By Benji Bright

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Alessandro rubbed his forehead. It was a nervous gesture, something that he was half-conscious of and too irritated to rein in.

"I'm convinced professor Norquist didn't even read the edits I’ve made to my thesis proposal. I get the sense he doesn't care at all. It's like he’s actively ignoring the fact that I exist. I exist right? I'm here talking to you right now? I'm not a figment of my own imagination?"

Gian didn't take the pity-bait. "Look. Norquist is a hardass, yes, but just keep pushing and something will shake loose. All the Arcane Studies people are like that. Every year the department is crammed with freshman for the first quarter who want to shock their parents by studying the dark arts and then quit as soon as they realize they can't conjure nightmares and set curses on their exes. At least not until they get a master’s degree.

"Then the numbers drop and the funding drops along with it. We've been requesting a digital modeling program for six years that would allow us to statistically track the diffusion of a curse over time. Six years. There have been nine iterations of the program to date and we're still on the waiting list for version 1.0." Gian sighed and shook his head. "So just take it easy with Norquist. After this term, he'll probably be more accessible."

Alessandro made a strangled noise in his throat. It had been an expensive decision to major in Arcane Studies and his parents were skeptical at best. At first he had been quite similar to the freshmen Gian described: reactionary and naive. He'd thought that coming to Davisport University, a prestigious New England institution, and taking up Arcane Studies would make people think of him as a deep thinker and an antiquarian of sorts. After three years in the program, he was finding that his interest in the subject went deep. Still, Arcane Studies wasn't Premed and he wasn't likely to ever make much money from it. That made the idea of waiting for Professor Norquist to finally get over himself and acknowledge his thesis proposal and the work he’d done so far all the more frustrating. He didn't have an entire semester's worth of tuition loans to waste not moving his studies forward.

"Is there anything I can do to get his attention now?" Alessandro asked.

Gian gave him a level look.

"You could take the practicum. It's a hands-on evaluation that will qualify you to take master's level courses —" Alessandro would have raised an objection, but Gian cut him off. "— and I know your schedule is set for your remaining terms, but taking the practicum is a good way to show the department that you're earnest about your studies. And you'd have to take it anyway if you were going to apply for the master's program here. Two birds with one stone."

"Did you take it? How was it?"

Gian shrugged. "Different for everyone. Mine was...rigorous and at the end of it I thought I'd failed, but apparently I passed by the skin of my teeth. I don't think anyone really does 'well' and there are a lot of failures, but if you're serious — really serious — about getting Norquist's attention then this is a pretty good way to do it."

"What happens if I fail? Can I take it again?"

"You only get one chance. If you fail then you can wait a year and request to take it again, but if the department doesn't think you've grown enough in that time they can turn you down at their discretion. It's a gamble."

Edvard Norquist, Alessandro’s advisor and Giancarlo’s as well, was tall, handsome, slender and blond. He was the youngest professor in the Arcane Studies department and also one of the most distinguished. In his late twenties he'd discovered a new methodology for dispelling hexes that was currently being used by the CDC to shore up the hex-related Influenza outbreak in West Virginia among other places. Many more successes had since followed. Of course, even a much-garlanded arcanist wasn't much of a celebrity. Arcane Studies had been on the decline even in the 1950s and a degree in the Arcane was about as valuable as one in English. The most jaded arcanist blamed fundamentalist religions, but most people agreed that the hard sciences long signalled the death knell of the mystical pursuit. After all who was more famous Aleister Crowley or Albert Einstein?

"So, do you want to take it or not? Should I recommend you?" Gian asked.

"Well, when would I take it?"

"Whenever they're ready for you. Could be a week from now, a month from now, or this weekend. Hard to tell and I swear they do it like that unnerve you."

"I’m not sure —"

“It’s up to you, Alessandro, but like I said, this is how you prove yourself to these guys. You can keep complaining or you can take the next step. You can’t have it both ways.”

Alessandro stirred his coffee. It was probably cold. He’d barely even sipped it.

“Alright. Ok. Recommend me,” he said. “What should I study? How can I prepare?”

Gian laughed. "You get plenty of sleep and say your prayers before bed."


Alessandro watched the sky as he made his way back from his meet-up with Gian. It was the dismal time in October when everything turned gray simultaneously. The array of yellows, greens and reds in the trees had been inviting for a few weeks, but the last blush of fall was turning into a pallor.

There were several text messages waiting for him when he turned his phone back on. A few from friends trying to make plans for the night and two from a guy he'd begun seeing recently asking him out to dinner. He didn't feel like going out. In fact he didn't feel like doing much at all.

The idea of the practicum unnerved him. He wasn’t fond of surprise examinations. On the other hand, he didn’t want to languish for another semester while his advisor groused about freshmen. Every time Professor Norquist rebuffed him, it only made him that much more determined to push forward and earn his advisor’s praise. Perhaps it was as much about the quiet intensity of the professor's ice-blue eyes and the cynical curve of his soft-looking lips as the intellectual rigor of his mind. But Alessandro tried to keep his interest in the professor above the belt. After all, what credible scholar would embarrass himself by dallying with a lowly undergrad? And his own advisee at that?

Alessandro spent one last moment pining for things that would never be as he got onto the elevator and headed up to his dorm room.

The rest of the night played out like a scene from a movie about college that no filmmaker would ever bother with. Alessandro did some reading for a class he was taking on female monsters: the reading suggested that most of these creatures were symbolic of the power, and subsequently the male fear of and fascination with, the vagina and that women's magic — since all magic was really about symbols and icons — could effectively tap into that power.

He managed to drink two half cans of diet soda. He ordered a pizza which he never got around to eating. He fell asleep face-down on his laptop while watching an academic talk which was obviously thrilling.


Alessandro awoke naked and kneeling in a clean, candle-lit space. The floor was made up of a smooth gray-green stone as were the walls. The room curved in a circle and the candles were tucked into little recesses in the walls. He didn't freak out at first because he thought he was dreaming, but the realization made its way to him that he was not.

"What is going on?"

He was surrounded by figures in dark robes that slowly began to reveal themselves. One at a time they lowered their hoods and showed their faces. Each of them proved to be a member of the Arcane Studies department. The eleven men that made up the core of the department: grey-faced Professor Clemmons, the jovial and wildly inappropriate Professor Mann, and of course, Professor Norquist, among others.

"You requested the practicum, so here you are, young man," Clemmons said in his grandfatherly way. "We twelve have convened to see you judged and deemed either worthy or unfit to even attempt to join the ranks of arcanists worldwide."

Alessandro only counted eleven. Where was the twelfth?

"I personally have never thought that underclassmen should be able to attempt the practicum, but there is something...exciting, in the french way, about seeing a spectacular failure. What do you say, Mr. Galletto? Are you going to fuck up for us?" Mann said. His teeth gleamed in the low-light.

"Leave him be, you horny goat," said Professor Murata. An attractive japanese national who split time between Davisport and another university in his native Hokkaidō. "The young man has a stellar academic record and as much right as anyone to make the attempt."

Alessandro was glad to have Murata defending him, but he was wrong about Mann. The professor was easily more pig than goat.

Clemmons cleared his throat. "Gentlemen, might we proceed without further distraction?"

Murata inclined his head respectfully to Clemmons while Mann waved his hands dismissively and rolled his eyes.

"Thank you," Clemmons said to them. "Now. Professor Norquist, as the student is your advisee, would you like to explain the terms of his trial?"

"Nothing would please me more, Professor Clemmons." Norquist said in a flat tone. He turned his eyes on Alessandro and the underclassman thought he would freeze. His gaze held little in the way of empathy or fondness. Alessandro felt like he was being looked down upon by a stranger.

"Alessandro Galletto you are about to attempt the practicum. It is a trial as old the arcane arts themselves and has been known to others as the crucible. It is not an examination by which you will be admitted into the ranks of qualified arcanists, but one more step forward in the attempt. Should you fail, you will be unable to attempt the practicum again for the space of one year. But it is highly suggested that you should pass. You will receive no further advice nor instruction from us and you will have nothing to rely on beside that which you already possess: your skills, learning, and intuition. It is not generally in the purview of an arcanist to believe in luck, so instead we wish you: good works and good arts."

"Good works and good arts," came the reply from the other ten scholars.

The eleven arcanists stepped back toward the wall, Alessandro counted them, but by some trick there was a twelfth cloaked man in the room. He was much taller than the rest so that alone should have revealed him when Alessandro first did his count, but it had not. How was that possible? This person was impossible to miss. He was incredibly bulky about the shoulders even beneath the dark cloak. He staggered forward and shed the cape. Alessandro recoiled.

The man, or the thing, did not have a face per se, but what seemed like an amalgamation of features arranged — or not arranged — with pure whimsy. The nose was far to the right of where it should have been, the lips of its huge mouth were crooked and the eyes, though roughly placed in their right spots, were both different sizes, colors, and blinked completely out of sync.

The rest of the thing's body fared little better. Its left shoulder was no less than six inches lower than the right, so its left arm dangled perilously. Its legs were terribly bowed so it walked with a staccato gait. And the thing that hung between its legs was...

"What the fuck is that?" Alessandro said aloud. He knew that he would not receive an answer from the arcanists, but he could not help himself. He had never seen anything like the monster that was making its way toward him.

Alessandro scooted away from the thing, but it moved toward him in shuffling steps. Its hands clasped and unclasped periodically as if still learning how to make a fist. He desperately searched the faces of the Arcane Studies department members as if to confirm that they were indeed seeing the same thing he was, but none of them seemed particularly fazed. Some of them appeared to be somewhat concerned, some — like Norquist — entirely indifferent, while at least one of them was thrilled by his fear.

"Haven't you noticed that there's no exit, Mr. Galletto? So where are you scrambling to? The golem will catch up with you eventually," Mann said.

Alessandro hadn't seen an exit. The room was entirely circular and uninterrupted. He might as well be entirely alone with the creature. He finally stood up and as the thing stumbled closer, Alessandro tried to run past it. But he’d underestimated the reach of its long arms. It grabbed him around the waist with one hand and lifted him into the air. Alessandro shrieked and struggled, but the enormous hand of the creature, the golem, held him fast. Its hands felt like dried clay around his bare flesh and chafed at his skin as he tried to fight his way free. But all he did was exhaust himself. The golem brought him closer and opened its cavernous mouth.

"No, no, no, no," Alessandro moaned.

Out of the golem's mouth rolled a thick black tongue that stretched out and licked his face. It ran up his cheek and onto his forehead then across the other side of his face. It dipped across his neck and over his chest, flicking at each nipple briefly. The golem's tongue continued its slimy wash down his upper torso while Alessandro renewed his effort to attempt to break free.

He could hear the arcanists whispering to each other. He thought that maybe he could get them to stop the trial, to set him free. But Giancarlo had told him that this would be his last chance to attempt the practicum for at least a year. If he didn't pass it now, he might not have another chance before graduation. Even in the clutches of this horrible monster, he still didn't want to throw away his chance. And he didn't think they would let the golem hurt him, not really...would they?

By the time the golem rolled its tongue back into its mouth, Alessandro was dripping with whatever the thing's saliva consisted of. It was nauseatingly thick, but also somewhat fragrant, which somehow made it worse. He tried gathering up as much of the golem's spit as possible and using it to lubricate his sides. His hope was that if he were more slippery he might be able to slide himself out of the monster's grasp. But he didn't have long to try as the golem lifted him up over its head. He had a panicked moment thinking that the thing was going to eat him and he screamed again.

Instead it held him in the air above its head and looked up at him with those mismatched eyes. The golem reached up with its other hand and used two fingers to pry apart the cheeks of his ass.

"Wait...what is this? It's not going to..." He rationalized to himself.

But the golem's black tongue unfurled itself from its huge mouth once again and snaked its way up the inside of his leg and over the golem's own fingers until the impossibly long, improbably wet tongue touched the rose of his anus. Alessandro tried to force himself shut.

"There's no way —" Alessandro started saying. The golem finished his thought for him by sliding the first half-inch of its tongue into his hole.

"Now it's a show," Professor Mann said, loud enough for Alessandro to hear.

The first half-inch of the wet—surprisingly tensile—tongue was followed by another. Alessandro tried to push it out, which made it easier for the thing to slip in. At around four inches, the tongue stopped moving up his ass and Alessandro relaxed a bit. At least without the slithering thing moving further up his butt he could think, but he didn’t have long before the throbbing started.

It was faint at first, but soon he could feel it like a second heartbeat. Every passing second made it more insistent. Furthermore he could swear that the golem's tongue was growing thicker. The pulsing—no—vibrating, wet thing resumed its upward crawl into his guts and despite his best efforts it was getting a reaction out of him.

Alessandro didn't want to admit that he was getting hard. It was embarrassing and horrifying to think that there might be anything arousing about being tongue-fucked by a monster in front of his professors, but there was nothing to be done about it. Even with the sides of its hand slicked with its own spit, Alessandro still couldn't get himself free. He couldn't reach past the bulky hand either, so there was no way he could cover up his hard-on.

So the golem kept pushing itself up into him and Alessandro kept trying to free himself, albeit slightly less vigorously than before. With every extra inch of depth, he found himself a bit less focused on the task at hand. He was vaguely aware that his dick was leaking, dripping precum readily, and he couldn't help it. The pulses coming from the golem's tongue were vibrating his prostate and making him a little light-headed. He didn't want to give a pig like Professor Mann the show he was looking for, but what could he do?

Eventually the golem's tongue began to recede. Alessandro wasn't sure at first that that was what was happening, but he could feel himself emptying. The monstrous tongue was leaving him. A part of him was relieved, but another didn't want to think about what it could mean. If the tongue hadn't been the endgame then he was terrified of what was next.

As the golem's tongue left him entirely, he felt the fluid it left behind leaking out of him. It was surprising in its volume.

The lapse in his assault gave Alessandro a solid moment to think. If he was going to get out of this situation with a passing score, he would have to use his skills. Professor Mann had unintentionally given him a clue. He had called the thing a golem by name and the names of things were important. He tried to rack his brain for any information on golems, but he came up with precious little. He knew that they didn't have much in the way of intellect and that they could be savage when provoked. Neither of those things proved very useful to him at the moment.

He was still going through his mental list of golem lore when the creature started to lower him. He felt a hot burst of panic and nearly started to struggle anew even though he knew well by now that it was pointless. He managed to peer over the side of the golem's hand and what he saw there was enough to make anyone woozy: the golem's cock, more than twelve inches of solid mass, was rising. It was unimaginable that it could fit inside him. It would kill him, he thought, and the golem seemed intent on trying.

The monster lowered him with one hand and when he kicked his legs to throw it off, it grabbed both of his legs and pushed him into a funny position with his legs almost adjacent to his chest in a near v-shape. Well, it would have been funny if he wasn't about to be fucked by a foot long monster cock.

"I hope you like them big, young man," Mann taunted.

"Will you hush your insufferable noise, Joseph?" Clemmons said. "Be silent or I will silence you."

Alessandro looked in Mann's direction and saw that his right hand was lost down the front of his robes performing a rhythmic back-and-forth motion. He also saw that Mann wasn't the only one enjoying the show. Professors Patal and Morgan were jerking each other off. Alessandro traced their eyes moving back and forth from the golem's organ to his own ass, hungrily waiting for the moment of penetration. It seemed insane that his professors would be here masturbating openly in front of one another, but then Alessandro thought that there was nothing open about this practicum. He'd been taken from his dorm room in the middle of the night and brought into a place with no doors and certainly no windows. Aside from the men in this room, no one would possibly know what went on within it. And beyond it, who would believe such a mad tale as a horny golem assaulting a student, let alone investigate the complicity of its creators.

The first twinge of pressure against his hole brought Alessandro's attentions firmly back to his own situation. He had to think of something quickly or be split in half.

A dozen hexes, curses, and wards flitted into and out of his mind. This one too dangerous and unpracticed, that one too timid by far. He couldn't blow up the golem and anyway using the arcane arts for destructive purposes was inadvisable at the best of time. The clay-like cock was beginning to open him up and Alessandro clenched his jaw hard. It didn't hurt exactly, not yet. His channel was well-lubricated and when coated in the golem's spit, the skin of the monster’s cock didn't seem quite as rough as that of its hand still vice-gripped around his waist. As it pushed deeper into him, Alessandro had to focus on his breathing and concentrate hard on not becoming overwhelmed by the feeling.

"Excellent form," he heard one of the professors say. Another agreed. Alessandro had no idea what they were talking about and no time to consider it.

"Look how it fills up his pussy," another noted.

And that sparked something in the back of Alessandro's mind. He thought back to his reading earlier that night about women's magic and the power of the vagina. The original text had been in German and there was one passage that he'd read that translated vagina as orifice. The power of the orifice. If the arcane arts were about symbols, then couldn't one orifice stand in for another? Weren’t they be fucked the same?

Alessandro closed his eyes and blocked out everything beside the feeling of the golem pushing into him, filling him, but he visualized his fuck-hole as an insatiable void, actively pulling rather than passively receiving. He clenched and unclenched his sphincter, he let himself enjoy the thickness pushing his hole open and welcome it. He worked his hips in the limited capacity that he could, drawing more of the golem's unit into himself.

"Your boy is insatiable, Norquist," Professor Morgan remarked. The dark-skinned professor's deep voice and slight southern accent stood out.

Alessandro noted the masculine smells rising in the room and imagined each of the professors, even the piggish professor Mann, topping him one after another. He would satisfy them and in turn they would feed him their essence. In fact, he could already feel them donating their affections, becoming aroused despite themselves, jerking their dicks clandestinely under their robes. He heard a shout as one of the professors came. Alessandro imagined that it was for him, that he had become the center of the room. The center of everything.

Alessandro felt the golem’s resistance. It tried to slow its progress inside of him, but the magic was rolling now. The simple commands that it had been given did not anticipate this turn of events. It tried to pull away, but Alessandro, or his hole anyway had become as insatiable as professor Morgan suggested. The golem made another effort to pull away, but was already becoming sluggish as Alessandro slowly sucked the magic out of it.

Once all of the magic had been drained out of the golem, Alessandro only needed to wriggle himself loose. He slid off of the golem's dick as the clay shifted from rigid to brittle and then ultimately to dust beneath him. All at once the golem's hand broke free from its arm and Alessandro tumbled three or four feet to the ground. He managed to bruise his tailbone in the fall and his stomach and side were chafed badly, but other than that he had made it out of the trial unharmed.  

A few of the professors clapped, but most of them just regarded him silently. Professor Murata was the first to congratulate him.

"I've never seen a golem dispatched so quickly. Fine work, Mr. Galletto."

Mann snorted. "For my money I could have done with a little more fucking. But I suppose it was a passable performance. I'll have to change my robes anyway, which is always a good sign."

"I don't suppose I'll have to remind you, professor Mann, that the practicum is not a pornographic film. We're here to evaluate the young man's performance as an arcanist. Let's please focus on that," Clemmons said.

Mann shrugged and Clemmons, shaking his head, continued, "so now we put it to the vote. A majority of ayes will pass the boy and nays will fail him. Feel free to offer your votes with or without comment. As is our tradition, we go clockwise, starting with the man to my right."

Professor Adelson, a small man with a nervous temperament looked down at his feet. "Nay. Inelegant magic."

The next professor, Dobbs, agreed. "Nay. The gambit was desperate, no methodology to it at all."

The next was Patal who smiled brightly. "Aye. I remember my first practicum. Had I half the intuition of this young man, I wouldn't have had to take it three more times."

"Aye," said professor Morgan. "Rough magic, yes, but ballsy and clever for an underclassman. That his...performance — is that the word we're using? — drew an orgasm out of me speaks volumes for his potential."

"Aye," said Murata, while smiling. "Without comment."

Next to him, professor Dobrowski, a notoriously technical arcanist crossed his arms. "Nay. My complaints are consistent with professors Adelson and Dobbs. Powerful magic effected without precision. A dangerous cocktail."

Then came professor Mann whose grin was from ear-to-ear. "Oh, my turn? May I speak professor Clemmons or will I have my mouth magicked shut?"

When he realized that Clemmons wasn't going to answer, he barked out a laugh and waved his hand as if the whole matter was abruptly beneath him. "Aye, I suppose. Without comment. I think my cock has commented enough. Commented all over my robes."

Alessandro couldn't imagine how professor Mann was still employed, but he kept his thoughts to himself, especially since the pig had given him an aye vote.  So far six of them had voted and he was only ahead by a single vote. It could turn against him at any moment.

Professor Duran spoke. "Nay. Without comment."

Alessandro didn't know much about Duran and didn't know anyone who did. Even Gian who seemed to know a little about everyone, had next to nothing to say about the secretive and forever terse professor Duran. He taught the course on far sight, the ability to see across vast distances, but he tended to teach straight from the book and he hadn't had a graduate student working under him in all the time Alessandro had attended Davisport.

Professor Li was next.

 "Aye. It was tenacious to use the principles of women's magic to suck the life out of the golem, it shows the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that we encourage amongst our students and within our circle. I find that refreshing."


A nervous tingle rose in his stomach, by his count he only needed one more aye vote to pass and next was professor Norquist. Unlike some of the others, he hadn't been inclined to touch himself at all while his advisee was under the attentions of the golem. He seemed somewhat removed from the process. Alessandro waited for him to issue a verdict, but instead Clemmons spoke.

"Though it is somewhat unusual, professor Norquist has requested to reserve his judgment for the last. I will honor that request."

Clemmons looked at Alessandro like a parent regards their child. He'd been the head of the Arcane Studies department for twenty-five years and he hadn't developed a poker face in all that time.

"Nay. I'm sorry, Mr. Galletto, but I have not seen enough today to convince me that you are ready for the appointment before you. I have no doubt that you will make a fine arcanist one day, but these things need time." He straightened himself up. "Still, my voice is only one in a choir and holds no more weight than any other. Professor Norquist, yours is the deciding vote."

There was a sliver of a smile on Edvard Norquist's face that could have meant anything. Alessandro didn't want to read anything into it. In the daylight, Norquist looked like the prince of a frosted kingdom with his white-blond hair and piercing blue eyes, but in the candle-lit dark he seemed something utterly sinister. Alessandro's cock stirred anyway.

"Alessandro Galletto has been my advisee for two years now. I agree that his showing here lacked control, forethought, and methodology. I see nothing negligent about the arts that he has performed for us today, but precision is the greatest tool of an arcanist. Without it, he is surely lost. Considering this evening’s performance alone, I cannot recommend him as a successful practicum participant."

Alessandro felt the words like a hammer-fall. Another year being neglected by Norquist, another year wasted.

"However," Norquist began again. "I would consider his work outside this room as well. Is there precedent for this, professor Clemmons?"

Clemmons thought about it and said, "yes, I believe there is. Go ahead."

"Alessandro's thesis work is nothing short of brilliant. Everytime I send him away without even so much as a note on his work, he comes back having polished it to a brighter shine. His tenacity has continually surprised me and his thesis is, without hyperbole, the finest work I've seen from an undergraduate. It would be our loss to let him waste his talents elsewhere when our department could gain such a skillful and tireless mind. I vote aye, unreservedly, and furthermore, I would recommend him for our graduate-level internship as well."

Mann was stunned to silence, Clemmons made a noise of surprise, and Murata laughed. Some of the other professors were mumbling to each other about this upset, but Alessandro couldn't take his eyes off of professor Norquist. He had never heard the chilly professor say a single complimentary thing about him and now that so many of them had poured out, he didn't know what to think.

"Professor Clemmons, I don't think that this is a good idea. The boy is unpracticed. He might have some small ability for cobbling together research papers, but the internship —" Professor Dobrowski argued, but Clemmons cut him off.

"In the eight years that professor Norquist has been with us, he has pioneered more forward-thinking research in the arcane arts than any of us twice over. If he says that this young man has potential then I think his glowing recommendation should stand. As I am the sole person responsible for the recruitment of students for the internship, I will take this under close consideration." Clemmons looked over at Alessandro. "As for the internship, I can't give you an answer until a week from Thursday, but as for this practicum, you have passed. You should be very proud of yourself, Mr. Galletto."

There was some smattering of applause, but most of the professors kept their silences, especially those who had voted nay. A few of them patted him on the shoulder or offered their congratulations which he accepted graciously, or as graciously as one can accept congratulations while naked and half-hard. Already the majority of the professors were heading toward the door. The black-lacquered door which had suddenly materialized.

Professor Li hung around to clean up the remains of the golem and Alessandro overheard someone mentioning that it had been belonged to him. He tried to apologize, but Li waved him off and told him that the golem had been just one of dozens. Alessandro wasn't sure what to make of that news. He wondered if all the golems were similarly endowed and if so, what was he using them for? Alessandro put the question out of his mind.

He was one of the last people in the room beside professors Li and Norquist. His advisor approached him.

"You did well. Not the best, but well enough. Most people fail their first practicum. They find it overwhelming being confronted with the reality of monsters and they choke. Even though we study this every day. There's something terrifying about seeing it in the flesh, isn't there?"

"Definitely. I felt like I couldn't think of even my elementary hexes when the golem came after me."

Norquist nodded. "My practicum I had to deal with two flaming efreet. I couldn't taste anything for weeks and my sex life wasn't very rewarding for a few months. Thankfully everything healed the right way."

"Ouch," Alessandro said. "And thank you, by the way, for your kind words. They meant a lot to me. I didn't know you were paying attention to my work."

"At first I wasn't. I was busy with organizing these first year classes. It wasn't until I'd already sent you away a few times that I actually read through all of your drafts. I realized that the more I sent you away and ignored you, the better your work became. I wanted to see how far you could go on your own. You continually surprise me. I did instruct Gian to watch over you and give you guidance though, so that you wouldn't be entirely without help," Norquist said, and added, "as for kindness, that’s incidental. I only spoke the truth. I think you are a fine addition to our pool of talent so I did what was necessary to ensure that you would remain with us. It would be disadvantageous to have you scouted by another school or worse still, a group of independent arcanists. And perhaps you will not thank me if you get the internship. It's hard work."

"I'd assume so. I don't know much about the graduate-level internship at all. What does it consist of?"

Norquist's enigmatic expression returned, the same slight smile that was either sardonic or savage. Perhaps a bit of both.

"Oh, nothing you can't handle. Chimeras, hydras, a werewolf or two." His grin widened. "A fire efreet if we can secure one."

Alessandro took a hard swallow. "And you mean I'll have to, you them?"

Norquist shrugged. "Professor Mann conducts the internship himself. If you are successful, he'll provide plenty of commentary on your progress."

Alessandro rubbed his forehead. He was starting to think twice about staying on at Davisport until he got his phD. A master's degree would be more than enough.