Papavera 3rd, 178
I know I tell you this every summer, but I’m so ready for summer to be over. I’m so ready to be going west. Haven’t seen Melanie hardly at all over the summer. Not because she’s avoiding me, but because she’s had to get a job.
She hasn’t been cut off, but her parents are less indulgent than they used to be. It’s strange to think that I’ll be traveling over a thousand miles to see a girl who lives on the other side of town from me, but that’s about the shape of things. The times we were together, she didn’t feel like we had enough privacy to talk about anything interesting. “Fear of gnomish listeners,” as my mother would say.
I know barely any more about her adventures at school than I learned that first day in the trees. She told me so little in retrospect, and there are clearly pieces that are missing. She is certain it was a demon attacking the campus, but she doesn’t implicate Samuel directly. If anything, she implied he was in danger.
Are demons territorial? Is it his mother, checking up on him in the fashion of her kind? It turns out I know so little of demons and their workings. I had assumed they could take on a semblance of a human form, but the way Melanie said it, it sounds like that is their true form always.
I wish she and Brett had time to reconcile their differences enough that we could travel together. But there will be plenty of opportunities to see her as the ladies’ dorms are all close by.
I would have liked to request the same hall as her, but I don’t know how she would have taken it.
Papavera 11th, 178
The Hahlers have asked my folks if it would be an imposition for Melanie to travel with us after all.
Don’t know how I feel about that. Whatever I’m feeling, it’s awful fluttery.
Papavera 28th, 178
Brett decided we needed to have a talk today. About him and Melanie. He asked me if I knew why they’d split up, and I said not exactly. Well, I don’t. I know Melanie thinks he was making an ass of himself, but I don’t know for certain over what.
I was hoping he’d tell me something about Samuel, and either confirm or deny my guess, but he didn’t. It killed me not to ask, but in case he doesn’t know, I don’t want to be the one to tell him. Maybe word will get round anyway, but it won’t get round because of me.
In the end he told me that Melanie makes some questionable choices about who she’s friends with. Which was as good as saying it was about Samuel, but doesn’t tell me if he knows Samuel’s ancestry.
This is why I hate dancing around and playing games. Here we are three people who will be traveling across the Imperium together and we might be the only people in creation who know a secret but we can’t talk about it because we don’t all know that we know it.
Astera 13th, 178
Melanie is spending the night tonight so we can get an early start for the coach tomorrow. For one awful and wonderful moment I thought she would have to sleep in my room, and I was about to suggest that we do camp out sleep-over style in the living room when I remembered that Sam and Laurie’s rooms are both empty, since their classes started back in Papavera.
Apparently the late start at Magisterius U. is a holdover from when it was strictly local, and able-bodied young men needed to be available for the harvest.
Astera 13th, 178
She’s staying in my room after all. My mother says there’s no reason to disturb my sisters’ privacy. I think the Hahlers don’t approve of her sleeping in an empty room in a house with a young man. Khersis give me strength.
Astera 17th, 178
Sorry I couldn’t write you during the trip. Sharing a room with Melanie the whole way. I was afraid if she knew I kept a diary, she’d ask to see it. And while she seems accepting of my feelings (at least, that they exist) in general, I really couldn’t bear for her to learn the specifics. And I don’t think she could bear it, either.
So it seems there are some secrets I’m in favor of keeping, after all. I’ve only just arrived at college and I’ve already learned one new thing. I guess I was born for the scholastic life!
Brett saw me to my dormitory and turned me over to the hall matron, which spoiled my plan of tagging along with Melanie when she went to claim her room so I could “see how it’s done,” and also incidentally find out exactly where her room is.
Of course I could just walk over and inquire at the desk for Melanie Hahler’s room. But I’m self-conscious about approaching her openly. Melanie’s a girl who thinks in terms like “forwardness” and “propriety,” and I don’t know what that means for someone like me. I’m resigned (well, mostly resigned) that she’ll never be mine, but I imagine that I must confuse her. She knows it can’t cause scandal if I come knocking on her door, but does that mean she can’t be scandalized by it?
I feel like if our positions were reversed, Melanie would be doing much better than I am. If she wanted to be near me without seeming too eager, she’d have a strategy in mind to do so. A young woman who believes in propriety can’t help but pick up subterfuge.
And now I’m sounding like one of her book heroines. Spear me now, Diary. Just make it quick.
Astera 18th, 178
Melanie’s roommate Julia has freckles, and the longest legs I’ve ever seen. Mine has acne and snores. I have not met the elusive Samuel yet. Well, he’s not elusive. I’ve just never met him. And still haven’t. But that might be a good thing, because Brett has been hovering near me the whole time we’ve been here. I hope that once he connects with his own friends, the charm of playing the dutiful big brother wears off. He didn’t look happy to see me going off with Melanie and Julia, but what’s he going to say? Our mother still approves of her. I told him that if there’s something he wants to get off his chest he’s more than welcome to say it.
I have to go, because we’re going into town to get me fitted for a sword. I think the “fitted” part is a joke, but I’m very excited about it.
Astera 19th, 178
It wasn’t a joke. They measured the length of my forearm and the grip of my hand, and the length of my step, and had me swing various weights. The name of the armorer is “Goblin Mountain Blades”, which made me smile because we have a Goblin Mountain back home, but apparently it’s not that.
You will never believe it, but the swords are actually made by kobolds! You don’t associate goblinkind with quality craftsmanship, but what Julia called the “floor models” were almost pretty, in their own way. Some of the metal has a dark sheen to it, which Julia says is because they temper it with their own blood which she says is almost as good as magic. The sales clerk (who was human, as far as I could tell) pricked my finger, and my blood will go into the sword as well so it knows who it belongs to. I thought the whole thing must be OK because Melanie’s gone through it as well, but then she said she was too squeamish for a blood blade so hers is just steel, though it is from the same shop.
But Julia has one, though her main sword is elven and very old, almost three hundred years old. Well, I suppose that’s not very old for an elven thing. It’s very pretty. It glows blue around creatures of chaos, which is why she got a kobold-blooded blade because she likes the blue glow and apparently when they’re within a few feet of each other that’s enough to sustain it.
It also glows purple whenever there’s jam nearby, which is also very pretty but apparently made it cheaper, because apparently they aren’t supposed to do that? The things you learn at college, dear Diary.
I could tell that Julia was impressed with how I handled myself in town. Melanie looked pale. It was unfortunate that the first time we were completely away from Brett, we weren’t alone, or else I would have asked more about Samuel. Still, I don’t think I’d have given up Julia’s company. Even if Melanie had taken me to the same sword shop, I doubt she would have told me about the blooding. Or at least she wouldn’t have been so insistent I try it.
Astera 21st, 178
Second day of classes. I’ve now gone through my full schedule once and I have to say that I really think I can handle this. Next semester I’m definitely going to take some fighter classes.
The thought hit me in the middle of Household Alchemy: has Melanie told Samuel that she’s told me? I know he did come back, and they aren’t avoiding each other, because Melanie told me that she’s seen him. If they’re so tight, I might not get a chance to talk to her when he’s not around.
I hate secrets. They make things so complicated.
Astera 25th, 178
I’ve met Samuel.
I can see why Melanie was so conservative in her descriptions of him to her parents. I can’t imagine Mr. or Mrs. Hahler approving of him at all. He does have a kind of reticence (I’m learning new words all the time now, Diary) that coupled with his decent manners makes him seem basically polite, but he’s sharp as a tack and not very apologetic about it. He’s what people of my parents’ generation would call “smart”.
Though maybe I’m being unfair to him because I could tell within five minutes of meeting him that Melanie is in love with him. She looks at him the way she always tried to look at Brett, and the way I always tried not to look at her. I doubt Samuel’s missed this. I can’t tell how he feels about her. I think possibly he’s in the same place that I am. If he “pressed his suit”, as Melanie might put it, it could be dangerous for him.
Oh, and he does know that I know, at least. He said he expected Melanie to tell at least one person and he’s glad it’s me, because I look like I know how to keep secrets. I told him I’d appreciate it if he kept any others he has to himself. He actually laughed at that, which made me feel clever. I wish Julia would have heard it.
Astera 30th, 178
I’m still not sure how I feel about Samuel. There’s something cruel in him, though I think a lot of it might be self-directed. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.
College is more tedious than I’d expected. Our professors don’t seem to think much of the kinds of girls who seek higher education. Weirdly, the women are worse about it than the men. Well, the men are maybe worse overall when it comes to sexism, but they’re more willing to acknowledge that some of the girls who make it to college might have brains in our head. The women here look like they think we’re putting one over on them just by existing. How does someone like that wind up teaching at a university?
I’m anxious for my sword to arrive. My entire life is made up of hand-me-downs, I’m even attending my brother’s second-hand college and pining over the girlfriend who outgrew him! This is something that is being made for me, something that will be just mine, always mine. It can’t even be sold or passed down, apparently. The blade will go brittle and break if I die.
(Don’t worry, Diary. I did ask if the reverse is true, before I ordered it. And apparently while I live, it can’t be broken.)
Calendula 5th, 178
Samuel does grow on me. I’ve begun to see what Melanie means when she dances around trying to figure out a way to say that he’s basically a good guy that her parents would hate.
He seems so relaxed, though, which is completely the opposite of what I expected. Of course, there have been no demon attacks, and no rumors of a demon-tainted student.
Actually, I’ve only heard those rumors in the negative. People who were here last year are talking about how if there had been a demon or part-demon attending, he or she must be gone now because of the additional protections added to the school walls. And yes, according to the postings on the wall, it should be impossible for a demonic being to cross the threshold.
So either our school isn’t as safe as advertised, or they managed some exception for Samuel. Probably the wards are real, because I doubt a demon would be scared off by pieces of paper telling him that he should be. But if that’s the case, then it seems to me like the circle of people who know about him must be getting larger, because I think it would take a whole team of enchanters to do something like that. Even if they don’t know his identity, they have to be aware that they put a hole in the fence they helped put up.
If nothing else, there’s got to be work orders and things that mention it. How long can a secret like that keep? At least a few more years, I hope.
Calendula 11th, 178
My sword comes tomorrow.
Calendula 12th, 178
My sword has arrived at the shop! I can’t get it until the weekend but I’m so excited.
Calendula 16th, 178
It’s here, it’s actually here and actually in my hands as I write this. Well, it’s not in my hands as I write this, it’s on the desk. It feels good on my hip but I’m still working on sitting with it. It is medium length and the blade has three cutouts in a diamond or kite shape. The end comes to a slightly curving point. It is apparently conservative for a kobold style weapon, a compromise between the human style and theirs. There were other patterns on display, some of them looked really impractical. This was my favorite. Something about the diamonds.
Oh, one funny thing. When I signed for it, I noticed the bill said it was made for “Mr. J. North”. It was scribed quite clearly. Julia explained that the kobolds don’t like the idea of arming women, but their human associates don’t like the idea of turning away a commission and since they never interact with their customers directly they just use initials and let the artisans draw their own conclusions.
My sword was handcrafted with love by Veuk, apparently. If it wouldn’t give away the secret, I would find him and kiss him.
I asked Julia what she thought my name would be if I were a boy and she thought for a moment and then said “Jay, of course, just like it said,” and we had fun laughing about that for a while, she called me “Jay” and “Mr. North” for the rest of the day.
I wanted her to show me some moves immediately when we went back to the campus, so she showed me where there are rooms for sparring in the rec center. We had to put on protective hauberks that are apparently highly enchanted, and we were fighting with our blades covered. But she said sharp or not, a sword is still dangerous.
Actually I was surprised at how not-sharp the blades look. They’re more like a bread knife than a scalpel. She says it’s the strength behind them that matters. She says that in the olden days you couldn’t put too keen an edge on a blade because it would lose it too quickly anyway. That’s not a problem with a magic sword or a blood blade, but she asked me if I wanted to carry something as sharp as a razor against my leg and I took her point.
She tried to show me to the showers afterwards, but I said I was more comfortable showering in my dorm. Honestly, Diary, I’m not sure I could have trusted myself not to look after the day we spent together.
Calendula 21st, 178
I have to say that Melanie and Samuel are “together” in every sense except that they’re not admitting it. And I don’t just mean to the world, they’re not admitting it to themselves. But they’re an item, anyone can see it.
It hurts less than I expected. Probably because I’ve been so busy. Well, you’ve noticed that, Diary. I’ve hardly had time for you. Between classes–which continue to be simple and tedious, but still take up an awful lot of time and energy–and now private sword lessons with Julia and meeting her warrior friends, my days are getting pretty full.
It’s hard to believe that last summer I could only think of getting out here so I could grill Melanie for more details about Samuel and the demon attacks last year. I still don’t know the full story, but since everything has been so quiet on that front it just doesn’t seem to be as important.
That doesn’t mean I don’t still want to know, of course. Every time the subject crosses my mind, the same curiosity comes back. I’ll make a point to ask Samuel about it, since I can expect a straight answer from him. I mean, if he doesn’t want to tell me, he’ll straight out tell me. With Melanie I can’t tell if she’s dancing around it because she doesn’t like to talk about it, or because she doesn’t want to talk about it. Or if it’s just in her nature to dance around important things.
So frustrating, that girl.
But anyway, I should have the full story soon, or at least a better understanding of it.