“You are to be granted provisional admission.”
Anja let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, and anger at Ansgar Leifsson’s incongruous displeasure and relief at the Septumvirate’s decision fought a brief battle before the latter won out. “To me,” she said, “that sounds like good news.”
Ansgar grunted. “Three of us think we went too far, three of us think we didn’t go far enough, and one of us is—”
“—a firm believer in caution,” said another of the Septumvirate.
“A firm believer in half measures,” Ansgar retorted.
Anja felt the tension in the room. It reminded her of home—but now wasn’t the time for that, she reminded herself. “Provisional in what way?” she said.
For a moment, there was silence. The firm believer in caution cleared his throat and answered. “The exact nature of the control you have over the draug and your obvious raw potential suggest you may be dangerous. In—”
Another member of the Septumvirate interrupted. “Only if you’re willing to discard the last four years of theoretical study of—”
“Guesses on a lattice of assumptions,” the cautious one said. “To be perfectly honest, Anja Grevdarsdottir, as far as our archivist can tell your case is the first of its kind. Some of my colleagues hold the opinion that there is value in attempting to reason about the aspect of our world least governed by any logical set of rules, where I would say that the only way to be sure of things is trial, and safeguards must be taken against the inevitable error.”
Anja nodded, a neutral gesture to cover her growing wonder that a body such as this ever accomplished anything.
“Where was I,” the cautious one said to himself. “Ah, yes. In light of the uncertainty which undeniably—” a cheap shot, thought Anja “—surrounds your suitability as a mage, you are to be Restricted when outside the direct supervision of your masters.”
Anja could practically hear the capital letter. “Restricted?” she prompted.
“Hamstrung,” Ansgar said darkly. “You’ll be made to wear a talisman that will sever your access to magic.”
“For your own safety,” insisted the cautious one.
They descended into petty bickering. Anja tuned them out and turned things over in her mind. She was beginning to find the Septumvirate disagreeable company in general, but if she had to choose she admitted she would side with the cautious one. Better to be restrained—or Restricted, if they preferred—than to hurt bystanders. You’ve done enough of that, a part of her reminded her sharply. She drew her eyebrows together and silenced it, and letting her expression clear she addressed the Septumvirate. “I accept.”
Ansgar and the cautious one stopped their sniping—or more likely, Anja thought, put it off until later—and the former said, “Well, child, there was never any doubt of that.” His tone softened, and yet at the same time grew more officious. “Speaking for the Septumvirate, it is my great honor to welcome you to the Guild of Aeromancers.” There was a beat, and all seven of them pushed their hoods back at once. Every one but Ansgar wore looks of studied lack of feeling. Ansgar smiled. “As of this moment, you, by taking the mantle of the Aspirant, do agree to abide by the Code as laid out by the Council of the Guilds and Twelve Assembled, and further to dedicate yourself wholly and completely to the mastery of the magical arts.” The officiousness vanished, and took with it Anja’s sense that Ansgar was reciting from memory. It was replaced with a measure of warmth. “You don’t have to say anything, and in fact there’s nothing for you to say. You belong to the Guild now. You’ve chosen a path that is certainly difficult, but in the long run very rewarding. I look forward to watching your progress.”
Anja lowered her gaze deferentially. Ansgar leaned back in his chair, resting an elbow on the armrest and continuing. “For the time being we’ll commend you to the instruction of Mikel Skräskyddsling. Given it was he who started all this, there’s a pleasant symmetry in letting him continue it. There are a few matters you’ll need to attend to before you begin your studies in earnest, but we’ll allow Master Skräskyddsling to give you the details.”