A couple days passed Tobias by in a blur. He was vaguely aware of junior faculty and senior students rushing around him, the latter usually on errands for faculty, all preparing for the new students’ first classes or their own research and mentorships. He would have been doing the same, a few days before. Even though the Tower conducted instruction year round, there were still occasional weeks of downtime for faculty to get materials in order and decide if students were ready to advance in their studies. And time for students entering their second year to find a mentor, if they so chose.
Instead, Tobias found himself contemplating a pile of books, tools, and clothing spread out around the study of his suite. The central place of honor in the mess was a knapsack sewn with runes and sigils representing Saxon, Celtic, and Sumerian cultures. The symbols had been painstakingly done in thread of various colors over the course of more than a decade by Tobias’s own hand. They served to expand the interior of the bag and protect its contents.
The etching tools and paints were a necessity, and the area they were going to was mid-autumn, so appropriate clothing was obvious. It felt incongruous, given the Tower’s late-spring weather. That left reference materials and whatever they would need for living, since he assumed the Coven wouldn’t be providing anything, even though they might. Even though the knapsack could hold a considerable amount, but there were still limits.
At a loss, he decided to check in with some of the team, starting with the member he found the most enigmatic.
He decided to go straight through the stand of trees that separated Taliesin from Drakewell. Marker certainly had a suite in the faculty quarters, but Tobias thought it more likely that he would be found in the salle, from what little he knew. The stand was typical of artificial woods, virtually no underbrush, only well-tended grass with patches of dirt between the widely spaced trunks. The sunlight through the branches created random shadow spots, but it was a peaceful and quiet part of the campus and the light filtered by the leaves had a calming effect on the young instructor.
That part of the walk was, as usual, all too short. The three story, grey stone building came into sight, in all its faux medieval glory. The doors were on the other sides, facing Wulfstan and Satyrane.
A short walk around the narrow windowed building, and passing through the heavy scarred wood door, brought him to a wide, plain corridor. Tobias walked along, passing rooms of older students and, generally, younger faculty. Snatches of instruction reached him as he passed.
“. . . hold it with the thumb and index finger . . .”
“Never have the edge toward you . . .”
“. . . bring her hand to her shoulder . . .”
The commentary was punctuated by the clack of wood on wood, the ring of steel, and the occasional grunts after a weight thudded onto a floor. In a way, it was noisy, but more muted than the sounds he routinely found in the Dee alchemy building. And there weren’t any strangely colored clouds in the corridors, just the lingering, but not unpleasant, smells of linseed oil, metal, and sweat.
After a few moments finding a senior student, Tobias managed to find out where Marker was.
He found the other instructor in a small room on the second floor. The walls were wood paneled up to a foot above head height, with stone to the ceiling. Each had pale green padding to head level that matched the mats on the floor, he counted four mats wide by six or seven long. Light came from a single, thin window and some alchemical spheres embedded in the ceiling.
Marker stood in the middle of the room, holding a short wooden sword in a guard position. As Tobias watched, the other man slid forward, thrusting with the practice sword, flipping it with his wrist into a cut about neck level, and twisting into a block against an imaginary strike at his own head. Unsure whether he’d been noticed, Tobias decided to watch quietly rather than interrupt.
After a few moments, he had to admit that Gavin, he should start thinking about the team by first name, looked impressive. His own background was sparse enough that he couldn’t tell if there was substance beneath the appearance; but since the headmaster assigned Marker, Gavin, there had to be something there.