What if, rather than fostering with Lyra, Samuel was sent to the Mage Academy for his instruction? ‘Apprentice’ Samuel is a student of Nethermagic, ready to take the reins from the Headmistress.
CHECK OUT HIS 3D MODEL:
- Wool coat emblazoned with the Gythian Mage Academy’s emblem
- Wand holster with baldric
- Krakenshell spectacles
ALTERNATE FATE LORE
The Door at the Top of the Stair
On the cold Haunting Night, the students at the Gythian Mage Academy tucked up in bed with hot bricks by their feet and fires glowing in the hearths, their doors locked. The most provincial students had shoved bureaus and chairs up against the doors, as if that would protect them.
Not Samuel. He had not even unbuttoned his uniform wool coat. His wand, Malice, was snuggled in his buckled baldric. At lights out he’d pulled his quilt up to his chin and waited, listening into the dark, until he heard the girl-ghost’s whisper: The supervisor’s poured his drink. He won’t bother you now.
In the pitch black he unfolded his spectacles and crept through the academy where he’d lived since he was four years old. There was not a secret passage he had not explored before. Only at the winding stairs did he dare allow Malice to cast a faint glow, illuminating the spirits that waited at the edge of the Nether, for when the moon was dark on Haunting Night, the dead came to life again during the Witching Hour.
Samuel jogged up the stairs in silence, skipping the creaky ones, the breath of the girl-ghost in his right ear.
At the top was a door. He pulled a pocketwatch from his coat and held it up to Malice’s meager light. Two minutes to midnight.
Will you really go inside?
Samuel wiped dust from the door with his sleeve. There was no knob and no lock, only an inscription in old Gythian which he translated out loud in a whisper: “Who holds Verdict wields the power of the academy.”
He felt the girl-ghost swirl around between him and the door. He could see her edges flash in the low light. You got a word wrong, she said. Who holds Verdict wields the responsibility of the academy.
“Whatever,” said Samuel, untying a ribbon around his neck from which dangled a key made of onyx. “A day of chaos is just what this school needs. Now go inside.”
The girl-ghost hesitated. What will you do?
“Nothing bad,” coaxed Samuel. “Just some last-year pranks. Color Mrs. Llanfair’s skin blue. Turn Mr. Chepstow’s corgi into a rat. Mix up all the exams.” He looked again at his pocketwatch. One minute to midnight. He knelt down and slid the key under the door.
Cool, airy arms wrapped around his neck. And if I do as you ask, you will do as you promised?
“My love,” crooned Samuel, “the prank is but an excuse to fulfill your desire.” He saw, in the glow, the outline of her crooked smile. “Hurry inside or our accord will be broken.”
The girl-ghost reached out to touch his face, but the incorporeal fingers passed through his cheeks.
At five seconds to midnight, the girl-ghost slipped through the locked door.
At midnight, the staircase came alive with a throng of people. There were former students in antique school uniforms, teachers with flouncing dresses and gentlemen in coattails and top hats, for they had been dressed handsomely for their coffins. They paid Samuel little mind; they had but an hour to cavort and dance together. They filed arm-in-arm down the staircase and through doors, which they had to open, to the ballroom, where eerie music played, and the scent of roses drifted all around.
Samuel stared down at the ribbon until it slid all the way under the door. He heard the lock in the door turn, for the door could only be unlocked from the inside, and it swung open wide. There in the dim light stood the girl, a ghost no longer, in a tartan skirt and uniform coat like Samuel’s, the key’s ribbon swinging from her fist. She was gangly and pale, her elbows, knees, hips, chin and nose all sharp corners, her mousy hair cropped to her shoulders, and at the back of her head he saw a great wound in her skull. She’d fallen from this very staircase, generations ago, before she could taste her first kiss.
Samuel strode past her to the glass case where the wand named Verdict was displayed. Without hesitation he snatched the wand and slid it into his baldric. “Well done, my partner in crime,” he murmured, turning, closing in on her. He tilted up her pointy chin and brushed his lips against hers. She shivered and sputtered when he let her go, which made him laugh. “Let us be off to the ballroom and have a dance.”
“What if the Headmistress catches you?” she whispered, startling at the loudness of her living voice.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m the Headmaster now,” said Samuel, and the two joined the throng of living ghosts, dancing away the Witching Hour until the moment when the ribbon dropped from the girl-ghost’s incorporeal fingertips.
CANON SAMUEL LORE: