Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?
darkkenchild is the Head Admin here at No Books. He enjoys long walks on the beach and debating the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, so any questions about your character , the plot of No Books, and/or how magic works on the site, please do not hesitate to ask him.
Squeeji is the head of “Human Resources” here at No Books, and responsible for pretty much everything related to our contact with the outside world. Advertising, orientation, and just about anything to do with bringing in new blood is in her wheelhouse.
SHE HAD AWOKEN earlier that day than usual. Recently, Biancardi hadn't been sleeping well for some ominous, foreboding feeling that seemed to often overwhelm her at night. She would conduct her rituals and rites, she would converse with the many spirits that she had gotten to know, and none of their insight could quell the dissonance she experienced and the apprehension that seemed to loom about Columbiana as of late. Feelings and emotions were fickle, unsuual things, and for some reason the shaman couldn't shake the eerie vibes that loitered unsolicited. Perhaps it was merely a psychological trick of her own mind, of her own cognition making her feel insecure. Regardless, she would have to shed those feelings in order to be able to instruct her class. Berlinetta could recall the days of being an undergraduate, with less responsibilities, and those days were much more preferential than the present. These days, plights were amok, and she was entering young adulthood with a platter full of responsibilities that she wouldn't have had previously if she were only an undergraduate.
Unlike other instructors who may have preferred a more conventional setting their courses, Berlinetta preferred the Longhouse, in spite of its lack of accommodations as opposed to the novelty of the facilities. The Longhouse was her favorite location on the grounds, and it was for that reason that she had chosen to instruct her course, in spite of its entry level status, there. The Longhouse Berlinetta often found herself at more than any other place, and whether that was because most of her classes were there, and most of her house happened to be around there, or because of the heap of spirits which were around was unknown. All Berlinetta knew was that it was the place that seemed to her to be the most comfortable.
The student body was interesting. Of course, she wasn't in a position before of having to be responsible for many of them. Now, that was primarily her position what with working hand in hand with the facility's guidance counselor. And there was one student in one of her classes that seemed to be a perpetual trouble maker. Alexander Bonham. It had come to her attention that he was noted for having attempted to steal a book from the bookstore, and to what she would have imagined was his dismay, he was prevented from doing so due to some hex placed upon the book. To her it seemed to be a sort of cosmic irony, a karmic slice of retribution if one would, and an ode to the fact that nature required a balance. At least, in Diedne, that was the way that things were viewed and perceived. Interestingly enough, Alexander wasn't a bad student. Certainly, there were many times in which he had been inattentive in class, not necessarily disruptive, but, certainly never fully present for class. Yet, Mr. Bonham always seemed to pass, irregardless of how present he may or may not have been during the actual class period.
“Alright everyone, that's it for today.” She announced, gently closing her book. Berlinetta scanned the group of students, her eyes affixed upon Mr. Bonham. “Alexander?” She began, slipping over to the student. “I would like to talk with you for a moment, if you do not mind.” She stated, furrowing her brows. There was a great deal of general confusion about Alexander as a person. Berlinetta didn't know much about him personally. She didn't know why he had a continual record of ill behavior. She didn't know why he continued to do the things that he obviously knew that he would get into trouble for. Perhaps some would have said that it wasn't any of her business. Perhaps some had felt that Berlinetta was always snooping where she didn't belong, and a while ago, as an undergraduate, she might have been inclined to agree with such a sentiment. These days, however, working in the counseling department of Columbiana, Berlinetta had taken a genuine interest in the the well being of all the students mentally, emotionally, and physically. She suspected that he wouldn't be eager to discuss anything and would likely make a mockery of their chat, but, it seemed to her well worth the effort to get to know him a bit better.
It was just one of those days, those miserable days with shitty weather that had Alex wishing he could have just cocooned himself in his blankets and spent the whole day in bed. But he was a student at the Academy and if he didn’t drag his ass to class, nobody was going to notice or care and all that he’d have to show for it was a lighter wallet. It wasn’t that Berlinetta’s class didn’t interest him, but...well, that was it. It just didn’t interest him. He absorbed most of the necessary information through osmosis and did the necessary coursework, but was otherwise an average student who was obviously just skating by.
And he had every intention of continuing that way, at least until the teacher had to go and pull him aside. Truth be told he didn’t even remember her name, something with a B and a little strange. Beatrice, Bernadette...it wasn’t coming to him, but he was too embarrassed to answer with her name when she called him out after class.
“Yeah?” He muttered as he packed up his backpack, shoving a textbook and notebook in carelessly. “Uh, okay.” Had he done something wrong? Forgotten to turn in an assignment?” Entirely possible. Flunked a test? Less possible, but still within the realm of things that could happen. “Am I like, in trouble or something?” His body language displayed nothing but discomfort, from the way he shifted from foot to foot, to the way he kept his hands shoved in front pocket of his hoodie, to the way he barely made eye contact with Berlinetta.
Her brows continued to furrow as she observed him carefully. It was odd to her that there was so much malaise between them. Hell, Berlinetta barely knew the kid, but it was evident that he disliked even being in her presence. Actions spoke louder than words, they said. But whenever one cared to analyze that statement and adage, it seemed to Biancardi to be a though-terminating cliché. Irregardless, body language was a reality. It was an ode to truth, an illustration of the way one truly felt, and the uneasiness in the situation was palpable.
“Now why would the first thing that you assume is that you are in trouble or something?” The shaman crossed her arms over her chest defensively, shifting her weight onto her opposite leg. Curiously Berlinetta cocked her head to the side and glared at him quizzically. “Unless you've done something that you should be in trouble for, you know, like trying to steal a book from the book store the other day? Yeah, word travels fast around here, Alexander. And just so you know, not all of us are out to get you, or to scold you, or offer you demerits for what may be considered your ill-behaved nature. Some of us are actually interested in the well being of our population here at Columbiana.” She offered, a hint of sympathy and sincerity to her voice.
“I'm not really going to lecture or preach anymore about the situation, but I do have one thing that I want you to hear. I really have trouble figuring out exactly why someone with your precociousness and intelligence would repeatedly follow the same patterns of behaviour, the same patterns of making such emotionally immature decisions. We all have reasons for what we do whether they are conscious or subconscious, and I am just saying you're a smart kid, just stop making poor decisions that you know are going to get you into trouble.” She got it. She was sure that he would think that she is coming at him like some concerned or annoying mother figure that was there to lecture him about his behavioural problems, but that was beside the point. The problem with most people, she had seemed to note, was the fact that so many people affirmed and reinforced terrible behaviours from others. That was one thing that Berlinetta could never wrap her mind around. Whenever someone was met with otherwise terrible things, people allowed that to continue, only accepting someone's behaviour rather than correcting them whenever their behaviours would be to the detriment of others, and especially to the detriment of the self and one's own well-being.
Sighing, Berlinetta uncrossed her arms from her chest and glanced around the Long House. “You've got potential, but all that potential is lost and wasted on you if you can't get your stuff together. That's all I'm saying. So go on, ignore what I have to say, continue acting like a garden variety douchebag and let that be that, or really grasp this opportunity that you have here with all of these people and make something of it.”
It wasn’t that Alex disliked his teacher really, it was just that...well, she seemed like the sort of person who cared an awful lot about everything. Wasting so much energy caring for other people’s shit just seemed...stupid to him. He didn’t want to be bothered, and he didn’t want to bother Berlinetta either. All he wanted was to skate by unnoticed.
“Uh, because that’s what teachers do, pull you aside if you’re being a lil’ shit.” At least, that was the only reason teachers had ever pulled him aside throughout his academic career. He had never really been the sort of kid to go above and beyond the call of duty, definitely not a teacher’s pet.
For the most part Alex kept quiet as Berlinetta launched into her lecture about his behavior. How she figured out about his attempted theft, Alex didn’t know. The shopkeeper must have been onto him, shit. The majority of the lecture was lost on Alex. From the moment she uttered the phrase emotionally immature Alex tuned out, focusing instead on if he’d have time to make it back to the dorms for some Call of Duty before his next class. When he returned from his little daydream she was still lecturing, this time something about grasping opportunities.
There were two ways he could have responded. He could have taken the criticisms in stride, using them to better himself. Or, he could dismiss them as overly optimistic and smothering. He chose the latter, of course.
“Look.” Alex did not have a habit of being polite, but he knew better than to be outright hostile towards someone who controlled his grades. Maybe. “You seem like a nice person and all, but I literally don’t give a shit. Life isn’t beautiful and wonderful and nice. I’m not secretly some genius who’s gonna learn to cure cancer or whatever, I’m just here to get a degree.” A degree and a job, because it’d be nice to have a steady stream of income and the ability to reliably put food on the table for once in his life.
His diatribe was rather predictable. There were several time she wondered why she wanted to continue with this graduate school business whenever she had to deal with douchebags both faculty and students. But then there were students who were eager to learn, who were there to actually accomplish something with their knowledge beyond garden variety just getting by. At least, that is what she had hoped. Hell, she wouldn't have stayed to endure what could be a personal hell with nothing to show for it. In many ways, she was unsure how exactly to be an educator, especially to be an educator of something that no one really cared to learn. Sure, many of the senior staff had advanced courses, and in those courses, students not only had to be there, they needed to be there.
“I was actually trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but that just completely changed.” She scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest, arming herself against the tension of the situation which she could slice through like butter with a warm knife. Sure, the young woman couldn't really motivate people to care, and perhaps she had cared a great deal too much about others well-being, but for Biancardi not to care was akin to asking Niagara not to fall. She wouldn't have gotten into the behavioral sciences if she hadn't cared about everyone's well being.
“You are really impossible, Mr. Bonham. I never said that life was wonderful and great and nice, you added those confections to my words as if you think that is how I view the world. It's not. Also, I am a nice person, that is why I am trying to reach out to you. If you really wanted to be here to get a degree then you would stop doing stupid shit...” She began, narrowing her eyes at him. “Wanna know why you need to stop doing stupid shit? Because if you keep on doing stupid shit, you won't be here to even get any type of degree. Don't start building a record padded with stupid decisions, because then you aren't going to get anywhere.”
Exasperated, the mage sighed and shook her head in dismay at the younger mage. “But... let me guess, you literally don't give a shit. That's okay, don't. Don't give a shit. Keep on not giving a shit, and then I won't give a shit to tell other faculty members about your stupid decisions and your trying to steal a book from the bookshop. You know... because the last thing you need is to be marked with a red flag and to have eyes on you.”
Alex’s brows raised skeptically and then lowered, eyes narrowing in defense. He knew it, he knew she was just like all the other adults he’d ever run into, judgemental, arrogant, condescending...maybe it was time to change his freshly made opinion of Berlinetta being a nice person. “U mad bro?” He snickered as his teacher launched into another lecture. This one he didn’t tune out. No, he paid full attention if only so he could rip apart her arguments without taking the effort to understand her intent.
“Right. Riiiiiight, this is all going to go on my permanent record.” He wiggled his fingers and spoke with an eerie voice. Because Alex knew more than most that it wasn’t really a thing. Well, it didn’t used to be. He wasn’t a minor anymore so he had to be a bit more careful about what he did, but that didn’t seem to slow him down much. “So what, you’re blackmailing me now? Be good or you’re going to turn me in for trying to shoplift weeks ago.” Note to self, find out where Berlinetta lived and egg her house. “I mean let’s just forget that the textbook is like, three hundred fucking dollars, because THAT’S not robbery right there.” He sneered, voice dripping with sarcasm. “But no, I’m the asshole for trying to walk off with it so I can get my work done.”
Goddamn, he really needed to get around to pirating books off the internet. At least he was less likely to be caught that way. “No, I literally don’t give a shit what you think. Go narc on me, whatever. It’s just gonna make you look like the dumbass.” He swung his backpack over his shoulder and onto his back. “So, can I go now or are you gonna complain about the way I dot my letter I’s next.”
There was something increasingly annoying about younger men these days. Their language, their bro jargon, it was all gross and agitating. There was something way too smug about the way in which Alex argued. Not only was it immature, it was downright silly. Anyone following his logic was doomed, she felt, to repeat the same patterns of shitty behavior, and if she wasn't going to try and help him out, then who would? Berlinetta always had a problem with being too selfless, but in selflessness, there was certain sense of self-righteousness that tinged her personality, and this was just a clear display of such behavior. Perhaps she shouldn't have been the way she was, and perhaps Alex shouldn't have been the way he was, but such was life, and there were times in which personalities clashed.
The shaman sighed and looked at the younger man with sincerity. “Hey, I get it, capitalism sucks, and the price of education is outrageous. I know that. I have been in your shoes, buddy. The government robs its citizenry every day of the week, but, laws exist for a reason. You can't just walk away being a moral cripple, Alex. Because what are you going to do when you do get caught doing something that will end up getting you into trouble that we can't get you out of?” It seemed to her a fair question. If he didn't change his patterns, he would only end up in trouble larger than anyone at the school could help him with. Surely, with his attitude, she imagined, that he didn't have any mentionable friends or associates. If he did have associated, she presumed that they were up to no good just like Alex often was, and that was just a hot pile of chaos waiting to be in jail.
“Of course you can go. Why would I want to stand here and tolerate you mocking me? Just know that there are people out there who are concerned about you, for whatever that is worth. I know it might not seem like much, but mages kind of need to stick together right now, irregardless of whatever bullshit is going on in our personal lives. Things are dangerous out there in case you haven't heard.” Biancardi wasn't attempting to pre-establish guilt in Alex, nor was she trying to make him feel bad about anything in particular. It was that Berlinetta was firmly under the impression that they had strength in numbers. Already, even with the way Columbiana functioned, it seemed to her divisive, categorical. Alex was one of the few who hadn't necessarily been sorted into any particular house, and those wild cards tended to be just that in personality and outlook alone. What was interesting about his lack of sorting was that it also made those unsorted that much more difficult to grasp and conceive. Their leanings completely blank, their proclivities unclear. It was the uncertainty that bothered her so, the unknowing nature of how exactly Alex could eventually turn out to be.
All the sighing, arm-crossing, and lecturing in the world couldn't make Alex listen. Nothing could make him listen, not if he didn't want to listen. That was the thing about adults, they always thought they knew better. They always thought they knew what was best, so quick to criticize and direct and lecture, but never thinking that maybe...maybe they should just mind their own damn business and let him sort his shit out for himself. Busybodies, doogooders, pffft. Stupid, all of them. “Laws exist for a reason, yeah, they exist because rich asshats make them. It’s not immoral for me to steal a textbook while nobody bats an eye at all the bankers stealing money and shit.” Because what he did wasn't wrong. He was stealing to get by, to afford clothes and food and shelter for himself. Those other people...they were in the wrong, clearly, but not him.
“I can get myself out of trouble.” He had before, his entire life. Being bounced around from home to home, never settling down. Get into trouble? Well, he’d just uproot himself again. It wasn't like he had any particularly strong ties to Columbiana anyway. “Not like I’m gonna run out and shank a dude in the street.” Self defence aside, that was the sort of shit Alex didn't get involved in. Gangs and stuff, that was all more trouble than it was worth. No, he worked alone and he liked it that way.
“Mocking you?!?” Alex scoffed and rolled his eyes so hard they might have gotten stuck in the back of his head. “You’re the one who pulled me aside to bitch about my bad decision making and douchiness, which, so yeah take your ‘concern’ somewhere else.” He didn't need her speech on togetherness. He didn't need her, or anyone. With a final harrumph, Alex spun on his heel and headed for the door. It took all of his self control not to flip Berlinetta off as he marched out, grumbling, but somehow he managed.