“What did you get for three?” Sable asked, looking up from her book.
Acacia snapped into a stick of celery and shrugged.
“Nine-point-two?” she said, checking her own paper.
“No, you did the math wrong,” Kallima said. “You need to multiply first.”
The two girls both “oh’ed” and erased their answers as Shay chuckled.
“It’s five,” Kallima said. “I get math, but nothing else here makes any bloody sense.”
“What do you mean?” Gabriel asked.
Kallima threw her pencil across the dinner table, skipping it off of the edge near Sable’s elbow. The girl yelped and hardened.
“The science you all use is so different from what I learned growing up! I’m absolutely lost in alchemy, and Elemental Magic is even worse. I can’t focus in literature or gymnasium because I’m trying not to slap those Nobles, and, on top of it all, I have to start my Remedial Government course tonight. I don’t even know who my tutor is.”
“Yeah, you wouldn’t happen to know a senior who wants to teach next year,” Sable asked as she came out of her panic, “would you?”
“Well,” Gabriel said, “there’s Ig, but there’s no way Locke would let him teach.”
“No,” Kallima said, “it must be some other boy.”
“Good. He’s a freaking genius,” Gabriel glowered, “but I wouldn’t spend more than a minute with him.”
“If you do get him, though, ask if he’ll help you out with your magic courses,” Shay said.
Kallima collapsed onto the table with a sigh.
“How about number four? Is it nineteen?” Acacia asked.
“Parenthesis! Add first, divide second,” the redhead snapped. “Didn’t anyone teach you how to read a math problem?”
“T-twelve?” Shay said nervously.
“I’ll help you out, Kali,” Gabriel promised, nudging the pouting girl. “I’ll spend every weekend helping you until you get the hang of it.”
“Thank you, Gabe,” Kallima blushed.
“Now eat your chicken,” he said. “You need to keep your strength up.”
The Briton flicked the sylph with a grin, but did as he said. By the time she cleaned her plate, though, Shay had started drumming his fingers.
“What?” she mumbled, bread tucked into her cheek.
“Six twenty-four,” Shay said.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Kallima gasped, jumping to her feet.
“There she goes,” she heard Shay laugh.
Kallima shot the boy a two-fingered salute over her shoulder, earning a chorus of “oh, snap” from the surrounding students. Her satchel banged against her thigh as she darted up the stairs to the library.
Kallima thought that she had stepped right into a movie. The room was mostly open with one wall of doors. The other three walls stretched two flights up except where a stained glass panel slanted in, depicting a trio of knights battling a large brown dragon. A crescent desk in the center of the room housed a heavyset old lady with pale hair and skin. She held a pair of theatre binoculars to her eyes and examined the spine of a thick book. Amazed and confused, the fiery girl cautiously toed her way to the desk. As the old lady drew a breath, Kallima swore she heard dust rattle in the woman’s chest.
“May I help you, Miss Satu?” The old lady squeaked.
“I- I’m Kali,” the nervous child corrected. “Satu was my mum.”
The woman apologized quietly and resumed assessing the book. Kallima cleared her throat, and the woman looked up at her again.
“I’m, er, looking for my tutor?”
“Have you seen him?”
The librarian lowered her glasses and blinked heavily, humming in thought. She opened her mouth to speak, but a heavy bang drew the attention of the two women before any words came out. A thin, pale boy with a mountain of spiky golden hair slumped under their eyes.
“Hi, Miss Flores,” he called, edging away from Kallima’s gaze and towards one of the bookshelves before quickly plucking up one of the titles.
“Hello, Mr. Ignatius,” the librarian wheezed.
Kallima squeaked and breathed, “Ig?”
The boy cocked his head toward Kallima and examined his book. His vibrant green eyes constricted briefly before he turned away again.
“Did you know we have royalty this year?” he said. “Some girl had the nerve to spit in the prince’s face.”
Kallima scoffed, one hand on her hip.
The boy smirked and said, “That was you? Wow, you have some serious balls. Are my books in, Miss Flores?”
“Yes,” the old woman said, rising with a creak. “Let me…”
“You’re going to be my tutor, then?” Kallima asked as Flores rummaged for the books.
“Mm-hm. I’m Ignatius, but you already know that, don’t you?”
“Kallima Satudotter, from the Mortal Realm. This is your first time in the Faerie Realm, and you have no idea what you’re doing here or why.”
“I- Yes. How did you-?”
“Because you have red hair and you spat in the prince’s face,” Ignatius said, laughing. “Also, Headmaster Locke told me.”
“Here you are! Beginner’s Guide to Government,” she read, “History of Evendial, Volume V: 1750 to 1950, and Confess-”
“Thank you, Miss Flores. I’ll take this one, too,” Ignatius said, cutting the librarian off.
“Ages Past? Oh! I loved this one.”
“It better be good. It’s on my classics list.”
Miss Flores handed the stack of books back to the golden haired senior, who waved for Kallima to follow him. The redhead obeyed hesitantly, trailing the shorter boy.
“You don’t look like a senior,” Kallima said.
He was a good ten or twenty centimeters shorter than she, if his hair was ignored. The golden clumps stood straight up like something out of an anime she had once watched, the tops of which were about level with her eyes. Dark shadows sank his eyes deep into their sockets, but they were still more or less the eyes of a younger man. He lacked any sign of stubble that Kallima expected from an eighteen-year-old, too.
“Oh, I’m sixteen,” he said, “but I am a senior. I tested out of most of the freshman and sophomore classes.”
“You can do that?”
“Yeah, you just ask the teacher if you can test out of the course. But you’ll need all the help you can get.”
“I could probably test out of Algebra, is all. Get some more free time to study my other courses,” Kallima said.
“Or you could stay in it and let it cushion your grades.”
Ignatius set two books on a corner table and tapped them. Then he sat down and tucked away the other two in his own book bag.
“These are for you,” he said. “I’m going to teach you the basics of being a citizen of Evendial, okay?”
“No, that’s not okay. I’m not an Evan- Evang-.”
“Eh-ven-dee-al. And a citizen is an Evendalan.”
“Evendial. I’m from England!”
“But you are an Evendalan. Or they wouldn’t let you come to school here.”
“I’ve never even-!”
“Been in the Faerie Realm, right? That’s pretty obvious. You spat on the crown prince. You’ll get in serious trouble.”
“He’s a brat,” Kallima said, crossing her arms.
“What do you expect? He was raised getting anything he asked for, even if it was a joke.”
Kallima rolled her eyes. Ignatius sighed.
“What do you know,” he asked, pointing at the stained glass overhead, “about dragons?”
Kallima flinched, face scrunching as she tipped her head. Ignatius rested his chin on interwoven fingers and waited. Kallima bit her lip.
“Not- not much. They’re big, right?”
“Yup. But you won’t see any around here,” the tutor said. “This is a major law, Kali. Don’t have anything to do with dragons.”
“Seems an odd place to start, given the reason I’m here.”
“Do you want to upset the Nobles?” Ignatius asked.
“Not really,” Kallima said.
“Okay, then. Avoid dragons. Avoid anything to do with dragons. Don’t even talk about dragons.”
“You’re talking about dragons,” Kallima pointed out.
“I know, and I’m hiding from people,” the boy said. “Why do you think that is?”
“Because...,” Kallima though out loud, “because you like dragons?”
“Maybe,” he said. “Then again, maybe I’m just a good liar. Either way, before you start asking, I need you to understand that I can’t tell you anything about dragons.”
Kallima gasped in understanding and said, “Because someone could find out.”
“Always assume that royalty will find out,” Ignatius said with a nod. “Know the laws, because they will put you away, even if you didn’t know you were breaking them.”
“This wasn’t about dragons at all, was it?” Kallima said.
“Nope! Okay. Ready to learn?”
“Have I not been learning already?”
“No, that was just a test. To see how fast your mind works.”
“Not very quickly, actually,” Kallima sighed. “Math will probably be the only course I pass this year.”
“Bah, they just don’t teach right. I never learned anything here, honestly.”
“Says the sixteen-year-old senior?”
“Let them take the credit,” Ignatius said with a smirk. “I’m self-taught. Did you bring a notebook with you?”
Kallima blinked, dug around in her bag, and pulled out a notebook, pressing a dull pencil to the paper. Ignatius opened the government book to the first chapter. Pointing out helpful graphs and charts, he began explaining the basic structure of the government. An hour later, he asked if she had any questions.
“I get the royal family,” she said, “and I get the Council; it’s like the British House of Lords. But I don’t understand how the two work together. You said the crown holds ultimate power.”
“So what does the Council actually do?”
“Ah! Homework,” Ignatius said, receiving a groan from his student. “Read chapter two of the history book. It covers the War of Talons, and it will tell you all you need to know about the construction of the Council and its function. I want a page on whether or not you agree with the decision to have a council and why.”
“History, chapter two,” Kallima repeated, writing, “one page: Do we need a council?”
“When is it due?”
“Monday. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, if you have to play catch-up in your other classes,” Ignatius said. “Starting next week, we’ll meet Mondays and Fridays, same time, okay? This will be our table.”
The senior stood up, lifting his bag. Kallima cleared her throat.
“Would you like to sit with us?”
Ignatius raised a brow and asked her to repeat her question.
“I’m just wondering,” Kallima said as she packed up her things. “I could really use the help. I wasn’t kidding about failing my other classes.”
“You want me to... tutor you? In other classes?” he asked.
“Well, yes,” Kallima said, “but you can sit with us in the dining hall, too.”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to get you in trouble. I do have a real obsession with dragons,” he admitted.
Kallima laughed and said, “We’ve talked about far more dangerous things. Trust me.”
Ignatius laughed as well as he began walking away, seemingly deep in thought.
“Maybe. Be back tomorrow, Miss Flores.”
“Good day, Mister Ignatius. Farewell, Miss Satu.”
“Still Kali, Ma’am.”
“Oh, yes. Sorry, Miss Kali.”
Ignatius held the door open for Kallima then followed her out into the hall. The girl extended a hand to her teacher.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Lindon?” she said.
He shook her hand and said, “We’ll see. It’s an honor meeting you, daughter of Satu.”Before Kallima could protest to the name, the lithe boy dashed away from her, ducked down one hall, and vanished from sight.