September 18, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“If you can’t find my office,
you don’t deserve answers.”
Saydrie had been taking a new route to class every day. He kept catching glances of the woman who had been following him, always just on the edge of his sight, heading towards him. And so he continued to find a different way to get to his classes.
Today, after lunch, he and his team had split into three directions, just to confuse matters. He had gone halfway around the circle in the wrong direction before heading into the basement, over two buildings through the basement passages that linked all the buildings.
Students weren’t really supposed to be in the basements, but they weren’t actively not supposed to be there, either, and Saydrie thought, at the moment, that Libkazaari would probably forgive him being in a basement, especially, considering everything that had happened, if he told her that he was being chased by a strange woman across campus.
Which, he supposed, he really ought to do anyway. He considered some of the side doors, wondering if they led to another secret room, and decided he was probably being greedy. No, if he headed up this narrow set of stairs, barely wider than his shoulders and with treads so shallow that they fit little more than his toes, he would come out behind a row of teacher’s offices. He thought it had once been used for cleaners or other such help, before they had moved to the more comfortable rooms down the hall.
He slipped out between two mops so old they might pre-date the Emperor, ducked under a tangle of cobwebs, and made his way in the middle of a crowd of older students to a stairway that most people didn’t seem to notice was there.
This wasn’t one of his hidden stairways. No, this one – three stairs up and then a turn around a piece of built-on architecture, then another five stairs up before another turn – just seemed to get missed because it had no windows, was not much wider than the basement stairway, and hung in shadow just behind a replica of one of Edally’s first Devices.
Saydrie had, in the first weeks here, spent every moment not with his Teammates or in class exploring. He still had a lot to find, he knew: Edally had been built onto so many times over the centuries that there was not even an coherent floor plan available (at least as much as House Monitor Libkazaari knew, and if she didn’t know, nobody would know). But by now, even if he didn’t know where he was going (and he didn’t, this time), he could make some pretty good guesses.
This stairway wended around a pillar that he thought had been part of a very old construction; the stone was a different color on the inside wall and it had some strange streaks of blue and green running through it. The streaks provided some light, while a lamp somewhere at the top provided the rest.
He didn’t hear footsteps behind him yet, but his shadow had surprised him before. So he kept going, up to a top floor that seemed disconnected from the rest of the building. For a moment, looking down the shadowed hallway, he was worried; had he walked himself into a trap?
Well, there was a lamp here, so someone must light it. He walked slowly down the hallway, taking time that he didn’t really have – he couldn’t afford to be late for classes, not with the way the teachers had been lately – to look around.
He saw a couple offices that looked actually used. This, he realized, must be where they… what? stuck instructors they didn’t really want to waste space in the main hallways with? Put Instructors with low status? Put people who didn’t really like talking to other people? From the instructors he’d had the dubious honor of working with, he could imagine there were some of all three sorts around.
That meant there was probably a more obvious stairway. He looked carefully, almost missing the door – just like all the other doors, except the very faint painted letters that declared “stairs.”
Relieved, he headed through the door and up the stairs to the roof. They didn’t take the roof routes very often any more, after what had happened the time that the Device blew, but Saydrie was fairly sure that if there were any other Devices that were likely to cause an explosion, if Taikie hadn’t made them, she would have at least known about them and told him and Enrie all about them.
But he liked the roof path. He might be very exposed out here – but so was anyone else who came out onto the roof.
He looked around, twice. He was alone up here. He was also running out of time.
The path was dry for the moment, but the wind was whipping up. He held on to the railing – there was nobody here, Bitrani or Calenyena, to make fun of him for being cautious. He had never quite gotten used to the way that even Taikie seemed to throw caution to the wind. Climbing up the side of the building! Like it was just a walk in the park!
Saydrie was used to being on the ground, and he was always a little uncertain when that changed.
He hurried as much as he dared down the path, one hand on the railing, looking ahead and not down to either side. If she wanted to catch up to him, she was going to have to do it from the side of the roof. And if she could do that, well, he was going to be impressed enough to stop and listen to her. There was a rumor that the Calenyena were part goat, but he had never really believed it until he had met Taikie.
Then it was time to duck back down, make sure he had the right building – once you got well within the buildings, they all looked different, but from the outside they were built to be very similar. The class buildings had been constructed all at once, he’d read, but then each House had taken care of the insides. That meant that the Engineering building looked much more planned out, for instance, while the Martial one had a lot of wide open spaces and the Textiles class building was hung all over with tapestries.
He was in the right one today. He had just enough time to look around himself and make sure there was nobody following him, nobody coming through the door, nobody watching him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but that didn’t always stop people.
Then he stepped from the roof passageway into the main hallway to hurry to class.