Fan fiction:The Mage Academy of Gea Kul/Chapter Nine
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For the first two or three months of Zia's second year, I thought things were going well. A common delusion of mine, I've realized in the months since.
Zia had suffered some teasing and cruel rumors from the other students, and of course the complaints about her receiving special treatment were only increased by her leaping straight from novice to Fifth, but aside from word about her brand getting out, and some nasty comments about her now having another excuse to spread her legs, the overall treatment was more jealous and resigned than spiteful. I tried to keep a close eye on Zia, and when she remained friendly and cheerful my worries subsided. The girl was utterly possessed by her studies, and seemed to enjoy a healthy relationship with a number of the other Maesters as well. Even the skeptical Maester Gutherie seemed to have come around.
There was one potential problem. By a quirk of fate, the current fifth rank class was almost entirely male. There was just one other female, since four women and one man had advanced to the sixth rank a few months earlier, when their trials were held. Zia thus became just the second female Fifth, and was housed in a private room with her only fellow, Kara. It was a strange balance for the class, with Zia, Kara, and sixteen men, all of whom were at least seven or eight years older than Zia. It wasn't forever; there were a number of promising female Fourths, and half a dozen of the male Fifths would surely advance come next year's trial.
In retrospect though, like so many other things Zia faced at the Academy, that sort of gender differential seemed a clear recipe for trouble. Once again, I failed to discern it at the time, and even thought it might be a good thing. After all, Zia had had the most trouble with other females, and now she would only be around one woman on a regular basis. Furthermore, Kara was thirty-one, plain, and destined for a life of scholarship and study. I hoped that she could act as a mentor and a role-model for Zia, in behavior if not magery, since her modest and hard-won talents could not hold a candle to Zia's raw power, and their career paths could not have been more different.
It wasn't until much later, after Zia's apocalyptic departure, that I learned how much Kara had enjoyed her private room, and how deeply she resented having a roommate forced upon her. Especially one who had all the beauty, grace, and male attention she'd never enjoyed herself. Even Zia's friendliness worked against her, as she tried to treat all of the fifth rank men equally, a tactic that nurtured a delusional infatuation in the lot of them. Worst of all was the fact that Zia was so young and inexperienced. She'd been on an equal footing with the other novices and first levels, since few of them were past their early twenties. Living in a small dormitory with more than a dozen men, all of them a decade older, many of them determined to win her affections, was quite a different experience.
But who could Zia confide in? Kara hardly spoke to her, and she was not very close to any of the female Maesters. I'd often hoped that Zia would take to Shien, but though they were cordial to each other, there always seemed to be some obstacle to their forming a real friendship. She got along with many of the male Maesters, me best of all, but I was the Archmaester, and I can only suppose that the formality of the student/teacher relationship kept Zia from unburdening herself to me. We spoke regularly, before and after our private sessions, but the problems she asked me about were always related to magery.
Still, for all the emotional turmoil she was living through, Zia's magery continued to progress by leaps and bounds. She could cast any spell, once she learned the incantation, and with practice she quickly refined her ability to summon elemental forces. She even mastered teleportation, though the related skill of changing her appearance continued to prove vexing. Zia could alter her features, but she always remained beautiful and radiant. I told her once I would know her with any face, just by her smile, and she laughed and said perhaps she could make herself a face with no mouth.
By the fifth month of her second year, I began to wonder what else the Academy had left to teach her. Zia did not know everything, but she could learn anything with remarkable speed, and at the urging of some of the Maesters she'd begun researching ancient, forgotten lore. Many spells and techniques that had once been known were now lost, forgotten over the centuries, and it was thought that perhaps Zia, with her uncanny knack for cutting straight to the elemental heart of so many spells, might unlock some of the secrets.
In this way we were already treating the girl as half a Maester, and while I know she enjoyed the responsibility, the work it added to her already overburdened schedule surely contributed to the final break. Twice during her last month at the Academy she fell asleep in my study while waiting for me to finish other work and begin our teleportation lessons. Each time I took a moment to gaze upon her face, her visage perfectly peaceful in repose, before waking her. I worried about her, dozing off like that, but I felt flattered that she trusted me enough to sleep in my office, her legs curled beneath her as gracefully as a cat. When she woke she was always alert and full of excuses and apologies for her napping. Which I, fool that I was, accepted at face value.
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