Untitled (1.2) (2016)

(Dante’s Wardrobe)

“Headmaster . . . a message . . . important,” she said.

Interrupted in mid-sentence, the slender man behind the room’s podium straightened his gold rimmed glasses to focus on the newcomer. After a moment, he nodded and gestured toward the door, “Master . . . Jacobs, is it? In the corridor? Could you see to our guest here for a few minutes while I wrap up here? Thank you.”

Waite brushed a stray lock of his grey-white hair out of his face and returned his attention to the class. The rest of his introductory lecture was lost as Jacobs led the messenger from the classroom. He remained silent until they reached an empty office.

There, he made sure the woman was seated and settling down before he said anything.

“I’m sure the Headmaster will be with us shortly,” he said, “Until then, is there anything I can get you? Sorry, I am Master Tobias Jacobs. And you are?”

“Ariel. Ariel Johnson. Midwestern U.S. contact post.”

Tobias nodded, the Tower kept some drop boxes for urgent messages from parents or packages that faculty or staff ordered. Some people were given means to communicate with Tower staff to be brought to the Tower’s pocket dimension in emergencies. Otherwise, someone on staff was assigned to do regular runs to pick up anything left for the school.

“The Coven sends an urgent message, they say they need help.”

Tobias shook his head, “We don’t get involved in faction politics or Earth’s affairs, that would ruin our neutrality and our mission.”

“The Coven’s Midwest leadership believes the Headmaster will make an exception,” Ariel said, “I’m just the messenger, Master Jacobs. Just relaying their request.”

Tobias nodded, “I know, I just don’t want you wasting your time and effort, though I suppose it’s too late to worry about that now.”

Silence fell across the room, the Tower instructor willing to let it sit for a time so their guest could rest. He studied her for the moment. He first noticed her shoulder length, wavy mahogany hair framing a relatively young face that featured hazel eyes that leaned toward blue. She wore no jewelry to speak of, nothing setting off the loose, forest green button down shirt. Tobias’s quick eyes, honed by years of time in the classroom, spotted the end of a matte black clip knife peeking out of the front right pocket of her faded jeans. Often a sign of blood magic, but he did not get that vibe from her. So, witch, perhaps.

When he felt the silence stretch too long, Tobias gestured toward her, “Where are you from?”

Ariel shrugged, “My family’s Coven, from the East Coast.”

“Ah. Sorcerer?” Tobias had not seen a staff, but he kept his own short and tucked in his sleeve most of the time for convenience.

“No, I did a term at the Henge,” Ariel said, slowly, “but, couldn’t take it. I’m definitely not brehon material. Not Coven material either, it turns out.”

Tobias nodded, not entirely understanding, “I’m going to guess a witch, then?”

She looked at her red canvas sneakers and nodded, “Yep. Any idea when the Headmaster will get here?”

“He should be already. Usually the new student lecture doesn’t last too long,” Tobias rose to look out to the corridor, “There may have been questions, or kids to talk out of making too hasty a decision.”

Tobias spotted the slim, bookish Headmaster’s head above the crowd of new students in the corridor. He waved a moment, as the older man unconsciously tossed his shoulder-length hair and made eye contact. As Headmaster Waite came closer, and more fully into view, Tobias thought, not for the first time, that the man looked like he should be conducting research in the library, not a veteran of more than four decades administering the Tower.

A moment later, the Headmaster made his way into the room, slipping past Tobias. He nodded to Ariel before taking a seat on the other side of the office’s desk. The younger instructor caught her ever so brief flash of distaste, perhaps concern, as she took in the Headmaster’s attire. Admittedly, the man insisted on robes that would have been fashionable in the 90s, or maybe the 80s.

Those thoughts vanished before the Headmaster’s sudden business-like demeanor. He sat at attention and gestured Tobias to the side of the desk, all his attention focused on their guest.

Jacobs said, “Headmaster Waite, Ariel Johnson, Midwestern U.S.”

Waite nodded, “Ms. Johnson, to what do we owe the pleasure?”

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