34: Class Consciousness

on July 19, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which Mackenzie’s Ambition Is Praised 

 The basic enhancements class seemed about evenly divided between armoury majors and other applied enchantment students, with maybe a smattering of those who simply needed a few more lab credits and saw a class with “basic” in the title. As an enchantment buff, it was pretty easy for me to spot the others in the room… like the saying goes, we can smell our own kind. Armoury types were also easy to spot… they basically struck me as slightly smarter-than-average warriors.

Basic enhancements was both more complex of a subject than elemental invocation, and a more straightforward one. Enchantment is ritual magic, which is always a bit more formulaic than personal spellcasting. Most of the hour and a half allotted for the class was given over to going over lab procedures and outlining the experiments we’d be doing and the goals for the class.

One of the armoury majors derided the whole thing as a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo, which I felt was hardly fair. It might seem like science to the uneducated, but there was firm magic behind it all. The procedures mattered, but anybody who relied on them alone and expected to produce a magical effect would be disappointed. I loved the idea of science as much as the next fantasy geek does, but… you’d have to be pretty damned arrogant, gullible, or both to honestly believe the universe was set up so conveniently. It was a pleasant fantasy, yeah, but a fantasy all the same.

Our first lesson wouldn’t really begin until Thursday. Professor Rankin, the instructor, issued us each a knife… actually more like a flattened iron bar with most of the length sharpened down one side, but enough of a knife for the purposes of the class… and told us to spend the last twenty minutes of the class becoming acquainted with it, in the context of the classroom. Once we began working, we wouldn’t be able to remove the knives from the power circles inlaid on the lab tables.

The first task we’d be undertaking would be to increase the sharpness of the knives. They were pretty dull to begin with… just sharp enough that they could count as a knife and register as having the property of “sharpness.” This, Rankin explained, would make it easier to judge success… if the knife was already very sharp, any added degree of sharpness would necessarily be very subtle. I gathered we’d be using weapons as subjects a lot; they didn’t offer a separate introductory level enhancements class for the armourers. I’d probably enjoy the course anyway, as it was directly related to my subject.

After Rankin dismissed us, I decided to face the music and go see Professor Bohd about my other lab. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to face her up close, before Amaranth had punished me. I still wasn’t feeling overjoyed about having torched a table and hurt a classmate, but I could face up to it now… I could look at it. That much of the shame was gone.

“Ah, Miss Mackenzie,” Professor Bohd said when I knocked on the frame of her open door. “Come in. You’ve come to talk about your class, then.”

She gestured towards the seat in front of her desk, and I took it.

“That boy, Ian… is he okay?” I asked.

She shrugged.

“If he dropped dead of shock on his way to the healer, nobody informed me,” she said. “You mustn’t make too much of what happened… a certain amount of burns and scrapes are to be expected in a course like mine, and the school has more than adequate resources to deal with them. It doesn’t always happen so early in the term, but Mr. Mason will not be the last inattentive student to visit the healing center. If anything, your… mishap… today will be a good thing. I’ll bet nobody attempts fire magic in their dorm rooms or a study lounge after that.”

“I don’t know if you’d say it was a good thing if you knew why I was so strong with fire,” I said quietly.

“That doesn’t matter,” the professor said. “Not for the purposes of practicing elemental magic, and thus, not to me. Miss Mackenzie, the precise balance of elements within your body will affect how you perform in my classes. The exact details of your ancestry will not.”

I stared at her in disbelief. There was no way she couldn’t at least suspect the truth. Even if a lot of the Harlowe Girls didn’t get it, Bohd was human. How could she entertain the notion that I was even slightly related to the “ancient enemy of man” and calmly tell me that it didn’t matter? Maybe she really didn’t suspect… but no, she was an intelligent, educated woman. There’s no way she could have failed to put it together.

“In any event, we’re here to discuss your education, not cook up a punishment,” the professor said. “I believe I mentioned that we’ll need to work up an alternative curriculum if you choose to stay in my class.”

“If I choose to stay?” I repeated. I had sort of wondered if I’d even be allowed to stay after burning another student on the very first day. Bohd hadn’t said anything to that effect, of course, but it had been possible she was just trying to avoid a confrontation with a potentially dangerous fire-wielder in the classroom, I thought.

“Yes, and I’m not going to lie to you, Miss Mackenzie,” Bohd said. I wondered how many times she could call me that before it would seem weird for me to ask her not to, if it wasn’t already too late. Anyway, in the time I spent wondering that, she kept on talking, and so the window kind of closed. “If you keep on with this class, you’re going to have to work twice as hard as everybody else from the very beginning. Water doesn’t draw as easily as fire… it’s not a particularly active element, you know, and it is in opposition to your natural tendencies… but I could hardly ask you to start by pulling earth out of thin air, and air is very difficult to connect to for invoking. So, water is really the best choice.”

“What do you think I should do?” I asked.

“Who is your advisor?” she asked.

“Dr. Mitchell,” I said.

“Applied enchantments major?” Bohd asked. I nodded. “Dr. Mitchell’s a good man,” she said. “Ideally, you should be talking this over with him.”

I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable doing that. I’d only ever spoken to Mitchell’s reflection… financial considerations had prevented me from actually visiting the campus before starting. With that thought in my head, I wondered if that had something to do with the fact that everybody else seemed to be on such firmer footing than I did. Most people from a normal, college-going background would have visited a couple campuses before picking one, and then came back for orientation… I’d just applied to every school I thought I could afford, and taken the best one that had accepted me. Well, the best one period… the best public magic university in the entire Imperial Republic had accepted me.

That still overwhelmed me a bit, when I thought about it, which is why I usually didn’t.

“But,” Bohd added, “I would be doing you a grave disservice if I failed to point out that you won’t be able to study any elemental magic if you can’t safely master invocation, and that while any spell repertoire is useful to an enchanter, a lack of elemental magic will narrow your career options considerably. By the same token, if you choose to drop my class, you will want to make certain you can get into another lab… with your major, starting off your first year without a lab will set you back quite a ways.”

“Oh, I’m also taking basic enhancements,” I said.

“Really?” Bohd said, raising her eyebrow. “That’s very ambitious.”

“I… think I can handle it,” I said, trying hard not to blush. I knew I shouldn’t really be proud of my ability to handle an extra-heavy energy load. It wasn’t like I had done anything special to earn it.

“I believe you could, Miss Mackenzie,” Professor Bohd said. “I don’t actually need an answer from you right away… you can still drop classes without penalty and without an instructor’s signature for the next two weeks. So, on Thursday, I will have some potting soil for you to work with, should you choose to keep coming. I wish I could give it to you now, so you won’t be behind the rest of the class… but, I’ll need to increase the soil’s water aspect quite a bit before you’ll even have a chance of making any headway. Besides, your whole progression will be different from the rest of the class. You will need to master every aspect of invocation with the other three elements before you even attempt to call your dominant element. You don’t need any practice bringing fire… what you’ll need work on is controlling it, and extensive practice with the less volatile elements will serve you well there.”

“I think I probably will be there,” I said. I knew she didn’t need a commitment from me right that second, but I said it so that I could tell myself she’d be expecting me. Otherwise, there was no way I could make myself go back into that classroom, where everybody had seen me… had watched me start a huge, out-of-control fire… and just in case anybody would have been apt to forget I was different, I’d be following an entirely separate course of study from everybody else. Yay.

I kind of wished I could take classes that would let me learn elemental magic using only earth, water, and air… but it was all or nothing. The higher level elemental classes were devoted exclusively to a single element and its uses, but they had elemental invocation as a prerequisite. Though, it sounded as if Professor Bohd thought I could learn to control my fire better by learning to control the other elements first… that could only be a good thing. I might never use any fire magic outside college (and I wouldn’t, if I could help it), but the ability to control–more particularly, suppress–my innate fire could only be a good thing.

“I thought you might say that,” Bohd said. “Oh, and one more thing… I don’t, as a matter of habit, probe my students’ auras… but you were fairly bristling with pent-up emotional energy this morning. Now, well… that energy has somewhat dissipated. I would not care to speculate as to what is responsible for this, but if you have any ideas in that direction, it might help you get a handle on your fire element. You will have to tackle that eventually, and you’ll have more control over it if you don’t have a lot of unexpressed energies of other sorts bouncing around.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, though I had a strong suspicion that the emotional release she was talking about had either related to the strange, pleasure-like burst I’d felt when Amaranth had spanked me, or Puddy’s touching me at lunch. I would do my best to avoid a repeat of the latter experience, and there was no way in hell I was going to ask Amaranth to spank me again.

“If there’s nothing else, I will see you in class on Thursday,” Professor Bohd said, rising to her feet and extending her hand. She was smiling. “I don’t mean to add to your burdens, but I should tell you that I’ll be expecting great things of you. Nobody who can spontaneously bring forth an element without any effort ever fails to excel with it.”

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3 Responses to “34: Class Consciousness”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Being competent to in_Sin_nerate everything in sight, is a level of excellence that requires COOL judgement.

    Current score: 0
    • Psi-Ko says:

      If only you had been insulting, then I could say “oooh, Burn!”

      Wait… were you insulting?
      hmm, better safe than sorry…

      Current score: 1
    • anonymus says:

      That is a good one

      Current score: 0