Chapter 3: Well Met

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Minos, Day 15 of Rhexia, Winking Moons, Year 602

"The longer I live, the more I wonder if the Cure for Everything isn't just Tomorrow." —From the private journals of Bricot Camdetch, Master Alchemist at Craestor University from 600 to 604

* * *

Farax Lucean hated being stuck inside.

When she'd pursued her education at the University of Gradl in South Urda, she'd been torn between concentrating as a combatant or as an alchemist for this very reason. In the end, she'd chosen to become an alchemist, deciding that she could always train physically in her spare time. And it had better to know the brewing process inside and out in any case. If her body happened to deteriorate with illness, injury, or age, she could always brew, sell, or teach. Alchemist it was.

These days though, Farax wondered if she'd made a mistake. If she could save enough money, she thought she might go back and earn her master combatant status. Then she could teach that.

It wasn't about the teaching. Teaching was fine. Teaching was—fine.

On days like this, though, feeling the sun on her back and the wind in her hair was all she could ever desire. She pulled the strap of her quiver tight so that it was as flush with her body as possible and ran.

The immediate grounds outside of Craestor University shimmered with tall, golden eborel grass, and beyond that stood thick stands of forest, which was where Farax was headed.

She left the main road that led from the university into the Village of Craestor proper and bounded through the grasses, praying to Ydos that the wouldn't inadvertently find any ankle-injuring holes.

Finally, she saw them.

The edge of forested growth was flanked by six targets, stuffed with spongy dromo leaf and painted different colours. The tall grasses had be shorn here, so footing mistakes were less likely.

Farax came here from time to time to practice shooting.

Out of breath and laughing slightly, she took a seat on an obliging boulder and organized her gear. She wasn't bad really—at archery. And she enjoyed it. Her goal was at least eight perfect shots today.

She stood and retrieved her bowstring, and bent to pick up her bow.

Then slackened.

She heard wild shouts behind her, and turned.

"Farax! Master Farax!"

Alarmed, she turned toward back the university, half expecting to see flames on the horizon.

Students. It was only students. There were two of them, and they were laughing and running and they had followed her here to her private, most favorite spot. Right when she was trying to meditate, center herself, and get in some target practice.

Farax sighed and lifted a hand in greeting.

"Can we watch you?" called Bela expectantly. "Pikkia's never seen anyone use a bow."

Doubting that somehow, Farax nodded. "Lessons are over for the day, I take it?"

The two younger women approached Farax, who by this point was close enough proximally to them that no one had to yell. She estimated them both to be eighteen or nineteen summers old or so.

Bela smiled beatifically, breathing hard. "Yes, all done," she confirmed proudly. "We have the whole rest of the day to do whatever we want."

Pikkia looked uncomfortable. "I think we are disturbing her," she said quietly to her friend.

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