Toria must survive in a new place with very different customs…
As Toria approached the entrance to Healer Hall, she noticed a vastly different style of architecture from Fort Hold. There were no square corners; they were all rounded and smooth. The floors were stone, shiny, and stained in beautiful patterns. There were neither rugs nor tapestries. Overhead chandeliers provided some light, but there were also numerous decorative shafts high on the walls channeling sunlight into the room in diffuse beams.
The vast entry cavern wasn’t a Living Cavern. There was no kitchen, no pantry, and no stairs down to a cold cellar. The walls weren’t dotted with hearths, near long tables and stained wooden benches. Instead, the bean-shaped rotunda had a domed ceiling and massive hallways leading off in several directions. There were seating areas, pillars shaped like trees, decorative planters with little shrubs, and even an indoor fountain.
Toria noticed prominent signs near arched entrances to wide hallways. They read Admissions, Medical Center, Pharmacy, Administration, Science Annex, Student Services, Residence Quarters, Commons, and Water Rooms. She had never seen a sign posted indoors before.
[Attribute check: Will 9, rolled 13.]
The strangeness was enough to stop Toria in her tracks. As she gradually started to catch her breath and get a grip on her surroundings, she could focus on the wide variety of people traversing the sprawling rotunda.
A few were sick and injured, on their way to “Admissions” and “Medical Center”. Toria had never seen sleeping pallets with wheels before, but now that she had, it seemed like an excellent way to move people who couldn’t walk.
The students apparently had a strict dress code, because all the youths were wearing pale-colored, hip-length tunics, simple pants or a plain skirt, and soft leather shoes. None of them wore their hair loose; all had short cuts, braids, or hair ties.
Once Toria worked up the nerve to show someone her letter and ask for directions, she was guided to the Administration hallway. It curved gently upward and led to several offices. A grey-haired, thin woman wearing an older style dress welcomed her and congratulated Toria on her acceptance to the Hall. She had a huge, leather-bound ledger and an ornate writing pen. Toria was asked many questions and some of her answers were recorded in the ledger.
Eventually, the woman said, “Alright, I’m assigning you to the Pelagas dormitory. Your delegate is Patrina, she will help you settle in.” She looked up from the ledger, “She’s blond, about so high, very pretty. Just ask any of the older students, they’ll know who she is.” She waggled a finger at Toria, “Go straight there. You shant interrupt anyone’s schedule and we have a strict curfew.”
As promised, Patrina wasn’t difficult to find. She was blond-haired and blue-eyed with a pleasant face. The dorm delegate introduced herself after a quick handshake.
Patrina was a Senior Journeyman, recently turned twenty-one. She wasn’t seeking a posting to a Hold because she hoped to stay on at Healer Hall permanently as an instructor. In the meantime, she was learning all about child care. Patrina helpfully guided Toria to her new home.
The dormitory was a long walk up several short flights of stairs. There was a spacious sitting room, a shared bathing room, and a little utility room. The eight sleeping rooms were cozy but each had a small window, a trunk, a little cabinet, a tall shelf, a short garment rack, and a firm bed. They had decorative curtains instead of doors, except for Toria’s rod which was bare.
Toria couldn’t imagine needing so much shelf space until she glanced into the other rooms and noticed large collections of study texts. One girl’s books had overrun the shelves and were piled neatly on every available surface. From the look of it, Toria would be allowed quite a bit of freedom to customize her room.
Patrina gave her a quick tour so that she could find the water room, laundry room, kitchen, and other necessities in the main Hall.
Lunch was quick and haphazard. Immediately afterward, Patrina took Toria to get several sets of clothes — five Junior Apprentice uniforms with white tunics and a few other things to wear on the “weekends”. She also fetched complete sets of bed and bath linens.
No one had much time for Toria until late afternoon when all classes had been dismissed. One by one, her dorm mates returned from their daily activities.
She met Bevina of Hazel Hill, the book collector, Madigan of Southern Telgar who was just called “Madi”, Fiadi of Lemos, Keeva of Peyton, Nabella of Valley, Roshena of Shearwater, and Sersha of Nabol. She had never meet people from so many different places. They even talked differently, except for Roshena who hailed from Istan lands.
Patrina explained that there were two “quiet hours” for study each night after dinner and that she must never break the nine o’clock curfew. There was a chalk board in the utility room where the weekly rotation of chores was listed. Toria would be responsible for her own laundry. If Toria had any questions or problems, she was to seek out Patrina and not the Hall’s Headwoman.
Classes would begin promptly at eight o’clock on Firstday. Most classes were held in the “Student Services” wing, while special classes that involved more than just books were held in the “Science Annex”. Toria wouldn’t have any special classes at first.
When she was finally finished with basic orientation, the sun had gone down behind the cliff. Toria trudged back to her room, physically and mentally exhausted.
Just before she reached her room, the eldest girls, Madi and Sersha, jumped out from an adjacent door shouting “Surprise!” Toria’s room was softly lit by glows in a new, intricately woven basket. The doorway rod had a dark orange curtain with a white stripe down the middle, reminiscent of Ista Hold’s heraldry. There was an oval chalkboard on the wall next to Toria’s doorway where everyone had written short welcome messages and made tiny, cute drawings.
All seven of the girls showed up for dinner and ate together, along with Patrina, which was apparently a rare occurrence. They brought food from the kitchens in heavy clay pots and called it a “potluck”. The food was heavy on onions, mushrooms, cheese, and strange spices. It was going to take some getting used to.