Well. This fanfic is based on the Edge Chronicles series. The series takes place in a place called the Edge, a vast land that protrudes out and you can fall of the Edge. Anyway there is a giant Forest on one end called the Deepwoods and a floating rock tied to the Edge with a chain on the other. A city of spires was built on the rock. It is called Sanctaphrax. Another city was built beneath the rock called Undertown. In between the forest and the cities is a giant bog called the Mire. The Ege is home to thousands of weird speices of animal and plant. Many are intelligent. That's a pretty good introduction. Oh. Sanctaphrax is a city of learning but there was a schism between the Sky and Earth scholars. The Earth scholars were banished from Santcaphrax. Also fourthlings are basically the equivalent of humans. Finally the paragraph in italics is a quote from the first book 'The Curse of the Gloamglozer' and was the paragraph that inspired this whole story.
The Convocation of Professors on Grey Thursdays
The mobgnomes looked at one another and shrugged. One of them screwed his finger into his temple. ‘Sky-touched’, he muttered.
‘As crazy as a square circle’, another added.’ The quality of speakers you get on the Viaduct Steps these days is really going downhill.’
They turned as one and trooped off together, ignoring the cries of the academic. ‘Stop! Wait a minute!’ he called after them. ‘I haven’t yet told you about the scandal of the Moon Observatory, or how the disappearance of seven fogprobing apprentices was hushed up- or what really goes on at the Convocation of Professors on Grey Thursdays...’
‘Come back!’ the academic screamed at the distant backs of the bunch of mobgnomes. ‘Oh never mind.’ he sighed and turned to go. Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder and he turned to see a tall individual standing in front of him. He was dressed in ill-fitting academic’s robes. A silver nose-piece could be seen glinting from within the folds of his baggy hood. The sunlight gleamed upon the ancient ceremonial object with its ornate curlicues and fine filigree mesh, sending a dazzling silver light into the eyes of the academic.
‘I couldn’t help but overhear...’ the soft silky voice whispered. ‘But did you mention the Convocation of Professors on Grey Thursdays?’
The academic gulped. ‘I... I did yes.’
‘Do tell me your tale’ the sinuous voice hissed. ‘Oh... oh no... not here. Why don’t we go somewhere a little more... discreet?’
The academic shivered. He didn’t like the way the hooded figure had said the word discreet. He sounded so sinister. Yet this was Sanctaphrax, the spire city of subterfuge and intrigue, whispers and lies. And he did love a good gossip.
‘Very well. Do you have a place in mind?’
‘Oh yes. Oh yes indeed. I think you’ll find it quite... personal. A very personal place indeed!’ He smiled a small thin smile. ‘This way.’
Kal Pendrix sighed and then burst into a run. Today was Grey Thursday of all days and as a recently initiated professor she really couldn’t afford to be late for the convocation. Especially, she thought dreamily, as Ambros would be there. He was the most adorable little oakelf, with those enormous dark orbs for eyes and the long pointed ears. And he’d be wearing that hooded purple cloak too. Although he was currently the Sub Dean of the Institute of Ice and Snow, it was reckoned that he would be offered the position of Next Most High Academe, after the place became vacant. Kal shivered, she’d heard of the rumours that Linius Pallitax, the Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax, had upset the mistsifters and they were planning his murder. Then the Professors of Light and Darkness would be anointed as Most High Academe leaving the position of Next Most High Academe open for Ambros. Kal furrowed her forehead as she tried to understand the complicated system of academics but gave it up almost instantly with the dismissive word ‘politics’. It was particularly unusual for a Deepwooder to have risen to the position of academic. Mostly the academics were fourthlings like her. The Deepwooder were seen as inferior and stupid, even worse than the earth librarians whose role it was to study them. And as she was musing on how Ambros had managed to become a sky scholar, she bumped into Seftus Leprix, the Sub Dean of Mistsifting and Head Professor of the Convocation on Grey Thursdays. His distinctive smell of wood camphor and tallow alerted her to his presence.
‘Professor! What are you doing in such a hurry? I thought the Convocation began in five minutes. Surely you’d be there already.’
‘I lost track of time. The Ostafan calibrators were displaying a rather unusual...’ he trailed off.
‘Anyway... Miss...’ he waited for her name.
‘Kal. Kal Pendrix.’
‘Miss Pendrix’, he continued. ‘I must be on my way. The Convocation, you know...’ he mumbled distractedly.
‘Of... of course’ Kal muttered puzzled.
By this point they had reached the doors of the Loftus Observatory and they hurried inside, Kal taking a sumpwood bench near the back of the hall and Seftus making his way to the floating lectern.
The hooded figure with the silver nose piece closed the door behind them. The academic looked around at the simple room, with two wooden chairs surrounding a small table covered with a crimson cloth and a small platter of sweets.
‘Sit down, sit down. Care for a sugared delberry bonbon?’ the hooded figure inquired in a welcoming tone.
‘Don’t mind if I do’
‘So you were saying? About the Convocation?’
‘Oh yes it’s a juicy story if I do say so!’
‘Now those professors are a scheming bunch. Always trying to get one up on all the others. They tell us that the convocation is to discuss recent weather patterns. They say that they discuss the cycles of the moon and their effect on a certain specimen of snowflake. They give us rubbish about biannual wind storms and Ostafan calibrations! But I have it on the highest authority that at the Convocation of Professors on Grey Thursdays they are scheming to devise a plan. A plot to murder the Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax!’
He paused dramatically but the effect was ruined by chewing noises as he reached for another sugared bonbon.
‘And here is how they plan to do it!’
‘See that giant hourglass?’ Ambros turned towards Kal as she shuffled along the sumpwood bench. ‘It has a lovely crimson colour. They filled it with powdered bloodoak amongst other things. Extremely difficult to obtain due to the fact that the bloodoak tree has a nasty habit of eating all that comes near it. But it makes for a lovely timepiece.’ He frowned. ‘Rather dangerous though. I’ve heard that powdered bloodoak is extremely volatile when it comes into contact with moisture. Especially when added to ground delberry leaves like they did with this. It makes you wonder, who would design such a thing? Any Deepwooder could tell you of the potential catastrophe just waiting to occur. Well the hourglass is firmly sealed.’
He turned back to face the floating lectern. ‘Now hush, the Sub Dean is about to speak!’
Kal poked him playfully. ‘But you’re the talkative one Ambros!’
‘I don’t know what you’re on about’, he mumbled red faced. ‘This is your first Convocation, if I recall. Generally they’re rather tedious. A little talking is required to make it bearable.’ He groaned. ‘Not another lecture on cloud formation again!’
‘And then they place the bloodoak mixture into the bottom of his daily glass of dandelion juice. When he pours the juice KABOOM! He dies.’ He cleared his throat. ‘And so obvious too! It’s in the very name. Grey Thursdays. Don’t you know of the significance of the first Grey Thursday?’
‘Do remind me’
‘Grey Thursday was the day that our first Most High Academe has that terrible accident with the woodwasp eggs! Somehow he ingested them. He was stung to death from the inside out!’
‘How very terrible!’ the hooded figure exclaimed. ‘Siphoning off valuable bloodoak from the hourglass! How will it measure time accurately now?’
‘And the Most High Academe will be dead!’
‘Yes that’s terrible too!’
The academic ran his finger round the empty bowl and licked the sugar from his fingers. ‘Those bonbons were really delicious!’
‘Glad you enjoyed them. Afraid I don’t have any more.’
‘I’m sorry, I don’t think I quite caught your name.’
‘Oh my name is Seftus. Seftus Leprix. Sub Dean of Mistsifting. And head... of the Convocation of Professors on Grey Thursdays’, he uttered nastily.
The academic gulped.
‘I’m afraid I can’t have you going around spreading that story. It’s far too accurate a tale. I should know.’
The academic tried to rise from his chair. Yet his limbs would not obey him.
‘A little bit of paralysing venom in the sugar’. Seftus sneered.
‘I do hope you enjoyed your woodwasp eggs. You certainly ate so many!’
The academics eyes bulged.
‘Now I do hope you’ll excuse me. I have a special drink to prepare.’
‘At last. I was getting so bored’ Ambros mumbled.
Kal Pendrix was snoring softly. He nudged her.
‘Huuh? Whaaa?’ she mumbled. And then
‘Anvil low, anvil high, anvil wide, anvil rising’
‘So you were listening to the lecture then?’ Ambros teased. She shoved him playfully and then turned to look at the other professors. They were all making their way to a smaller chamber situated behind the floating lectern.
‘What’s going on?’
‘They seem to be holding the secondary meeting.’
‘I don’t know. Fourthlings only.’
‘So you’ve never been?’
‘All the more reason for you to go. Find out what it’s all about.’
‘Okay.’ She beamed. ‘I’ve never been to a top secret meeting before!’
‘Well you have fun now’
And with that Kal Pendrix joined the throng of professors making their way to the secondary meeting.
The academics’ eyes snapped open. He was bathed in sweat, his skin dripping and his worn robes soaked right through. But he was cold. Bitterly cold. His fingers and toes were so frozen he could barely feel them, and yet inside, his belly was on fire, churning and convulsing. And then there was the pain...
He had never known anything like it. It wrenched and wracked his stomach, like a thousand red-hot needles that stabbed and slashed, twisting his guts into knots.
‘Woorgh!’ he groaned. ‘Aoouurgh...’
Spasm after spasm of intense pain drove through him, folding him up double as it cramped and branded.
He groaned with utter misery. The pain grew more intense than ever. All at once, he doubled up violently again, his chin on his knees, as a fiery convulsion erupted inside him. The pain was so bad, it felt as if his belly was about to explode.
The searing pain inside him grew more and more intense. The academics’ vision clouded over. The fire surged up from his belly, into his throat...
‘Aaaargh!’ he screamed, twisting out of the chair and crumpling, open-mouthed, to the wooden floor like a gutted oozefish on a slab.
It took several moments before the convulsions ceased, the limbs stopped thrashing and the academic fell still. As a bright streak of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, a low buzzing sound came up from his throat.
The next moment, a single dark striped insect appeared. It rested on the academic’s swollen protruding tongue for a few seconds, its feelers quivering as it tasted the air. Then the tiny creature spread its glistening wings and, with a rasping buzz, took flight.
Another insect appeared in its place... and another, and another- until there was a thick stream of them, spewing out from the academic’s gaping mouth. Soon the room was filled with the sound of angry buzzing as the swarm of newly-hatched woodwasps swirled round the room, while the academic’s lifeless eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling.
Kal Pendrix knocked loudly on the door of Ambros’ dwelling, sobbing loudly as she did so. Ambros was quick to open the door.
‘Kal! What in Sky’s name is the matter?’
‘It’s... it was the secret meeting. I never want to go to another one ever again!’
She clasped Ambros tightly around his waist and buried her head in his wrinkly shoulder. He patted her gently on the back, muttering ‘there there’ at regular intervals. Gradually her noisy tears ceased, she sniffed loudly and started to speak.
‘They... they... the professors... want... want to... they want to murder the Most High Academe!’
Ambros strengthened his hold on her.
‘Dear Linius Pallitax. They can’t murder him. His daughter Maris would be so distraught. She’s such a good friend. It was Linius who got me a place as an academic. We have to save him!’
A steely glint came into her eye. Ambros recognized that glint. It was a glint that meant my mind is made up and just you try and stop me.
‘Of course we shall Kal. Of course we will’
He furrowed his brow in thought.
‘But how will a fourthlings and an old oakelf foil the scheme of the entire Convocation?
‘KABOOM!’ A distant explosion came from the Palace of Shadows. Ambros sighed. ‘Linius has obviously made a mistake with one of his experiments again’. Secretly he thought that the plot to kill Linius was rather ingenious. A horrible one that had to be stopped but ingenious nonetheless. Linius was known for his playing about with the chemistry set he had recovered from the long lost Ancient Laboratory. Nobody batted an eyelid at the frequent explosions that were often heard from the direction of the Palace. It was easy enough to make people believe that the Most High Academe had died in a tragic accident- caught by the blast of a particularly large explosion. ‘If only he hadn’t decided to find out what it was that made bloodoak bark that particular shade of crimson’ they’d sigh.
Or more likely the reaction would be, ‘Stupid old fool playing around with those chemicals and whatnot. All his talk of equal rights and rubbish. Good riddance’
The academics of Sanctaphrax were a vicious backstabbing bunch. They didn’t approve of equality.
Ambros had a plan. Like all good plans it was simple, easy to follow and had a high probability of failure and probable death. Ambros chose not to think about that part. What they had decided to do was to apply for the position of cook and scullery maid. When the Most High Academe came down for his drink of dandelion juice, they’d switch the glass laid out by Seftus Leprix, who according to Kal, would smuggle in the bloodoak by disguising it as a new pick me up from the taverns of Undertown, with another glass filled with powdered cherry blossom. Then the deadly glass would be disposed of and the Most High Academe would be saved.
Kal groaned as she tugged at the frilly bonnet that Ambros insisted she wear. ‘You have to look the part you know?’ He himself was dressed in a tall chef hat and a fake moustache.
‘But I look ridiculous!’ she mumbled.
Linius answered the door. He was missing an eyebrow and his long beard was slightly singed.
‘How can I help you?’
‘We are the new cook and scullery maid you asked for.’ Ambros replied.
‘I’ll let Thelma tell you the routine.’
‘Kitchen’s that way!’
Ambros and Kal followed the direction he pointed in and soon came to the door of the kitchen. They entered to see a short plump woodtroll, busy baking something or other.
‘Who on earth are you two?’ she inquired sternly.
‘The new cook and scullery maid’
‘But we didn’t apply for a cook and a maid’
‘Linius appointed us himself’
‘I’ll thank you to call him the Most High Academe. And you mustn’t listen to him, he’s far too busy with his work to really notice the domestic matters. I’m housekeeper and I can assure you I’d know if we needed a cook and a scullery maid’.
Ambros spied a glass with a red powder sitting in the bottom.
‘Um, what’s that?’
‘That? This is a gift from Seftus Leprix. Some new pick me up from Undertown. He sent it round this morning’. She looked at them.
‘The Most High Academe suffers from a lot of stress and exhaustion’
Kal winked slowly at Ambros who suddenly let out a screech of pain and started hopping up and down.
‘Are you quite alright?’
Ambros continued to hop, and added an arm flail or two.
Meanwhile Kal had crept up to the counter and was switching the two glasses around.
‘I’m sorry, I stubbed my toe on the table leg.’
‘Well if that’s the case I’m going to have to ask you two to leave. I have spiced scones to prepare.’
Kal froze and gestured to Ambros to distract her a little longer.
Ambros started coughing loudly.
‘Terribly... hemhem... sorry... awoof!... my asthma... is playing up.’
Kal slunk back to his side with a small smile on her face.
‘We do apologise for the inconvenience we’ve caused. We’ll be on our way immediately.’
And so speaking the two figures slunk out of the Palace of Shadows.
‘Yes yes of course.’
‘Would you like to pop in for a drink?’
‘I’m in a bit of a rush’
‘Oh just a quick one. I’ve just got this new cherry cordial.’
‘Oh I suppose I could pop in for a short while.’
‘Excellent. I live just over there.’
Ambros opened the door and pulled up a chair.
‘Do sit down. I’ll be back with the cordial’
He placed a glass in front of Seftus.
‘Just add water’
Seftus frowned. ‘What did you say this cordial was?’
‘Cherry’ Ambros called from the other room. He came back into the room a jug of water in hand.
‘As a matter of fact it’s bloodoak you horrid bitch!’ And with those eloquent words he threw the jug of water into Seftus’ face and ran to reach the cover of the dining room table- an ancient and more importantly solid piece of furniture.
KABOOM! The water landed in the glass and Ambros shook as the table was pelted with shards of wood, lumps of metal and the squishy remains of Seftus Leprix.
Later that afternoon, just as the sun was beginning to descend, Ambros knocked on the door of Kal Pendrix’s abode.
‘If it isn’t too much bother, my house was destroyed in an explosion, cause unconfirmed. Do you think I could live with you?’
‘Oh Ambros!’ Kal beamed. ‘I thought you’d never ask!’
‘Is that a yes?’
‘Of course it is you adorable silly thing.’
‘Of course it is’ he repeated to himself quietly.
And then he repeated it again this time with a smile.
‘Of course it is.’