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Author Topic: [Sep/Oct 2019] - School - Submission Thread  (Read 1712 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Sep/Oct 2019] - School - Submission Thread
« on: September 01, 2019, 08:48:02 PM »

A day in Hogwarts by Noshiba-Photographe

It's the start of the school year in most places and Bea rightfully noticed that we didn't have a related theme yet!
(Apprentices is the closest one I think.)

The most famous school in fantasy is of course Hogwarts. Pratchett's Unseen University, Brakebills University from Lev Grossman's Magicians or Rothfuss' Arcanist University from the Kingkiller Chronicles are other prominent examples. Others aren't so formal or traditional, sometimes there are only traveling teachers who teach history for an egg (Pratchett's Tiffany Achings series) or it's walled off in a convent (Lawrence's Book of the Anchestor series).

To make it short: There are many different schools in Science Fiction (Storm Trooper University is probably named something different but surely exists) and Fantasy and we want you to add another one. The age, race, topics of education or number of students don't matter.

Give us a school/university setting and let something interesting happen!


1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The setting has to be a school.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close September 30th/October 1st, 2019 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2019, 09:59:55 AM by ScarletBea »
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Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [Sep 2019] - School - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2019, 07:19:20 PM »

1385 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

You get your wings when you graduate. That is the rule. That has always been the rule. Having the wings on your chest proves that you are a capable pilot. They would never let you near a thrustjet without them, no matter how badly the war is going. I know they say the war is going well, but they’ve been saying that for years. Since before I entered the Academy. If it’s going so well, I ask myself, how come two generations have been fighting it? I never voice these thoughts though. Cadets have been flogged for less. They used to shoot us for less too, but then they remembered it was, generally speaking, a bad idea to kill your own soldiers.
There’s one way to get your wings without graduating. One exception, but nobody wants to get them that way. Icarus Wings, is what we call them. Only ever awarded posthumously, for valour exceeding expectation. Basically put, it means you sacrificed yourself to save another cadet. And who wants to do that? Wings do you no good of you’re dead. They just get shipped home to sit on your parents’ mantelpiece next to some old photos and an urn holding your cremated remains. If the War Ministry releases your body at all. A lot of the time they don’t.
Still, it’s comforting to know that even if you die you might be able to make someone proud. Even if you don’t get to see it. Because every time you strap yourself into the cockpit of a thrustjet, some part of you knows this could be the one. The last one. The one you don’t come back from. The one that gets you killed. We fly fourteen missions a week at the Academy. Frankly, it’s a miracle more us us don’t die.
Every mission we fly is the same, except for the details. They’re not just training us to fly, you see. They’re teaching us how to follow orders. You need both skills to make it as a pilot, and most folks turn up on day one with half at best.
The flight always starts off the same. A check on all basic systems: thrust, drive, balance, safety. Then we jump into the air and circle the valley until we get orders. I hear they used to do a much tighter circle just around the Academy itself, but there’s a crater in the parade grounds to show us all why they changed the routine before I arrived. The valley is a mile wide and eight long. An airstrip runs from the Academy south, stopping just before a facsimile town populated by plastic dolls and a few cockroaches. Beyond that there’s a patch of woodland and then a swamp. The valley is framed by rolling hills on one side and jagged mountains on the other. They built the Academy here, the town too, because it had every terrain we were likely to fight in. There’s a lot more craters dotted around the place than there were thirty years ago, but the place still serves its purpose. I know this valley better than I know my own home. But I know the inside of my cockpit best of all.
A joystick for each hand, studded with a button for each finger and a switch for the thumb. The sticks control the wings, allowing you to steer Push them left and you go right, push them right and you go left. Once you get used to the inverted axis, it’s simple enough. The switches are for the manoeuvring jets. The buttons control targeting lasers, autoguns and missile launch on the right, with radio, radar, fuel check and front-lamps on the left. It takes a little getting used to, all those controls so close together, but they don’t let you near a real thrustjet until you’ve aced it in the simulators. The final control is the footpad, a single plate on a hinge that controls how much thrust you have. Your overall speed increases the more pressure you apply. It’s a simple enough design, but they’ve had twenty years to perfect it.
Rumours that the machines are getting simpler because of a lack of engineers are quickly stamped out. That’s enemy propaganda that is.
That day, we circled the valley for a full half hour before the mission briefing came in. Orders were simple, just as they would be in a real battle. We were to fly into the mountains, wait for an hour, then fly back in and engage in a dogfight with training drones that would be deployed near the town. Success would only be achieved if we destroyed all of them. Failure had many faces. If we were all shot down, the drones’ guns being able to neutralise our thrustjets without harming us, then we failed. If the drones destroyed the town, then we failed. If we were sighted by any spotters while we ‘hid’ in the mountains, then, you guessed it, we failed.
It being my turn on the rota, I took command of our squadron as we flew out. We stuck to a tight formation, stacked on top of each other like the building blocks I’d had as a child. Very noticeable to anyone on the ground, but it minimised our radar shadow as much as possible. Once we were in the shade provided by the mountains, we hovered in the same formation. Balancing thrust and wing control was tricky, more so when the wind rolled in from the east. This was not a flight pattern we practised very often, but I knew we were good enough to hold it. I knew my wingmates and what they were capable of. The Academy would never has put us in the same squadron if we weren’t friends outside the cockpit. Forget what you see in the threemies, you can’t afford rivalries once you’re in the sky. If you don’t trust the person beside you with your life, you’re better off not flying at all.
After an hour, I gave the signal and we pivoted our formation ninety degrees to the right, so that we formed a horizontal line of thrustjets with myself at the left edge. Pushing the thrust panel as far down as it would go, requiring the strength of both feet, we launched southward, towards the town and our targets. They never saw us coming.
Training drones are ugly little things. Roughly spherical, and studded with targeting lasers. A bar runs vertically through their structure, containing a rudimentary artificial intellect and terminating in an engine at each end. They’re not as fast as a thrustjet, few things are, but they’re more manoeuvrable in tighter confines. The only way we could fight them was with strafing runs. If we got bogged down in close-quarters combat, we were dead in the air. In our first run, we took down half of them, but that was the easy part. By the time we looped back around, they were expecting us.
Lasers flicked through the air, only visible because of our data-filtering helmets. We dodged them pretty well, I thought, but still lost two members of the squadron. I watched on the radar as they received the kill signal and went home for the day. They’d be disciplined later, and would never make the same error again.
Two more passes and the last of the drones disappeared in a haze of congratulatory smoke. It wasn’t really destroyed, none of them were. The Academy could not afford to build new drones for every mission, and our weapons were as fake as theirs. But our feed could be edited so we could no longer see them. If only removing the real enemy from sight were so easy.
We fell into a staggered arrow formation, those of us who were left,a nd circled the town, making sure we had not missed any of our targets. We had not, and I gave the order to return to base. There would be a debriefing there, and an analysis of all we had done wrong. A few words too on what had gone right for us.
No wings earned today, but we were getting closer by the day. Then we could leave the Academy, and do this all for real.


Twitter: @HormannAlex

Offline Nora

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Re: [Sep/Oct 2019] - School - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2019, 11:26:45 PM »
Unlikely Friendship or 'An Impending Catastrophe' - 1500 words

Yeah I've been on a Tolkien bender, but I like peaceful times best.

Also, in case anyone's gonna give me grief, this is a pouf.
Spoiler for Hiden:

They come in all shapes and sizes and this one is the original moroccan design.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Ellois opened the virio he'd received in the mail with a sigh. He turned to watch Bulla collapse on the pouf next to his with a grunt.

'I have one also,' the orc said, baring her fangs in what looked like a sympathetic smile but Ellois knew was really a grimace of dread. She twirled a little roll of parchment between her tapered fingers. 'Family not so good with technology, but same crap, you don't worry.'

Ellois laughed. 'Shall we open them together then, and find out if things have calmed down back home?'

Bulla snorted and popped the seal of her letter. 'Friend, if the news is peace, I change career, buy the Cut-Boulder inn and you drink free every night your entire life.'

'Deal,' he said, without worrying of ruining his friend's prospects.

The pure indignation of his parent, family, and the bemused wonder of his entire clan was something he'd foreseen when he'd announced he was joining the new inter-species course of the dwarvish Bolarukt Metallurgic University. He'd expected all of the unexpected. But that, as an elf, he'd find himself becoming closest to an orc lass had not made the list of his wildest speculations. It also hadn't made the list of things he'd written home about.
"Feels quite lonely, this campus under the mountain! Turns out I'm the sole elf here (haha!), but not to worry, foreigner's club is welcoming and diverse, made friends with another loner! Charming Barung orc named Bulla–"
He probably would have gone home to find his entire forest bereft of elves, his home-tree tacked with his disinheritance and banishment.

The virio's gold threading shimmered, expanding and vibrating as they formed the image of his sister's face. Her voice came tiny and distorted. She sounded exasperated. She was the one who'd started the virio message, and warned that when their mother's turn came, she might insist he come home for the Bel-Lunar feast.

"You know, I think she hopes you'll refuse? Half the family will pester you to remain, half our friends will want to put you at the forge to see how "tainted" your skills are, and right about everyone will want to hear your stories, and get fed in the process." She laughed then, a brittle sound, "I personally hope you come dressed in dwarven mail and with a filthy long beard. Give them something to be so shocked about, they'll stop plaguing me for news, get my drift?"

She was right too, his mother's message was to ask him to return for the festivities. "Maybe bring something special? Some assignment you made, that would reassure the family?"
His father, looking tired and hard-pressed, appeared next, and then the two cousins who worked with him in the family forge. It was all pleas, gossip, and grief. The usual.

'You're safe Bulla,' Ellois said, folding the metal cage over his grinning cousin's face.

The orc didn't reply. She was starring dead ahead into nothingness. Ellois glanced around the room, just in case. They weren't alone of course, he could tell from the four pair of halfling feet that cropped up from the large couch by the fireplace. The inseparable group spent every afternoon break napping on that couch, and they sat there too in the evening, feet towards the fire this time. They'd effectively turned it into a sort of inland halfling nation that none of the other members of the Foreign Student Lounge dared infringe upon. Two humans, Mel and Ardan, a couple now, were playing a game of Atrib in a corner and not minding anyone else.

'Is it bad news then,' he asked, turning back to his friend. She looked like some blue-quartz statue with inlaid obsidian eyes, she was so still. Ellois snapped his fingers.

'Ah!' Bulla started. 'Yes. News. No, not bad.'

'Wait,' Ellois felt a shiver down his spine, 'you're not busy calculating the selling price of the Cut-Boulder are you?'

'Not bad news–terrible. My fair elf friend, you come from precious society, yes?'

Ellois gave her a deadpan glare. They hadn't gone for the passive-aggressive praising in months now.

"I mean you have nice society, full of the feelings.' She made a butterfly motion with her hand, her bone bracelets clicking. 'You let the children do what they feel, marry the person they feel for. Love, yes.'

'Sure,' Ellois said, confused. 'We live a long time. Maybe you can ask a human to put up with another for thirty years, but for an elf to spend centuries with another they do not like, it would be silly.'

'Yes. It is a nice way.'

'What's your practice in Barung?'

'Like this,' she said, grimacing at the parchment, 'by the mother telling her daughter "when you come home this Bel-Lunar break I introduce a fine orc to you. His family is large, runs an armoury, and they were very impressed by your work. He has two fine tusks and black hair like soot, very dashing. Your fathers approve." See, I think I made a tactical error when I sent my chain mail back home.'

Bulla was in the opposite situation to Ellois'. They were both the first of their kind to join the University, but her admittance had been the pride and joy of her family, and had, as far as Ellois could understand the very murky familial politics of Barung orcs, greatly increased their status. She suffered from jealousy, gossip and familial pressure.
Two months prior they'd started the armour course, during which the foreign students had each spent a week teaching everyone some local techniques, before moving to the dwarven four-fold layering of scale-plated cuirasses.
Karli, a Nortern woman, had demonstrated a splendid process to merge mail and plate in a single outfit, and Bulla had worked late into the night to adapt this to light orcish-style armour. She'd made a baby-sized model in copper and sent it home, and then had grinned for two days straight until the engineering professor had told her to quit it with the terrifying teeth display.

Ellois laughed a little. He felt bad for his friend, but it was funny.

'You made yourself too eligible then? Surely you can say no? Don't you have some sort of status matching going on?'

'What do you mean?'

'Well, you can already chat comfortably with the humans in midland-speak, you soak up elvish as fast as I let it out, though you'd need to file your teeth to fix your accent, you're obviously doing great in your dwarvish classes, that's four languages! You'll never be a jeweller but you're already in the top of the armour class. Plus haven't you gotten accepted in the Greater Metalworks studios for the summer months? You'll be smelting Alfuris! You must be the only orc who's ever seen that metal and lived to speak of it."

Ellois was on his knees on the carpet by now, waving enthusiastically. The human couple had turned from their game to listen to his peroration.

'You're a good friend, full of praise,' Bulla said, her cheeks flushed purplish with pleasure, 'but your value of me is– Oh! I see!'

'Right? Why not write home saying your status is much too high now to even think of marrying some armourer?'

'He's right, you know,' Mel called out, 'golden haired and golden tongued, our master elf! But you could be the first orc ambassador to the Midland Marsh as soon as you graduate.'

'Yeah, just don't open a business in the capital, no need for that sort of competition.' Ardan added, eyes already back on the board in front of him.

'Thank you, friends, I think on this now.'

And she did. She thought about what to do as she manned her bellows, thought about what to write as she peered in her crucible, tried to think about nothing as she hammered away, her broad shoulders slick with sweat, creating the assigned shapes.
By the time she arrived at the animated-goldwork class which she shared with Ellois, she'd made up her mind. She would write that she'd been privileged with extra work, and could not return home. It would buy her time.
She'd barely sat down that Ellois was upon her, his golden hair tousled and plastered to his brow, black streaks ran across his cheeks where he'd brushed sweat away carelessly. He looked like he'd run straight from his last forge.

'I have an idea!' The elf cried excitedly. 'I struck down on a piece of silver and it sang and I knew, like I had been speaking to it and it answered back! Haha!'

'What is it?' Bulla asked, bewildered. She'd never seen Ellois this out of sorts, and she'd seen him passed-out drunk under a tavern bench.

'As you know, I also got a message. It came with some advice, "to make a tremendous impression", to solve my own problems.' He grinned, eyes glinting with mischief, 'how would you feel about spending Bel-Lunar feast in an elvish home?'
« Last Edit: October 10, 2019, 11:33:43 PM by Nora »
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Offline bdcharles

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Re: [Sep/Oct 2019] - School - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2019, 02:16:10 PM »
This Other Boy (1424 words excl)

Spoiler for Hiden:
This Other Boy

Bobbinsian. Spires thrusting from the top of Grington Hill like Castle pikesmen standing guard. Halls echoing with each master’s long footfall. And the smells of leather, of old learning, and something ancient. The potent aroma of power, perhaps, bestowed like rare favours following incomprehensible ritual. Power into which a boy was yet to come.

One boy’s knees didn’t quite knock, but it wasn’t far off. The quadrangle was a raucous caper of prefects, thrashing-sticks a-whack at small capped heads.

“Go on,” said his mother.

But one boy didn’t want to move.

“Does baby want a momma’s hug?” she inquired. But even at eight, a boy felt the wrongness of this, of the Headmaster’s sideways glance at that intimate moment. A momma’s hug was for home, not the stout arches and handsome sports-fields of this place. And a boy’s name was stripped from him the moment he stepped through the green oaken door. The final crunch-crunch walk up the pleasant driveway past the rhododendrons had been the time to say goodbye to his first identity. From here on in, Bobbinsian tradition would take over and construct for him a new self; one that was robust, and chock-full of educational vim and vigour. It would select for him a House, named for the ranks of venerable Dukes, Chivalrics and others that had painstakingly worked to raise the school up, brick upon unpitying brick, centuries ago. And to that house he was bound. This boy’s name was bolted onto him like a sign.

Haltip Toct de Brintomet Cancare-Killets von Prectiboe Cribisfule-Cowes, the name-sticker read. Which was even his House, his class, his section? What did all the other denominators mean? He already felt intimidated by the prospect of this new him, who he would become. Would he be unrecognisable to himself? Would he forget his old name? What would become of his relationship to his mother, who was above all a Good Woman? He loved her. Even as she turned away and left him in the musky care of the checked-shirt, leather-elbowed Masters, he knew that.

The door clicked. And over and over, the mantra that Father had drilled into him for months: don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t ever let them see you cry.

“Well, let’s see what we can make of you, then, shall we?” The Master’s voice was all hale spice, big and alien. One boy could run. But the Master’s piglike hand on his narrow shoulder seemed to imply that instead he would be cast into the green space of the vipers’ pit before him, where boys that had jostled for space amid their clashing army of wooden staves moments before fell horribly silent. Then:

“Oi, Henwico, there’s a new boy!”

“Look at the new boy, everyone!”

“Pilkers, you bad motherfucker, get a shitload of this absolute bellend!”

Dormitories. The gaol-cell aesthetic had to have been by design. Only Masters as at Bobbinsian would see fit to subject boys to a prisonlike regimen and claim it was for the betterment of their charges. Character-building, they said. No time for a soft mother’s kiss any more. They even called morning revellie, and rang it in with a frequency of cold water-buckets. Section leaders – normal boys but with the rangy, stretched-out look of natural authority – spoke in hard tones of dragons, not in a magical-storybook way but as though it were some severe phenomenon that was likely heading their way and would crush a boy if he didn’t follow their instructions precisely, not that it ever merited a boy any praise. The best he could hope for was that a thwack would be withheld.

The air was colder than an eternal winter strike.

Sports, an immobility of frozen limbs. Blocky chaps with odd-sounding names roaring at him from out of the fog and bulldozing him over. And yet over the months, something thawed. Like the first crack of the frozen pond under the puny heat of an icy yellow sun, tiny pieces of the puzzle that was Bobbinsian life tumbled into place. And to a boy, the clockwork of it slowly started to make sense. If you could be funny (though not funnier than “Hungerbugger” Picktread), it might save you from being squashed into a muddy puddle. If you had it within you to sprint those short-to-medium distances more switfly than Fat-Lad Jafferdy (who was, this one boy came to realise, shit-out-of-luck in every respect), then some of the long-limbed prefects might look on you with a curious lessening of contempt. You might get the sense that you were being picked for something. It was always a step-up when a Master remembered your name, but you soon learned to attune to their tone of voice, which came in very handy if you needed to psychologically gee yourself up for a Battering.

And beyond it all, as sneakily as winter moving into spring, the threat of dragons.

You learned to manipulate. You practised on the small, the slow, the friendless, but you didn’t dwell, for they would shade your company with their own loserly hue. You got a sense of strata in which you kept your head down while the likes of Jafferdy slowly drowned. You came top in a Languages exam, third on an interschool junior Metaphysics paper. You discovered a geeky love of rhetoric. As root vegetables converted their earthy goodness into long strands of muscle, you found you could keep near the front of the pack in the cross-country jaunts that took you past Froyga (civilisation! people! shops! normal stuff!), along landworked levees, and up the hellish steepnesses of Engcester Hill. That it was a deserted burial ground ringed by a cluster of rotten styles only seemed right as Fat-Lad scored a red trace down one calf following a tangle with a poison bramble. He’d been getting too many Batterings from Picktread lately and it was starting to show in his psyche.

The Running Masters stopped dragging you through briar-patches; they knew how unbecoming it looked. Your own legs grew longer.

Whereas summers had once promised a life of endless sunlit luxury, all that was behind this one boy now. Instead it was a season of zest and hearty triumph. Rumours squatted in dark eaves, telling tales about how this was “the last one”. Zephyrs wrought stories of change on the air, or etched poetry in the high mares’-tails scrolling against the blue. Something was coming, and it was sure to be different. A boy felt excitement at this change. Section leaders called him by his first name – his scholastic one, that was; his own given name was indeed a memory now and he marvelled at the painless efficiency of the process. The boy could only turn from Fat-Lad Jafferdy’s panicked sheep eyes. Fat-Lad seemed impossibly young now, not built for this world. Poor kid. His parents must have hated him. Best to hurry him along to whichever fate awaited him. Some boys thrust compass-needles into his side from time to time.

Sacrifice. It was a virtue much touted; in fact it made its way into the Emblem, albeit warped and disfigured by the knots of ancient language. But everyone did it, everyone talked about it, and they all made great noises about how blindingly their own Sacrifices were going. Everyone but Fat-Lad Jafferdy, that was.

“Come on, Fat-Lad,” this one boy said. “Have a care. What wouldn’t you give to this school?”

But Jafferdy was far beyond speaking, had been reduced to a tongueless keening weeks ago. Such was life. Of course it didn’t help that he was tied to a stake and had old sports-socks stuffed into his mouth. It was only right. You didn’t want the likes of Fat-Lad Jafferdy and his credentials seeping into the wider population. Not when there was so much at stake in the world. A lipless grin formed on a boy’s face at this particular thought.

But no. Oki-Maki himself was due – that was the thing. And this boy in particular had been given the honour of lighting the flame (most achieved, or something), that the colossal winged Sky-Chief might consume its Sacrifice as dictated by centuries of tradition. As Fat-Lad keened louder, a boy thought back on his academic journey. That first day. His mother. The fear of the masters, and everything, everything, so big and arched and far away. And as Oki-Maki devoured the remains of the one crisped boy, a terrible orange eye marked this other boy, marked him alone that he who had come so far was destined for even greater things.

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Offline Jonathan Ryan

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Re: [Sep/Oct 2019] - School - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2019, 09:29:31 PM »
The Queen of War and Sorrow

1500 words.  I hope you enjoy.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Timaeus led her through several corridors along the southeast wing until she was thoroughly lost.  At the tender age of fourteen, Lilith had yet to explore the vastness of the school of magical learning called the Arcanum.  The massive, sprawling complex housed not only young students such as herself, but older, accomplished wizards and witches pursuing various magical studies.  It was truly the greatest house of learning for those in the magical profession.

Her grandfather stopped outside a great wrought iron door carved with a mural of warriors locked in combat.  She recalled a text from history class detailing the final confrontation of King Arthur and his bastard son Mordred. 

She looked questioningly at Timaeus.

The Keeper placed a hand reverently on the door, “You are about to meet a dear friend of mine, Lilith.  He will teach you to control your emotions and hopefully, your magic.  Trust me, Little One, this will be difficult.  It will test you.  That is why this is both your punishment and your salvation against further outbursts like today.  Ok?”

Lilith was pretty sure she wasn’t OK, but she nodded, “Yes, Grandfather.”

They entered a chamber that Lilith could only describe as an arena.  Bleachers lined the walls to her left and right, while rows of weapons were stacked neatly at the far end of the arena.  The floor was layered in sand and gravel that scuffed her shoes as they walked towards its only occupant.  He was tall and greying like her grandfather, with a stern countenance, deep black eyes and a more impressive build.  Whereas Timaeus Darnell was a scholar, there was no mistaking this man for exactly what he was.

As they approached, Lilith watched him slowly move through different forms and poses that fluidly flowed into one another, like a slow, purposeful dance.  Her grandfather whispered to wait while he went to speak with him.  They greeted each other warmly, exchanging the pleasant banter of comfortable old friends, before turning to hushed tones and whispered opinions. 

About me undoubtedly, Lilith thought gloomily, What the hell did Grandfather bring me here for?

Before she could muse any further on her current situation, her grandfather bade farewell to the man and began walking back to her but before she could inquire, he walked straight passed her, winked and whispered, “Have fun, Little One.”

Lilith watched in alarm as he disappeared through the wrought iron door and she was left alone with this man.  She turned slowly around to find him looking at her.  No, she corrected herself.  He wasn’t looking at her, that’s what normal people would do.  He was sizing her up, like a predator analysing it’s prey, looking for signs of strengths and possible weaknesses to exploit.

He shook his grey streaked head as he approached her, “Well your old pops sure was right, you haven’t an ounce of discipline and you sure as hell ain’t a fighter.  Not yet anyway.  Come on, let’s see how you do.”

Before Lilith could reply, his left hand shot towards her in a straight punch, aiming for her face.  If she had been a normal, pure blood human, he would likely have broken her nose.  But Lilith was not normal, and she most definitely was not pure-blooded human.  She moved her head to the left and spun away from his strike, putting several feet between them.

He smiled, grinned actually, like he expected her to react that way, “And there it is, that reaction speed.  The tainted blood of the fey coursing through you.  Even without training your reflexes are astounding.”

“It’s not polite to hit a girl without introducing yourself first you know.”  Lilith said as she kept her distance.  She could feel her anger rising, first he attacks her and then insults her?

His grin turned to laughter, “And you’re a smartass, just like your father.  Good, I might enjoy this after all.  My name is Magnus.”

That stopped Lilith short.  She was curious now, who was this Magnus?  “You knew my Dad?”

Magnus nodded but didn’t reply.  He circled her, lithe and ready to pounce but seeming utterly relaxed at the same time.  Lilith was amazed, it was like watching a tiger, all coiled power and grace, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice. 

He lunged from the right.  Lilith saw it coming and made to dodged it.  She failed to anticipate however, that it was a feint, and she felt his elbow connect solidly with the side of her head.  She landed heavily on the sandy surface, the grit and dirt entering her eyes and mouth as she gasped in shock and pain.

Magnus bent down to kneel beside her, “You can’t always rely on your natural abilities alone.  You need training, control and above all, discipline.  Especially someone of your…blood.”

Lilith felt it again, the heat rising within her, just like it did in the classroom when Rosalia Thorn insulted her dead mother, insulted Lilith’s silver hair and violet eyes.  Spat on the fey heritage she inherited from her mother, the only remaining link she had to her.  Lilith let the flow of the heat course through her and rode it to the surface, embracing the fury that encompassed her. 

Azure fire erupted, cascading through the arena in a wave of heat and magical energy.  It was euphoric and satisfying as she gave into her need, her anger and desire for retribution against those who wronged her and her family.  She rode the wave of rage and fury until the tide ebbed, lost its edge, spent as quickly as it was released.  The blue flames slowly burned away to embers and finally nothing, but the residual heat left over from the magic.

Lilith regained her senses as the anger dissipated and panic flooded through her.  Magnus! Had she killed him?  He had been right beside her, in the centre of the outburst.  She frantically looked around and was met with the smiling face of Magnus.

Somehow, the grizzled warrior looked pleased, “My my, well aren’t you just full of surprises.  Wondering how I’m not roasted like a well-done steak?”

Lilith nodded dumbly, her words escaping her for once.

“This arena has a bound field that cancels all harmful effects of magic.  You just treated me to the most spectacular light show.  Cheers,” Magnus grinned at her and stood up, gesturing for her to follow, “Come sit for a minute.  Let’s have a little chat before we try that again, eh?”

Lilith joined him on the bleachers, sitting a safe distance away, warily eying him for another attack.  Magnus must have noticed as he smiled and said, “Don’t worry no more sneak attacks.  A history lesson instead.  Come, sit beside me.”

“Have you ever heard of the Queen of War and Sorrow?” He asked as she joined him.

Lilith shook her head.  She never had, which was odd as she loved history, especially anything rooted in mythology, a trait she shared with her deceased parents, “No, who was she?”

Magnus smiled warmly at her, “Firstly, before I continue, I must apologise.  What I said before about your blood, being fey, that was just to get a rise from you.  I needed to see your reaction for my own eyes to best gauge how to proceed.”

Lilith nodded impatiently, she wanted to hear more about the queen, “Apology accepted.”

Magnus nodded in approval and grinned again, “Very well.  Eager to learn, aren’t you?  An admirable trait.  The Queen of War and Sorrow is a mythical figure even among the fey.  She was the first and only of the fey kings and queens to unite the courts into one unified fey nation.  Her name has been long forgotten now by history, but one truth remains above all else.  Can you guess what made her so different, so capable of bringing together the Courts of Winter and Summer?  When Titania and Mab failed repeatedly?”

Lilith sat for several moments, deep in thought as she delved in the recesses of her mind for an answer.  Eventually she gave up, “No, I can’t.  But I’m sure you’re gonna tell me?”

Magnus shook his head but was smiling as he did, “That lip of yours will get you in trouble, you know that right?  She was a halfling, like you are Lilith.  She had humanity, she had compassion and understanding.  Something her counterparts sorely lacked.  It was this that gave her the strength to unite them in their most dire hour.  But in the end, it was also her downfall.”

“Why?  What happened?”  Lilith was intrigued now, her thirst for history was piqued.

Magnus stood and crossed the sandy floor to the centre of the arena, spreading his arms in invitation with a mischievous smile on his face, “Dodge my attacks while keeping a rein on that temper and I’ll consider telling you, deal?”

Lilith smiled, the idea of the challenge and the reward at its completion compelling her to try.  She nodded, “Deal.”
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

- George R. R. Martin