She sat up suddenly, and enlarged the picture she’d accidentally wound up on.
Madam Haig, her husband, Minister Igly, two children, and the minister’s assigned princess.
. . . Jues.
She enlarged it further. Same eyes, cheek bones, damn that was almost a century ago, chin and jawline. One Damn me. That is Professor Jues. I hadn’t realized she was ever an assigned Princess.
And suddenly I have a whopping great method shoved in my face.
Rael got up and hunted down the paper copy of “The Natural Child” and leafed through the front matter . . . Dedicated to my dear friend, J, without whom this book would never have been organized enough to publish. You know who you are, Love.
“Well . . . most wives hate their husband’s princesses. But there was that time the wife eloped with the princess . . .”
Rael considered the dedication. “But what the hell does that have to do with my two Purps? Just as well I have classes to teach. This is going to take some research. And thought. And reading.”
Help! I don’t want to read the whole dismal thing!
But it’s going to take careful handling. What the hell put Jues on a lifelong vendetta against Action Teamers?
She grabbed lunch, dressed in one of her “Professor suits” and headed for the Grand Lecture Hall. Where the students did not have their minds on magical theory.
“Professor Rael? Were any of Xen Wolfson’s children in that compass?”
“One. With three other students, a fellow from Interior, and three Warriors, including Isakson and Ra’d.”
“Then how did it get out of control!”
Rael sighed. “Apparently that wasn’t uncommon. And henceforth will happen only in a very remote area so they can have all the power explosions it takes to train the kids how to control that much power.”
“That old man called them Warrior Trainees. How many of those are there?”
“Fifteen who have potential. Mind you, one of the requirements for Warriors is experience, so none of these trainees, even if they meet all the other requirements, will be Warriors for another decade.”
Rael kept her professional face on. “As far as Magical Theory is concerned . . . I’ll try and wedge in a bit out how and why group merges work, and are so strong.”
And then in the Comet Fall Theory class, she was fielding even more questions.
“Yes, the Mage Compasses are just like our Compasses. They use more chants and symbolism—blood bindings—than ours but that’s just the frou-frou around the actual thing.”
And “No. Wizards are fiercely solitary. One may occasionally join in a compass, if needed, but they otherwise work alone.”
I wonder how Purps organize. Must be like Comet Fall, they have both the Wizard and Mage genes.
I wonder if two of them, like Ra’d and Ebsa, can merge and do more than I’d expect from a single one, or the two together?
And not count on the two I’ve detected being the only ones on the World, or even in the city.
She pulled her attention back to the class. “However, getting back to the Witches’ ability to tap Gravity for power . . .”
When she got home, she pulled out the baby bars and opened them to a yawning Exzy, who was happy to “help” her make dinner. At least he didn’t eat much of it before she cooked it.
“Maybe meat loaf was a bad idea. But it tastes all right. Right?”
“Wite.” Exzy crammed another handful into his mouth. Red sauce everywhere.
He’ll probably be sick as a dog after eating raw meat. I’m a bad mother. Poor kid, what was I thinking?
But she looked at the happy mess and her heart melted. Nothing a shower won’t fix. And I’ll sleep in his room in case he is sick.
After cleanup, they went for a walk, and then watched the extra-large sunset from the office, and admired the bright stars as the sky darkened.
Then they curled up on the couch with a big book with beautiful watercolor pictures. And the silliest stories imaginable. “Once upon a time, in the Village of Ash . . .”
When Exzy fell asleep, she set the big book aside and picked up her reader. Madam Haig’s third marriage, business-like but shading into affection. Even his appointment to a high office and acquisition of an assigned Princess didn’t disturb that affection. Mainly because she was business-like herself, and had no intentions of having sex with her principle. Who quickly grew into a good friend.
The birth of her two sons, and vowing to never, ever pressure them when they weren’t ready, to love them without limits . . . Nannies fired when they tried to discipline the boys, her Princess buddy backing her up, babysitting, helping her deal with teething, hurting children.
The sweet easy children, the disastrous play dates with rougher, meaner children.
Motherly bias or fact? Look at Arno. Easy going, so few childhood peccadillos. Unlike the fiery Ryol, who made up for it. All right. I can see the mother of two nice boys not like the more boisterous kids. Heh. And blaming it on their strict raising and discipline, rather than personality differences.
Ah, here we go. The next disaster, pushed out of a swing, panic run to the hospital for a broken arm.
And then she sits down and starts writing a book on how to raise children that’s practically guaranteed to be a disaster for most personality types.
And not teaching them “pre-magic.”
Oh, they’d see “Aunt J” doing her meditations, and run and sit on either side of her, but there was no instruction, and when they got bored, they’d just jump up and run off.
“The way it should be.” Gently easing the children into calmness with no pressure.
Rael looked down at the redhead curled up against her. I remember the kids wanting to do every thing I did, sitting like that, and either getting fidgety or falling asleep. Did Raod drill them? Or just . . . what? They both turned out wonderful. And neither repressed nor wild and uncontrolled. Even Ryol, but then she got a few firm reprimands as needed. And a few swats to her well padded rear, come to that.
I need to spend time with Raod . . . if she’s speaking to me. Find out how she did it.
And now I’m going to have to read that wretched “Natural Child” and see exactly where it goes off the road. And what the heck do I do about it?
She put the reader aside, picked up Exzy and took him upstairs to bed.
Tomorrow I must figure out how to have a nice chat with Jues. She winced. Well, that may take some doing. And it shouldn’t feel too contrived. She’s a princess and she’ll pick up on that.
She crawled into bed and didn’t stir until Exzy woke up and called for her in the early hours. A diaper change, cup of hot cocoa for each of them and they both went back to sleep.
Maybe I can do this motherhood thing after all.
But Exzy was back in the bubble for the morning run, and the first four practices.
That had lots of spectators.
Chancellor Ejti, looking grim. Chancellor Adse, disapproving. Chancellor Urfa, with his diplomatic mask over humor, thank the One. And Department Head Eshy.
Well, at least one of the four isn’t in my chain of command, so to speak.
And they stayed and watched all four classes.
Student spectators came and went. Dawdling as they passed, to watch the not very spectacular knocking over of firewood standing on end. Of course being able to do it from three meters away was unusual for the younger students.
Fortunately only a few newsies. Probably hoping for fireworks.
After the last class galloped off to class or lunch, Rael walked over to the cluster of boss-types.
“Good morning.” A generic greeting and a nod to include them all.
Urfa grinned. “That’s a nice bunch of kids, Only about half what you started with?”
“Yes. Most of the freshmen got the basics they need to practice for a year or so. When they’ve matured, they can start learning the higher skills.
A snort from Adse. “That physical push is a higher skill. As is holding two shields at once. At least you’ve only had a single overload injury . . . so far.”
Ejti looked over the slope. “Well, I can’t say I’m sorry to see a lot of the old strength coming back. I’ve wondered where we went wrong, too many Multitude outcrosses? Too many Natives? All the thing our ancestors could do, that the younger generations were incapable of.”
Adse and Eshy looked at him, twin expressions of disbelief.
“There’s no need for Warroirs!” Adse huffed. “We need Magicfactors, truth matchesfor business and law enforcement! The Army can deal with anything out there! Not wild, uncontrolled Warriors from our darkest times!”
Eshy nodded . . . “Well, we need some advanced techniques, for XR. Although big guns work as well there, as well.”
Urfa shook his head. “We’ve been regularly encountering people of power. Comet Fall, Whirlpool, Zingos, and Cyborgs. And on Embassy we’ve met the Purps, the Arbolians, and all the Earth books that have had some genetic engineering, with a few magicians popping up now and then. We need to show a strong face to the Multiverse. Not aggressive or brutal, but no one to fool with. We need diplomacy, we need an army, and we need magic.”
Adse looked from the practice field, still showing scorch marks, and pits, to the Dorm. The upper two floors soot covered, the window glass cracked or missing altogether.
“But the Compass practices will be held elsewhere.” Rael kept her voice firm.
“Why did you bring those people here?” Ejti frowned down on her.
“Because Compass work is all male. I simply am not able to merge properly with men. Quite apart from feeling like I needed stronger, more experienced people to run it.” She glanced at the sooty building. “And apparently three experience Warriors were unable to contain it.”
“But what . . .”
“With no buildings and no people to worry about, apparently that doesn’t matter. Which I wish they’d mentioned before they started.” Rael frowned. “This is an unusually talented group of students. The younger ones are just ‘ordinarily’ strong, so this large of a group of powerful students will be hopefully rare.”