In cramming for the exam, I intentionally left animation for last. It’s always been my favorite subject. I’d do nothing but pour over my books again and again neglecting everything else… including eating. I love the feel of bleached bone, the smell of cured sinew. The touch of a skeletal hand is as comforting as my father’s hug. The cold that exudes from liches and ghosts is warmth to me. Constructing and animating are as easy as breathing.
I would have made one hell of an Animator.
Saving animation for last has the added bonus of being able to study surrounded by my many constructed pets and servitors. Scratch that. Covered in them.
Which is how Ivy and Lucian found me when they stopped by with a late supper for me. A few went flying when I stood to hug Lucian. He twirled me around to get a look at the coat he bought me before stealing a kiss long enough that Ivy coughed to remind us that she was standing there.
During supper they wanted to know how I was handling being away for so long. I explained that it hasn’t been easy and with this mission involving Zagyg, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be away. It’s one thing to be far from comfortable when you know there’s an end in sight, but there was no end to this. The temptation to bring one or two of my constructs with me is overwhelming, but would not go over well. Even taking time in the crypts under Greyhawk City is ill advised. The steel toothed rats helped a bit, but I hadn’t realized how bad it was until Braithwaite started playing with zombies like they were candy.
After getting me to promise that I would get some sleep, Ivy headed off leaving Lucian and I to have some time alone. Speaking for myself, that’s not exactly a good idea. But Lucian never lets our time together go too far and all I really wanted was to be held. The natural negative energy sink within him responded to my talent the way it always does and my little constructs attempted to crawl up in between us. Annoying as it was, it was a good sign that it was time for me to get to bed.
I have three ghostly retainers and they were sure to get me up and ready in time for my father to come by with breakfast. He helped me carefully pack the qanat plans into my massive portfolio before giving me a hug and promising to escort me to the test after my meeting with Master Baryoi.
Having read all of Frederick Wolfsmith’s case files, having a lost one revealed was incredibly exciting despite the circumstances. That the work of two of Hollowfaust’s greatest heroes would touch us here and now was both astounding and a bit terrifying. A secret cult working tirelessly for hundreds of years only discovered through shear luck? We are woefully unprepared for it. I take that back. Some of us are woefully unprepared. Braithwaite questioning the logic of people both far wiser and far more intelligent than him was maddening. There is no way that he hasn’t read the other case files. They are incredibly popular reading across the Flaness. People only vaguely familiar with Hollowfaust often ask me if Master Moonrise was a real person.
Right now, I am seriously thankful that Aderyn isn’t here. While I was disappointed in her sudden dropping of important information, I also wasn’t surprised. I’m not sure how she would have reacted to what was revealed here. The only people who look to be taking the situation seriously are Marcy, Bannik, and Sir Rigby. Marin doesn’t seem to care. The Duchess looks bored out of her mind. Belle doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of the situation. And sweet Delwin seems really confused that metallic dragons may not be the best of allies in this case.
After the meeting, Marcy wished me good luck and Dad helped me carry my portfolio to the Sovereign Council’s chamber. The chamber was not a grand room of importance. It was a cramped place barely bigger than a walk in closet, but all the better to get debate rolling and decisions made. Quite a crowd had already gathered to wish me luck and wait for the results. Master Ravensmark was getting the buffet together while my cousins cleared a path to the door.
Grandmaster Derraine sat for the Anatomists. Grandmaster Ulat sat for the Animator’s Society. Grandmaster Stormcutter sat for the Chorus. Master Erin Bloodsin sat for the Disciples. Allen sat for the Followers. Lady Chander sat for the Speakers. And Master Thorn Metalson sat for the Sowers.
The next several hours started with Master Ulat attempting to stump me right out of the gate with a question about Lady Danar’s work on juju zombies in light of Master Hiram Wan’s work on positive energy undead. He might as well have asked me if two plus two equaled four. His jaw dropped at my response. Throwing up his hands, he said, “I have masters in my guild who can’t answer that question. You have my vote of pass.” Thanks to Lady Chander, I was ready for Master Metalson’s question on golems.
“Describe medical treatments for Unfailing suffering from the condition commonly referred to as “Moonflower.”
“Choose any passage from Master Iris Sinclar’s ‘Love Song’ and describe it’s significance to dogma in the Church of Leara.”
“Why does Master Longroad’s play ‘Sweet Warm Night’ succeed where his play ‘Queen of Dreams’ fails despite expanding on the same fear inducing themes?”
“Discuss the work of any Hollowfaust seer who was not a member of the Readers Guild.”
Round after round. Question after question. Vote after vote of pass. The last question came to Allen and he hit me with a doozy: “How do positive and negative energies interact in temple pagodas on the Isle of Pearl?”
Leave it to my Guildmaster to check my record and see that I’d never taken a class on Isle of Pearl architecture.
Flying blind, I used the chalk board to map out the basic pagoda structure, remembering from random reading that the number of floors always ended on an odd number and that the roof would have a metal finial to act as a lightening rod. Calling on my knowledge of how positive and negative energies play in overly tall buildings with multiple eaves, I cobbled together an answer that drew smiles from all assembled. And Allen gave me his vote of pass.
The pressure suddenly gone, I fell into my chair and took a few deep breaths before presenting my gift: the plans for the qanat. I’m not sure when Master Baryoi or Master Demos came in, but both were on either side of me, cooing over the simple yet elegant design that would improve irrigation on the fausts. After making sure I could stand on my own, Allen walked me to the door and the waiting crowd. He yelled, “FULL PASS!”
And I’m pretty sure the rest of the Underfaust could hear the cheering!