Fan fiction:The Mage Academy of Gea Kul/Chapter Seven
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Long conferences ensued after the event, meetings of exactly the sort I least enjoyed. One of my main goals as Archmaester had been to reduce the endless bickering and tedious discussions that had formerly characterized so much of the day to day management of the Academy. Not every Maester needed to weigh in on every issue. Especially not those who simply enjoyed the sound of their own voices. In my first year as Archmaester I'd implemented a token system, where each Maester was given five coins before any meeting. They had to spend one each time they wished to speak, an expense that gave even the most congenital windbags pause for thought.
No coins were passed out before the discussions of "The Burning Girl," as some of the Maesters took to calling the incident with Zia, and if they had been I would have needed to empty the Academy's treasury to support the debate. Every Maester talked, and talked, and talked, turning over this particular event, and digressing to discuss the whole improbable year Zia had spent at the Academy. My instructional methods were criticized, cutting accusations of impropriety were hurled in every direction, and there was widespread disagreement about what to do next. To my surprise though, the biggest point of contention was what sort of spell Zia had used to broil her classmates.
Both novices had survived without any permanent scarring, and neither could say what had happened. They'd entered their dormitory, noticed that the floor was scorching, leapt onto a table, and not awakened until they were being carried to the infirmary, ice dripping from their blistered bodies.
The clear and unequivocal testimony of myself and Maester Jennin was examined from every direction, as though our words had been found in some ancient text, and were subject to interpretation.
"There was no flame!" Jennin repeated for the tenth time, only the restraining arms of two other Maesters holding him back from storming around the table and physically assaulting the badgering and frankly disbelieving Maester Gutherie.
"So says your report," said Gutherie, his voice as precise and annoying as ever, "And yet there is no known form of magery that can create such heat without it. Perhaps the girl had summoned forth a great flame, only to dispel it just before you entered the dormitory?"
Jennin mopped his face with his hands, before slamming them down on the table. "There was no flame. There was no glow of light. In fact the room was dark, lit only by a few melted candles. The door to her room was open long before I arrived. All the doors in the dormitory were thrown open by Arch Maester Yun's spells. Furthermore, the heat was not coming from just her room. The entire complex of rooms was hot enough roast a boar, and the girl was out of her mind! She hadn't cast, or dispelled any enchantments recently. The Archmaester threw enough ice at her to bring on an early winter, and even once she was calmed down and moved to the lounge, it took an hour for her to return to her senses!"
"Oh yes, and she had silver eyes. Silver? My, that is unusual. I have had the pleasure of speaking with the girl several times, and I'm fairly certain the objects behind her lids were always blue." Gutherie's tone was mocking, and as Jennin sputtered and began again to repeat his testimony, I realized what was driving Gutherie. He didn't understand Zia's power, and it frightened him. He felt powerless before it, and by using clever words and sarcasm to belittle others, he gained a tool to ward off the fear. I was usually the most diplomatic of Archmaesters, but the conference had gone on for far too long already.
I stood up and raised my hands high, so the sleeves of my robe fell down and bared the shining gold bracelets that marked my position. I seldom displayed any of the trappings of power that came with the Archmaester position, but it was sometimes necessary to remind the other Maesters under whom they served. When I spoke, my volume drowned out all the muttering in the room.
"Sir Gutherie! Your oratory skills are superb, far outstripping your magical abilities, or those of anyone on your end of the table. I realize that a student, especially such a young one, manifesting an unknown ability is shocking to all, but I assure you, Maester Jennin, myself, the two injured students, and all the melted metal fittings and scorched furnishings in the novices dormitory did not simply imagine the heat. Nor did the ceiling of the servant's quarters below."
Gutherie and Richelieu, his chief sycophant, tried to interrupt, but I moved on quickly.
"'The girl,' as you so brusquely refer to her, has been at this Academy for less than a year, and yet has routinely amazed your fellow Maesters with magical abilities far beyond those we black-robed geniuses can produce. If you've heard nothing of this, speak with some of your fellows. They can bring you up to speed -- I haven't the time. Since you so clearly disbelieve the evidence we have presented, I propose that you conduct a private interview with Zia, once she's feeling more herself. So long as there is another Maester present, you may quiz her on the strange heat with which she nearly killed us all. Perhaps she will gift you with the same demonstration she lavished upon those two novices."
Gutherie blustered at that, but he could hardly object to such a logical solution. Not that I gave him a chance to.
"With that resolved, let us move onto more important matters. What are we to do with Zia? She's been here for less than a year, but there are any number of reasons why it would be ludicrous to place her with the other first or second ranks."
I paused there an instant, leaving a gap into which Maester Dominick neatly inserted himself. "Zia is stronger with electrical spells than the fifth levels I teach. I'd place her standard at or near Maester, in that field."
This statement caused some considerable rumbling, and was openly scoffed at by Gutherie and a few of his cohorts. Their disbelief only grew louder when Maester Shien added her voice. "I can say the same for her talents over ice and water. Zia has attended a dozen of my middle and upper level ice classes, and I have taught her nothing. Her abilities come from within, from a deeper level of magery than that possessed by any Maester in this room."
These and a dozen other cries rang out at once, and I let them chatter for a moment, until their magpie squawking began to grow too heated. At that point I interrupted, standing and raising my arms and clanging the bracelets together. They emitted a unique pealing tone that all Maesters were sworn to respect. However grudgingly. I spoke quickly, before they could fall to squabbling again.
"I propose a test. A ritual!" That got their attention. We Maesters had passed countless tests to obtain our ranks, and were therefore predisposed to inflict them upon others.
"Zia must be advanced to a higher rank; that much is indisputable. And she must be tied most tightly to our Academy. Now, only her novice tattoo marks her as a student. If we are to continue revealing our most secret methods, she must swear fealty and obeisance, and make the appropriate vows. We do not normally ask so much of a novice, but Zia is no normal student. If she passes the required exams, if she can walk unbowed through the flame and ice, she will be placed into the fifth level, where her instruction will focus chiefly on control, discipline, and mental strength. Her magery is unquestioned; it's her focus and willpower that must be improved."
My bold proposal set off another explosion of debate, but I knew I had them. While a novice was sometimes advanced straight to the second level, and exceptional students had sometimes skipped other, higher level ranks, advancing a novice to the fifth level was without precedent. Still, the Maesters were intrigued, for I had said that Zia must pass the tests, and it had ever been a policy at the Academy that none were denied advancement if they proved worthy.
With that established, the argument soon turned to the nature of the ordeals Zia must endure, rather than the proposal that she be offered them at all. And with that, I knew I had won. I sat silently, trading a few knowing looks with Maester Shien, as the skeptics and doubters hashed out the terms of the exams. There was much to debate, for the normal fifth level requirements were inapplicable to Zia, containing as they did so much memorized material from books she had not yet been permitted to read. But she must be tested, and tested firmly, but fairly, for we Maesters prided ourselves on our fairness. Especially when we were most vainglorious.
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