Troglodytes Ate My Homework by Brian P
Troglodytes Ate My Homework
starring Milo Pulsar
“Remember class, balancing the input of Mana with the expected output of the formula will improve the working efficiency of the Runes.” Master Strub droned on like this at great length. “Runic efficiency is the backbone of society!”
I tried not to roll my eyes at that last comment. After an entire school year of Basic Rune Formula with Master Ezellyn Strub, I couldn’t list all the things he had claimed to be the backbone of society. If you were to believe Master Strub, society had so many backbones it could probably qualify as a Marrow Hydra! I think that’s what I was drawing in the margins of my notebook at the time. An ancient Marrow Hydra with a full nine heads, each covered in a full compliment of bone spikes.
“Here is a simple example of how a Barge can be moved from the Minkar system to the Praecipula system. The Runes for Astral Gates begin with a linking sigil for the destination. Linking sigils are the backbone of society!”
I wondered if Master Ezellyn knew he was committing self-mockery at this point. The Hydra had just encountered a Phoenix emerging from the nebula swirling on the other side of the notepad. This was starting to look like a battle of great consequence and would probably break a few backbones.
“Milo, would you be so kind as to pass your homework forward?”
“Yeah! Well, wait… huh?” Not the snappiest response I could have summoned, but I tended to let my wits take a vacation instead of a beating while I was in Rune lecture.
“The assigned problems for chapter eight? The rest of the class is eager to move on to Runic Water Treatment, so please hand your homework forward.” Master Ezellyn gave me a bemused look. He crossed his arms and slipped his hands into the opposite sleeves of his Wizard’s robe. The classic Wizard pose that nearly every statue on campus displayed in copper glory. He was trying to intimidate me. It was working.
“My homework went missing, Master Ezellyn” I stated flatly. I barely finished the line before the rest of the class started giggling.
“Another mysterious disappearance! Did a Space Hag steal it?” Despite being the most boring instructor at the Novum College, Ezellyn had a special gift for humiliating me in class.
“Well, actually, I’m beginning to suspect that Troglodytes are eating my homework. I think I found – “ I stopped my plea there. I had provided the punch line to Master Ezellyn’s query.
”Class, please calm down. Milo, we can discuss the presence of extinct animals after class in my office. And, everyone, please remember, Homework is the backbone of society!”
I was sulking in my dorm room. After working so hard to excel in basic magical studies in grade school, I was finding applied magical theory horrifically boring. What would my parents think if they were alive? Maybe they never would have encouraged me to become a Wizard and be content with a more mundane profession. I was skilled enough to be an architect or something, but drawing blueprints seemed as interesting as Precipitation Management Studies. I stared at the paint peeling off the ceiling and tried to imagine a star formation that might look similar.
“Squaaaarkkk!” The shrill call so close to my head made me spasm and tumble from my bunk. I rolled onto my side and found a winged-lizard-looking-thing glaring at me with green eyed malice. I tried to scramble away but only managed to bang my head against my bookshelf, scattering oddments everywhere. The sudden clattering of my possessions sent the lizard awkwardly hopping around my room. I think it was trying to fly, but managed to bang into just about every other piece of furniture I had in the room.
“Squerk!” The winged-rat landed on top of my bureau and swiped its tail in an agitated manner. It had something stuck to its wing talon.
“Give me back my homework you stupid Trog..la… thing!” I recognized the missing pages from my notebook, but I did not recognize the intruder. I didn’t really know what a Troglodite was supposed to look like, but I don’t think they ever had wings. Well this was just delightful, my room was trashed, my homework was in the possession of a small serpentine bat, and I had to get across campus for a quiz in Alchemical Curatives. I couldn’t leave the bat-snake alone in my room, I’d have to catch with a net or something. A simple spell of Ensnaring Roots would work, but Basic Evocation was a Senior level class and I only knew bits I had picked up from other students in the dorm.
“Hiiissssskk!” The threatening tone brought me back to myself. The lizard jumped down onto the floor and waddled towards me on two clawed feet. I was basically sitting down, and we were eye level with each other. I made eye contact for a moment, and the non-Trog lunged its head at me, revealing a mouth lined with tiny spines. I kicked out with my legs, caught my foot on the bunk and propelled myself into the bookshelf, again. My vision went hazy for a moment, and then my rucksack with the Orbit Racing gear in it escaped one of the upper shelves and collided with my skull.
I’m not really sure how long I was unconscious for. I think it was only a few seconds, but I may have been out for a whole minute. Either way, I came back to myself before I had opened my eyes and I’m grateful for that. I could feel something heavy on my chest, poking through the thin fabric of my uniform. The thing had climbed up on top of me! Probably getting a better angle to take a bite out of my neck or something. Something wet was running down my forehead, I could feel it pooling between my eyelid and nose. The sharp scent of blood was distinct in the air, and the monster could smell it too. I wanted to keep playing dead, and hope that someone else would deal with this situation. Perhaps the little beast didn’t care if I was dead or not, because right then it sunk its teeth into my cheek.
“AAAAHHHHGGGG!” My eyes snapped open and I was staring right into the slits of the thing’s green eyes. I shoved upwards with both hands, but only managed to knock it into my lap. Blood was now running freely from my cheek, I could hear it landing softly on my shirt.
Death was staring me in the face and I didn’t feel what I expected to. I had just been deliberately attacked, but I didn’t sense any anger whelling up inside of me, urging me to act. I rarely feel angry, hardly ever. I realized I couldn’t remember a time that I had felt anger. Then I remembered the seething fury I had expressed when my parents were murdered at the hands of a Spartan Wizard. Seven years later, I realized that all my anger had boiled away that day.
That still doesn’t justify the incredibly stupid thing I did next. I grabbed the thing by the neck with my right hand, and reached out with my left hand and placed two fingers on the sheet of homework.
“You want my homework so bad? YOU CAN KEEP IT!” I flexed my Will and activated the Runes scrawled on the sheet of paper in a flash of arcing energy. I pulled back my hand, snapping the link of Mana. It wasn’t elegant, but it did the trick. There was a loud pop, and the beast was sent careening into the far wall. I was shoved back with equal force, smashing my head into the bookshelf, again. I managed to keep my wits this time. I felt a sickening shift in my stomach that I first blamed on my blood loss, but I quickly became aware that I was reacting to a mystical shift in my environment. The creature was gone, missing, absent from the room. I was staring into a gaping hole in space. The edges wavered erratically, but the hole was large enough for me to stare into a perfect blackness.
The Void. I was looking into the Void. I knew it instinctively. I stared for a moment that seemed like an eternity. I blackness was consuming, and in the center, I still swear I could see a tiny pinpoint of light. The Void, the space beyond space. The place so far from everywhere that the distance is eternal, but, even in the Void, a blink of light representing the everything that is in the universe can be seen. The Void isn’t a horrifying emptiness, it is a horrifying hopelessness. In the Void you can see the Universe, but never get there.
Several books went hurtling past my head, drawn into the Void. Everything in my room was being drawn towards the hole! I sprang to my feet, making a dash for the window and instead went crashing to the floor. As I fell, I felt my trajectory shift as the Void pulled at me. I hit the ground on my stomach and rolled away. My rucksack had entangled itself in my feet. I kicked it off, scattering its contents. The rocket boots fell with a thud. Realizing I needed to get far from this room, I kicked my feet into the boots. They weren’t secure, but this was going to have to be good enough. I dragged myself up onto the window sill, and pondered how piloting rocket boots in atmo would be different than micro-g. I toppled backwards, barely catching myself. I was dangling horizontally, and I watched my bed slide along the floor and into the Void. I kicked the heels together and went blasting out the window.
I missed my final in Alchemical Curatives that day. I missed all my finals that semester. I flunked most of my classes, destroyed my dorm room (literally), and got kicked off the Orbit Racing team for misuse of team equipment. It turns out that activating an Astral Gate Rune with no linking sigils is prone to failure. However, there is a minute chance of Gating to a location of low resistance, like the Void. No one could explain how a drake was in my room. Yes, I found out that thing was a drake. Most people didn’t believe there was one to begin with, and I was just screwing around with Runes. I left the Novum Academy after recovering from the broken arm I got from my crash landing.
A few Wizards took note of my Void Gate, telling me it was no small feat, no matter how dangerous it was. I got a few recommendations, and wound up at the Paragon University. I think the Masters at Novum wanted me to be as far away from their campus as possible. Well, it turns out I’m much better with Evocations and Dinorocketeering anyway.
(c) 2010 Brian Paul