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The Desert Crystals – Part 19: Newly Bespectacled

desert crystals2Part 19 – Newly Spectacled

“He’s done what?” The loud, sharp words shot out of the chancellor’s office and darted down the corridor, angrily bouncing from wall to wall. The echoes pounced upon a pair of timorous students who were just trying to find their teacher’s tutorial session, driving them back out of Meridional University’s infamous halls and into a room sub-divided by pens of Shrieking Mice; the startlement continued. The violent question paraded the halls for hours, leaving the faculty in no doubt whatsoever that Doctor Filiglee was engaged in some quiddity or other.

The subject was already the sole topic on the lips and tongue tips of the assorted professors, beast-wranglers and administrators whose hand-whispered voices haunted the halls. The chancellor was (of course) the last to hear the news, and none of her staff had taken the courageous decision to tell her. Whether the telling would have been a gloating confidence or a confidential aside would not now be known, though staff rooms would vibrate protestations of proper and professional interest. Mere gossip is below the academic. Anecdote, well that’s a form of evidence, though requiring additional scrutiny – a mention from a reliable source, why that’s practically a fact. And academics deal in facts. Also factions… Besides which, Professor Ryme would surely have left a note.

Sadly for the inevitable eavesdroppers, chancellor Filiglee’s door swung violently shut immediately afterwards. The ensuing conversation was known only to her, and to her secretary Trevel Wingworn, the fortunate recipient of that note from Guldwych Ryme.

“He’s supposed to be invigilating – ” Filiglee flicked through a stapled stack of papers on her tidy but very well filled desk, ” – good gjods – he’s supposed to be in the caterwauling anatomy examination!”

“I’ve asked Doctor Pelfing to step in, with luck he’ll keep the maulings to a reasonable level.”

“Well, good. So when did you get this letter then?” Filiglee pushed the offending missive back across the table. Trevel’s thin fingers received it and expertly unfolded it with one hand.

“It was sandwiched between last month’s Indulgence Minutes and this month’s issue of the Journals Biologinary. I would assume that is some comment in itself.”

“What does the man think he’s playing at? We’re halfway through term- he’s got responsibilities and classes to teach.” Filiglee snorted with annoyance and opened a desk drawer, apparently at random.

Trevel sighed and re-folded the letter. “As far as I can make out (in itself a feat of no mean scholarship) Ryme has taken umbrage at the attention afforded to young Traverstorm. He rails at length about the unfairness of it all. I believe it has been some time since Ryme has received such adulation.”

“Well it is a rather bewildering matter. The boy’s not much of a researcher, though he has a remarkable talent for capitalising on catastrophe. And the press do love him.”

“Indeed they do. The edition laid on top of the note is the one announcing Traverstorm’s rather surprising joint venture with Lord Corshorn.” Trevel spoke with an appropriately disapproving frown.

“Corshorn seems to be paying the lion’s share of the funding. In light of that I could hardly see any reason to prevent the venture. It’s costing the university little more than the cost of those new cups we had to get for the refectory after Traverstorm brought back those ghastly Friggle-Weeds. At least he’s not poking sticks into Home Burrows while he’s out in the field.”

“No indeed.”

“But still, I expected better of Ryme than to just run off.”

“Oh, well it’s not that exactly – he hasn’t resigned. He’s – well, he’s gone after Traverstorm.”

“He’s done what?” This time Filiglee’s bellow had nowhere to go.

“Yes, it’s here,” Trevel flipped the letter open again, “on the third page – after a page of complaining that his proposals were all turned down and he wasn’t getting to do the research he wanted, he finally gets around to that.”

“But we haven’t apportioned funds, there’s been no proposal. How on the two continents has he managed to follow him? Traverstorm left two weeks ago.”

“It’s not clear from this… babble quite how, or if he’s planning to do anything. Frankly it’s a bit of a mess. I do wonder if Ryme’s quite alright…”

“I think we’ll judge his mental state after we haul him in front of a disciplinary committee, Trevel. This is not how the university conducts her expeditions. Haring off after an airship. Whatever next?”

“His intentions seem somewhat suspect. He claims he’s off to ‘prove who’s the better scholar once and for all’ and that he’ll stop ‘that upstart Chaincow youngling if it’s the last thing I do’.” Trevel eyed the note sceptically and re-folded it again.

“I’m loathe to expend any further resources on this fool’s errand he’s bounded off on. I’d imagine Rosenhatch will actually offer his best chance of survival out in the field.”

“Or perhaps not – Traverstorm has a remarkable aptitude for being the only survivor of those expeditions, except for his cat and the Giant Centipede.” Trevel commented as he tucked Ryme’s letter back into his jacket pocket.

“What a quandary. A professor gone mad and charged off into the unknown on a self-appointed mission of revenge? I don’t think we have much option really Trevel. Clearly the university can’t commit to a third expeditionary force – that would be ridiculous. However, and it does pain me to say so, strike me as an excellent story for one of the journals, don’t you think?”

“I’ll drop into their offices later this afternoon then.”

As the door closed behind Trevel a single amused snort escaped the chancellor’s office and chased him down the corridor.
Next Week: Part 20 – Eye In The Sky

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