“She looks happy to see you!” Kevin said laughing.
A week had passed with several more appearances around the city and another trip to the Palace to feast with the King and his family. This trip was far less formal. However, Kevin and I were not blessed with the company of Princess Gemaeve. I did catch her glaring at me once.
“Shut up!” I retorted.
Duerday, was the first of the five days a week we had class. On Duerday I had three classes, morning prayer, pretty boring. My Triday, Teratiday, and Pemphiday had the benefit of the one class I can clearly recall from that term, my Execution of the Quatane class. It was my only class on those days other than Morning Prayer, which was every day.
On the first day of Execution of the Quatane I made my way to the top floor of the southeastern wing of the church. I wore my fine dark cloak, plain clothing and the pale white tabard embroidered with gold with the ring of Ruah at its center. The one article of clothing the church required its students to wear at all times while on the grounds.
The room I walked into was large and well-lit with windows on the southwest and southeastern walls. Near the center of the south west wall was a long table with various objects on them: candles, a tank of water, a funnel, and a dozen books. There was an old Speaker sitting behind the table and a younger one was seated on the near side. He was leaning on the table in conversation with the older speaker. There were four tables with four or so seats around them. They were aligned with two near the back and two in the front, all parallel to the long table on the far side. There was only one other person in the room, Myra Aven, a lords daughter from somewhere in the south.
She never seemed to have anything to say to me and I could never think of a good reason to talk to her. I walked past her table, which was the closest to the door, one of the two furthest from the front of the room. I found a seat at the table closer to the windows in the front row. Other kids filed in. Devon Soar sat at Myra’s table. Gwen Roderick entered. He was seventeen and bigger than most men. He was the cousin of Prince Calin’s wife Allison Roderick, and had her same tan olive skin. Aaron Simmons came in right behind him, fifteen and awkwardly lanky. The fourth son of an unimportant lord, he sat at the only remaining empty table. Then to my surprise walked in the Princess, she was in Morning Prayer, but everyone was in Morning Prayer.
She paused when she came in, Devon Soar had motioned to her, but the younger of the Speakers in the room spoke up. “Two to a table, there should be eight of you.”
I watched Gemaeve Roan look around the room. She frowned when she saw me, and didn’t even acknowledge Aaron Simmons. She saw Gwen Roderick and he waved at her. She smiled and went to sit with him. The final two members of our class came in together, bubbly Luisa Artellin, and Savannah Norv. Savannah was short, brown haired, and was pretty from certain angles. When they realized that they had to split up they frowned said their fair-wells and parted ways. I got Savannah, Aaron got Luisa.
“It would seem you are all here,” The older speaker said, vaguely looking in the direction of the class. He would have been a large man, but despite wide shoulders his clothing hung lose on him. He had wild white hair and a long thin beard. “I am Speaker Maxwell La’Turge, and this is my assistant, Laurent Saving. His aunt is on the Chair.” Speaker La’Turge smiled at Speaker Laurent Saving but never made eye contact with him. I realized Speaker La’Turge was blind.
“Thank you,” Speaker Laurent Saving spoke. He was slender and average height with dark shaggy hair and a pretty ordinary face. “I will be doing the majority of the instructing for this class, do to Speaker La’Turge’s handicap. However, Speaker La’Turge possesses more knowledge of the Quatane then any another speaker of the Church. He will be able to answer questions and give you aid that I otherwise cannot.
“In this class I mean to test your current knowledge of the Quatane. You were required to have past experience with it to take this class. Speaker La’Turge and I will be evaluating your current skill with the Language.”
By that, Speaker Laurent Saving meant that he would be running the test while Speaker La’Turge sat behind the table with a goofy smile on his withered face. Each table was given two candles and a small cup of water.
“Now I will walk around and observe your progress. You’ll try and light the candle and talk the water into flowing in whatever patterns you can manage.” Speaker Laurent Saving explained.
I shrugged, this was easy enough. I reached out so my hand cupped one of the candles, spoke in the Quatane and smiled as a flame sprung to life. I then purred out half the cup of water and spoke it around in random patters having the water follow my right index finger. I looked up, still speaking and moving my finger, and saw that Speaker Laurent had moved from Gwen and Gemaeve’s table to Devon’s and Myra’s, Savannah and I would be the last table he’d visit.
“How are you doing that?!” I turned with surprise to Savannah.
I stopped speaking the Quatane and the water stopped following my finger. “What?”
“How were you doing that?” she said again. “I can’t even get the flame lit.”
Now, I’m not the greatest instructor of all time nor was I the perfect classroom student, so explaining how to do something that I did think was challenging was a bit difficult for me. “Like this,” I said as I reached out my right hand so it cupped the wick, I spoke and a flame appeared.
She rolled her eyes, “I mean, how? Does cupping it help?”
“I don’t know, I just do it.”
“Can you do it without it?”
I’d never really considered if I could do that or not. It just seemed natural to cup it with my hand. I licked my finger and extinguished my candle’s flame. I then put my hands in my lap and spoke. This was definitely harder, oddly. I had to put far more of my will into the words. However, the candle still lit.
“Damn it, I can hear what you’re saying and I know the words, it’s… I just can‘t will them out, how do I create something that isn’t their”
“You have to convince it that theirs a flame.”
“It…” What did I mean by it? I wasn’t talking about the candle… “Reality maybe? Or yourself?” I answered.
Savannah may have been about to say something but Speaker Laurent’s voice came from behind us, “Good job I see you two got the candles lit, let’s see the water.”
“Well…” Savannah hesitated. I restarted, weaving random patterns with the water in front me.
“Good job. Demetrius, isn’t it?” He asked.
I nodded, still speaking.
“Can you do that without your finger, you are just telling the water that it’s supposed to flow in the direction of your finger, clever, but limited.”
I scowled, what was with everyone wanting me to do things without my hands? I placed both my hands on my lap and continued to speak. I was now changing my words and rephrasing them often. I now had to give specific instructions, like flow north, east, south, but to give instructions like this I needed to keep a fixed idea in my own mind of where north, south, east, and west were. I was keeping it to right angle turns moving in only those four directions I didn’t want to risk confusing my inner compass. This, simply put, was one of the harder things I had attempted with the Quatane at that point in my life.
“Very good, how about a picture or an image, you can use your hands for this if it’s too hard to without.” He was smiling hopefully.
Pride made me try and attempt it without using my fingers. I had only managed to make an L shape with the water when I gave up and started to use my hands. I quickly went through the alphabet drawing the letters hard pressed for something to draw. Then I drew a rough dog, a sun burst, a light house, and map Ruahden’s walls. It was an impressively accurate one I might add.
“Speaker La’Turge…” Speaker Laurent yelled up to the older Speaker.
“Yes, yes, I’ve heard every word he’s spoken, send him up here, help his partner, she may actually need it.”
I stood and walked up to stand in front of Speaker La’Turge at his table. His smile was still just as large and goofy as it had been earlier.
“Yes, you speak well, your voice, a real natural for words…” His attention seemed to drift off for a second. “How about you light these five candles in front of me?”
There were four candles on tall candle holders. I couldn’t see a fifth, however I didn’t think it would matter much as Speaker La’Turge was blind. I reached out and lit each one. “Is that good?” I said facing Speaker La’Turge.
“How come you only lit four?” How did he know how many candles I’d lit?
“There are only four candles, Speaker.”
“Only four… Damn that Samuel Tenun! Elected to the Chair and now he thinks he has the rights to every candle in this place! Stealing from me! Does he think I won’t notice!?” He was getting quite riled up.
“Speaker?” I asked.
“Oh… sorry, where were we? Make these brighter for me.”
I hadn’t actually done this yet, but I figured I could. I smiled in satisfaction as I finished speaking in the Quatane. the flame was a pure bright white. Proud of my accomplishment, I brightened the last three.
“Did Speaker Hari Atique teach you that? If what I heard was correct, he was the one who found you.”
“No, I learned most of this by myself, Speaker Hari offered some advice but mostly books,” I smiled, then continued, “This is the first time I’ve ever made a fire brighter before.”
Speaker La’Turge laughed with almost childish enthusiasm. “Good… Good…. Princess Gemaeve! You haven’t spoken a word sense Student Demetrius came up here! Quatane or Common!”
“I’m sorry,” I turned to see a flustered and surprised Princess Gemaeve. She quickly refocused her effort on weaving patterns with her water.
Speaker La’Turge addressed me. “Well boy, I’ll do my best to keep you learning in this class. Go tell that Roderick boy to go sit with Savannah. Those two poor children don’t have a lick of potential for speaking. They’ll go well together. The princess is talented, why don’t you pair up with her? You’ll learn better.”
I sighed. “Her?”
“What? She’s a pretty young girl, you’re young! Isn’t that supposed to be all you kids care about?”
“You’re blind, how do you know she’s pretty?”
“Because other people have eyes and they speak, you just now told me she’s pretty!”
“Just do as your told boy!” I jumped and followed Speaker La’Turge’s instructions.
Gwen didn’t like being told he had to switch seats, never mind by me. Speaker Laurent was there to smooth out the change in seating before Gwen could get is temper going.
When all was dealt with, I sat next to Princess Gemaeve. I adjusted the brightness of the flame on the candle that had formally belonged to Gwen Roderick.
“You’re pretty good at the Quatane.” I looked at the Princess and tried to act apethetic.
“Yeah, pretty impressive for a dumb Coastowner Huh?” I said rudely.
“Oh yeah, dumb and a jerk, I forgot.”
“I speak the Quatane better than you do!”
“Oh Ruah, it must be so hard to convince your feeble mind that what you speak is truth,” She said whimsically.
I scowled at her, but couldn’t think of a response that didn’t make me sound stupid. So, we just sat there not speaking to each other for a while. I watched her begin to make patterns again with her water, a smug smile on her face. So, I made a point to copy every pattern she made, then I added a something extra just to be petty. She eventually caught on and began to make her patterns quicker, her voice was hard to make out, but I wasn’t listening to her words. I’d just looked at the image she made and come up with my own way to make it. Eventually she was the one scowling and I was smiling smugly.
“You’re just so fantastic aren’t you?” She said sarcastically, “You just know how to do everything better than everyone else.”
“At least I can do this, I didn’t realize people were going to be this… slow, when I came here.”
“Are you better than they are?”
“Are you saying they’re better than me?”
She smiled. “You get angry easy.”
“You snap at people when they irritate you, Other than Kevin, I haven’t seen you around anyone. I even heard you punched Andre Artell!”
“Deserved it, Devon got me back though…”
“You’re smart, your talented, you’ve gotten yourself out of Coastown! Why all the anger?”
I scowled at her trying to figure out where she was going with this. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying I can’t figure out why you’re so angry!” she said as if I was dumb child.
“I have plenty of reasons.” I said solemnly. With that our conversation came to a close. When the class ended, she waved goodbye, but I didn’t return the gesture. I didn’t like to think about my reasons.
Tyler W. Golec