Francisca’s feet pounded the cobblestones, though her boots made little sound. Her dress dragged along the ground and she tried lifting up the snow-soaked skirts for a while before her thin arms were forced to drop them. She took a chance and dashed across one of the courtyards, noting that the snow was already melting and that one could see new growth in the thawing ground. Once back inside, she systematically peered into every room she passed. Empty. Empty. Empty. Hold on. She walked back.
Terilien was sitting in a chair pulled one of the benches. The gas lamps were turned off, but the soft light from the window provided enough illumination. His feet looked raw and dirty and he had also replaced the beads in his hair. A beaker was held in his slender fingers and he seemed to be totally absorbed. Francisca stormed up to him, tossing her pointed hat onto one of the chairs.
“What on earth is wrong with you? Do you care about anything? I poured myself out to you! And when I think that I have finally gotten through those pointy ears of yours, you do this? But what should I have expected from you? After all, I already know-”
“No, you do not know.” Terilien looked up. “You do not know at all.”
Francisca was still steaming with rage, but before she could reply, Terilien spoke again.
“Do you know why I left my home?”
Her anger disappeared, and it was replaced with slight apprehension. “Th-they said…” She silently cursed the quaver in her in her voice, and started over. “They said that you killed someone.”
Terilien gave a mirthless bark of laughter. “No, but it is just as well.” He sighed. “My village had entrusted me with an important task. The very fate of my clan depended on me.” Putting the beaker down one the table, he balanced a nearby book on top of it. “It was a lot of pressure, but I could handle it. But one day it got to be too much.” He lifted the book again and dropped it.
The beaker shattered, sending fragments everywhere.
“Everything fell apart because of me. I hoped that by coming here I could find a way to pull myself back together.” He lifted the book off of the pieces and lifted one up, eyes thoughtful. “But it would not have the same strength, would it?”
Francisca looked at the fragment in his fingers and shook her head. “No.”
“I do not believe that, and neither do you. Spring is almost here, and that is a time of new beginnings. No matter what happens you can come back stronger than ever. Now come on,” she said, striding to the door, her long winter coat shedding a trail of frost.
“Where are you going?”
“We are going to retake that exam, and if you do not follow me right this instant, the next spell I do will be directed at you!”