moirajmoore (moiraj) wrote,

Short Story Aryne Second Day at the Academy

Short Story Aryne’s Second Day at the Academy

This story isn’t really interesting, but I thought it was necessary, in the sense that in writing a story, you should try, as much as possible, to show instead of tell.

Aryne jerked awake in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sounds and jumped out of bed, feet flat and fists up

And realized the girl, Jossen, was standing by her own bed, straightening her blankets and staring at her in astonishment.

Jossen. The Academy. Right. She lowered her fists.

Didn’t she feel like an idiot?

Jossen cleared her throat. “Are you all right?”

No chance was she admitting that embarrassing reaction to nothing. “Nightmare.”

Jossen’s expression cleared. “Ah. That’s too bad.”


“You’ll feel better once you’re up and about and have something to eat. Get your things. I’ll show you where the water room is.”

The water room held large copper tubs and bowls of water, heated in big pots on ovens. This process was supervised by two staffers, because, she supposed, they were all too stupid to avoid scalding themselves.

“If you get up early enough,” said Jossen, “You can use one of the tubs and have a proper soak. It’s delicious.”

Aryne loved having a full body bath, but that bit about having to get up early was going to put a halt to that before it even started.

After bathing came breakfast. She still didn’t have a proper uniform, which meant she was still to obvious in the crowd. No one tried to attack her in the dining room, either subtly or overtly. No one dealt any punishment for her run in with Laurit. Aryne thought it likely that she and her crew were waiting a while, to strike unexpectedly.

Or they hadn’t come up with an idea, yet.

Laurit had two black eyes. Nice.

In the middle of her eggs and bacon, a staffer came to her and said Aryne’d been ordered to go to Professor Garjan Syco’s office once she’d finished eating. The woman’s manner suggested Aryne was expected to eat as quickly as she could and get there as soon as possible.

Damn it, she didn’t like rushing bacon.

“What’s he want me for?” she demanded.

Jossen answered instead of the staffer. “Professor Syco keeps on top of our academic lessons. He tests different students every once in a while, especially when someone’s having problems. They might not be in the right classes. Or if it’s a new professor, they might not be teaching the right kind of material. They have to see where you should go, I’m guessing.”

Great. She’d never gotten proper learning. She would probably be put in with the tiny ones and everyone would know how ignorant she was. She didn’t really care much what most people thought of her, but she hated the idea that they might think she was stupid. She knew things, of course, the things that really mattered, but not much about letters and numbers.

She didn’t delay. Might as well get it over with, get the bad news and figure out how to work around it.

The professor’s office was tiny, crammed with shelves, most of those shelves filled with books, but also with some small black bags and what looked like wooden toys. There was a very small desk with two chairs, one on either side. Aryne felt trapped just looking at it.

The professor was rearranging some of the books when she entered. He was about the tallest person she’d ever seen, extremely skinny, with silver shoulder length hair, dark blue eyes, and very pale skin.

He was also, it seemed, easily ticked. “Don’t lurk,” he snapped. “Close the door.” He sat on his chair and snapped his fingers – snapped his fingers! – at her and pointed at the other chair.

Jackass. She sat, though. Seemed she needed to deal with him whether she liked it or no.

He opened one of the bags and took out a bunch of small wooden tiles, which he carefully placed on the desk top before her. Each one had a single line curved into them. Some diagonally, some straight down the middle, some with a line very close to the edge. From these, he picked out three and set them into an orderly horizontal line. “Take one of things,” gesturing at the disorganized bunch of tiles, “And finish the pattern in these,” gesturing at the first collection of tiles.

The first tile had a line carved from the top left corner to the lower right corner. The second, a line from the top right to the lower left. The third, a horizontal line straight across the middle. The pattern was so easy to see she found the task insulting. Did he think her an idiot?


With the tip of her index finger she slid a tile with a vertical line straight across the middle to the end of the line.

He wrote something on a parchment and gave her three more tiles with a new pattern, which was also easy to see. A short while later, he increased the amount of tiles in creating the pattern, and then did so again. She was pretty sure she got all of them right, but Syco didn’t let her know one way or the other.

Then he pulled out a bunch of sticks and dumped them on the table. “Make a square with no more than four of these.”

A square out of four sticks? Did anyone ever get that wrong? But she made the square, and then the next shape, a heptagon – she had to ask what that was, which was embarrassing – and then a pentagon, and so on, all with a specific number of sticks allowed. That was a bit more challenging, but she managed to complete all of the steps.

The toys were put away.

“Repeat these numbers after me, in the order I give them to you,” he said. “One, three, eight.”

“One, three, eight,” she answered promptly.

“Eight, five, eleven, twenty.”

“Eight, five, eleven, twenty.”

“Fifty-two, thirteen, six, two, nineteen.”

“Fifty-two, thirteen, six, two, nineteen.”

“Four, thirty-nine, forty-four, seven, eighty-six.”

“Four, thirty-nine, forty-four, seven, eighty-six.”

That time, he sort of frowned at her. She ran through all the numbers in her head. She was pretty sure she had gotten them all right.

“Ninety-nine, twenty-three, one, twelve, seventy-five, thirty, eighty-six, eleven, fifty-eight, forty-seven.”

“Ninety-nine, twenty-three, one, twelve, seventy-five, thirty, eighty-six, eleven, fifty-eight, forty-seven.”

He hesitated for a long time, just staring at her. It was annoying. She wasn’t a freak, no matter what anyone said.

And then he continued, giving her longer and longer strings of numbers. It got stupid, really. What did this prove?

Finally, he stopped that racket, but only to make a small variation. “Repeat these numbers in reverse of the order I say them. Nine, fifteen, sixty-six, eighteen, forty-three, two, seventy-eight, thirty.”

“Thirty, seventy-eight, two, forty-three, eighteen, sixty-six, fifteen, nine.”

He stared at her again. “Who’s helping you?”

At first, she was shocked. “How could anyone be helping me right now?” And then she was furious. “You sayin’ I’m a cheater?”

The complaint flew right by him. He just gave her another, longer string of numbers. And he went on doing so.

Just before she was about to rip her ears off in frantic boredom, he adjusted the exercise again.

“Tell me which number comes next. Two, four, six, eight, and then - ”

What? “Nine.”

“Listen carefully. Two, four, six, eight, and next.”

So, nine wasn’t right. She spent a moment trying to think of another option, mind spinning, but nothing came to her. “I don’t know.”

“Try this. Three, six, nine, twelve ….”

She had no idea. She just knew, she thought, that thirteen wasn’t right. “I don’t know.”

“Five, ten, fifteen - ”

She cut him off. “I don’t know!”

“One, two, four, seven, eleven.”

“How much are you going to pound that drum? I don’t know.”

“Hm.” He pulled out a slate and some chalk, placing them on the desk before her. “Write these numbers down, top to bottom, on the left side. Two, four, six, eight.”

Hadn’t she already proved she couldn’t do this? But she did as ordered.

“What do you add to two to get four?”

That was plain. “Two.”

“Write that on the right.”


“What do you have to add to four to get six?”


“Write that down.”

So she did.

“What do you have to add to six to get to eight?”


“So, what is the number after eight?”

Ah. She could see it, then. “Ten.”

He nodded. “Erase that.”

They worked through the threes, and then the fives. The one after that was harder, because all the differences weren’t the same. One, two, four, seven, eleven, sixteen. She managed a few more of those, but only a few.

The next part was about pure mathematics, subtraction, division and multiplication. She didn’t get very far with that, either, and she felt like an idiot.

It seemed he agreed, if the book he gave her to read meant anything. He told her to read it out loud, and the first page had a picture of a dog, with d-o-g written out below it.

She looked at Syco. “Seriously?”

“Why? Is it giving you difficulty?”

Prat. “Dog.” Next page. “Cat.” Next page. “Sun.” And so on until the end of the book.

“Now, do you remember what was on the first page?”

Of course. “Dog.”

He looked surprised. She couldn’t see why. It wasn’t a big book and it had had only one word on each page.

“What about the next page?”


“And the next?”


“Recite as much as you can. Try to go in order.”

So she recited the rest of the book.

He pulled out another book. She started on the first page, which was also insultingly easy to read. “The dog lies on the floor.” Next page. “The cat catches the mouse.” Next page. “The sun climbs in the sky.” And so on.

“Recite as much as you can. In order.”

She repeated the rest of the book.

“This one.”

This was a much more difficult book, with a lot more writing on each page, pretty much from top to bottom and side to side. “It has been said that when the First Landed came to our world, there were no people already living here. This assumption is illogical, and it is my intention to demonstrate this with irrefutable evidence. This includes examination of the texts left behind by the First Landed, examination of architectural remnants older than can be explained by the constructions of our people, and a thorough discussion concerning the sheer waste of the development of a world capable of supporting life so similar to our own with no creation of sentient beings.”

“Recite it.”

“It has been said that when the First Landed came to our world, there were no people living here ….”

He didn’t make her recite the entire book, just about five pages. “What do you think it means?”

“That there might have been people already here before the High Landed came and she thinks she has proof of it.” Obviously.

“This one.”

That book was really, really thick. “Reliance on the endurance of one societal influence over alternate constructions ignores the frequency with which opposing compositions developing contemporaneously have been established, sharing drives while giving creation to diverse characteristics in which the victory of one over the other is unpredictable with far reaching effects and an intensity of conversion that shields the seeds within which will ultimately give birth to former establishments assumed discarded but varied sufficiently to ….” Aryne stopped, feeling a little breathless, and scanned the words without reading aloud for the moment. “This sentence is a page and a half long! What the hell?”

“She’s a philosopher. Keep going.”

Reading out loud this time was difficult and slow. She had to sound some of the words out a syllable at a time, and she didn’t know what many of them meant. Reciting them back also took a lot more time, and she tripped over the exact same words in the exact same way. It was frustrating.

“What do you think she’s saying?”

“I have no damned idea.”

“Watch your language.” He took the book away and unrolled a map that covered the entire top of the desk. “Where’s Erstwhile?”

There were dots all over the map, but no place names. “There.”




“No idea.”

He didn’t like her tone. Too bad. Her head hurt.

She could find the places she’d been to, but nowhere else.

“What does this mean?” He pointed at a squiggle on the map.


“Does it signify a river, a mountain, a canyon?”

“No idea.”

“And this?”

“No idea.”

He rolled up the map. “When did Empress Constia ascend to the throne?”

“I’ve no krickin’ idea.” She was really getting tired of this.

“Student Malkar!”

“I don’t.”

“That doesn’t release you from the obligation of employing civil language.”

Kai, kai, could she go?

Not yet. He asked a whole lot more questions about things that happened long before she was born and a bunch of dead people and when this law or that had been written and why. She didn’t know many of the answers. History. What a waste of time.

Finally, he stopped with the irritating questions and started writing a whole bunch of things on his parchment. “Fine. You can go.”

“How’d I do?”

He didn’t look up from his writing. “You’ll be told.”

Seriously, prat. She hoped he didn’t teach any classes, or she might throw something at him, and then she might lose the privilege of seeing a play or something equally dire.

She was starving, so she went to the dining room in the faint hope that there might be food there. And there was, apples and bread and cheese left available for people to help themselves to.

“Hey, new girl!”

She looked over at the tables, where five older students, about sixteen or seventeen, seated at one of the tables. She had no doubt they knew her name, she being the weird Source from the Southern Islands. That he called her new girl instead, that was an immediate warning of an ass. “What?” she demanded irritably.

They all seemed shocked by her response. Huh.

“Come over here!”


The boy looked irritated. “We want to talk to you.”

So? She almost said it. But she supposed it would be better to learn why they were interested in her. She went to the table, ignoring the space two made between themselves and sitting at one end.

“You are a rebellious little thing, aren’t you” one of the girls drawled.

Aryne stared at her. Choosing to sit where she liked at a virtually empty table was rebellious? Did the girl know what the word meant?

“What’s your name?”

Aryne rolled her eyes. “Aryne Malkar.”

“I’m Nester Coli,” the boy said. “This - ” the girl who had spoken “- is Carnet Reger.” He then introduced the other three at the table, two boys, Countor Dix and Lafe Sweeny, and the other girl, Sindle Salin. “How are you settling in?”


“It didn’t look like that last night,” Countor commented.


“The incident with the soup.”

Aryne shrugged. As far as she was concerned, that encounter had gone well.

“Not that we blame you for it. Laurit is quite the jumped up little tart.”

Their words were deeply boring. Aryne thought about leaving.

“If you liked, we could help you out.”

“Don’t need help.”

“Don’t turn us down so quickly. We could show you how things work around here. Who are the people you want to know. Which professors you can get around.”

“Pretty sure I can figure that out myself.”

“You’ve spent your whole life in Flatwell,” Nester reminded her. “How can you expect to know how to get on in a civi- around here without help?”

As if she couldn’t catch that slip. “Got help.” Jossen seemed to her much more genuine than this group.

“Not our kind of help.”

She didn’t like them. Jossen had pointed out that there were people who would want her time just because they thought she was a freak. These people were like that, she was sure, and they probably thought she’d be pathetically grateful for their attention, because they were older and thought highly of themselves.

She crammed the last of her bread into her mouth. “Got to go,” she said through her mouthful, and she escaped the table. The others didn’t call to her again, but she could hear them whispering together. Something in the area that she didn’t know what was coming to her and she was going to have a miserable time there.

Maybe she should pretend to like more people. Maybe it would make things more difficult for her if she allowed everyone to know what she thought of them. Shintaro and Leavy had held in a lot of what they felt and they seemed to be doing all right.

Just, she didn’t know what kind of actor she’d make.

She’d have to think about it.

She went to the room she shared with Jossen. Jossen wasn’t there, attending classes that Aryne was probably too stupid or too ignorant to be in. She stretched out on her bed and stared at the ceiling with all its names.

Leavy’s name wasn’t there. Aryne didn’t know if that meant she’d never stayed in that room, or she hadn’t carved her name anywhere, objecting to marking the wood. Leavy could be hard to figure.

She wished she was still with Leavy and Shintaro. She didn’t see why she couldn’t go with them. She didn’t need to be taught to link. Channel. Whatever. She could manage well enough on her own. And Leavy could teach her everything she needed to know about numbers and maps.

In time Jossen burst in and dropped a stack of books on her desk. “How did the tests go?”

“Annoying. Did you ever take them?”

“No. I wasn’t bad enough or good enough for anyone to think they needed them.”

Too bad. She would have liked some information from someone normal. “You know Nester and his lot?”

“Aye.” From her expression, it was clear Jossen wasn’t impressed with them.

“What are they about?”

“No one really knows. They do things in secret. Stuff more than brewing beer and sneaking around at night. They pick up younger students, include them in the kinds of things older students do, flatter them or something. And then something happens, and suddenly the young one is ditched and they’re not the same. They don’t talk as much, keep to themselves.”

“You think they’re doing something bad to them.”

“Everyone thinks so.”

“What about all that stuff Tausen said about going to her with problems like that?”

“The younger one won’t say. Nothing can be done if they won’t talk about it.”

“Think they’re being raped?”

Jossen’s eyes grew very wide in shock. “Surely not something like that.”

“Why not?” Happened all the time.

“It’s just … why would they go after young ones? They can sleep with each other if they want.”

Aryne realized that Jossen was still naïve. That wouldn’t do her any good, but Aryne felt strangely reluctant to educate her. She wished she’d gone along with them, then, to find out what they were up to. Their tricks wouldn’t work on her. She knew about real things, more than most in the school, she reckoned.

“Come on, we’re playing cards.”

“Gambling?” She’d love to practise. Taro had taught her only a little. “What do you use for stakes?”

Again, Jossen was shocked. She was easily surprised. “It’s not gambling.”

“What’s the point, then?”

“You’ll have to see, oh jaded one.”

All right, so card games could be fun without stakes, especially when it took speed to win. She was good at things that needed speed.

Then there was supper, and the only people who talked to Aryne or approached her in any way were Ikaika, Tandi and Atoosa, whose questions were less annoying than they had been the day before.

The next morning, a staffer came to her again and said she needed to go to an office after she’d finished eating. Not to Syco’s office, which was a relief, but the office of a Professor Vasor Chen. His office was just as small as Syco’s but the man himself was the complete opposite of Syco. Short, very heavy, with short black hair, black eyes, and very dark skin. He also smiled when she entered the office. “Fair morning, Aryne. Have a seat.”

So she sat.

And he said, “Sit up straight, please.”


“Spine straight and shoulders back. Feet flat on the floor.”



She hated it when people made demands and wouldn’t give a reason. It was so obnoxious. But some things weren’t worth fighting over. In the short term, anyway. She did it so they could move on to the next part of the conversation.

“Excellent. Thank you. Now, about the tests you took yesterday.”

Great. Here it came.

“Professor Syco was very impressed.”

“That was him being impressed?”

Chen smiled. “He thinks you’re bright. Very bright.”

“Doesn’t make sense. I couldn’t do everything. The numbers and the reading.” It was humiliating to admit.

“You have an incredible memory. You remembered everything you saw or heard. That’s an invaluable gift.”

“Doesn’t mean anything. I saw one man who could remember everything, but he couldn’t put his sandals on the right feet or talk to anyone in a way that made sense.”

“Ah, but you were also learning over the course of the tests. Straighten up please. That is significant.”

Keeping her spine straight was hurting a little. Why did she have to do it?

“We will have to start you in the elementary classes, but I’m confident, with a little private tutoring, you’ll climb the levels quickly.”

She wasn’t confident. How could she catch up with people who’d been going to classes for years?

“But academics won’t be all you’ll be learning.”

“Channelling.” She nodded.

“Well, yes, of course. But not just that.” Chen hesitated a moment, then said with reluctance, “I can’t think of a delicate way to say this, but your accent needs some … adjustment.”

“My accent?”

“How you pronounce your words.”

“I know what an accent is,” she snapped.

“Sometimes, someone hears an accent and that’s all they hear. The words don’t matter. And sometimes, an accent makes people think the person speaking is slow. You have such an accent.”

“That’s stupid.”

“Aye, but it’s what happens. Straighten up, please.”

That was going to get really annoying.

“So, we will have to work on adjusting how you speak. Something like the river runs right through the radiant red forest.”

His accent had changed on the last bit, with a roll to all his ‘r’s. It sounded a little like the way Shintaro spoke, Or, she realized, what she’d heard from the High Landed when she’d been in Erstwhile. “Why do I have to talk like that? No one here does.”

“If we are going to change your accent, we might as well change it to the best. And aristocratic accents are considered the best. They make people make assume not only that the speaker is intelligent, but of a finer character. Wouldn’t these be useful characteristics to project?”

Yes, she could see that. Still, she resented hearing that her accent wasn’t good enough. It had been good enough to Leavy and Shintaro.

“So, we might as well begin. The river runs right through the radiant red forest.”

Could a forest be radiant?

“Straighten up pleased.”

Damn it. “The river runs right through the radiant red forest.”

She got nowhere near Chen’s pronunciation. This was probably going to be harder than the mathematics.
Tags: aryne, book three, heroes short, short story, writing

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