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Chapter 1

The girls in muddy shorts and T-shirts scrambled madly toward one another as the referee on the sidelines blew a sharp blast on her whistle. From the path beside the field, Juele heard a hollow poomp, and a big, round, white ball went sailing high into the blue sky toward the goal at the end of the grassy field. It arced higher and higher, looking as if it might overshoot the goal completely, then began to descend, slowing as it fell. Suddenly it stopped entirely, forty feet in the air.

"Air ball!" one of the girls shrieked. The opposing team started laughing. The defending team looked upset for a moment, then began to laugh, too. The female teacher on the sidelines came forward and planted her hands on her hips to look up at the hovering ball.

"All right, you lot," the teacher called. "Is it really up there, or is someone spinning an illusion?"

The young women all protested at once. "No, Mrs. Cardigan. We wouldn't do that!" But there were a few smiles and nods among the players, saving up the idea for next time.

"Well then, it's stuck," said Mrs. Cardigan. "Would someone please go find the ladder?" A few of the gym-suited girls ran off the field toward a low wooden building behind the second goal.

"Come on." Rutaro nudged Juele. "We have to keep going."

Juele pulled her attention away from the interesting spectacle of students standing on one another's shoulders atop the highest rung of the ladder and lifted her belongings. She followed the stocky young man, her new mentor, along the path that led past the playing field toward the cluster of buildings that was her greatest desire in all the Dreamland: the School of Light.

Glowing with promise, the lofty white buildings beckoned her. Every window had a wink for her. Every turret gleamed with appeal. Every brick and stone promised to whisper inspiration in her ear. Juele was so excited that she was almost vibrating with happiness. She could hardly believe that she was here at last. An aspiring illusion artist such as she would naturally desire to go to the best school in the land, be instructed by the best teachers, and one day achieve great things, but the admission policy of the School board was stringent. You could apply only once in your lifetime. You had to present three references, none of them related to you, and you had to demonstrate marked talent in illusion. No one got in on mere charm.

Not that Juele had any illusions about her physical appearance. In most of the forms the Sleepers imposed upon her, she tended to be on the short side of average, on the average side of beauty, and on the shy side of extroversion. In her travel suit—a blue fitted jacket and skirt that were more comfortable than stylish—she knew she looked ordinary. Her hands were the only remarkable feature she had. They looked capable. Long and thin, short and strong, dark-skinned, light-skinned, missing a finger or a fingernail, they still looked as if they could do whatever the mind driving them wished to do. And, Juele thought, they nearly could. There was plenty of talent locked up in their bones. So much that it surprised her, sometimes.

Her teachers had been full of hope when they sent her off to Mnemosyne. She had been creating illusions, really realistic ones, since she was very young, and her more ordinarily talented teachers had guided her, to the best of their abilities, as far as they could take her. Even though she wasn't quite sixteen, she had long ago passed beyond the abilities of any other artist in the region. Now there was no more that they could show her, yet Juele still had room to stretch her wings. Oh, she loved her teachers, but they didn't understand her or her dreams. She'd heard that only in the School could she find the kind of tutoring she needed to train her talent and become a world-class artist. Even the smallest student who wanted to change the look of the world aspired to come here. The fees the School charged were exorbitant. Her parents had had to mortgage several of their dearest dreams to send her here. She wanted them to be proud of her. As importantly, she wanted to be proud of her, too. Oh, please, she begged the Sleepers silently as she approached nearer and nearer to the gleaming pillars of the entrance, don't let this be a Futility Dream, with all my hopes out of reach!

Juele hadn't been idle while waiting to hear whether the School had accepted her. For almost two years she had been seeking new directions in her art. She had no idea whether what she was doing was any good, if it was original or even right to attempt. That was what she had come to find out. She'd packed her bags full of the tools of the trade that she had amassed and stuffed in all the hope she had.

Rutaro, trotting on ahead, seemed to have no notion how much coming here meant to her. But, of course, he must have been here for years already. He seemed so confident. Could he recall that first, precious moment when he stepped through the gate, out of misunderstanding and into promise? It would be hard, but she would succeed—she had to! For confidence, she looked down at her hands, clenching the handles of her suitcase and art box. They exuded capability, and that soothed her nerves. With their help, she could cope.

So, this was the School of Light! Juele thought. She stayed close on Rutaro's heels as he led her under an arch that passed through the base of a tower in the broad face of a building. So far, it lived well up to its reputation. For a moment she put out a hand, hoping that she wouldn't find an invisible barrier. Her hand touched the cool, cream-colored stone. It felt as if it was thrumming with power. Juele stroked it and let her hand drop. Real. It was real, and she wasn't suffering an Isolation Dream that would keep her from getting right into the middle of it all.

Ahead of them lay a square garden gleaming with sunshine. To either side of the corridor, doors opened on bright, airy classrooms full of students. Although they were almost all adults, they wore the look of rapt fascination one normally saw on the faces of children. What were they doing? What were they learning? She wanted to be in there with them. Her curiosity distracted her so much that she forgot to listen to what Rutaro was saying. Hastily, she brought her attention back to him, hoping he thought her inattention was forgivable. Surely he should understand what it was like to come into a new place, particularly this one. Her curiosity was on full alert.

A wave of influence swept through, changing everything in its path as the Sleeper dreaming the province changed his or her celestial mind about how things should be. Juele braced herself for the alteration, savoring it, enjoying it. Influence felt more powerful here than it did in her home town of Wandering, as though the Sleeper had His or Her dream eye fixed on Mnemosyne, and all other places lay in the periphery. A tingle raced down her arms, and she rubbed her fingers over her palms, feeling the electricity of change. In the ever-shifting world of the Dreamland, the creative ones whose minds created the landscape were always experimenting, testing, perfecting. Juele welcomed the changes, though they left her no wiser as to the eventual pattern that the Sleepers had in mind for her. She caught Rutaro looking at her with a curious expression in his eyes. Did he disapprove? She found she'd been made a little taller than she had been and hoped it helped her look more mature.

"We all have a great deal to teach one another, pupil and teacher alike, so you'll find that we're all equal here," he was saying, as they walked out into the full sunshine. The character of the light had altered slightly in the wake of the influence, opening up the skies and making them bluer. "We do talk to one another about problems we have each solved. It is most stimulating to hear what other minds think and aspire to. I look forward to seeing what you have to teach us, too."

"It sounds wonderful," Juele said. "Just what I've always wanted." Rutaro smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling upward. He was an agreeable-looking but not particularly handsome man, about a head taller than Juele, with intense, brown eyes that seemed to bore into her. He had a small, blunt nose slightly turned up at the tip, but the nostrils curled haughtily in the corners. His hair was a mass of dark curls that fell to his collar, his skin was tawny, and his clothes curiously old-fashioned. She studied them, hoping it didn't look as if she was staring. Under a white artist's smock, which he wore like the robe of royalty, his garments seemed to be about a hundred years out of date. His plum-colored breeches were of velveteen, his shirt of fine white cloth with ruffles at the wrists that fell over the backs of his hands almost to the knuckles. He wore a waistcoat woven in a complicated pattern but subdued colors, as if to say that here was a complex person that one would have to examine closely to understand. She also noticed that he hadn't changed in the alteration, but she didn't dare ask.

"You're wondering about my appearance," Rutaro said, reading her thoughts, with a small, amused smile on his lips. "I am modeling for Peppardine today. He's been working on this period illusion for some time. I have to keep reminding myself of what I looked like, bringing back the same thoughts I had on that day, and mold myself accordingly. I mustn't let the form go, no matter what the Sleepers send. He's counting on me."

"Oh," said Juele, letting out a little breath. So everyone acted as models and teachers—so how did one tell who was a student and who wasn't? How very confusing. She meant to straighten that out at once. She was here to get an education, not just teach what she knew. "Er, who is Peppardine? A teacher?"

Rutaro looked at her as if she had just asked who the Sleepers were. "He is my friend," Rutaro said at last. "A fellow student. And a brilliant artist, as you will find out."

"I'm sorry," Juele said. Rutaro waved away her apology.

"Never mind. This is the Main Quadrangle," he said, holding out his hand to encompass the wide green park surrounded by buildings. Flowers of glorious red and yellow bloomed in artfully arranged beds at the corners of the square. A few trees, venerable and lovely, rose from the perfectly manicured lawn. On a few gray stone benches arranged around the perimeter and in a ring at the center of the garden where four paths intersected, men and women sat or lay. A few were just enjoying the sun. Some of them had sketch pads on their laps. Others had easels or pedestals and were capturing the beauty of the day in small ways. Juele caught sight of a perfect miniature model of the main building forming between the hands of a man with white hair and a creased face. Something in it wasn't quite right, and the man frowned at it from several angles, trying to see what was wrong. Juele knew that kind of concentration. Becoming impatient with his creation, the man waved his arms, exerting his own strength of will, and the building itself changed. Now, model and work matched perfectly. Here, Life imitated Art.

The buildings, like the gardens, were very beautiful. Juele squinted at them in the bright light, wondering if she could tell how they had altered under the influence. Yes, she could. The bricks were longer and thinner, and the lintels of the doors had swan-neck finials on top instead of fan windows. All was still beautiful and in satisfying proportion, with color and texture that was attractive to the eye. The Sleepers certainly favored this place. The last time an influence like that came through her home of Wandering, the whole town square had turned into ramshackle hovels, much to the embarrassment of the town council, who were having a market fair at the time, with a hundred visitors from out of town. Here, it felt as if nothing could be ugly, ever. Then, across the square, Juele noticed a man step out through a section of wall as if it was a door. Behind him she could see a brief glimpse of a corridor and a flight of stairs.

"Oh yes, some of it is illusory, to correct the asymmetry of the real building underneath, and preserve the beauty of the scene," Rutaro said, smiling at her surprise.

"Well, why not?" said Juele, with spirit. "How much of this is natural and how much has been altered by the people here?"

"Well, sometimes the School does it by itself, much in the way a Sleeper maintains the flavor of a province. The place has an overmind of its own. It has a taste for beauty."

"Oh," Juele said. She knew inanimate objects frequently achieved a kind of awareness, even activity. Any foundation in operation for such a number of years might well create its own ambiance. And it was an art school. Why, after all, should form interfere with aesthetic enjoyment?

"So what is real, and what's not?" she asked, eager to understand her new surroundings.

"Does it matter?" Rutaro asked, suddenly bored. He started walking again. Juele grasped her bags and hurried along the gravel path after him. Had she made an error on her very first day?

"I suppose not," she said, apologetically. Rutaro waved his fingers, but kept going. The matter was unimportant and was already forgotten.

I like it here, she thought, looking about at the bright colors and happy bustle. All around her, work was going on, questions were being asked, deep conversations were deepening, art was being brought into existence, and all in conscious pursuit of the greatest beauty. Fabulous. She wondered when she might be able to start talking with people, and deepening her own understanding.

For two years, Juele had been working on a style of illusion that she found meaningful. She hoped it would be thought original. All by herself, she had ruthlessly excised from her small images all traces of anyone else's style that she detected, keeping the techniques that gave the effect she liked. There hadn't been much left at the end, leaving her images spare, but what was there was all hers. She called it "askance reality." It had cynicism, but appreciation in it and was really best viewed out of the corner of one's eye. Perhaps her style could use some more refining before she brought it up in such sophisticated surroundings. She opened her mouth to ask, but of its own will her jaw dropped agape, leaving her tongue hanging.

They passed under a narrow stone arch that stretched like a bridge between two upper-story doors. In the vast square beyond it was one of the most beautiful fountains that she had ever seen. The tiered, pink marble basins were shallow, and the rims encrusted with pearls and jewels rose in shell-like scallops, the water lapping diamond-bright between them. The foaming jets of spray leaped up twenty, thirty feet, playing on the air as gracefully as winged dancers. Around it, eight or ten students were modeling or drawing.

Out of a door to Juele's right, a woman in a long, blue smock and a preoccupied hurry emerged, walking straight toward the fountain. Juele lifted a hand to her mouth and started to call out a warning to her, but the woman ran slap through the middle of the spray, and came out without a drop on her smock. Oh! Juele thought, letting her hand drop. It was an illusion.

"That fountain is so real!" she said, wonderingly, when she could find her voice. "But it isn't!"

Rutaro tilted his head and smiled again, that maddening, knowing smile. Bored insouciance seemed to go well with his costume.

"Oh, you'll learn quickly what's real and what isn't in the school grounds. Part of your education, really." Rutaro suddenly didn't want to stand there with everyone looking at him. He started to walk. Juele stared after him, then back at the pink fountain, unable to pull herself away.

"It's perfect! Every detail is ideal. Who did it? The school or a person?"

"Does it matter?"

"No, but . . ." Juele trailed a few paces, still looking over her shoulder, then ran after her guide. "Rutaro, it's amazing. The melding of reality and illusion are seamless."

"Isn't that what you are here to learn how to do?"

"But, I could end up taking classes in an imaginary room!"

"And do you think that won't teach you something?" Rutaro asked, wryly.

Juele laughed, caught off guard. "I guess it would. If something is too perfect, then it isn't real."

"Possibly. Illusion is the manipulation of light, whereas the more gross arts manipulate matter. It's a more subtle control of influence, I feel," Rutaro said, with his arched eyebrows raised, as if daring her to say otherwise. "Naturally, light would be closer to perfection than matter."

Juele looked back at the plumes of water dancing upward, bending outward at the top and flattening out, echoing the shape of the white towers beyond the walls of the square. There was something familiar about the vast battlements and high, blue-roofed turrets. They looked almost perfect, Juele thought, although they were too far away to be inside the school's environs.

"What place is that?" she asked, pointing.

"The Castle of Dreams," Rutaro said with satisfaction. He paused at the edge of the huge quadrangle to admire the effect of water, wood, stone, and shadow.

Juele dropped her voice out of respect for the King, as though he could hear her. "I had no idea how close the school was to the palace."

"It varies," Rutaro said, with a grimace, "depending upon our status of the moment. If we are in vogue, as we are at present, then we are very close to the center, indeed. If we're out of favor, we're on the outskirts of town before you can say `paint.'"

"Oh," said Juele. "Why are we . . . in vogue?"

"There is an exhibition of the arts being planned at present," Rutaro said, with pride. He preened and fingered his elaborate necktie. "A well-publicized and well-received one, hence our proximity. Her Majesty, the Queen, is the patroness of the arts. Above all the art schools in the Dreamland, she favors us. We are most fortunate." Juele thought the way Rutaro said it that the queen was fortunate to have such a school to appreciate.

"I hope I'll get to meet her," Juele said, then, abashed at her own boldness, added, "or see her."

"Count upon it," Rutaro assured her, blithely. "Her Majesty is in and out of here all the time."

How very exciting! Juele thought. That was something to tell Mum and Dad when she wrote home. Royalty visiting, casually dropping by. In and out all the time. Even if she'd dared, she couldn't have imagined such a thing.

Another wave of influence passed, a mere correction to the one that had gone before. It turned the basins of the fountain blue, and the artists seated around it let out a collective groan. There was much hand waving and erasing of color in the air before they began again to capture the essence of the fountain.

"I've never been in Mnemosyne before," Juele said. "We don't have constant waves of influence running through Wandering like this."

"You'll get used to it," Rutaro said, yawning. He started walking again. Juele hoped she hadn't alienated him with her ignorance. He was the only person who'd spoken to her so far. He was clearly one of the senior students. She tried to guess how old he was and found it impossible to say. He could have been twenty, could have been thirty. She tried to reconcile his young face with his world-weary attitude. Rutaro exuded Art. He was at home here, something she felt she had to be, had been craving to be, ever since she had first heard of this school as a youngster.

It was a dream that she was here, almost as if she was a dreamer in the Waking World, experiencing a nightborne fantasy in her mind. How wonderful it would be if only she could fit in here, if only they would accept her. She had never been very good at making friends, although she treasured the ones she had. She suddenly felt small and lonely, and clenched her fingers on the handle of her art box.

"Rutaro?" she asked, timidly. "How long have you been at the School?"

Rutaro shrugged. "It seems like nearly forever." He looked at her with a fond smile. "I think you are just a little older than I was when I came here."

He swirled his hand in a small circle, and beneath his fingers, a scene sprang up, a perfect miniature reality in every detail. Juele gazed at it raptly. She saw three young people—children, really—dressed in their best clothes, huddled together in the corner of a quadrangle that was recognizably the one she stood in today. Rutaro had to be the intense, dark-haired one on the left, with a soft, floppy bow tie under his vivid face. His two friends were a tall, thin boy with dreamy eyes wearing a knee-length coat that only made him look lankier, and a short, belligerent-looking girl with a dark blue dress that fell unbecomingly just below her knees and a big bow tying back her hair. Juele had the sense of the passage of time, and four more young people joined the first three. She couldn't see the newcomers quite as clearly as the three, but there was a rainbow in the sky behind the group, and the fountain in the foreground, different in memory than it was now, tinkled musically. Rutaro's voice was soft.

"It was so good to find others who felt as I did."

"Oh, I know what you mean," Juele said, passionately, gazing up from the image. Rutaro gave her a quizzical look, one eyebrow raised into his theatrically curled hair.

"Do you?" he asked. Embarrassed, Juele turned away from his gaze. As she bent closer to look again at the small scene, the illusion faded. "I expect perhaps you do. You'll meet the others in time," Rutaro said, carelessly, flicking his fingers as if to clear them. "Come on. We need to get you settled in. I've things to do before dinner." He beckoned, and Juele trotted after him.

"The philosophy of the School is simple," he said as he walked. "We strive here to learn how to make the best illusions to be found anywhere. In illusion, the skill is to make something look like something else, to disguise the imperfect essentials. To make something invisible is easy. To use actual matter is cheating. The illusion is the art." He ran his hand through a wall that appeared to be white marble inlaid with a pattern of brass flowers. His arm disappeared up to the forearm.

"Oh," Juele said. "But that man, who changed the building to look like his illusion . . ."

"His own style. Not what We think." Juele could hear the capital letter very clearly. But, she thought, who is We?

"We imbue the illusion with importance by using appropriate symbolism," Rutaro continued. "Symbolism is very important. But it is wrong to use symbols that are without meaning. Every object, every color, every shade and nuance adds volumes of understanding, but Nature herself is the most perfect symbol of all."

"I see," Juele said, though she didn't.

"We have students of every age here. Art knows no boundaries," Rutaro said, halting suddenly. "But you are one of the youngest students we've ever had. This might be an adjustment for you. You can fit in, can't you?"

Juele steeled herself. "Yes, I can," she said, and with a mental crossing of her fingers, she folded her hands together on a handy beam of sunlight and concentrated. When she opened them, a blue-white unicorn pranced on her palms. It was one of her favorite images, detailed down to the last hair on the goatish tail. The tiny creature lowered its glowing horn to her thumb, and a bright spot of light flashed where it touched.

Rutaro gave her a wry look and began walking again. Juele released the image and let it go back to undifferentiated light, wondering if she had overstepped again. She followed Rutaro out of the lovely square, and into a narrow, dark corridor like the inside of a stable. It smelled not unlike a stable, too, and Juele noticed that the beams holding up the ceiling were rough wood with rusty nails sticking out here and there. People were living in this building. She glanced through an open door and saw the tiniest room, fashioned roughly out of a stall. On the narrow, lumpy bed were piled a few meager belongings. A very impoverished student who couldn't afford anything better must live there, and the administrators fit him in where they could. But as she passed more of the doors, she saw that behind every one was a room as small as the first. All were occupied. This must be the charity dormitory, she thought. Rutaro halted and turned on his heel.

"What residence are you assigned to?" he asked.

"I don't know," Juele said. She found the letter of admission in her pocket and held it out to him. In her hand the piece of paper gleamed bright with high hopes, but when Rutaro held it, it became merely a piece of paper. He stuck out his lower lip while reading.

"Oh," he said. "You're in the Garrets. This is the Stables. This way."

Rutaro turned at the end of the corridor, opened a small door, and guided Juele to a dark staircase that smelled of dust and floor polish. He pointed upward and began to climb. Hoisting her bags, she followed him up the linoleum-covered steps, floor after floor after floor, until her arms were sore and her feet were numb. The stairwell walls had once been painted a cream color. From the edge of the banister to above Juele's head, the paint had been smudged brown-gray by a thousand passing hands, and the plaster was chipped. The stairs spiraled around and up until, when Juele glanced over the banister to the bottom, the lowest levels had vanished in the dark and the sounds in the courtyard had faded to distant murmurs.

At the top a skylight was set into the ceiling. Between festoons of ancient cobwebs, light forced its way through the small, grimy panes of glass. Under the skylight was a grubby, brown varnished door that seemed feet shorter than the ones on the lower levels.

"Here we are," Rutaro said. "Sixteen-D." They passed into a very small reception hall with another sad-looking skylight. In the wall on each side were two small doors with tarnished letters in the center panel at eye level. Rutaro perused the admission letter again and pointed to the fourth door.

"Yours," he said.

The door was smaller and more battered than the one at the top of the stairs. Juele opened it. The room was tiny, and there were two beds in it. She didn't even get a room to herself. Juele's heart sank.

"Oh, well," Juele said, bravely. "I'm just happy to be here."

Rutaro didn't seem to hear her. He was good at ignoring things. He stood to the side to usher her in, then turned to go.

"Get yourself settled," he said, over his shoulder, as he made for the stairs. "You can just make your first afternoon class in symbology if you hurry. You'll find Mr. Lightlow quite adequate. I must go to Peppardine before I change too much. See you again at dinner."

"Thank you," Juele called, but he was gone. She heard his boot soles clatter away downward.

She turned to examine her new home. It was a very small room. The dingy, yellowing plaster on the walls was cracked, and the only window was high up and very dirty. At the narrow end of the room under a candle sconce stood a single study table and chair. The two beds offered neither privacy nor comfort. They were only a pace apart on the brown-planked floor, and the mattresses were thin enough to pinch between her thumb and forefinger. Juele sniffed. It smelled musty in here, the odor of ages.

She felt miserable enough to cry. Was this the nicest place they could offer her? She had felt so special to be able to come here, one of the chosen few among all aspiring artists in the kingdom, and they had given her a cramped little attic to live in. In a single day she'd gone from being loved and admired in Wandering, the best, a prodigy, a privileged character, to an insignificance in the School's smallest and most wretched accommodation. Was this how things would be here? Should she just take her things and go home? But she couldn't. To learn at the School of Light was her dream. No matter what it took, she would stay.

She must not let physical surroundings break her spirit. Couldn't she fix it up with illusions? Wasn't her skill, after all, what had brought her here in the first place? She looked at the two beds, deciding which one would be more comfortable. The one nearest the door had a teddy bear seated against the flat pillow. The window was in the wall opposite, so what little light they got would fall on that bed. Juele approached it, trying to judge if the morning sun would hit the pillow, or not. She liked to get up with the sunrise. As she made to sit down, the teddy bear blinked its shoe-button eyes at her and growled fiercely, its stitched red mouth opening to show a set of sharp, white fangs. That bed had been claimed by her new roommate, and she'd left her toy behind to hold her place.

"All right, I'll take the other," Juele said. She backed away, hands up, and the teddy relaxed and resumed its backstitched smile.

The other bed was on the shadowy side. Juele sat down on it beside her art box and held the battered case to her for comfort. She felt so lonely. Her friends, her family, and her teachers back in Wandering had been her support group. Could she sustain the promise that she had shown at home without them? Would she make it here? Would she disappoint everybody? Or herself? She had the talent; she knew that. But could she do anything with it that mattered?

She hoped she could make friends. Everyone here seemed so cool, so self-assured, so busy. Here she had hoped to find the peer group of which she had always dreamed, the ones who understood her passions, and shared the same kind of talents, so she wouldn't be the only one who knew what she was talking about. She stood up on the bed to look out the little window and saw the figure of Rutaro in his ruffled shirt just disappearing beneath the arch leading to the next quadrangle. He was just amazing. The way he could instantly create a moving illusion on the palm of his hand—so complex it would have taken Juele hours—just filled her with awe. She was fascinated by all the little things in the image she hadn't understood, like the golden circle painted on the ground around the feet of the three children, and the various flowers. All that seemed very significant. She wondered if Rutaro would be a friend. If he accepted Juele, she knew she should be able to get along with some of the others. But she didn't want to hang on him. She'd make her own way. It was just going to be a little lonely at first.

She unpacked her few belongings into the chest at the end of her bed. To her surprise, the low box made room for everything she put in it. It was even more of a holdall than the suitcase, which was sometimes a steamer trunk, that she had borrowed from her uncle. She guessed that the box might once have been a whole closet in a nicer house. Someone who didn't want it any more had donated it to the School, where, form following function, it took the shape of a dreary chest in a dreary dormitory. Well, it did its job. That was all she asked of it. The room did its job, too. It would be a place for her to sleep and sometimes, when her roommate didn't need the desk, study. She didn't expect to be spending very much more time in there except for that.

The last garment in her case was a new pink smock, made for her by her mother, whose own artistic bent showed in her talent for sewing. Juele shook out the smock with satisfaction and laid it on the bed to admire the half-length sleeves and the gathers at the shoulders. This was an occasion. She wished her parents and friends could be here to see her put it on for the first time.

But this room was an awful setting for a special moment. Juele stood up and put her hands on her hips. The terrible paint would have to go, for a start. Holding out her hands, she spun a rainbow between them in the air and scrolled it back and forth to see the colors. Maybe a light pink or yellow, just enough to cheer up the room. It was a pity that her talent for the manipulation of dreamstuff didn't extend as far as her talent for illusion. Then, she could change the paint. But Rutaro said using matter was cheating, so she wanted to get out of the habit.

The arc of color bowed up and out between her hands, a trick that had always delighted little children at birthday parties. She brought her hands together to compress the ribbon at the red end of the spectrum. Yes, a nice shell pink. She narrowed her hands around that swatch of color, kept it in her mind, then spread it out as wide and smooth as she could and pinned it in place on the wall over her bed with tacks of thought. Oh, that was much better!

She continued to spread the pink over the walls, pushing the illusion up into the corners with a shove of her palms until the whole dark cube glowed with cheery warmth. Even the sad window seemed to shed more light. Juele felt more optimistic as she changed out of her traveling clothes and laid out a fresh blouse and skirt. Later, she'd design a handsome coverlet and, perhaps, matching curtains. She hoped her roommate liked the same colors as she did. Maybe they could have bedspreads to match. That would be fun.

The personal facilities, as primitive as the room, consisted of large pitcher of water and a big bowl on a stand next to the desk and a covered pail in the corner. She hoped that sometimes the pitcher and bowl changed into a real shower, or—bliss!—even a bathtub. She could form the illusion of a luxurious bath, but it wouldn't affect the underlying reality of a small washbasin, as the pink hid but didn't change the cracked paint underneath. She wasn't that good at manipulating real dreamstuff. That was hard work, and she was not always successful. Still, it would have been nice.

Over the bowl, a small mirror hung on the wall. Juele looked at herself as she dried her face.

"You're here," she said, and smiled at her reflection, which returned a happy grin. It was still hard to believe that she stood in the midst of the actual, verifiable School of Light. The School, and no illusion.

Juele was surprised by the sudden sound of a bell striking three. Like everything else here, the tolling was beautiful, but its form enhanced its function. The lovely round tone was tempered with urgency. Rutaro had mentioned symbology class. She fumbled for the admission letter and read down it for her schedule. There it was: Symbology, 3:00, Prism Building, room 306. Oh, no!

Juele grabbed for her clothes. She hastily buttoned up her blouse—which obstinately grew a dozen extra buttons just to make her fingers fumble—then flung her smock on over it. She grabbed up her art box, started to do up the top two buttons of the smock, and nearly dropped the box. Chiding herself for carelessness, she hurtled out of her room and down the stairs, which were old and slick as grease. She was late! And on her first day, too.

She didn't notice as, behind her, the pink light started to peel at the edges and slide off the wall even before the door closed.


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