Shanessa wrung her hands as the large mono-eye stepped past her, nodding politely in a silent greeting before stepping out of The Seeker’s House with a box of things in his hands. After him was Galahad and Fredrik. Galahad looked exhausted, it was Tuesday, a week and a day since he had been put out of commission in his fight with Harold and he had been bedridden that entire time, “It pains me to know that you are leaving us already,” Shanessa told the first-year with a sad sigh. Galahad returned the frown and sigh, “I didn’t expect them to want to induct me so early. Thank you for your help thus far.” The lamia nodded as she looked around the first floor to the other young members of The Seeker’s House. Each one stared at the recent champion. Galahad struggled to tell if it was eagerness to see him leave or something else. Some of the students would go completely rigid under his gaze and seemed relieved as he was going. He was at least glad to know that Shanessa was sad about it. “Galahad will be well taken care of,” Fredrik assured the woman, “I will see to that personally.” A smirk crossed Shanessa’s face as she flicked her forked tongue, “I would hope your house would treat the young man well, seeing as he fought for your benefit rather than the house he was really a part of.” “And we thank you for not barring his entry,” Fredrik added, “There is a lot of buzz surrounding both of our houses due to the outcome of the tournament. Ah, how a week goes by with all the excitement. I must also thank you on my friend here’s behalf for aiding in keeping him fed. Without your wonderful cooking, he and those on guard duty would never have survived!” The smirk quickly turned to a proud grin on Shanessa's lips, “Well, I pride myself on my ability to take care of others. Are you sure you do not want me to take a look at that arm?” She changed subjects as she saw Galahad wince in pain when adjusting himself. Galahad shook his head, “If this mends wrong, I’ll never cast again. If my bone is turned by a fraction of an inch all my work thus far will have been for naught. It’s nothing against you, I just can’t take any chances.” “Begrudgingly, I admit you have a point. A master chirurgeon I am not, nor are the volunteers in the arena or infirmary. If you need help with pain or anything… or cooking… or even a drink, well, you know where I am…” The lamia trailed off sheepishly. Galahad smiled, “I’ll see you again. I promise.” “I will make sure he swings by from time to time. I know you have a vested interest in all your former housemates' schooling progress,” Fredrik explained, smiling behind his mask. It was a mostly featureless mask with a V shaped slit for both eyes and a handful of holes on the right side by his mouth that made up House Karak-Albrac’s sigil, a stone with a swirl in it. A hood covered the rest of his head. Shanessa was unsure how to feel looking at the mask, as it made her uneasy hearing such a friendly voice coming from such an unapproachable ‘face.’ Still, she managed a smile, "Thank you. And Galahad?" "Yes?" "Do not do something so stupid again, please," Her smile widened as his face reddened. "I'll try not to," He answered before hurrying off. She watched Fredrik shrug and follow after him, the two leaving for House Karak-Albrac. Galahad looked to Fredrik as he walked beside him, the golden man looking back. Both chuckled at how foolish they must have looked running away like that. Fredrik got ahead of his friend and ran up the steps to the door, holding it open for him with the flourishing of his hand. "Galahad my friend, allow me to officially welcome you into House Karak-Albrac for the first time as a fully-fledged member!" With the flick of his wrist, Fredrik cast a burst of gold flakes into the air over his new housemate. Galahad bowed his head in thanks and walked inside, surprised to see that the entire room was filled with house members all cheering and applauding him, each of them rushing around him. Fredrik was there in a flash to keep them from crowding him and further exasperating his injured arm, which the young wizard appreciated, though he had not expected such a reception for simply joining the house. His confusion was quickly cleared up though when he finally heard the cheers from his new housemates. "Three cheers for Galahad, you're the real Champion of the Fairgarland Duels to us!" They cried, "You showed Harold who's the real dueling wizard, didn't ya, Loxley?" "I won't ever have to pull any all-nighters watchin' my pot boil thanks to you, champ!" Galahad felt someone grab his good hand and shake it firmly. It was a dwarf that had pushed his way through the crowd of transmutstionists, "Aye, boy, you've done us all a great service, ye did, winnin' us those lab times," His voice boomed over the crowd, "Why, I was able to get my test brews finished now that I'm not fallin' asleep afore I'm done. 'Ave a pint on me!" The dwarf shoved a hefty wooden mug in Galahad's good hand and smiled ear-to-ear, "That 'uns got lotsa mana to 'er!" The crowd quieted down as they watched Galahad look at Fredrik, who shrugged. His eyes went back to the mug for a moment before he managed a shrug himself and downed the whole thing, the entire house cheering as he turned the bottom up, spilling some of it on his shirt, "That packs a punch!" He laughed, handing the mug back to the chuckling dwarf, proud of his new brew. Fredrik shook his head and laughed, "Alright, alright everybody, let him through, he needs to rest." "You his nanny now?" Someone called from the back, causing laughter here and there. "As a matter of fact, I am!" He shot back, which was met with more guffawing as the student body of House Karak-Albrac dispersed, each going back to their own work, studies and duties. The only ones left were the council members and President Manus who let herself smile ever so slightly. "My, aren't we popular," Suzie teased, "Ever since you were infirmed you've been the talk of the whole house. When they heard you would be coming today everyone decided they wanted to surprise you." "I knew the lab times were important, but I never expected them to do… that!" Galahad chuckled to himself. "The labs are where everyone does most of their work, from potions and poisons to beers and balms," Holmit explained, "Most of us 'ad to learn to balance our sleep schedules to be up all night half the week just to get some serious practice in. Many of the 'igher level alchemy and transmutations take hours, which in my 'umble opinion takes years off your life. 'Aving to stay up the night only to 'ave classes in the morning, day in, day out for weeks on end, I could have died a hundred, no - a thousand times the amount of sleepless nights I 'ad – 'ad I not been born a dwarf! So from the bottom of my 'eart, I thank ya, lad." Immediately, the entire council turned to the dwarf. Even Fredrik was bewildered for a moment. "Holmit…? Are you drunk?" Asked Suzie, her eyes noticing the rosiness in the dwarf's nose and cheeks. "I… may 'ave 'ad a pint or two of Forgrit's new ale." He admitted before belching, "Alright maybe I 'ad more'n that," The others sighed their relief. "I thought the world was coming to a quick end." Fredrik japed, mock-waving his hand like a fan across his mask. "Pay him no mind, Galahad, he won't remember a thing he said after today," Suzie warned with a groan, "I'll take him to his room before he passes out." "Well, I think someone should teach Galahad here the spell to navigate the house labyrinth." Fredrik suggested, putting a gloved hand on his friend's shoulder. Both Fredrik and Todd looked to Manus whose eyes darted between the three of them, "You wish for me to do it?" She inquired. "You are his tutor, are you not?" Asked Fredrik, knowing the answer well. "And I already took his belongings to his room, so it's only fair," Todd agreed. "Very well." Manus answered, "Galahad, follow me if you please." "We will talk later, my friend," Fredrik gently pushed Galahad forward before taking his leave, the cyclops following. “Thanks again for bringing me in, Miss Manus,” Galahad started as he followed the fey-witch upstairs. With a nod, she glanced over her shoulder, “Of course. The house would have been outraged had we not. We have gotten quite a few new applications to join us since your victory. At least a three-hundred percent increase.” “I see. More people means more pull, right? Easier to get what your house wants?” “Exactly. On top of that, no other house dares go against our prized duelist,” Miss Manus reached a bookshelf and procured a dusty, old tome. She began to thumb through it, “As soon as we had Fritz’Eleo’s lab time, three houses put in challenges over it. They pulled them when the paper came out the next day, detailing our little chat about you being our official duelist.” “Are they that afraid of me?” A frown crossed Galahad’s face. “None would contest Harold before. You are the only one who did, and you won. Even beyond this house people are considering you the real champion. Had you not been injured, you may have gone on to win,” Miss Manus pointed to a page without looking down, “The spell you require is written here. I will guide you through it.” Galahad glanced it over as Manus brought him to the door to the pocket realm of rooms, “Thank goodness it's not a divination.” “Many have said the same. Thankfully, you cast it as a transmutation. You remember how I have instructed you this far?” Miss Manus asked. She frowned as she looked down at Galahad’s bad arm. The first-year fished a small, concealable wand from his bag and gently placed it into the hand hanging in his sling, “I remember, of course. Just give me a bit,” Galahad asked, struggling to flick his wrist as he made a symbol with his other hand. “Now say the name of the owner of the room you wish to seek,” Miss Manus quickly encouraged as she realized her student was going to pull it off despite his injury. “Got it,” He winced in pain, “Galahad… Loxley,” He adjusted his hand, flicking his wand as his free hand changed gestures. The walls shimmered and the floor of the maze vibrated softly. From the dark, star filled material came a one inch wide strip of glistening gold. “Now we follow it. Your room is close to the rest of our council members’ rooms. After you, Mister Loxley,” She took the book from him and fell in step beside him, “Perhaps I should call you ‘Master Loxley’ after your performance in the duels?” The first-year’s mouth smirked for but a moment, “I’m no master. Learned, perhaps, but I’m not that good.” “Labyrinth is not an easy spell.” “Yeah, but every wizard– at least ones that fight, need an ace up their sleeve at all times. I happen to have a few,” Galahad smiled as he reached the end of the golden line. A door stood before them, its material was a dark oak with a simple silver and gold name plate. ‘LOXLEY’ was all it said. The room had been placed around a corner or three and at the end of a dead end path. After a nervous glance at the witch, who merely nodded in confirmation, Galahad reached for the handle and turned it. With an easy push, the door creaked open and showed the two what lay beyond. The room was much larger than his last accommodation. Rather than a simple twin sized bed, Galahad saw he had a queen sized bed with a thick comforter and a fuzzy throw blanket at the foot of it. At the end of the bed on the floor was a storage chest and on either side of the bed was a night stand, each furnished with a reading lamp. What caught his eye next were the walls, starting from the floor it was a dark, navy blue and as it neared the ceiling, turned into a dark, starry night sky. A single chandelier clad in gold cast its orange glow across the room, making the walls look like the morning or evening skyline. In the center of the room was a couch with a coffee table that could be raised to be more of a table or desk to work at. On the right side of the room was a kitchenette with modern amenities. A mini fridge, stove top oven, and even an air fryer and microwave atop the minimal countertop. Above that was a magic window. At the moment, it showed a sun covered wheat field, slowly swaying in the wind like golden waves. A door near this led into a small bathroom with a toilet, bath, and shower where his toiletries had already been set out. The opposite side of the room had a dresser, wardrobe and a large pet bed with a few wooden and rope toys. Galahad gave this a confused look, “Suzie was adamant about making a little area for your… rat. You should know that she adores it so,” Miss Manus explained, “She did a lot of research into what a rat would need.” Galahad nodded before summoning his rat familiar, Randy with the wave of his hand. The rat wasted no time in investigating the room, his pudgy little legs carrying him at a surprising speed from one corner of the room to the other. Across from the bed was a large TV on a stand and next to that was another, smaller mini-fridge. When he checked the little fridge, Galahad discovered it was full of cans of beer, the dwarven brand a clear sign that this was Holmit’s choice, “I… don’t know what to say.” “A simple ‘thank you’ to each of us will do,” Miss Manus replied, “Do you like the enchanted wallpaper I picked out? I thought you might enjoy the starry scenery.” "I do like it. It's very pretty. Reminds me of home, the long nights I’d stay outside staring at stars. I feel like I can see who contributed what,” He smiled as he looked around. He approached the door to his room, running his hands across it, “Unenchanted, huh? Means I can get a bit more privacy,” The first-year explained. He drew his wand and held it in one hand along with a length of chain. He dragged his wand across the door in a few large circles and long strokes. The locking ward appeared as spectral chains that entwined the door. Miss Manus pursed her lips, “You know, the point of a ward like this is to keep others out. Letting me gaze upon how you casted it will let me get in.” “I’m aware,” Galahad smirked, “I don’t mind you, Fredrik, or maybe Suzie coming in here when I’m not around or barging in, but I don’t need a crafty member of your– our house, or any reporters busting in here with a lock picking spell.” Miss Manus frowned, “Our house is completely trustworthy. Why do you think they would break in?” “I don’t know if they will, of course,” He quickly continued, “Just chalk it up to my paranoia, not that I don’t trust your house– our house.” With a nod Miss Manus headed to the door to exit and unlocked the ward with the wave of her crystalline hand, “I will leave you to rest. I hope you plan on joining us for a council dinner. We will come to collect you at six-thirty.” “Of course. I’ll come along. I don’t know how much I can contribute, to be honest, but I can be an extra body at the table,” He joked before plopping himself down on the couch. “Wonderful. Rest well, Galahad,” She offered a small smile before stepping out the door and locking it behind her. Galahad sighed, decompressing into the plush couch and turning on the TV. He was glad to not be stuck in a stuffy infirmary room. He would miss the free cooking, but he could at least boil noodles for himself here. The TV turned to ‘Dwarven Steel’ a game show about dwarves forging weapons and then some professional warriors testing them through some ‘realistic’ combat scenarios. The first-year turned it down and shut his eyes, content to just rest for now. Six-thirty came sooner than he had anticipated, his eyes gradually opening as his bedroom door did. Inside came his fellow council members, Fredrik, followed by Suzie and Holmit, with Todd behind them and Manus at the rear, “It's six-thirty, Mister Loxley,” Suzie announced with a smile, "Let's go get us some of that good halfling grub!" "Where are we going?" Asked Galahad, steadily rising off of his couch. Suzie was the first to pipe up with an excited look on her face, "There's this nice restaurant on campus we go to for every meeting called ‘Amatucci's.’ An Italian place ran by some halflings. Real authentic.” “Sounds tasty,” He replied as the others started to file out. He stretched his legs and adjusted the sling as he left the room, following them through the maze to the main dorm and out of the building. Galahad pat his stomach with a smile, having enjoyed himself fully on the hearty halfling meal. "Never ate so much in my life." He remarked with a chuckle. "Aye, for being smallfolk they certainly know 'ow to fill ya up!" Holmit agreed. "Mmhmm!" Suzie hummed her approval through another buttered sweet roll. Galahad couldn’t believe the tiny woman was still eating. He was sure she had already eaten twice what he had. Manus quietly sipped on her tea, having eaten her fill of salmon with bread and a large salad. "So, how did you do it?" Asked Fredrik, staring directly at Galahad. “Hm?” The first-year cocked his head in confusion, mouth full of the last of his food. The golden wizard shook his head in an amused fashion, “How did you win the duel against Harold?” Galahad nodded as all eyes shifted to him. He swallowed his food and picked up his beer, “Why didn’t you do anything in the first round? You made it come way too close in the end,” Suzie scolded. Galahad swallowed his food and wiped his mouth with a napkin before giving his response, “I had to. He’s a powerful evocationist. I spent the first round getting a feel for his mana. Between rounds I attuned myself to it. It allowed me to get the upper hand after that. I’ll not cover my fourth round blunder, but without what I did in the first round, I’d have struggled way more than I did,” Galahad explained quickly. Holmit grunted, “I wish I coulda’ seen ya three-zero him. A real stomping is what that princely pain in the arse deserves.” “I’ll try to next time,” A smirk crossed Galahad’s lips, “Although I don’t think he’ll make it easy. I’m sure he’s already practicing for our next battle.” "So your attunement…?" Suzie prompted him to continue. "Oh, okay, so basically when I was able to align myself with his mana I was able to defend myself more effectively. It's kind of like… having the key to someone's house." "Sneaky!" The gnome teased, "So can anyone do that?" "Sure, with enough training in abjuration, but it's not exactly easy. Especially when you're in the heat of it." "Against Harold of all people," Fredrik added, "You took an awful risk. What if he had used a more powerful spell at the start and incapacitated you for good? Or worse?" "I took care of that with all the smack talk. He played right into it. He wanted to beat me up rather than kill me outright. I imagine to him a three round complete loss is more humiliating than being knocked out in one round by a powerful spell. I don’t think he was holding back after the second round though,” Galahad explained as he idly twirled a wand in his hand. “Were you holding back?” Miss Manus wondered as she set her empty plate aside. The first-year chuckled nervously, "Oh no, I'm not that stupid, one wrong move and I was toast. Do you really think I’m that strong?" "It was hard to tell at times. As you said during the duel, Harold has never had a real challenger in the time he has been dueling." Replied Manus. "Seeing you return blow for blow was an enlightening– albeit frightening experience." Suzie cleared her throat, “I know we all love Mister Loxley now, but maybe we should move onto business? I have a test tomorrow and I would like to study and get some rest,” The halfling explained, winking at Galahad. “Understood,” Todd nodded and pulled a thick, white binder from his bag, “Hmm… Fritz’Eleo has been pretty hostile towards us this week.” “Aye. I would be too if I lost the best lab times, two whole slots right after all the classes end!” Holmit pointed out. “They shouldn’t be mad at us, they should be mad at their president for losing them on a bet.” Suzie grumbled, crossing her arms. “I would bet they are too invested in their precious, princely president,” Fredrik assumed quickly, “Their frustration needed to be pointed somewhere and we are unfortunately in the firing line.” “Will they really re-elect him?” Todd sighed, “I was hoping to be free of him for a bit.” “We cannot expect them to replace him. He may be their best option still,” Miss Manus explained. As his head tilted, his brow knit, and Galahad looked at the others, “Don’t they have a council? Any one of them could take his place while he is made House Duelist.” “Nay,” Holmit replied, “Their council is full a’ yes men for the princeling. No one to challenge ‘im. If they did elect one of ‘em, they’d still jus’ go to the prince fer what to do.” “So we’d be right back where we are now…” Todd sighed. “But we’ve got Galahad now,” Suzie assured the others, “And he’s proven to be the strongest of the two.” “Maybe the more reckless of the two, ha,” Holmit scoffed, “Ya won this time, but if the princeling licks ‘is wounds and comes back for more can ya do it again?” Galahad shrugged sheepishly after a few moments, “I feel like I could. Once my arm is better, of course. What else is going on? Anything I can help with?” He tried to change the topic. “Well,” Todd returned to the binder and thumbed to the next page, “Holmit wants a better slot in the campus forge.” “Aye! I do! Ya want it too, don’t ya Todd, Fredrik?” The dwarf looked to his fellow council members with a raised brow. “It would be nice to get back into it…” Todd mused. No one could get a read on Fredrik as his face hid behind a mask, though the finger tapping against his cheek implied a moment’s thought. “Perhaps we could bargain for it,” He suggested, looking to Manus. She paused, taking a deep breath before exhaling, “What would you suggest?” “We trade a block of our time in the rec rooms, seeing as we have an hour and a half to spare, the latest block for a block in the forge. We are not needing three rec room time slots as we have a small enough house. Many of our fellow students need the forge time to complete their assignments,” The golden wizard noted for Galahad. “Or to make money on the side, like me,” Said Holmit, proud of himself. “What do you think, Galahad?” Asked Manus. The first year touched his chin, “Uh, I could just duel them for it when I’m better? That’s what I’m here for isn’t–” “No,” Suzie interrupted with a stern look, “We’re trying to stay on good terms with the other houses. The enchantment house currently controls most of the forge time and we have had a long standing positive relationship with them that we intend to keep. Right?” “If we duel every house for what we want we’ll just be a bunch of hooligans that no one wants to work with. I like having friends with the necromancy house, in case I crush my foot again,” Todd sighed. “And I like my friends in the divination house,” Said Holmit. “I never took you for one to look into the future,” Suzie quipped. Holmit grinned, his bushy mustache curling up with his lips, “Aye, unless it involves a bet,” He turned his attention to the duelist, “There is a time an’ a place for duelin’. This may not be it. But, maybe we could use your prowess to put a new rule into effect sanctioning time blocks for the gym!” “Holmit…” Suzie groaned as if she had heard this a million times. “What? We gotta make use of ‘em somehow. I jus’ hate how those necromancers show up to hijack the music system when I’m dead liftin’! If I hear a song by tha ‘Dead Lovers,’ I’m gonna rip my own beard off!” “Absolutely not,” Manus said sternly, “We did not bring Galahad aboard to have him strong-arm the Fairgarland school system. As of now, Galahad’s talents are unusable until he recovers. Even when he does, he will only be used to defend what is ours and not to take what is not.” “You’re no fun,” Holmit muttered under his breath, his spirit deflated, “Well, I suppose we should talk about what’s going on with House Zucarius.” “What’s wrong with Zucarius?” Asked Todd, his eye darting between the other council members. “They’ve been playing more and more pranks on us lately,” Suzie moaned, “Particularly me.” “You? What did they do to you?” Todd whimpered. “I was just about to finish baking some treats for my dog Lucy, but when I tried to go home I was swarmed by cats!” The gnome cried. Galahad looked to Fredrik who leaned over to him, “She’s allergic to cats, puffs up like a balloon,” He whispered, Galahad slowly nodding as the gnome continued her story. “So I finally get home to give them to my dog and she turned her nose up at it! Now how did I know it was them? Well Rita herself asked me how my dog liked the treats just today!” She let out an angry groan, balling her fists up and shaking them, “She swapped my ingredients to stuff that cats love!” “They melted the rubber of my work boots to the floor a few days ago,” Holmit recounted grumpily. Fredrik sighed, “I guard my masks with utmost vigilance, but I fear that if I should slip up even for a moment I would be in a rough spot, indeed.” Galahad looked to Manus, whose icy blue gaze fell upon him as she turned away from the others, “I will say nothing of what has happened to me, but I must admit they are wearing on my patience.” “Maybe I can do something about it,” Offered Galahad, “I owe Rita my thanks for helping me out with the duel, I could pay her a visit and ask her to stop.” “It’s true that you seem to be friends with her,” Fredrik began, “But in your state, should she wish to perform mischief, you may not be able to defend yourself.” “Do you really think she would do that to me? I’m practically a cripple already,” Galahad pointed at his bum arm. The rest of the council went quiet for a time, their silence speaking volumes on what their answer might be, “Look, whatever she’d pull on me I doubt it would be that severe. Most of the stuff her and her house have done to you guys have been child’s play at worst, but wasting your time and breaking things is not life threatening. I have to visit her anyway, like I said, I want to thank her again.” “Very well. But someone should go with you.” Said Manus, “Suzie? Please accompany him.” The gnome’s eyes went wide as saucers, “Me? B-but-” “Do not worry, Miss Suzie,” Fredrik cut her off with a pat on her shoulder, “Galahad will be there to draw the imp’s attention, and from what few interactions they’ve had, I think she respects him. Well, enough to not have pulled any tricks on me in his presence.” “Fine. I’ll go, but if she tricks me, you’re gonna put her in her place, got it, Galahad?” The gnome pouted. Galahad nodded, though what he could do in his sorry state was up in the air. A post meal malaise began to wash over Galahad as the meeting continued. Few questions were slung his way so he was content to laze in his seat, though how useful he felt to the conversation at hand was another story. He sipped on the wine that was brought to them as they talked of ending any relations with Fritz’Eleo before a student on either side did something stupid. Fredrik suggested reaching out to the more friendly houses to do a collective and effective blocking and boycotting of the evocation house from working with the other houses, to which most seemed to agree. Would that really work though? Galahad didn’t know the first thing about these interhouse relations, but he would do his best to help maintain them. As the night turned dark and the moon and stars came out behind the clouds, the council of House Karak-Albrac took their leave. Holmit and Todd left first with the dwarf stumbling drunkenly to his dorm room for the second time that afternoon and the mono-eye keeping watch on him. Suzie and Manus left next with quiet goodbyes. Fredrik took care of the payment with his house’s funds. The golden wizard looked to his drowsy friend, “Ready to go?” Galahad nodded, finishing his drink and slowly getting up, “Yup. Ready as I can be. Maybe I need another meal to go,” He said as he pocketed some leftover rolls for Randy. Fredrik chuckled, “I shall make a mental note to bring you back if I owe you a meal. But, it is getting late and you need your rest, Galahad.” The duelist nodded, “I need to recast regeneration on myself soon. It's starting to hurt again.” “Ah, you are taking care of it yourself. Suzie was guessing so,” The masked wizard nodded as he escorted his friend out, “Hopefully you shall be back in action soon.” “I hope so too, the last thing I want to do is make everyone’s efforts helping me thus far go to waste,” Galahad grimaced, “I can only cast low level spells until I have both arms in a full range of motion.” “Then you will be back to dueling, no?” “I hope so. That and studying. It wouldn’t be a good look for the new house duelist to fail his classes, right?” Galahad joked with a little smile as he pulled his cloak tighter around himself due to the frigid air of the night. “Fret not. Know that your performance will not bother any of us in our house. Only the most petty of opponents would bring up your grades in a pathetic attempt to deplatform you,” Fredrik chuckled, “Unless you want good grades for another reason?” “Yeah, so I can get my master’s title without having to repeat years,” Galahad shot back with a grin as the two began down the street on the west side of campus, passing the school store, convenience store, and staff dorms. Heading east, they crossed the street and walked towards the great oak in the center of campus. A few street lights with warm, yellow bulbs lined the paths. Galahad stopped, prompting the golden wizard to do the same. The duelist stared at the softly rustling leaves as the pale moonlight danced across them, “Do you ever miss home? Where you come from?” The first-year asked. Fredrik shrugged, “I feel as if I should, but Fairgarland has been my home for more than twenty years now. Of course I check in on my parents, but I have not returned to the frozen wastes of Greenland in years.” “You never struck me as someone from there,” Galahad noted as he took a seat on a nearby bench. “It must be my sunny demeanor,” Joked Fredrik. “Or your bright outlook on things,” Added Galahad. He adjusted his arm and began to procure reagents from his pouch. “I assume you miss your home. I believe you said you came from the mountains to the west. California?” “More north,” The first-year student corrected. “Pacific northwest then. Bah, keep your secrets, boy,” The golden wizard shook his head, “I know not why you wish to conceal your home, but I will not question it.” “I could say the same about your face. Just another case of wizard eccentricity, right?” Galahad began to grind up the reagents in his good hand. Some dried leaves, herbs, a sprig of mistletoe, and a pinch of mana salt. The last ingredient that wasn’t ground up was a single petal of a bone-white flower that reeked of death. “While I admit it is seen as eccentric, it is quite the tradition for my family to wear such masks. The gold part is purely my own take on it, but should you come see my folks some day you would be the odd one out.” Fredrik clarified, “And before you ask, I am the only one of my family that keeps so many masks. I just can’t bear to part with any of them.” Galahad smiled at his golden friend as he held the collection of materials in his bad hand and waved the wand with his good hand, “I understand the feeling,” He replied, casting the spell over himself. A sickly smell washed over Fredrik as he watched his housemate work. There was something else being absorbed around him as he cast the regeneration spell. After a moment of watching, Fredrik realized exactly what it was, “The moonlight. I have not seen many spells using its power in my life. Most healing spells we wizards may employ are based off of old Druidic lore, yes? Shame that the druids have been forced into hiding.” “Well, the churches have always hated pagans and devil worshippers,” Galahad stretched his hand, “Unfortunately, druids are pagans. From what I’ve read, druids and warlocks were always at odds. Why the churches decided both needed to be eradicated as the end times approached, I’ll never understand.” “Fear and panic will make people do unreasonable things,” Fredrik noted, “Many blamed the druids as much as the demon worshiping warlocks for what happened even to this day. Neither were completely wiped out when they were hunted in the old world.” “Same thing in the new world,” Galahad grunted. He sighed and tried to fold his arms, only to wince as he put too much pressure on his lame arm. He stared at the moon for some time. After a few minutes of silently staring up at the stars, both of the wizards heard the sound of footsteps on the stone path before a light was flashed in their direction, “See? I told you,” One of the people grunted, “Just some stargazing transmutists.” Fredrik recognized the voice instantly, “Sean Reagal. Out on your nightly watch with some fledgling abjurationists?” “Why yes, I am, Fredrik. Hello, Galahad. It is good to know you are up and about after your impressive display of skill,” Sean put away the light from his staff as he approached the two. He wore his usual robes that looked like a two piece suit with a hood and billowing coattails. Behind him were a few younger wizards, most likely third through fifth years who were dressed in similar garb. “Thank you,” With a nod, Galahad stood, “I’m happy to know my skills impressed even the head of House Maximillion.” Sean smiled warmly, “Had President Manus not beat me to it, I would have asked you to join us. You are clearly a skilled abjurationist yourself. How did you learn?” “I learned from my father,” Galahd said simply. "I should like to meet him someday. He must be a master-class wizard himself." "Maybe even a Grandmaster," Fredrik added with a smile. Sean raised a brow at the thought, "Did he also attend Fairgarland? Maybe some other academy?" "It's useless asking, Mister Reagel, my friend here is quite private with his family." Fredrik explained. Galahad shook his head, "Don't take it personally. You could say I’m trying to strike out on my own." "Admirable, keep your chin up, Galahad, you'll make your own way if you keep to it," Seans words were genuine and projected his authority on the matter. Galahad found they were encouraging, though the president’s curiosity was clear, "However," Sean sighed, "I would suggest not endangering yourself like that again, skilled or not. Seeing you come to harm… I fear it may be worse next time. It could very well discourage future participants from dueling, as well. For your sake and for the sake of our fellow students, don't be so reckless in the future." Galahad nodded, choosing to ignore the undertones, “Thank you. I’ll work hard and be more careful next time.” “I expect you will. Perhaps a dual mastery is in your future. You’re at least halfway there to an abjuration mastery by my estimate.” “You give me too much credit, but thank you. Your kind words mean a lot to me,” Galahad gave a small smile before stifling a yawn. “Ah, that is our que to take our leave. It is my job to make sure young Galahad gets his rest!” Fredrik chuckled as he put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “C’mon. I’m not that much younger than you,” The first-year grumbled. “Well, he is your elder in both years of life and years at the academy,” Sean smirked before adjusting his tie, “We should be off as well. It is quite late for all of us. The night guard can handle security until the sun comes up. Good night, Fredrik and Galahad.” The two transmutationists returned the peasantries before heading to their own dorm, “He seems nice,” Galahad noted. “We have never had much trouble from Sean and his house,” The gold wizard nodded, “They may ally with us if we need to take a stand against Fritz’Eleo.” With the shake of his head, Galahad gave his friend a smirk, “Let’s keep politic talk to house meetings, alright? I have enough on my mind with my schooling.” All he got was a shrug from his masked friend, “Fair enough. Do you need any help with your studies? I am available if you need it.” Galahad sighed as he was followed into the House Karak-Albrac main room, “I think I’m okay for now. I really just need to sleep.” “Understandable. I still have something to do so I will leave you to it. Good night, friend,” Fredrik gave an extravagant bow. The duelist nodded, “Night.” A quiet squeaking near Galahad’s bed made him sit up. It was a little past midnight and he struggled to sleep in his new accomodations. A cool breeze came in through the magicked window bringing in the scent of light rain and freshly cut grass. Randy the rat was chewing on one of the rope toys that Suzie had provided, “Shut up, Randy,” Galahad grumbled as he rolled over in his bed. As plush and comfortable as the bed was, he struggled to find a position to sleep in as he rolled back and forth. His arm ached and his body still felt weary from the duel. His mana had almost returned, but the echoing pangs of mana deprivation still wracked him. He hoped it would pass soon, but for now he just had to suffer through it. If I don’t recover soon I’m just going to be dead weight, he thought to himself, frustrated with his arm. Randy jumped up onto the bed and climbed over Galahad’s leg and curled up between them. The first-year sighed, “Sorry, Randy. I didn’t mean it.” The rat merely looked at him for a moment before tucking his head into the blanket. “Yeah, good night,” Galahad mumbled to his familiar as he squeezed his eyes shut, hoping sleep would come soon.