Medievia Mudslinger

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 spells.

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 spell.

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 didn't pass.

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 classroom.

"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 categories."

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' Guide."

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 Trader."

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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