Chaos Ballet [13 Hispis 4262]
It is very odd taking a carriage to the Halflight Gate, especially a carriage packed with scantily-dressed Orren students. Conveniently there wasn't a great deal of extra space -- the Academy hired two carriages for two-and-a-half's worth of students, on the theory that students are highly compressable.
I mostly sat on Chelinet's shoulder. I haven't mentioned Chelinet before I think. She's a first-year student, daughter of ... um ... someone or other in the Ducal palace. She usually wears a bright purple fishnet cape with carved ivory-and-a-dot-of-copper buttons -- "Well-ventilated enough for cold Surprise, cuddly enough for warm, and useful as a hammock in water form!". Of course she wears other things too. When she's going for a field trip, she wears a nubbly purple sweater that catches the claws rather a lot. And she doesn't mind a Zi Ri leaning zir flank against her cheek.
Our first stop was, of course, Lake Sri Igor St.-Joustiphontane Cointrau Highly Telepathic Singh High Duke. Which is a large puddle in the corner of a farmer's field a couple miles out of the gate. It takes longer to write the name of the pond than it does to fly across.
"Everybody out!" called Prof. Oolumb. "Strip, but don't get in the water yet." He started lecturing about the pond-dwelling water beetles we were about to see and how they are different from stream- and river-dwelling ones, and something about fish. I will admit that I didn't really pay attention to what he said that closely, because (a) it was all in chapter four, and (b) there are few situations on wood more distracting than being surrounded by stripping Orrens.
Then: "OK. Here's the Cryptic Cataphract of Coeoios." It's a little toy warship, with a straightforward Destroc Illusidor enchantment on it. "It renders you slightly silent and slightly scentless, but not invisible, for about five minutes. That's enough time to do a little looking around -- don't waste it!"
"Someone sure wasn't exerting herself making that one!" I said to a nude and somewhat bouncing Chelinet. (Bouncing on her feet, I mean, not the way a Cani's chest would bounce.)
"How's that, Sythyry?" she said.
"Just, that's about as small an enchantment as you can get away with making," I said. "I could probably make a better one -- certainly by the end of the trimester if my life stays anything like this exciting."
"Are you going to?" she asked.
"Sythyry, are you sure you can swim? You look awfully feathery. Perhaps you should just levitate over the pond," said Prof. Oolumb.
"Oops! Sorry!" I cast Cloak of Another God, and joined the crowd of nude bouncing Orrens. (Alarmingly, it is fun to bounce up and down on your feet, if you've got only two of them and all your weight is nicely balanced right above them and you have a big tail to swing around if you mess up a bit.)
Prof. Oolumb nodded approvingly. "Now that's a good idea. You're used to the shape?"
"Sythyry? Zie's used to every prime shape," said someone in the back. There was much sniggering. Chelinet and Brush-Rush flicked their ears. I glared at ... well, I couldn't tell who it was.
"Into the water with you all! One point extra credit to the first to find a squallywrex egg cluster!" said Prof. Oolumb. We filed into the pond, each getting blessed in turn by that barely-competent little Cataphract.
I am getting to be too much a connoisseur of transformations. When you do it yourself (as with Cloak of Another God) it feels rather like changing clothes in the morning. When a nendrai does it to you, it feels rather as if a building fell on you and somehow changed your clothes instead of injuring you. But when it's a feature of your species -- as when an Orren gets wet and takes water-form -- it's as natural and pleasant as feeling yourself become aroused in the presence of many nude people of your preferred species.
(I am so glad that I turn into a female Orren. If I were male I'd be endlessly embarrassed.)
Then ... what a chaos ballet! A pile of barely audible (and presumably barely smellable) Orren in pond, searching for squallywrex eggs and water beetles and whatnots! (Brush-Rush found the eggs first, which is fine, he's a terrible student and needs the extra point.)
(I haven't mentioned Brush-Rush before... I should.)