November 24th, 2002
Baby Steps, Part 1 - By Vellai
Adella opened her eyes slowly in the bright sunlight and stretched,
causing her gingham dress to pull tightly across her shoulder blades. She
groaned softly as reality returned with a rush. She should have been
studying instead of dozing on the grass in the courtyard directly outside
her guild. She sat up gingerly, trying not to think of the grass stains
bound to be all over her dress, the sunburn she could feel already
beginning to turn her arms and calves a light pink, and the practical
examination that was to take place in a few days.
As she wondered how bad her sunburn was going to be, when she
remembered a spell in her textbook that was said to cure minor illnesses and
burns. Adella eagerly picked up her textbook and began flipping through
its numerous pages. She had to find a spell that would prevent her
professors from discovering she had been napping instead of memorizing her
Adella folded her legs under her, Aekethi-style, and opened her
textbook in front of her, quickly running her finger down the index, as she
scanned for the appropriate chapter. She knew the answer to her problem
would be found under "Cures for Minor Ailments and Illnesses." As Adella
chanted the appropriate spell, she felt a large pressure growing within
her, causing her eyes to burn with the effort to hold the spell in
check until the last incantation had been uttered. She placed one hand on
her sunburned legs, murmured the final incantation, and released the
A tingling feeling spread throughout her entire body, until it reached
her face and strengthened behind her eyes. As her ability to see
quickly left her, she realized that somehow she had cast a blindness spell,
instead of the minor curing spell she had intended to cast. Muttering a
string of curses that no proper young cleric would ever dream of
uttering, Adella fumbled to get a vial out of a brown cloth sack attached to
her belt. She grimaced as she drank the vile-tasting potion, hoping
that it was the correct one as she struggled to swallow. A warm feeling
encompassed her body and slowly her eyesight returned to her.
Adella bit the inside of her cheek hard. Where had she gone wrong this
time? She had been so careful. She closed her eyes in silent despair.
Adella had the feeling she was the absolute worst cleric to ever have
entered training at the Academy of Braneri. She had to be. When she had
read the brochure provided at the annual Academy Selection Seminar, they
had raved about their success rate in each class at their guild. 96.3
percent of their graduating classes passed their practical examination
on the first attempt. Adella hung her head as her eyes smarted with
unshed tears. She knew she was going to be a part of the 3.7 percent that
She sighed, and glanced at the timepiece attached to her belt. She
groaned softly, leaping to her feet and sprinting towards the nearest stone
building. She was late! As she burst through the heavy oak doors, she
saw one of her few friends walking quickly down the hall. Adella hurried
over to him, very conscious of the fact that they were both apparently
late to class.
"Caynor, what are you doing out of class?" she exclaimed, slightly out
of breath from her run.
"Dean Lyonel sent a few of us out looking for you. He has an
announcement to make to the entire class," Caynor explained.
Adella puzzled over this for a minute before Caynor's next words
startled her out of her reverie.
"Adella, we need to get to class. I have a feeling this is important.
Dean Lyonel hasn't ever made an announcement, except that one time we
all got a short vacation into the City of Medievia because of the illness
running around at school." She nodded her agreement and they both began
a steady jog down the long austere hallway, in the direction of their
"Adella," he puffed, short of breath from the effort it took to jog and
talk at the same time. "I don't mean to criticize, but are you
sunburned again?" She nodded glumly.
"Let's stop a minute." As they slowed to a stop, he placed one hand on
her arm, closed his eyes as he always did when reciting, and began an
incantation. As he released the spell, she felt a curious tingling
sensation over her skin, beginning where his palm was touching her arm, and
spreading to encompass her entire body. She glanced at her arm and
noticed the sunburn was quickly fading, leaving it the pale ivory of
someone who spent much of her time indoors.
She sighed forlornly. "I tried to do that before I came in. Instead all
I succeeded in doing was blinding myself," Adella muttered with an
ashamed look on her face. "At least I had my potions with me." Caynor
barely stifled a shout of laughter. He knew Adella's casting mishaps had
reached near legendary status around the Academy.
He grinned at her and took off running down the hall to their
classroom. "Race!" he shouted back to her. Adella sprinted after him, while
muttering curses under her breath about boys who use tricks to win.
Caynor was waiting for her at their classroom door. She slowed to a
stop, trying desperately to catch her breath so they could go inside. She
opened the door still breathing heavily, but not gasping for air the
way she had been. As they walked through the doorway, Caynor took a
crystal amulet from around his neck and handed it to the dean. Adella
stared at the amulet as she walked towards her desk. She had heard of these
precious, rare items. They had been given to the Academy at its opening
by the elusive Elven Merchant, who traveled the length of Medievia
selling rare and precious items at high prices. Adella privately vowed to
herself that she would own one of these when she was a rich and powerful
cleric. She had read in one of her many textbooks that these amulets
enabled the wearer to speak over long distances to others who wore them.
She sighed wistfully as she took her seat. One day.
Dean Lyonel closed his palm over the amulet and spoke aloud, "You may
all come back now. Novice Caynor has found her." He opened a drawer
placed low in his desk, and put the amulet inside.
As four students filed into the room, they each set an exact duplicate
of the first amulet upon the desk, and went to their seats. Dean Lyonel
cleared his throat and addressed the class.
"In case you hadn't heard, we have implemented a new curriculum here at
Braneri. You will no longer have to pass a written exam. It's one thing
to know the correct answers. It's another thing to put what you've
learned to active use. You have been split into four groups." He placed a
large white chart upon his desk. "The chart listing each group and its
members will remain on the desk. You will be given the opportunity to
view it a little later. There will now be five requirements that must be
fulfilled before you can pass on to your next class: Visiting the
Catacombs, Becoming a Trader, To Kill a Dragon, Becoming a Leader, and To
Complete a Quest."
Dean Lyonel started to pace the floor slowly. "I'll explain each of
these requirements. You will notice there are five requirements and only
four teams. The category 'Becoming a Leader' can be completed by any
novice during any of the other four requirements. However, it must be
completed. In order to complete 'Visiting the Catacombs,' your group must
return with fifty eggs per person. This means that each person in the
group must pick up a total of fifty eggs fresh off a corpse, or from the
ground. You can cheat, but your final examiner will be able to tell and
you will fail. The requirements, which must be met to complete
'Becoming a Trader,' should be easy to such an experienced group as yourselves.
You must complete at least one trade using a covered wagon to haul
goods to one of the remote trade posts, and keep a journal of your travel."
Dean Lyonel walked behind the desk, bent down out of sight, and stood
up with a large pile of torn and brittle-looking scrolls. He placed
these gently on the desk and looked out at the students. "These scrolls
each have a quest written on them for the 'To Complete a Quest'
requirement. After you've completed one objective out of the entire quest, the
instructions written upon the scroll will change to a new set of
instructions. When the entire quest is completed the scroll will vanish and
that requirement will be finished. In order to complete your 'To Kill a
Dragon' requirement, I have come to an agreement with a prestigious
dragon hunter. He will invade four dragon lairs and take one group along for
each. If the dragon dies, you pass. The lair leader will inform me of
your success or failure. It's as easy as that. "Becoming a Leader" can
be completed at any time during the four categories mentioned before. A
leader's mantle will be provided to each group. Each group member is
required to wear this at least two days in order to complete his or her
requirements. The mantle will be turned in at the completion of all the
He picked up a small silver platter with four neatly folded pieces of
paper on it. "These four strips of paper contain one category each. I
have chosen four experienced people to help guide you. One guide assigned
to one group. The guides will choose a strip that will give their group
the category they will be completing first."
As he spoke, four solemn looking young men walked into the room. They
were all dressed in plain, but neat clothing with a name tag hanging
from a small chain around their neck. Each guide was wearing a different
type of hat, and carrying a large duffel bag. One sign had been placed
in each corner of the room. The signs read Group One, Group Two, Group
Three, and Group Four. The four men each picked one piece of paper from
off of the silver platter and separated to stand under one of signs.
"All right," Dean Lyonel said, setting the platter back on the desk.
"You may now come up and find out the group you have been assigned.
Jaadar guides Group One, Gilben guides Group Two, Schezny guides Group Three
and Thorouse guides Group Four. Please go stand with your groups'
The novices swarmed over to the desk, eagerly searching for their name
on the charts, and going to join their group's guide once they had
found it. Adella hung back, dreading the thought of joining a group, and
knowing she would only be welcome if one of her few friends had been
assigned to the same group she had. At last she made her way up to the
desk and quickly scanned the chart. She found her name and walked quickly
to stand with Group One, keeping her eyes focused on the floor, while
ignoring the sighs of some of the novices in her group, and grins of
relief of the other groups. The majority of her class was mere acquaintances.
She knew their names and the fact they all teased and taunted her
when her spells failed. She also knew these same novices would not
welcome her to their group. Caynor, she noticed had been assigned to Group
Three, along with Renda, Karni, and Peltrecho, the few who wouldn’t join
the rest of the novices in their teasing of her.
Dean Lyonel sat upon the desk and addressed the guides, "Please read
your paper aloud, starting with Group One."
Jaadar slowly opened his slip of white paper and read, "Becoming a
Gilben quickly opened his and then crumpled it up as he said, "To
Complete a Quest."
Schezny read his carefully straightened paper, "To Kill a Dragon,"
while Thorouse sang in a lilting voice.
"Visiting the Catacombs."
Dean Lyonel picked up his briefcase and walked out of the room saying,
"You start tomorrow. Be at the flagpole at 7:00AM sharp. Classes have
been canceled the rest of the day to provide you with time to prepare.
You are dismissed."
Adella tried to quell a feeling of nervous excitement as she returned
to her dormitory room. She was going trading!
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