Dear readers, tonight with me is Kara Tanner, a recent graduate of the Magic Academy of Solyr. What follows is Scribemaster Tarano’s interview with Kara several days before her planned graduation.

The chaos that unfolded on Kara’s graduation day is still unclear to many, but we do know the academy came under attack, a number of students were injured, and that Kara and several of her friends (including an amnesic soldier treated for his wounds at the academy) disappeared. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

To start, Kara, I would like to congratulate you on your nomination as Speaker Supreme. You must have worked very hard to get here.

Thank you. I’m honored to be chosen, and will absolutely not make a wreck of my speech.

I’m certain you’ll do fine. To start, what do you most enjoy about your studies at Solyr?

Everything. Where else can you learn to set someone’s hair on fire and talk to the dead?

You set someone’s hair on fire?

Really? I honestly expected you to be more concerned about the other thing.

Well, you are a Glyphbinder. Soul glyphs are one aspect of your training, are they not?

Oh, right! This is an opportunity to promote Solyr to our patrons in Tarna. Five know I love promoting our academy!

If you could simply answer the questions as you would for someone outside Solyr?

Of course, Scribemaster. Forgive me. I’m practicing. For my speech.

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your studies at Solyr?

The variety. Every week offers new aspects of glyph magic that either complement or contradict what’s come before, but wielding the power of The Five Who Made the World is inspiring. The Five made literally everything … the world, the sky, us … so channeling their power? Nothing compares.

Now that we’re into advanced glyph combinations, I find the more esoteric mixes fascinating. A week ago we learned the proper Life glyphs to form ice sculptures based on glyphs of idea, and there’s been no shortage of gorgeous and occasionally obscene ice sculptures popping up since.

Occasionally obscene?

Well, you taught us to create ice sculptures … with glyphs of idea. Look, I’m eighteen, and many of my peers are as well, but I imagine girls mature faster than boys. If I come across one more ice peni—

Why don’t you tell us more about your particular school! What’s it like to be a Glyphbinder?

Challenging. We teach Firebrands, Lifewardens, Soulmages and others, but Glyphbinders learn tricks from them all. Every school is scribed differently, and remembering how the lines work is a chore.

I won’t horrify you with what happens when you scribe Rannos the Wolf on a squirrel and accidentally use a Firebrand’s blood lines, but it’s not a mistake anyone makes twice. You never forget the smell.

But you have time to do more than study, yes? Do you have many friends?

Many? No. Friends? Oh yes.

What can you tell me about them?

Well that’s an opportunity I never expected. You plan to send a copy of this interview to all of our families, right?

Every family in the graduating class will receive a copy of our graduation materials.

That’s wonderful! So, we’ll start with Byn. He and I grew up together, and he’s actually less mature today than when we were kids. He got lost in the woods for two days because it was too cloudy to see the sun. A horse kicked him in the face once, and he honestly thinks it made him more attractive.

A horse kicked him in the face?

Well, more of a graze. The point was, it was funny.

And Byn’s school?

If I must. Byn’s a Beastruler, one who uses blood glyphs to direct and influence animals, and there’s endless fun to be had when you can convince a cart horse to dance a jig, or send a family of finches to poop on a very specific house. Not that either of us have ever done that! We … researched it.

As for Sera? She could excel at any school in this academy, yet from the moment she learned she had pure blood, she refused any school but Bloodmender. They specialize in transfusing small amounts of their own blood into others to heal their wounds and ills. It’s neither pleasant nor easy, but once Sera knew she could help people, she refused to do anything else. Her kind nature is what I love about her.

Also, fair warning. She and Byn have been dating for … three years now? … so they can be sickeningly adorable in public.

I should clarify that while we allow students to date, we discourage public displays of affection.

Oh, there’s no kissing! They just hold hands. And go hiking together. And sometimes Byn does this thing where he chases her around and pretends to be a wolf—

Let’s move back to details about the academy, shall we?

There was absolutely no kissing.

What are your goals after graduation?

I … curing my mother. She’s taken ill, and every physician we’ve talked to has suggested she doesn’t have much longer to live. They don’t even know what’s wrong with her, but they aren’t mages. I am.

The Five wouldn’t have gifted me mage blood if they didn’t mean for me to use it. Mom’s worked her whole life so I could study at Solyr, supporting us, so I’m going to find a way to save her. Count on it.

I’m very sorry to hear about her illness, and I hope your mother lives a long, healthy life.

Thank you, Scribemaster. That’s kind of you.

It sounds like you and your mother are very close. Any cherished memories?

The sailing trip we took just before my twelfth birthday. We must have sailed halfway to Jarel before we turned around, and it was the most time we’d spent together in a year. I’d always known she was strong, but watching Mom sail and shoot and hunt, and seeing how impossibly good she was at all of it … it reminded me what she gave up, to stay home, so she could earn the coin to send me to Solyr.

I’m not here to disappoint her, and I’m not here to let her die. We’ve got plenty of sailing trips ahead.

And what of your father? What does he do?

He’s a sailor.

What has your father taught you that’s helped you at Solyr?

If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not get into that.

You aren’t close with your father?

No. Is that part of our interview?

It need not be. Have I made you uncomfortable?

Oh, don’t fret about it. It’s just … let’s talk more about the academy, all right? Propagandize!

Would you mind a few questions of a personal nature? To endear you to our patrons?

Endear away. If something offends me, I’ll simply flip you on your head and show myself out.

That was a joke.

Why did you choose to become a mage?

The Elders have asked that before, and I’ve thought about it. I’d say it’s because I was born with the ability to do glyph magic, and that gives me a responsibility. The Five Provinces are at peace, now, but anyone can see unrest on the horizon. Maybe not another war, but disagreements? We have those.

So, let’s say I became a mage so I could solve the hard problems, peacefully if possible, and help our leaders save everyone from a great deal of trouble. The last thing we need is another Rain rebellion.

That’s proper propagandizing, isn’t it? All sorts of patriotic. Very inspiring.

The horrors of the All Province War are long behind us. You need not worry.

That is incredibly reassuring. Thank you. I’ll make sure not to do that.

You mentioned a desire to advise our leaders. You’re among the last students of Solyr still in competition for the post of royal apprentice, are you not?

Oh. Yes.

How do you feel about your chances?

They’re very good.

So none of the remaining contenders worry you?

I’d be a fool if I didn’t worry, but next week’s triptych duel is one I’m very much looking forward to. There’s a certain noble twit whose teeth I’d like to kick in. Metaphorically, of course!

Of course. Now, one final question. Is there anyone special in your life?

No! Wait. Someone actually suggested you ask that? What did we just say about public displays?

Senior Mender Landra suggested such a question might endear you to our younger patrons.

Ooh, this must be because of that night we left the shutters in the healing rooms open. And we had that awful storm. Please remind the Senior Mender that both I and Sera are very sorry about that.

I apologize if the question is too personal. Let’s move on.

There’s no need. There’s no one I’d consider special in that way, by choice. I simply don’t have time for it. I mean, I enjoy a summer dalliance as much as the next responsible young woman, but at the risk of sounding crass, boys my age can get confused if one doesn’t manage their expectations. I manage.

I have years to find a boy who interests me as much as magic, and when I do, he’ll know. Right now, I’m focused on my goal to become the next royal apprentice, and after that, on healing my mother.

There. That all sounds properly propagandic, doesn’t it?

I don’t believe that’s a word.

Are you absolutely certain? Perhaps you should check. We have an immense library.

Thank you, Initiate Tanner. That’s all we need for our graduation materials.

Thank you, Scribemaster. Please forgive my teasing. I do appreciate your time.

Also, would you mind if I took some cake?

T. Eric Bakutis is an award-winning author and game designer. His first fantasy trilogy, Tales of the Five Provinces, is complete, and Analog Science Fiction and Fact actually liked his grimsnark scifi thriller, Supremacy’s Shadow, which he happily admits is filled with violently explosive nonsense. You can also check out his cyberpunk police procedural, Loose Circuit, if you enjoy reading about homicidal professional gamers, waifu parlors, and the Russian mob. When not writing, he is probably in Skyrim VR.

You can find Kara on the pages of Glyphbinder, and the rest of the Tales of the Five Provinces series.

Join us next week to meet a student time-travelling from the 22nd century to the early 20th. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.