“I expected better from you, Tomas,” Professor Elzen said.
I didn’t say anything. I could feel the weariness right down to my bones. I had studied for his exams while working at the weir, a book open under a dull yellow lantern while I chanted the lines I was supposed to memorize to the rhythm of the shovel as I pushed mountains of dragon dung. I’d done my best, it wasn’t like I’d neglected my studies. There just wasn’t time.
“I’m sorry, sir,” I said.
“You realize that if these grades don’t improve, you will not be returning to the Academie next year.”
Not return. Go home. What a relief that would be, to not have to keep Aspen here in the city, but to take her back home. But then what about becoming a mage?
“Does this have something to do with dragons?” Professor Elzen asked.
I nodded. Professor Elzen knew, everyone knew. The scent of dragon was impossible to entirely remove, though I did my best not to reek of it. For some, it was a mark of distinction. But for me, it meant I wasn't putting my heart into my studies.
“I have a dragon,” I said. “I raised her from a hatchling, and I brought her here with me. She’s staying in the weir up the side of the mountain. But I can’t afford to keep her there unless I work.”
Professor Elzen nodded. “You will have to decide what it is you really want, then. Would you rather be a dragon keeper now, and never a mage, or would you rather become a mage now, and then perhaps a dragon keeper later.”
“I suppose,” I said, “that I wouldn’t want to waste my potential.”
Professor Elzen chuckled kindly, “Tomas, we are all of us an unfathomable well of untapped potential. No matter what course you choose, you could have chosen infinite others and excelled in any one of them. That is why you must decide what you want most. Becoming a dragon keeper is a respectable profession, and I would not criticize that choice. But you are here at the Academie, and to me that says that somewhere inside you is the desire to become a mage. If that’s what you really want, you will have to set some other things aside for a time.”
I have to sell Aspen, I thought.
No. How could I?
“Thank you, sir.” I stood up. “I’ll think about what you’ve said.”
“Good.” Professor Elzen stood up too and offered me his hand.
I left the building, turning my collar up against the bitter wind as a light snow began to whip across the campus.
read the next part
read the first part