When the clock chimed the hour, Lef and Turin bolted out of their chairs and into the halls. Ren was already gone. The physician's assistant reached out a hand and the little boy, who had eaten silently and happily, walked away with a wave. The boy seemed more confident than Lu had ever seen him before. Comfortable.
Henna stood and told Lu to follow her. She seemed to be in a more serious mood and only spoke here and there.
“We start the day with lessons.” she explained, “History, mythology, and then art. The master says we’ll learn the rest on our own, so we only have classes until noon. Then we can go out into the hills and play.” Excitement glittered in her eyes despite her tired early-morning state.
“What am I supposed to do during the lessons?” Lu had never been in any kind of school, though she had heard rich children talk about their lessons.
“Oh, just listen. She won't be expecting you to know any history, so you won't have to answer her questions.”
“Mistress Silver, the lady of the house. She teaches history and mythology. The master teaches the art classes. Sir Ayren is obsessed with colors.”
Lu didn't find the news surprising. Colors—especially blue—seemed to be his expertise.
“She’s Sir Ayren’s wife?”
“Yes. And she doesn't like to answer questions about herself, so if there's anything you want to know about her, ask me now.”
No questions came to mind, so Lu let the chance pass. Before Henna could say anything else, they turned through an open door and into the lesson room.
It was fairly large, about twice as big as Lu’s bedroom. It was separated into three sections, one for each subject Henna had mentioned. The history one had shelves of brown and black books, bigger than Lu had ever seen and packed with leather tomes. There didn't seem to be any other colors of books on the history shelves.
Lu’s eyes found the mythology section next, and she didn't want to look away once she had seen it. There were paintings and small tapestries on the walls, showing pictures of fabulously dressed men and women, but these ones didn't look real. They looked better than real, standing on mountaintops and in flowery fields of green waving grass. They all wore gold or silver fabric, whether for their dresses or their tunics. All of them had jewelry. Rings, necklaces, and metal circlets worn around their head were most common. Each piece of jewelry held a gem. Each person had a different color of jewel. Blue, black, green, white—the colors burst out of the pictures like living things. Aside from the pictures, there were sculptures and carvings sitting on shelves and in small cubbies. The images each told a vague kind of story, leaving Lu with a whimsical feeling of loneliness. Not a sad loneliness, but a confused kind. Like there were stories everyone knew except for her. Something—no, everything—about the different sculptures made Lu feel like she knew what they were. Nothing looked familiar, though. Nothing specific stuck out. Some of the sculptures weren't even people at all, just shapes.
Then Lu saw one tiny sculpture, sitting behind a larger one. And she knew who it was. Fin had told her all about him. He was the hero of all Fin’s tales.
“Henna, do we get to hear stories in mythology?”
Henna didn't answer. Then Lu heard her laugh from the other side of the room and turned to see her talking to Turin. She kept laughing between sentences, and he just nodded, looking like he was almost going to smile. His mouth never broke it's straight line though. Even from halfway across the room, his green eyes sparkled. Lef was sitting sideways on a chair in the history section, reading a book. Lu dimly wondered if he was bored. He looked completely absent, ignorant of the world around him. Was it a history book?
Lef suddenly looked directly at Lu, closing his book with one hand while he turned in his seat to face forward.
“You'd better sit down soon. Mistress Silver will be here any moment.”
Had he noticed her staring at him? He couldn't have. Lu moved across the room, letting the sculptures and pictures slide to the back of her mind. Picking the chair next to Lef, Lu felt some of her nervousness fade away.
As she sat, she looked at the cover of the book Lef had been reading. It was purple, not brown like the history books. That meant it was stories.
“What are you reading?” Lu pointed to the book. Lef hastily dropped to the floor under his chair.
“Just a book Turin said to read.”
Turin. Everything about Lef that Lu had learned so far was connected to Turin.
“Turin likes reading?”
Lef nodded. “He reads all the time. All kinds of books. He tells me some of the stories when we don't have other things to do.”
“What books do you like?”
Lef looked embarrassed.
“I haven't ever read a whole book before, actually…”
Neither had Lu. She and Fin had read from the signs and from papers other people had dropped. Fin had told stories, though, and talked about books, the wonderful stacks of paper that held tales of so many people and places he couldn't even remember all of them.
“Well, stories then. What kind of stories do you like?”
“All of them.” His gaze drifted away into imagining, leaving Lu behind.
Footsteps announced someone coming, and as soon as Lu turned around, Mistress Silver walked into the lesson room.
Her dress was black, her shoes were black, and her hair was a very dark brown. Her pale skin stood out against the color like stars in the sky, but not half as beautiful. Her serious face searched the room, smiling just a little when she found Lu. A slight glimmer entered her eyes, hinting at excitement.
Before Lu could scrutinize her any more, she walked across the room and clapped her hands. Henna and Turin, who had seen her arrive, hurried into their chairs.
Mistress Silver nodded and spoke.
“Yesterday we finished studying the reign of King Teral, who lived and died without doing anything important. The fact that we remember more of his failures than his successes shows how he ruled. Today however, we will begin our studies of the War of The Fallen.”
Mistress Silver pulled three large books from the shelves, dropping them on the table in the middle of the history section.
“These three books recount the first seven battles, starting with the first countryside assault.”
Lu listened as hard as she could to understand what was being said. She didn't know what was important to the story, so she tried to remember every word. The names, the places, times and dates, Mistress Silver laid the details one by one. The story was exciting and horrifying, and the experience of sitting in the lesson room was surreal to Lu. She had hardly even imagined being taught like this.
“I've said enough now,” Mistress Silver said, gesturing at the books she had chosen earlier. “Now you must search for more knowledge. Turin, Lu, Henna, grab one of these and try to find what the king did about the massacre. Henna, you will share a book with your brother. Lu and Turin, you get your own.”
Turin looked at Lu, confusion clear on his face.
“You can read?” Amazement coated his words. His green eyes were wide.
Lu just nodded. Standing, she stepped up to the table to get her book, but before she could grab it, Mistress Silver put her hand on the book. Silver rings with black stones clicked against the hardcover.
Lu looked up to meet the woman's eyes, nervousness filling her stomach. Silver's eyes were excited, wide and so dark.
“I knew it,” Mistress Silver hissed excitedly, “I knew the voices didn't lie about you.” Lu couldn't look away from the dark, startlingly deep eyes. They were beautiful in a dark, cold way. Like the darkness between the stars, it was empty. Empty like it held secrets.
Something in Lu's head whispered. She is hiding something. She hides everything.
The smile on Silver's lips was real, though. Happy. Excited, anyway.
“Child.” Silver gripped Lu’s wrist. “Listen to the master. His voices never lie about you.”
Eyes locked, Lu nodded. Mistress Silver continued.
“You can read.”
“And you love blue.”
“And child, did you have a friend on the streets? A man? A kind man who helped you?”
Lu froze. How did she know—how could she know? Lu stood paralysed, stiff. Through the slurred fog of shock, Lu knew her jaw was hanging open. She closed it. Swallowing the lump that had appeared in her throat, she tried to nod. Instead she stayed motionless, her mind rushing and stumbling and going in loops to nowhere.
“They never lie. Not about you.”
Tears came unbidden to Lu’s eyes, pouring out as she tried to blink them away. The woman knew about Fin. That wasn't right, she couldn't know. It wasn't fair. He wasn't here. Fin wasn't here, but Lu was and Silver was here and that was what mattered, not Fin. Not Fin who was gone.
Silver released her hold on Lu’s wrist, taking a step back.
“Child… I am sorry child.”
Lu grabbed the book and sat in her seat, surprising herself by not falling over. Through her tears, Lu opened the book and pretended to read. A tear dropped onto the page, then another a few seconds later.
Why did Silver have to know? How did the voices know about Lu?
“I'm sorry to interrupt the class.” Lu heard Sir Ayren say in the background. “I need to speak with—” He cut off. “Oh. Oh dear. Lu, are you alright?”
Lu nodded, wiping the tears out of her eyes to see sir Ayren standing in the doorway, confused shock in his features. Walking to where Lu sat, he put an arm around her shoulders, sighing with distress.
“Lu, what's wrong?”
Lu couldn't answer. Water filled her eyes again, blurring sir Ayren and the room and the world.
“Come,” he said softly, “let's talk alone.” Standing, he gently ushered Lu out of the lesson room. Lu let him guide her away from the books, and Mistress Silver, and questions and pain.
Author Notes: Personally, I love this section. It's so much of what I want this story to be.
I have a goal now. I'll only post the next section once this one has four reviews. If that takes too long, I will continue uploading, but I really want to hear what people think. This might sound flat out weird, and if it does, I'm sorry.