Galahad sat on the edge of his bed, staring out the portal window at a wheat covered valley. The wheat looked like it had been growing for some time as it waved in the wind, moving like waves on a golden ocean. It reminded him of home. The valleys and forests, the plains and rivers… he missed it. Even if he had left to get away from his parents, Galahad still missed them too. He wondered if he should give them a call soon to check in, but eventually decided against it. He was supposed to be living on his own, at least for a time. With the ticking of the clock, he tapped his foot before finally deciding to get up and bathe. His shower was small, but the water was as hot as he needed to relax his wound up muscles. He reached up and rubbed his own shoulder as he stretched the arm in a circle. The way he had held his arm to finally cast that transmutation spell yesterday had been straining on his body. The strange hand shape, the odd angle of his arm, and the concentration required was a lot more than he had expected. Miss Manus had been right, you couldn’t do it fast and loose like other schools of magic. He cupped his hand before arduously contorting it and focusing in on the water in his hand. His mouth moved as near silent words left his mouth. He felt a sizzling in his hands as the water heated up and boiled before becoming a light yellow color. Bringing it to his nose he smelled lemonade and dared to drink it, “Ugh, too sour,” He grunted before washing his hand clean of the sour drink. As he finished lathering and rinsing his body, Galahad turned off the water then raised his arms straight in the air and said a single word, bringing his arms straight out and summoning a powerful gust of warm air around him to dry his skin and hair. He twisted his upper body, popping his spine and stretching his back muscles. He wondered if there was some kind of masseuse on campus that could fix his weary body. Galahad stopped himself before his mind could wander too far. Although there was something at the back of his mind, Miss Manus– not that he was imagining her giving him a massage, but what if he could change his limbs like she could? Could he extend his arms like she could? Could she even do that? He wasn’t sure. Maybe change them into something stronger? He shook his head and chuckled before getting dressed and bringing out his books, notebooks, magical materials, and textbooks. It was Thursday, a day of study and practice for him before a hopefully relaxing weekend, if he did manage to finish all his homework today, anyways. He laid them out on his desk and bed, giving him space to pour over everything as he practiced and studied magical formulae. He was to make an attempt at the scrivener’s casting style, where the caster would draw magical runes on a special piece of paper with special, magically infused ink. The chalice of water sat on a circle he had drawn which was surrounded by symbols for water. Circular waves that wound in on themselves. He was supposed to use this style to transmute water into another liquid once more. It was simple, draw a circle, some runes of power around it, tweak them until you get the desired liquid. He wanted lemonade and would not stop until he had it done. He stood over the softly glowing runes and frowned, what were the required sigils, again? Five glasses of water later, Galahad had made a palatable glass. Not too sour nor too sweet for him. He sighed, feeling how weary his body was. He wasn't tired, per say, not physically at least, though his tongue ached from the sour drinks. It wasn't mental or emotional either, it was something that only casters would feel, a pain in the soul as mana deprivation took its toll. There were a few ways to alleviate this feeling: the best was alcohol of any kind– wine more so– would jumpstart the body’s natural production of it, food and other liquids less so. Water did next to nothing. A major exception was liquor made from transmutation. The mana used would be much more than what would be regained. Alternatively, it wouldn’t do much of anything, a complete loss of mana. Even if you were giving another caster mana by making it, it was much less time consuming and more efficient to simply siphon mana to them, a technique most wizards could do and one that Galahad himself was very familiar with. The wizard stood and looked at the clock. It was nearly time for lunch. He would have liked to keep studying, but he knew he needed the mana. With a sigh, he threw a coat over his shoulders before stepping out of his dorm and out of the Seeker’s tower. It was mid day so Shanessa was already gone, probably to her own classes on necromancy healing. As Galahad left, he spotted two students sitting on a bench just outside the tower. One of them nudged the other and pointed toward Galahad before the two started to snicker. The wizard frowned but kept walking. Did he embarrass himself recently? He wasn’t sure. He couldn’t remember doing anything dumb in his short time at the academy. Sure, he had cooped himself in his room except for when Shanessa and Fredrik came to check up on him during the week leading up to the beginning of classes. “Yo! Lox!” Galahad could recognize that nasally voice anywhere, “Hey, Blud,” He smirked at the fact that he kept getting called out to wherever he went, “What’s up?” He hollered back as he noticed the goblin and his sister. The two were walking down the path beside him, heading toward the road, “Sheesh, Blud. You get in a fight?” He asked as he saw the slowly healing red and purple wound contrasting the goblin’s green skin. “Oh yeah, got in a fight with Syrus Rockshaper, but that’s not where I got this. I was sitting in a bush–,” He stopped before nervously looking at his sister who was shooting him a glare, “I mean,” He pulled his hat down over the wound, “I just fell and hit my head. Really.” “I see,” Galahad gave a confused look but didn’t ask questions, “Hi, Rald,” He changed topics quickly. “Good afternoon, mister popular,” The green woman giggled as she played with her hair. “Excuse me?” “You heard me. You’ve been the talk of the campus a—all morning!” She started walking again and pointed a finger at Galahad, “Come on, come clean. How’d you manage to score her?” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Galahad’s deadpan voice and blank expression made Rald back down. As the wizard looked around, he saw numerous nearby individuals looking his way, trying to eavesdrop not so subtly, “What the hell is going on?” Rald rubbed her face, “How?! How do you NOT read the inquirer?” “The what?” “He really doesn’t know sis,” Blud said, amused and almost impressed judging by his tone, “Peep this, my man,” He pulled a newspaper out of his cloak and handed it over. Galahad unfolded it and stared at the front page, “Multifold Manus of Alderia… spotted with new student in a one-on-one…” Galahad read aloud as he saw the photos of Miss Manus and himself, “What, they think we’re dating?!” He belly laughed and threw his head back, “Seriously? I got tutored once and now everyone thinks I’m going steady with her?” “They’re hungry for rumors and mysteries,” Blud sighed, “It's all a spew of garbage in that paper there.” “It is not!” Rald protested, “This is why you don’t have any friends, Blud.” “I’m his friend, right?” Galahad countered, making Rald roll her eyes at him. The lady goblin smirked, “I guess you boys just can’t understand real culture. The Inquirer prints what people want to read. They wanna read about the real goings on here at the academy. That Fairgarland Newspaper is so boring in comparison. Carly is a real genius.” “Yeah, yeah, whatever. That paper is for the sad-sacks who never leave campus,” Blud groaned, “Hey, speaking of– we’re headed home, Lox. You wanna come with and get some lunch? We are friends, right?” “Oh, that’s a great idea! Mom loves having guests over!” Rald replied, “C’mon, Lox! You gotta! We can show you around town, too!” Galahad looked at the two. He found himself unable to say no as they looked up at him with big, hope filled eyes, “Sure. I’m down. I don’t need to be anywhere until four. Do you two have a car or…?” “Nah, we take the bus,” Blud chuckled, “You think we’re rich?” Rald quickly pulled out her phone and checked something, only pushing a few buttons before she put it away. “Well–” Galahad gave them an embarrassed look as the three got to the street that cut the campus grounds in half, “I didn’t want to assume you were poor.” “That’s mighty kind of ya,” Rald teased, “We’re just frugal. Some of our siblings have cars, but not us. We’re not the youngest of our family nor the oldest. Kinda somewhere in the middle.” “Yup,” Blud confirmed as he checked the bus schedule, “Hopefully this isn’t really thirty minutes away…” “Here. Hey! Cabbie!” Galahad shouted at a nearby horse drawn carriage. He pulled up to the three, “Where’s your address, guys?” Blud apprehensively stated the place and Galahad threw the cab driver some silver coins to pay for it. “Are you sure…?” Rald asked. She was eager to ride in the carriage, but she felt bad that their guest was paying for it. Galahad nodded, “Don’t worry about it. Come on,” He opened the door on the side of the black and yellow carriage. Blud climbed in on his own and Galahad helped Rald in before getting in himself. “Oh, such a gentleman!” Rald swooned as she was helped onto the tall first step by gripping onto Galahad’s hand, “Blud should keep hanging out with you, Lox. He could learn a lot.” “Yeah, whatever,” Blud rolled his eyes as his sister sat next to him, “I can’t believe you want me to take after a human.” Rald giggled, “He ain’t that bad for a human, y’know? He’d look a hell of a lot better if he was green, though. Want another quick palm reading to pass the time?” The carriage rolled into town just before Rald finished the reading. She didn’t read anything differently than last time. The ride had taken them past the train station between the academy grounds and to the town of Lindiburg, a large town mostly known for being the closest town to Fairgarland Academy. There was another, much lesser known town to the north called Farixburg, its sister city. Blud and Rald stared out the windows, “Oh,” Rald pointed to the left, “There’s Pizza-Mountain. Dwarf-ran pizza joint, it’s alright. Their wings are pretty great, too and they deliver to the academy, mister money bags.” “Yeah, if you dump Manus or get dumped by her or whatever and you want my sister, get her the very hot brew battered wings,” Blud smirked, “She’ll be ALL over you.” “C’mon don’t say that,” Rald punched her brother’s arm, “I don’t think Lox would go for a demi-human,” She paused for a moment, “At least not ones like us.” “Don’t insinuate that I hate goblins,” Galahad firmly told her, “If I did, would I be here right now?” She shrugged, but her expression betrayed her joy upon hearing so, “Alright, fine. You win. What else do we have,” She looked back out the windows, “There’s a whole lot of bars around here, some bar-cades or whatever, arcades… Blud, what's that one you like?” “Games, Guts, and Grub. Run by a cool orc dude. I can’t get enough of the offal sweetbread he makes. And the cow heart burgers? That’s the good stuff,” Blud looked hungry as he stared out the window, “Oh, crap, what’s mom making? We REALLY don’t want to try and feed Lox crap like that.” “I told her we had a friend, and I specified it was a human too,” She turned to Galahad, “Mom will take any opportunity she gets to make something dad would consider fancy for a goblin!” “Oh, she’s making spaghetti or something then,” Blud deduced, “I hope the meatballs are made of cow hearts.” “You sure love cow hearts, huh, Blud?” Galahad laughed as he looked at the candy stores, convenience stores, hobby shops, little grocery stores, and different kinds of restaurants of various prices. There was an antique shop that peddled with old magic and mundane wares, some clothing stores most of which catered to casters, and a hair salon among many others. The carriage stopped in front of a tall, peculiar building with a lit up glass front that had many advertisements for magical paraphernalia in the windows. Galahad got out first and helped Rald down the steps before Blud jumped down on his own. The man followed the two green skins into the building, past a sign in the window that said ‘Mr. Raxpedalia’s Wondrous Bazaar.’ As the glass door was pushed open, a bell jingled, alerting the clerk to their arrival, “Welcome in!” A nasally voice called as a goblin took his position behind the checkout counter, “Ah! My good for nothing kids are here,” The old, bald goblin in a button up shirt and red tie folded his arms disapprovingly. “Dad!” Rald shouted. The goblin laughed at his embarrassed kids, “Ah, I’m just messing around. Good to see ya made it home. Record time too. That your friend?” Blud nodded, “Yeah, this is Lox, dad." “We got home so quickly since Lox treated us to a most luxurious carriage ride,” The other goblin said as she presented the human to her father. “I-it wasn’t that luxurious…” He looked at his feet, embarrassed. “Ah, modest too. I can see why you like him, Rald,” Their father laughed as Rald’s face turned red, “The name’s Crud, Lox. Nice to meet ya. Ya seem a lot nicer than the humans my elder kids ride with.” “Crud?” Galahad repeated. “Yeah. Crud,” The goblin dad smirked, “S'what my ol' Pa said when I was born, goblins are named after whatever their dads first say to 'em, accidentally or not. So that's my name. Blud, Rald, your mom’s working on lunch right now, why not show Lox around the shop?” “S-sure, dad,” Rald mewled before trudging away. “I’ll show ‘em around. Go check on mom,” Blud ordered his little sister, “C’mon, Lox,” He waved as he started to wander the aisles, “Ma and Pa keep the business stocked with all kinds of magical things. We got wands, some cloaks,” Galahad grabbed a forest green cloak. It was made of a magic resistant wool and was rough to the touch. He brought it with him as he followed the goblin around, “Picked one out already?” “Yeah, I need more,” Galahad shrugged as he glanced at the mass produced wands. Good for beginners, but once you got further into your studies a wand, staff, magic orb, or even a chunk of crystal fit to you was required. Potion ingredients for simple things such as minor healing, some poisons, and perhaps a few elemental resistant potions. Glass cylinders full of blue salt sat on another which Galahad grabbed two of. “Anything else ya need?” Blud asked. “I need…” He glanced around the shelves at the individually packaged magical components. He grabbed a phoenix feather, a small mirror, and a clump of electrified wool, “These look good. It's like a convenience store for magic.” “That’s exactly what it is!” Crud hollered, “Ya find anything good, Lox?” “Cloak, some salt, materials,” Galahad told him as the father goblin rang everything up, “Nice little shop. How’s business been?” “Thank ya, we make it by with enough extra money to send the kids off to school. Lotsa wizards in this town and a lot of ‘em shop here, thankfully,” He finished ringing in the items, “And the ten percent friends and family discount,” He muttered to himself as he punched it in on the register’s display. “What was that?” Galahad asked. “Nothin.’ Blud, get your friend some mana salt taffy too.” “Sure thing, dad,” The goblin replied, “On the house?” “Yup!” “Oh, you don’t need to do that,” Galahad awkwardly said as he paid for his purchases. “Nonsense. You’d be surprised how many friends my kids bring home. It’s not a whole lot. Both Blud and Rald talked about you when we saw you in the newspaper today.” “Ah, the inquirer?” Galahad sighed as he slid everything he bought into his bottomless bag along with the multicolored mana salt taffy, “I’m sick of hearing about that newspaper,” The wizard sighed. “Yeah, it wasn’t much better when my wife was going there,” Crud wiped his hands off on a cloth under the counter, “You two head upstairs. I’m sure Blud’s mom is done cooking.” “Thanks again,” Galahad gave a little smile before the other goblin led him through a short door and into the back room. Boxes of stock for the store as well as a couch and an ancient CRT TV sat in the corner. Both looked very dusty. “I used to take naps down here to get away from my siblings,” Blud explained as the two started up the stairs. “How… how many siblings do you have?” Galahad asked as he started to hear numerous voices from the floor above them and little feet scampering across the wooden paneling. “There’s… a dozen of us?” Blud guessed, scratching his chin before he took off his cloak and hat. “You don’t even know?” “We’re goblins. This house is really chaotic all the time. Plus it's a store that each of us have worked in. I swear I count eleven and thirteen, sometimes up to fifteen, at gatherings.” “Jeez, that bad, huh?” As if to emphasize the point, Blud opened the door into the home, showing Galahad all the goblins shouting at one another and running around. The wizard counted five goblins that looked younger than Blud and Rald. A few of them stopped as they ran past the entry and hid around the corner when they saw their brother bringing a stranger into their home. Blud hung his cloak and hat on a low hanging hook on the wall. There were fourteen hooks with a little cubby underneath each on both walls of the entry hallway. Some held a mundane coat, a few had wizard’s cloaks and each of the cubbies had a few pairs of shoes in each, “You look perplexed, Lox.” Galahad rubbed his face, “Not really, I’m amazed how organized this is,” He said quietly as he removed his own shoes and placed them atop an unoccupied cubby, “I assume these are your older siblings and they’re out of the house?” “Yup. Mom leaves ‘em up for when they come home. C’mon,” As the two headed to the end of the entryway, the younger goblins dashed away. “KIDS! STOP RUNNING AROUND AND COME SIT DOWN FOR LUNCH!” A woman shouted, nearly shaking the entire building with her imposing voice. Galahad was led by Blud, with the smaller, younger goblins behind them. A long and short table surrounded by a mismatched mass of chairs filled a big dining room and some of the kitchen. In the kitchen, Galahad saw the mother goblin. Her face was wrinkled and tired, but still turned into a grin when she spotted her son and his friend, “Oh! Hi Lox!” “H-hey,” He gave a weak smile before being shepherded into a seat between Blud and Rald. Rald had stripped off her cloak and wore a yellow shirt with denim shorts. Blud was in a blue polo and khaki slacks. The other goblins of their age wore roughly the same thing and the children wore t-shirts of various colors and shorts. “Are you a wizard?!” One of the children cried. “Could you beat up Blud?” “Are you dating Rald?” “Do you like this cat I drew?” “Children,” The elder goblin said firmly to quiet them down while she started sliding plates of spaghetti down the table. She flicked her wrist, weilding a chunk of rough crystal in her hand that made the plates stop right when they were supposed to, “Everyone, why not introduce yourself to Lox? You can ask about him later.” Galahad listened intently, doing his best to remember all of their names as every goblin stated them and one thing about themselves. Scald, Plod, Yolt, Gholk, and Glamk were the younger ones. Torln and Wend were older, “And you may call me Root,” Their mother said with a smile as Galahad was given a big plate of normal looking and meaty smelling spaghetti. He glanced over at Blud’s, seeing how much darker his meatballs were. He guessed they were made out of the beef hearts he loved so much. “Lots of short names,” Glahad noted as he took mental notes, “Hopefully I can remember everything.” “Well, when you have a dozen kids, you make it all as easy to remember as possible!” Root laughed. “Is it a dozen? Blud wasn’t sure when I asked,” Galahad chuckled as he adjusted himself in the short seat as the entire table erupted into chatter. “You were in the Inquirer today, right, Lox?” Torln asked. “Don’t bother him about that,” Blud groaned, “That whole story is garbage.” “Yeah, Miss Manus is just tutoring me,” Galahad quickly explained and tried to shift topics immediately, “Is everyone here a caster?” Root shook her head, “I’m a thaumaturge as are Blud and Rald as well as my first born. He’s since moved away, unfortunately. Crud is a bard, he was taught in a bard college over in Maine. I think my second and third both became bards too… maybe one turned to becoming a warlock? It's hard to keep track," She chuckled, a little embarrassed, "Only Scald is showing promise in becoming a thaumaturge out of those five.” “And that doesn’t cause any conflicts?” Wend scoffed and shook her head, “Do I look like I want all that work and expectation on me? I’m more than fine becoming an office worker or something.” “Fair enough,” Galahad turned to his food. The meatballs tasted… normal, maybe a bit too seasoned but still good. The sauce was store bought, but quite tasty. Lastly, the noodles were perfect, quite easy to slurp down. “Are you a thaumaturge too?” One of the child goblins asked. “No, I’m studying transmutation. I’ve given up illusion and divination,” He explained, “I can’t be a thaumaturge like your brother and sister at this point.” “Why do you have to give those up?” Another wondered. “Well, you can only work on so much and learn so much. Mastering one and dabbling in five others is already a lot.” “Why’d you pick those ones?” Rald asked, wiping the sauce off her face with the back of her hand. “With divination, the future can always change. My grandma is a divination master, and from what she told me the future is usually obfuscated - hidden," He quickly explained to the younger ones, "Or it changes. Mine has changed numerous times from what she’s seen. She can really only change small details and luck consistently. With illusion, I can either trick you into believing that I’m making a fireball, or with evocation I can actually make one. Once you’ve seen through one of my illusions, you can see through all of them,” He explained, wreathing his hand in flames to prove the point before dispelling it, “I’m also too lazy to constantly change up the illusion formula to keep whoever I’m using it on guessing.” “I see,” Blud rubbed his chin as he looked his friend over, “You look so uncomfortable, Lox.” “He probably isn’t used to being around so many demi-humans,” Rald teased. “Well…” Galahad shifted nervously, “My mom and sisters are demi-humans. That’s not what it is. I’ve just… never been over to a friend’s house for a meal. Or at all, really. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up…” “WHAT?!” Root shouted as she stood up from the table, her chair almost clattering to the floor, “You never had friends?!” “Not– not many. None very close,” Galahad embarrassedly explained. “Galahad,” Root looked terribly sad, “If you need somewhere to go, or someone to talk to, you can always come here. I’ll always have a plate of hot food and a place at my table for you. Okay?” The wizard nodded, “Thank you,” He sighed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset everyone with that.” “You’re family here, Lox,” She added before sitting back down, “From what Blud and Rald have told me, you’re a lot nicer than most humans are to goblins.” “Like I said, demi-human family,” He gave a small smile before going back to his food. “You… just don’t have friends?” One of the kids whimpered, “None at all?” “Well, I had–” He paused, “Let me show you. A good friend of mine since I was seven years old,” He moved his hands in a circle in the middle of the table. Conjuration runes appeared in an orange color before a small flash and a puff of smoke. A rotund rodent, or a fat rat as most would call it had appeared on the table. His fur was brown and his claws and tail were pink and long. He sniffed around the table as the children stared in wonder, “My familiar, Randy Rat.” “You were seven when you summoned a familiar?” Root was astonished. The kids all started feeding the rat spaghetti and he happily ate it all. Blud smirked, “Told ya. Lox here is pretty knowledgeable.” “You were an apprentice, right?” Rald added. He nodded, “Yeah. Learned since I was pretty young. Uh, mostly mana control, simple spells, that kind of thing.” “I see,” Root was obviously skeptical of a childing being able to bind a familiar to themselves only learning simple spells, “Well, you might need to teach my kids how to summon a familiar, they’re not going to want to let yours go.” Galahad smirked as he watched the children take turns picking up Randy Rat and holding him. He repressed a sigh, they were reminding him of his youth. . . . . . Contrasting Wednesday’s dreary rain, Miss Manus found herself walking across campus as the afternoon sun beat down– at least when it wasn’t obfuscated by the clouds that moved rapidly overhead due to the brisk wind. Puddles still littered the concrete and stone paths while the grassy areas were covered in mud. Many students were out at this time, four in the afternoon was a busy time for the campus and was when most students were finished with the day’s lectures. Manus paused for a moment underneath a dripping oak to retrieve a small scroll from beneath her cloak and glanced it over. She had taken care of most of her presidential duties yesterday leaving her Thursday evening open for her tutoring session. All she had left to do was put in Fredrik as their house’s duelist for the upcoming tournament. She got a few glances as she walked by a group of students talking about their classes and professors. Most had high praise for them, but each necromancy student whined about how difficult the teachers were. A few mused about pretty teachers, funny old men, and one complained about fainting again in a potion brewing class. The Multifold Manus continued her stroll by them, paying them no mind as they paid her none as well. She had a mission on her mind. She made it to the library and stopped at the cafe to get some tea and a cup of water before finding a seat. She was sitting at a corner table and began sipping on her tea, eyeing a few students who passed by, one or two of them nervously looking back. She disregarded them as she brought out her books and a journal, preparing to take notes on what Galahad needed further tutelage on. As the man had instructed, she sent a simple text message to him. All it had in the message was ‘R,’ her shorthand for ready. She began to jot down Galahad’s performance on the small test she had assigned. He had turned the water into cranberry juice and had drank it shortly after citing that it ‘could have been more tart.’ She drew magical sigils, runes, and diagrams as she took notes and muttered to herself. She had four pages covered with notes and symbols when a form appeared across from her at the table. “Ah, Multifold Manus, my sweet,” The pompous voice made Miss Manus’s skin crawl, “I hope you are well today.” The witch didn’t even need to look up to know who had appeared before her, “What can I do for you, Harold?” She gave him the courtesy of looking him in the eye as she flatly replied to him. The wizard held a folded newspaper in his hand. There was a look on his face that Manus had never really seen from him before; he looked upset, perhaps angry even. Manus felt the hair stand up on her neck as she quickly got cagey and cautious, “President Manus, I understand you are playing hard to get, but do you not think this is a little far?” He asked, folding his arms and tapping his foot. “What on earth are you talking about?” Miss Manus slowly asked. “Honestly, I thought a woman like you would read the Inquirer. Presidents need to keep their ears on the ground when it comes to the goings on at this academy!” He scolded. “I skipped today’s edition. Tuesday’s paper was so dreadful I simply disposed of it. Did something come up in it?” Harold shook his head and slid the paper he carried across the table, “See for yourself what has been printed today.” Miss Manus gingerly took the paper in her hands and unfolded it to reveal the front page. A picture of herself and Galahad covered most of it. She sighed as she silently read the title of the article, “Carly…” She folded the paper and passed it back, “He is my student. I am tutoring him. We exchanged numbers so that we may plan further tutoring sessions.” “Why would you waste your time with a low born wizard?” Harold sighed, “You deserve only a powerful high born, President Manus.” “I just told you,” Manus growled, “I am simply teaching him. I will teach any student, low or high born, human or demi-human, strong or weak. If a student trusts me as their teacher or professor, I will do everything I can to aid them. Galahad came to me for help, and I intend to give it.” “You are wasting your time becoming a professor,” Harold scoffed, “You and I could do great things together. You need only say yes to my advances.” “I have no interest in you, Harold.” “I cannot fathom why you must spurn me, my sweet. You and I are both nobility, we were meant to be!” Harold insisted. “She said she’s not interested, pal,” Both Miss Manus and Harold turned to see Galahad strutting up to the table, arms concealed under his cloak, “For a high born, you seem to struggle with your manners.” “E-excuse me?” Harold looked shocked, a nerve had obviously been struck. “Galahad,” Miss Manus eyed him, “Harold. Both of you–” “What would you know about manners and how to deal with maidens, whelp?” Harold hissed, “Especially after spending so much time with goblins and other lesser demi-humans.” Galahad glared, the smugness on his face was completely gone in an instant, “Oh, I see, snobbish and prejudiced. Well let me tell you something, they’re a whole lot better than a stuck up ‘prince’ like you. I’d rather spend time with hundreds of them than put up with you for a minute more." “You would DARE put me beneath such filth?!” Harold’s voice rose, “I am a prince and you will treat me as such! Such insolence needs to be punished! Your blood being spilt shall be the payment for this slight!” Harold drew his gold engraved wand, and Galahad’s staff burst out from beneath his cloak in response. Both casters glared at one another, wand and staff held at the ready, neither wanting to be the first to move. Miss Manus stared at both, sweat pouring down her face as her body froze, unable to act to stop the two. “Both of you! Cease this foolishness!” A voice hollered. Both wizards froze as the commanding voice boomed, their casting implements being wrenched from their hands and flying into the grasp of a wizard wearing a stylish suit-like set of robes with a white undershirt and blue tie. He glared at both Galahad and Harold as he approached, “Dueling outside of the campus arena is strictly forbidden, does the library look like the arena to you two?!" He scolded before giving back both casting implements. “Sean, thank you for stopping them,” Miss Manus finally felt herself breathe, her chest heaving slowly. “President Manus,” Sean Reagal simply greeted before looking at the two wizards, “I heard everything between you and Harold as well as the exchange between these two,” He gave Galahad a look, “I do not believe we have met. For now, Harold, I expect much better of you. You are a president, I care not that you are a prince as well, but many students look up to you in and out of your house. I may not be able to control how you conduct yourself, but I can petition for your removal and have you expelled should this happen again." Sean's warning clearly had the effect he wanted, the prince shrinking back at the thought of expulsion. The prince opened his mouth to protest, a finger pointed at Galahad, only for Sean to shoot him down immediately, "I don't care what he did or said, you are a Fairgarland House President, you are held to a higher standard! I am almost ashamed to have you as my peer. And you–” “Sean,” Miss Manus jumped to her feet, “please do not punish Galahad. He merely came to my defense when he overheard my conversation with Harold,” The prince’s face oozed with jealousy and anger. The president of the abjuration house folded his arms, “I understand that. Harold was the first to draw so I will not punish him. Consider this a warning, Galahad, was it? As I do not know you, I will assume you are new. Keep fighting to the arena and we will have no further issues.” “Understood,” Galahad replied, nervousness spread across his face as he put away his staff. “Ah, the arena…" Harold mused in an attempt to regain his composure, "The yearly tournament will be in only a week and a half! I will win and dedicate the victory to President Manus! Does that not sound wonderful?” “Harold…” Manus sighed, knowing she could not change his mind. “You know what?” Galahad smirked, “I’m going to enter. I’ll wipe that smug look right off your face.” Sean and Miss Manus both looked at him in shock as Harold laughed, “There are many problems with that, curr. You are of the Seeker’s house. They do not let people in it enter the tournament!” “Incorrect,” Sean quickly interjected, “If he has sufficient evidence to be let in, the dean shall let him.” “Galahad, you do not need to do this,” Miss Manus pleaded. “You best listen to her. A first year has no chance,” Harold chuckled smugly with a big smile on his face, “Especially some baseborn fool from who-knows-where.” “You don’t know me,” Galahad hissed, his teeth were grit. “Oh? Then why not make this interesting? If I win, you and Manus will cease this tomfoolery under the guise of tutoring and you will cease all contact with her.” “And if I win?” “What is it you want?” Galahad looked at Manus who was still silently pleading for him to back down, “Miss Manus, Fredrik told me your house has terrible time slots for lab and recreation. Does Harold’s house have better times?” She nodded, “Y-yes it does, but–” “Then you’ll trade times with them if I win,” He proposed, eliciting a laugh from his rival. “So be it. I have no fear of you winning so I will agree. Sean, be a dear and draft a contract for this as our witness. I, Harold Garnalga Babarry of House Fritz’eleo issue a challenge to Galahad Loxley of the Seeker’s House. The duel will take place during Fairgaland Academy’s yearly dueling tournament. Should he fail to enter, lose before facing me, or lose to me, he will forfeit any time he would be spending with President Manus. But I will be nice and not include time he spends as her student outside of tutoring. Should I by some miracle lose, to Galahad or otherwise, House Fritz’eleo will trade House Karak-Albrac our lab and recreation time. Do you agree, Galahad?” “Agreed,” He grunted. Sean nodded, and with the wave of his wand he produced a paper from thin air, the writing of the challenge written eloquently in a magic ink, “I have drafted a contract. Galahad, this is the last chance to back out,” He warned as the paper floated over to the wizard. Galahad eyed Harold for a moment before bringing a pen out from underneath his cloak, “I have to.” “So be it,” Sean sighed, “Harold.” The prince signed it without a word, “Done. I look forward to our confrontation, should it come about in the first place. Goodbye, all,” He gave a little wave before turning on heel and strutting away, confidence oozing from every step. Sean folded his arms and looked at Galahad, “I hope, for your sake, that you have the ability to back up your words. Goodbye Manus. Despite the circumstances it was nice meeting you, Galahad.” “Yeah. Likewise,” Galahad sighed wearily and sat down, rubbing his face as Miss Manus stared at him. “Galahad?” Miss Manus’s expression was covered in worry, “You needn’t get into this fight for my sake.” “The victory might be in your house’s name, Miss Manus,” Galahad stared at the table for a moment before looking into her icey blue eyes, “But this isn’t just for you.” “I-I do not understand,” She frowned and cocked her head to one side, “How are you even going to get into the tournament?” “Like Sean said, I need to talk to the dean. I should go, I need to take care of that. I wasn't planning on doing this for a while, but I’ll have to make some calls. I’m sorry for wasting your time,” Galahad gave her a tiny bow. “Let us reschedule this, perhaps?” “Thank you. I would really appreciate that. Have a good evening, Manus. Give me a call tomorrow, will you?” Galahad gave her a little smile before quickly leaving the library. Manus was left alone to stew in what had just happened, “Galahad…” She sighed and rubbed her eyes. “President Manus!” A shrill voice squawked. Not a moment later she had a microphone shoved in her face, “Carly Halestorm, Fairgarland Inquirer, do you have any comments on this development on your relationship love triangle with Galahad and Harold?!” “Carly,” Miss Manus said firmly, “I am not in the mood for this. This duel should not be happening. No comment,” She quickly added to the end to shut herself up. “I see, I see,” Carly looked disappointed but didn’t dare push for more. The campus reporter quickly rushed after Harold as she could see through the window that he was heading back to House Fritz'eleo. Miss Manus collected her things and swiftly left. She needed another cup of tea and her fuzzy slippers to calm down. The hooting of owls gently rang out on the campus as moonlight was cast over the trees, buildings, and stones around campus. Miss Manus walked across the lonely and quiet grounds as she made her way to the Grand Hall. She held a wound up scroll in one of her hands that contained Fredrik’s petition to be house Karak-Albrac’s duelist. She shook her head as she entered the hall and walked past the busts and paintings of famous wizards. The witch felt like each one she walked by was judging her for not trying harder to stop Galahad earlier. It was her duty to keep this from happening. She felt responsible for his safety now, Harold would not hold back and Galahad could be gravely wounded if something went wrong. She took the stairs up to the third floor and glanced both ways down the hall. A single light was on, the door was cracked and light spilled into the hallway. It was the dean’s office, Zacharius Zucarius was one of the few faculty members who would stay at the academy this late. He lived and breathed Fairgarland. Some jokingly said that he was sustained by managing the goings on at the school. Manus silently walked up to the door and froze as she saw a figure standing at the end of Dean Zucarius’s desk. Manus hid herself and listened in. Zucarius was slowly shuffling papers, flipping one over and setting it down on his desk as he read each one. He sighed as he set the last one down, “I must say, Galahad, I am impressed and intrigued. I have had some wizards and witches apply for a duelist slot with reference letters from well known casters, but never have I had someone bring me eight. I can see they are authentic, as well. Even if two of these are not casters, their acknowledgement of your talents is more than enough. However, I must ask… why?” Galahad stood with his hands behind his back as Zucarius folded up the papers, “I want to beat Harold.” “President Harold?” “Yes. In all honesty, he’s a…” He bit his tongue, “Never mind. I got really irked by some things he’s said and some things others have told me about him.” “I have heard he has been courting President Manus for some time. From what the Inquirer–” “The Inquirer is full of… it, sir,” Galahad growled, “Miss Manus is just tutoring me.” Zucarius chuckled, “I see. I assumed that is what has spurred this. Well, I will not pry into your social life,” He hastily scribbled something down and filed the paper, “You have been inducted as the Seeker’s duelist. It has been at least eight years since they last had one.” “Thank you, sir,” Galahad sighed with relief. “One last thing, Galahad…” Zucarius looked him up and down, “Just how adept are you that you feel confident going up against the man considered this academy’s best duelist?” There was a silence, Galahad said nothing as he stared back at the dean, “I can tell by that look on your face that something else is amiss, young man. Makes you almost look like–” The dean paused, “You may not be who you say you are, hm?” He chuckled again before Galahad could protest, “Run along now. But I must say, I am quite looking forward to your performance in the duels.” “Th-thank you, sir…” Miss Manus heard Galahad approaching the door. Thinking quickly, she cast a spell to conceal herself in the dim light and pressed herself against the wall before sliding behind a bust of Zucarius to hide herself further. She held her breath with a hand over her mouth as Galahad walked by, none the wiser to her eavesdropping. Manus let herself breathe again as soon as Galahad was starting down the stairs. She stared after him, listening to his further fading footsteps before finally feeling a sense of ease, “President Manus, you may enter,” Zucarius called from within his office. “Coming,” She replied, letting the concealing illusion spell fall off of herself, “Good evening, Professor Zucarius.” “Yes, a fine evening. President Sean told me what happened at the library today when he turned in his form for his duelist,” The dean explained, “Quite surprising to see President Harold lose his nerve,” He chuckled. “Did you allow Galahad Loxley to enter the duel?” She quickly changed subjects as she placed Fredrik’s application on the dean’s desk. “I did, I did…” He looked Manus up and down, “You seem uncharacteristically worried over him.” “I… He is one of my students. I merely am worried he is going to get very hurt in the upcoming tournament,” She explained with a frown. “President Manus, if you wish, I can start putting forth a motion to rescind his duel application. I can take the fall for it as well and tell him I changed my mind.” She paused for a long time, genuinely considering telling him to go ahead with it. Finally Miss Manus shook her head, “If he cannot compete, it will be considered a loss for him. If he loses, I will be unable to tutor him further. If he fails my class I will be responsible for it,” She explained quickly, “He must be allowed to compete. I only wish to see him succeed.” “I understand. Galahad may yet surprise us, President Manus. From the letters of recommendation he presented, he will be fine.” “May I ask who they were from?” There was a twinkle of mischief in Zucarius’s eye, “It is not my place to say, speak with him yourself on that. The lad had me fooled for a few days - not an easy task, I'll remind you. Admittedly, I am enjoying the mystique behind him at this point.” “I see…” Miss Manus wrung her hands together beneath her cloak, not at all comforted by the dean's words, “Well. Moving on from Galahad, here is Fredrik’s application for the duel.” “Ah, the golden pride of house Karak-Albrac himself. Thank you. I believe that is the last entrant. I will pass the list of entered students to President Sean so that the bracket can be formed next week,” Zucarius put away the application after glancing over the scroll, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” “Thank you, but no. I need to return to my house.” “Have a good night, President Manus,” Zucarius returned to some papers he had strewn about his desk. “Please try not to stay up too late,” Miss Manus replied with a little smirk before leaving the dean’s office. Things were about to get strange, she thought as she wondered what Tuesday’s papers would say about the joining of Galahad in the tournament. Until then, she would try to stay calm and collected over the weekend.