Not That Kind of College

As always, when nervous and out of sorts, Fairuz went to take a bath.

I've got nothing, she told herself as she jerkily undressed. I let that Elf talk me into not practicing any spells, and instead let him turn me into a raging bookworm.

She sank into the warm water, sat down, closed her eyes, and inhaled the blossoming fragrance. The ambience calmed her some, slowing her heartbeat a bit. The muggy air slowed her breathing. The snug heat of the water made her feel safe. As she began to relax, she allowed herself to feel good something, anything to drive away the panic.

I am a raging bookworm, she thought defiantly. I studied hard and even got high marks by their unforgiving standards.

"I passed my exams," she murmured to herself. It had to count for something.

"Congratulations," a deep voice said.

Fairuz's eyes flew open to see Norion stripping down. Her mouth fell open as the tall Elf nonchalantly joined her in the bath.

"Are you insane?" she exclaimed.

"Believe it or not, people bathe together all time. It conserves water," he calmly told her, wading in the water and taking a seat nearby. He sighed blissfully, closing his eyes as he sank into the water. "I can't tell you how I've missed this. There's an upscale bath house in Solitude, but people go there to relax, not get clean. Not to mention, the price of admission is deliberately set to keep out the riffraff. So I'm forced to bathe the old-fashioned way, hauling water and heating it myself."

"Can't you just use magic?" she asked pointedly.

"The magic which powers this bath house goes far beyond that of a single mage," he told her, opening her eyes.

"They're gonna make me do magic," she snapped finally. "They're gonna make me do magic starting tomorrow and you haven't let me practice!"

"You'll be fine," he reassured her. "I saw them grading your exams in the Arcanaeum. You performed better than your entire class."

Fairuz's anger gave way to pleasant shock. "...I did?" How come Ervine didn't say that?

"I told you your only problem was discipline," he shrugged. "They're not expelling a student with a brain like yours. Besides, you're a first year. They don't expect you to work miracles. They just want you to get in the habit of practicing your skills."

Fairuz pondered that for a moment. He had an annoying way of calming her down with that voice of his. That annoying accent made everything he said sound so cultured and convincing. Norion was an annoying man, with annoyingly good looks, and an annoyingly tall body all wet and glistening in the flickering candlelight....

"Enjoy the bath, you weirdo," Fairuz bit out, moving to stand up.

"Fairuz," he sighed wearily. "I'm leaving."

She paused, confused. "The bath?"

"The College," he said wearily. "I've got to get back to my life. I've overstayed as it is."

She blinked rapidly, struggling to process this information. "But... but my lessons--"

"You're a smart, capable young woman," he reminded her. "You always have been. You just need to consistently apply yourself. And yes," he added out of the blue, "you are very beautiful. Anyone with functioning eyes can see that."

Fairuz was caught off guard. "Why...why would you say--"

"When I met you, you had this dark cloud over your head, all because you thought that Onmund fellow didn't find you attractive," he recalled. "Of course, you're attractive. He just can't focus on that right now. Like I said, not everyone has rich parents who can easily afford this place."

She paused, letting that sink in. It was strange; she'd always expected her heart to flutter the first time someone called her beautiful, but it didn't happen. This reaction was deeper, more intense. Her whole body seem to warm and melt to that voice, making her feel things she'd never felt before and didn't understand.

She rose abruptly. No one had ever made her feel this uncomfortable. No matter how hard she crushed on someone, no boy actually made her feel uncomfortable; boys were cute and wholesome. They did things like fish and row boats. They worked on farms and smelled like apples and freshly baked bread.

Norion, however, was a man--tall, elegant, and highly refined. He wasn't some eager, bright-eyed first year; he was a graduate of years past who lived in a big city and dressed like a lord.

He stood up too. "Fairuz...." he trailed off deliberately, letting the unspoken hang thickly between them.

Her body was beginning to tremble. "You said," she rasped, faltering, "you said this wasn't that kind of college."

He slowly took her into his warm arms and leaned down. "Don't be ridiculous," he murmured softly, his voice low and lulling. "They're all that kind of college."

The first kiss was dizzying. Fairuz had never kissed anyone before, but it didn't matter; she followed her instincts and his lead, opening her mouth, moving her head, sinking her fingers into his golden hair. The kiss deepened, intensified, until it was all-consuming, and she could think of nothing else.

He was gentle, he was tender, he took his time, allowing her to relax and simply feel desired. He kissed everything, hands, wrists, shoulders, neck. From her clavicle to her breasts and belly his mouth trailed molten kisses. It was romantic, then it was passionate, and then she heard herself, as though from a distance, calling his name out over and over again.

They lingered until the bathwater cooled, before drying off and dressing themselves. He gave her one last kiss goodbye, leaving her to go back to her room and try to process what just happened.

Except she couldn't. It was like it wasn't real, but in a dream. And what did it mean anyway? Were they in love now? Did he always find her beautiful? Is that what made him approach her in the Arcanaeum?

He was going back to Solitude, so they weren't a couple. Would she ever see him again? Did he even want to see her again?


The one good thing about having sex for the first time, with her tutor in a college bath house, was that it distracted her from everything else. When practice time came the next day, Fairuz wasn't panicking because she didn't care about classes anymore. She had questions. Why did Norion make love to her if he was just going to leave?

And why did she go along with it?

Am I "that" girl? she wondered, standing in the Hall of Elements, waiting for her name to be called. Am I that desperate, lonely idiot who falls for any guy who's even remotely nice to her? Because that would be really fucking irritating.

She could feel her anger bubbling up. She'd been meditating a lot lately, keeping her calm, focusing on channeling magic without casting it. But now the calm was dissipating as obsessive confusion gave way to anger.


At least he's not a student here, she shuddered, lost in her own thoughts and oblivious to the class. The last thing I need is everybody laughing and calling me an easy lay.


You know what? she internally snapped. Fuck Norion. Fuck this bullshit. I spent this whole semester simply wanting to kiss a boy and get drunk at a few parties, but instead, I turn out to be a hack mage who just gives it away to the first guy who pays me some compliments. And what did he mean by "they're all that kind of college"? Has he done this before? With how many people? Was I just a fucking notch on his fucking tailored belt?


She finally turned her attention outward, glancing around herself in confusion to see that everyone had moved away from her. In fact, the only person didn't budge was old Tolfdir; he sat with his morning tankard of mead and his jaw on the floor.

"By all the gods of Aetherius," the old mage gasped.

Fairuz's whole body was bathed in light, or more accurately, fire. Somehow, without thinking about it, she'd enveloped herself in flames and sent her classmates running.

"What...what is this...?" Bewilderment quickly turned to panic. "Professor--"

"Flame Cloak," he rasped. "You've cast the Flame Cloak spell."

"Flame?" she echoed haltingly. "Like...Destruction?"

His head rose and fell, eyes unblinking, mouth still hanging open. "Adept-level Destruction."

After a short time, the flames died out and she was left standing in a sea of gasping students.

"First years don't usually cast a spell like that," Tolfdir murmured, astounded. "They simply can't."

Fairuz racked her brain, trying to figure out how she could even pull off something like this. She'd been lost in her thoughts, angry over yet another man. She figured all that pent-up magic he wouldn't let her use finally took its cue from her rage and simply burst into flames.

"Fuck!" she blinked to herself. "Did Norion do this on purpose?"

"Norion?" the old mage asked. "What does Norion have to do with anything?"

"He's been my tutor for a few weeks now," she replied absently. "But he wouldn't let me practice magic," she rolled her eyes.

" here?" Tolfdir blinked, still lost.

Fairuz was getting impatient now. "He's been here, Professor, for weeks."

The old mage frowned, as though struggling with this information. "He graduated years ago."

"Yes, I know; he just came back for a visit."

"I think I would know if one of my best students was back on campus," Tolfdir pushed back. "I think we'd all know. He would've been a guest speaker. Norion is a very talented Illusion mage also skilled in Alteration. Now there is a man who can bend reality," he smiled.

After months of vacillating between anger, depression, self-pity and confusion, Fairuz's whole world stopped.

"Illusion mage?" she asked. Please don't tell me I have an imaginary friend. Please don't tell me I've been walking around Winterhold, talking to an imaginary friend.

"Master-level," Tolfdir nodded. "One of very few left in Tamriel. We would've made him a professor if the position wasn't already filled."

Fairuz stared at the old man, bewildered.

So you're saying I lost my my imaginary friend?

Next: Thank You


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