Ephemera: Chapter 11

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What are you going to do? It’s not like you can just swim across.

You’ll never make it.

You couldn’t do it. No one can. 

They’d find you. Whatever you did, wherever you went… they’d find you.

Karl didn’t mean them that way, but his words had become a litany of reproachful disbelief, and Anders hated that. He hated the fear that hung behind it; the pale shadow of a frightened, chastened little boy in apprentice robes, lurking at the back of his friend’s eyes.

The thing was, he fully intended to do it. That was what Karl didn’t understand.  It was merely a matter of time… and time was, paradoxically, both the one thing that life in the Tower granted in abundance, and the first thing that they tried to take from you. Right from the beginning: grinding it down, minute by minute, until you stopped noticing its passing; they took it, and changed what it meant, and you didn’t even notice. He’d always said that. It was how they started to mess with your head.

Well, he wasn’t going to stick it. What did they expect him to do, wait around like an idiot for his Harrowing, then settle down and play the good little magey until he died? After all, Anders definitely wasn’t enchanter material. He was under no illusions about that. In fact, he could just imagine the horror with which the Circle would regard the idea of him being allowed to teach apprentices. No… there was nothing here for him. No career, no steady acceptance.

After his Harrowing—assuming he actually lasted that long, he thought ruefully—he could join a fraternity, and he knew there was no choice in which he’d pick, although he doubted it would do any good. All the Libertarians that Anders had met in the Tower were moderates, which was a nice way of saying ‘full of hot air’. Yes, they believed mages should have more freedom, and they were prepared to stand up and complain about the Chantry’s strictures, but no one ever actually did anything about it. He supposed, realistically, they couldn’t. Not yet, anyway. Not with the stranglehold the Aequitarians and the Loyalists had on the council of senior enchanters, at least in Ferelden.

He and Karl had talked about it quite a lot, up until a few months ago, when Karl had got annoyed and said there was no point trying to talk politics with Anders. All he’d said was that, if the Aequitarians ever broke with the Loyalists and sided with the Libertarians, it could mean the whole College’s balance of power shifting… a new dawn for mages.

Karl had said that would never happen—not in Ferelden, anyway, and definitely not in Orlais. Nevarra was a law unto itself, though the Chantry was still strong there, and the Free Marches’ Circles were too conservative to allow more votes for freedom, especially when all their councils cared about was keeping political stability. Apparently, in Starkhaven, the ruling clan had incredibly strong ties to the Chantry, and Tantervale was little better. Besides, even if the College of Magi ever did table a motion for autonomy, the Divine was hardly likely to just agree to it.

Anders hated it when Karl talked like that. It was as if he was laying out all the reasons that the Circle was untenable—all the reasons that convinced Anders he physically couldn’t live like this, in this mockery of security and imprisonment—and then he had the gall to get angry when the topic of escape came up.

Karl went the same way with it every time; repeating all those well-worn words about why it was a bad idea, how it could never work, and why Anders shouldn’t even be talking about it, and it was like he couldn’t hear how much he sounded like one of them.

They argued over it, from time to time, and Karl would get frustrated and say he was only cross because he didn’t want to see Anders get hurt, and that was so stupid! It was as if he didn’t understand how wrong it all felt, how oppressive and choking: all this, all the time. The darkness and the closeness of other people, the unremitting intrusiveness, and the suspicion and the pointless bloody rules… and he probably didn’t feel it, did he? He didn’t see it, because he’d been here too long. It was too late for him. They were in his head. They owned him, even when he was saying he believed the system was wrong, and the thing that terrified Anders most of all—far more than demons, or templar swords, or the blazingly judgemental glare of the Chantry, which always seemed to tell him he was a monster—was that he’d end up like that too. One day, he’d wake up, and he’d still be talking about freedom and change, but inside he’d be tame, and all his words would just be a thin veneer over the fact he didn’t know any other life, and he was too scared to leave.

He would rather have died than let that happen, but he couldn’t say it to Karl, because that would have meant admitting what he really thought, and Anders had absolutely no wish to hurt him like that, however frustrated he got with his friend.

It was so much easier just to hide it all, and not talk about it, except at that safe level of make-believe, with silly fantasies about running away and making a life on the road, or in some far-off place full of perfect dreams. Sometimes, when Anders wanted to play those games, he’d see Karl’s face getting all tight, and it seemed better just to stop talking completely, and restrict themselves to the communication of bodies.

That was all right, though. Touching Karl—kissing him, fucking him, finding new ways and new places to eke pleasure and excitement out of life—was one of the few things that felt worthwhile.

Anders still thought about it, though. His plans might have been a little half-hearted—at least for the length of time that Karl kept him distracted—but they were still there. He was never just going to sit back and accept it, never let them win. He couldn’t.

So, he planned. He did it quietly, in his own head, where they couldn’t touch him, and he took hold of the problems and the possibilities, and turned them around and around until he saw little chinks in them that would lead to solutions, like light glancing off a prism. In his free periods—when they didn’t coincide with Karl’s—Anders would walk around the Tower. Most of the other apprentices his age spent their spare time studying or gossiping in the common rooms, but he prowled his prison, learning the stones, the short cuts, the very fabric of the place, well enough to find his way around it blindfolded. He walked, and watched, and learned which templars dozed on guard duty, and which side rooms and store cupboards they knew the apprentices used as illicit trysting or meeting places, and which ones they just hadn’t discovered yet. He found the quickest routes from east to west and north to south through the Tower’s heart, and learned which doors were always locked, and which ones the Tranquil left open when they were drifting between corridors, cleaning or stock-taking, or moving things around.

The lower basement levels were a good way out, Anders decided. There were important, heavily fortified things down there, like the repository where all the really old stuff from the Tower’s days as an Avvar, and then Tevinter, fortress was stored… and of course the phylactery chamber. That gave him some sleepless nights. Oh, to get at that little vial! It was too complicated, though. All that messing around with keys and guards—word had it the chamber could only be opened by the Knight-Commander and the First Enchanter together—and then having to get out undetected… it would mean needing help, and Anders didn’t want to involve anyone else. This was his freedom, and his plan, and he wasn’t taking responsibility for anybody who wasn’t him.

He didn’t trust anyone that much. Maybe not even Karl.

Still, the phylactery chamber and the repository weren’t the only things down there. There were the storage chambers and tunnels cut right back into the living rock—as he’d discovered during his week spent assisting the Tranquil, which he never wanted to think about ever, ever again—and there were service passages, and then all the mundane bits of the Tower and their attendant storerooms: gardens, kitchens, laundry facilities and the rest of it.

There had to be a way. There was probably a lot more than one way. Not being noticed was the key… getting himself tucked away down there somehow, so no one noticed one more body slipping out of some unguarded side door. From there, it was only the lake that was an issue, and there were boats that crossed that a couple of times a week.

However, as experience had taught him, he would need to learn how to blend in better. The problem was in familiarity. The same sets of people usually made deliveries to and from the tower, and he’d be spotted at once if he just tried to tag along with the butcher’s lads. No… it would take something more creative than that.

Anders briefly considered faking some really esoteric sort of illness—the kind that would need medicine more than healing—so that he could be taken across in a boat by the very people he wanted to escape from. The elegance of the idea appealed to him, as did the melodrama, but the details didn’t hold up to scrutiny. For a start, it was hard to fake sickness in a tower full of experienced healers and, even if he did pull it off, there was no guarantee they wouldn’t just shut him up in a room and leave him to die… or, worse, try and bring the medicine to him.

Damn. Apart from that, another very good plan. Ah, well. Back to the drawing board.

He took to spending as much time as he could down by the kitchens and the service halls, skulking in shadowed doorways and at the ends of corridors—just far enough away that the terrifying women with the beefy, floury arms wouldn’t shoo him out, waving and shouting like they were trying to scare geese or something—and watching who came and went. Anders reasoned that the turnover on servants had to be reasonably regular. After all, large kitchens fed on skinny little runts who turned spits, chopped vegetables, and fetched and carried for the aforementioned beefy-armed women… just the same way that the Tower itself fed on the wide-eyed little children poured in through its doors. If he could time it just right—just after the new hirelings were brought in, perhaps—maybe no one would know he didn’t fit in. All he’d need to do would be to steal a set of clothes and find something large and heavy to carry, like a grain sack, which he could hide behind.

It might work. It probably wouldn’t… but it might.

Failing that, Anders suspected his best alternative was slipping out in the dead of night, when all good little apprentices should be in their beds, and trying to swim across the lake. The first glimmer of that as a plan did appeal: the inky water, the thin, sharp slices of moonlight silvering his head as he cut silently through the cold and the dark… but there were logistical problems. He’d need supplies, which would be hard to carry on him, and it wasn’t as if the templars’ patrols didn’t take in the grounds, even in the small hours, and someone splashing around down on the shore would probably attract attention. And, as Karl had so annoyingly pointed out, Anders wasn’t exactly an experienced swimmer to begin with.

That point irked him, and he began to look increasingly at the lake as another oppression. It was always there, every time he snatched a glance from a window, or on the rare opportunities they were escorted outside for their exercise periods. It was there, mirroring the endless expanse of the sky, and it was everything that meant freedom and boundless space, and yet it was also hedging him in, an insurmountable barrier that he began to hate the way he hated so much about the Tower, and the enchanters, and… and just everything.

Just as, before, he’d strayed to every window and every gleam of sky, Anders began to shy from glimpses of the outside. He started to take his walks deeper and deeper into the Tower’s belly, down among the lower levels, where all the apprentice stories of ghosts and monsters concealed in the Pits were based. Some days, he stuck to the central spiral of rooms at the building’s core: the chapel, and the inventory office, and the crowded corridors that ran off along the potions and alchemical laboratories, where the long, curved hallways always smelled of brass polish and herbs.

Karl didn’t come too. He was busy. Karl was always busy: studying in the library, or taking extra classes, or attending open lectures and seminars, or even going to the bloody boring inter-fraternity debates, where wizened, bearded enchanters and spotty little new mages in their first terms would take turns to waffle on in rhetorical circles.

It was mind-numbing. Anders preferred to stay well away. Sometimes, he preferred to stay well away from the Tower’s other enforced gatherings, too… he skipped study periods, assemblies, and occasionally even meals, which was how he came, one evening, to be mooching along the corridor not far from the chapel, while most of the Tower should have been present at dinner.

There was another visiting enchanter being celebrated. A botanist from Antiva, apparently, who had an accent so thick that no one could understand her lectures. Karl had said they were very interesting, all the same, but Anders had been annoyed with him at the time, and said he thought everything was interesting, and Karl had just grinned and said what was wrong with that… and that hadn’t helped Anders’ mood at all.

So, he’d thought ‘sod it’ and hung back in the dorm when everyone else went down for the meal—he’d told the templar on escort duty he had the runs, and hopped about a bit, claiming to be desperate for the privy, and she’d finally left him alone—and now he was just sloping along, hands crunched up in his sleeves, with his slippers scraping the flagstones.

Dusky, bluish light filtered dimly through the high, tiny windows, but he didn’t bother to look up and watch the dust motes dance in it, or to watch the shadows the early-lit torches cast on the venerable stone walls. He knew the tapestries and the statues by heart—every thread, every line, every curve and every stupid, bland inscription—and he knew every crack and colouration in every bloody flagstone.

The corridor that circled around to the chapel’s side door was totally silent; the air itself seemed velvety and heavy, like a physical kind of quietness that could blanket everything. The only sounds were the gentle susurrations of Anders’ shoes and robes, and maybe the whisper of his own breathing… and the only thing that, tonight, kept him from wanting to rip his skin off and pull out his own eyeballs was the fact that Mr. Wiggums had chosen to keep him company on his walk.

The cat had been doing that more often recently. Anders was pathetically grateful for it. They’d been forging a bond of sorts: he’d save scraps of meat or fish from his dinner, and hide them in his pockets until he saw Wiggums next. He’d slip the treats to the boot-faced old mouser, and, in return, the cat would wolf them down, then glare at Anders accusingly and, perhaps, deign to headbutt him a few times and rub his wiry, thick body around his ankles. Occasionally, Anders was allowed a few seconds to stroke the cat’s flat, hard head, or tickle him behind the ears, until Mr. Wiggums got fed up, and half-heartedly tried to eat his fingers.

Once, the cat had happened upon him as he sat in an alcove close by the wine cellars—not too close: the booze was locked behind several heavy doors, naturally—and, having emerged from somewhere with a guilty expression, had hopped up onto the stone ledge beside Anders, and sat close by him for a long while, before getting back down to hack up a hairball.

Now, they walked together in companionable silence, Anders with his arms folded across his middle, hands buried in his sleeves and frown affixed to his face, and Wiggums with his ears at half-mast and tail straight up, the end slightly crooked.

Anders hadn’t meant to skirt so near the chapel. He didn’t even like the place. He was, he suspected, developing a really deep-seated aversion to everything about the Chantry. Karl said they meant well—the actual people; the sisters and the brothers and, anyway, many of them had been given up as children, just like mages were, so they had a lot more in common than you’d think—but that wasn’t the point.

It was their faith that Anders hated. The unshakeable peace they had from something so intangible, so… fragile. It made him suspicious.

Anders was fairly sure he couldn’t even call himself an Andrastean anymore, if he’d ever been one. Did he believe? He didn’t know. Not in the perfect, blameless Andraste whom all the statues depicted: she was an idea, not a real person. Maybe she’d never been a real person. The Fade was real enough—every mage knew that, just as they didn’t have the luxury of doubting the existence of demons—but that didn’t necessarily mean that everything in the Chant was true.

No, there were too many rules, too many constraints… and while the Chantry encouraged the faithful to be good and strive to regain the Maker’s favour, mages were left to believe that, however good they were, they were still cursed. Still incomplete. Still dangerous.

If we can never be as good as them, what’s the point in trying?

Anders drew to a halt near the chapel’s side door and glowered at the heavy, iron-bound wood. The decorative panels over the hinges and lock plate were worked with designs that incorporated Chantry symbols—the Maker’s Eye, the sunburst, the sword of mercy—and an etching that looked a bit like some sort of multi-petalled flower around the keyhole. He pulled a face at it, but the metal remained impassive.

Beyond the door, the chapel seemed unusually quiet… or almost quiet, anyway. It was the sort of still, gravid silence that sounded like someone trying not to make a noise, and that attracted Anders’ attention. He glanced down at Mr. Wiggums, noticing the way the cat’s ragged ears oscillated towards the heavy door. A look of vague disdain flickered across the feline features and, with one last rough shove up against Anders’ legs, the tom wound his way in a circle and then padded off down the corridor, tail held high.

Well, well. If even the cat doesn’t approve… this is probably something interesting!

He tiptoed forwards, listening intently. The muffled sounds of voices echoed within the chapel, but not the feminine murmurs of the sisters, or the mellifluous lilt of one of the lay brothers warming up before the evening service. It was too early for that, anyway, and everyone ought still to be at dinner; even the holiest cleric had to eat.

No, these were deep, male voices, purposefully hushed. The illicit thrill of eavesdropping slipped a grain of glee into Anders’ blood, and he grinned to himself. Lovers’ tryst, maybe?

Ooh, right there in the chapel? Dirty. I like it. I wonder if— nah, Karl’d never go for that. Or would he…? 

He crept closer to the doors, crouched down, and put his palms to the wood as he tried to peer through first the keyhole, and then the narrow gap beside the hinges, where the ancient wood had warped a little. Anders held his breath as he screwed up his eyes and tried to squint through the tiny crack. There was less than a quarter of an inch to see through, but at least he could hear what was going on much more clearly.

There were two templars inside the chapel, near the central platform that held the revered mother’s lectern, the marble Andraste with the outstretched hands, and the brazier that burned with the Eternal Flame. They must have been templars, Anders decided, even though they weren’t wearing their full armour. He recognised the soft grey tunics and wide-legged trousers they wore when they were off-duty and—like this pair of charmers—locked in some pantomime of penitence.

Templars prayed a lot. Far more so than people who were meant to have already received whatever holy benediction their initiations placed on them, in Anders’ opinion. They thought they were made holy, didn’t they? Something like that, he was sure… not that he was overly familiar with their rites of passage. As far as he knew, there was training—years of training, apparently, and education, not that the results of that were immediately obvious—and then the actual initiation and knighthood, which involved a lot of semi-mystical rot about vigils and prayer… and then the Chantry started dosing them with lyrium and putting them in charge of other people.

As far as Anders was concerned, this did not equate to a series of good ideas and, coupled with the continuance of all that praying, and all those frightfully restrictive vows (among several colourful additions to the publicised chastity, obedience, humility, and piety, some of the apprentices said that templars even forwent changing their underwear more than twice a week, but Anders had never heard this substantiated), it wasn’t surprising that so many of them were bastards.

Of course, he reflected, as he pressed closer to the wood, watching the two men kneeling side-by-side before Andraste’s image, if Karl had been here, he’d have said that templars were people too, and they weren’t all the same. Some were Chantry charity cases, given no option, and some joined simply for the academic opportunities. Yes, some thought mages were a blight on the world—a canker that needed to be controlled and thoroughly pruned—and some were sympathetic and supportive.

However, Karl wasn’t there, and Anders didn’t have to listen to his soft-option excuses. He smirked to himself as he considered the possibilities that observing unseen presented: a cloud of noxious stinking gas, fed through the keyhole, or maybe a little jolt of electricity… could he shoot it as far as the nearest templar’s backside? He wondered, and was starting to raise his hand to gauge the trajectory, when one of the templars—the slighter of the two, with fair hair and broad shoulders—broke his sub-voce mumble of the Chant to cry out with unnerving zeal.

“Ah!” The young man threw his head back, revealing a fresh, rosy face, eyes closed tight and brow pinched in a frown of concentration. He still had his hands clasped piously before him. “Ah… Lady! I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm… I shall endure!”

The other templar opened his eyes and frowned at his companion, who’d gone immediately back to a rambling mumble of disjointed bits of canticles and aphorisms, his mouth moving ceaselessly.

“Edven? Edven, are you all right?”

Anders shifted position, his crouch growing uncomfortable, though he was unwilling to leave his perch… not when things seemed to have the potential for amusement.

They’re all nutcases. Didn’t I say they were nutcases? Wish Karl was here. He’d have to admit I was right….

The fair-haired nutcase let his head loll back again, his lips slackening around the words as they grew louder. Anders was hardly an expert on the Chant—despite numerous sermons and enforced readings of the jolly, luridly illustrated books of concordance and affirmations that the sisters always managed to slip into the dorms—but even he could tell that the templar’s repetitions weren’t running correctly. They were mangled bits of different canticles, pulled out and stitched together the way people pulled a simplistic few words out of the Chant to illustrate one particular point they wanted to argue. Which was stupid, because the bloody thing was enormously long (Anders had heard it said that, in Orlais, they sang the entire thing at the cathedral, instead of the normal précis version, and it took weeks to get through. It sounded terrible.) and, anyway, it wasn’t like it was one coherent document. There were verses that had been stricken from the Chant, and new ones that had been inserted… it only meant what the Chantry wanted it to mean, didn’t it?

And the stars stood still,” the young templar cried, “the winds did quiet, and all animals of earth and air held their breath / And all was silent in prayer and thanks!

The other man looked up again, this time in distinct alarm. He didn’t seem much older—in fact, though he was broader than the first, his bulkiness seemed to come more from residual puppy fat than muscle—and his pale brown hair, cut short as the order demanded, had a slight curl to it that made him seem perpetually untidy. As he turned to his companion, Anders was able to make out a long, straight nose, and narrow dark eyes.

“Edven,” the templar whispered hoarsely, his hands unclenching tentatively, as if he wasn’t sure whether he was allowed to cease the attitude of prayer or not. “Edven, calm yourself….”

That evidently wasn’t going to do much good. The nutcase was rocking on his knees, his chant growing louder and faster, broken through with excitable imprecations.

“Ah, Lady! I hear her voice… her sweet music! Blessed are they who stand before / The corrupt and the wicked and do not falter. /  Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just. It is the Maker’s justice, this sweetness! Her holy light! Do you not feel it? Let Him take notice and shine upon thee, for thou has done His work on this day….

Anders bit his lip hard, stifling a giggle at having every ‘templars are barmy’ joke he’d ever made so conclusively supported.

The second templar had started looking mildly concerned. “Edven, perhaps we’ve prayed enough. I know what Ser Rylock said, but—”

“You don’t understand, Carrick!” Edven protested, rising up higher on his knees, his face turned to Andraste’s impassive stone countenance. “Why should I wish this to end? I feel her holy light! She speaks to me! Sings to me, in her mellifluous grace….”

His friend was looked seriously worried now. “Andraste sings for the Maker,” he began hesitantly. “She is His bride, set at His side in the heavens, that She may beg Him to turn His holy gaze back upon we who have yet to prove ourselves pure, and—”

“I hear her!” Edven all but shrieked, piercing the sanctimonious quiet of the chapel with his breathless awe. “I see her! And, oh, brother… she is so beautiful! Do you not see how her cheek blushes with the warmth of life? How her lips part as she breathes out words of love and hope? Plump and red as cherries! The sweetness of her breath is as honeyed wine… her eye is as topaz, glittering with warmth, and her brow a polished shell of purest white. Her hair glistens like gold! She beckons me, brother! Beckons me to her!”

Anders clamped both hands over his mouth and nose, trying to stifle his laughter without actually suffocating himself. Great hiccoughing spasms of hysteria clenched and twisted his ribs and stomach as his shoulders convulsed, and one uneven breath escaped him as Edven staggered to his feet, arms outstretched, and began to lumber towards the plain marble statue.

“I shall come to you, Lady! I am your supplicant, your most devoted servant! I come in love… such love as thou fill me with—as you fill all our hearts!”

“Edven! Um… Edven?”

Carrick stumbled awkwardly to his feet, scrambling after the other templar, who was now clambering up the platform, past the brazier, and towards the statue of the prophet, still spewing ragged bits of the Chant and interspersing them with hyperbolic—and, Anders had to admit, pretty damn sketchy—praise for Andraste’s womanly form.

Bloody dirty bastards, the lot of them… haven’t I always said? I always said….

Good grief, what does he intend to do now?

The light of the eternal flame, and the perpetual glimmerings of candles, painted delicate shadows on Edven’s tunic, turning his fair hair to burnished copper as, arms spread wide, he approached the statue with a look of wild, unfocused bliss on his face.

If Anders hadn’t been trying so hard not to laugh, he might have been afraid of that strength of zeal; it was the dangerous kind, that makes reality feel pale in comparison, and turns the world blurry at the edges, until only the pure white flame of a dream is enough to sustain the mind that birthed it.

Come to me, child, and I shall embrace you. / In my arms lies Eternity! She speaks to me!” Edven cried, his voice coloured with a bright, sharp kind of passion that suggested, whatever he was hearing, he was unlikely to be aware of anything else. “She is my Light, my Guide… O, that we shall know you, Lady! Lead me! Lead me unto my Maker!”

And, with that, he began clasping himself to the rigid marble draperies of Andraste’s graven gown, and running his hands across it like it was a real woman’s dress.

Anders shoved four half-curled fingers in his mouth, and tried not to let his mirth explode.

Maker’s cock… if he grabs her tits, I’m going to pass out….

Carrick was all but hopping from foot to foot now, his face a picture of appalled and desperate panic.

“Edven? Edven…! Oh, Maker’s breath…!”

It was clearly far too late for him to do anything for his friend. The boy was lost to a divine rapture, or spiritual frenzy, or… or maybe just the effect of all those odd vows, Anders thought.

Anyway, what did you call it when the junior templars started dry-humping statues of the Maker’s chosen prophet?

Edven was definitely going for it, in any case: he had his hands cupped to the statue’s cheeks, reached up to smear his lips against the marble bosom and throat, his body a constant snake of movement as he rubbed himself against what would—if she’d had any anatomy under the carved gown—have been Andraste’s thigh. Parts of the Chant still escaped him, together with a series of progressively more ecstatic cries that seemed to be shifting quickly from spiritual zeal to more earthly excitement.

Anders stopped breathing at that point, trying desperately to choke down the disbelieving laughter. Tears wet his cheeks, and his nose was running, and he wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t actually swallowed his own hand.

“My soul is a channel of Her love!” Edven yelped, pumping his hips.

“Oh… shit,” Carrick intoned, backing away from his now desperately writhing friend. “I… I’m going to go and get Ser Rylock. Or… or someone. Yes. I… I’ll be right back….”

He started towards the double doors, his face pale as death, and Anders almost swallowed his tongue in a combination of hysteria and panic. He lurched abruptly from the door, trying to straighten up while still convulsed with laughter, tears leaking from his creased-up eyes, and yet he knew he had to get out of here—he shouldn’t be here, anyway—before anyone noticed his presence.

The rattle of the door sounded, and he broke into a stumbling, still gulping with laughter that he could now hardly conceal. It burst from him in cackles and jolts as he pelted down the corridor, his snorts and giggles echoing off the high stone walls. He ran, and he didn’t stop until he made it to a small storage room about three doors down from one of the alchemy lecture rooms.

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