The Martyrdom of Dean Nhov
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“You have got to be kidding.”

Lord Nhov looked up from the pile of scrolls, books and reports that invaded his desk, a considerable achievement on its own because said desk was anything but small.

“What in Tartarus do you mean there’s more of these?” he said, angrily waving a crumpled, stained bundle of bright yellow pamphlets.

“They’re all over campus, my Lord! The entire dorm area is plastered with them! It’s almost like they’re appearing out of thin air!” exclaimed Silver Root, the young (for an elf) prefect of the Imperial Academy of Higher Arcana.

“How much do you want to bet they are appearing out of thin air?” said Nhov, his patience waning. “This is a school of magic! What were you expecting? An army of students handing these out themselves?”

He paused to calm himself.

“What I want to know is who is behind this, and why. Find out who the perpetrators are, stop them and don’t disturb me until you’ve done so.”

“But sir…”

“But nothing. What kind of university are we running if we can’t keep our campus free from invitations to ‘Grand Interspecies Orgy V: Electric Fuckaloo’?”

And with that, he ousted the prefect from his office like a hastily exorcized ghost.

Nhov shook his head in frustration and disbelief. This was the fourth prank-related incident this week, and it was not even the worst one. Over the course of three days, campus faculty had to battle a giant carnivorous, fire-breathing chinchilla (“Chinchzilla,” as the students had named it) within the Cryptozoology Department, undo thirteen different cases of a curse that turned students into “reverse merpeople” (which was both dangerous and racist) and convince a very angry god of thunder not to smite a prankster student who he swore was Loki in disguise (though even Thor had to admit that the graffitied Irminsul tree looked kind of nice). And to top it all, the return of the Grand Interspecies Orgy, now in its fifth edition. Someone was really keen on getting on the faculty’s nerves.

Lord Nhov, current dean of the Academy of Higher Arcana, stood from his throne-like chair and walked towards the enormous circular window behind him. Vok, Idhai’s sun, was near its zenith, warmly caressing the planet’s cityscape. Not like Nhov could enjoy it anyway. His busy schedule meant that he was mostly confined to his office at the very top of the Academy’s tallest spire, away from the busy, welcoming streets of the Immortal Empire’s capital world.

The Empire had not been built on complacency and comfort, he often told himself to keep his mind from wandering off into a happier time, when he was not dean of the Academy. Had his predecessor told him how busy and consuming this job was, he would have passed on the offer. Unfortunately, his predecessor, Lady Njinar, had been transformed into a saguaro cactus by a botched botanical experiment and deemed unfit for the post, so she never got to tell him anything at all. At least the office was pretty neat.

His thoughts were interrupted when his assistant, a halfling by the name of Norman, entered his office and placed a stack of papers taller than himself on Nhov’s already overcrowded desk.

“Now what?” he tiresomely asked Norman.

“More bad news, I’m afraid, sir,” said the short half-human. “The dwarf blacksmiths we hired are refusing to teach the metallurgy seminar until we implement mandatory cavity searches for everyone in attendance.”

“Wha-why?” Nhov said, more disgusted than surprised.

“They said they don’t want any “kobold-loving paupers” stealing their precious metals. I’m sorry sir. It was either them or rehiring last year’s cyclops for the seminar.”

“Shit. Fine, call the cyclops. We can hire him if he promises not to club any more students in the head. What else?”

“There’s been complaints from the zero-gravity team that members from the Terran Fraternity have been using the anti-grav field for their magic practices out of designated hours. They would especially like to bar the centaurs from using it, seeing that they and the satyrs tend to… wander around naked.”

“We can’t bar an entire species from using the sports fields! Think what the Commission for Interspecies Relations would say of us! Have someone issue a statement that using the anti-grav field requires wearing clothes, regardless of species or planet of origin. At least it sounds more inclusive. What else, Norman?”

“There’s also the issue with the Alexylva exchange students,” continued Norman.

“What about them?” asked Lord Nhov.

“They’re missing. Apparently, they went for a walk to the Imperial Greenhouse two days ago. No one’s seen them since then.”

“Did you check the Venusian pitcher plants? Those things take weeks to digest their food. If we hurry, we may still find them with their skin on.”

“On it,” Norman said, approaching the exit. “Oh, and sir, before I go, I must remind you that Idhai’s Summer Solstice is next week.”

Nhov’s face became pale.

“Dear gods. I’ve been so busy I barely noticed! Norm, please tell me this year’s party won’t be as disruptive as the previous one.”

“Hopefully, sir, no one will free the griffins from their pens this time.”

“Good, because I don’t plan on spending more of the school’s budget on scraping their shit off the Academy’s spires.”

“But the Necromancy Department would also like to remind you that in many cultures across the Universe the literal ‘waking of the dead’ is an official part of any Solstice’s celebrations. So… we should see some skeletons and at least a couple of zombies at the party.”

“Fine. Just have them return the bodies afterwards. And no summoning any poltergeists or angry spirits! The last exorcist we hired is still trapped somewhere in a lower plane of existence.”

Norman exited the room, off to check if the Venusian pitcher plants had yet to turn the exchange students into fertilizer.

Lord Nhov was left alone once more.

He thought of his own efforts as dean.

Over the course of five centuries, Nhov’s administration had overcome many challenges, mostly thanks to the extraordinarily competent staff that taught and protected the Academy from both outside forces and itself (but mostly from itself). Despite the sometimes extremely dangerous occult and mundane activities that permeated the Academy’s daily routine, no student had yet died or suffered permanent injury, magical or otherwise, during Nhov’s watch. Or at least, none whose body they had found.

Nhov's first days at his post had coincided with Lord Mortis (then the ruling Emperor and now Imperial Archmage) announcing that the citizens of Earth, a planet that had just joined the Empire, had successfully integrated with the rest of the Galactic Community, meaning that Terran citizens with magical talents would be allowed to enroll at the Academy for their university studies. In a few years, the Academy became flooded with tens of thousands of students from over three hundred different Terran races.

This only made Lord Nhov's job even more difficult, because he now had to deal with hundreds of new species and cultures that didn’t always get along. Treefolk and dryads did not appreciate werewolves trying to mark them as territory, imps detested faeries and pixies, and humans were all too eager to try imprudently dangerous enchantments on themselves and others (the species was infamous for the pranks they pulled on their own Earth magic colleges). At least the minotaurs and ogres had done a great job as campus security, and what magic school does not want dragons on its teaching staff?

Yes, things had sometimes looked dire for the Academy and for Nhov’s career, but in the end he always prevailed. He took some pride in it. He could not remember another dean having it this difficult since the Emperor had ordered Kor’Evek Mu to recruit his own students to fight against the Krolovar Invasion. Sure, dealing with pranksters and giant chinchillas was far easier than sending the Empire's youth to die in war, but there was still some merit in it, wasn’t there?

He looked at the new pile of paperwork that had just joined the infestation on his desk… and sighed. Well, someone had to do it.

He was just about to sit when his hologram projector beeped. An incoming transmission let him know that, apparently, Chinchzilla had grown wings and escaped, threatening to set fire to the entire district.

He let out a sigh as he reached for the emergency hotline.

Orgy invitations and giant man-eating flying chinchillas.

It was going to be a very long afternoon.

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