17 ♦ Ovelia

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Choosing Ceremony,
Verdant Mages

Lord Alistar isn't gathering Verdant Mages around a stage, over at the end of our school's pine-needle-bedded street, the way I heard my sister tended to the Violet School's Choosing Ceremony.

While we have a commons area, similar to the Violet School—not a stump for a stage, but a series of green, glassteel sheets structured in a spiral—he's instead decided to visit our studios personally; he even sent a telepathic announcement to us, pinging my earpiece.

So I'm one of more than a hundred visits he'll make today.

If he only spent five minutes with each of us, that's still an eight- to twelve-hour day. And he didn't start until noontime. So I keep picturing him walking in-and-out of studios, obviously in a hurry, trying to shave time.

I've never seen the man in a hurry before—honestly, I've seen very little of him at all—yet I can't fathom him personally speaking with every student in the Verdant School without at least a little anxiousness in the air.


111 Studios
at Third Street

To be precise, one-hundred-and-eleven studios are currently lined along the Third Street. Seventy-seven rooms fill our seven halls, all at ground level;

then thirty-three double-wide, pet-friendly dorms rise like building blocks up the second floor;

and the final chamber is on the third level—Alistar's studio. The third floor is also made of dozens of classrooms.

Alistar doesn't knock on my studio door until well in the afternoon.

When I open the door, he asks, "Have any tea?"

"Oh, umm, hello," I stammer. Then I add, "Yeah. Come in. I'll make a pot."

"Thank you, thank you," he says, brushing past. "The last two households only had coffee, and I'd rather tea than coffee."


Violation of Privacy

At first, Lord Alistar doesn't look anxious or pressed for time.

But once the hot water starts boiling on my single-burner stove, he moves from a casual lean-against-wall spot in my kitchen, to full-blown pacing around my studio, shaking a loose fist just under his chin, chewing on a thought.

"How're you doing this evening, Lord Alistar?"

He stops pacing. "I was scanned three times in the last twenty-four hours. Haven't found the responsibility parties yet. Know anything about it?"

"Mmm," I reply, to fill the awkward silence. "Can't say."

I decide not to brew the cinnamon and chocolate dessert tea Siren suggested. Reaching for the peppermint tea instead, I consider if I should throw out all the data from the background scan, so he isn't suspicious.

"So many people scanned me when I first arrived at the Wizardhood," I continue, watching the tea pour, not willing to look at him, faking what I believe is a convincing laugh, at least until I hear how hollow I sound.

Alistar sits in my faux-fur-covered beanbag, wedged between my bed and upcycled coffee table, which is just a slab of wood with bottle caps and semi-precious stones, grouted together in a colorful whorl, then drilled into a rock.

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