Solo Terror and Tedium

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

Terror and Tedium

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on July 10th, 2014, 10:56 pm

80th Day of Summer, 514AV
The University of Zeltiva
West Wing
15th Bell

"Are you... sure this is the building you're looking for?"

Nate closed his eyes, counted to five... no, best make that ten... and told himself yet again that if he heard that one more time, he was going to hurt someone.

Wonderful way to start your education, boy.

It'd be worth it.

No, it wouldn't.

"Quite sure," the big, broke-nosed and weather-faced Sunberthian said in a bright voice to the squinting old man behind the desk, rapping his uneven knuckles on the wooden chair he sat on, "Or at least I hope it is, eh?"

That joke might have fallen flat in Sunberth; a little high-brow and lacking in physical (i.e. bloody and painful) humor, but not here. Weak as it was, the professor gave the fresh face a smile and a nod, surprised as he was that such a brute could have any grasp of comedy that didn't involve pies and rakes to the face.

Nate was growing used to that look. Like a dead animal under a doctor's scope. Broad, well-fed faces that silently screamed "You don't belong here". It wasn't Johnny's Casino or Al's fighting pit or even the gutters and alleys of home, but... it was nerve-wracking. Because here, he couldn't just lash out. He had to hold himself tight, from the inside out, with his possessions across his back and his head forced high, shoulders back.

What did you tell the girl back home? Head high, back straight, broad steps. Act like the predator, not the prey, and the jackals won't touch you. This is no different... well, yes, it is, but it's just... a different kind of predator.

"And, ah... you said you were... unsure as to which course you would like to enroll?"

"Well, ah, I've been giving it some thought, sir-"

"Professor Geloron, please."

Nate nodded obediently and repeated the name, earning another nod. Ah, so they had titles and everything when they taught you here? He'd remember that. He reached around as he talked, unlimbering the fiddle case over the shoulder not bearing the weight of his traveling bergen.

"I thought I would try some... trade, like a stone mason or carpenter or something like that, but I haven't done much of that..."

Much? Gods, that wasn't even an evasion or a vagary: it was an outright lie. Extortion, theft, grievous bodily harm, little-league racketeering, these were Nate's areas of expertise. Working as a guard on Strabo's mule carts and hefting their contents was the closest thing he had to a legitimate "trade". But fortunately, he had a fall back.

He patted the oddly-shaped box. Geloron knew exactly what it was, and wondered how such a plain-dealing thug had acquired it... and shuddered to think of what horrors he could inflict with it.

"I would like to learn to play this good."



"Play it well, Mister Ankah," Professor Geloron said with an indulgent smile, "And try 'pardon me' as opposed to 'huh'. It has... a better sound to it."

Nate was far from an intellectual, but he wasn't stupid, and he'd had enough of these sneers. "You mean better than some Sunberth savage who'd fuck you over for the gold in your teeth?"

He regretted it the moment the words left his mouth. Professor Geloron blinked, just once, for longer than he had to, as if he couldn't believe it either. Nate's face flushed and he shuffled in his chair, looking away... feeling something clench in his guts.

Nice going, you fucking moron. First day here and he's going to kick you out because you couldn't just-

"Exactly so, Mister Ankah."

Professor Geloron continued, and Nate was... intrigued. There was iron in that tone now, just like there was in his eyes, but it was the hardness of a man who had been met with a challenge and sought to conquer it. The professor was smaller, thinner, older... but that mattered little in this place. Here, a man such as him as a giant, and Nate was puny. But despite that-

"But that is just one of the benefits of learning to speak the Common tongue correctly. Once you have gain proficiency... that means you can play well-"

"Ah, thanks."

"-your fiddle, there, you will undoubtedly be looking for venues and patrons to play it at and for. Who do you think they will be more well-disposed towards? The foul-mouthed gutter rat, or the gentleman who knows words with more than two syllables?"

"What's a syllable?"

"I'm sure you'll cover that, too. In the meantime, do you understand me?"

"I understand, s... Professor Geloron." Nate's eyes flickered down and he cleared his throat. "I apologize for the crudeness."

The aged educator chuckled and wrote something on a fresh script of parchment, ripped from a book of the stuff that was ever at his elbow. The desk was overflowing with paper, scrolls, books, chits, letters, everything you would think to use papyrus for, it was there.

"You are not the first Sunberth boy to come to use for an education, Mister Ankah. Nor shall you be the last. Most of your people don't care to educate themselves of the wider world, and that is their curse. But every few years, one of you fellows with callused knuckles and rough skin and a curious minds lumbers in here-"

The parchment folded neatly after a dusting of sand was applied to staunch the excess ink. Professor Geloron's face was set in a neutral look, but his eyes danced with amusement... and, oddly enough, hope.

"-and we are happy to aid them in their path. Obey the rules, follow your teachers and their lesson plans, apply your mind, and you will have what you seek, Mister Ankah. There is the lesson plan for Professor Thalia's class, which begins on the first day of the Fall. Unfortunately you'll be unable to attend formal lessons until then, but you can feel free to... mingle with the students."

Another oddity, Nate thought as he took the scrap of paper. He seems just as worried about me as he would be about them.

"I... thank you, Professor Geloron. I thank you for your patience. Oh, there was one other thing..."

Professor Geloron nodded with a grave air, as if he'd been expecting this problem. He steepled his hands and grimaced behind his bushy moustache. He thought this might be a problem, but the Council had to be firm on certain matters.

"We do not offer Student Aid, Mister Ankah, if that is what you are about to ask," he said in his best negotiations-are-over tone, "But if you would be willing to work for one of the-"

"Oh, no, I have my own gold," Nate broke in with a wave of his hand, and Geloron could have sworn he absented the "Professor" part deliberately. Ah, well: his fault for just blithely assuming, he supposed. "I was referring more to, ah..."

"... to what, son?"

Something made an odd sound from below the desk. Not quite a whine, certainly not a growl, but all of it added up to a querelous question. Both Sunberth street daemon and Zeltiva scholar looked under it at the same time... and came face to face with the same regal, canine face blinking chocolate brown eyes owlishly at them.

"Oh. And this is...?"

"Meet Jorka, Professor Geloron. She's very happy to meet you."

"How can you tell?"

"She hasn't bitten your face off." A brief pause that was not interrupted by laughter. Ah, there was that famous Sunberth sense of humor. "Um... that was a joke, Professor. She's actually quite gentle."

"Hmm. As long as others don't attempt anything foolish, correct?"

"She does make a fine guard dog, Professor. That's why I got her, after all."

Geloron made that same contemplative "hmm" again and his moustache seemed to swell and switch as he pursed his lips under it, scrutinizing the quite oblivious Jorka like she was a trick algebra formula. He'd heard plenty of horror stories about these Akinva Deerstalkers. Big, strong, fast dogs that are designed to take two three-hundred-pound deer are definitely a danger to a mere human... but this one didn't seem too threatening.

And, with that innate ability all teachers seemed to have, the Professor found a way to work it to his advantage.

"Well, I'll speak plain to you, Mister Ankah, the wardens won't like it," he put up a hand before Nate could argue, "But... considering you are in earnest, we will ensure you have a bottom floor dormitory in the Living Quarters so you can have her... do her business with all promptness, and we will charge you an additional... we'll say, ten gold-rimmed mizas, for the inconvenience to the poor folk who will be wiping up something other than spilled shaving water, hmm?"

"That... seems fair, Professor."

"We'll be keeping an eye on you, young man," Geloron said, driving the point home and knowing Nates sort would take that as a warning to be on his best behavior... which was just what he wanted. "You'll have a back yard, remember? Make sure the lady uses it."

"I will, s...Professor."

"Would you be able to pay in advance?"

"Class and Jorka Fee?" Geloron's face twitched under his moustache; an aborted smile, and one he couldn't help. Huge and powerful and undeniably dangerous as this Nathaniel appeared, Geloron could not find fault in his intentions. "Of course."

That and he had cash in hand. Oh, if every student could be thus...

Nathaniel counted out each coin from his purse until there were forty of them on Geloron's desk, golden rims glinting like eclipsed Synas. The old man gathered them up and transferred them all into a lock box under his desk. Out of instinct, Nate noted the location, eyes flashing to it eagerly before looking away-

-not quite fast enough.

"Don't get any ideas," the Professor said, only half-joking, "There is more than just iron and a strong lock protecting University funds, son."

"Ah... speaking of which..."

Professor Geloron blinked a few times before his eyebrows shot up like startled caterpillars and his mouth opened briefly to give an "ah" of understanding. But Nate could see some kind of... was that disappointment? His eyes, his body language... something uncomfortable there.

"I take it you mean the College of Djed, in the East Wing?"

"Yes, Professor. There are a couple of magics I would like to attempt."

A soft, weary sigh; oddly enough, given his age, Nate didn't expect that sound from the old man. Geloron was so animate, so passionate about what he did, and he was still doing it into his seventh decade. But at the mention of the Djed College he seemed to... crumple, a little. As if the weight of the future were pressing on him.

"You and so many others, Mister Ankah. It seems like fewer students every year have time for music and mathematics and art and the trades."

Nate rallied well, he thought. He grasped what came near to him, which happened to be Kay's words: pragmatic and common sensical at all times.

"Men will always need a trade, Professor. That means they'll always need places like this."

"Hmm... point made, Mister Ankah." The smile rallied, all the more avuncular and genuine for being buried under that fat bushel of hair. "Other side of the Wright Library, in the East Wing. Once you get to the Library, you should start seeing the signs directing you there."

"I thank you again, Professor."

The old man waited until Nathaniel was up before he did the same, shaking his hand warmly... and holding on a tick longer. When Nathaniel's brown crinkled and he met the old professor's gaze, there was a warning stark in them.

"Be careful with the mages, Mister Ankah. Wondrous things they do, but those that temper with such energies foolishly..."

He left unsaid what Nathaniel's imagination could evoke well enough. Towering over him by nearly a foot, Nate bent almost double in his bow of farewell, clicking his teeth and getting Jorka at his side in a tick.

"A third time, I thank you. I will remember what you said."

"Good man..."

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Terror and Tedium

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on July 22nd, 2014, 3:16 am

Professor Stonemiller's Office, East Wing
Half-a-bell later

If the West Wing struck Nate as being thick and full with the weight of history, the East Wing seemed to cry of a sleek, slick future. Centuries-old brocades and moldings were a rarity there; instead it was white plaster and bright red bricks and oak panelling and ceilings that he swore still smelled of moss and bark.

The students were different, too. Those of the West Wing - scholars, mathematicians, historians and tradesman, or all training to be - walked with purpose but not with haste. Their eyes held musings and ancient questions that their own minds would tackle and, perchance, mold a little further along the endless line of understanding. But the mages-to-be that scuttled by the towering Sunberthian now were thinner, sharper, eyes burning with a passion not just to know but to master.

Sometimes they would glance over him, and the thrill of disquiet he had seen in others was oddly absent from them. He was not a potential threat in this wing; he was merely an unusual specimen. Which made sense to the bigan, though he chafed at the understanding.

Why would they fear a simple lunk like you? Half of them could probably roast you with a word, and the others could turn you into a toad.

Hardly comforting thoughts for one who'd measured his success by physical prowess, but whoever said enlightenment was always pleasant?

Any road, he kept on walking until he found the door he'd been looking for. A few questions along the way had earned him a name: Professor Stonemiller, Head of the Djed College. Well, if you're going to talk to anyone, you talk to the Head, right?

Nate braced himself as he stood before the polished oak door, calming his breath, steadying his nerves. Who knew what sorcerers quarters pay beyond that doorway? What power crackled from such a ranking mate, like lightning from a brass rod? All the stories of Nate's childhood whispered and warned him at once as he lifted his hand, but know he did, and enter he would.


All in all, it was a little disappointing.

No bubbling cauldrons or skeletons grinning down at him from the walls. No intricate series of whirly pipes pumping noxious fluids. No entrails or crows or intimidating grimoires groaning with forbidden lore. Nate actually looked around the messy study as if expecting... something well, more befitting the lair of an arch-mage.

Professor Stonemiller looked up from the season's tuition accounts and cocked an eyebrow at the decidedly unusual specimen filling his doorway. Rarely had he ever seen an eager would-be wizard so broad, nose broken, skin tanned and leathery from Syna and from hard work. Eyes hard and watchful for danger looked out under thick eyebrows, and a rough-looking hound stayed at his heels the entire time.

Of course, that wasn't all he saw. Just the tip of it, actually.

"How can I help you?"

"Professor Stonemiller?"

"That is the name on the door, young man. And you are?"

"Nathaniel Ankah, Professor. Seeking to join the College of Djed."

Stonemiller replaced the tallies in their correct pile and sat back, studying Nate with a closeness that made his skin crawl more than a little. Never had he seen eyes that pierced him so fully. They weren't dark or cruel by any means, just... knowing. Nate felt like some baleful, inescapable light was pinning him, stripping away his secrets and lies and leaving him just as he was. He swallowed and stepped into the room, weaving around a few piles of books inscribed in languages he couldn't even guess at.

"And why would you wish to do that?"

Ah. Well, that was the core question, wasn't it? Nate had prepared himself for that... and in true Sunberth style, he'd gotten the real answer for his own self, and the answer he expected these learned men wanted to hear.

"I seek to..."

Something told him not to bother with a lie. Stonemiller's unflappable gaze seemed to glint and glimmer in the well-lit office, reflecting his own uncomfortable expression back at him. At his hesitation the old man's head cocked, as if seeing something new, something... worrying.


"... I have heard of this thing called "Morphing". The djed that can make you... change. Shift your shape. Into an animal, a bird, a wolf, anything your mind can envision. I wish to learn that."

"To what end?"

Nate knew he could have taken the seat opposite the man but he felt almost imposing if he did. Instead he stayed standing, straightening his shoulders and clearing his throat yet again. Stonemiller steepled his fingers and kept up his silent vigil.

"I am... not sure, Professor. It has..." Now he struggled honestly for words. All well and good to have an answer for yourself: but putting those words to others? "... captured my will. Ever since I was a boy, I've-"

"Pretended to be a bear? Imagined you had claws and fangs? Looked at birds and wished you could soar with them?"


"Or wished to change your appearance so you may evade the law?" Stonemiller's tone shifted from indulgent to accusatory on the turn of a miza. "Make your fingers and hands into weapons of bone and shell? Or perhaps transform into a daemon's visage to wreak revenge on your enemies?"

Nate spent the silence that followed wondering just how the old man knew all that. His time with Edreina had taught him that knowing one discipline of djed did not mean you knew them all. A mage adept at throwing fire or writing glyphs that could bind djed might not know anything about Morphing, or Malediction, the bone magic she had told him so-loved by the Myrians. Probably not, in fact: mastering one discipline was the work of a lifetime. But several?

Only men like the one that sat placidly across from him would have the will and the sheer decades to make that a reality. But to... see back in time? To read his soul? Nate composed himself after a fashion, gaze as cool and level and honest as Stonemiller's own.

"The last one didn't occur to me. Yet. But it's a good idea."

Stonemiller's lips twitched.

"Morphing..." He said, as if tasting the word, remembering the flavor. "A potent but dangerous discipline, Mister Ankah. There are many in our Asylum who bear the scars of body and soul from pushing too hard and too fast in their studies of it. They are... not the prettiest of specimens."

Specimens. Out from the shadows of his memory, Nate was reminded suddenly of that monstrous Doctor Petrocious in Sunberth. "Doctor". Gods, there was a cruel joke. But the way Stonemillers referred to those who had been crushed by their own djed... it was stark, and worrying.

You have come this far. You did not do so to turn away now.

"I am sure many more leave here with them intact."

"Those who apply themselves, yes."

"You think I cannot?"

"Watch your tone, young man," Stonemiller's voice was still hard, and yet there was no threat in it. Just a simple... suggestion. But it was as final as a scream. "I am Head of this College and every time one of my students ruins himself through arrogant carelessness, it is I who must tell their weeping parents what became of them. Tell them they can only visit their son or daughter in a padded room, and what they see may not even resemble their loved one, or remember them."

Nate shuffled uneasily; a noise thing in size thirteen brass-toed boots. Even Jorka whined in sympathy.

"I meant no offence, Professor. But I am in earnest."

Again that stare bored through him, around him, as if the old man could see balefire springing and dancing around his shoulders. He stroked that ragged beard that stretched down to his chest and exhaled slowly...

"Yes. You are. Is there anything else you wish to learn?"

"I have heard that Shielding is a most... practical, discipline."

Another twitch, and some ember of mirth in those exacting eyes. "Ah. So you wish to be able to use your own djed and protect yourself from others, hmm?"

"Not all mages are so honest."

For a brief tick, there was a crack in Stonemiller's impermeable expression. Some memory, some vision from his fast, bubbling to the surface before being smothered again.

"Oh, yes... there you speak utmost truth, young man..." He reached for a separate audit - damnable quill-scratching about some cleaning expenses, again - before speaking again, as if the matter was settled. "Tuition is thirty gold-rimmed mizas a season, for each course. Will you be paying after your interview or in installments?"

"I can... interview, Professor?"

Stonemiller's eyes flicked back up to him. Nate had the distinct impression he was already expecting him to be leaving.

"All students must undergo three tasks before they enroll in the College of Djed. Firstly, they must take a thorough class on the dangers of overgiving. You are familiar with this term?"

Nate frowned, raking his memory for Edreina's words before nodding. "It is when mages use their djed too much, and it... effects them."

"Hmm. A sanitized way of putting it, for sure, but accurate. You will be instructed in detail as to the risks of using your djed, and how best to minimize and avoid them. If you do not pass it, your tuition will be reimbursed and you will be shown the door. The same goes for the second task."

"Which is?"

"A tour of the Scholar's Asylum, so you may better understand the consequences of disrespecting the power that flows around the world."

Stonemiller actually smiled as he saw Nate's eyes widen slightly, comprehension dawning in his eyes. Those aforementioned cripples and lost mages? They wouldn't be some vague and terrible warning to him. He would see him; hear them. Take from them the warning.

"... I understand. What is the final-"

Another chit torn off. Another name and a set of directions offered to him, most likely. Nate frowned as he sounded out the words.

"Scholar's... As... Asylum... Bethany?"

"A rather irascible young woman, I must say, be eminently useful when it comes to vetting our new students. You will go to her and she will evaluate you to... well, I would like to say my standards, but she is admittedly a little more exacting. Take caution with her, young man, but comprehend: unless she is convinced and can convince me that you are of the proper stuff to learn djed manipulation for teachers such as us, you will learn none. Good luck, Mister Ankah."

The Professor turned back to his charts and tables. He really should consider the offer from the Denvali firm to clean the testing rooms. They charged quite a fair bit less and they were well reputed from friends of his. But, well... they were Denvali, and-

A double handful of gold coins tinkled and thumped onto a spare space on the table. His eyes snapped to it, knowing at a glance roughly how much was there. He looked up again... and saw that saw resolute expression.

It worried him, in the pit of that soul that had seen and endured so much. He'd seen men of light and darkness with that same look. That determination to brave the terrors and tedium of the University and emerge from it enlightened. Or powerful. Stonemiller's mastery of his djed told him this Nathaniel Ankah was not a truly malicious man. Rough, hard, and with plenty of cruelty in his past... but his aura shone with a fierce passion to change his path.

And what is it they saw about what paves the paths to the hells?

"You can wait until after the interview."

"That won't be necessary."

"You're certain of that?"

Nate gave a lopsided smile and clicked his teeth. Jorka got up and to attention in a blink.

"I crossed a sea and left my whole world to learn at this place. To be more than just another crate-lugging dock worker. I never thought that would be easy... and I don't intend to turn back without something to show for it."

Stonemiller smiled again, but it was wary. He'd heard that little speech before, too.

"We shall see, Nathaniel Ankah..."

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Terror and Tedium

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on July 25th, 2014, 1:04 am

The Scholar's Astlum
16th Bell

Nate was no stranger to the sounds of madness. Many a night he'd been roused from slumber or denied it thanks to the gibbering, howling, sobbing insanity walking the streets. Sunberth had no asylums or sanctuary for those cursed by the gods. Those lost, broken minds in shuffling bodies walked and hammered until starvation, disease or perhaps bored gangers shut them up for good.

Nate knew that sound. He recognized it as he passed from the East Wing and into an older section of the University. His ears pricked as a strange concert of noises assailed him. Muttering. Loud arguments in the same voice. Crying, either from despair or helpless mirth. Screams. Always screams...

Nate knew, but never had he been in a place with so much rampant mental illness clustered together, like a dozen poisons all tossed into the same pot. And never, to his recollection, had djed been the cause of it.

Nate was an ignorant man when it came to the affairs of wizards... but even he was doubting the wisdom of packing together dozens of insane mages in close proximity to each other. It seemed too much like piling barrels of far together and just hoping no-one brought a torch-

"Can I help you?"

So one can imagine his surprise when that bright, cheery voice snuck up on him. Reinforced when he spun around and saw a red-headed young woman with a dazzling smile standing before him, eyes curious and unafraid. It took him a few ticks to find his voice, suddenly feeling like he had to be on his best behavior.

"I, ah, yes. I think so. Are you Bethany?"

"Indeed I am. Chief Orderly of the Asylum. I take it you were sent to me by Professor Stonemiller?"

"Yes, he said you were to... evaluate me?"


Something brightened in Bethany's eyes. People usually assumed it was just her apparent joy at being able to spread a little more optimism and happiness, which seemed to be her default state of being. They would be mistaken. Cats looked at mice the same way, and she did all but lick her lips as she looked this new morsel up and down.

A towering specimen, that was for sure. So different from the slender, bookish youths that poured into the College to become great mages. Their minds were so... fluid, and hungry. She found that a wonderful way to bend them to her will, but this one? She could already see a simple determination there to do what he'd come to do. Very... what was that word? Linear?

Ah, well... that could be fun, too.

"Wonderful!" She exclaimed, oozing that charm and enthusiasm that she could turn on like she was lighting a candle. "Well, come into my office and we'll get started, Mister...?"

"Ankah." Nate said with his best Pretty Lady Smile, extending one broad, tanned mitt and enveloping hers. "Nathaniel Ankah."

"It is a pleasure to meet you..."










That made his tester pause and cock an eyebrow a him. Gods, and he thought answering honestly to the woman question was a mistake? As has been stressed, Nate was a blind man among falcons when it came to the College of Djed, but he'd a lifetime to perfect the art of telling more powerful people what they wanted to hear so they accepted him (or, where he came from, didn't kill him). Bethany's main purpose was to peer into the souls of all the new fish swimming into the College, and any idiot would tell you that anyone who instinctively associated djed with power was an-

"Interesting answer."

"Honest answer, ma'am. Djed is power. It's, ah... energy. Like a volcano or lightning. Difference is, we can use it."

"And what would you use it for?"

"I covered that with the Professor."

Bethany had years of practice in covering her emotions, so it was no hardship to hide the flash of irritation she felt. Ah, and she wasn't one, was that it? Typical, brutish, superior male. Just like the rest. One mistake, one misstep, and they tarred you for life. Well, fine. It have her a chance to practice her skills...

"Well, now I'm asking."

She spoke with a coy smile, gripping his eyes with her stare and sending waves of pleasing, calming djed soaking into his thick skull. Then she leaned forward a little, arms crossed under her breasts, drawing just enough attention to them.

Males. One didn't even need bother with djed. A pair of well-presented mammary glands was enough to make them pliable.

"Don't you trust me, Nate?"

The big Sunberthian opened his mouth to say "well, of course not", but he seemed to be having a change of heart in that same tick. Who was he to be so suspicious, anyway? The girl had been polite, honest, pleasant... all one could ask for. Nate could see no lies or deceit under that cheerful smile, and besides, this was her job, wasn't it? So he smiled back at her and nodded, almost bashfully.

"I... suppose so, ma'am."

"Bethany," she coped gently, closing the trap, "You can call me Bethany. 'Chief Orderly' sounds so formal and 'Ma'am' is for old ladies. Do I look like an old lady, Nate?"

"Not at all, ma-Bethany."

A demure flick of her eyes. The hint of a smile to match the hint of lust she placed in his mind. Oh, yes. Far easier than women. She cleared her throat and continued, glancing down at her notes as if she actually had something worthwhile written in them, eager to see what this Sunberth savage had lurking in his dome.

"So, Nate... why do you want to learn how to change your shape and shield against the powers of others so badly?"

Part of him knew this was... too easy. Too convenient. Too... safe. Nothing in Nate's world was safe, even here, hundreds of miles from the festering open sore of Sunberth, where there were dozens who'd love to see him dead and hundreds more who'd do the deed for whatever was in his socks, let alone his purse. Zeltiva was soft and civilized in comparison, but still... why wasn't he resisting this? Why was he telling all?

"I had dreamed of it, for a long time," he said, words ground out slowly but sincerely, as if he were trying to isolate that voice that clamored indistinctly for him to be more careful, "Since I was a boy. But recently, I... met a woman. A girl, really, but she had been through the trials of a woman. She used her djed on me, after I helped her. She... used water to... clean my wounds. Made it move and dance over my skin..."

Nate turned his arm over, staring at the ugly, blotchy scar he would bear forever: both warning and reminder. The costs of letting a strong-headed female loose in Sunberth (resulting in some black bastard slicing up your arms), and the first time djed was used on him... without the intent of ending his life, of course.

He smiled, as if far away... remembering... all of it coming so-


He blinked, and Bethany could see the fog part in front of his eyes. Ah... so he did have some wherewithal. Not enough to know what was happening, or who was responsible, of course, but enough to know something was amiss. She slid in smoothly to cover it up, pouring him a cup of water from the carafe on her desk.

"Are you alright, Nate?"

"Yes, just... not quite feeling-"

"Yourself?" She giggled girlishly as he goggled at her, gesturing around her room and the madness-soaked walls beyond it. "Don't worry. A lot of people feel that way here on the first day. The Asylum does that to people."

"Is it djed? Is it being cast one me?"

"Perhaps. I've done some research but I believe it to be... well, I don't know," Bethany said with a frown, adopting a convincing mask of academic frustration, "But I intend to find out. May we continue?"

"Of course."

"You didn't answer the original question, Nate. What would you do with such power?"

He inhaled silently and when she exhaled, it was more than just air she sent wafting across the table, all her subtleties sparking off the atmosphere. Carefully-carefully, softly-softly, catchy-apey...

"What kind of mage would you become?"

Again that veil fell across his eyes, seeping into his soul. Soft and comforting, whispering that he would be safe, that he could speak his mind without fear. But Bethany dared not utter those words. Her manipulations had to be conducted with the utmost care. Less controlling a mind, more... pushing it where she wanted it to go. A nudge here, a suggestion there, an emotional spasm on the road... and eventually, it would be exactly where she wanted it.

Namely, under her control. Which was always her objective. It was both less and more horrifying if others knew that Bethany's psychological conditioning had no real end or goal. To dominate the wills of others, have them fawn over her, puppetry that extended her own will... that was all she wanted. All she cared for. No plan to overtake the world or plunge the city into darkness...

Because she could. Because she enjoyed the hunt, the chase.

"I would be... strong..."

Case in point.

"Strong? How so?"

"I would... master what I wanted to learn. Just being good at something, or talented, that isn't enough. You have to be above everyone else, so they won't challenge you."

"And that is how you see it? How you see mages? People who will challenge you?"

"Ye... I don't..."

The words weren't coming as easily as he thought. He shook his head and took a sip, then a ravenous gulp, but it did naught but wet his parched through. His mind, though... it swam just fine by itself. Nate frowned and peered inward. Did he really think that? Was this djed just another... weapon, he wanted to master?

"... not just that. I want... I want to see it. To feel it."

"To feel what? To be what?"

Something bloomed behind his eyes. Simple as they were, Bethany could see the glimpse of a panorama taking form behind them: a hundred fantasies rising and falling like immaculately-detailed Synas, all of them racing before his eyes, swimming up from early childhood and just the last few days. The younger, smaller woman nearly growled: so much, so much... leverage!

"To be like her."

"Like who? The mage who helped you?"

"Not... just her. The one who is..."

"What was her name, Nate?" Bethany couldn't help herself. Like all mages she knew the value, the power a true name could give you. She couldn't handle such a succulent morsel dangled before her snout, and she leaped at it. "The mage. The one who is named...?"

Names. The word alone was enough to send him back. Back to memories of dark alleys and gruff men; back to days where they gave him names, and he was the last to ever speak or hear them before their owners died in front of him. Waves of suspicion, clannish, paranoid security snapped down on Bethany's miasma of contentment like steel fangs and-

"... what did you say?"

"Um... you... mentioned a woman? A healer, maybe?"

That hardness was back in Nate's eyes; he'd misplaced it since he'd come to Zeltiva, mayhap, but a true Berth Boy never lost it. Now those green orbs became hard as cut emeralds, piercing the female opposite him, rank with suspicion. The smoke that had filled them was gone, whipped out and replaced with a cold doubt...

But not of her. Bethany had had to get... creative, in the past, when the subjects of her little games became suspicious of her. But this one? He was still convinced it was just the Asylum itself, and after a few ticks more glaring, his stare softened minutely.

"Yes. She was a Svefra." A tiny smile that Bethany could have sworn was mocking. "I never found out her name."

"After you saved her life?"

Nate shrugged those broad, sloping shoulders and reclined in his seat, hands steepled on his stomach. "Sunberth, eh? So many people just run into each other, paths collide... chaos. We don't often get names."

"Hmm... and she inspired you?"

"With what she told me? Oh, yes. I'd always heard about djed and magic and mages and what utter bastards they were, but I never knew... the real of it, y'know?"

Still, the words came easily, but he was guarded now. Details without the details she wanted, just what she needed for the... sigh... "evaluation". So Bethany resigned herself and paid attention to the tedium.


"I knew the names of them. It wasn't just "shapeshifting" or "body changing". It was Morphing. Shielding. Reimancy." He spoke the names with an awe that some part of her still recognized; some old and fragile corner of Bethany that still held wonder for her powers, not an icy appreciation for what they could give her. "I knew it, and it's still in my head. I want to know more. I want to explore it. I want to... fly! To swim like a fish! To be able to run with a wolf pack or swing from trees like a mon-kree-"


"Whatever they're called!" Nate burst out, words like a runaway carriage now, arms spread wide to encompass the world, and grin matching it. "I want to be able to do that. To become those things. To master that ability... and if I am able to use those skills to defend myself... so be it."

"And Shielding? You don't trust other mages?"

Nate quirked an eyebrow that was far more satirical that she would have thought him capable of."

"Do you?"

"Such cynicism, Nate," Bethany said with a tut, all sweetness-and-trust again, laying it on thickly, "If you never trust anyone, I fear you will be a lonely mage."

"All those with power are lonely." He said abruptly, the depth of the statement almost making her start. He smiled at her. "What? Think a Sunberth rat couldn't work that one out? You have power, people will want it. Money, influence, reputation, skill with blades, your hands, over women... over djed? Everyone wants it. If you have power, you are alone with it."

"It doesn't have to be that way."

The brightness in his eyes dimmed. Some pain that had not yet healed, and he shrugged, breaking eye contact and leaning forward, staring idly at her notes.

"Many things should not be, and yet they are. Such is the world."

"... very true, Nate..."

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Nathaniel Ankah
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Terror and Tedium

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on July 25th, 2014, 1:33 am

Living Quarters
21st Bell

He'd definitely need more furniture. Nate was hardly a man used to lavish accommodation, but even compared to the house in Sunset his quarters were... sparse.

Jorka seemed to agree. She paced and snuffled and sniffed the counter, the bed, the nook where the wash bowel was, the tiny closet at the desk and chair... which was pretty much everything. It had taken the Sunberthian less than ten chimes to unpack everything he owned. All was neatly folded away in the closet, aside from his personals and, of course, the fiddle and its case, taking pride of place on the desk.

The big man took a breath and let it out in a long, tired whoooof. Well, there would be books and scrolls and papers, he assumed. Within a season the room would probably be overflowing with tomes and sheets of music. Jorka would probably be in heaven: making a nest out of all the papyrus he forgot about.

The thought made him chuckle. Gods... was it so fantastical now? A season ago it would have made him roll his eyes and buy the seer another round; clearly he needed it. But here he was.

He'd passed the test. Bethany had given him her notes and told him to take them to Stonemiller, but said nothing else. Nate had done as bid, the walk back seeming to take bells, and the old man had read them inscrutably... frowning or humming occasionally... before standing... and shaking his hand.

"Welcome to the College of Djed, Mister Ankah."

In the privacy of his quarters, sitting on his simple bed, lit by a pair of candles, Nathaniel Ankah of Sunberth reached into his pocket... and eventually fished out the thing he'd been carrying ever since he'd scattered Kay's ashes into the harbor.

A simple bracelet of black stones, immaculately shined and polished, each one a tiny square with two holes bored through them, all bound together with some sort of tight, fast cord. On her wrist - which it hardly ever left - it hung loose; on Nate's, it nearly broke, so it was in his pocket he trusted it.

But now he held it to the candlelight... let the dark reflection of his own face shift and warp in the stones...

"Made it, love... no more docks, no more dark alleys, no more Berth..."

The one who left. The other one. Kayleigh.

Nate placed the bracelet on the table by his bed and blew out the candles. The room was dark in a twinkling save for the after glare of the lights. The sounds of sneaking, studying, socializing students surrounded the hulking brawler, prizefighter, thug and hired killer... and now, student of djed and music.

Nate smiled in the darkness, and closed his eyes on the past.

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Nathaniel Ankah
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Terror and Tedium

Postby Gale Austin McCenry on August 4th, 2014, 11:42 pm

Socialization +2
Rhetoric +3
Philosophy +1

Item Description
-30 GM Musical Instrument Class
-10 GM Payment for Jorka to stay in the University
-30 GM Introduction to Magic 101 class payment
-30 GM The Dangers of Overgiving class payment

Professor Geloron: Passionate but old
Lore of the University of Zeltiva: West Wing
How to address professors
The difference between Zeltivan and Sunberthian humor
Gelron's Warning: Be careful with Mages
Lore of the University of Zeltiva: East Wing
Lore of the University of Zeltiva: Stonemiller's Office
Differences between East and West Wing
Professor Stonemiller: Head of the Djed College
Lore of Stonemiller's all-knowing gaze
Overgiving: The overuse of Djed
The College of Djed: The three tasks to enroll
Lore of the University of Zeltiva: Scholar's Asylum
Recognizing the Sound of Madness
Bethany: Chief Orderly of the Asylum
Lore of the University of Zeltiva: Living Quarters
The Process of becoming a College of Djed Student

Additional Comments

As a quick note, just in case you were unaware, Mizahar actually has it's own swears. So instead of saying fuck, they would probably say petch. Just something to keep in mind next time Nate gets mad. ^_^ (which I thought was a fun way to add some humor aspect to the thread XD)

I really like the thread overall. You have a very unique way of presenting Nathaniel and his thoughts and I really liked it. I also liked how you added in the thoughts of the NPC's. However, I did feel like at times you were talking more about the NPC's than you were Nathaniel, especially during the interview with Bethany which sort of distracted me and threw me off. If you added a little more on Nate's thoughts then it would have been great, because this is Nate's story and not so much the NPC's. It was a cool idea though, and I think if you just continue to work at it it'll be a really gnarly aspect of your writing. ^_^ Good job though, so keep it up!

As usual, if you have any comments, questions, or concerns about your grade, feel free to contact me and we can get it sorted out.

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Gale Austin McCenry
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