With slow moving and unblinking eyes, Manus’s gaze scanned across the papers in front of her. Two sets of documents, tournament related paperwork specifically, sat before her. One for Galahad and one for Fredrik. It was her duty to work on the golden wizard’s paperwork, but she was doing Galahad’s out of kindness. The young wizard had been working hard, Manus knew that for a fact due to tutoring him and having him in one of her classes. He was pulling high B’s in her class, a respectable letter grade as a mid C was the average for her transmutation students. It was a Saturday morning. Miss Manus had taken care of her homework between Thursday evening and Friday morning and had gotten all her grading done on the rest of Friday, “G’morning, Manus,” Someone called as the scent of a sweet tea hit the witch’s nose. A white, fancy tea cup was placed next to her on a matching plate. Looking back, Manus saw that it was Suzie and she had a big smile on her face. Her usual witch’s robes were replaced by a fluffy set of weekend robes, perfect for lounging, “Good morning, Suzie,” She greeted the gnome with a small smile. “Sheesh, boss. You look tired. Even your fey blood doesn’t save you from mortal fatigue, huh?” The gnome climbed up into the seat next to the Multifold Manus and sipped on her own cup of tea, “Muffin?” She pulled a warm, freshly baked breakfast treat from a bag of seemingly endless sweets. “Yes, please,” Manus graciously took the poppy seed muffin and started to break off little pieces of it. Two arms held the tea, one held the sweets, another pulled off pieces of it and fed them into her mouth while her last two arms started to work on the documents for the two wizards. “Can I help at all?” “Thank you, but I can handle it, I believe,” Manus replied. Suzie frowned, “I just want to find some way to help…” Manus nodded, “I understand that. Todd and Holmit are keeping an eye out for those that would disrupt their rest or training. They may still be sleeping, but go and check if they need anything.” “Sure, I’ve got some more muffins that I’d be happy to share,” Suzie finished her tea and got down from the chair before brushing the muffin crumbs off herself, “I’ll be sure to knock. I don’t want to know what would happen if I saw Fredrik’s face on accident. Do you think it’ll be like that movie where they open that Ark and their faces melt off? Or maybe what happened to those guys who really found it and just turned to ash, or whatever.” Miss Manus cocked her head, not knowing much details on either of those events, “Surely he has measures in place to prevent you from seeing it. He has kept up this act for a very, very long time.” “Right,” The gnome paused as she started to walk away, “Y’know, it feels a little… wrong to let those two mysterious boys bunk together.” “What harm would they cause? They are more docile than most of the men in our house,” Manus commented. Rita couldn’t tell if that was a joke or not as she walked away. Manus continued to sip on the cup of sweet tea. While she enjoyed the muffin, it was very sweet, probably too sweet. Manus had finished her sugar-filled breakfast by the time the two duelists came down to the common room. Suzie was with them as well, still in her lounge wear. Galahad wore a graphic t-shirt with a bright, softly glowing arcane rune on it that shifted colors every few seconds and dark blue jeans. While Mister Loxley was dressed casually, Fredrik was the opposite. As usual he wore an opulent golden mask, this one depicting the face of a long dead emperor from the old world, King Perseus the Fourth, the man who united humanity against the orcs that were knocking on their kingdom’s walls. The jaw was chiseled with an inlaid silver short beard, curly silver hair, and a broken, crooked nose. A large red gash ran over one eye and an emerald eyepatch covered over the grizzly details. Across his body he wore black robes with a gold sash, the garb of Perseus’s royal wizards and sorcerers. Manus set her empty tea cup down and collected Fredrik’s paperwork, “Fredrik, good morning. I have completed your documents for the duel. Galahad, a good morning to you as well. I shall be completing yours next.” “What are these for? I thought all the paperwork was done and I was in? I didn't know there was more,” Galahad reached down and picked a big rat off the floor. Suzie silently asked to hold the rat by reaching her arms out and he was more than happy to oblige as Randy was mostly still, just blinking his beady eyes as he looked for food. Manus put her arms beneath her cloak as she took a moment’s respite, “That is because I volunteered to take care of it for you. These are waivers stating that, while Fairgarland will do it's best to keep the duels safe there is a chance you may be harmed, maimed or even die… it also explains that we have the best necromancers on campus attending should it come to that. I do it for my house’s duelist and at yesterday’s meeting with the other presidents, I was made to feel as if you were my second entrant. As such, I have elected to treat you as if you were. Fredrik, please sign here and here. You too, Galahad,” She pointed to the spots on both sets of papers with four hands while offering the duelists pens with the last two. Fredrik simply signed it while Galahad took a moment to read through the paperwork. “You can trust it, Galahad. Though your cautiousness is admirable,” Fredrik assured him with a hand on his shoulder. “Alright, alright,” Galahad sighed and signed it, “Having fun with Randy?” He asked Suzie who was carrying the rat like a baby. “I want one…” She sighed sadly, “Why did I have to give up conjuration?” “You could ask one of the conjuration students to assist you in making an item that allows you to cast a familiar spell a few times a day,” Fredrik suggested as he brushed off his opulent robes, “I have something similar for a simple healing spell if I find myself needing a quick necromancy spell.” “You can’t cast necromancy? I find it a useful school to know,” Galahad commented as he helped Suzie feed Randy a few doughnut holes. “I find no use for raising the dead,” The golden wonder replied, “Healing is useful, but evocation has a few minor healing abilities thankfully.” “Very inefficient, but you could mend a wound closed,” Manus joined in on the conversation, “Galahad, have you done any preparation for the duels?” “Uh, what kind of preparations?” He asked with a frown. “Magic items, potions, weapons,” Fredrik listed, “A minor enchantment on your cloak would be helpful.” “Well,” He drew his mace from his ever ready magic bag, “I’ve got my 'club' at the ready.” Manus took it in her hands, running her fingers over the flanged head and smooth metal handle. She quickly withdrew her hand as a weakening feeling struck her due to the iron in its making. The weapon had seen its fair share of battles, obvious by the knicks and scratches along the entire weapon. She frowned as she saw it had no enchantment on it, “Suzie, please enchant this with one that will make it less lethal,” Manus ordered as she handed it off. The gnomish woman took it quickly and found a table to work at, “Galahad, did you not read the rules? You would have been unable to use that weapon if you had not had it enchanted beforehand.” “I see… guess I should read up on the rules, then,” He scratched his head, “Thank you, Miss Manus and Suzie. I’ll go work on potions when I have the chance.” “I shall do the same. For now, I have a mask to craft for a most imposing and striking appearance!” Fredrik struck a grand pose, commanding everyone’s attention as he announced his plan, “Suzie, may I count on you for my meals today?” “Jeez, when did I turn into everyone’s mom?!” The gnomish woman groaned, “Fine! I’ll do it! But you’re paying for mine and Manus’s food too.” “Your terms are agreeable,” He tossed her a credit card - gold of course, and left the common room, “Good luck, Galahad. I look forward to seeing your performance on Monday.” “Yeah, you too, Fredrik,” Galahad had taken a seat, taking a minute to rest with the rat sitting on his lap as he rubbed his face, stroking the rat’s chin every once in a while, “I’m starting to have doubts, Miss Manus.” Manus put her pen down and interlocked her fingers on all three sets of hands under her cloak. She turned one of her hands into a soft animal paw and started to reach out to the wizard who was staring down at the floor. She hesitated, not wanting to overstep her bounds, “I understand, Galahad Loxley. Harold will not be an easy opponent. I pray in the future that you do not behave so rashly. Even if you win, you need to avoid situations like this. Your actions may cause you to fail my class.” “I… I know. That’s what I’m worried about. I don’t want to lose your tutoring.” “Even if you lose, we will find another tutor. Just because you lose and cannot have contact with me, you can still be tutored by my juniors. Fredrik and Suzie would be more than happy to,” Manus gave the tiniest of smiles. “I really wonder what people are going to think of me too. They already seem to hate me for even joining. If I lose that might just get worse. But will it change at all if I win?” He mumbled, hardly audible to the fey witch. “Do you care what the masses think?” The witch frowned, “You are here to learn, are you not?” “Yeah… I am,” He nodded slowly, “But I’ve already met some good people: you, Fredrik, Suzie, Blud, Rald, and Rita. It’s gonna be pretty demoralizing if everyone treats me like Harold does.” “I have never worried about how others view me. I believe you should do the same,” She insisted. “But you’ve never done anything to gain the ire of everyone!” Galahad snapped, making Randy leap from his lap and squeezed under a bookshelf. Manus stared with her icy blue eyes, framed by the black surrounding it. She felt shocked that Galahad would lash out at her like this and that shock was obvious in how she recoiled at his outburst. “Galahad!” Suzie shouted from a table away, “That is no way to talk to your future president! You better cool it or you’ll be no better than that Harold creep.” “I am appalled that you’d compare me to him!” Galahad’s anger turned to her, “Have either of you ever experienced anything near the harassment I’m getting? Someone cast a fireball at me yesterday!” “Suzie, I believe he is right…” The fey witch’s hands were interlocked nervously, “Galahad, please settle down. I understand you are frustrated and are wanting to lash out. Are the people you just referred to as ‘good’ the ones you want to lash out at?” Galahad’s glare turned into an apologetic frown, “No…” “Maybe you should get some sleep, Galahad. Sleep that anger off,” Suzie suggested as she moved back to their table, handing the mace off to Galahad. “I’ll just lay awake in bed and stew,” The wizard gumbled, “I can’t wait for Monday to be done with all of this anxiety and stress.” “Just Monday? The tournament goes until Wednesday,” Suzie pointed out. “All that matters to me is knocking out Harold’s teeth. Winning the tournament isn’t in the cards for me, my grandma was able to tell me that vision she had quite clearly. The outcome of my duel with Harold is foggy, but she’s doing whatever she can for me,” He explained as he leaned back in his chair, slumping down a bit, “I’m sorry for snapping at you, Miss Manus. You too, Suzie.” “I accept your apology,” Manus quietly replied. She wanted to speak more with him, but did not want to get personal with other people around. "Just try to keep your cool next time, we're all friends here," Said Suzie. The three were quiet for a time, with Manus returning to her paperwork and Suzie picking up Randy when he returned to the table. Galahad ran a finger across the smooth wood of the table and retreated into his thoughts. Even if he had apologized he was losing his grip on his emotions, if I don’t get a hold of myself soon, he thought, I’m going to lose friends... The sounds of the front door opening snapped him back to reality, “Uh, Miss President,” Todd, the large mono-eyed wizard stumbled in from outside, “There’s two, uh, goblins here demanding to see someone named Lox. I don’t think they’re journalists. But I don’t know who they want…” “Goblins?” Manus echoed with a frown. “Are they in red, brimless caps?” Galahad asked, perking up and looking a little happy. “Um, yes,” Todd nodded quickly. “Send them in, would you?” Galahad asked with a smile. Todd looked to Miss Manus for confirmation. The fey woman nodded and Todd very rapidly nodded back, “Okay…” Soon after Todd went back outside, two short, green-skinned goblins hurried in, “Lox! Lox!” They cried, each one carrying a box in their hands. “Hey, guys,” Galahad smiled and sat up, “What’s up?” “Mom–” “Dad–” The goblins immediately started talking over one another before turning and glaring at one another. “Rald, you first,” Galahad gestured to a seat after taking the box from her. Rald gladly sat down next to Manus and across from Suzie, “Thanks. My mom made you some potions and a big lunch.” Galahad opened the box, removing a picnic basket covered in softly glowing runes that had been carved into the wood. The next item was a small wooden box, when the latch on the front was undone it folded open to reveal four rows of various potions, all labeled with painters tape and Sharpie on their vial shaped glass flasks. The last item in the box was a leather bandolier with a tag saying ‘From your goblin mom, Root,’ with a little green heart. The loops in the bandolier were sized to hold the supplied potions. “Sheesh, I’ll have to thank her in person when I get the chance, that’s a lot of stuff,” Galahad put on the bandolier and slid a dark red healing potion into place. “Yeah she loves you more than she loves Blud!” Rald laughed, making Blud scowl, “Oh, hi, Manus. I’m Rald and that’s my brother, Blud.” “How do you do?” Manus gave them a tiny smile but looked wholly bewildered. “Yo, Lox. Who’s that?” Blud nudged the human wizard and stared at Suzie. Galahad looked over at Suzie who already looked steamed that the nervous goblin wouldn’t just ask her himself, “Uh, what’s in your box?” “Oh, right. Stuff from dad. Cloak,” He tossed a black cloak that matched the goblins,’ “Hat,” Again, the article matched what the siblings wore, “A circlet that he’s been holding onto for a while,” The circlet was silver with a blue gem in the forehead. It quickly shaped to Galahad’s head, signifying its magical properties, “Aaaand… oh right, this rock,” He tossed a rock to the wizard who, upon seeing the glowing red inscription, scrambled to catch it, being as careful as he could, “Dad said you needed those last two since ya don’t know much evocation. He especially wanted to help out when we told him your opponent is a known demi-human hater.” “Which is funny since he’s so infatuated with the demi-human fey lady,” Rald smirked, “What’s up with that?” “It’s due to her being high-born. That supersedes anything. You can be a high-born anything and he’ll like you. Low-born and he’ll treat you worse than the dirt under his shoes,” Suzie rolled her eyes, “Don’t know why he hates demi-humans so much more. What a rube. Name’s Suzie, by the way.” “Nice to meet you, Suzie,” Blud swallowed nervously as he sat next to his sister. “Wow, Blud must like you if he’s acting all polite like this,” Rald teased. Before her brother could even respond as his face turned blood red with embarrassment, Rald turned to Galahad, “What’s in the lunch box, Lox?” She asked and motioned for him to open it. “Uh,” Galahad undid the latch and lifted up the lid as Blud cast a spell on his sister, wiping her mouth from her face. She looked like she was trying to yell at him but couldn’t for obvious reasons, “A nice big sandwich, a big container of homemade chips, an apple, a pear… oh nice! Some of those strawberry hard candies with jam in them. A variety of homemade cookies too. I’ll be eating well today,” He ran his fingers over the basket after he closed it back up, “These are some pretty well done runes. Remind me to return it when I’m done.” “You got it,” Blud nodded, “Oh, just to let you know, the cloak has a protection enchantment on it.” “What’s on the circlet and the rock?” Suzie asked. “I think the circlet lets you cast an evocation spell a few times a day,” Blud guessed, his sister was still trying to bring her mouth back with her own transmutation magic to no avail. Galahad drew his staff and reached over, carefully tracing the memory of Rald’s cat-mouth and dispelling the mouth that had been magicked away. Rald thanked him silently before punching her brother. Galahad ran his fingers over the circlet before casting a spell on it, “I can cast ice magic– ice blast, freezing winds, avalanche, and ice spear with it. Up to nine uses, depending on the strength of the spell. The stone…” He ran his hands over it, “Single use of 'summon fire elemental.' Destroyed on use.” “You really know that without casting anything?” Suzie stared in wonder. “W-well,” He stared at the glowing magma rock, “I can see fire, elemental, and summon runes. This rock doesn’t seem like it’ll survive more than one use.” “You can read runes?” Rald pressed. “J-just a few,” He put the rock back in his bag, “Anyways. Please thank your parents for me, I’ll thank them in person when I can, this is all great. I love the touch of getting me clothes to match you two.” “We wanted to paint you green too! But you’re getting enough flack and we didn’t want to add green-face to the reasons to be mad at you!” Blud howled with laughter at his own joke. Suzie, Rald, and Galahad all chuckled or laughed too at the thought of Galahad entering the duel as a big green goblin. Manus frowned and cocked her head, “Would that really be a bad thing to show his support for demi-humans?” “You can never be too careful,” Rald shrugged, “Can’t give Harold any ammo when he eventually loses, right?” “Are you confident in Galahad’s abilities?” Manus asked, locking the fingers on each set of hands. “Of course! We came up with some plans, strategies, all of that. Harold is over-hyped and over-confident. Galahad has some tricks up his sleeves, I bet!” Rald excitedly explained with a twinkle in her eyes. “I hope one of those plans is to turn Harold into a goblin,” A sixth voice chimed in. Miss Manus turned to the sixth chair at the table, next to Suzie and across from Blud, “Rita MacKenzie?” The witch guessed. “Bingo,” The purplish imp appeared and shot finger guns at the blue-skinned witch, “Hey, Manus. Cozy place you’ve got here.” “How long have you been listening in?” Suzie growled, her hand slowly going for her wand. “Stay your hand, gnome. I’m not here to spy on you,” Rita gave a big smile, “Think about it for ONE second. Why on earth would I side with that… rube, as you called him?” “I… right. Fine,” Suzie folded her arms, “Then what do you want?” Manus put a hand on her fellow councilor’s shoulder, “Suzie, please. Rita is a welcomed guest here. How did you slip in?” “Oh, simple invisibility spell when these goblins came in,” Rita grinned, “Flew in right above them. Thankfully they were so excited to see our friend here that no one noticed.” “Ah,” Blud scratched his big ears, looking a little embarrassed. “You’re friends with Galahad too?” Rald asked. Rita nodded, “Well, I’d say as much. Met him in his first week.” “Did you need something of me? More payment?” Galahad shot her a wary glance. “Quite the opposite,” Her big grin hadn’t vanished, “I felt like I needed to pay you more. I know you can’t use illusions, so we whipped something up,” She procured a pendant of a small mirror on a brass chain and tossed it to Galahad, “Just a little something extra to help you out.” Galahad fumbled the catch, but quickly recovered it, “I see…” “Payment for what?!” Suzie demanded with a scowl. “Mr… Lox here helped me out and I gave him an IOU,” Rita began, looking mostly annoyed now. Galahad sighed, “I asked her to rig the bracket. I need to fight Harold in the first round.” Blud and Rald nodded, completely understanding the decision even if this was the first they learned of it, while Suzie looked appalled, “You cheated?!” “And?” Rald answered for Rita with a frown, “What are you gonna do? Tattle and lower Galahad’s chance of fighting Harold? Don’t you WANT those better lab times for your house?” “I… yeah, I do. But I don’t think this was morally right. Manus?” She looked to her president for guidance. Manus was tapping the tips of her fingers together, deep in thought, “It does not matter what you and I think. They have chosen to act and what has been done has been done. I wish for Galahad to win, so I cannot complain too much. Do you wish for that as well?” “I want him to win just as much as you!” Suzie insisted. “And I gave him the best chance at it,” Rita concluded matter of factly, “I would have done it for free, but he cashed that IOU in, saying to help him beat Harold. So what better way than to give him a fresh start at beating him in his first duel? And I’m helping with a magic item to boot. I pulled out all the stops for this one!” “Thank you, Rita,” Galahad looked the item over, “The invisibility will be very useful,” He smirked before putting the piece of jewelry on. “My first duel being with Harold will minimize the damage done by our little cheat, and if– no… when I beat Harold I’ll just withdraw from the rest of the duels.” “You’re sounding a lot more confident,” Suzie smirked at the wizard. “With everyone’s help, how could I not?” Galahad spread his arms wide and stretched, finally feeling some semblance of peace, “Thanks, guys.” “Of course, what else are friends for if not to help you beat up this smug moss collector of a man,” Blud gave him a thumbs up after having uttered one of the worst goblin insults in the book, “We better get going soon, Rald.” “Ah, yeah mom wanted us home for lunch,” The goblin sighed, “It was nice getting to spend some time with you all. Good luck, Galahad.” “Here, Rald," Galahad pulled out a pouch full of silver coins and handed them to the goblin, "Money for a cab, just take it and… thank you. Give your parents my thanks and I will return this basket as quickly as I can." "Whoa, another cab ride, huh? Nice!" Blud made a toothy grin. His sister felt the weight of the coins in her hand and shook her head, "This is more than enough…" She muttered, but with a smile as Galahad closed her hand on it. "It's the least I can do to repay you." He said as he watched them reluctantly leave. Turning, he also saw that Rita had quietly disappeared, “Thanks to you too, Rita. Wherever you went.” “She's such a weirdo,” Suzie mumbled before standing and stretching, “I need to step out for some chores. I should be back around noon with our lunches, Manus. I’d offer to pick some up for you, Galahad, but you’re taken care of.” “Very well taken care of, a little too much sugar for my taste, but I can’t complain,” Galahad smiled as he set his items aside, taking off the magic jewelry and placing it with the rest. The gnome left, leaving the fey witch and human wizard alone. Manus used a paperclip and bound all the papers together before passing them to Galahad, “Your documents should all be in order. I will turn them in for you, but you might want to glance through them.” “Thank you very much, Miss Manus– for preparing these for me, I mean,” He gingerly took them and thumbed through the papers. A few words stood out to him on the second page; ‘Threat of injury and death…’ The thought of dying in this ‘friendly’ tournament had crossed his mind, especially if Harold was as formidable as those around him had warned. He sighed and set the papers aside, “I’m sure they’re fine. Unless you’re trying to sabotage me to keep me out of the tournament now,” He half joked with a little smile. “I would be lying if I told you the thought never crossed my mind,” She shot him a guilty look before pulling some books out from beneath her cloak, “But you may sleep easy knowing I will not stab you in the back. You have my word.” “Thank you,” Galahad smiled, “Y’know, I was told not to trust fey when I was younger. Tricksters, the lot of them,” He mimicked the voice of an older man, “But you, unless you’re building up to some unbelievable large trick, I feel like I can trust you.” The witch looked up, her eyes barely visible under the brim of her fluffy hat. One of her eyes looked like it twinkled at him, “There is still ample time for my master plan to come to fruition,” A minute smile appeared on her face, “I jest, of course. I am not jape-focused as my fairy and pixie cousins. All fey are single-minded, admittedly, as I am focused on my studies and magic, of course, while they love to play and prank. The one who told you to be cautious of fey was correct.” “I see,” Galahad observed the books in front of Manus, noting that none of them were scholarly tomes related to her classes. A book about the legend of King Arthur, Gaelic mythos, and Egyptian gods just to name a few, “What about you, though? You don’t seem to be very single-minded as you say.” “Even with what you may call my hobbies, I am quite studious. I enjoy learning about different cultures’ legends and myths. Why, just last month I had finished reading up on the Iliad. I find it hard to believe Helen to be so beautiful that an entire war started over her.” “Reading through history, I actually don’t find it that hard to believe. Pretty women make men do dumb things. I’m sure if we look at history from the old world we’d see from their point of view where the same thing happened. Maybe it’s just part of our nature?” Galahad mused aloud as Miss Manus opened up the Arthurian legend book. “I find history funny in that respect as well. There are so many different sides of the stories men tell their children. Take for example this book on King Arthur. A myth certainly, but it has an important part in history. I particularly find it fascinating that there are so many different recollections of each myth and there is no real ‘true’ telling due to it being handed down mostly through word of mouth. I have heard that the French made many additions to Arthurian legend.” “Probably to get back at the British,” Galahad chuckled to himself, “Do you think any of these myths are really true? I’m sure most of the fantastical stories like the Lady of the Lake giving Arthur the sword seemed impossible in the past, but after the Great Cracking, maybe it all seems quite real?” “Where do you think the legends of fey come from? This world and the old were always intrinsically connected and every so often a little bit may spill over in either direction. Fairies had their own little fey realm here and men and women would sometimes find themselves in the old world. Most powerful heroes are descendants of such people. Who is to say valkyries, sphinxes, and lake dwelling sea serpents could not have traversed the gap between realms, into your people’s reality, and then into their myths and legends? Another reason I like reading about all these mythos is to me it feels as though it is a brief look into what the old world– by that I mean this world– was like from a human perspective. The mundane lives of man are anything but mundane, struggling and fighting to survive with not so much as a hint of magic is really telling of the human condition. Honestly, how did you all make it to the stage you did before magic was brought into your world?” She glanced at Galahad, her icy cheeks turning tomato red slowly as she looked into Galahad’s transfixed gaze, “Ah, listen to me prattle on and on. How embarrassing. You may tell me if I am boring you, young Galahad.” Galahad stifled a chuckle before composing himself, “You’re not boring at all, Miss Manus. You’re very passionate about the past that many others don’t even bother to learn nowadays. I find that very admirable. A hundred years ago humanity nearly wiped itself off the Earth until the Cracking, and that’s most of what anyone ever cares to learn. Nobody even remembers why men were driven to kill each other like that.” “I enjoyed learning about it, though I was loath to learn that such terrible things could be done over so little.” “Just like you read in the Iliad. See? Men have always fought like that.” “You know an awful lot, Galahad Loxley. More than it seems. Speaking of which, would you mind telling me how you came to know how to read runic magicks? Knowing a little more about your magical knowledge would put me at ease.” Galahad’s teeth clenched and his eyes darted away for a moment before returning to Manus’s, “I… a good family friend of mine is an artificer. Well, two of them. They taught me some things when i was a young teen and that’s where I developed my desire to become an artificing wizard eventually.” Although the hesitation was obvious, it was not obvious to her that Galahad was lying, “Ah, I believe Fredrik mentioned you citing that as your reason for becoming a metallurgist. You have a very wide skill set, it seems. I wish my abilities were as varied as yours.” “I’m sure you can do a lot with transmutation or whatever other schools you know. Still, maybe someday I’ll teach you a few skills, huh?” He joked as he picked up one of her books. Miss Manus’s eye sparkled again, “To do that you may have to reveal to me who you really are. Will you be comfortable doing that?” Galahad opened up the book and flipped a few pages, “What ever could you mean, Miss Manus? I’m just Galahad,” He said in a voice mimicking Fredrik’s, which made the fey witch smile, “Still, you’re probably one of the few people I’d be comfortable sharing that with, just not yet. But regardless, everyone is definitely going to see some of my tricks on Monday, I just really hope that doesn’t alter everyone’s perceptions of me.” After replacing her book mark, Manus set her book down carefully, “It very well might, and I do hope it changes in your favor when the dust has settled.” The wizard slowly nodded, “I hope so. May I ask about you now?” “Of course.” “They mentioned you being high born,” Galahad explained, rubbing his chin, “Where are you from? Who are your parents?” Miss Manus nodded, “I am from the fey lands of Alderia, of course. My mother is the Queen of the East Winds, her kingdom covers the eastern fey lands. My father is the prince of a powerful kingdom within my mother’s realm known as Alderia. He is a half-fey, half-elven man. I will confirm the thoughts you are no doubt having, yes, I am not fully fey. Technically more than three-fourths but less than nine-tenths fey. Iron still has ill effects on me, but as we discussed I am not as single minded as the full-bloods.” “Ah, interesting. Are you in line for the crown?” Manus shook her head, “Fey, true fey, do not really die even if they are slain. My mother will keep the crown until she grows bored of it or goes mad. One of my many siblings may take the crown when that day comes. I have no interest in the throne, as I lack leadership.” Galahad smirked, “Said the House Karak-Albrac president.” “Well, there was no one else to take the role. Being the most senior member of this house it was my duty to take charge,” Manus explained, “I did not have much choice, in all honesty.” Galahad nodded, “You seem to do a good job, sorry for my little jab.” Manus gave a tiny smile, “What about your family?” “Well…” He leaned back and stretched, “Not a lot to say. Parents aren’t really anyone of note. Dad’s a wizard, mom’s a sorceress. I have a bunch of sisters who are all sorceresses like mom is. Dad taught me magic from a very young age. Oh, and mom and my sisters are all demi-humans, by the way.” “Really? I find it interesting that you have no physical traits of a demi-human. Though I suppose not every demi-human transfers traits to their human offspring,” Manus noted then shrugged. “My turn for another question,” Galahad perked up, “Are they… natural?” Manus gave him a blank look, “Excuse me? What do you mean?” Galahad’s face turned as red as a tomato, “I mean- that is, I meant your… arms,” He stammered, realizing what he had just said, “Were you born with six? Or do you use transmutation to give yourself more?” Manus chuckled to herself, “No, I do not use transmutation to create more arms for myself. Everyone knows that is a necromancy spell, a way to graft them to your body,” She smirked, “I did not use that either. I was born with six. Many of my siblings have additional limbs.” “Interesting,” Galahad rubbed his chin, “Thank you for answering my questions, Manus.” “That is what I am here for as your teacher, Galahad,” Manus nodded, “Do you have anything else for me?” Galahad shook his head, “No. I’m sated for the day. I won’t take up any more of your time,” The man got up and raised his hands above his head as he twisted his torso, popping his back a few times, “Thank you. I need to get some more preparations done. Unfortunately I need to venture outside,” He grabbed the amulet from Rita and put it on, “But at least I can test this trinket of Rita’s out.” “Perhaps a disguise would be better over an invisibility spell?” Manus suggested, “It would be quite easier to step out without someone accidentally bumping into you.” “Got it. Thanks again, Manus,” Galahad offered her another smile, “I’m gonna go have lunch first to get the feel of this thing. Talk to you later, Manus,” He raised one hand in a goodbye gesture before heading up stairs and into the labyrinth of rooms, taking his things with him under arm. Manus picked up one of her books with a smile and got back to reading, ready to relax for the remainder of her day. Although to some, taking notes on your casual reading was not relaxing, Miss Manus found it quite comforting. The bubbling of mana salt water filled the room. A cauldron steamed, smoked, and hissed as Miss Manus tossed in a few magical ingredients. She used a ladle to scoop out some of the blue magical liquid before pouring it into a glass cup and passing it to Fredrik who toiled at an alchemy set. He ground up ingredients in a mortar and pestle before putting it over a bunsen burner in a glass cup, “I am surprised you did not bring Galahad,” Fredrik commented. Manus looked down at a book she was reading while idly stirring the cauldron, “Did he make his potions at our house’s meager alchemy kit?” The two stood in the common building on the south side of campus. Outside the magicked windows showed nothing but the inky blackness of night broken up by the street lamps that illuminated the southern path. The basement of the communal building beneath all the entertainment rooms were the labs where students could toil away with experiments or new spells. The labs were lined with rows of tables, most held alchemy sets or even rune engraving set-ups. One even had gem cutting tools, though they went unused tonight as Fredrik and Manus were the only two in the lab now. Unfortunately for House Karak-Albrac, they had time slots in the middle of the night and in the early morning, making it harder for most students to make use of it and maintain their sleep schedules and go to their classes. Downstairs was the recreation area that similarly went unused. Miss Manus shook her head as she placed her book mark between her pages and set the tome down, “Galahad, surprisingly, has benefactors.” “Really, now. Who are these mysterious people?” “Those two goblins he spends time with, their parents own a store from what little I know. It seems as if they are as concerned for his safety as we are,” She looked bemused as she stood up to scoop out some of the brew. “We should be thankful he has such good friends, then,” Said Fredrik as he carefully sprinkled rusted iron shavings into his formula, “I have yet to meet them, but you say they are goblins?” “Yes, they gave him several gifts for him to use during the duel; potions, an enchanted circlet, a summoning stone, lastly was a new cloak and hat. He even got an enchanted gift from Rita,” Explained Manus, a little smile on her lips. Fredrik scoffed, “I must admit, I am a little jealous. I certainly hope I don’t have to go up against all of that. Still, I for one am most enthusiastic about his participation. It would be most beneficial to us if he were to win his duel against Harold, not just for better lab times, but think of how many more students would be interested in joining House Karak-Albrac.” “You forget, he is still of the Seeker’s house,” Reminded Manus. Fredrik nodded, “I have thoroughly thought of this conundrum. All we need to do is ask him to join directly after his match with the little princeling. Then his victory will be dedicated to our house in all coverage!” “Assuming he does win, but what do we do if he does not?” Asked the fey witch. Fredrik shrugged, “We take him in anyway and you allow Suzie and I to tutor him as we discussed. Anyone with enough guts to face off against Harold should be worth something to our reputation. Winner or not I believe he would be a good asset to our House.” “Ever loyal Fredrik, always thinking of your House. Perhaps you would be better suited as president?” The fey teased her peer. Fredrik shook his head as smoke billowed out of his experiment, “And rid us of our wonderfully studious and prized president? Nay, I say. Besides, I’d not have time enough for my art.” Manus jokingly rolled her eyes, “Indeed. What would become of our most eccentric council member if he was deprived of his art?” “What of you, Miss President? Wouldn’t you miss all the benefits, delegating, making the rules for our house, the respect due to you-” “The constant meetings, the squabbling over amenities with other houses, the interruptions of my studies and teaching of my students. I would go so far as to say I might never have caught Harold’s eye had I not been inducted as house president,” She shuddered, “I think I could live without.” Fredrik smiled behind his mask once more, “Not looking for courtship, Miss President?” “No.” She replied flatly, “And certainly not with someone so brutish. Besides, as president I have little time to myself as it is. My time is my own, I would like to spend it how I see fit, but now I am forced to think about these things with that man’s constant pestering.” “But if you were to find someone?” The golden wizard pressed her. Manus stopped stirring her cauldron and turned to her golden friend, “What has you so interested in my love life, might I ask?” Her cold retort caught Fredrik off guard and he nearly dropped his glass cup. “I-I well, you see… Miss President, I myself am interested in someone and I thought perhaps if I measured your values against theirs I could better myself.” Her anger slowly softened, “I see. Then she is like me?” “I would say so, yes. Though, unlike you, my nerves keep me from interacting with her,” He sighed. "The Great and Powerful Fredrik. Afraid of talking to a woman. It almost does not seem real, ” Manus pointed out. “What about you? You’re much more talkative lately, has something changed in my illustrious and taciturn Miss President’s life? Not that I'm complaining,” Fredrik replied, a smile returning to his lips. “Nothing has changed,” Manus fibbed, cursing silently in her mind that even her peers were beginning to notice something. “So what of this woman you cannot speak to? I feel as if I’ve seen you flirt with some of the other students,” She redirected back to her golden peer. "You should know that is another matter entirely. It is all part of my art, but when I am near the center of my infatuation I find myself breathless. Unable to find the words I wish to speak to her face-to-face. That will change soon. But enough of that, you never answered my question, so please humor me." "Very well. The type of man I would be interested in would treat me well. Not in the sense that Harold does, I do not wish to be made into some trophy or trinket used to flaunt superiority over others.” “I see. I pray I am not as off putting as Harold is despite my… eccentricities, as you called it.” "I am certain that will not be a problem with the right woman, Fredrik," Manus smirked, “Just find one that enjoys gold half as much as you. Perhaps she will indulge in your strange behaviors and your art." "Please don't tease me." Fredrik chuckled. "Though I really do want to see her in gold, the shine of it running off her like sunlight." "Who?" Manus dared to ask. "Ah, I cannot say, it wouldn't do to let rumors spread." "Fredrik I am the last person in Fairgarland that would spread gossip," The fey frowned. "That may be so but I would not risk it for anyone. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise." Manus shook her head, "As you say, Fredrik, but eventually you will have to take that mask off and start fresh with the maiden, put the true Fredrik on display." "I could never do that." "Then I will say no more." Manus turned back to her cauldron and pulled the ladle out, inspecting her concoction closely. "Would she really… want that?" She heard her colleague wonder to himself. The weekend came and went quickly for Miss Manus. As usual, she tended to her duties before even thinking about leisure. Thankfully for her, her homework was light as was the homework she had assigned to her students of all levels. She had spent her time attempting to relax after her Saturday morning one-on-one exchange with Galahad. Tea, cookies, and a few nice, long books that she took many notes on. Her thoughts on the events of the books, summaries of what had happened, and doodles of maps, creatures, and people contained in the myths. Another journal carried her notes on her own worries and feelings that did not pertain to the reading. There were a few threads of her reaching in an attempt to string her worries to the characters and supposed themes of her past readings. At the moment, her concerns were focused on Galahad and Harold. In her mind, at least as she remembered her reading of the Iliad, she saw Harold as Achilles, the supposed invincible hero of Troy. She continued down this thread, wondering who Galahad was in this story that kept playing over and over in her head. Would he be Hector, slain by Achilles? Or Paris, the destroyer of Achilles with a well placed blow? It tore Manus up as she attempted to focus. For once she wished she had homework to focus on and grade instead of fretting over the inevitable duel. She spent Saturday evening helping Fredrik concoct potions, then spent all of Sunday resting after sleeping in. She did not even strip from her specially made bathrobe with six sleeves after washing herself with a spell. She usually would go straight for her usual bewitching robes, but she had broken out the sparsely used relaxation kit for today. She sat in a big, comfortable leather chair with her feet put up on a small, plush stool, fluffy slippers on her feet, and a table at her side. Tea, and a half-eaten muffin that had gone cold had been set aside as now a fresh tray of various crackers, meats, cheeses, dried fruit, and tomato jam was being slowly nibbled on for lunch. Four of Miss Manus’s hands idly rolled a porous, cracked, chipped, and worn orb in her hands. Her two bottom hands were made of a crystalline material that magic flowed through, changing the orb’s material constantly. The brass ball morphed to glass, then bone, then styrofoam, rubber, plastic, concrete, and anything else Manus could think of as she idly channeled into the orb she had kept since her first year at this academy. It was something given to students to pour mana into to practice control over their transmutation. She had kept hers, constantly changing its form when she needed something to do with her anxiously wandering hands or she would have another instance where she would accidentally replace the leather of her chair with mucus. Manus sighed and stared into the orb as she turned it into a reflective metal, staring at her own face in the material, “What is it about men that makes them do such foolish things?” She wondered as the orb changed to a soft fabric. She tossed it into the air, “Harold, Galahad. Why am I your Helen of Troy? What am I to deserve such adoration?” She paused again as she caught the ball, eating a piece of cheese on a cracker, “Harold, your desires have been laid bare. Your abilities similarly so. Overbearing and stubborn. But Galahad, young, foolish Galahad, who are you to fight for me? You do not fawn over me like your rival does. What goes on in that head of yours?” A smirk crossed her lips as she spread some of the tomato jam on a piece of cracker which she enjoyed with some spiced salami, “How strong are you really? I wish only for your survival tomorrow. Should you have the strength to overcome your opponent, I shall be overjoyed. For now, I can only hope you live,” Miss Manus paused, tasting the savory and sweet flavors as she took her time chewing the food, “I wonder… what secrets do you hide, fiery Galahad? What have those orange eyes seen? How many tomes have you gazed upon? How many spells have crossed your lips?” She blinked and picked up a book, preparing to read it soon, “In time, I hope to find out whether you win or lose tomorrow…” “You have me intrigued, and I remain optimistic of you due to your diligence and hard work. But how will I feel in the future? What becomes of it, we will just have to wait and see, I suppose,” She chuckled as she stared into the shimmering glass orb in her hands. She could almost make out Galahad’s face in it. The fey witch put it down, not wanting to dwell on it further before turning to her book. The Monday morning air was thick with fog and a light drizzle that pooled on the sidewalks, streets, and the foliage covering the academy grounds. Students hurried to their first classes, trying to keep their book bags dry using their cloaks, umbrellas, or magic spells. It wasn’t ideal conditions for a duel, Miss Manus thought as she stared out the first floor windows in the transmutation class building. The rain pattered against the glass before sliding down to the puddles that congealed below. Students had begun filing in, the air about them was abuzz with chattering and excitement, commenting how they hoped their house won or hoped their rival house lost. Manus was surprised how little she heard wishing for the loss of Galahad. Of course it was there, especially from the few House Frtiz’eleo members in her class, easily identifiable by the arm bands they wore proudly. Galahad arrived, quickly making for his seat and sitting down in the front row. He was in his dark blue robes with no hat. Miss Manus was surprised how awake and alert he looked despite how tired he had seemed on Saturday. Manus bit her tongue, merely giving him a tiny smile and a nod which he returned in kind before pulling his wet cloak tighter around himself. Miss Manus cleared her throat, “Good morning, class. Welcome to another week of Transmutation one-zero-one. Let us begin right away, I can see how you all are very excited for this evening, but please lend me your ear for two hours and I will release you all quickly.” Class came to a close a little early with the fey witch hastily dismissing everyone to their next class. Galahad meticulously cleaned up his work station, making sure to sweep up any metal shaving and goo from his transmutation practices, “A word, Galahad?” Manus asked as she shouldered her own bag. “Yes?” He stood, giving her his full attention as he picked up his bag and water bottle. Manus cleared her throat, “I merely wanted to wish you luck. I am unsure if I will have the chance to say so later.” “Thank you,” Galahad gave her a little smile, “I’m nervous, but I’m feeling weirdly good. Confident even. I guess I should thank everyone for their support, huh?” “Yes, you are quite lucky to have the backing of numerous people,” Miss Manus nodded, “I wish I had something wonderful to give you for aid. But I did make this on Sunday morning,” She handed Galahad a large blue potion, “Mana. Hopefully you will not need this much. I added some blueberries to make it go down easily.” “Thank you very much,” He grinned as he put it in his bottomless bag, “Are you doing alright? I hope you haven’t been fretting too much over me.” Miss Manus sighed, “There is little I can do at this point in time,” She adjusted her hat and robes, “I can only pray you are a Paris and not a Hector,” The fey witch realized what she was saying a little too late. She clenched her fists under her robes as Galahad gave her a blank look. “Pardon?” The wizard tilted his head and frowned. “Nothing. Worry not about my idle musings. You should run along before your next glass begins,” She instructed, hiding her face beneath her hat as her cheeks turned beet red. Galahad nodded, “I suppose you’re right. I’ll look for you and the others in the crowd tonight,” Galahad smiled before heading for the door, “See you later, Miss Manus.” “See you at the duel, Galahad,” She replied quietly as she watched him hurry down the hall.