Kason and Harper followed the young man back towards the group of people he had left earlier, who were still arguing with each other. As he approached them, the young man called out to them and silenced their arguing before leading Kason and Harper to within their midst.
He then gestured for the two to sit down on some chairs which he pulled from within the half-completed tent, then sat down himself and began to tell them what he needed them to do.
“Right, so first of all, my name is Jerald.” He said, placing a hand on his chest and giving them a solemn little bow. “I’m a third-year senior division student from the Engineering and Enchanting department and I’m in charge of the webmasters’ tent for this year’s introduction fair. We’re practically ready, except…” He gave a guilty chuckle, “I’ve managed to mislay a critical part of the demo which we had planned for today.”
He cast another apologetic gaze around at the others who were sitting around him and then turned back to Kason and Harper. “Basically, I just want you two to help us look for this part I’ve lost. It is a golden cylinder about this big.” He said and used his hands to show that it was about ten centimetres in length. “Luckily we don’t need it until around mid-day so we’ve got time yet to look for it.”
“So, do you have any idea where you might have lost it?” Harper asked.
“Well, no, not really… But it should be around this part of the Training Ground.” Jerald said. “If you find it at any time, just come back here. I’ll be here all day as I have to keep an eye on this place.”
And so, after promising that they would do their best to find the missing object, Kason and Harper resumed their walk around the introduction fair. They passed through webmasters’ half-completed tent and entered into a circular area surrounded on all sides by tents, much like the webmasters’ one.
There were only a small number of tents, but all of them were noticeably bigger than others they had seen elsewhere. They were also all of different colours, making it seem to Kason that they had just walked into a rainbow or something of the sort. A couple of the tents were still only partially complete like the webmasters’ one was, but most of them were already fully set up with the sides facing the plaza held open in various manners so that their insides were visible to anyone standing nearby.
Kason and Harper slowly walked towards the centre of the open area, looking around at the surrounding tents with mild curiosity. Suddenly, Kason smelled the fragrant scent of some kind of meat being cooked. He stopped for a moment, breathing deeply, indulging in the smell, when his stomach abruptly began to rumble loudly as if demanding that he go and get a sample of whatever it was that was cooking.
He looked around the plaza and saw what seemed to be a grill inside a dark green coloured tent. On the grill were several patties of meat which were being tended by someone, although Kason couldn’t see who as they were hidden by the fabric of the tent.
Kason stood and contemplated, wondering whether he should go and ask whether or not he could get something to eat. This only lasted a moment, however, before his hunger got the better of him and he called out to Harper, saying that he was going to try and get something to eat. Harper turned back when he heard Kason’s words and they both ambled over to the green tent, Kason eagerly awaiting the prospect of some food to fill his empty stomach.
They entered the tent after a few moments and almost immediately after they had, they heard a voice call out to them.
Kason turned his head to see who had spoken and felt his heart lurch slightly upon seeing who it was. Ledia was walking towards them, looking much better than when they had last seen her, waving a hand in greeting. She seemed have not realised who they were when she called out to them because she suddenly paused as she was walking towards them.
“Oh, I didn’t realise it was you two.” She said and smiled before resuming her walk.
Kason was quite glad to see her. Or, more accurately, he was glad that it was her that had noticed them instead of someone like Philera or Perceval. He and Harper took a few steps towards her as she approached them and said greeted her as well. They then spent a few minutes talking with her about how they had all been since their expedition into the Forest, but then mid-way through their conversation, Kason’s stomach rumbled again.
Ledia obviously heard because she laughed good-naturedly, “Are you hungry?”
Kason, whose face began to turn red with embarrassment, nodded. “I didn’t get to have breakfast this morning…”
Ledia nodded her head and turned towards the grill which had still been sizzling merrily in the background while they were talking. “Could I get something to eat Percy?” she called.
“Yeah.” Came the unenthusiastic sounding reply from behind her.
Kason and Harper both moved slightly so that they could see who it was that was tending the grill and saw Perceval standing with a spatula in hand; wearing a white apron over his black robes. He had a rather bored expression on his face as he skillfully flicked a patty of meat off the grill with the spatula and then made it float through the air before landing perfectly in the centre of a bun which had been lying open on a small table nearby.
He then trudged over to the table and put the finishing touches on the burger before carrying it over to Ledia. He then presented it to her with a lazy flourish, saying in the same bored tone, “Here you go. M’lady.”
Ledia chuckled and took it from him with a slight bow of the head and a word of thanks before handing it over to Kason. Kason accepted it and took a moment to examine it before taking a bite out of it. It tasted remarkably good, he thought as he felt delicious fatty juices erupt into his mouth the moment he bit into the meat.
He finished the burger in less than a minute and, after deciding that asking for seconds probably wasn’t appropriate at that moment, came out of his own self-absorbed little world and looked around to see what everyone else was up to. He saw Harper, Ledia and Perceval were standing only a few paces away chatting about something and so moved over to them to join their conversation.
Just as he came over, he heard Harper talking about the golden cylinder that they had been tasked with finding by Jerald and assumed that Harper was telling them about the task or asking for help or something. Harper finished telling them what he knew and then paused, giving the two botanists a chance to think. Ledia looked puzzled and as if she didn’t know what had happened to the missing item, but Perceval was nodding slightly with a faint grin on his face.
“Yeah. You don’t have to look for it.” He said
Harper looked cast him a surprised look and Perceval began to elaborate.
“We took it from them this morning.” He said with a grin, “That Jerald is such a daydreamer sometimes that you could take something from right under his nose and he wouldn’t notice. Of course, that’s just what we did.”
Ledia gave him a stern look, “You shouldn’t, they need that…”
“I know,” said Perceval, waving a hand dismissively, “we’ll get it back to them before they need it. When was their demo? Midday? There’s still plenty of time to enjoy watching them buzzing around like bees trying to find it.”
He nodded his head again and watched as someone, who Kason recognised as Jerald, walked hurriedly past the opening of the Botanists’ tent, looking around with an anxious expression on his face.
“Of course,” He began again, turning to Kason and Harper, “this is all to make sure they don’t do it again. We, as fellow students, have a duty to our peers to help them develop as people by pointing out their flaws. So, in fact, I think we’re doing old Jerald a favour.”
He paused momentarily.
“Even if this is about the fifth time we’ve done it.”
Kason wasn’t quite sure what expression he should make after hearing this, so he tried to keep his face suitably blank. He personally thought that this wasn’t the best way to help Jerald, but he wasn’t going to say that to Perceval in case he got angry.
Kason and Harper stayed in the Botanists’ tent for a while longer, chatting with Perceval and Ledia. It turned out that the rest of the Botanists were all away at that moment finishing of last-minute preparations for the day ahead, which was why it was only Ledia and Perceval minding the tent.
Somehow, their conversation ended up on the different societies and clubs that would have stalls or tents at the introduction fair. Perceval, who had helped out last year at the fair, regaled them with tales of various societies that had been there in previous years. He told them how the societies weren’t always the same each year, what with new students coming in and older ones leaving, some societies disbanded while new ones were created.
“But the minor departments have always had their societies running, as well as several from the major departments.” He said
“What are the minor and major departments?” Kason asked.
“Well, they are all different sections of the senior division.” He began, “Each specialises in a different area of study. When you finish in the junior division, you will join one of the departments of the senior division, that’s how it works. The minor departments are those whose main administrations are at another college, whereas the major departments are those whose administrations are either at this college or are totally independent of any college.”
Kason blinked at Perceval, he now understood what the minor and major departments were, but he was having problems working out why such an arrangement was necessary.
“Anyway,” Perceval continued, “The blue tent is the Webmaster’s one, they’re from E n’ E, that’s one of the major departments. And then there’s the Quest society, but they’re a little bit special and, err…” He continued to list off several other societies and which departments they were associated with.
“And then there’s us! The Botanists’ main place is at…” He thought for a moment then, apparently giving up, turned to Ledia for help.
“Tarial.” She said, “Come on, you should know that.”
A few minutes later, there was a great commotion outside the tent that made them all look outside to see what was going on. Outside there was a large stream of people all flowing into the plaza area from a pathway that presumably led from the edge of the training ground. Some filed into the tents that surrounded the open space, whereas others made their way through gaps between them to get to other others behind them.
Ledia looked her ring and let out a small exclamation. “It just about nine, we should start getting ready.” She said to Perceval, who nodded.
Kason and Harper, sensing that they would just be in the way if they stayed in the tent, excused themselves and walked back out into the plaza. There were still a few people hurrying about but for the most part, it seemed like the worst was over.
Kason and Harper stood still for a moment, wondering what they should do. Now that they knew what had happened to the item which Jerald had asked them to look for, they didn’t need to bother looking for it so they no longer had any restrictions on where they could go.
Since it was still a minute or two before everything officially started and most people seemed to be making last-minute preparations, Harper suggested that they wander to the other side of the training ground; the opposite side to that which they had entered from. Kason, who didn’t have any better ideas, agreed and so they both set off.
They squeezed their way through a gap between a purple coloured tent and a faded yellow one and found themselves on a path leading away on each side, with another row of stalls and tents in front of them. Not wanting to get lost somewhere in the maze of paths created by the tents and stalls, they decided to take the most direct route to their destination, which meant finding a suitably large gap between the booths and making their way through it.
This tactic worked well for the first two of times they did it but soon they found themselves in a dilemma where they couldn’t find a suitable gap to fit through. They walked up and down the path they were on for a few minutes trying to decide which gap would result in the least squeeze before deciding on one.
Kason volunteered himself to go through the gap first and so, trying to make himself as thin as he could, he began to make his way through. This one time, Kason was glad that he was smaller than most at his age. The gap was really too small for him to fit through, but with a great deal of effort, he managed to get the majority of the way through.
Just as he thought that he was out, he felt a tug from behind him. He turned his head to see what had happened and let out a groan of frustration. One of the pockets of his uniform had gotten caught on something that was sticking out from the stall he had his back too. Kason tried his best to manoeuvre a hand around to unstick himself, but for all his best efforts, the position was just out of his reach.
Having determined that he couldn’t unstick himself, he began hopelessly tugging at it. Throwing his body forward and backwards to try and somehow get it to dislodge naturally. He did this for a few moments, thinking that he must look pretty stupid to anyone passing by, then suddenly, it came free!
He went flying out of the gap between the two stalls and collided straight into someone with a great thud. Whoever he had crashed into let out a small shout as Kason collided with him and immediately shoved Kason, who had been startled by the sudden collision, away from them. Kason stumbled backwards away from the person and almost fell over, rubbing his arm which felt like it was probably bruised.
“Oi! Watch where you’re going, you twit!”