So, do you know about this stairway? It was the seventh or eighth phrasing Des had tried of the same question. They were already in their next class, and his collar was not talking to him.
This was tricky, because it was supposed to be a class on clairvoyance and other scrying.
Could you at least help me with this… “Could you give me a hand with this class?” he asked weakly. “I’ll stop asking about the other thing. I will. Just please help me with this class.”
“Desmond, is it?” Their teacher, a tall and impressive person with dark skin and short curly hair woven with wire the same silver as their collar, paused by Desmond’s desk.
“Des is fine. I – sorry. My collar is annoyed with me.”
“They often are after collar rapport class.” Professor Arandstoth sounded sympathetic. “I hear that if it’s handled poorly, it can be literally painful for the collar. Don’t worry too much if you can’t get through it today. Just practice the motions. You won’t be the only one, I assure you.”
“Thank you, Professor.” Desmond managed to sound passably polite, but he was staggered by her answer. If the class is bad enough that that’s common…
But his collar wasn’t talking to him. He sat back in his chair and considered the motions of scrying. In theory, he was supposed to focus his mind’s eye on the thing he was looking for – in this case, a still life arrangement under a box at the front of the room – and let the magic flow out, providing him with a vision of the proper thing.
But that involved letting the magic flow, which did not happen without asking the collar. And since the collar wasn’t talking to him… He focused his mind’s eye and thought about the box, its contours, the table under it, the way the box seemed to have slightly rounded corners…
An image of three red apples, a lemon, and two carrots appeared in the center of his mind, slightly superimposed by the box.
::You think very loudly,:: his collar informed him. ::Very loudly indeed.::
“Thank you,” he muttered, and noted what he had seen.
::You also ask questions you shouldn’t. You could get me in trouble, and, while you may not know how you can be punished yet, I do.::
“Then tell me to shut up?” he whispered. “I mean, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, it’s just that this place is more and more mysterious, and I didn’t think anything could be more mysterious than having a collar show up around my neck in the middle of the night.”
::Hssst, the teacher is coming. This place has much more mystery to come. I will tell you what I can, but you should push less and learn more.::
“Desmond? Are you on speaking terms with your collar once again?”
“I believe so. It is only a little annoyed with me,” Des offered.
“Very good. Tell me, no, show me with your hand flat on your desk, how many apples were in the box?”
He put three fingers out flat on his desk.
“Very good, very good. Talia. How many lemons?”
Some of them had got the answer, but it appeared that Des wasn’t the only one whose collar was a little annoyed – or maybe people were just having trouble.
“Well, I do hope this schedule isn’t going to hinder your learning in distance-seeing. Let’s talk a little bit about what this is useful for, shall we? And you can work on convincing your collars that the collar rapport class is not the worst thing in the world.” Professor Arandstoth made a face. “It’s really not, I assure you, but I can see how it would seem that way to some. So. Can someone suggest a way in which this power might be useful?”
Cataleb raised a hand. “Knowing if a safe is worth cracking?”
“Ahem. Yes, that’s a good start. Someone else? You’re… Talia, correct?”
“Knowing if the enemy is just over the ridge.” Talia made it sound like an adventure. Desmond wondered what she read in her spare time.
“Very good, yes. And… you, Jefshan?”
“Knowing what the weather is like on the other side of the mountain.” Jefshan very nearly shivered. Des took notes.
“Very good indeed.” Professor Arandstoth nodded. “All right, so then. If you can see that, how could you have used this power in dealing with the stairways up here?”
There was a low murmur that lasted only a minute or two. Thy looked around. Then Kayay cleared her throat. “Well, you could – maybe see how much further the stairs would go on? Except they’re magical, aren’t they? They stop when they’re ready to stop.”
“You could… some of them had traps?” Talia offered uncertainly. “So you could see if a step was a trap.”
“You could see who didn’t make it,” Cataleb pointed out. To the rising grumble, the little thief just got louder. “What?Come on, that’s what we all want to know. What happened to number twenty eight?”
“You could see what was in those twists and turns with the decisions?” Wesley cut in. “That’s after the stairs though.”
“Good thoughts, everyone. Yes, even Cataleb. Very good. now, list ten other uses for this power, and, while you’re at it, ask your collars for five more.”