arrival, Keo presented Rhysel with an invitation to her baby's naming ceremony. "Since she'll be a month old, it's time she got a name. But, I should warn you," Keo added, after explaining the rough details of how baby dragons were named, "that -"
"I assumed Narax would be there to watch you name his niece," Rhysel said. "I'd like to come anyway. If it's awkward..." She shrugged. "He doesn't have to talk to me."
"Right," said Keo. "Okay, we'll expect you."
"Why do you wait a month to name a baby dragon?" Rhysel asked. "Wasn't Korulen named when she was born?"
"She was," Keo said. "Dragons... well, not so much parunias like my baby; they just use the same ceremony even though it doesn't apply for the usual reasons. But full-blooded dragons have a staggering mortality rate, before they get to be about a month old. After that it drops off very sharply."
Rhysel bit back the question of how many brothers and sisters Keo had lost, and instead asked if she was supposed to bring a gift. Keo told her that she could bring a toy or similar for the baby but was by no means obliged.
The ceremony was on Pehahel 32, one day after the baby turned a month old. (Rhysel was still thrown off by fifty-day months, a tenday longer than she was used to, and unremittingly confused by the fact that every month had an extra fifty-first day that did not get a number, only a name: the previous month with "-for" appended to it. If they were going to have days outside the calendar, they at least shouldn't get days of the week - like Ascendancy Days on Barashi.) Local guests were invited to a dinner beforehand at Kanaat's family's house, but Rhysel skipped it, and - like people who were traveling farther - met the crowd on the grounds of the school.
Maeris was there, with her husband, an older halfling with wispy grey hair who attempted to get bets from everyone he passed about what sound the baby's new name would start with. Most people who took him up on it seemed to expect another "k" phoneme, to match her parents and sister, and people who disagreed got better odds.
School was not in session during the month of Pehahel; it was one of two breaks between terms. With the students and faculty cleared out of the place, there was no one to shoo away when it came time for everyone to sit on the grass in a circle.
While Keo and Kanaat sat together, Keo holding the squirming scaled baby in her arms, there was no order in which anyone else was to sit - immediate family didn't seem to wind up any closer on average than arbitrary others, including some girls who seemed to be Korulen's friends and to have no other claim to be present. Rhysel sat next to Maeris and her bookie husband, not quite diametrically opposite the dragonet and her parents.
"There's my uncle Kilaer - Keo's dad," said Maeris, pointing. The man looked exactly like Narax, not even their different ages showing through in human form. Kilaer did wear his hair long, and it was tied back in a ponytail, but otherwise - he even smiled the same crooked smile. "And my aunt Tsuan, his wife." Tsuan was the exact image of Keo without even a different hairstyle as a clue, but she was at least dressed differently and didn't move in time with Kanaat. "Vara's over there, with her girlfriend Pilar..." Vara looked like a green-haired, brown-skinned dwarf (Maeris had gone over this and other species with Rhysel, as a supplement to the language lessons, and Rhysel could recognize any Elcenian sapient now) with no family resemblance whatever to mother or sister; apparently the twinlike resemblances only held within a given shape. Her girlfriend was also dwarven, though paler. "And..."
Maeris was interrupted, when Keo decided that the circle had settled into place as neatly as it was going to. "Friends and family," she said. "I'm so glad you've all come to our daughter's ceremony. I know some of you have never watched a dragon being named before. What we're going to do is this. I'll speak our daughter's name - personal name, and then the line name 'pyga' she'll get from me. I'll hand her to Kanaat, and he'll repeat her personal name, and she'll be passed around the entire circle that way, everyone greeting her. If you have a present for her, toss it in to the middle of the circle after you pass her on to your neighbor - if it's not safe to throw, of course you can get up and put it there more gently."
Rhysel tucked her hand into the satchel she'd brought to the ceremony and made sure her gift was there. Keo went on. "Ready, everyone?" Enthusiastic nods made the entire circle appear to ripple, and Keo beamed, picked up her baby, and said, "Runapyga."
Kanaat took the dragonet, who lashed her tail and chittered. "Runa," he said, and he kissed her between her horns and passed her on.
Runa was reasonably tolerant about being passed around, except when it turned out that her grandmother Tsuan's gift was a packet of yellow cookies; this appealing item caused her to squirm out of her grandfather's hold and make for the center of the circle as fast as her wings would carry her, necessitating a brief chase. Her grandfather chided her, laughed through his recitation of her new name, and then handed her on.
Rhysel accepted little Runa from her right-hand neighbor (some relative of Kanaat's, if the ears and blond hair were anything to go by) and said, "Hello, Runa."
"Dedda kwazeecu asaruxl!" jabbered Runa, fluttering her wings and craning her neck to look at the cookies she hadn't managed to devour prematurely. Her scales were tiny and almost soft under Rhysel's hands where she held the dragonet under her forelegs like she'd seen the others doing. Rhysel laughed and handed Runa over to Maeris, then dug out her present from her bag. It was a hollow glass ball, about the size of Rhysel's two fists together, and full of colored sparks that changed colors every time it bounced on its way to the center of the circle.
Soon, Runa was back in Keo's arms, and Kanaat started gathering presents into bags while everyone else climbed to their feet and milled about. Keo fished the cookies out of the pile and let Runa have one, but only one, which led to the newly named infant clacking her teeth together snappishly and poking her mother in the neck with the corners of her wings. Rhysel tried to stick with Maeris, but soon lost the tiny woman and her equally tiny husband in the crowd. Eventually she gave up, congratulated Keo by mindspeak rather than wade past strangers and Narax to do it aloud, and lifted into the air to fly home.
The next day, Rhysel made purified, energized water sit nicely in its crucible ten times in a row, and moved from dissolving containers to melting them. Some combination of fire being her best element, and practice effects from the prior two steps of the ritual, let her make better incremental progress with each cup of stone that dripped between her fingers and cooled into lumps on the floor. With heat protections active, it felt rather like raw egg. Rhysel thought she might have the entire thing ready to test - ready to show to her Master and the other supervisors - in just a couple of weeks.
She wasn't sure who she'd try it on. Everyone she knew on Barashi was either a kama already or highly suspicious of magic in general, and she didn't know where to go looking for an Elcenian test subject. There was Roluro, the rider who'd been intrigued by the way she performed workings, but she didn't have a way to get in touch with him except through Narax. Possibly she'd be willing to do that in a few months more, but for the time being she thought she'd like to find a different recipient.
When Keo came with her husband and daughters for dinner the next day, Rhysel brought it up, over almond biscuits with butter and jam. "Any ideas?" she finished.
"Do you have any interest in teaching kamai?" Keo asked her, spreading marmalade onto Runa's biscuit for her. "At, for example, a nearby school of magic?"
Rhysel blinked. "I hadn't thought that far ahead," she said. "I wasn't intending to become a teaching Master - I'm more about research - but - I suppose I'm the only kama here, and I don't know how much luck you'd have importing others. If I give an Elcenian the ability, I guess I have to teach at least that one person."
"Well, not necessarily," Keo said. "If you do mean one person, I can spare an afternoon to go through and copy your expertise to someone else, I just wouldn't want to do it over and over." She gave Runa her marmaladed biscuit, and started slathering jalapeño jelly onto her own. "If you don't have teaching experience, you could infuse one of our teachers, and we could start up a kamai department that way. I'm sure someone on the faculty would volunteer. And then you could infuse students who want to learn, and they could study at the school in which they are already enrolled."
"That sounds like a great idea," said Rhysel, smiling. "Will you want to pick from the volunteers - assuming there's more than one - yourself?"
Keo nodded. "We'd trust some of our teachers with overseeing entire new departments, but not necessarily all of them. Kanaat will mention the opportunity at the next staff meeting and we'll see who wants to be involved. But, Rhysel, it'd be better to have you involved too. I can be thorough, but I'm bound to miss something, and transferred knowledge is never as sure and natural as learned knowledge until it's been practiced a lot anyway. Are you sure we can't convince you to teach too? Even if you do all your classes with the other instructor?"
"Maybe," Rhysel said. "It might depend on the other teacher. I did help teach younger apprentices, before I made Journeyman and left my Master's tower, but I usually preferred to do it with a partner." She paused, and said, "The other problem is that I only know one of the five kamai aspects, elementalism. I might be able to give myself a crash course in one or two of the others, enough to teach introductory students by the term after this coming one, but not all four."
Keo shrugged. "So your fellow teacher will have to be someone very dedicated, who wants to give himself or herself a crash course in the two you don't pick. Then you'll both be able to do elemental kamai and the other four will be covered by you or the other person."
"What are the others?" Korulen asked.
"Besides elemental, there's mind, image, wild, and death," Rhysel said. "Mind kamai does things somewhat like what your mom can do, although I don't think even experienced mind kyma are as powerful, or as fast with the complicated workings. Image kamai is about creating illusions. Wild kamai is about living things - plants, animals - and some more peripheral workings. And death kamai I know less about, but I know it's used to do things like kill infections and vermin, and sometimes converse with the spirits of the dead."
"You can talk to the dead?" asked Korulen, wide-eyed.
"Not me personally, but it can be done," Rhysel said. "There isn't a spell for that here?"
Korulen shook her head. "People have tried, but communicating with - let alone bringing back - dead people is one of the things that wizardry just seems not to do," Korulen said. "Can kyma resurrect the dead?"
"No, only gods can do that," Rhysel said, "and they don't do it much. The best death kyma can do is converse with them."
"I wonder if that particular working would function here," Keo murmured.
"I don't know," Rhysel said. "I suppose we'll find out eventually, if this plan pans out. I'd certainly expect so."
"You think it would be very hard to get other Barashin kyma to come teach here?" Keo asked, when the conversation lulled there.
"I think so. If they'd have to either move here, or commute every day by a summoning spell, I can't see many taking you up on it. I suppose you could ask."
"I might. Let's gauge demand for the classes first, though," Keo said.
"I want to learn mind kamai," announced Korulen.
"Pass your breaks class next term, and you can take kamai the term after," Keo said; Korulen blushed. "...If Korulen does break your spell, Rhysel, are you going to go back to Barashi?"
"At this point," Rhysel said, "I don't know. I want to be able to visit my friends and my family, but I might not go back to live there, now that I'm more used to this world." She laughed softly. "What I'd really like is a way to make transfer points go from one world to the other."
"Someone published a theory paper about a summoning circle - like a teleportation circle, only for summoning, not teleportation - a few years ago," Keo said. "But it would require so much power that no one would cast it."
"People don't get that much capacity?" Rhysel asked.
"They do," Keo said. "Rarely, but there's a few practicing wizards who could manage it, including Narax. But using more than half your capacity stings, and using most of it hurts a lot, and using almost all of it is astonishingly painful. Governments have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get people to cast teleportation circles, and summoning circles would be forty or fifty units more costly still. And before you ask, installation spells can't be co-cast to spread it around."
"I don't suppose there's a way to store whatever sort of energy wizards use?" Rhysel asked, thinking of her power box.
"I suppose someone might have invented such a thing as an exercise," Keo said. "But there's no point. There's not a shortage of energy in the reservoir - there's a shortage of ability to pull that energy through oneself to shape a spell."
"I asked Maeris if she'd teach me to tell time," Rhysel remembered. "And she said I was doing everything right, but nothing happened."
"You probably don't have a channeling capacity," Keo said. "I can measure it for you if you want, although I'd have to go look up the spell. But I'd be surprised if you did have one, coming from another world."
"So no summoning circle," Rhysel concluded with a sigh, and Keo nodded. "That's a pity, it would be so convenient."
"Agreed," Keo said. "It wouldn't undo your predicament, assuming we understand the theory correctly, but it would make hiring teachers more straightforward. Oh well. Pie?"
"Pie," Rhysel agreed. Runa flicked her ears and looked wide-eyed at Rhysel, apparently beginning to recognize a few words.
Rhysel made her fire infusion behave tamely a week after managing the same trick with water, and went on to earth: the final piecemeal step before she'd have to figure out how to make all of these elements cohabit together. Attempts at this version failed less dramatically than the others, fusing with the stone of the crucible instead of crumbling and swirling slowly like it was supposed to, and Rhysel didn't need any defensive magic while she worked with it - not that this meant it was easier to handle.
Keo wound up selecting Aar Kithen, the same fellow who had first attempted to break Rhysel's summon and who had retrieved her belongings, to be the first person infused with kamai. Rhysel met him in his office at the school to give a layperson's understanding of the ritual he'd participate in (which boiled down to "I will do some elaborate magic to a bowl of juice, and then you will drink it and it will taste terrible and then you'll pass out and wake up able to do kamai, if it works"). He didn't ask her what would happen if it didn't work. She felt compelled to tell him anyway, but the answer was "I don't know; the scroll doesn't say." Aar Kithen accepted this uncertainty with a grave nod of his head.
As for Rhysel's inexperience with, not only teaching in general, but the specific system preferred by teachers at Esmaarlan children's trade schools, it was agreed that she would audit two of Aar Kithen's courses during the Rohel-Komehel term. She didn't expect to understand the content of "Information-Manipulating Spells Practicum" or "Sixth Tier Theory", but they would at least give her a taste of how Binaaralav Academy in general, and Aar Kithen in particular, conducted class and handled students. The smaller children Binaaralav enrolled in their lower-level classes wouldn't be old enough to access kamai if they had it, but the two selected items would contain the young adolescents who would populate an introductory kamai class.
Rhysel got her spoken translation spell taken off one Elcenian month after she'd first started learning Leraal. The literacy spell she left in place, even though she could have asked Keo to ask Narax to remove it for her without having to inquire directly. It was a useful emergency backup provision, and prevented embarrassing mistakes when she sent Kolaan on errands. It was also easier to study reading and writing Leraal with the spell on than it was to get conversation practice similarly encumbered. The transition was awkward, and the first time Rhysel went to Paraasilan proper and heard all the Leraal as it really was, she was momentarily tempted to ask for her spell back; but she resisted, and soon felt only somewhat lost when people chattered at her rapidly in the local language.
When the course schedule for the new term came out, Rhysel was concerned that it would overlap with the showtime Kolaan had picked out for her, but it didn't. And so on the summer solstice, she flew to the Binaaralav Academy to watch Aar Kithen teach class.