The Last Page - By Anthony Huso Page 0,1

pile of paperwork into Caliph’s lap and headed back to his research—the only thing that would secure his tenure; therefore the only thing that mattered.

He paid Caliph, of course, and thanked him for assigning an illicit but reasonable ratio of passing grades by way of a weekly pair of tickets to the Minstrel’s Stage.

Alone in Silas’ office, Caliph had pawed methodically through the wooden cabinets until he found the senior exam Roric would be taking, the one that meant the difference between an eight-year degree and a shameful return to his father’s house in the Duchy of Stonehold.

With test in hand, Caliph had begun plotting his revenge, justice for what had happened three and a half years ago on a chilly cloudless night.

He could still remember the articulation of Roric’s lips and the perverse smile that framed his abrupt violation of social grace:

“You a virgin?” Roric’s eyes gleam through the dormitory shadows.

Caliph’s pretense, studying the dead language propped against his thighs, doesn’t seem to convince Roric.

“We’ve got some sugar doughnuts coming up from the village tonight, Caph. Haven’t we, Brody?”

Brody is stout but muscular and grows hair on his face faster than a Pplarian Yak. He nods silently and flips a gold gryph across his knuckles.

Caliph smirks. “I’ll believe that when I see—”

“You’re such a fuck, Caph. You probably say the motto in your sleep. Dean’s list . . . oh shit! My grades slipped a tenth of a point. Eaton’s assworm. That has a ring to it.”

“Fuck off.”

“Maybe you’d like old Luney’s flock better than our thoroughbreds.” Roric picks up a pillow from the stiff dormitory bed and humps it with both hands.

Caliph simpers, “Where are they going to be then?”

“Why would I tell you? You wouldn’t know where to stick it in anyway.”

Caliph’s gaze falls out the window where rain-distorted shapes are making the dash between buildings.

“Suppose they was on Ilnfarne-lascue?”

“How would they get out there?”

“Just suppose they was? Would you chip in? It cost us a bit more than three weeks’ tutoring to get them up here, right Brody? We could use another man to bring the cost down for all of us.”

Brody’s lower lip projects like a ledge as he watches his coin dance.

“How many are there?”

“Three—but plenty to go around, eh?”

“I might chip in,” Caliph says slowly, “just to talk.” He feels embarrassed thinking about the possibilities.

Roric and Brody snicker. “Sure, just talk, Caph—whatever you say.”

That night, Caliph and Roric swim the cold dark water of the college lake. The tiny island barely conceals the ruined steeple of a shrine the student body refers to as Ilnfarne-lascue, a Hinter phrase meaning the place of the act.

Rumors of expulsion and unsubstantiated trysts wrap the island in a localized fog of notoriety, but this is the first time Caliph believes such a scenario might actually unfold. Picking their way over the graffiti-covered rocks of the shore, the two of them crouch at the edge of the trees and listen.

“Vanon and the others must already be here,” says Roric. Voices and firelight vacillate through the limbs. “I’ll meet you at the shrine. Better make sure no one followed us.”

Caliph shakes with excitement. The cold, cloying lake smell, wet and fungal; the cry of a night bird; they crystallize suddenly and unexpectedly, associated from that moment on with young lust.

As he makes his way, he catches sight of the shrine and a notion that he has been overcharged passes through him. He counts not five freshmen but seven. They are wet and shivering around a fire, whispering emphatically.

Caliph stops. Where is Brody? He waits in the darkness, suspicions growing.

Roric has not come back from the shore. Where are the women?

Caliph turns and looks out across the lake. On the lawns, the green flicker of a chemiostatic lantern bobs. Several figures are putting a boat in. Not the women. They would have oared from the village.

Caliph scrambles back to the water. He eases himself in, fearful of splashing, and begins pulling slowly and quietly for shore. When he is within range of the lantern, he slips beneath the water’s skin and kicks out, submarining until his lungs burn.

On the far side, he finds his clothing gone. His key to the dormitory is gone. Fooled after all!

He darts up the hill toward the unsympathetic edifice of Nasril Hall, looking for available windows. Halfway up one of the metholinate pipes that siphons gas into the boy’s dormitory, the pallid cast of a lantern strikes his nakedness and a commanding voice bellows for

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