The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Author:Naomi Novik [Novik, Naomi]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: 2021-09-28T00:00:00+00:00

I’d like to say Khamis improved on acquaintance, but he didn’t. The second week of the obstacle course, we did it properly: I sang the mana-amplification spell before the doors even fully opened and charged in without stopping to let myself look. I went straight into a knee-high snowdrift in a glacial mountain landscape, empty except for massive tall stone boulders jutting out of the ground like pillars, intermittent blasts of snowy wind coming into our faces almost as hard as the boundary blizzard from last time. It was still beautiful, but it was the kind of beautiful that normally you only get to see in person if you spend a week hauling yourself up a mountain with a backpack longer than your torso.

I floundered a few steps in, and then my foot just went out from under me and I headed over backwards. If it hadn’t been for Aadhya’s shield holder—after I’d told her about my little run-in with Liesel, she’d tweaked them to handle accidental falls along with deliberate impact—I’d probably have concussed myself properly that time. As it was, I went down hard, and the snowdrifts on either side of me fell in on top of my head and started actively trying to smother me. Jowani hauled me out of it and put me back on my feet—oh I was glad to have him along—just as the boulders all unfolded themselves into troll shapes like Transformers made out of rock and started flinging chunks at our heads.

We all came out with numb bodies and a lot of bruises, and Chloe had a broken collarbone and cracked shoulder and a bad limp: she’d been hit by one of the flying rocks. Our helpers patched her up a little, while inside the gym the boulders reassembled themselves out of the mass of crushed pebbles and dust that I’d left behind me, but she was going to need more healing than we could expect from the deal. “Let’s get you to your room. We can work in there instead,” Liu said, and Chloe just nodded without saying anything, her eyes lowered and her mouth thin, and Khamis came up and said to her, “You’re the one putting up the mana. Next time, you go in the middle.”

I’d spent the week congratulating myself repeatedly on my self-restraint, but it had run out, and I was about to tell him that actually Liu was bringing at least as much mana, by carrying the mana-amplification spell on the lute the entire time we were running, and also I was going to lay out exactly what I thought of him, and offer some detailed suggestions of where he could shove it, but before I could open my mouth, Aadhya said, “Seriously? A big boy like you, afraid of some scrapes and bruises?” He rounded on her; she just waved a finger back and forth across his chest in over-the-top disdain. “You want to take your first hit when it’s for real, son, you go ahead, keep hiding in the middle.


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