The Arpentors Academy
Part of the Golden Fog Academy series.
Someone wants to become an Arpentor.
I stopped toying with the black pen I’d taken from Dalwyn’s room and looked at my interlocutor once again. She appeared to be about forty years old; she was wearing a purple dress with golden embroideries, suggesting a certain level of refinement. Her most striking features, though, were her pure, light gray eyes. I couldn’t help but feel they granted her an intrinsic ability to stare at my soul, which was one of the reasons why I kept our visual encounters as brief as possible.
Her name was Zerua, and she was the one in charge here.
“So…” I recapped, staring at Dalwyn’s Z-encrusted pendant, “basically, Arpentors are your ambassadors, and their main purpose is to make sure nobody starts colonizing the worlds that haven’t managed to reach the Sea of Time on their own yet… am I getting it right?”
“Okay then… How do I become an Arpentor?”
She gave Dalwyn a long, impossibly intense stare, earning a brief sigh from him, before refocusing on me.
“This place is called the Arpentors academy for a reason,” she calmly explained. “Becoming one of my Arpentors requires passing a very thorough examination I call the Upward Movement. It tests many different skills, all of which are taught here – we have some of the best teachers the Sea of Time has to offer. Additionally, some of these skills, most of them related to specific Arpentor duties, aren’t taught anywhere else.”
In other words, the Arpentors academy had the monopole. Fair enough, considering Arpentors did work for Zerua.
“Should you decide to become an Arpentor,”, she added, “you’ll have to attend the academy for at least a thousand days, depending on your ability level.”
I examined my red nails. “Any entrance exam?”
She shrugged. “You already passed it, by reaching this room. Anybody who manages to meet me personally has the right to become one of my students.”
“Hey, Kit’,” Dalwyn called a young red-haired woman at the other end of the corridor we were in, “could you teach this rookie her way around the academy? I’ve got stuff to do elsewhere.”
“Can’t you take care of your babies? You’re the one who brought her here,” she teasingly remarked while coming our way. She looked in her early twenties; her deep green eyes and her enthusiastic gait gave her a very reassuring aura. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
I introduced myself while Dalwyn swiftly ran away; she smiled and offered me her left hand.
“The name’s Larousse,” she declared, “but everybody calls me Kitsune, or Kit’ for short. You’ll have to try and figure the ‘why’ out!”
I carefully nodded at that. No use in risking to provoke bad first impressions. “Are you a student here?”
“Not anymore,” she answered with a grin.
She then pointed at a bracelet she was wearing on her left hand; it had a Z-encrusted medallion. Just like Dalwyn’s pendant.
“That’s an Arpentor badge, bearing it proves my status. I graduated thirty four days ago!”
“By the way… which calendar does the academy use?”
“We don’t have one,” Larousse declared, earning a blank stare from me. “Calendars aren’t a neutral device, they always serve the interests of their creator… which is a problem Zerua didn’t want to deal with,” she added after a few seconds. “Plus, considering the academy was built in an artificial world devoid of any previous history, and the fact that it gathers people from all over the Sea of Time, choosing a preexisting calendar would have been a problem too.”
The academy was organized in an octahedral architecture; we were currently visiting its median floor. It was also bathed in a golden light, which looked like it was produced by the air itself. I hadn’t seen a single lamp since my arrival here yesterday. Practical.
Most of the classrooms Larousse showed me gave off an impression of intense comfort. Studying here was going to be a breeze.
“But then,” I resumed my previous interrogation between two amphitheaters, “how do you keep track of time? And what about the history of Arpentors?”
She smiled. “We count dates backwards from ‘today’, which is our reference. There’s a huge computer in the lower floors which helps us keep the tabs, and you can get an implant to mentally connect to it. Things actually become pretty simple once you’re used to the system, you won’t want to go back to your old calendar!”
I shrugged. For sure, I’d have to be convinced about that.