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ELODIN STRODE INTO THE lecture hall almost an hour late. His clothes were covered in grass stains, and there were dried leaves tangled in his hair. He was grinning.

Today there were only six of us waiting for him. Jarret hadn’t shown up for the last two classes. Given the scathing comments he’d made before disappearing, I doubted he’d be coming back.

“Now!” Elodin shouted without preamble. “Tell me things!”

This was his newest way to waste our time. At the beginning of every lecture he demanded an interesting fact he had never heard before. Of course, Elodin himself was the sole arbiter of what was interesting, and if the first fact you provided didn’t measure up, or if he already knew it, he would demand another, and another, until you finally came up with something that amused him.

He pointed at Brean. “Go!”

“Spiders can breathe underwater,” she said promptly.

Elodin nodded. “Good.” He looked at Fenton.

“There’s a river south of Vintas that flows the wrong way,” Fenton said. “It’s a saltwater river that runs inland from the Centhe sea.”

Elodin shook his head. “Already know about that.”

Fenton looked down at a piece of paper. “Emperor Ventoran once passed a law — ”

“Boring,” Elodin interjected, cutting him off.

“If you drink more than two quarts of seawater you’ll throw up?” Fenton asked.

Elodin worked his mouth speculatively, as if he were trying to get a piece of gristle out of his teeth.

Then he gave a satisfied nod. “That’s a good one.” He pointed to Uresh.

“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.”

“Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause. He leveled a serious finger at the Lenatti man. “Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.” He turned to look at Inyssa.

“The Yllish people never developed a written language,” she said.

“Not true,” Elodin said. “They used a system of woven knots.” He made a complex motion with his hands, as if braiding something. “And they were doing it long before we started scratching pictograms on the skins of sheep.”

“I didn’t say they lacked recorded language,” Inyssa muttered. “I said written language.”

Elodin managed to convey his vast boredom in a simple shrug.

Inyssa frowned at him. “Fine. There’s a type of dog in Sceria that gives birth through a vestigial penis,” she said.

“Wow,” Elodin said. “Okay. Yeah.” He pointed to Fela.

“Eighty years back the Medica discovered how to remove cataracts from eyes,” Fela said.

“I already know that,” Elodin said, waving his hand dismissively.

“Let me finish,” Fela said. “When they figured out how to do this, it meant they could restore sight to people who had never been able to see before. These people hadn’t gone blind, they had been born blind.”

Elodin cocked his head curiously.

Fela continued. “After they could see, they were shown objects. A ball, a cube, and a pyramid all sitting on a table.”

Today there were only six of us waiting for him. Jarret hadn’t shown up for the last two classes. Given the scathing comments he’d made before disappearing, I doubted he’d be coming back.

“Now!” Elodin shouted without preamble. “Tell me things!”

This was his newest way to waste our time. At the beginning of every lecture he demanded an interesting fact he had never heard before. Of course, Elodin himself was the sole arbiter of what was interesting, and if the first fact you provided didn’t measure up, or if he already knew it, he would demand another, and another, until you finally came up with something that amused him.

He pointed at Brean. “Go!”

“Spiders can breathe underwater,” she said promptly.

Elodin nodded. “Good.” He looked at Fenton.

“There’s a river south of Vintas that flows the wrong way,” Fenton said. “It’s a saltwater river that runs inland from the Centhe sea.”

Elodin shook his head. “Already know about that.”

Fenton looked down at a piece of paper. “Emperor Ventoran once passed a law — ”

“Boring,” Elodin interjected, cutting him off.

“If you drink more than two quarts of seawater you’ll throw up?” Fenton asked.

Elodin worked his mouth speculatively, as if he were trying to get a piece of gristle out of his teeth.

Then he gave a satisfied nod. “That’s a good one.” He pointed to Uresh.

“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.”

“Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause. He leveled a serious finger at the Lenatti man. “Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.” He turned to look at Inyssa.

“The Yllish people never developed a written language,” she said.

“Not true,” Elodin said. “They used a system of woven knots.” He made a complex motion with his hands, as if braiding something. “And they were doing it long before we started scratching pictograms on the skins of sheep.”

“I didn’t say they lacked recorded language,” Inyssa muttered. “I said written language.”

Elodin managed to convey his vast boredom in a simple shrug.

Inyssa frowned at him. “Fine. There’s a type of dog in Sceria that gives birth through a vestigial penis,” she said.

“Wow,” Elodin said. “Okay. Yeah.” He pointed to Fela.

“Eighty years back the Medica discovered how to remove cataracts from eyes,” Fela said.

“I already know that,” Elodin said, waving his hand dismissively.

“Let me finish,” Fela said. “When they figured out how to do this, it meant they could restore sight to people who had never been able to see before. These people hadn’t gone blind, they had been born blind.”

Elodin cocked his head curiously.

Fela continued. “After they could see, they were shown objects. A ball, a cube, and a pyramid all sitting on a table.”

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