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Ch.1, Chance Encounter

From the perspective of the Wizard...

“Professor Aumeron!” Alexandre called out, raising his hand.   The heads of eight adult peers turned to him as the diminutive instructor shuffled on his pedestal to face the boy wizard.   Alexandre’s gaze darted about. He felt the heat come up to his cheeks as he looked to the pen and quill on his desk. “Would-would not a more efficient somatic sequence for the sending be the following—” he squeaked out while pulling up the crimson sleeves of his robe.   He cupped his right-hand several inches from his mouth. He churned his left forearm like a wheel while slowly twisting his left wrist in a counterclockwise motion, his fingers fluttering in the process. Without actually casting the spell, Alexandre felt ridiculous but knew the importance of clarity.   “A variation, yes, but certainly not the common implementation, Mr. Du Faeien,” the halfling mage replied dryly. Looking through the pair of spectacles balanced on his nose, the professor swept the room with his gaze. “Would anyone like to demonstrate and explain the standard somatic pattern to Mr. Du Faeien?”   Several hands shot up. Alexandre pulled down his sleeves and glanced around again, trying to keep himself from grimacing. Professor Aumeron gestured to a lady in the front row, who turned to face him from across the room. She proceeded to make smooth motions using mainly her forearm accompanied by minute movements of her fingers.   “The traditional somatic sequence of sending opts for smooth, steady motions of the forearm to avoid the onset of fatigue during casting. Furthermore, it eschews reliance on dexterity and aesthetics for a safer and more practical approach,” she announced, looking to her younger peer.   “Excellent, Ms. Newuan.” Professor Aumeron looked back to Alexandre. “I hope that clears up any misconceptions, Mr. Du Faeien.”   Alexandre bit the inside of his cheek for a moment. His hand went up to his head. He picked at the slightly-pointed tip of his ears as he nodded. “Yes, sir. It does.”   The young wizard, with no more than twelve summers yet in him, continued the rest of the class with no other interruptions. He felt the pointed glances and the smirks settle upon him but knew better than to give any signs of acknowledgment. To do so would mean to admit his status as an outsider in this institution, too, though Alexandre knew better than to think of himself as anything but.   At the end of the lecture, Alexandre gathered his belongings into his spatial bag of holding, leaving out only a cloth-bound folder. Once his peers had left the seminar room, he stepped up to the halfling instructor. Professor Aumeron had a penchant for leaving his materials scattered all about the wide front desk, so Alexandre extracted a set of papers from his folder and moved to slide it onto another pile.   “Yet another report, Mr. Du Faeien?” Professor Auberon ceased erasing his board to collect the papers from the young mage. He pulled the spectacles off the bridge of his nose before reviewing the text. “On the sending spell...Ah, a proposition for alterations. I suppose that would explain your presumption earlier today.” “Y-yes, sir—Professor Auberon, sir…” Alexandre kept his head bowed, brow furrowed as he focused on his boots.   The professor tapped the bottom of the papers on his desk and stowed them away. “You would not be the first to suggest modifying the spell by exchanging scope for reliability and consistency, Mr. Du Faeien.”   “I—I believe it’s well within our means to do so,” the young mage stammered, straightening up. “We already have the basis in sending stones. Plus, as one of the Society’s most oft-used utility spells, it would be of great benefit to expand its usability! Perhaps one of the Expert-tier evocationists can look further into—”   “And why not yourself, Mr. Du Faeien?”   Alexandre met the halfling’s stern gaze and swallowed. “I, uh...It is interesting, but I do not find it my, um…”   “You demonstrate that you are far above the levels of skill covered in my courses, Mr. Du Faeien.” The halfling sifted through his folder and procured several other stacks of papers. “However, these reports have the quality to pass as actual proposals, not just here in the Conservatory, but at the Arcaneum. Your home, if I remember correctly. Ah, yes—” He then handed the papers back to the boy. "I have provided corrections and suggestions."   “That was not my intention, Professor. To create a proposal,” Alexandre mumbled. His gaze twinkled at the sight of the returned reports. “Th-thank you, sir. I wi—”   “You know, the Crawlyne Conservatory is the rising institution of magic in Eastern Varia,” Aumeron continued, returning his attention to the half-cleaned board. “However, even our classes would not suffice for your talents. You are a very intelligent student, Mr. Du Faeien. Surely, you know that you belong in an independent study. Otherwise, transferring here from the Arcaneum's Academy would simply waste your potential.”   “I, yes...I—” Alexandre swallowed once again, the heat pooling once more in his cheeks. “I understand, Professor Aumeron. I have already, uh, endeavored. To address. The matter.”   He gave the instructor one final curt nod before turning on his heels and rushing out the door. Alexandre passed by a group of his classmates but paid them no mind even as one tried to wave him to a stop. Beyond the lectures they shared, he owed them none of his time.  

  Alexandre glanced up as the librarian tapped at the corner of his table. He frowned at her pleadingly, but he could tell by the look in her eyes that she had no intention of allowing him to stay. His gaze drifted to the stacks of books set neatly on the right half of the desk, contrasting the half-dozen open scrolls splayed on the left. Fifteen minutes to set it all back to place lest he receives a demerit, and he knew better than to test that threat from Mistress Cullen.   The young mage procured his spellbook, flipping to his marker for the unseen servant spell. The extra pair of hands had become a constant necessity for him since his move to Reven, though it did not usually last long enough through his study sessions. Within a matter of moments, a book lifted off the table as the invisible force carried it back to its rightful location.   Alexandre replaced the scrolls into their tubes and carried the lot of them back to the special materials section of the library. He caught a glimpse of the clock as he walked. Fifteen minutes until the twenty-first hour. Typically, the library remained open to midnight, but his father had sent explicit instructions over the past week. He could not neglect to address his everyday needs, such as sleeping or eating. His stomach growled. The emptiness from over seven hours in the library finally dawned on his body. He would grab a meal before returning to his quarters. After a few minutes, Alexandre left the library and hurriedly walked towards the cafetorium. Peers, professors, and, most often, his father’s colleagues tended to approach him in the halls. He kept his nose in a scroll as he hurried along, glancing up only to check that the way ahead of him lacked obstruction.   The main lobby appeared busy even in the evening, though not to the same stifling proportions he often saw in the midday bustle. A few individuals still had inquiries for the front desk clerks, some mages while others...clearly not. By this point, students had mostly retreated to the dormitories or to the city's nightlife districts.   “After dinner, I can finish transcribing this scroll. And I need to contact Father about my stipend,” Alexandre murmured to himself as he strode by the front.   “—really am sorry to be bothering you for this so much, mister! But please, we only are wishing to have this done. Most important to do it quickly, please!”   Alexandre winced. He never thought Varian Common all that difficult a language to grasp, but clearly, there were still some unfortunate individuals who would struggle with it. He glanced back to the source of the voice. A figure in a hooded green cloak gesticulated excessively while speaking to Robley, one of the clerks at the Conservatory's front desk. Based on the tone, more than likely a man. The inflections to his speech sounded familiar, however. He could hear the man exaggerating the first vowel sounds of certain words.   “A small service, and most thankful we would be, and those who would be gain from it!” the cloaked figure continued.   'Elven!' Alexandre thought. The dress was rather suspicious, though. Not to mention the time of day...This individual more than likely wished to obscure his identity, albeit the garment would not mask his dialect.   “Sir, I am, uh, unsure whether we can address your request…” Robley eyed the person with a wide gaze, his lips set in a flatline.   Alexandre searched the clerk’s expression. He seemed like he wanted to speak further but probably lacked the appropriate phrasing for what he wanted to convey. How could he with that bizarre situation? Granted, Alexandre lacked the context of the mentioned service. Perhaps there was something more to it. His gaze flitted to a clock on the front desk. At fifteen minutes after seven, he would still have time to acquire his meal.   A small movement of black at the individual’s other side drew Alexandre’s attention. A similarly dressed individual, this time all in black, leaned over to the green-hooded man before moving closer to the desk. He noticed the black hood turn its head ever so slightly towards his direction. Alexandre straightened up, widened his gaze, and shivered slightly.   The boy mage turned his gaze away. 'How unpleasant.’ He looked back down at his feet. “We apologize for the obtuseness of this situation,” the black-cloak interjected. “And we also apologize for any misunderstandings. Our lack of identification is a conundrum we brought upon ourselves, and it is unfortunate that it had brought about any confusion, Mr. Robley.”   The green-cloak seemed to regard the other before taking a step back. The companion could speak Varian Common flawlessly. ‘Wonder why he didn’t just talk himself,’ Alexandre began to shuffle away, towards the cafetorium. ‘Though...No identification…’   He slowed down his steps and glanced toward them again. Even at another vantage, Alexandre could not discern their features. The other one hardly sounded Elvish, or perhaps he was being inconsiderate. His hand came up to his head again, making a motion to rub at the earlobe, while straining to capture any snippet of the remaining conversation.   “Oh! It is of no great inconvenience, err...sirs,” Robley responded, relaxing slightly at the change of speaker. “However, it is Arcane Society policy to require official documentation and identification, issued by a valid geopolitical body, to apply for any magical services.”   “Would it be possible to speak with a representative of your upper management?” the black-hooded figure continued. “Perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak of our circumstances with such an individual.”   Robley’s gaze widened again as he looked from one stranger to the next. “Well, sir, at this hour, it may be difficult to arrange a meeting on short notice. However, I can relay a message for an appointment with a supervisor. If you would provide a name for the request…”   The black-cloak stood still for a few moments before leaning over to the green-cloak watching them. After a few seconds, the green-cloak let out an excited yelp, "Ah!" He then straightened himself and stepped toward the desk again, half-pushing the other out of the way. He stated excitedly, “Our names is...My name is Idan! And, he is…”   The individual in black gave no response aside from a small motion of the hood, like a head shake.   Alexandre tilted his head and blinked at the display. His gaze wandered back to Robley, who wore his confusion on his face, before he noticed the black-hood once again regarding his general direction. The boy’s eyes widened, and he turned around swiftly. He still felt the gaze boring into him, so he resumed his pace towards an adjoining hall.   Just before he moved out of earshot, Alexandre heard the fluent voice project abruptly, “We shall be staying at the Chilly Goose tavern in the Gratis district.”  
  Alexandre stared at the scroll of fireball laid out beside his open spellbook. On the other side of his desk sat a half-eaten plate of beef wellington. His appetite had waned once he resumed his studies. Perhaps he could even save it for later, using magic to warm the food. However, now that he had readied his notes, his inks, and a few pounds of bat droppings, the boy felt an onset of malaise.   ‘I’ve been looking forward to this since last week...I won’t have nearly as much free time to learn spells after the move.’ He picked up the crimson-feathered quill, dipped it in the inkwell, and set the tip on the blank page of his book. Alexandre’s gaze drooped as he wrote down the component lists, starting with the verbal incantations.   “Not really that strange,” he murmured. “Significant elven population in Reven. But one seemed too big to be a wood elf. One of them had a thick accent, elven inflections. Even within the ghettos, native elves still would learn Varian Common, if they wanted to get anywhere. Or, maybe he didn’t really have a need to learn Varian Common. Silly, though..." Alexandre's brow furrowed. "Just silly."   He looked toward the window where his pearl-feathered owl stared at him from a faux branch perch. "What do you think, Eames?"   The owl hooted.   Alexandre brushed his ear with his quill’s feather. “Unless he’s not from Varia. Maybe the Feylands...Hmm, the Evergreens?” He chuckled. “That’d be a coincidence!” He furrowed his brow, shook his head, and then resumed writing. “Not my business…” Alexandre exhaled. He kept writing for the next half hour, his gaze eventually glossing over as he filled the page.   Eames had begun to close its eyes.   “The other was a translator, probably. Important enough to need it. Maybe a companion. Had to have studied the language, or maybe they’re native. They kept their hoods up, so I can only assume. But why…?” Alexandre set the quill down. “They wanted a service. Enough to ask the Society. And without identification. They didn’t push...Maybe if I knew what they asked about…” He rested his chin on his hand. “I can ask Robley. He’d know better than to question me.”   He smirked before pulling up his sleeves. His gestured matched his display during class earlier, adding on the verbal sequence, and, this time, tapped into his well of power. Alexandre mentally projected to Robley with the message, “Mr. Robley. Alexandre du Faeien here. I wish to know what service those two hooded individuals from earlier inquired upon. Please respond summarily.”   Alexandre rolled up the scroll as he waited. Within a few minutes, he heard Robley’s reply in his mind, “Mr. Du Faeien. They were looking to have a scrying carried out. They lacked the identification. May I ask why you sent this inquiry?”   “Scrying...Now, that’s a bit suspect,” Alexandre muttered, more loudly now. “One of them gave a name. Idan. The other didn’t. They wanted a private meeting to get it. So, maybe they don’t want anyone to know? Clearly, they didn’t know how the Society worked. And maybe they’re ignorant enough not to find an illegal service..."   Alexandre gathered his spellbook from the desk. “I don’t have reason to think about this, though,” he hissed. The young mage looked at the various suitcases grouped up in the corner of his near barren suite. He had packed weeks ago, having no intention to make his current living situation seem any less temporary than how it was. "The other clearly wanted me to hear, though.”   “And, if they are...from the Feylands…” Alexandre began. “It might be important to know. If it’s something to do with them, and...and it does concern magic, so if it’s something possibly problematic…” He slowly nodded to himself, glancing over to the owl. “You know, I do always keep those emergency spells prepared. I could always look into it and get out as well as I need to. Wouldn’t be any trouble to it, right, Eames?”   The owl responded by ruffling its feathers.   “And I know they’re at a tavern down in Gratis.” Alexandre stood up, tucking his book into his satchel. “It won’t do to go out like this, though. But I haven’t touched illusions yet...” He strode to one of the suitcases and unclasped it. With a grunt, the boy mage lifted it open to rummage through the contents.   “I can learn that one later. Maybe one of the professors will allow me to study their notes, though that would be suspicious.” Alexandre tossed a few robes to the side. “But for now—Which one of these, Eames?" He tugged at a few cloaks and held them out at arm's length towards the bird.   The owl stared at him silently.   "You're right! I like this one, too!" Alexandre proclaimed as he eyed a hooded red cloak. “There are enough gnomes and halflings in Reven that seeing someone my height should be fine. I just have to keep the hood up, so they don’t see my face." He paused. "One of the men from earlier saw me, so I should be careful.” He pulled on the cloak before tightening the clasp around his neckline. “Come on, Eames! We’re going out tonight. You’ll have to be my eyes, okay?”   The owl gave a more enthusiastic hoot.   Alexandre softly smiled as the snowy bird fluttered over to his shoulder. He kicked the suitcase cover close before heading out of the door.


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