“… to be honest it was good research… but Koren, really, you should have warned him it wasn’t likely to get him his leaves,” Professor Boreanas was saying as I entered. He held his kaf cup out to have it refilled, along with a shot of fine Niah pehahka added quietly by the servants, waving the mouthpiece of the pipe with the other hand to emphasize his point.
Professor Mirminar, who happened to be facing Boreanas, and thus the door, had a mouthful of kaf when I came in and the servant closed the door quietly behind me. At least I assume he had a mouthful of something because he choked, tried not to spit his mouthful onto Boreanas in front of him, managed partially.
“Mirminar! What are you about? Sneezing all over me… like… that…” He turned as Faitzikran jerked his chin at me while a servant rescued the imperiled kaf cup and pounded upon Mirminar’s back. His voice faded.
“Ahem,” Ailadas coughed as he came around the suddenly nearly frozen little tableau. “Minis, how nice of you to join us.” He had a fiendish twinkle in his eye as he came over. I laid my critique scroll down.
“Plain kaf, just milk,” I said to the servant. “Thank you.” I turned to Ailadas. “Professor.” And then made my nod at the others as was proper. “Professors’ Laurelate and Emeritus. This was a very enlightening experience.”
Jarinidas, veteran of the paper cut and virulent pen circle, one that heavily overlapped the Fortunate Fifty's elegant word-knife fests, who stood half a pace back from everyone else and so had escaped the by-spray, nodded back at me. He actually seemed to be seeing the humour in the situation, but then he had the years of faculty gatherings, back-biting, and polite social congress while plotting the destruction of someone's idea in print and so was recovering fastest. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray, Elect," he said, indicating the table next to him. "Might I suggest the fruit sticky buns?”
I tried to make my face as neutral as possible when I came out of the hall, found Joras and the rest of my security waiting for me. I just shook my head and sat down to pull on my skates.
“Imperator-Elect!” The writer appeared at my elbow, noteboard and pen in his hands, as if materializing out of thin air. “This one understands your illustrious self is here to defend a thesis.”
I straightened, trying to keep my face composed, even with my skates half-laced. “Who am I speaking with?” He was a slight young man, whose hair was certainly longer than fessas but certainly not long enough to be solas, even if he had the muscle or height for it.
“Ah, pardon this one: Foranas Pellas, fessas, with the Pages, may it please your illustrious self.”
“Of course. Just Minis, please, Ser Pellas. I was indeed facing the professors of Arko.”
“And how did it go?” His pen was positively twitching his eagerness to write, over his noteboard, as he waited for me to answer. My security, already on their skates, settled back down to the chairs in the hallway, except Joras, doing his impression of not being there that the best of bodyguards do.
“My work was deemed insufficient, Ser Pellas.” He scribbled to keep up with me, his pen leaking slightly onto his gloves as he did. I took a deep breath. “Which is, perhaps a good thing.” Oh, how ashamed I felt of having to say that.
“Oh? How so?”
“I can be assured that the system of advancement in the Arkan University is working, without any fear of corruption. If my work was less than sufficient I should, quite rightly, be told the truth. My work should be safely judged on its own merit.”
“So it proved less than sufficient, then.” Did you have to repeat it?
“So the professors judged. They were quite concerned that I had published a portion of the paper in question with the Pages before submitting it for peer review. I certainly did that.”
“That was the only reason they denied you?”
“Oh no. That was only one of the reasons cited. If you like you may see their critique of my presentation.” The paper written up by the clerk was back in its tube, nicely rolled. I'd taken it out when Professor Boreanas wished to clarify one of his points and he and I talked about the problems of using Tzaniram's Translations of Post Iprian Wars Archaic Arkan.
I held it out to him. “I've read this but would like to have it back, after, please.”