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The Tale of the Apprentice #9

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Tarranau sat up in the chair, looking intently out of the window. Perhaps he could use that storied reticence to his advantage. He was not technically ejected from the school yet, and while his name was certainly having doubt cast upon it, there was no formal injunction against him, nor would there be until after the trial, when he had been proven to be either good or a failed apprentice. That meant that while the day lasted, he was still able to cash in on the name of the academy, and it would help him in more respects than one. The first was simple, and it was monetary. Tarranau was not a wealthy boy, nor did he come from a wealthy family, and that meant that the trip towards Arnich was sure to cost him a fair amount of his savings, and a fair bit more if he was unable to receive the cost allowances that were tolerated by all ships who deigned to land in the harbour. Even those ships that did not carry a ship's mage on a permanent basis had enough good sense to give the benefit, for it cost them little in the long run, with few of the water mages travelling outside of being hired by a merchant vessel, and earned them a lack of enmity from the largest trading city and fleet, something of no small measure.

The more funds that Tarranau had when he arrived at the far end of his journey, the more opportunities he could create for himself, and that mattered in no small way to the apprentice. The second way was that he could use the prestige of the academy to secure himself a birth if he approached in full robes and in broad daylight, although there might be some wonder as to where he was going with so many things. However, he would not be questioned too greatly, and would be able to secure passage much more easily. Tarranau would have to ship out on the first merchant sailor to leave for Arnich, even if it carried a ship's mage, especially if it carried a ship's mage. How odd would it look for him to turn down a ship that had a member of his guild on it in favour of one that did not. He resolved to gather and clean himself and to head down to the docks at the first opportunity in order to take advantage of this proposition that lay before him.

The third reason the apprentice felt likely to succeed was that the discretion of the school would outweigh the need to bring formal closure to the event of his discrediting. Should he manage to slip away, it was entirely possible that Magister Gothren could be prevailed upon by the other teachers who were less inclined to see fault in a student who had been perfectly acceptable in their classes, and who had been through a fair bit of bluster from the good teacher, that they would allow Tarranau to leave in peace, as long as he made no pretence of being a water mage anywhere that they could see. After all, if they saw no violation of the school's rules, there would be no need to try and enforce anything with regards to that, and Tarranau could leave in peace, as long as he made himself out to be nothing more than he was, at least under the watchful eye of the ship's mage who would likely be there during the crossing.

Rejuvenated much more than the few paltry hours of sleep that he had had would suggest, the apprentice stripped down, washing himself fully from head to foot in order to present the appearance of being a full and upstanding member of society. Tarranau was certainly that in his own eyes, and he was still adamant that he had done nothing wrong, but he also knew that to appear at the trial and protest his innocence with at least Gothren and several of his students declaiming him as a thief would be to command the tide to stop its steady progression. Also, even Magister Holbenth would be forced to say that the amulet had been found in Tarranau's room, and well hidden in a place that would likely not be looked at. Framed or not, the evidence against him was such that he was better off leaving to find a new home, and if that meant that he was unable to stand trial and let his sense of self be battered and bruised for however long, then so be it. He was quite happy to escape with his sense of self well fed and quite unharmed by the ravagings of a dreadful teacher. Sliding back into his robes, clean but slightly damp from a scrubbing to make them appear their best, Tarranau took a sip of water, and headed out the door, a long and steady stride taking him towards the docks, a route he had skulked along last night to little avail. Today he would stride out in full view of the school, and the result would be all the better for it.

A smile graced his lips, but only briefly. There were still many things that could go wrong, and even if nothing did, well... leaving family was hard. He'd lived at the school for many years, and only gone home in the winter when the ships were all in port and the harbour had more or less closed, but there was always the assurance that his family was nearby should he need anything. It was a support that he relied on for all of his life, and now it was to disappear. Across the seas, over there, there would be no way of contacting his mother and father that would not take weeks. Tarranau had not yet come to grips with that degree of separation, and it weighed on his mind as he walked to the docks, a little of the bounce sucked from his steps. This was his solution to the problem before him, but was it the best?

He didn't know. All too soon for his contemplations, he arrived upon the docks, the harbour curving away to either side. If he was to do this, he was to be bold, and to hope that there had not been an injunction against his leaving that had been quietly slipped to some of the men who ran the port. Tarranau ran his hands through his hair, trying to smooth down the ruffles incurred from the breeze. It was also a sign of the young man's nervousness, but he tried his best to conceal that as he walked into the office of the harbourmaster.

It was a small wooden building near the largest docks, and in the front sat a clerk behind a large desk, wide enough that it acted as a barrier between those who came in and the rest of the office. There was a very clear demarcation of the visitor as a supplicant to a higher office. The clerk looked up as Tarranau entered, eyed the robes that the apprentice wore, and returned to his labours over sheets of parchment. Tarranau stared at the apprentice for a moment, wondering what he had done to deserve being ignored upon his entry into the office. Surely they would treat the members of the school and the guild of mages better than this. Unless, of course, they had been told to prevent him from leaving the city. That could explain it.

Tarranau cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but who would I speak to regarding a place on a ship,” The clerk looked up, his eyes taking in Tarranau from his feet to his hair. “The ship's captain. Who else?”

“Well, could you tell me which of these ships are going to Arnich then? A ship with a mage, perferably. I prefer smooth rides.”

“Just sit down, would you?” He pointed his pen at one of the seats on the far wall, a rough wooden device that had no back, although it was pushed up against the wall and that could be used as a support instead.

Tarranau walked over and sat, turning the chair so it faced at the clerk. He was sure that they had issued orders that the an apprentice was not to be allowed passage off of the island. What else could explain the unheard of rudeness to a member of the school. He began to twist and writhe his hands with one another, a small habit that signified his outward nervousness. Time seemed to eke forward slowly, barely moving at all, and Tarranau began looking out of the window, trying to catch a glimpse of the sun and to see just how long he had been waiting in the office.

Presently he had had enough of the waiting, and stood up, walking over to the desk of the clerk and staring down at him. “What is it I am waiting here for?” The clerk looked up and shook his head. “Do they teach you nothing about the harbour or the merchants? The harbour master is out, checking on the morning's new arrivals and the departures. He does this with every tide. Now that I've completed your education, you can sit back down and wait for him to appear. And don't think about walking out to see him, he hates being interrupted.” “Oh... right, thanks.” Tarranau sat back down in the same chair, this time not staring quite so continuously at the clerk, but his eyes roving over the office, trying to make the time pass a little faster.

He tried to think of a game he could play while waiting for the master to show up, or at least some other way that he could pass the time besides being nervous and sitting in a chair. Soon enough he was engaged in the counting of the number of planks of wood in the desk, or in how many seconds it appeared to take the clerk to finish a single line of writing. Those completed, he moved on to the pieces of wood in each wall of the building, and was well down the south wall when the clerk looked up from his work.


The Tale of the Apprentice #9 © Stratovarius

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