[Suzanna and Illeianna, please let me know if I've mangled your characters! Hopefully not!]
Sangnoir's office hours were disturbingly uneventful. He'd given back the first set of student papers that day. A few of those grades should have created a little concern, especially in light of the matching grades on the first test. Should have. It had been a long time since he'd been a student: three wars and a lifetime ago. How would he know what students worried about these days?
He was packing up to leave when Ayla Crenshall poked her head through the doorframe. “Hi, Professor S. Do you know if Professor Nivy is teaching next term?”
“Nope," he replied. "Do you know if any if any of your classmates meant to come to office hours?” Ayla had done well on her paper, as he'd suspected that she would. But if she didn't want to talk about her grade, he wasn't about to bring it up.
She sniffed and counted off three of them on her fingers. "Do you mean Tane Snowcroft, Estia, or Tig Vancis?"
Sangnoir narrowed his eyes at her. "Why those three?" She wasn't spot on, of course, not about Estia, and she didn't know about two others on whose papers he'd written "See me after class."
Ayla leaned further in and grinned. "Those three shot out of class like cannonballs today. And I got a look at Tane's paper. You've gotta be careful about grading with red ink. It stands out."
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"As if!" Ayla sneered. "Tane has, like, no friends these days. If he goes anywhere near those Scarlets he used to hang out with, his dad will kill him. And he still thinks he's too good to be here with the rest of us, even though he's a total loser!”
Sangnoir raised an eyebrow at this. “Why would a Scarlet Brother, or even one of their hangers-on, take a class from me?”
Ayla grinned. “Distribution requirements. We hafta do so many credits of social studies, natural sciences, yadda, yadda. He flunked geography last term. Got caught cheating! Anyhow, he had to pick between history with the dead guy or archaeology with you this term. Aaaand, he's on academic probation too, so he'd better pass. So, what are you offering next term? I'm trying to get my schedule planned out.”
Sangnoir scowled at her. “Don't know. The curriculum committee hasn't met. And how do you know about another student's grades or disciplinary status? All that stuff is confidential.”
“Tane's a loser, remember? He whined about getting caught cheating to two of my friends. He told Shorry about being on probation, and Shorry told me. It gets better. Did you know Tane joined a Scarlet Crusade chapter when he was at the Stormwind Military Academy? They tried to set fire to the Slaughtered Lamb, and he got arrested and booted. Then his dad packed him off to Gnomeragen Tech...”
“Ayla, I'm not supposed to know any of this stuff either! I have to keep an open mind about my students.”
“Tane doesn't have an open mind. Why bother? Anyhow, let me know when you find out about next term. Ciao!”
Tane did turn up to Sangnoir's office hours a week before the second paper was due. He didn't look like the Scarlet Crusaders you saw in the pamphlets or in theater productions, but then, the real ones almost never did. He was a full hand shorter than Sangnoir, with a weak chin and an unfortunate combination of stubble and acne. Without looking at Sangnoir, he declared, “I, uh, wanted to know if I could write the next paper about humans.”
Sangnoir shook his head. “The topics for this unit are trolls, elves, and Pandaren. You could do one about one of the minor races, but given your grade for the paper you wrote about the Arathi, I don't think that's a good idea. I wanted to talk to you about that first paper. You made a number of mistakes you shouldn't repeat on this one.”
Tane shuffled his feet and looked at the door.
Sangnoir spoke more quickly to get his message across before the kid bolted, “You were present for Professor Manablossom's lecture on sources. You have her handout on bibliographies and citation formats. Follow that to get the rubric points for the research items. Edit your first draft as best you can, and bring it to the Writing Center for help with spelling, grammar, and organization.”
Tane looked down at the floor. “But I don't... don't want to write about Pandaren, or elves, or dwarves, or any of them. I don't care about them! Why can't I write about people?”
“Pandaren, elves, and dwarves are people. That's why we're studying them.” Sangnoir kept a tight grip on his temper. This is Stormwind in peacetime, not the army, not the Black Watch, he reminded himself.
“You know what I mean! There's loads of human kingdoms I can write about!”
Sangnoir crushed down a sigh and repeated the speech he'd given the first day of class, ending with: "Non-human people have shaped modern human civilization. Elves taught us arcane magic, and gnomes taught us engineering. Without their help, we were just primitive farmers, until the orcs came and took our farms from us.” Less than a lifetime ago, Stormwind had been a very different place, and human kingdoms had covered most of the eastern continent. Sangnoir had tried to explain that to his students, but was reasonably confident that he had not succeeded.
Tane nodded, and somehow dashed out of the room without completely turning around. Sangnoir wished for a moment that he'd kept the whiskey bottle in his desk drawer.
Much to Sangnoir's surprise, Tane passed the second and third archaeology tests, and turned in better-than-acceptable papers from that point on. One was about discoveries from ancient elvish settlements in Northrend and the other was about changes in ogre weapons through time. But on the day of the final exam, Tane didn't show up. And when Sangnoir scanned the room, Ayla Crenshall kept her eyes on her paper and did not look back.
Sangnoir carried the exams back to his office. No grading just yet, he decided. It can wait until tomorrow. Using portals, it wouldn't take more than an hour to get to Ferelas to do some fishing. But there was a note on his desk, hurriedly scribbled in pencil. “Please come see me in my office. Urgent matter. Suzanna Marris.” Sangnoir picked up the strip of paper, and looked at the door. Old instincts told him it was trouble, told him to get out of there before things got worse. But reason and duty took over. The dean wanted his help and was owed it. He locked the exams in a drawer before he went to the Main Building.
Illeianna Mistcrown, head of Arcane Arts, was in the Faculty Office. She and Suzanna were standing by a side table examining a red orb the size of an apple and a knife with a wavy black blade. Suzanna looked up and gave him a weak smile. “Arstan, can you have a look at these? As an enchanter... And I want to know what you can tell me about fel enchants.”
Where had they found these? Sangnoir knew they wouldn't answer that one until they had his opinion. Illeianna must have examined them already. He'd mostly be confirming her discoveries.
The orb was red glass, with enough tiny flaws to tell him it hadn't been intended for enchantment. And the knife was made of ordinary steel, with entirely too much iron in it to hold a strong magic. “The enchantments are weak," Sangnoir told them, "Because the materials aren't appropriate for enchanting. Definitely fel magic, though, but mostly shadow, to enhance the amount of damage done by a caster's spells over time. The strange thing about these is the enchantment structure. It's Classical Highborne, not a modern Kirin Tor format, nor any of the common schema used by hedge wizards.”
Illeianna exhaled and her shoulders slumped. “So maybe he did learn it from me. I didn't think he'd learned enough to do effective enchantments.”
“Who is 'he'?” Sangnoir asked.
“Tane Snowcroft,” Suzanna answered. “He took Illeianna's class on basic enchantment when he started here, but droppped it after two weeks. By then he had the textbook.”
“And we started with the Classical Highborne format in lab. I thought it was a lot easier for beginners. I didn't expect it to lead to this.” Illeianna sighed and sat down, turning her eyes away from the tainted artifacts on the table.
“Tane is in my class too, and none of this makes sense. The kid's not a genius. Are you saying he's some kind of magical prodigy?”
Suzanna picked up a transcript from her desk. “He hasn't actually taken any classes in Arcane Arts except for that one on enchantment, and he bailed out before the first midterm. And not a genius according to his grades in the courses he's completed.”
“Could he have bought these?” Illeianna asked.
Sangnoir shook his head. “I've done a lot of work identifying enchantments for the City Guard, local businesses, a bunch of people. Started when I worked for that salvage company a few years ago. Possibly you could buy enchants like these in Kalimdor, but these aren't strong enough for anyone to bother importing. It's very easy to buy cheap enchants from Westfall, Darkshire, even the Badlands around here, but they're all done by hedge wizards or former Kirin Tor. By now, I know the common schema, even the rare ones. I've never seen Classical Highborne enchants on artifacts this new or this weak before. For those reasons, I don't think these are scraps from adventurers either.”
“You're sure the objects are new?” Suzanna asked.
“The enchantments are definitely new,” Illeianna confirmed. “Given the unsuitable nature of these materials, they're starting to fade already. I think they're weeks or months old, but no more. Give them a few years, and they'll be gone.”
Sangnoir raised his eyebrows. He hadn't thought to look at the enchantments for decay, nor calculate possible rates, but Illeianna was never confident without good reason. He added, “In a few months, there will be a lot of rust on this blade unless it's kept oiled. It hasn't been so far, nor has it ever been sharpened. These artifacts have never been used, at least since the enchantments were applied. Shadow magic, especially on the knife, will retain a memory of sorts when it's used to kill or even to wound. Not much though, because it's on iron.”
Sangnoir thought of the sword hanging in the locked closet in his apartment, and the tome resting below it. They were made of far stronger, far more magic-friendly substances than these pitiful toys, and they never forgot a kill.
“They've barely been handled, even for practice,” said Illeianna. So she had done tests already. “But Tane must have bragged about them. One of my students, Deela Thorill, warned me about these. Students aren't allowed to have enchanted weapons in the dorms, so we had his room searched. Tane says he's never seen them before.” She looked over at Suzanna.
Sangnoir paced around the table and remembered Ayla in the exam, oddly quiet, not even looking back at him. He said, “The other reason this seems weird is that until recently, he was publicly involved in at least one Scarlet gang. These are spellcaster's weapons, suited to a shadow priest or a warlock who specializes in curses. Where would Tane have learned fel or shadow magic? The local hedge warlocks aren't going to tutor him, and the serious covens would probably kill him as a potential infiltrator. Deela Thorill was in my class too. She was friends with Magda Honeythorpe, who was experimenting with warlock magic. Magda ran away a couple of months ago.” Ayla had been a friend of Magda's too, until Magda had almost killed her.
“Deela was Magda's roommate.” Suzy told him, without needing to look at any papers. “The inquisitors talked to her, but I wouldn't let them do any more than that. She said she'd had no idea of what Magda was up to, or where she's gone.”
Illeianna stared at the artifacts on the table. “Deela has taken several classes from me. She's very good. Suzy, we have to be sure.”
“Agreed. And you say these enchanted things remember their owners?” Suzanna asked them.
Sangnoir picked up the orb. “Mmm, they'll have an affinity for the current owner, at least. They weren't signed by the enchanter. Fel stuff usually isn't, and whoever would try to enchant with cheap materials like this probably shouldn't bother. But often black-market enchants contains what we call a creator's shroud, to actually conceal the enchanters' identity. No shroud in these.”
“I've never noticed such a shroud! I'd like to see some of those black-market enchantments,” Illeianna said, smiling a little. “They sound interesting!”
Suzy scowled. “I don't want them in the dorms. So you can tell me if Tane even owned these?”
“The Glittergauge Affinity Test,” decided Illeianna, “Because I don't feel like using arcane or infinity dust for this. And because it works.”
Suzanna stepped into the hall and dispatched a student worker to collect Tane. Tane must have been waiting for the summons, because he arrived only minutes later, looking spottier and more sullen than ever. Illeianna spoke softly to the orb, and it glowed faintly. “Please hold your hand here, like so,” she told Tane, demonstrating with the palm of her hand a fingerwidth from the orb. He followed her example. “Now try and touch the orb, but slowly,” she directed. As he moved his hand, the orb rolled away lazily. “OK, that's enough.”
Illeianna and Tane repeated the procedure with the knife. Tane moved too quickly, and managed to take hold of the hilt, but it slipped from his hand. The second time, it shifted away slightly as he brought his hand towards it. “So what?” he asked. “What does this mean?”
“You don't own these things. You've never bought, found, inherited, stolen, or even handled them before. No one's given them to you. If the enchantment were any weaker, this test would not have worked so well,” Illeianna assured him.
Tane looked up at Suzanna. “I was telling the truth. They aren't mine!” He glared at Sangnoir. “This place is full of.... of people who do this kind of thing, but I don't. I can tell you who does!”
Suzanna held up her hands. “We had to check, because these objects were found in your room. We already have a list of other people to test at this point. You can go now.”
Spluttering, Tane started moving towards the door. Before he made it out, Sangnoir reminded him, “You missed the archaeology final this morning.”
“Yeah, I was here.” Tane scowled at Suzanna, who was returning his transcript to a file cabinet. “I kinda...”
“The make-up test will be tomorrow morning.” Sangnoir didn't want to give Tane an excuse to say anything that they would all later regret.
Perhaps Tane was thinking about that too, because he just said, “Um, OK. Yes, sir.” He gave all three of them one more baneful glower, and flung himself out the door.
Deela had already left for the summer. Her listed address was a manor near Three Corners. Suzanna drafted a letter to her requesting and requiring a meeting a meeting within the week. At the next faculty pub night, she told Sangnoir and Illeianna that there wouldn't be a meeting with Deela.
“She transferred to the Kirin Tor Academy,” Suzanna told them. “She had her transcript sent to Dalaran the day before she left.”
Illeianna stared into her glass. “Why did she do it? My students said she and Tane had nothing to do with each other.”
Suzanna sipped her drink. “You assume she did it? Me too, frankly. Declain said that the lock on the door to Tane's had been picked. The scratches were fresh, so it was recent, and whoever did it was an amateur. Those locks are cheap. We should invest in better ones. It's just... what inspires that kind of casual malice?”
“Was she adopted?” Sangnoir asked.
Suzanna coughed. “How did you know?”
“I didn't,” Sangnoir said. “Lucky guess, but an easy one, these days. The Thorills are an old Redridge family and have no reason to care about the Scarlet Crusade or any of it's rotten little offspring. But with the Plague and the wars and the bandits and the trolls, the orphanages have been busy. A lot of kids grow up with grudges these days. Some of them hate warlocks, so there's no way I'll live on campus. But there are plenty seeking revenge against anyone Scarlet too.”
Vierdri read the note she received from Scott with interest two or three times. She set the note on her desk and leaned back in her chair, at the bonsai tree on her desk, mind mulling over the contents. "I may have to talk to Declain about Three Corners..." She smiled as plans began to take shape in her mind.
((I loved this story, Sang. Awesome stuff. Seriously.))
((Awesome story here, Sang. :D I absolutely loved the characterizations! Definitely felt like a collaborative process, with how accurate the portrayals of Anna and Suzy were.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see Declain get a mention! Woo-hoo!!! :D
Not that she'd have likely fit in anywhere in -this- particular story, but I tend to wonder if Amara's Gilnean accent possibly deters anyone from putting her into their stories. xD TOTALLY NOT fishing for that to happen, it was just a prevailing thought as I'd been reading through this story!
Oh! Also... I can't help but notice that collectively through many of our stories (as a whole) we're beginning to generate names and even personalities for students! Perhaps in time, we may want to do a quick "Rogue's Gallery" of sorts, listing some of the more prominent students with quick reference of who they are and a few relevant/significant details, etc.? It's just a thought, but it really interested me to see a few student names and personalities reinforced throughout this story. :D
Loved this, and I can't wait for more! Well done, Sang! ))