The Apprentice: Graduate Work, Part 1

Kyria’s story began here

Kyria woke early the next morning. She mentally surveyed herself before she rose, surprised that she felt no different from the day before, other than the aching throb in her bottom, of course.

But she was an apprentice now- the position she had sought for so many years was now hers. She had thought she would feel . . .something. More knowledgeable? More important perhaps? At the moment, all she felt was more sore and more tired. The anxiety of the council session had taken its toll, and it would be several days before she could recover entirely. If she recovered at all, she shuddered. THe thought of spending the next several years in the close company of Master Cyrus was far from comforting. She slipped into a trance as she lay in bed, hoping to build her strength before seeking him out to begin her training.

The light filtering through her window told her it was time to rise, and she slowly prepared herself to face the day before plodding up the winding stairs to Master Cyrus’s tower. Even in the bright morning light, the stairs were draped in shadows. The narrow windows provided only limited illumination and the passage lacked the magical lighting favoured elsewhere in the academy. Kyria didn’t think to question this odd feature; it suited Master Cyrus so fittingly that it seemed perfectly natural if extremely intimidating. Nor did she ever ask why Master Cyrus had chosen to live in this tower- a drafty and dank location in the oldest part of the academy- when the other masters had chosen quarters in the more recent additions. While all wizards were encouraged to foster simplicity in their surroundings, the newer quarters must appear luxurious in comparison to the cold stone of Cyrus’s tower.

Her legs ached from the climb well before she reached his door. ‘I’ll certainly become more fit physically being his apprentice,’ she thought to herself as she trudged around the final bend, pausing to catch her breath before she knocked on the heavy door. The dull sound of her knuckles on the thick wood could hardly have carried into the room beyond, but she nevertheless heard Master Cyrus’s reply clearly. “Come in,” he ordered.

Shouldering the door open, Kyria found herself standing on the threshold of a room that was hardly cosier than the stairs. The walls were the same grey stone, the windows the same arrow slits that had been rendered obsolete by the Great Treaty three centuries ago but had never been enlarged in the ensuing peace.

As if begrudgingly acknowledging the inadequacy of the window light, Master Cyrus had lit a small fire in the hearth that raised the ambient temperature to an uncomfortable warmth in the early summer morning. Despite the heat, Master Cyrus sat behind a sturdy desk near the fire wearing his typical thick black robes.

Kyria shifted uncomfortably as he continued to read the large and slightly mouldy book that dominated the desk. What was the protocol at this point? Was she supposed to announce her presence? But surely the knock had been sufficient. The academy rules had detailed, almost ritualistic procedures for the proper way for a student to greet and await instruction from a teacher. Kyria had become used to the gestures, the lines, and the bowing. She remembered that it had felt awkward for the first few days, but soon became just another part of her day, as natural as dressing in the morning.

The rules for relations between master and apprentice were decidedly vague, only stating that respect must be shown to the master at all times. Kyria shuffled her feet a bit, wondering if she should defer back to the greetings she had become used to and wishing that Master Cyrus would acknowledge her presence, wishing that he would simply tell her what was required.

She was about to clear her throat to speak when Master Cyrus looked up, pinning her in place with his gaze.

“You will report to the library. Meila has your instructions for the day,” he informed her before returning to his book. HIs tone was not unkind, but made it clear that he did not expect a reply.

After a moment’s hesitation, Kyria scampered away- only to return a few steps later to haul the forgotten door shut behind her before descending the stairs again. She climbed down in a daze. Her day had barely begun and yet this was now the second time that being an apprentice had failed to live up to her expectations. She wondered what it was that she had been expecting. More than this, she thought. A master and an apprentice were supposed to have a close relationship, and yet Master Cyrus had barely even glanced at her thus far, not counting her caning the previous night.

Perhaps he is simply busy today, she consoled herself. Besides, an apprentice wouldn’t always have glamourous work. If her master required assistance with research today, then she should be only too happy to help. Besides, she thought, spending a day in the library, away from Master Cyrus’s cold glare and hot quarters, was almost a pleasant treat.

However, spending a day with Meila was hardly more appealing, Kyria grimaced. Melia had been a student three years above Kyria. The masters had said the bookish student had potential. Kyria had almost admired her, until Meila had chosen to leave her studies with the rest of the women after her fifth year and join the library staff. The masters had been pleased- this was suitable, womanly work and an excellent profession for a star student. Kyria had been privately outraged. Was this the fate that awaited her as well? She wanted to do something with her magic, not spend her days buried in a stack of books. Although she was only in her second year, Kyria had vowed that she would be different. She would choose her own fate, not simply follow the prescribed paths the council had established for its students. Meila had become something of a symbol for her- a living, breathing example of what she most certainly would not become. Whenever she faced down a master or endured bullying from her fellow students, she thought of Meila quietly serving her time in her “chosen profession” in the library and assured herself that her struggle would be worthwhile.

Kyria entered the library and paused as she always did to take in the beauty of the place. The shelves soared overhead near the entrance, with impossibly narrow catwalks linking the upper levels. From her position below, she could barely make out the small desks tucked along the walls at intervals. She had loved the library when she first came to the academy, lingering far longer than was strictly necessary to complete her assignments. Even now, despite associating the place with failure, she still found it impressive and enticing on a subliminal level.

Taking a deep breath, she scanned the ground level for Meila, eventually finding her scuttling about an alcove with a small cart. As she approached, Meila looked up and offered her a warm smile.

“Excellent! You’re early. Just moment- let me put these away and I’ll get you started.” Meila bustled about the alcove reshelving the books before turning back to Kyria. “Come along, we’ll start up top,” she said cheerfully before leading Kyria to a corner staircase. Kyria’s legs protested the imposition of another climb so soon, but Kyria followed silently. She wasn’t about to complain about something as simple and untaxing as research, what would Master Cyrus think?

Meila stopped in front of a high self on the upper level, filled with books piled haphazardly on the shelves. Kyria glanced at the upper shelves, wondering wit a bit of trepidation how close some of the heavier volumes were to toppling down on whoever happened to be standing below. “This would be a good place for you to start,” Meila said, “let me know if you have any questions.”

Kyria tore her eyes from the precariously stacked books to throw a questioning look at Meila’s retreating form. “Start? Start what?” Kyria called after her.

“Start straightening the books,” Meila replied over her shoulder.

Shocked by the simple instruction, Kyria was unable to form her next question before Meila disappeared down the stairs. Straighten the books? What could Master Cyrus possibly want her to do that? How was this supposed to further her education as a wizard? As she mulled the situation over, her confusion was replaced with anger. She was tempted to give Meila a piece of her mind, but decided that wasn’t fair. Meila wasn’t responsible for her assignments, Master Cyrus was. He should know better than to squander her time on library work. It was positively irresponsible of him to neglect her education like this, she fumed as she began carefully removing books from the first shelf and restacking them in a more stable formation.

Was this punishment for her performance in the council chamber? No, Kyria thought, she had already been punished for that episode. If Master Cyrus wanted to cane her that was one thing. Although she felt above such petty punishments, she would submit if he insisted. At least they were over quickly. This was another matter entirely. Whatever she had done to anger him, it certainly wasn’t worth taking time away from her education to perform menial tasks.

Kyria struggled to contain her rage, but twice her shaking hands sent a tome tumbling over the railing. Each time Kyria was able to summon it back before it had fallen far enough to strike any of the patrons below, but on the second occasion Meila shot her an uncharacteristically icy warning look. Kyria smiled back semi-apologetically before reigning in her emotions for the end of the day, carefully burying them as they continued to smoulder.

By the time Meila released her from her work, Kyria was positively fuming. She barely managed a curt reply to Meila- a grunt bordering on rudeness- as she left the library. If Meila was bothered, it didn’t show in the friendly smile she gave Kyria as she wished her a good night and told her he she was looking forward to seeing her again the next day. Kyria didn’t have the heart to tell her that she would certainly not be returning anytime soon.

Kyria brushed the dust from her robes, surprisingly exhausted given that her work that day had not been particularly demanding neither physically nor mentally. She briefly considered simply returning to her quarters and putting off her visit to Master Cyrus until the morning. No, she decided, this simply could not wait. He had to know that she expected him to take a more active role as her master and that she was not going to allow him to simply use her apprenticeship as a means to channel her into library work. Steeling herself for the climb and confrontation, she set off for his tower.

Although she pounded on his door with all her might, the dull thuds she produced proved entirely unsatisfactory for her intention to communicate her frustration. Judging by the lack of response, they also seemed unsatisfactory for attracting her master’s attention. She shouldered the door open again, doing her best not to land in an undignified heap is it gave way.

Master Cyrus was sitting just as she had left him that morning, carefully studying the same book, though he had lit a few candles to supplement the fire as the sunlight had faded to a deep red. He looked up immediately this time, and did not look pleased.

Gathering her wits as best she could, she squared her shoulders to confront him. “Master Cyrus. . .Sir. . .” she began falteringly, taking a deep breath to steady herself before continuing, “I’ve come to discuss the assignment you set for me today.” He held her gaze, but did not reply.

Kyria kept going, worried that to stop for too long would give her time to lose her nerve in his cold stare. “This sort of thing, it just isn’t appropriate work for an apprentice, with all due respect, Sir. I must insist that as my master you provide the instruction I need to become a wizard. We have an arrangement, and I feel that you are not holding up your end of the bargain thus far. As my master, you really should be taking a direct role in my instruction, rather than leaving me to my own devices and assigning me servant’s work.”

“You want me to instruct you more directly?” It was phrased as a question, though Kyria knew better than to reply as his eyes flashed dangerously. “Come here,” he ordered, pushing his chair back from the desk.

Kyria approached him cautiously, scarcely believing her luck. She hadn’t truly expected to win this argument, and wondered what it was that he was about to teach her. Would he tell her what it was in this book that had held his attention all day? What was it that was so special about this tome to be worthy of a master magician’s attention? However, she had no more than glimpsed the oddly jagged writing covering the pages before Master Cyrus tipped her over his knee. Caught off-guard, she offered no resistance as he raised her robes. Only when his palm imparted a sharp slap to her behind did she realise what Master Cyrus’s personal instruction would entail on this occasion.

She bit her tongue as he continued to fuel the sting in her behind, feeling foolish for allowing herself to fall into this trap. Her determination to keep quiet through her chastisement was no match for Master Cyrus’s determination to break her down. Within a few minutes, she was bucking and kicking over his knee but still remained obstinately silent aside from the occasional grunt.

In the end, it was the stifling heat of Master Cyrus’s quarters that proved her undoing. He had lit a fire in her behind, and in the few short breaks he allowed her between series of spanks the warm air did nothing to sooth her. Her frenzied squirming proved exhausting in the heat, and, unable to maintain the energy required to attempt to evade his hand, she collapsed over his lap and began to sob.

Master Cyrus delivered a few particularly hard swats to drive home his victory as she cried. “Up!” he ordered. Kyria stood, slowly and stiffly, trying unsuccessfully to dry her tears before facing him as if this would hide her defeat.

“You will report to the kitchens tomorrow. Perhaps you will find work there to be more suitable for an apprentice,” Master Cyrus said as he surveyed his teary charge. “Return here in the evening, and we will determine if you require further private instruction.”

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