The school seemed nice enough from the outside. It was on Wash-River Street, very close by. If we were going to be in the city for a few moons, Ili should get the advantage of more education.
It was easy walking distance, one reason I chose to inquire about it to see if I wished to enrol my little brother for a time. It had boys in the yard, shrieking and yelling and running around, though it did seem to be an angrier noise than the schools in Haiu Menshir or Yeola-e. The yard seemed harder too, a pounded dirt rectangle, rigidly fenced.
I let myself in and found the office immediately at the front door, with the welcomist acting as gate keeper and guard behind an intimidating slab of desk. "Excuse me,” I asked him. “Who would I speak to about possibly enrolling my little brother in school here? For several moons at least."
The dragon guarding the sacred school space was an overly made up man, trying to look much younger than his age. "I'll see if Ser Farakan has a moment to speak to you..." There was a noticeable pause as he looked me up and down, his eyes catching on both the hair and the face jewelry. "If you would sit..."
I barely had time to put my posterior on the uncomfortable chair when the dragon was back. "He will see you now."
"Ser Farakan," I said and nodded politely as I came in. He did not rise to greet me. Not a good sign, I thought. He seemed an amiable sort of fellow though, with a pleasant enough round face. "My name is Sinimas Akam, and I am looking to enroll my little brother in some learning establishment."
"Good Day to you, young Ser," he replied, while sitting straighter in his desk, and lowering his hands out of sight. "Welcome to the Academy of the Illumination of Young Minds." He stood then, and began to pace and lecture; leaving me standing before his desk as though he had summoned me. "I am Ser Hikaras Farakan, owner and founder. This professional establishment offers the finest in education in academics and propriety available to the Fessas of the City Itself." It was amazing how I could hear the capital letters. He was reminding me, unfortunately, of my dekinas, Tobias.
"Truly? I am impressed." I managed to keep most of the sarcasm out of my tone. I shouldn't jump to conclusions, just because I took a sudden dislike to the Head Master of the School for no reason. I would have to see more. "What kind of curricula does your establishment offer for the age six to first threshold student?"
He blinked, as if mildly surprised that I would interrupt, then remembered to smile and sell. "For our smallest scholars we have a three bead program and a six bead program. My system of pedagogy for these most malleable students depends heavily upon instilling proper foundations for later accomplishments. Reading, beginning penmanship, memorization of laudable works and of course, comportment are covered in the three bead program, while the six bead day includes noon observances, a meal, another exercise break, and more comportment.
"And if the student in question can already read? He is currently reading "Tathanas's Eagles'."
"Well then surely he could use extra instruction on writing with a clear and graceful hand. Copperplate is a jewel of great worth in any field of endeavour. My calligraphy master teaches an exquisite fist."
Just what Ili needs... he'd spit in this man's eye inside a half-tenth. "Might I see your most estimable establishment, Ser?"
"But of course! Please, do follow me." He then turned to the outer office, and summoned the dragon. "Boras, take the young Ser upon a tour." He raised his hand as if to snap his fingers, but jerked to a stop and carefully clasped his hands behind his back before turning back. "I am sure that you will see that we have much to offer. My assistant will show you about and answer any....questions you might have." He began to turn away even before he finished speaking, then turned back when I spoke up again.
"Oh, Ser, I have two more questions for you, before I tour your charming school."
"My brother has been attending a Haian School. What are your opinions of those? And what are your policies regarding corporal punishment?" These two would tell me more than just my vague feelings about the place.
He reared back as if someone had thrust a turd under his nose. "Haian school? A school taught by...Ahheem. Hem. Well, we usually do not do any sort of placement testing, but your little brother sounds...well you mentioned that he is reading at an advanced level, perhaps an evaluation by one of our tutors would help us place him best. Yes. An evaluation, yes. Ahem, and what was your second question?"
Hmmm. "Your policy regarding corporal punishment? Oh, and is there a different curriculum for those who can pay silver as opposed to copper?"
"We do not have a different curricula per se, but there is always more available to those who are prepared to pay extra for additional lessons, tutoring, and of course we do have several different packages for the uniforms and meal plans." His eyes skittered across my head when he mentioned uniforms, but then he resolutely tried to ignore the colour. "We have a deluxe package for those who feel that their sons deserve more refined choices of fabric and diet."
I see. Fine cotton and cheap silk if you can get it. Beef for the paying student and who knows what meat, if any, to the others. I would lay chains on it.
"I pride myself on only hiring teachers who respond with properly gauged responses to juvenile misbehaviour and defiance. Any teacher who cannot control a class with no more than a standard yardstick has no place here, and I would never keep an instructor who loses control while administering discipline."
A Mahid corrector is smaller than a yardstick. And he is starting to sound very Mahid to me. I nodded. "Thank you for your time, Ser Farakan. You have been most gracious." Never let a Mahid know you can see through what they've said to what they really mean. Flogging with the rod is, it seems, allowed in this school. Or encouraged.
Boras led me through two empty classrooms, explaining that the young gentlemen were out in the yard obtaining physical exercise at the moment. The rows of desks were perfectly aligned, as were the books and papers upon them. A single pen lay just so across each desk. The drawings hung in a single line along one wall were grid-rendered copies of classic paintings, all the same.
"Our drafting teacher is excellent," my guide said when he saw me looking at them. I think Ili would go mad here. Perhaps I should see if I could steal a word or two with one or two of the students.
"Thank you for your time, Ser." I said to Boras. "I'll let myself out."
"Hey, boys." I didn't have my drum with me but I rapped my hands on the edge of one of the wooden row seats ringing the field. Two boys sat on one row two seats up. Everyone else was out running about to the instructor's calls. Shouts, really. The instructor had a yard-stick tucked under his arm like a long corrector. He used it occasionally to point, either at boys or where they were to go. "No joys? No toys?” I said, quietly. “Could you talk to me a moment?"
"Your hair is blue, mister, why is your hair blue?" That was the younger boy, who had a small wen on his face next to his left eye.
"'Cause I made it that way. I tried holding my breath long enough but that didn't work, so I dyed it."
That caught a furtive giggle from the two of them, which they hid behind behind dusty gloves, glancing at each other, then at the teacher on the field as if to make sure he hadn’t noticed them not paying perfect attention.
"You like going to school here? I'm thinking of putting my little brother here."
The half-smiles cut off and they stared at me without saying anything, glanced at each other, then away. Their faces had gone still. I knew that look, that ‘don’t let anything slip’ look. Ice Eyes would call it ‘dumb insolence’.
"That good, hmmm? Thanks." I rapped out out a rhythm on the stand they were sitting on. "Hey, hey teacher, preacher, beat-cher... harsh man, old man, cold man! Keep your words within your mouth and keep your teeth... got no relief...." I stopped and nodded at them.
One reached back to scratch his back, gingerly, along a line, as if to sooth a welt. I understand, lad. He whispered to his best friend, then asked, "Where's your drum?"
"Wasn't going to bring it talking to a Head Master. But everything's a drum and everyone is a drummer."
They grinned at each other, then both stomp out a long drum roll, and began to shove and squirm. “Intharas! Tathanas! Attend since you cannot participate!” The instructor called them to order.
"I'd better go before I get you in trouble." I raised a finger and ran it over the faint scar the fat guy's ring had left on my cheek. "I had a teacher like some. Bye, boys."
"Bye-r Dyer! I'm no liar!" It got another giggle that faded behind me. No, I don’t think Ili will have his mind illuminated here.