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Chapter 3: The Cursewright's Client, Part 2

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 At that moment the grand old doors of the temple creaked open and the subject of their conversation appeared, munching a wedge of cheese. Casimir was perhaps half an inch taller than he had been when he'd left the Lioness, and gave the indefinable appearance of being more well cared for. Perhaps it was that he was a bit fuller in the face, or that he now wore clothes that fit better and were not quite so ragged: a simple but fairly woven tunic and dark breeches not dissimilar to those worn by any craftsman's apprentice. "And here our scholar is. I've just finished your essay, Casimir. Have a seat."

"Should I go?" asked Barthim as he surrendered his chair to the boy with a little bow.

"Should he go, Casimir? Or do you think you wrote an essay worthy of his attention?" Ammas smiled and stirred the dregs of his tea.

Casimir looked up at Barthim with uncharacteristic nervousness, not much used to the notion of the bouncer being placed in a position to judge him for anything. The bouncer roared laughter again and clapped the boy on the back hard enough to wind him a little. "You torture him, Ammas! Cass, you go to your studies. Do as your master says. He is not as clever as he thinks, but he is smarter than any man you meet at the Lioness." He chuckled and dropped the boy a wink. "Ah -- almost any man."

Ammas shook his head and scraped his chair closer to Casimir's. Barthim busied himself with a pocketknife, paring his nails and putting on an admirable act of pretending to ignore the boy's first lesson of the day. "This was an excellent essay, Casimir. You touched on all the major points of the old Academies Arcane and got their basic histories correct. Of course, you couldn't go too far in-depth and not write me a tome, but we'll get to that later in your studies. You only made a few errors. First, the ruling Heptarch of Ismene is properly referred to as Andrus Laschiel, the Lord Ismene."

Casimir frowned. "But that's not how you call the other lords."

"In fact, Casimir, that is how one properly names many of the other lords. You erred throughout the essay."

"So why isn't he the Lord Laschiel? Like the Doge?"

"Well, the Doge of Munazyr isn't really part of the Anointed Realms anymore, but leave him aside." Behind him, Barthim snorted. Even Ammas had to suppress a smile. The political situation rising from Munazyr's fractious relationship with its former empire was so complicated even the savviest Othillic deacons didn't always get it right. "But a sovereign of a noble house pledged to the Malachite Throne is always referred to by a name derived from his province, unless his family was that province's founder. The Laschiels did not found Ismene. The Kerrells did not found Losris Nadak. The Gallises didn't found Marhollow. Do you see?"

Casimir nodded, biting his lower lip.

"Do you know any houses that should be named as you did?"

Casimir's brows drew together in concentration. Hesitantly, he said, "The Deyns?"

Barthim laughed. Ammas threw him a scowl but nodded. "Technically, that is quite true. But do you know any besides the Emperor's family?"

Casimir sighed and bowed his head, thinking. Finally he looked up with a smile. "The Greythornes of Pere Shan!"

"Excellent!" Ammas restrained an urge to ruffle the boy's hair. "I know it's tedious, but the day may come when you must render a service for a house such as these, and you'll need to be able to speak with them correctly. Members of noble houses tend to be sensitive about things like this."

"Listen to him, Cass. Your master never said a wiser thing," Barthim noted drily. Ammas ignored him.

"Now, the other error you made is a graver one for our purposes. Before the Emperor's decree, there were forty-nine Academies Arcane. You missed one."

"I did?" Casimir looked startled that he had made such a fundamental mistake. "No, I counted them all. There were forty-eight."

"Casimir, tell me the most potent of magical numbers."

"Nine," the boy replied promptly.

Ammas shook his head. "Nine is the most sacred number. The Ninefold Vow, the nine blessings, the nine thrones of the gods. What is the most magical?"

"Seven?"

"Correct. And what is seven sevens?"

"And you said you did not know your numbers, Ammas."

"Be quiet, Barthim."

The boy nodded in understanding. "Forty-nine."

"Just so."

"But which one did I miss?" Casimir took his scrolls back from Ammas and frowned as he scanned them. "I have them here, the Imperial College, Witchlight Tower, Nightgate, Sailor's Crown, the Maathinhold -- "

Clucking his tongue Ammas took the scrolls right back and tucked them out of Casimir's reach. "Our friend here," he cocked his head toward Barthim, "tells me you know your way around the Othillic Libraries." Casimir nodded, unable to hide his proud grin. "Then here is your assignment for the day. Go to the Libraries and find the academy you neglected in your essay. Write me a new essay on it. History, a full listing of schools, how it was broken, everything. We'll make it the first one you study in depth. Then you'll correct this essay with the proper stylings of the sovereigns you mentioned."

Casimir was crestfallen. "Do I have to rewrite the whole thing?"

"What a horrid waste of parchment! No, I'll show you how to scrape off your errors and rewrite them correctly." Reaching into his purse, Ammas retrieved a handful of coins and gave them to the boy. "Go to the market on your way back. Buy us some chicken and bacon. There's enough there for a cake if you want it, as well. You've earned it."

Barthim watched after the boy thoughtfully as he took off down the Old Godsway, toward the Towers Ward where the Othillic Libraries stood. "A history of your schools, Ammas? I suppose the boy needs to know it."

"One should always know where one came from." Ammas peered into the depths of the kettle. "Do we really need to go in half-and-half on the tea? Seems you drink a lot more than that."

"And I suppose you will instill in him a burning hatred of your Emperor, is this so?"

Ammas stared coldly at Barthim. For once the bouncer seemed abashed. If there was anyone in Munazyr Barthim respected, it was the cursewright, and he didn't like to see the edge of old, well-honed fury in Ammas's eyes. That was something he had rarely seen there.

But before Barthim could apologize, Ammas offered a wan smile. "I hope not. I try to keep my lessons as neutral as they were taught to me. Besides, once he's a little older, I doubt he'll need my help with that."

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