“The first Crusade ended in the thirteenth year of the second age.” Arkh held his breath. The second age was always the hardest for him.
“Correct,” his master said softly, as Arkh let his breath out in relief. “And when was Koth founded?”
“Um…” Arkh hesitated, which he knew would lower his final score. He scrambled for the answer. Was it 48, or 46? No, 46 was when The Ascendant founded Utica; it had to be 48. “Koth was founded in the forty-eighth year of the second age.”
“Incorrect. Koth was founded in the forty-third year. The forty-eighth year saw the completion of the Ivory Tower, and was when Tyrant Idari declared the city unsiegable. The event is often incorrectly cited as the city’s founding.” Arkh sighed and slouched down in his chair. “I’m sorry, but you’ve gotten too many questions incorrect to pass this test.”
Arkh slammed his hands against the desk in frustration, and ripped his hat off. “I’m never going to get this ribbon, am I?”
“Archie,” his master pulled off his glasses and set down the book he was reading from. “This was only your third time taking this test; you shouldn’t expect to pass them all the first time. It took me seven tries before I got my Reach Cartography ribbon, which I notice you already have. You’re an excellent student, and you’re going to be an excellent Cartographer.”
The words cut through Arkh’s anger like a knife, and he calmed down almost immediately. “Thank you, master Banagher. I’m sorry for my outburst.”
Banagher chuckled as he collected his things and placed them in a bag. “It’s alright, kid. Get your stuff and walk with me.” Arkh nodded as he grabbed his pile of books.
The two of them stepped out of the room and Banagher closed the door behind them. They walked in silence for a brief moment before Banagher spoke again. “So I’m afraid I have some bad news, Archie.” From behind his precariously balanced stack of books, Arkh gave Banagher a confused look. “I didn’t tell you this before, but my star apprentice—” Banagher gave Arkh a knowing look—“getting his Second Age History ribbon will fulfill my last requirement to become a Master Cartographer.”
Arkh hustled forward and turned around, walking backwards to face Banagher. “Whoa! Congratulations! But how is that bad news?”
“Well, it means that I’ll be expected to complete more field research. The council’s already given me some assignments up around New Turath.” Arkh still looked pleased, and Banagher drew in a breath. “And you getting that ribbon will also complete your history requirements, and you’ll graduate as my apprentice.” Arkh’s smile began to fade. “It’ll mean you won’t get to come with me, Archie.”
Arkh’s gaze dropped to the floor, and he silently resumed his place at his master’s side. The two of them walked, wordlessly, through the rest of the hall, and into the next. The only exchange between the two was a whispered “Thank you” as Banagher held the door open.
It was Arkh that broke the silence. “You’re the fourth master this has happened to… Am I ever going to get a field assignment?”
“Archie…” Banagher sighed, and was silent for a moment. “You’re a fantastic student, Archie. You’re probably the most gifted mapmaker I’ve ever seen, and you pick up everything we teach you so fast.” He hesitated. “But you’re such an angry kid. You scare people, and… and the Guild doesn’t want you hurting anyone, or yourself. You’re not allowed out in the field until you prove you can control yourself.”
“I know, master,” Arkh replied quietly. “I’m sorry.”
Banagher put a hand on Arkh’s shoulder. “Hey, kid. You’re gonna figure it out. You’re still young. And hey, in the meantime…” He paused, and looked to make sure no one else was nearby, then dropped his voice to a whisper. “How’s your ‘extracurricular’ assignment going?”
Arkh’s mood visibly lightened, and he said “Here,” while passing his books off to Banagher. He glanced up and down the hall, and reached into his backpack, retrieving an elongated package, wrapped in linen. He unwrapped it, revealing a crudely forged dagger. The blade was full of dents and dings, and the grip was poorly sewn, but Arkh beamed with pride. “I’m still clumsy with the hammer, but Smith Livingston says I’m not the worst he’s seen.”
Banagher smiled as he examined the dagger. “Coming from him, that’s a pretty good compliment, kid.” He met Arkh’s gaze. “You keep this up, you’ll be working in the Ironforge some day.” That made Arkh smile. “Come on. Let’s go get some food.”
Arkh laughed as he put away the dagger and grabbed his books. He would miss master Banagher.