Author's Note: This was written because Writer's Circle decided to do theme-based writing, and for that particular week the theme was 'Guilt and Regret'. A continuation to Dragon School.
Today I managed to get into trouble again. I resent the oddly stilted look the Counselor gives me whenever I pad into his office on yet another specious charge – as though I'm some sort of woodwork clock that occasionally goes quite mad, and he were already resigned to its eccentricities. Admittedly what I had to do today I'd seen coming – most of the conventional 'punishments' don't work, except possibly edging toward boring me to death: a threat to call my parents is just a bluff – I know my sire's too busy turning giants into flowers, or human princes into butterflies (though I think they're the same thing), whatever strikes his fancy. He has the oddest transformation spells, but I digress.
My dam cannot (if I dare pun) give a damn – as a Healer Adept she has much more pressing matters to attend to (usually with bandage, a potion or a poultice). Making me talk to the Counselor just gives the poor old dragon headaches, being an Arcane student and the offspring of the High Magus means that cleaning the privies is as easy as twirling a claw (literally), and so is weeding, or helping with the serpent pool.
So he attempts to bore me to death. I say 'attempt', because in my case I don't particularly mind writing essays. Obviously I don't tell this to him, and keep my eyes suitably filled with the traditional student's anguish about having to pick up a quill and make words.
So I had to write an essay on guilt and regret. In the eyes of the System, which presumably sees the student heart through glasses long faded from rose-tinted to opaque, this would somehow cause me to regret conjuring small abyssal quasits to plague Ryhss and his nefarious gang of bumbling crybabies.
I have to admit that the spell was greatly amusing – and being so flexible, rather powerful. Writing spells on unwarded parchment is dangerous, so I shall write it as it would be pronounced in the human tongue:
"Twenty-one quasssitsss sssitting on a wall,
My sire really should lock up his study magically. He has this fascination with human-type steel locks that, though unusual, the fact that he put them all over the place is probably perverse. Dragon-magic won't work on them, but he seems to overlook the fact that although they can't be picked by magic, they can be picked by, say, a twisted piece of wire. Maybe being High Magus puts your eyes somewhere where they can't see the nicks on the lock, the fluctuating grades on my report cards, and such.
The Counselor didn't even appreciate my point about poetic justice – the abyssal annoying the abysmal - and didn't even see the joke in that (not that I expected the creature to)... and so he made me write the essay.
What did I write about?
I had been considering actually writing an essay about being so utterly consumed with guilt about casting that spell on those mottling lizards dressed as dragons which I was sure were those behind the vandalism of my locker. I would no doubt write that I was so regretful that this had ever happened that I would never raise a claw in an aggressive spell against any living creature again.
The Counselor never said anything about the essay having to be about me feeling guilty over my justifiable actions.
What is guilt and regret? My sire sees emotions as some sort of balance on which our actions are stacked. When a 'bad' deed tips the scale towards immorality, either the dragon falls and is consumed by it, or he or she feels guilt or regret, which would tip the scale a little back, and motivate it to commit some 'good' deed to tip it in favor of morality, or at least in equilibrium. This shows that you can be High Magus and have as much of an idea of dragon emotions as your average uninformed human.
I think that guilt and regret are, like the calm before and after a storm, the emotions you feel before the retribution you know is coming (unconsciously or consciously), and the emotions you feel after doing something that you know is wrong enough for the consequences to make you suffer later.
It doesn't have to be suffering that's physical – it's often spiritual, which is why I don't feel guilt or regret over all the continuous pranks on Ryhss. One day I'd turn him into the vegetable that he is. Maybe a fungus – I'd bet it's his true form anyway. Or one of those smelly mushrooms that you can scent a mile away. Spiritual suffering is something that stays with you and eats and you, unnamed, often mistaken for guilt or its counterpart, eating and eating until someday you find something that absolves you, but it never goes away. Almost like Ryhss.
There's a series of mental switches inside us that only certain sorts of events can throw. Not sending gifts to Grandsire on his birthday would spew a veritable torrent of abject contrition, yet not sending whatever monetary aid I can to a far-off dragon eyrie in trouble doesn't even release a droplet of it.
Out of curiosity I asked my dam what she felt most guilty about in School, and she told me it was dating my sire, who was (not surprisingly) the top Arcane student then. Apparently in those (ancient) days the rivalry between Arcane and Alchemy was so fierce that there were two separate buildings joined only by the staff room, and even the staff took sides. An Arcane student wouldn't be caught dead speaking civilly to an Alchemy student, and so on. Amusing, really... I asked whether there were open fights.
Her answer, and I'm not making this up, was that yes, of course there were! There were insulting cheers that they made up against each other, and one night (here her voice dropped to a conspiring whisper), some students, including herself, sneaked over to the Arcane building and welded the door of one of the main toilets stuck with a potion. She said that it was one of the triumphs of the year. I asked if there were any Arcane students in the toilet.
Apparently there weren't any. Imagine, if you will, the absolute horror and soul-eating terror that the Faculty of the Arcane must have felt when they realized when the sun climbed out to its soft seat of clouds, that the door to the main toilet was welded shut.
What consternation! What dismay! What... absolute inanity. I am glad to say that civilization has already evolved to include direct spells and the occasional little tooth-and-claw fight whenever the teachers aren't watching.
Not that she regretted dating my sire, she added, with a draconic wink and a coy twitch of her tail, which signaled the arrival of my sire, speak of the devil, as dragons say. It's been so many years and she always starts purring like a dire-cat whenever he gets into her immediate vicinity. I think it's vaguely sickening. I asked him the same question, he gave a similar answer, nuzzling my dam affectionately, then decided to regale me with his own tales of swashbuckling daring when he was a student.
One night they sneaked over (the buildings must have had as much security as a first-year student's locker) and cast a spell in the large Alchemy kitchen that would cause any food to turn a brilliant fluorescent green. He looked rather proud of himself, and I state my opinion that you can be High Magus and still be several crystals short of a portal. It also reinforces my suspicion that parents are from another dimension. One perhaps deprived of the finer things in life, such as that walkabout spell I put on Ryhss' lunchbox that made it always stay just a claw's reach from the walking fungus for as long as his lunch break lasted. His scales, by the end of it, had turned about the same shade of beet red as a miscast fireball.
That spell wasn't on the forbidden list, so there.
So I wrote an essay on the theoretical definitions of guilt and regret, managed to squeeze in the examples above, and, out of a sense of mischief, made the entire long-winded piece of writing last six pages and have nothing at all to do with my own non-existent repentance of my 'sin'. Sometimes I pity the Counselor. There's a whispered rumor about that he does pills after every student that requires 'guidance'.
I realize I've been rambling again, and I need to go do something constructive like perhaps accidentally setting fire to Ryhss' knapsack. Sorry to end off so abruptly.
Have a Nice Day,