Gabriella started his tasks as soon as the morning meal was cleared away, just as she had the previous two mornings. Ander was not going to like this summer, if this was any indication of the way the rest of his mornings were going to be spent. He preferred to sleep late….
Right now, Dar was choosing between five swords, four Illusions each identical to his own mixed together. Usually Fiorra was Ander’s guinea pig, but after Gabriella discovered Fiorra dozing over her Properties of Eastern Mountain Plants and Herbs book for the second time, she’d sent her back to bed. So Gabriella’s first task of the morning, while she had been out working with Dar on horseback, was to fashion several Illusionary broadswords of identical weight and appearance, so that he would have to choose which was actually his own. The trick was not so much appearance, but weight, for he knew that Dar knew the balance of his own sword. In a way, this was a test, though the real test, Gabriella had told him, had been riding out of Tillabeth with all of his Illusions intact and believable by any score of people. Ander had really mastered (he felt) the skill of Illusions, but he knew Transformations were next, which both scared and excited him.
Dar hefted the fourth Illusion for the second time, testing its balance, swiping it through the air experimentally. Ander thought personally that it was his best of the four Illusions. The center of gravity was just about perfect….
“This one,” Dar fixed an eye on Ander, “is fake.” Ander’s heart sank. So much for perfection. “But it’s the better of the them.”
Ander shrugged. “At least you have taste.”
Dar grinned. “This one,” he hefted his own broadsword from among the five almost lovingly, “this one is mine.”
Rick snorted. “But only because you sleep with it at night.”
“No, I don’t. And you’re just mad because you didn’t get it right,” Dar retorted. “Now off with you, outside, you mangy cur.” They disappeared outside to begin Rick’s weapons training, laughing and jeering at each other.
“Very good,” Gabriella murmured in the sudden stillness of the cabin.
“How was that good? He figured it out,” Ander complained.
“I didn’t. I chose the fourth sword. Dar is a little… different. It would be very difficult to fool him, I think. You are, after all, only a student yet. Try this trick again next summer, perhaps, or when you have had more time than a mark to prepare, and I would wager he will not pick out his own sword again,” Gabriella said placatingly.
Ander did not care to make that wager. Ander would be no less surprised to find that broadsword in Dar’s bed than a woman.
“Enough of Illusions. We move on today to Transformation.” Gabriella proceeded to explain the fundamentals of Transformation, though he knew them already from having read ahead in one of the volumes in her workshed. What he really wanted to know was what was going to happen once he got to his Academy. He had learned very little during his tour and had found even less information printed in texts about a student’s first cycles in the Academy of Kyor, if that was possible –
“Ander. You are not listening,” said Gabriella sternly.
“I heard you. You said that it was essential to understand the properties of the object in its original form before you transform it as well as the object you intend to change it to, and that terrible mistakes can be made without this prior knowledge,” Ander repeated guiltily.
“I said you were not listening. There is ever a difference between hearing,” she touched her ear, “and listening,” she tapped her head. Gabriella chewed on her lip and leaned her chin in her hand, her shrewd green eyes boring into him. “What brings you to the table so preoccupied?”
Ander considered her for a moment. “Gabriella, is there a – a code of ethics among kyor users?”
She drew a breath and looked at him almost pityingly. “Ander, there are some things I may not tell you.”
He frowned. “Why not? It’s a simple enough question.” He suddenly cared not at all that he sounded more like a belligerent teenager and less a respectful student.
Still, she said nothing.
“All right. Is there a – a less honorable way to use your kyor? Like the way that sorcerer used that leech bolt on Emanuella? That sucked the energy out of her and gave it to him. That can’t be honorable.”
Her eyes narrowed, though she said only, “Some things may only be explained by your teachers at the Academy. It is not my place to explain them.”
Ander glared at her a moment longer and then flung himself back in his seat.
“Why all this mystery? Why shroud all this knowledge? What is the big secret?” he exploded.
“You will understand within days of your arrival at the Academy. And, I daresay, scry a most humble apology following.” Gabriella’s eyes snapped green sparks at him. “Until then, I suggest you bend your head to your task or there shall be no Academy and no answers at all.” Her steely tone was unmistakable and so was his hasty contrition.