Walter stepped in and saw a fire burning in the fireplace. Someone certainly was living here. This sure wasn’t Archibal’s room, thought Walter, all the furniture was white, the dresser, the wardrobe, the nightstands, even the fainting couch and vanity. It was definitely a woman’s room. As Walter looked around he saw Cadi sitting next to the window looking out. She was dressed in a nightgown. She looked sad. It has been awhile since he had seen her. Not wanting to disturb her, he quietly turned back around. Archibal had been adamant that they shouldn’t inconvenience Cadi or go seeking her. She needed to rest for her training. Walter and Alden did not dare to disobey his orders. They feared his discountenance and Archibal made sure it was complied.
“Walter,” she said.
He turned around to greet Cadi. “Hallo. I didn’t mean to bother you. I was looking for room two-hundred and twelve. I didn’t know it was your room. I’ll leave right now.”
“You don’t have to go so soon,” she pleaded. “You shouldn’t be scared of Archibal. He means well. Won’t you stay for a while?”
Walter didn’t feel sure since he was supposed to let her rest. Then Walter saw the long deep lacerations on her face and hands. What caused those wounds? What dangerous task did her lessons consists of? She was obviously self-conscious about them and avoided eye contact with Walter. He knew better than to ask her.
“It looks that bad doesn’t it?” she sknew.
“What—no, it looks fine. They will heal,” Walter didn’t want to upset her.
“That’s what Archibal says. They won’t scar. I try not to think about it,” she sat on a white trunk at the end of her bed. Walter sat next to her. “I was hoping you and Alden would visit me.”
“We wanted to, but Archibal said not to disturb you.”
“Don’t feel bad. I haven’t had the energy. My lessons tire me out,” she said. “I haven’t been doing so well. I keep failing the second phase.”
“Are they—are they difficult?”
“They can be,” she said. “This one has been. Archibal has been through the phase already. That is how he has been relearning everything himself. It was easy for me.”
“I didn’t think he could forget.”
“He didn’t forget it, just didn’t practice it. The servant spirits told me that Archibal had refused to use magic. The rooms were locked and no magic was ever performed. He had seen the harm it caused onto people and the lands. He believed magic was the reason for the war and vowed to never use it again. When I met him he didn’t know how to do the simplest spells. He has been doing better. I’ve seen it. He won’t’ talk about the war, but the gargoyles will if you ask them. They avoid it though, in case Archibal might hear. They said he saw many of his friends die, humans and wizards alike.”
“Do all wizards and witches get taught—these obstacles?”
“Well, not really. Everyone gets taught differently. When the first scholars started the school they believed the best way to teach a wizard was to make them go through these bewitched trials. Some of these places are a mystery of how they came to be and others were enchanted by angry wizards. They are great learning experiences, but they get harder every time. The caves were easy. The labyrinths have been challenging. I’ve gone through the small one behind the manor. That was just a practice course. Others are more complicated. That was how Archibal was taught and he wants me to learn the same way.”
“Was Maaike taught this way to?”
“No, witches are taught differently. Mostly by their kin. Maaike’s mother taught her. Their lessons are passed down from one generation to another. Since I don’t have a mother–” Cadi became despondent. “Maaike me has taught me the best she could.”
“What happened to your family?”
But, Cadi didn’t respond. It was obvious the question was too hard for her to answer. She never talked about her family or where she was from. Walter had never dared to ask her and now he regretted it. It was probably difficult for her to talk about it. Alden thought that her family might have been ashamed of her, being a witch and all, so she ran away or perhaps she was raised in an orphanage.
The silence started becoming awkward for both of them. Why did he have to ask her? Walter was upset with himself. He didn’t mean to distress her, she already had a lot to deal with. Walter quickly tried to think of something else to say.
“Did you say there was a labyrinth in the back of the manor?” Walter said.
“Yes, one of the earlier scholars created it as a thinking path.”
“A thinking path?”
“It sounds silly, but he used it to walk around as he thought. Then another scholar had the idea to turn it into a course since he didn’t use it as a thinking path.”
“I didn’t know the manor had a labyrinth.”