Fan fiction:The Mage Academy of Gea Kul/Chapter Five
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In retrospect, it's surprising that events took so long to turn ugly. After all, I had mismanaged nearly every aspect of Zia's education. I'd failed to quash the cruel rumors, I'd put the girl on a special instructional program without ever explaining it to her fellow students, and I'd expected understanding and approval from my fellow Maesters, knowing they could not be relied upon to agree on the color of the sky from one moment to the next. Worst, I'd entirely underestimated the power of jealousy, envy, and wishful thinking. I did sometimes worry about how well Zia was fitting in, but I was kept so busy administering the Academy, jousting politically with the nobles and royalty of Gea Kul, and overseeing the deliveries of food and other supplies, that I neglected my uppermost duty. To instruct and protect the students.
During the ninth and tenth months of Zia's presence, I began to hear regular reports of quarrels amongst the students. These were not unheard of; the students at the Academy were brilliant, driven, and highly-competitive, and the advancement exams were brutal. It was not uncommon for less than a third of the students in a given rank to survive the grueling trials and move up a level, with the failure rate increasing at the higher ranks. Under those circumstances, it was only natural that their tension spilled over into occasional conflict, but so long as none of the students broke the rules about using magery outside of a supervised classroom situation, and no one was badly injured, the incidents were overlooked.
I should have realized that the conflicts were more frequent than usual, and that most of them were motivated by the same thing; men clashing over their delusions about Zia. Most of the male students had convinced themselves that Zia had romantic feelings for them, that she meant something special by the embraces she had bestowed upon them, and that it was only a matter of time until their friendship took a more passionate turn. Most of the female students were sure that Zia was sleeping with a different male student every day, and spending her nights engaged in carnal relations with the Maesters. I'm less sure how the Maesters felt, but I know there was no shortage of infatuations with Zia amongst them, and that many suspected their fellows of taking highly inappropriate liberties with the girl. Liberties they themselves were too noble and chivalrous to pursue.
None of it made any sense, and if I'd looked more closely at my own highly conflicted feelings for the girl I might have gained some valuable insight. I did not, sadly. Not until many months later, when disastrous events made such an analysis as unavoidable as it was overdue.
At the time though, nearly one year into Zia's time at the Academy, I felt that I had things under control.
I'd been moving Zia around regularly, not allowing her to stay too long in any class or with any Maester. This seemed to be working; no one spent enough time with her to grow truly obsessed. Well, almost no one. I spent an hour or two with her every week, tutoring her on the teleportation techniques she still found elusive, and helping to supplement her education in any other necessary areas. Zia learned at amazing speed, absorbing information from books nearly as readily as the scholarly Maester Shien, but her youth, inexperience, and the short time she'd spent at the Academy handicapped her in some areas.
With the wisdom of hindsight, I've come to believe that my educational approach was all wrong. While Zia was brilliant and quick to learn, she was also afflicted with a short attention span. Other than the teleportation, which she'd worked doggedly at for months, she tended to learn things almost at once, and then move on to something new. This had given her a massive amount of knowledge, but no mastery, and no deeper understanding of any aspects of magery. Furthermore, by popping her from class to class so often, she met all of the students and Maesters, but did not spend much time with any of them. As a result she was known by everyone, but understood by no one. Perhaps only I, out of the entire Academy, knew how many doubts she felt about her skills, or understood how hard she worked and how important the magery was to her. Everyone else simply saw a beautiful young girl who was perfect at everything and who was given all sorts of special privileges by the Archmaester. No amount of smiling and friendliness from Zia could offset the general impression that she was spoiled, pampered, and specially groomed for success.
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