Why does everything always come down to math?
Tharash was more than fed up with the endless lists of abstract numbers and symbols. The study of Wizardry had been nothing but a bore. He had hoped to learn the exciting secrets of Nevarran Fire, Blastprisms and Stormrods. Apparently, the entire purpose of wizardry was to translate any possible event in the world into a mathematical equation. Such as the one written on the screen right now. Supposedly, it described a relation between distance, walking speed and time in the academy.
He groaned audibly as Master Telaios added another variable to the equation, which interacted with two that were already part of it. He then reorganized it, as Tharash was still struggling to read and understand it.
Feeling utterly lost, he slowly raised his hand to ask. It was embarrassing to ask yet again, but he knew he would regret it at the examination if he did not.
“Yes, Tharash?” Master Telaios noticed his raised hand from the corner of his eye and turned towards his student, long white beard swinging from the sudden turn.
“I’m sorry Master, I understand the relation between time, distance and speed. But how did you calculate the delay caused when two classes meet in the hallway?”
Artes Telaios smiled at his student. It was typical of the boy to ask questions about the theory that he had not explained yet. It was a good habit, one that he should be more proud of. And the others more envious. Unfortunately, it was also typical of him to ask such questions when he did not comprehend the parts that were explained.
“That is a very good question. Does anyone have an idea?” he looked around the classroom.
His question was met by mixed response. Some hadn’t a clue, while a few others did develop a few thoughts on it, but hesitated too much to speak their minds. Then there were some that simply waited for the answer to be provided. Eventually, one finger went into the air. One that often tried to reach the ceiling, being attached to one of his brightest students.
“If two groups meet, the space each group has effectively halves. I would guess their speed is more or less halved, too. It depends on the size of each group, though. As well as whether the two groups each keep to one side or try to go through each other.”
“Very good,” Telaios complimented. He added another formula to the screen. “This is a simple friction calculation. You can take a look at it, but it won’t be discussed until next class. Today, we’re going to focus on this,” he drew a circle around the formula he already had on the blackboard.
“So, what are we focusing on?” he asked the class.
“Navigation within the Academy,” most of his students answered.
“Indeed. To start, I want each of you to draw all the paths of one section of the Academy. The section that you know best.”
Tharash almost couldn’t believe it. No calculations? Today wasn’t going to be as bad as he thought. He started to draw the astronomy tower. It had nine floors, making it three levels high. There was no entrance at the ground floor, though. Only at the third, fourth and fifth floors. And the sixth, but it was always closed, since it led to the roof of the Academy.
The tower was attached to the Wizardry quarter of the academy, which he was currently in. As he was at the third floor, he drew a path from that level of the tower to his classroom. Then he started to fill in the surrounding classrooms and the paths automatically formed themselves between them. All he had to do was add the doors. Then he moved on to the other floors.
While drawing the fifth floor, he encountered an interesting situation. There was a ladder and a hatch, somewhere at a dead end. It being the fifth floor, it would have to lead to the roof. Possibly the attic, but that was highly unlikely, given the location.
“What about paths that are locked?” he asked Master Telaios.
“How can you be so certain there’s a path if the door is locked?” Telaios asked in return.
“It’s across the roof, so it’s visible from the astronomy tower,”
Telaios gave his young student a curious look. “If you are certain it’s there, then it is a path,” he concluded.
Telaios waited for the other students to finish their drawings and then instructed them towards the following assignment: “Now hand your map to the person sitting next to you. Do not tell him or her which quarter it is, because you all have to figure that out for yourself. Once you think you know which quarter it is, look deep in your memory for something that stands out in that quarter. Something that helps you orient yourself, helps you navigate. We call this a landmark. Draw this landmark.”
The map Tharash received was of the Spirit quarter. It was easily recognizable from the dragon shrine in the centre. It made his choice easy: the statue of two fighting dragons in that shrine.
It represented the conflict between the two Dragon-gods; Beliratan, the white, against Arasaihan, the black. Beliratan, being the good one, of course had the upper hand in the statue.
His drawing of it was crude, as one can expect from a child. Yet the winged figures were recognizable, and Tharash was happy with what he perceived to be a masterpiece.
He found the third assignment easy as well: “Now, hand both the drawing and the map to the person in front or behind you. He or she will have to determine the exact location of the drawing. Of course, then you should try to estimate the distance from that location to the door of this classroom. And then find the one who drew the original map. Hand everything you have to him or her.” Telaios explained.
This time he received a map of the Psyche quarter of the academy. Accompanying it was a drawing of a spiralling pattern. He knew this pattern to be on the floor of the round room in the quarter. He quickly sketched the fastest route from the class to the Psyche quarter. With the full route drawn, it wasn’t that hard to guess the distance.
He quickly retraced where the map should come from. He was sitting in the front left corner, so first one row behind him and then one to the right.
With the students once again exchanging their work, the teacher explained the final step: “Rate the perception of surroundings of the landmark drawer, and the navigational skills of the one that called the drawing’s location. And of course, you do so according to the formula,” Telaios tapped with his finger on the blackboard.
Tharash resisted the urge to groan again. Why did he need the damn formula? He could see just fine without it whether the others did a good job or not.
What he received was a drawing of one of the statues in the corridor: A wizard in a battle stance, wearing armoured robes and wielding a richly decorated longsword. He felt a sting of jealousy when he noticed the drawing was much better than his own.
The statue itself didn’t help either. Supposedly, this man was the greatest swordsman Nevarus had ever known, though he had perished in a blizzard: Epiathos Kaern. The man was also supposed to be his father, though he died before Tharash was old enough to remember him.
According to a neat handwriting, obviously a girl’s, the statue and the map both depicted the Gymnasium quarter of the academy. While he could see how the statue would have thrown her off guard, the layout of the Earth quarter was vastly different. Obviously, she had drawn her conclusions based more on the drawing than the map. He really didn’t need the stupid formula to see that she would easily get utterly lost. Probably relied others to find the way and get to class on time.
Yet, knowing he’d have to hand in the assignment at the end of class, he started to read the mess of symbols again in an effort to comprehend it. Having a rough idea of the distance to the Gymnasium quarter allowed him to start from the back. Slowly he started to grasp how it could actually be used to navigate.
He was just about finished when class was over. Everyone handed in their work and left the classroom. They would have philosophy as their last class today, which meant walking to the Spirit quarter of the academy.
They walked past the statue of the swordsman, which startled a girl. “Nope, it’s not in the Gymnasium,” Tharash said smug.
The girl turned around, curling, golden hair swinging through the air, and gave him a furious look for making her mistake public. He grimaced as soon as he recognized her: Eleana was the prettiest girl in his class, and according to the masters, also the smartest. And worst of all, they shared a home.
Her response was venomous: “At least I earn all my good grades, unlike a certain tiny, little brat that gets pitied on by the masters because he lost his mommy.”
The entire class laughed at him. He was not really short, but certainly below average in the class. His meager grades also garnered him little status, which meant that he was one of the bottom feeders in the society of Nevarran teenagers. And everyone wanted to get on Eleana’s good side, either for her looks or her brains.