“No, you’ll have to try again, dear.” The old woman said.
“Ah! Ahh!” Growls of anger drifted from between clenched teeth.
Then the splintering of wood was heard.
Oritha had switched very quickly from pens to pencils. Alice frequently became frustrated, and when things were had gotten particularly foul, she often snapped them. Oritha had lost a somewhat expensive fountain pen to this, followed by profuse apology. Now it was clear that a small investment into a bulk order of one hundred inexpensive pencils was a wise decision. This girl had uncanny strength. At least, it would be uncanny if her arms and legs didn’t bulge so, proving such strength to be quite canny.
“Why am I having so really stupid!” Alice shouted, mashing the pencil tip into the table as if it were no stronger than a blade of grass.
“Dear, I have told you over and over. You are not stupid, you are just a slow learner. You are a natural at physical tasks, but not at mental ones.”
Then Oritha stopped and considered her statement. Upon reflection, she realized that it was not true. Recounting their years’ worth of lessons, Oritha concluded that Alice had never forgotten a thing she had learned. Her final examinations were identical in score to her earlier preparatory tests. It was as if information was encoded far more thoroughly into her mind.
“That is actually incorrect. You just learn differently than everyone else.”
“What is that supposed to mean? Drake said that that’s what teachers tell their stupid students to make them feel better.” Alice retorted.
“Drake is correct about that,” Oritha admitted, “I have told students such for those reasons before I retired.”
“Ah-ha!” Alice accused.
“What did I tell you about ‘ah-ha,’ Alice?” Oritha responded calmly?
“That, I should stop saying it because I always immediately get proven wrong?” Alice responded in what had once been Oritha’s own words.
“Yes. So, in most cases I was correct, in that some such students had successful futures outside of academia. No, I mean it in your case. Answer me this, what are the four major cities in Murdock? The ones to which the surrounding settlements and villages pay taxes, and from which they take rulings?”
Alice wasn’t sure what was happening, but she answered her teacher, “By population, Hannibal, M-Murdock, Baracus, and FACE. But FACE doesn’t have any proxy settlements.”
Oritha was impressed, but not surprised that Alice had remembered the point on FACE.
“And the Capital?”
“Is Murdock. That’s where from I have.”
“It is Murdock, isn’t it?” Alice asked, but then realized her syntax issue, “Oh, That’s where I am from!”
“Okay,” Oritha decided to give her a more difficult one.
It was something they had learned at the beginning. Alice had wanted to learn nearly everything about Murdock.
“What are the names of the members of the Royal Family?”
“Why are you asking me all this?”
“Do you not know?” Oritha asked, adding, “I will explain after, dear.”
“The wife of the King is called Gwenhime, she had no last name, and so she took his, Rhye. Then, from youngest to oldest is Chloe, Janna, Natasha and Kain are twins, Zealott, and Crystal Jealousy. We don’t know the King’s name, do we?”
“No we do not.” Oritha nodded, but then Alice continued.
“Right, but his nickname is Mars. He has two brothers, also unnamed, but called Pluto and Venus. Pluto has a wife called Honor who is thought to be a spirit, their children are called Gaul and Millie.”
Oritha was taken aback.
“I did not teach you any of that,” She said.
“No, I read about it. Drake gave me a book.” Alice said.
“Oh. Well, still this proves my point. Most students had forgotten most of the names after this much time had passed. And yet, you haven’t!” Oritha said proudly.
“What… What by that do are you saying?”
“Try again.” Oritha said once more.
Alice cleared her throat, and her mind, “What do you mean by that?”
“Consider the wood carver.” Oritha started.
Alice listened intently.
“He makes a sign with letters carved very shallow into it. It only takes a day to make it. The rains and the sands batter it, and in a few months, what happens?”
“The maybe sign it,” Alice saw Oritha’s look and tried again, “The sign maybe fades?”
“Right! But consider a second wood carver. This woman carves deep, meaningful letters into their board. It takes many days to complete, but when it is finished how long do you think it lasts?”
“Years!” Alice jumped up, causing the house to shudder.
“Please sit down. What have I told you about jumping? You are nearly two hundred pounds now, and only fifteen. I would not want you falling through the floor, dear.”
“Oh, sorry,” Alice sat, “but that’s me? I the second carver is what I will are to be?”
Her sentences got worse when she was excited or angry. Oritha gave her another look.
Alice sighed, “I am the second carver?”
Oritha nodded sagely. She reached back and removed her black hairpin, letting her long grey hair fall around her shoulders. Alice recognized this as the signal that class was nearly over.
“You have a very good memory for what you have learned, but in order to etch that memory, you have to carve deeper. It’s not that you have a sluggish mind, but rather a deliberate memory. Please, try to be patient with yourself as I have been patient with you.”
“Yes miss.” Alice nodded.
“Now, you have a good evening. Don’t let your father, sorry, your second father work you too hard. I don’t need you coming here sore again.”
It seemed that every time Alice had come to her house sore, her muscles had become noticeably larger. Oritha was almost tempted to start measuring her arm’s circumference.
That’s probably what I’ll teach tomorrow, she thought, circles.
It wasn’t just that. Alice had grown quite a bit since she had first arrived. Before, Alice had been an adorable little creature with a permanently joyful grimace. Now, that grimace was beginning to realize that there was more than one emotion. Alice was hitting adolescence.
There wasn’t a lot of information on Plainkind development, but Oritha was sure that this seemingly late development was quite on time. Alice had grown physically too. It seemed that, possibly reacting to the work, her shoulders had broadened. Oritha had read this somewhere, that the twin Y shaped spine of the Plainkind would broaden to adapt and increase strength and leverage.
Finally, Alice had become lanky. She wasn’t quite tall, but she had certainly grown. Over a cubit in fact! No longer was she small waist high girl, now she reached chest or shoulder height. Oritha had noted that Alice had more the physique of a young athletic man. Not the stocky build of a worker, but the lean, flexible build of a courier or a hunter.
Yes, she had a very masculine torso. But her face was still quite beautiful and feminine. Perhaps more so, now that she was starting to look less like an excited cherub and more like a high-spirited woman.
Soon, things will start culminating. Just one more chapter after this…