Ravenna le Fay looked at the school before her with a feeling that could only be called glee.
She was finally — finally — getting to study magic! Finally she had earned her wand, her gifts had “manifested” themselves (or so her mother put it), and she could stop leaning over her mother’s cauldron and wondering what was going on inside it. Now she would be able to create her own reagents and potions; she would be able to make the sun shine when it was raining, clear away the puddles her father always left in the bathroom, and call butterflies to dance around her with a simple wave of her wand. And — once she studied up a bit — she would be able to create a magical servant, like the ones her mother had staffing their home. She’d never have to make her bed again!
But best of all was this new magical school, where everyone would be just as odd as she was.
The teachers — the Professors Emrys — materialized in a flood of golden light before them. I can’t wait to learn how to do that! Her father jumped, even though he’d seen Morgan do this dozens upon dozens of times, but Ravenna just grin.
“My Lord le Fay,” Professor Emrys — the male professor Emrys — said, extending his hand to her father.
“Just Accolon, please,” he said, smiling a nervous smile. They shook hands.
“Morgan,” the female professor said.
“Naomi!” They embraced. “You look wonderful.”
“I could say the same to you,” Professor Naomi Emrys chuckled. “And this must be Ravenna. She’s your spit and image, Morgan.”
“Thank goodness,” Morgan chuckled. “Her father is a wonderful man, but I don’t want to know what he’d look like as a woman.”
“I heard that!”
Morgan rolled her eyes even as she waved Ravenna forward. Ravenna curtsied, unable to keep the grin from her face. “Not nervous at all, I see,” Professor Naomi chuckled.
“She practically had her bags packed the day her father and I broached going here to her,” Morgan said, rolling her eyes. “It’s almost like she didn’t enjoy our company anymore.”
“Your library isn’t as big as the one here, Mum.”
“Books over her parents! Did you ever hear the like?” Accolon said. He tried to laugh, but the sound was strained, as was his smile. He laid a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it just a tad more tightly than was his wont.
“Sorry, sweetheart.” He patted her shoulder instead.
“Anyway, shall we start the tour?” asked Professor Merlin Emrys. Accolon’s face fell, but Morgan nudged him and the false smile returned.
“Sure! When do we get to see the library?” Ravenna asked eagerly.
Professor Merlin laughed. “I thought we would start with the dining hall,” he replied.
And so up the stairs — the school was situated on a hill, overlooking the rest of the village below — and into the school they went. The stonework was dark and imposing, but white torches broke the expanse of walls every few feet. Or at least Ravenna thought they were torches — lights of some sort, though she could see neither wax nor oil to provide the flame.
Maybe it’s some kind of magic? She crept closer to one of the lights, standing on tip-toe to see it better —
“Come along,” Professor Merlin called over his shoulder. “I assure you, the intricacies of the lighting will all be explained in good time. Who knows? Perhaps by the time of the end of your tenure here, you’ll be able to produce some yourself.”
Magic lights? If someone had asked Ravenna yesterday whether she had the slightest interest in lighting of any sort, she would have looked at that someone the way one would look at a two-headed Sim. Now, suddenly, lighting had climbed to the top of her interest list.
But her parents and the professors were moving forward, and so Ravenna had to practically run to catch up.
“The dining hall,” Professor Merlin said, throwing the door and his hand forward and waving them all in.
Ravenna looked around. It had the same dark stonework, white marble ceilings and odd lighting as had the rest of the building she had seen so far. Her hand idly traced the top of one of the chairs.
“Breakfast will be served on weekday mornings beginning at seven-thirty,” Professor Naomi began. “You’ll be expected to report by eight, and breakfast will be cleared away at eight-thirty. Lunch will be at noon, and dinner at six. If you get hungry during the day, you’re welcome to prepare a light snack for yourself during one of the breaks from lessons. We trust that you’re old enough not to spoil your appetite for your meals.”
Ravenna nodded, quite a bit more solemnly than the situation called for. Morgan had to duck her head and cover her mouth with one hand to hide her smile.
“The weekend schedule will be somewhat different,” Professor Naomi continued. “Brunch will be served beginning at ten, and will be cleared away at two, since I know young ones your age aren’t too keen on getting up when they don’t have to. Dinner, however, will still be served at six.”
Ravenna nodded. “What about Sundays?” she asked.
“Meaning?” Professor Merlin asked.
“Well, if we have to go to church … shouldn’t breakfast be earlier? Or will this be another one of those get-yourself-a-snack situations?”
“Er …” Professor Merlin and Professor Naomi exchanged glances. “Owing to the, er, slight suspicion and sometimes outright hostility my wife and I have experienced upon darkening the doorways of most mainstream religious establishments, we have decided not to make church attendance compulsory. However,” Professor Merlin continued, turning to Morgan and Accolon, “if you would prefer Ravenna attend, either my wife or I would be happy to accompany her.”
And make sure I actually show up?
“Professor, you are speaking to a witch and a zombie,” Morgan replied. “I assure you, we are not at all interested in exposing our daughter to the scorn and contempt of her loving fellow Wrightians on a weekly basis. If she attends once a month or so, that will be more than sufficient.”
“We’ll bring her ourselves whenever she comes home for the weekend,” Accolon added.
The professors exchanged a small smile, and Professor Naomi answered, “That sounds wonderful. Come, we’ll show you the library next.”
They left the dining hall, and though Professor Merlin pointed out the kitchen as they passed it, they didn’t spend any time inside. Soon enough they arrived at the library. Ravenna couldn’t hold back her grin. Sure, it was a bit small — smaller than her bedroom back home — but every single wall was lined with shelves, and every single shelf was filled with books. Plus there was a chess set, and plenty of couches and chairs for lounging.
Perfect, Ravenna thought. She moved over to one of the shelves and started to examine the titles.
She frowned. “Professor?”
“Yes?” Professor Merlin asked.
“I don’t see any magical works here.”
The old wizard chuckled. “That’s because you’re looking at the wrong side of the shelf,” he replied. “Stand back. I’ll show you where the magical books are.”
And with that, he crouched, pulled a particular book halfway out, and ushered them all inside as the shelf swung forward.
“Sweet!” Ravenna called out as she followed him and Professor Naomi in, looking around eagerly.
“Lessons will take place from eight-thirty until five, with a break for lunch, of course,” Professor Merlin said. “The coursework will be quite rigorous, since, aside from your magical lessons, you will also be continuing your regular schoolwork, with an emphasis on preparations for Camford.”
Ravenna remembered herself enough in her distraction to nod.
“Mornings will be taken up with regular academic subjects, while the afternoons …”
Ravenna stopped listening. She guessed the thrones were for the teachers, and the spellbooks and cauldrons nearest the thrones were Professor Merlin and Professor Naomi’s. But there was another spellbook, another cauldron in the room — and the cauldron was giving off a cheerful blue smoke, the sort of smoke her mother’s cauldron gave off when something wonderful was brewing within it.
“Will your regular lessons be sex-segregated?” Morgan was asking Professor Naomi.
“We weren’t planning on it,” Professor Naomi replied. “I know that there is an option to take a girls’ entrance exam to Camford, but we found — well — upon looking it over, that it was one of the most frivolous pieces of fluff ever disguised as a test of serious knowledge. I know it’s necessary for some kingdoms, but …”
The only thing keeping Ravenna from running over and flipping the pages of that spellbook was the knowledge — drilled into her head by her mother — that it was very, very rude to touch another person’s magical paraphernalia without permission. The last time she had been able to touch and handle a magical book was when she was — oh, three or four years old, still held on her mother’s hip, trying to read the words that marched across the page, above her mother’s fingers. They’d chanted spells together, innocuous ones, ones for making butterflies or getting rid of the rain temporarily. And whenever the effect worked as intended, Morgan would tickle her and call her “Mummy’s little sorceress. You’ll be a great one someday, sweetie.”
Ravenna couldn’t believe that day was almost here …
“I think that spellbook is yours,” Accolon said. “At least — your mother and I had it sent on ahead.” He cast a quizzical glance at the Professors, who nodded.
Ravenna couldn’t help it — she squealed. And she was pouring over that book before any of the adults could blink.
“Wright, but she’s your daughter,” Accolon said to Morgan.
“You say that as though it were a bad thing, dear.”
There’s the butterfly spell! Ravenna thought. And — oh. Folium deletus. I wonder what that does? She made a face. Gets rid of leaves … well, I guess it beats raking. But you can’t make good fertilizer from leaves that don’t exist … She flipped forward. Remedis Simae — cures illness. That ought to come in handy.
Huh, she wondered. I wonder if Mum and Dad’s anniversary drink is in here … maybe the book will tell me what it does, since they never did …
“Ravenna, sweetie,” Morgan said, putting a hand on her shoulder, “please try to be polite. I know you’re excited, but you’ll have the next six years to memorize every word of your spellbook.”
“Longer,” Professor Merlin said. “The art of magic is one that takes a lifetime to learn, at minimum. There is always something new to discover.”
“So, do you have any questions, Ravenna?” Professor Naomi asked.
“Oh, yes!” Ravenna replied, clasping her hands together. “What about the other students? When do I get to meet them?”
“What?” Ravenna asked, her voice quavering slightly.
“Er …” Professor Naomi. “Well — at the moment — I’m afraid you’re the only student, Ravenna.”
“The –” Ravenna’s face fell. “The only student?”
“I’m afraid so.”
At my old school, I might have been able to count the people could consistently tolerate me on one hand … but … that’s better than nothing!
“But it won’t be for long!” Professor Merlin added, quickly. “There is another, similarly gifted youngster in the kingdom — he should be joining us within the year.”
“He?” Accolon asked. “You mean Ravenna’s going to be all alone here — with a boy?”
“Hardly alone, considering that the students and teachers will, at that point, be at a one-to-one ratio,” Morgan pointed out.
“Still! She’s too young to be thinking about boys!”
Morgan raised one eyebrow. “Too young to be thinking about her fellow Sims, of a similar age, who happen to be male?”
“And when, dear, will she be old enough to begin — as you put it — ‘thinking’ about boys?”
“Thirty,” Accolon replied. “Thirty is an excellent age to begin considering young men.”
“Considering, eh? And when can she start doing more than — considering?”
“Forty,” Accolon said without skipping a beat.
Ravenna wasn’t sure how serious her father was — or how serious her mother was — but the argument (if it even was one) continued through the rest of the tour. The Professors Emrys showed them the girls’ dormitory (“The doors and room are sealed to be females only, I assure you — even I can’t pass the threshold,” Professor Merlin said in an attempt to placate Accolon), the backyard, the small pavilion with a couple of easels set up. And a telescope, to further their studies of astronomy. There was also a pond, stocked with fish, as Professor Merlin assured them.
Finally, though, they made their way back to the front of the building. And as her parents turned to her, both wearing sad, near-weepy smiles, it finally hit her.
They — they were going to go. And Ravenna was going to stay here.
She’d never so much as spent a weekend away from home …
Morgan smiled and held her close and tight for a long moment. “You’re going to love it here,” Morgan whispered into her ear. “I know you. Just watch, you’ll be in your element before you know it.”
“And if you really don’t, just let us know and we’ll take you home. We’ll take you home tomorrow, if you want.”
Morgan glared at him. “Give it a couple weeks, at least,” she said to Ravenna.
Ravenna bit her lip and nodded.
“You’re going to fine, sweetie,” Morgan said, hugging her again. “I know you. By this time next week, you’ll be so in love with this place, you won’t ever want to leave.”
“If you say so.”
“I do say so. Don’t worry about a thing.”
Ravenna took a deep breath and pulled away. Then she put on her best smile for her father. “Aw, Daddy,” she said, watching as his lips trembled, “don’t cry. If you start to cry, Mummy might have to re-attach your eyelids, and we really don’t want to go through that again.”
“Come here, sweetheart,” was all Accolon said in reply. He held her tightly. “You know Daddy’s here for you, don’t you?”
“Anything you need. Just write to us, and we’ll make sure you have it.”
“And we’ll be here next weekend, to take you out,” Morgan replied. “Assuming that’s all right.”
“That’s fine, that’s fine,” Professor Merlin said.
“Feel free to drop by any weekend you please,” Professor Naomi added.
“All right.” With a deep breath, Morgan took a step back, grabbing Accolon’s sleeve and pulling him with her. “We’ll see you soon.”
“All right, Mummy.” Ravenna took a deep breath. She would concentrate on just that, for now. “I’ll see you soon.”