Phillip Magis started his day looking out his window at his home, the city of Ferenicia. The eleven-year-old prince leaned on his window sill as he marveled at the gem of the global kingdom of Magiana that his family reigned over. From the immense palace he called home that rested at the back of the city, he could see most of what was going on down below. He loved watching the people of the city like that. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. The streets were crowded and loud with the exuberant voices of the people, citizens and tourists alike. Children were screaming with delight as they ran around with friends, trying to escape the parents and older siblings who tried to catch them and make them calm down, some yelling at them to stop before they got themselves hit by a car; things typical for a day in mid-July.
While Phillip was looking out at the city, he was barely paying attention to what was going on down below. The boy was deep in thought. He was to be starting at a new school that fall, the same one his parents went to. It had been on his mind a lot since the beginning of summer.
While he was daydreaming, a maid entered his room. He didn’t notice her until she lightly shook his shoulder.
“Master Phillip, it’s time to wake up!”
With a start, he spun and looked up at the young woman before leaning back on the window sill.
“You seem quite happy.” She said. “I guess it was a nice daydream.”
“Yeah, Alyssa,” He told her. “It was about M.I.A.”
He looked over his shoulder back at the capital. As he did, he saw a young dragon take off. As it got closer and closer to the palace, he saw the corpse of the rabbit in its jaws. It flew over the palace and out of sight.
M.I.A was an acronym which stood for Magiana Imperial Academy. Like the dragon that just flew by, many magical creatures existed in Magiana, a place where magic was just a part of everyday life. Magiana Imperial Academy was one of several dozen schools in the world that incorporated magic into its curriculum so young people could practice the craft. It was also the most prestigious of its breed in the country and the oldest one in the world.
“Thinking about M.I.A again?” She opened the bag she wore and pulled out a wooden wand. She then took out a pair of rubber gloves, laying them down on his unmade bed. Pointing the wand at the gloves she said, “Restore!”
A white light shot out from the tip of the wand, hitting the two gloves, and they began moving on their own, fixing the bed. Phillip looked on with great interest. He had never seen his bed made this way before.
“I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Not until just last night. All of my hard work these last few weeks has paid off.” With a smile and a flourish, Alyssa put the wand back in her bag and opened the door for the young prince. “Now, while you’re in the bathroom freshening yourself up, I’ll finish in here and get your clothes ready for the day.”
“Thank you.” He said on his way out.
He walked into the hall, its walls lined with portraits and photographs of nicely dressed men and women who sat stiffly. Butlers and maids were walking back and forth, greeting him with a bow or curtsy as they went. He made the short walk to the bathroom and entered.
Feeling refreshed after his trip to the bathroom, Phillip walked back to his room. As Alyssa had said, it was spotless and clothes were lying on his bed. The gloves had disappeared back into her bag.
Alyssa was like an older sister to Phillip, and she dressed him plenty of times when he was young. Now, he shooed her out of the room whenever it came time for him to change. She told him that she’d be right outside if he needed any help.
He put on the lavish clothing she laid out and made sure that everything was in order so the maid wouldn’t bother him. He knew that she meant well, but she could be rather obsessive. When he exited his room, she followed right behind him.
“Breakfast is ready and waiting.” She explained. “Young Master Eli is already in the dining hall, waiting for you.”
“Is it only Eli? What about mother and father; are they still asleep?”
“Yes, they are. They’ve been very busy as of late. I don’t know exactly what they’re doing that’s making them so tired, but they are running the kingdom. That isn’t an easy job.” Phillip’s expression wasn’t necessarily sad; his parents often slept in due to the nature of their work, but Alyssa patted him on the back. “It isn’t like you aren’t going to see them at all today.”
The pair walked through the large palace and eventually came to room with a large table in the center. Sitting in one of the end chairs was a boy with dirty blonde hair in contrast to Phillip’s golden blonde and brown eyes to his green. He was eating sausage, eggs, and toast. A cup of tea was next to his plate.
About to have another bite of his food, the boy lowered his fork and knife when he saw Phillip. With a smile he said, “Well, hello there, brother. Have a nice night?”
“Why’re you in such a good mood this early?” Asked Phillip, taking his seat.
“Do I need a reason to be happy? I don’t think I do.”
He shrugged. “Whatever you say.”
With another curtsy, Alyssa left the two to go and work in another part of the castle. One of the butlers placed a plate of food in front of Phillip and he began to eat.
“So,” Said Eli. “Have you started that survey yet?”
“No.” The shocked look on his brother’s face confused Phillip. “What’s the matter?”
“That survey’s important, isn’t it? That’s how they decide what house you’re in, right?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what the letter that it came with it said.”
“Well, you’re in the same house for all seven years, right?” When Phillip nodded, Eli urgently said, “Then you shouldn’t waste any time! For all you know, the house you would’ve liked will be full by the time you actually send it to the school!”
“And what makes you think that?”
“It’s not like the houses have infinite space. They’re going to fill up eventually. You’d have to get your spot before that happens. The longer you wait to fill out that survey, the more likely that you won’t get into the house you want.”
“Alright, Eli, I’ll fill it out later today.” He sighed. “Let me guess, when you get it next year, you’re filling the survey out right away.”
The butler told the two to hurry and eat before their food got cold. The two princes ate quickly and left the dining hall, telling the butler to thank the chef for the meal. They exited the room, entering into a hallway that led to the castle’s foyer.
As they walked, Phillip noticed a big grin on Eli’s face, but he didn’t speak.
“Yes?” He asked, a brow raised.
“How excited are you to start at M.I.A, brother?”
Phillip laughed. “This again? I keep telling you, really excited! I can finally learn more about magic! It’ll be a nice break from the history and grammar everyone keeps me busy with.”
“And maybe they’ll teach you to control your fire there. Wouldn’t want to you losing your eyebrows again.”
Phillip brushed one of his eyebrows. “I didn’t lose them! Only singed them a little…”
Eli let out a loud laugh.
“And then there’s the fact that I’ll be on my own. Surrounded by people my age, able to talk to them as I please… That’ll be nice.”
It’s not as if Phillip only had Eli for company, though. He had friends, of course; some of the children in the city who would sometimes come up to the castle. Aside from them, he only spent time with his brother and other upper class children.
“It’s far too early for Jon and Hannah to come over.” Phillip said with a disappointed sigh. “What should we do until then?”
“You could fill out the survey.”
“Enough of that, please.” Phillip said, getting annoyed. “I’ll get to it eventually.”
The two princes ended up going to the castle’s game room. The room was full of games; board games, card games and video games. The two often spent a lot of time in this room, mostly with their other friends. There was a large television, and underneath it were an assortment of video game consoles. A large cabinet next to it was full of video game cases.
A black leather sofa was facing the television. A pool table was usually behind it, but had since been moved elsewhere (their father and his friends were the only ones that used it). Several shelves were full of board games, which were neatly stacked on top of each other. A much smaller shelf was next to it with card games stacked in it.
They were drawn almost immediately to the video games, but tried to stop themselves. There were so many other things in the room for them to play with, yet they ended up on the sofa for hours most of the time. They pulled out one of the board games and began to set up.
It was a game of world conquest that actually punished players for resorting to war too often, promoting the use of diplomacy and negotiation. Their parents thought that it’d be a good way for the two to get some political experience while having fun. Whenever they played with their parents, they’d lose badly. With just the two of them, the game was much closer. Like how they got lost in their video games, they got lost in some of their board games, and this was one of them.
“So…” Eli was rubbing his temples, contemplating one of his brother’s offers. “If I give you Melstrain, you give me Gibroar? Why would I give you the larger property?”
“Simple.” He held up several cards, all with cartoonish pictures of gold nuggets. “Giboar might be smaller, but there’s ton of gold there. Imagine how much this’ll help trade, having all of this gold.”
The younger prince bit his knuckle, finding the offer quite tempting. Phillip’s own empire was much larger than his own, so any chance to acquire more wealth would be beneficial.
He opened his mouth to give his brother his answer, but was interrupted by a knock at the door. The two looked over to see a boy and girl there with one of the maids. They were dressed very casually compared to everyone else in the palace, who was either in a uniform or luxurious clothing like Phillip and Eli. The boy was leaning on the doorframe, smiling at the two.
“Look at our little princes, trying to conquer the world!” He walked over to the two and looked at the game board, which was just a map of the world. There were little flags on several of the segmented areas, and most of them were red. “So, is Phillip red?”
“Yeah.” Phillip replied. “It’s good to see the two of you here. Want to join us, Jon?”
“Nah, I’m good for now.” He said. “What about you, Hannah?”
“Maybe next round.” She quietly added
“So, you all ready to go to M.I.A?” Jon asked as the two went back to their game.
“For the most part. There’s some survey I’m supposed to do.”
The mention of the survey actually brought smiles to their friends’ faces instead of boring them like it did Phillip.
“Why haven’t you filled it out yet?!”
“Jon,” Phillip began. “Why do you care?”
“This survey is really important, isn’t it?” He turned to Eli. “What’s it for again?”
“It decides what house your in.” He eyed his brother coldly. “And you’re in the same house for all seven years.”
“Then you should really fill it out!” Hannah exclaimed. “You wouldn’t want to miss out on getting into the house you want!”
“Alright, alright. I’ll get to it later.”
“Not later, now!” Jon pulled Phillip up and over to the door.
“What are you doing?” He asked, trying to break free. “It’s just a stupid survey! And we’re not done with the game!”
“It’s more than just a stupid survey! I mean, if it’s what ends up leading to you meeting your best friend of future wife-”
“I’m already engaged!”
“People like kings and presidents always have affairs! But anyway, this is something sent from M.I.A! I’ve got to see what kind of questions they’d ask the incoming students.”
Eli and Hannah followed them, and the maid who was with Jon and Hannah didn’t even bother trying to stop them. The boy dragged Phillip all the way to his room and burst in. Only then did he release him.
“You guys are nuts!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get the survey out; I want to see what kind of things M.I.A has got in store if it’s so important.”
Annoyed, Phillip walked over to the ornate dresser in his room and picked up a rather thick packet of paper, flipping through it with his thumb. Jon and Hannah were surprised by the size of the packet, as was Eli.
“W-whoa…” Whispered Jon. “I can see why you wanted to put it off.”
“So, are you going to actually have me sit down and do this or did you interrupt our game for nothing?”
“Well, we’re up here,” Hannah said. “You might as well do it now.”
Phillip fell over onto his bed after grabbing a fountain pen off of the drawer. Jon told Phillip to read the questions to them before responding.
There were one hundred items total on the survey. The vast majority of them were scenarios that had one of four options. While they worded them differently - some using scenarios that affect entire countries and others only affecting a handful of people - it was clear to see that one would lead to Phillip gaining something, even if others suffered; one would make him stay true to his friends or allies, even if there were negative consequences; one had him take pity on those who suffered, completely disregarding himself or those close to him; the final one tried to find a way to benefit everyone and stay unbiased.
After some time, Phillip finally finished the survey. He himself couldn’t find a trend in his answers, but the people working at M.I.A would somehow use his answers to put him into one of the four houses that made up the school. Judging by the obvious trend in the choices, he thought that their were four houses, each centering around one of those values. He could’ve asked his father, but wanted to try and wait until his first day at the school to get his answer.
“There!” He exclaimed. “I’m done. Are you happy now?”
“Very much so.” Jon said, nodding his head thoughtfully. “Some food for thought. With one hundred questions, I’m sure that there’ll be people who spend all day trying to think of how to answer.
Philip put the survey back in the dresser. “We’re done here, so let’s get back to the game room. Eli and I weren’t finished with our game.”
“I’m joining next round!” Jon called, following after Phillip out of the room.