"I envy your mortality. You may die but once, and gloriously. For me, it's much harder."
Vhalar 122, Arc 717
Gleaming metal flanked the entrances to the Academy, grim faced men emblazoned with the careful depiction of a Jacodon tearing a serpent from tall grass. Their armor was a darker shade than the ordinary Iron Hand, new and barely scratched. To the learned it would identify the ore as being dragged from the earth as far north as Khrome, the perpetual shadow an imperfection on the metal itself highly valued among the nobility. In a rarer form, the metal itself would shine the glossy hue of raven’s feathers, but here the imperfection was only manifested enough to cast a pall on the ordinarily bright gleaming armor of the King’s men.
Students milled uncertainly around the entrance, some too frightened to ascend the stairs inside. By the door a tall man loomed over the smaller Dean in a passionate but quite discourse. The smaller and older man held his ground, but a slight tremor in his back leg betrayed the anxiety that was creeping mud-thick through his veins. In stark contrast, the scarecrow above him seemed to bask in his power, thick oily hair hanging in half-hearted black locks around a snake-thin face. His nose was thin and sharp, like a curved dagger or beak. He wore a breastplate of the same darkened metal, emblazoned with the same sign, but a tabard of blue and gold and a sigil of House Venora neatly stitched across the back of his heavy cloak. In the late days of Vhalar, cold had found its way to Andaris and crept into the nooks and crannies of even the most warmly dressed men.
The discussion continued at a clip till finally the smaller man relented and held up one hand, nodding. Satisfied, the taller man drew back and waved a willowy arm. Half the soldiers assembled tramped up the steps and into the University. From his perch at the top of the stairs, the stranger drew his eyes across the crowd, as though tallying them, marking their faces, and then turned back and followed after the guards.
“Please, Please gather around!” The Dean called out to them, waving his arms for them to approach. It might have been hard had he been on the same level as the students, but on top of the stairs the conservatively dressed scholar stood taller than them all. The soldiers that remained impassively maintained rank, but angled their heads slightly as to hear.
“I know you are all somewhat concerned, given the new policies our noble King has laid out on the practice of magic. These men are here to ensure your safety and the safety of our community by determining if there are other mages on the premesis. I assure you…” here he paused to hold up both hands emphatically, “I implore you to remain calm. Classes will resume as normal. So long as we are in accordance with the will of the King, we have nothing to fear. These soldiers are here for our own protection. Now…” he turns, dramatically, telegraphing his willingness to be through with the speech, “If we can get back to our pursuits?”
“What of Professor Terrance?”
The Dean wheeled on his heel so fast he almost spilled onto the stairs, steadying himself at the last moment. He blanched white for a moment before regaining his composure. The man who had spoken had slowly made his way to the front of the students, drawing the eyes of the guards. He wore simple traveler’s clothes, with an islander cast to his skin. His long hair was shaped into dreadlocks set with beads, shells, and other trinkets of the road that glittered and sang when he shook his hair. Broad shouldered, he had dust about him, as if arriving from a long way off. Dark eyes flashed but he did not ask with any danger or fury in his voice, a simple haughty curiosity. From where the other teachers gathered, Melena narrowed her eyes but communicated no other change in her composure.
“Ah, and…and who are you, sir?” The Dean asked warily, “I don’t recognize you.”
The man shrugged his shoulders, “I am called Daevus and I’m a graduate of this institution and it’s sisters in Viden and Scalvoris. Archeology, Languages, and History were my focuses. I…” here he paused to rummage at his belt, pulling free a sealed leather scroll case with a brass top. “I have my diplomas here, sir, in case you’d care to inspect them. Professor Terrance was a correspondent of mine and quite invaluable to my research. I heard he had taken ill, so journeyed here.” When the Dean made no movement to the scroll, Daevus replaced it on his belt, “Professor Terrance is not at his home or office. His neighbors say the King’s Men came to pay him a visit and he left with them several trials back. Do you have any comment that might illuminate us?”
The Dean grimaced and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could a guard stepped forward. “All matters regarding the King and his inspection of this city, our citizen’s SAFETY, is not open for discussion.”
“Surely not.” Daevus challenged, “The University has always encouraged open and frank discourse. It is our right to inquire after our educators when-“ But here he stopped, met with the shaft of the guard’s spear thrust suddenly into his chest. Daevus lost the rest of his sentence in a mighty whoosh of air, the blow bringing him to his knees, gasping.
“Discussion over.” The guard said shortly, peering down at the traveler, challenging him to move. “You will return to your homes or your classes, it makes no difference to us which one. Dean. You have business to attend to within.”
Color rose in the Dean’s cheeks, but the guards and their stoic indifference, the glitter on their weapons eased away the biting retort. Instead he meekly nodded and motioned for the students to walk past the guard and the gasping Daevus to make their way into the school.
There were no cheers.
There was no chatter.
Silence fell upon entrance of the Rynmere academy.
Silence had fallen on them all.