While Heppa focuses on the information Tomos has shared, Tric appreciates that their new acquaintance is a good performer and storyteller. Tomos is proud of how far he has come in his studies without being really full of himself. When Heppa gets lost in thought, Tric chats further with him about less theoretical topics. Tomos shares that he had a good time with his internship and his family, but he is really looking forward to getting back to school. “You never know what happens if you’re out of there too long. What new things might have gone down. Who will still be there or not.”
“Because people graduate or… people don’t graduate?” Tric asks, wondering whether Tomos is talking about other students flunking out or getting kicked out. Or banished. “Or does it just not work out for some people?”
“Certainly some people finish their schooling and head off into the world. That happens on a rolling basis. It’s not a strictly ten-year program. It generally takes that long, but when you finish is not set in stone because you have to go up before the board. And then you have to go through your naming ceremony, and that’s subject to the schedule of the oracles.”
“Wait, you get a name?” Tric asks.
“Well, it’s going to be Tomos, obviously,” the young man replies. “But there will be a mystical ceremony during which the oracles bequeath me with it. And then it will be imbued with power.”
“Is your name not already Tomos?” Tric asks.
“It is, but it is just Tomos.”
“But then it will be Tomos imbued with power?” Hepalonia asks, thinking of the ceremony that turned Quaemilya into a sorceress.
“I do kind of understand that,” Tric admits. He knows words have power.
“Yes, so they can’t have a bunch of people all graduating at once, not with the busy schedules that the super powerful mages have,” Tomos says, getting back to Tric’s question about the manner in which students leave Alduin. “But aside from all that, some students aren’t really interested in magic. They’re just there because their parents put them there. If they suddenly inherit, they might leave to go deal with that. Or if their parents find a good match for them, they might leave to go get married, or something like that. Or, you know, if they, uh…” Tomos lets out a long breath. “If students do things they shouldn’t, sometimes there’s serious, uh…”
“What, like playing a prank on the oracles?” Tric asks, trying to gauge the level of misbehavior Tomos seems a little hesitant to discuss. “What is something you shouldn’t do in mage school?” Heppa perks up, very curious about what humans consider forbidden.
Tomos drops his voice. “Curse people,” he says. “There was a case a long time ago—”
“What’s a long time to you?” Tric asks. “We’re elves. We don’t understand your human time scales.”
“I don’t remember the exact year. It was maybe three hundred years ago. This one student cast curses on other students, and that clearly showed that he was immature. The behavior was unbefitting of becoming a mage, so they expelled him. And it turned out they were totally right! He went on to become a necromancer and then a lich. So… yes. The school masters and mistresses, they have a sharp eye towards detecting problems.”
“So how did they learn cursing? Is that something that is taught but you’re not supposed to use? Or something that you just already know how to do?” Heppa asks.
“I imagine that probably people experiment, based on the knowledge they gain in class,” Tomos says noncommittally. His tone suggests that while he has probably done a little experimentation himself, there has been nothing nefarious about it. Most students, once they learn something, try out extrapolations of it. “You need to be careful when you do your homework,” he adds. Tomos has said careful rather than cautious. The maturity issue is not related to curiosity but to how one goes about exploring one’s power. “We all need to practice to learn, but a mature student does not experiment on other people, for example. You don’t keep dead squirrels and bats and see if you can bring them back to life. There was another student hundreds of years ago who did that.” Tomos shakes his head. “She also killed a bunch of people and tore up the graveyards on Alduin. She had a bad end but brought lots of other people to a bad end along the way.”
“What’s happened recently? In, say, the last ten to fifteen years?” Tric asks with forced casualness. “That you may have heard from older students?”
“Oh, I can tell you something from my own time, not just hearsay. There was an expulsion four years ago.”
Only four years ago? How young is Kachen? Tric wonders. It is hard to tell, given how unhealthy the man has been. Maybe he was almost ready to graduate when this all went down.
“I was only a few years into mage school myself, so I did not really know the student. It’s really hard on the classmates who are left behind, though. They come under additional scrutiny. The ethics committee starts asking around about who the expelled student has spent time with and looking into what those students are doing now. So… you could say it becomes a bit of a witch hunt,” Tomos concludes with an awkward chuckle, as though making a joke. The elves stare blankly at him. “Because… we’re all… witches?” He gets polite smiles, nothing more. Tomos clears his throat and continues. “Anyway, I’m not criticizing the magisterium for expelling the student, but it does put stress on everyone.”
“Do you know why the student got expelled?” Heppa asks.
“Yeah, so what was he doing?” Tric presses. “Doesn’t sound like it was just a curse.”
They are all leaned in close now, talking quietly. “I heard he was doing a lot of bad stuff. Talking back at teachers. Going into parts of the library that only the teachers are allowed to be in. He was asking questions about forbidden topics. He did not animate dead bats—”
That you know of, Tric thinks.
“And he did not curse other students—”
And get caught, Tric completes for himself.
“But he did have an unhealthy interest in the undead. Students are not mature enough to deal with those topics. Only the magisterium is,” Tomos finishes.
Tric does not doubt that Tomos believes what he is saying, but it sounds like he is reciting a line that his teachers have told him. Kachen would likely not agree with that assessment. Tric is prepared to let the matter drop here. His cousin, though, presses for more details. “What kinds of things are forbidden topics?” she asks.
“Among human mages,” Tric quickly clarifies. “Among elves, different things are forbidden. Like, nobody gets to learn how to start a,” he drops his voice even lower and forces the words out, “forest fire.”
Tomos does not take offense at the question, but as he does not do any forbidden things himself, he has nothing to tell them.
Heppa is a little disappointed. It’s so hard to move through the human world when nobody will tell you what you’re not supposed to do! It seems like provoking the leaders of Alduin is one sure way of finding out. Of course, she does have some information. Alric has told her that Damal’s views on magic are not typical in Wesnoth, and Kachen has told her that the undead is a touchy topic. Tomos has at least confirmed that much with his tales of expelled students.
“Ah, well. Hopefully things worked out for that student who maybe came from a family that had a rough time during the war,” Tric says. There are some extenuating circumstances in Kachen’s case.
“Hopefully he learned what he wasn’t supposed to do, and having seen the results of his actions and the seriousness of them, he stopped doing it,” Tomos says. “Hopefully he has reformed his ways and is now a clerk somewhere.”
Needing to get back to their guard duties, the elves bid the young mage farewell. Tric does caution him to be careful with the fire missiles when near trees.
“Oh, right, forest fires,” Tomos acknowledges.