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The Tale of the Apprentice #4

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“Damnit, Holbenth, bring that damn lantern over here. I want good light when I find what I'm looking for. That boy has never performed as well in my classes as he has as anyone else's, and I'm sure he's doing it to just show me up. This is probably his idea of revenge for his being assigned several extra pieces of work to try and make him catch up with the rest of his class. I'm sure its somewhere in his chest, that boy said he saw Tarranau carrying it this evening. Plus, no one had seen him since the morning. He was probably plotting how to get that amulet from me. Bloody insubordinate wretch of a child.” Magister Gothren's invective trailed off, more from running out of air than from any lack of things to say.

He had the upper half of his body in the chest at the foot of Tarranau's bed, the contents strewn around the room, spread on the desk, having been carefully picked over as Magister Gothren searched. Magister Holbenth hovered nervously over him, carrying a lantern fired by oil rendered from the large fish the ships caught. The light was fitful and not that bright, and Gothren continually muttered or yelled for more light, or light closer to him, or some other direction to Holbenth. Tarranau came awake with a start at a particularly loud expletive from Gothren. “What? What are you doing in my room? Get out of my chest! Those are my things, and I'll have them folded and put back, right now!”

Gothren extracted himself from the chest, stretching to his full height and walking over to the bed, where he towered over Tarranau, who was still trapped in the sheets and blankets of his bed, and groggy from just waking up. “You, boy, have been accused of stealing a valuable amulet from my room, and reported as carrying that amulet by another student. Now, I am exercising my right as a senior teacher of this learning institution to search your room to find my amulet. Magister Holbenth is here as the required observer. You will sit still and not interfere with this investigation, or you will be presumed guilty for trying to interrupt my rightful act of search.” Gothren had been glaring down at Tarranau this whole time, and now turned his eyes up the other teacher in the room, holding a glare no less stern than that that he had given the student. “Holbenth, if he needs clothes, hand him a few of the ones already searched. And while you may like Tarranau as a student, I would suggest not doing anything foolish, unless you wish to join him on his way out of this school.”

“I... I'm sorry Tarranau. Magister Gothren woke me from my bed, handed me this lamp, and dragged me to your room. I don't really know what is going on here any more than you do. I just wish we'd followed proper procedure, and at least waited till morning.” Gothren spun away from the chest, his eyes locking onto Magister Holbenth's. “Wait till morning? Wait till morning? Had I been so foolish and inept as to do that, my amulet would have been gone, disappearing with that child” his arm waving at Tarranau, “probably to be sold down on the docks to whatever trader would offer him a half acceptable price. And this is the proper procedure, dolt, and I'll not have you questioning my motives. Now tie your mouth shut and bring that lamp here, so I can see what I'm doing.”

Holbenth gave Tarranau a resigned shrug, indicating there was nothing that he could do in this situation, and that they all just needed to play along. Tarranau gestured at a few of the clothes laying around the room, and the Magister handed them to the apprentice, who dressed himself, feeling at least a little more appropriate and less vulnerable now that he was properly clothed. Even if he felt less vulnerable though, there was still nothing he could aside from watch Gothren tear and paw through his clothes and belongings

.It went on for some time, with Magister Gothren grubbing around in every pocket and seam of the clothes that he pulled from the chest, searching for the lost amulet of his. He finally came to the bottom of the chest, emptied and with no amulet to show for it, and rounded on Tarranau. “Where did you hide my amulet you little scamp? I know its in this room and I will find it, and you will show me where it is! And for your own safety, you shall not have sold that amulet already or I will exercise every ounce of my power to see you ruined, your family ruined, and your career so destroyed that you will have to flee this island and lie about your very name, simply to earn a job as a ditch digger. Find me that amulet!”

Magister Holbenth placed his hand on Gothren's shoulder, easing him back straight from where he had been bent over Tarranau, shouting directly into his face. Holbenth took a step back when Gothren's eyes turned on him, but steadied and regained some composure. “I do think you're being too hard on the boy, Magister Gothren. After all, have you considered that if you don't find the amulet here, someone else might have hidden it, and that Tarranau might not be the one who took it? After all, he is a well regarded student here at the school.”

Gothren rounded on Holbenth with a fury unblemished by the early hour or the many rages already this night. “So,” he sneered, “am I to assume that what I know, right here” at this he jabbed himself fiercely in the head, “is wrong? That what another young, upstanding gentleman like this one told me was a lie? That one of my best students can't even tell the truth to his own teacher? Or maybe I should look for other explanations, perhaps? After all, you've always been soft on Tarranau, haven't you Holbenth? He's never, ever, been the best student in your class. Oh no, not for the last four classes you taught him, either. Do you know why I grabbed you out of your bed at this hour when any other teacher would do? Because I wanted to see if you helped him with this. Oh yes,” At this Gothren began to shake a finger in the younger teacher's face. “oh yes, I know about how you and some of the young teachers, grumble about 'how poor old doddering Gothren is unfit to teach', and the guilty looks you give me when I come by unexpectedly. I've seen them all, and I might just have to have a word with the other head teachers about this matter.”

Magister Holbenth just stared and sputtered. “There has been no such thing, Gothren! I will not have you impune me with these slanderous accusations! None of the teachers with whom I associate myself have ever mentioned any statements of the sort that you bring forth here. And yes, Tarranau has been the best student in my classes. He is innately gifted at the style of water magic that I teach and he does well because of it. It is not because I play favourites. I'll thank you to not repeat these accusations.”

“And Tarranau has been the worst in mine! Am I to presume that someone elsewhere so gifted in the arts of this school cannot transmute a single bucket of sea water to something potable within an entire week's time? That a student who was about to receive our seal of approval in only a few short weeks would be worse than mere children who are five years younger than he is? Or that he has taken a dislike to the one teacher in whose classes he cannot perform? I'll let you think on that Holbenth. Now, this discussion is over, and you will sit quietly on that desk, right there” Gothren pointed with a single, thick finger “and you will not speak until spoken to. However, first, escort this boy out of the room, he's simply crowding things up and getting in the way.”

All this time Tarranau had been stuck sitting on his bed, watching the fight rage back and forth between Magister Gothren and Holbenth, well meaning but unable to stand his ground against such a domineering man as Gothren. Now he struggled to his feet, stuffing his feet into the footwear kept under the bed, and looked to Holbenth for further instructions.

“You might as well go to the dining hall or one of the study rooms and try and catch some more sleep. I'll find you in the morning when we have everything more securely sorted out.” Tarranau moved to grab a blanket and set of pillows from the bed to use when he bedded down to recover what little sleep he could.

“Leave those, boy, I don't want you taking anything out of this room that I have not personally checked. You are still not yet innocent.”

With those words following him, Tarranau headed out to find a blessed mental peace from the last hour. As he walked down the hallway, other boys who had been awoken by the shouting came out of their rooms, watching him as he strode past, a few asking “What happened? What's got into Gothren now? Why did I see Holbenth with a lantern? Why are you carrying the those blankets? What's going on?” He dismissed all of them with a brief shake of his head or a quiet “Not right now, I'll tell you in the morning.” As these were the older students at the school, many of whom had seen Gothren's wrath before, they slipped back into their rooms, careful not to draw too much attention while the teacher was still in the full flow of his rage and anger.

Tarranau made his way to the small but exquisite library, home to many works that could be found nowhere else, simply because they had been written by the teachers of the school and never published or copied elsewhere. Finding a booth in the back, he wrapped himself in the blanket, puffing up the pillows and resting them against the wall, leaning there in an early morning daze and attempting to come to terms with the results of the early morning awakening.

He knew he hadn't taken anything. After all, he hadn't even been in the school most of the day when he was accused of it. Unfortunately, he was also alone that entire day, enjoying a private sunning on the beach, and thus had no people he could turn to for excuses, especially since the only time that he was back at the school was the time that he was accused of stealing the pendant, so there was no way of differing that, although if he hadn't been seen coming out of the teacher's rooms, he should be fine, since they couldn't find an amulet in his room that he hadn't stolen, after all.

“Play out the day in your head Tarranau, lets see what happened. First, I woke up and didn't realize that I had no classes, went to the class rooms, then finally figured it out. After that, got changed, grabbed some food and went off to the beach for the entire day. Enjoyed that, set out for home a little after sunset, got there, ate, and then collapsed with exhaustion from a great day out. The next thing that happens after that is waking up and being screamed at by Gothren. Bastard. If only he didn't get his jollies by trying to break those who stood up to him. Not going to let that happen to me. Going to present my case in front of the more reasonable teachers if it comes to that. Well, not much more I can do about it until they finish up searching my room and find nothing. Gothren will have to eat crow at that point and I'll have to be careful if he does. Vengeful sort, he is.”

He curled his head onto the pillows, shifting as he tried to find a comfortable position in chair clearly designed to keep the seated person awake and alert as they read texts that were of a somniferous nature, as with many of the books on theory in this library. Tarranau had read many of the essays himself for some of his classes, and often in this seat, which is why he had come back to this secluded corner of the library to rest. However, rest was eluding him, and so he sat fully awake, wrapped in a blanket, the events of the last day replaying over and over in his mind, till they latched onto one phrase: “that one of my best students”. Gothren's best students were his lapdogs, people who would kowtow to him and act as yes men, pumping up his ego whenever he needed it, and listening intently to his every word as if it was a drop of long lost knowledge.They always got an easy ride through the school, because although they would never exert themselves in another teacher's class, they always worked their utmost for Gothren, and their status as lapdogs usually prevented them from being given a poor grade by any other teacher. At least, except for those few teachers who were sick of Gothren's bullying and of a status that they could withstand his exalted barrage.

Most students, Tarranau included, had realized that if they just performed well in all of the classes, without showing special favouritism to one or the other, they could avoid being embroiled in all of the back room politicking that infected the school. Unfortunately for Tarranau, and for several of the other boys at the school, they were overly talented in one area and underendowed in another, meaning that they were seen as supporting one teacher against another. This was the case for Tarranau and Magisters Gothren and Holbenth, and since he was not skilled in the area of Gothren's speciality, he took as it a personal affront, especially since the same student did so well in the class of someone whom he did not like.

Now, it sounded like one of Gothren's best students had tagged Tarranau for something he knew he hadn't done. Wonderful. Sounded like he was the student who was chosen to make an example of a teacher who hadn't behaved, or had otherwise stood up to Gothren, whether that resistance was truthful or not. In this case, the teacher was almost certainly Holbenth, one of the younger teachers at school who had some different ideas about how things should be taught here, ideas based partly on his more closely remembered period as a student. He'd spoken to Tarranau about them; after all, Tarranau was the student with whom he got along the best, and also the best at what Holbenth taught.

Tarranau wondered what Holbenth had done that might cause something like this, since there was usually a reason behind the petty squabbles of the school. Probably just said something that drew the ire of Magister Gothren, or made fun of him. Tarranau knew why he had been chosen as the target for this, and it was that he was both the best student of Magister Holbenth, and also had the temerity to state that he wasn't all that enthralled with the life of a ship's mage, something that was an almost sacred occupation to those who taught at the school, all of whom had served on a ship or a trader for some length of time.

The only one who had taken it with any grace was Holbenth, who was still young enough in years to remember youthful rebelliousness and the desire to not be trapped into a laid out pattern of life, one where you could see the next step coming from ten years away, and a life that had been plotted out for him since the moment that he had been accepted into the school. A resigned acceptance that he might get the wish to not be a ship's mage granted a fair bit sooner that expected spread over Tarranau, and he was able to find some sleep at last in the uncomfortable chair.


The Tale of the Apprentice #4 © Stratovarius

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