I had nearly forgotten about my letter from the Academie when Professor Crumpadon showed up.
It was my little sister that told me someone had come to see me. I found my visitor in the kitchen chatting with mother, while two of my little brothers were trying to play catch-me-if-you-can under the rungs of his chair. He was laughing and snatching at them, missing on purpose, and sending them into wild giggles of their own.
“Hullo, Tomas,” he said, turning a bright smile on me. “My name is Professor Crumpadon.” He had dark-brown eyes, a round, bald head, and his fine mage’s robes bulged over a very well-fed belly. “I wanted to talk to you about your application to the Academie. You were one of the top ranked candidates, you know.”
“I didn’t know,” I said.
“Your mother tells me you weren’t planning to go take the entrance exam.”
“No, I wasn’t,” I said. “It’s an awfully long ways.” My excuses were sounding quite feeble. “Mum can use me here at home.” One of the top ranked candidates? I had no idea. Was that true? That meant I had a chance to get in. “And then there’s Aspen.”
“Aspen?” The professor asked.
“My dragon. She’s molting right now. I can’t leave her.”
Professor wanted to see her, so I led him out back to her enclosure. I wished he could have seen her on a better day. Her scales were dull, even her eyes had lost their gleam. She rubbed herself against the enclosure fence, muttering miserably in her long throat.
“Hi Aspen,” I said. She stopped scratching to look at me reproachfully. I wanted to get her opinion of Professor Crumpadon, dragons are a very good judge of character, but she didn’t purr or hiss, just groaned and went back to rubbing her flank against the fence.
“What a magnificent creature,” Professor Crumpadon said. “I can see why you wouldn’t want to leave her. Have you thought about bringing her with you?”
“Bringing her with me?” I asked.
“We could put her in a weir. There’s a fine one not far from campus.”
Could never afford it, I thought. “I don’t think she’ll like it much,” is what I said.
“They’ll take good care of her,” Professor said. “And if you’re worried about the cost, I’d be willing to cover it while you’re preparing for the exam. You see, I have a preparation course for hopefuls to the Academie, and I’d like to invite you to enroll, free of charge. Transportation, your room and board, everything will be covered. And, in your case, I’ll even board your dragon for you.”
All I could do was stare. I couldn’t believe it. I might get to go to the Academie after all.
“Do you have any further objections to coming to the Academie with me?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “None at all.” I laughed and shook his hand. “Thank you, Professor!”
He laughed too. “Good. We’ll leave tomorrow.”
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