The vibration of my watch woke me at 7AM sharp. Ambrose still seemed to be fast asleep, so I gathered my clothes as quietly as possible and headed for the shower closest to our room. I was surprised to hear someone else already in the other shower in our dormitory since I assumed that no one else would get up this early on their first day.
In 15 minutes, I was out of the shower. Everyone in the dorm had briefly exchanged names last night before turning in so I recognised Devon, who was already in the common area towelling his hair dry.
He nodded at me as I joined him at the table. 'Hey, early riser too?'
'Helps to start the day right,' I said.
'Hope no one else gets up this early, otherwise we'd need a roster for the showers.'
We went through the usual pleasantries and I found out that Devon had come from a pretty well-to-do family. He had developed the ability to channel ambient arcana when he was only 7, so his parents threw him into a school that catered specifically to preparing children to enter the arcanist preparatory schools. He was a product of ruthless, rigid training.
I wondered if he even wanted to be an arcanist but I didn't think it was polite to question his dedication. Instead, I asked, 'Did you enjoy it?'
'Not at first, no,' he sighed. 'Hated my parents for awhile. But no one else in my family has managed to enter the Academy. I think the last one was like four generations ago or something. So it's kind of a big deal for them, and I can understand that. Anyway, I'm pretty good at it now, so it worked out, and it's hard not to enjoy something you're good at, you know?'
'Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.'
'So, what about you? You're an independent study. Must've been hard?'
I was acutely aware of how different our situations were so I tried to be as tactful as I could. 'Maybe not in the same way as you think. Both my parents are arcanists so I always had plenty of help, but you can't escape your teachers if they live with you.'
'Shit, both arcanists? How far back does your family go?'
'Uhm, both my parents are first-generation, so I'm not from some pedigree or anything.'
'Okay, but does this mean you're really far ahead? I mean, how do you map over onto the average preparatory school standard?' I could see Devon was getting worked up - equal parts curiosity and competitive interest. I shifted uncomfortably.
'I, uh, had to take the same test to get into the Academy, so I've got a score, same as anybody else.'
'What score?' Devon leaned towards me across the table, his eyes boring a hole into me.
'It's not a competition, right?' I was desperately hoping this wouldn't become some sort of cliche rivalry. Not for the first time in my life, I wished I didn't have two arcanists for parents.
'What score?' Devon repeated, leaning halfway across the table now. He looked ready to seize me by the collar.
I leaned out of his reach and took a deep breath. 'I'm... I'm the top scorer in our batch.'
Devon threw his hands up in the air with an inarticulate cry. I couldn't tell if he was horribly angry or extremely excited. Before he could do anything else the door to my room opened and Ambrose popped his head out, looking around blearily.
'YOU'RE ROOMING WITH THE TOP SCORER,' Devon roared, pointing at a nonplussed Ambrose. The other doors were opening now as everyone in the dorm was trying to see what the commotion was about.
I buried my head in my hands. 'This can't be happening.'
After Devon had apologised for waking everyone else, the six of us in the dorm shared a simple breakfast of sandwiches. The kitchen was small but well-stocked with the basics which would last us for about a week but after that, we'd need to stock up on our own. The talk around the table turned into something of an interrogation. I was asked about everything from my parents' arcanist vocations to my own abilities. Not wanting to appear haughty, I answered all their questions. In fact, their questions gave me a little insight into their own interests, so it was a win-win situation.
Jerric, Devon's roommate, was quite interested in the theoretical aspects of arcanophany and questioned me about how my parents covered those topics. Devon himself was more interested in the application, and his questions focused on my father's work as an artificer. Lynus and Kevan, fraternal twins, wanted to know more about daily life in my house. Ambrose mostly listened, and the only question he asked was about how my parents trained my ability to channel ambient arcana.
I was very relieved to find that my dorm mates seemed to be generally nice people. There was some jesting about being "in the presence of greatness", but thankfully it didn't seem to be done in a mean spirit (as far as I could tell). Devon extracted a promise for me to help any of them if they needed, which I quite readily agreed to since I had found that I quite enjoyed coaching my own sister, and I expected that the experience wouldn't be that much different.
Becoming a licensed generalist arcanist meant going through a three-year course in the Academy. Most people went on to specialise in order to pick up a vocation, which would take an additional two years. Since all of us were new, we'd be attending the same lectures, though the Academy elected to split cohorts into tutorial groups of 10 for the modules that required more focused instruction. When we compared timetables, we realised we had all been placed in different tutorial groups since our rooms were all different.
I ran a finger down my schedule for today:
9AM, Principles of Advanced Arcanophany, M. Reeves, Nivordin Lecture Hall
11AM, Advanced Glyphs, A. Celwyn, Ka'atus Room
3PM, Basics of Artificing, E. Dundale, Nivordin Lecture Hall
'Seems like a light day,' I remarked.
Devon leaned over my shoulder to look. 'You know those lectures are two hours long, right?'
'Yeah, I know. So?'
'Sorry, Great One, I forgot, two-hour lectures must be a breeze for one of your prodigious intellect.' Devon laughed as I swatted him away. The others chuckled.
'Let's go a bit earlier, grab some good seats,' Ambrose suggested.
Everyone else at the table nodded except Kevan, who made a face. He shot an annoyed glance at a grinning Lynus. 'It's just Day One, Kev. And we're already up thanks to Devon. Might as well, right?'
Kevan groaned. 'Alright, fine. How early?'
I thought back to the orientation briefing. 'How early did the rest of you turn up yesterday, anyway? I was ten minutes early but I still ended up being one of the last ones in.'
'It was already like that about half an hour before it was supposed to start,' Devon replied. 'Didn't expect everyone else to be so on-the-ball in the Academy. Think we should go now?'
Kevan rolled his eyes. 'Not everyone's there because they're eager to study. Everyone was just hoping to get a good look at the Chosen One. But now that Reeves has done his thing, that's impossible. Don't think we need to worry about going that early.'
'Oh man, Reeves.' Lynus shook his head. 'That's someone I wouldn't want to cross. I think his aura's got something to do with how he just quiets the whole hall.'
Devon looked surprised. 'Is that actually possible?'
'Maybe, in theory,' Jerric chimed in. 'Not sure how exactly how. Besides, his robes were all glyphed up - maybe it's that instead.'
'But what about his claim?' I asked, eager to pick up this topic. 'Do you think he really modified everyone's memories?'
'Yeah, why not?' Devon asked. 'I mean, he said so, didn't he?'
'But how?' I stood up, pacing agitatedly. 'Where did all the arcana come from? How did he make it so seamless? How did he do it without line-of-sight or proximity? How did he cut through protections over property and individuals?'
Jerric frowned. 'I was wondering all that, too. This is arcanophany on a scale I've never even read or heard of.'
Kevan shrugged. 'Well, he's not the Academy's Prime Sage for nothing. He's the one taking us for Principles of Advanced Arcanophany, so maybe just ask? Maybe he'll be happy to answer the top scorer.'
The others grinned and I rolled my eyes. 'Right, so how early, then? Ten minutes?'
There was a general murmur of agreement from everyone. We talked a bit more, then went about getting ready for our first lecture.