“Hello, Fizzle,” Betty coos when she sees Luke and the drite enter the cafeteria. “I have several apple pies that are fresh out of the oven. I don’t think anyone would mind you eating two of them.”
Betty cheerfully places a large apple pie on a nearby table as Fizzle flutters off Luke’s shoulder. As soon as Betty steps away from the pie, Fizzle becomes a purple streak of motion that dives into the fresh dessert. Luke calmly gets a tray of food and takes a seat across from where Fizzle is making a mess. He quietly watches Fizzle gobble up the entire pie, smiling when Betty puts a second pie in front of the ravenous creature.
“I take it you come here often, Fizzle,” Luke politely says. Fizzle lets out a small burp, sending a wisp of his magical breath into Luke’s nose. Luke quickly focuses on the food in front of him in an attempt to fend off the effect of the drite’s hallucination breath. He feels the room shift and his vision subtly distorts, but the magical illusion of a giant spider vanishes before he starts to panic.
“Good food. Great pie. Nimby give Fizzle apples every one . . . two . . . three . . . four days. This yummy pie,” Fizzle mumbles, using his tail to shovel the second pie into his mouth. Luke eats his breakfast as the rest of the students arrive. Most of the new students gawk at Fizzle while the advanced students casually wave to him. One of the elven girls tickles him under the chin as she passes by.
“I see you met Fizzle. This little guy is a real laugh at times. How’s the forest been, Fizzle?” Nimby asks, sitting down next to Luke. The halfing is wearing a dark green shirt and brown pants that are already covered in sawdust. Slung over his shoulder is a tan vest, which he slips on after he takes a long drink of water.
Fizzle is about to answer when his tiny horns perk up and he begins sniffing the air. He looks around until his bright eyes fall on Selenia. She ignores the drite until the creature hovers over the table. Luke barely notices her glance at Fizzle out of the corner of her eye. It is not until Fizzle begins flipping in the air that Selenia goes out of her way to walk by the table and toss an apple into the air. The drite catches it with his tail and skillfully peels it with his hind claws. Luke almost believes that he sees Selenia smile at him, but assumes it is a trick of the light.
“Forest quiet. Big evil in trees. Getting bigger,” Fizzle says with a small shiver. “Many aminals moving away. Fizzle safe because Fizzle can disa . . . dista . . . not be seen. If they find Fizzle then Fizzle make them go poof.” The drite finishes off the last of the pie and begins devouring the peeled apple. Once he is done with that he inhales the fallen apple peel through his pursed lips.
“Go poof?” Luke curiously asks.
Nimby swallows a fork full of much before explaining, “Fizzle knows some pretty big spells since he’s really old. I’ve seen him use the so-called poof spell on a giltris. I actually felt sorry for the oversized piece of leather. The real name of the spell is disintegration. The problem is that the little guy doesn’t always aim and the spell is incredibly destructive.”
Luke looks over at the entrance in time to see an out-of-place figure wander in. It is a rotund, little man with greasy, black hair and dark red eyes that are twice the size of those of a human. His graying beard is neatly trimmed even though it is just as greasy as his hair. Luke notices several scorch marks on his shirt, which used to be blue before getting covered in oil and grime. Thin-rimmed glasses hang from a shirt pocket, but they look like they have been dropped hundreds of times. Nobody else pays much attention to the gnome as he grabs a tray and sits on a stool in the corner.
“Good food. Too noisy,” Fizzle whines with a small pout. “Fizzle be in forest. If Fizzle find news on big evil, Fizzle let Luke know. Bye-bye.” With a shimmer of golden magic, Fizzle disappears from sight. The last sign of the drite is a slight push of wind from his wings as he darts out an open window.
“I got a copy of the first year list from Kevin,” Nimby whispers, leaning under the table as if to pick up a dropped fork. “I told him that I wanted to contact a few parents because of some troublemakers in my class. The copy is enchanted, so it will turn to ash by the morning or if I try to copy it. Thankfully, it’s not that long a list. There are only one hundred and eighty three kids with their names, hometown, age, and a parent or guardian’s name on file. The other students on the list have been handpicked by Selenia. It can’t possibly be one of those if she is in the dark. It shouldn’t be too hard to track down this heir now.”
“We’ll see about that. I have martial arts with Selenia right after breakfast and then blacksmithing, so going over things will have to wait until lunch,” Luke explains, pausing to look around the cafeteria and wolf down some food. “I think we should bring in someone who knows more about monsters and . . . evil things than we do. If the big evil in the forest is what we are up against, I would really like some more help. I was thinking of talking to the half-elven priest I saw when I got here yesterday. Priests are trustworthy as long as their god is good-natured. I noticed that he wasn’t involved in the run, so he is obviously not a student. I believe he had a sun emblem on his clothing. Do you know who I’m talking about?”
Nimby is about to speak when a high-pitched scream of surprise cuts through the wall of conversations. Luke and Nimby look across the room to see a wooly sheep standing on one of the tables. It wanders in a tight circle before it starts barking like an angry dog at a red-haired girl who is trying to keep her tray away from it. The sheep continues barking at the girl until Selenia gets to her feet and hurls her empty cup at the animal. As soon as the cup strikes the sheep, the animal disappears in a faint glimmer of magic. A few students start to laugh about the illusion and the various conversations slowly start up again. Selenia glares in the direction of the gnome who is sifting through his breakfast like nothing happened. Without looking up, he waves in her direction.
“What just happened?” Luke inquires, staring from the gnome to Selenia.
“Fritz Warrenberg is back from Gaia,” Nimby replies nonchalantly, smiling and shaking his head. “He is the resident siege weapon expert and an illusionist. He is also a famous inventor, one time royal jester, biological chronicler, sheep breeder, and, in his words, purveyor of women’s hearts. I think I’ll talk to him after breakfast. Fritz always has the latest gossip and interesting stories when he gets back from a big city. You should make some time to meet him, Luke, but don’t volunteer for any of his tests. He’s still paying off the damage from his last experiment.”
Luke smiles as he glances at to the greasy gnome in the corner. Fritz is still eating his breakfast with a big grin on his face, occasionally looking around at the students. At first it appears that he is mindlessly scanning the room, but Luke notices that he tends to stop for a brief instant before looking somewhere else. It takes a minute for Luke to follow one of his momentary gazes to a beautiful half-elven girl a few tables ahead of him. The gnome’s eyes eventually roam to the red-head that he scared with a sheep. He stops his girl watching when a towering female orc catches his stare and glares at him with her intense green eyes. Fritz attempts to stare the tall beauty down until she casually pops her knuckles. Thoroughly intimidated, the gnome goes back to pushing his food around his plate.
“He’s definitely an interesting character,” Luke admits while Nimby waves to the gnome. “So, do you know anything about that half-elf priest?”
“Only the basics. His name is Aedyn Karwyn and he is a mid-ranked priest of Durag, the Sun God. The kid is only seventeen and his order has already made him a messenger of the sun. They send Aedyn all over Ralian on different holy missions,” Nimby explains, crunching on a juicy apple. “There are rumors about him being here to investigate the undead of the Caster Swamp. Some unique types thrive there because of the necrocasters who used to live in there. I’m not sure if that is true or not because Aedyn hasn’t left the academy since he arrived four weeks ago. I could talk to him if you want. He usually sits in on some of my classes because the woodshop has a lot of windows to let the sawdust out. I should warn you that he is a rock. I could drop a log on his foot during his meditation and he wouldn’t break concentration. Not that I would do something so malicious to the poor guy.”
“Looks like people are starting to leave for classes. Maybe I can clean the dorm up after my first class. Thomas will understand since Selenia is my first teacher and losing the run was embarrassing enough. She would torture me for being late to her class too,” Luke says, getting up and handing his tray to a passing assistant cook. “I’ll talk to you at lunch, Nimby. Let’s hope I can get through today without getting beaten.”
Everyone is standing and pushing to get out to their first class. Instead of forcing his way through the front door like the other students, Luke climbs out one of the windows and calmly jogs to the practice yard that he was told to report to. The yard is hidden in the back corner of the academy where nobody can spy on the private class. Luke begins stretching while he waits for Selenia and the other students to arrive. A few minutes pass before someone violently taps him on the shoulder. Luke rolls his eyes to the sky as he turns around, coming nose to nose with Kellia. The girl is dressed in a tight fitting shirt and leather pants like the other day, but today she is wearing heavy boots. Luke can only imagine the pain he would feel if she stomped on his foot or kicked him.
“Your ass is mine, half breed,” Kellia growls, flashing a cocky smile.