Summary: Tris and Anisha make a visit to the Collegium to acquire Anisha's M.U.S.E. license, and Anisha takes a detour to visit someone else without Tris's knowledge.
Tris fa Toren was getting extremely tired of wandering about in the chill early hours of morning. Only the fact that she was here this time totally of her own free will kept her feet moving, even though a shrill, hyper, and childlike voice kept piping up beside her and cheerfully asking stupid questions.
"Where are we going?" asked the apparently twelve-year-old Muse who skipped next to her. Anisha looked up at her current guardian and smiled. "Huh? Tris?"
"I've told you three times, Anisha," Tris told the child, keeping her voice carefully even. She was sleepy, and very close to losing her temper with Anisha. The young Muse had a habit of getting everyone around her (most notably, her Writer, Lily, Tris's own Writer's younger sister -- a fact that was no end of anxiety for Tris) into mischief that ranged from robbing Elf camps in the Northern Forest of Subreality to taking Lily for a joyride on somebody's borrowed dragon -- and not one of the tamer species, either. Today, though, was supposed to be status quo. Tris had been handed the task of getting Anisha's M.U.S.E. license. Anisha had showed up in front of Lily a few months ago with little or no credential of any kind. While there was little doubt that the girl was a Muse, she didn't have the license in her possession, so she needed to get one.
"I can't very well get it," Chandri had argued reasonably. "Calliope doesn't like me much, and Lily wouldn't know where she was going. Anyway, if I sent the two of them together, they'd find something more interesting and not be back for days..."
Tris had grudgingly agreed to this fact; Calliope didn't like Chandri very much, though Tris had never been able to find out why...she'd surmised that perhaps the Muse Queen just didn't particularly like Writers in general. Anyway, Tris didn't personally trust either of Crystallis's twelve-year-old residents to not annoy Calliope into something violent or...well, the possibilities were too numerous to trust the task to a twelve-year-old Writer and a twelve-year-old Muse, unchaperoned, especially those two particular ones.
As Anisha sighted the first buildings on the Collegium campus, she ran ahead of Tris, forcing the older Muse to run and keep up with her. She passed through the gates of the Collegium proper and kept on running until she stood at the foot of the main building of the complex. This was where the faculty offices were, the more important classrooms, the library, and most currently importantly, the licensing office.
Tris stared up at the building for a moment (which, rather predictably, stared back down at her), sighed a heavy sigh, and went inside, towing Anisha behind her by one arm.
The main corridors of the Imagination Collegium had been constructed, long ago, with the purpose in mind of repelling invaders. This was a little-known fact -- it was an even less-known fact that most buildings (even the mundane ones) in Subreality, mostly by accident, were constructed with this same purpose in mind. Tris had noticed it in her young adulthood at the Collegium, her first years in classes. She was certain that most young Muses noticed the same thing in their first few months here, but never said anything. There were certain architectural traits in a structure built to withstand siege; doors that only locked on one side, needlessly complicated hallways, secret passages to otherwise easily accessible areas, such as the kitchen, dormitories and store-rooms. Tris could think of few closets and storage spaces in the Collegium that didn't have special, secret ways of escape and access. She had eventually surmised that since no one spoke of it, everyone knew, but wasn't supposed to know.
By way of simple literary cliche, most structures in Subreality tended to spontaneously generate intricate networks of secret passageways and underground tunnels; the catacombs beneath the City alone were convoluted enough to rival the underground tunnels of Paris and London in Reality, and much easier to get lost in. The Collegium, though, must have been built intentionally along those lines. While a Writer's residence or any other building of their creation might have numerous secrets by design, simply for the fascination value, the Collegium had been constructed this way for a purpose. Tris could only theorize as to the actual purpose; all of her theories, though, related to the Muse War, and were nothing she wanted to think about too extensively.
It could be that Subreality had simply developed the necessity for such things after a while. After all, there were few other places in the Multiverse where attacks on the general public happened with such frequency and variety. And Subreality's quasi-consciousness had before shown the ability to adapt to its own conditions. Maybe this was just one more adaption. Then again, maybe not.
In any case, all of this made finding one's way around the Collegium difficult, at best. In fact, had Tris not spent several years of her late adolescence and recent adulthood here, she and Anisha would likely have wandered for hours. However, she had, and so they were in the main offices hallway within fifteen minutes.
It was four floors up, and wide windows all along the hallway kept it well-lit. Wood-panelled doors gleamed all along the hallway, and the corridor was deceptively quiet for what Tris knew usually went on behind those doors.
Anisha ran ahead of her again, reading plaques on doors for the one that read "Licensing Office." Or at least, that was what Tris assumed. When Anisha disappeared through one door, Tris hurried to catch up, and found that Anisha had indeed found the correct office. The older Muse followed her charge inside with a small sneeze for the benefit of the dust.
The inside of the office was dim and musty, and an old, thin, white-bearded Muse looked up at them, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose and peering at Anisha as she stopped in front of his desk. She stood there, hands folded in front of her, and pulled out a sheet of paper that Tris assumed must be her conditional license. The old Muse looked at it, muttered something to Anisha, and went to work shuffling through a very large stack of papers on his desk. Tris came nearer and took one of the two chairs in front of his desk, not noticing as the pile toppled over and she rushed to help gather the sheets that Anisha had vanished out the door behind her.
Having spent at least a substantial portion of her childhood in the Collegium, Anisha had little or no trouble navigating the labrynthine corridors, and stepped into a lower corridor with spring in her step. Unbeknowst to Tris, the young Muse had had an ulterior motive for coming to the Collegium today, one which had very little involvement with the one Tris had been set by Chandri. It was also one that Anisha was fairly certain would upset her impromptu guardian, so she didn't tell her, opting instead for her current method. She could always find Tris later.
She stopped in front of the doors of the Collegium library, standing on tiptoe to assess just how crowded it was at the moment. When she saw only a few Muse students bent over their studies, and the librarian, Edgar Allen Crow, staring suspiciously at them, she smiled and pushed open the door, heading past the long row of bookshelves and tables, past the front counter, and directly to a small, virtually unnoticable door behind the bookshelves. It was made of wood, and narrow, and painted dark green. The faded gold letters painted on the door read: "Order and Supply Room." This was where the Collegium faculty and some students came to request special volumes, books that weren't otherwise kept in the library. This was especially so for texts that predated the Collegium's creation; some early (and even original) texts from Ancient Greece, for instance, or books of myth and prophecy like the Agammennon Codex or the Nostradamus Prophecies that the Collegium library could only keep on hand for short periods, not permanently.
However, this was hardly Anisha's goal when she knocked on the green door. She had no interest in dusty old tomes of cryptic knowledge. Her interest lay in the person responsible for the special orders, who just happened to be, at least for the most part, a Muse.
"Come in," came a male voice from behind the door. Anisha opened it quietly, peeking around the door until the plum-skinned man seated behind the desk looked up. He pushed feathery white hair out of tired-looking but mischevious green eyes and observed the girl who had just stepped into his office. His eyes lit up when he saw her.
"Sweetheart," he said, pushing his chair out from his desk and holding out his arms for his daughter to climb into his lap.
"Hi, Daddy," Anisha greeted him, hugging him tightly. "You look tired. Are you?"
Anden fa Toren nodded. "'Fraid so, sweetie. One of the students requested..." He shuffled through papers on his desk. "Aian Gaiku, I think it's called."
Anisha wrinkled her nose in distaste at the unfamiliar syllables, her brow furrowed in concentration. "Iron Town?" she translated. "What's that?"
Anden shook his head. "It's an incredibly obscure copy of an incredibly obscure version of an old Japanese myth. One of the Ancient Mythology classes is studying it, apparently, and so I get set the task of tracking down a copy..."
"Have you found one yet?" Anisha inquired, with every obvious sign that she believed her father capable of materialising a copy of the text out of thin air.
"Not yet. I might have to resort to a little creative time travel to get ahold of one."
"Really? Cool!" Anisha exclaimed, as her father finally tilted his head towards his daughter questioningly.
"Now, it isn't that I'm not glad to see you, but what are you doing here, sweetheart?"
Anisha grinned brightly. "Auntie Tris brought me to get my M.U.S.E. license. I didn't have it yet, just the conditional."
Anden's face acquired some concern, along with some mischief. "She doesn't know you came to see me, does she?"
Anisha shook her head emphatically. "No way. She doesn't even know she's my Auntie yet. It's really funny, though, 'cause Lily knows, and Chandri knows, and a lot of other people seem to know, but nobody's telling her... Chandri thinks it's hilarious. She thought it was especially funny when Lily named her sword Valarakaria."
Anden's mouth twitched strangely, as if he were trying not to grin. "I'll bet she did. She would, too. So, how's Musing?"
Anisha hopped down from her father's lap, and spread her arms wide. "It's great. Lily's great, and we've done all sorts of fun things so far. Auntie Tris doesn't like it when we go out and find interesting things to do, because Chandri asked her to keep an eye on her, and she says we're giving her way too much exercise..." She trailed off, eyeing her father strangely.
"When can I tell Auntie Tris who I really am?"
Anden frowned. "Not yet, darling. Your Auntie and I aren't on the best of terms, and haven't been for a century or more. I don't want to even get into the whole thing again just yet. Wait a while. Let her figure it out for herself, if you can. But don't tell her yet. If as many people know as you say, then she probably will. Besides; it's more fun this way."
Anisha frowned, studying that statement, then suddenly nodded in agreement. "All right, Dad. If you say so. I should probably go back now, before she realises I'm gone."
Her father nodded in agreement, and Anisha leaned forward to peck her father on the cheek. "Bye, Daddy," she called over her shoulder, vanishing back into the library. Anden watched her go, a half-smile on her face, then leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes and letting his mind drift gradually away from his body, through the library, and out into the corridor. Reaching out, he eventually located his twin sister, drawn to the beacon of her mind like a magnet. Yes, there she was, in the Licensing Office, helping old Randon gather up papers. She didn't seem to notice his presence, she was too focused on what she was doing, and on other things.
He wondered, for the second time since this had all started, whether it was a good idea. He wasn't sure how Tris would react, should she discover that she had a niece. While he was quite certain it wouldn't be in any way a danger to his daughter, he felt a little uncertain about mounting this enormous subterfuge against his sister. After all, she had a lot of other things to worry about, including a Writer of her own, and all that entailed, without her estranged brother throwing trouble her way.
Well, she started it... he thought childishly, then smiled to himself. No, this would do, for now. The pace was just fine, for now. The game would play itself out. And Anisha would play her part well. She always did. If Tris found out, she found out, but he wasn't going to give his sister any more hints than he had to.
Besides, this might turn out to be fun...
Read the next story: The Necessity of Caffeine to Effective Storytelling
Disclaimers: Subreality concept discovered by Kielle. All hail. She gets auto-posting-permission. Anyone else, just ask.
Chandri is me and therefore mine. At least, that's how I see it.
Tris is my Muse, and I think she's developing an ulcer. :)
Lily is my younger sister and also a Writer unto herself, and therefore is her own property. Anisha is Lily's Muse.
Anden is Tris's twin brother, and as far as I can tell, they're not speaking. And let me tell you, Writing a story without your Muse's knowledge is no small task...
Calliope was introduced by Yasmin, but I do believe she's public domain.
Randon...is a random Muse I popped into existence just for the sake of this story. Use him if you like.
Edgar Allen Crow was created by Tracy Sue.
The Collegium and most of what it contains was created by...uhm...I don't know. It's been used by so many people I'm not sure anymore.
I think that's it. Anything I forgot, I'm sorry...
Feedback eagerly hoarded at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the next story: The Necessity of Caffeine to Effective Storytelling