I was sleeping soundly when a sudden and extremely loud banging on my door woke me up.
Gods, what time was it?
My whole body thrashed in fear and I cried out, despite myself. I rolled out of bed in a panic into a gray muddy darkness. I immediately smashed my toe on the side of the nearby dresser, and stumbled, cursing in pain.
I grabbed blindly for the dial on the runelamp. It flicked on and I made my way to the door of my dormitory.
I slowly opened the door a crack, the chain lock still engaged.
There was a short frog in armor outside in the gloomy hallway, holding a weapon of some kind at her side. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. She seemed to handle it very confidently, and that made me feel sick to my stomach.
“C-can I help you? Am I in trouble?”
To my shame, my voice was thick with sleep and I stuttered with fear.
The frog was all business. She carried a package under her other arm and shifted it slightly.
“Sorry for the early hour. Description matches, husky nothkin. Are you Julian?”
I looked her up and down, afraid to answer. Of possible consequences, my mind rushing to all the things I might have done wrong.
She repeated herself more aggressively. “Julian Greycoat?”
“Yes,” I sighed. It was so soft, it was barely audible.
“Are you alone?”
That sick feeling wasn’t improving.
She leaned to the side, looking inside the darkened room behind me. I lifted the runelamp like I might use it as an improvised weapon, in a pinch.
The armored amphibian then reached up to undo the chain, and stepped inside my room. I stepped back and stiffened in horror. She looked around the room, sword still held out. Her gaze swept over my empty and rumpled bed, the mess, and met my eyes again. Her face was flat, betraying no emotion.
She read my expression, the wide eyes, and held up a hand defensively. The package rattled gently under her arm as she moved. She sheathed her sword.
“Thames was very specific that I should deliver this package to your hands personally, without others present.”
Thames? My friend?
Finally, something I understood. My old student, one that I had worked with previously for a year and a half and written a letter of recommendation for.
I didn’t relax completely yet, but at least this made a little more sense.
It helped that she seemed a little less threatening now. I became aware she was only a fresh-faced teenager, surprisingly young. No older than most of the students in my lectures.
“What is it?”
“I think when you open it, you’ll understand. Don’t shake it, it’s delicate. There’s a letter for you too. He said you might be targeted and that I should be careful, just in case.”
The nervous feeling returned again. What had she brought me? What had he found?
She placed a package on my desk, and a sand-colored envelope on top of that. The box was wrapped tightly in coppery runescrawled ribbons, surely expensive. He had spared no expense.
I managed to clear my throat of some of the thickness. “Thank you.”
The ghost of a smile visited her face before quickly being banished, back to gruffness.
“Sorry for the early hour. I was told I should move with all haste. I’ve traveled through the night to get this to you. I hope it finds you well.”
I was surprised by her candor and old-fashioned proper way of speaking. An accent I couldn’t quite place, bit of a desert brogue?
I didn’t get a chance to examine her further because she turned around and left my room and my life after that.