Episode 1 Chapter 3

Theodore Grayweather’s hand trembled. He sat hunched over his desk with an ink quill hovering over the enrollment form. His heart pounded with excitement. Double checking the bank statement that he brought home that day, he verified for the tenth time that the numbers were correct. After working for years and saving every last coin he could, he had at last scrimped together enough money to attend the University.

Taking a deep breath, he got to work. Theodore went line by line and column by column, filling the application with writing so tight and precise it appeared to have been made by typewriter. When he was done he still had so much energy left over that he could not help but fill out the second application he picked up in case he made a mistake. He triple checked to make sure everything was in compliance with enrollment policy and then sealed the paperwork into a stamped envelope. After six years of patience, it felt as if the world would end if he failed to find a post office that very minute.

Theodore rushed across his garret apartment to get ready for work. Apart from the battered second-hand furniture, it would be barren if not for the tidy stacks of library books. Most of the volumes were study material for the entrance exam, but it was impossible for Theodore not to come home without five more textbooks than he intended when the world was so full of things to learn. He pulled one of his work suits from the wardrobe hanger and pinned back his long ash-brown hair in the mirror.

No one would guess at a glance that Theodore was a Grayweather, which pleased him. His father, when he was alive, was a mountain of a man with amber skin and slick black hair. At age twenty-two, Theodore was rail thin by comparison. Puberty made him tall but paid him no other favor. He remained slight, scrawny, angular, and pale, with eyeglasses masking bright green eyes. The only thing that betrayed his heritage was his damned nose, which was long and pointed and led people to ask if by some chance he were related to the Hero Champion.

None of that mattered now. Lance was dead, and the only thing standing in Theodore’s way from a life of study at the greatest university on the continent was the delivery of an envelope. Careful to navigate around his landlord’s eight cats while fixing his tie, he stepped out into the streets of Laien and hurried to the nearest post office.

“Inside city limits?” said the Post Master, who was a talking pigeon wearing a tiny hat. The whole building was an aviary, and smelled like a chicken coop. He watched the envelope balance on the scale. “Express delivery will cost eight thalers.”

Theodore had exact change in hand before he stepped through the door. A courier bird launched from a wall-mounted rail perch, snatched up the letter and zipped out the window. Theodore lingered to watch the letter disappear, wishing he could deliver it by hand but knowing there was no more time before work.

The 7:25AM trolley glided across the brickwork roadways of the capital city, propelled by magic. Theodore sat through his commute, watching the familiar slanted roofs, street lamps and monuments pass, when he was seized by a panic. Had he been too hasty? Did he really have enough money put aside after only six years? Something could go wrong. He might be injured. His apartment could catch fire. Monsters from the valley could break in and put a magic curse on him. The train of thought disturbed him so much he almost missed his stop. He resolved to review his budget the moment he got home to be sure he accounted for every possibility.

Theodore stepped off the trolley and made his way across the government plaza to climb the imposing steps of the Laien kingdom’s central downtown Bureaucracy Dome. There, on the tenth floor, he clocked in and entered a labyrinth of filing cabinets.

“Thank the Mother you’re here!” Randall Silverpin looked more disheveled than usual, with his shirt tail loose and his hair unkempt. “I don’t know what to do! There’s someone asking to look at the documents!”

Theodore blinked at him, and then glanced around at the filing cabinets surrounding them. “Well, yes. That’s what the records department is here for.”

“I know that!” Randall said in a hiss, looking over his shoulder. “I just don’t know where anything is! This woman just waltzed in and started asking for help! I have to keep telling her it will be just a few more minutes!” His shoulders slumped. “I wish she would go away.”

“What is she looking for?”

Relief washed over his co-worker’s face. “Floor plans for the king’s castle.”

“Does she have clearance to look at that?” Theodore said.

“She’s the Governor’s secretary! Of course she does!”

Theodore made a beeline straight to the cabinet they needed. He fingered through the files, searching for the exact department code. “I can’t keep doing this for you. I’m leaving to start university soon. You need to memorize the filing system without me.”

“Not if they reject your application,” Randall said, hopeful. “Right?”

Snatching the blueprints, Theodore slammed the filing cabinet shut and swept toward the front desk. There, he found a prim but unremarkable woman waiting for them.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Theodore said.

“It’s fine.” She feigned a smile as she took the file from him. Her eyes focused on his nose, and Theodore dreaded the question that followed. “Pardon me, do you happen to be Mr. Grayweather?”

“Yeah he is,” Randall said. “But he doesn’t like talking about it.”

Theodore shot his subordinate an icy look. “My name is Theodore Grayweather. What of it?”

 “I have something for you, from the Governor,” she said.

“If you need something filed, it needs to go through acquisitions and claims first.”

“Nothing like that.” She offered him a piece of paper. “Here.”

Feeling uneasy, Theodore took the parchment from her and unfolded it. His hand trembled as he read. In one moment all his plans for the future fell apart.

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