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Chapter 7

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Yenni frowned, bit her lip, and stared again at the interesting writing instrument they'd given her: a slim stick of something like charcoal wrapped in wood, so different from the slim reed brushes and black scribe ink she used at home.

What sort of test was this? How did one pull ach'e by answering absurd questions on a piece of paper? Not only was everything written in Creshen, but half of it made absolutely no sense. Define the theory of otherspace. Other what? Name a negative effect of the Law of Self-Preservation. Law of what? With each passing minute, punctuated by the echoing tick, tick, tick of a large mechanical timepiece, Yenni's confidence waned. She glanced around at the other students. So many. And they all had their heads down, scribbling furiously. She stared, brows furrowed, at her own nearly blank sheet.

"And pencils down!"

Yenni jumped at the professor's trilling voice. He stood at the front of the lecture hall beside a podium with his hands behind his back, eyes squinted as he stared into the rows of students to see who continued to write. Two tufts of gray hair stood up on either side of his head as if trying to make up for the lack of hair in the center. Yenni let her stick fall from her fingers onto the knotty wood of the table. It wasn't as if extra time would have made a difference. She simply had no idea what to write.

"The magical aptitude test is over," said the professor. Two aides in long navy coats went around collecting the tests. "You will wait in this room as your scores are tallied, and we will call you individually to let you know your results."

As a young woman took her paper Yenni let out a heavy sigh. This test should have been easy, but there hadn't been a single question pertaining to runelore, nor any chance for a demonstration.

As the minutes ticked by and the room slowly emptied, Yenni's anxiety grew. If she failed to gain entrance what was she to do with herself? How could she help her father? Yenni breathed deeply, bowed her head, and prayed.

Father Ri, divine purveyor of destiny, I would not be here if it were not your will. Please receive my worries and calm my restless mind.

After a few moments of reflection she felt the tightness leave her, felt more resolute in the certainty that admission was her course—her only course. She turned her attention to her surroundings. Though now mostly empty, the seats had held over a hundred students, she believed. Astounding. Back home education was largely left up to each compound. Only children of the chiefclan bloodline gathered daily to be tutored.

And then there was this . . . what did they call it? Lecture theater. Her schoolroom back home was a wooden structure, open and airy, but this room was stony and closed, with only a few small windows high up on the wall to let in light.

Time passed by, and Yenni focused on her breathing as name after name was called. She fidgeted, worried at her hair, hummed the hymn to the strength rune, until finally she was the only one left in the room.

"Yenni . . . Ajana Femmy. Kayirba."

The man butchered her name, but who else could he mean? She stood and followed him through a door at the front of the room to the left of the podium. Inside was a little office taken up almost entirely by a large, dark desk, behind which sat the administrator of the test. She was surprised to see Captain Augustin standing by one of those colored-glass windows. He turned from it and ran a hand over his short hair while nodding at her. "Please have a seat," he said, gesturing to a cushioned bench in front of the desk.

The magical instructor—Professor Mainard, as he'd introduced himself at the start of the test—scowled at her. "I will be blunt. It's as if you know nothing of magical principles whatsoever."

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by Nandi Taylor
WATTPAD BOOKS EDITION. Bound by fate. Divided by duty. Yenni has neve...
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