Harmonic Academy’s philosophy of encouraging a variety of learning styles and peaceful self-expression was a positive nurturing environment for children who might feel pressured by social stigmatization of any kind in their neighborhood lives. With gorgeous rolling grounds, just far enough north of the hub of the city to be out of the way, it was a wonderful world of play in which to grow. The witchfolk children knew not to shine, not to stand out, to get along enticing no comment. They knew which teachers they could trust to help them with academic or personal concerns.
Out in the harsh eastern drylands, no one wanted to build their futures. Land more dust than loam, weeds more yellow bristly rough to the touch, creatures less shy, more mean, stinging angrily at whatever may disturb hard fought for and unforgiving territory. Sira had never been beyond the city to the east. She had been given warning images in her catechisms against careless disclosures. They might not exile someone like Sira if she should be fount out. They well might imprison her in horrible conditions, a much more viscerally palpable threat. It was in the harsh glaring sun of the unproductive east land that prisoners, pariahs from city justice, were sent for penitence.
All societies need prisons, don’t they? Time-out holes to hold the dangerous, or repositories for the politically and socially incorrect are hallmarks of civilization. Aren’t they? Well, not in a community in which a wrongdoer is immediately hit hard with the emotional toll wrought; not where the governing structure is more libertarian than democratic and disputes are honored by settling them through well-argued compromise. It is easier, of course, to settle disputes and prevent the welling up of criminal intentions within small enough social confines so that all parties are mutually well known. Once factions set up against factions, arguments intractably settled into place, disputes become institutionalized, and so do the losers.
Sira’s favorite teacher, Merin, was secretly a historian among her people. He was also a learned historian of their colony planet and of the home world, Earth. He was generally a favorite among the teachers and students for his easy friendly, yet passionately fierce manner, the way he made what might seem difficult concepts so immediate and real, the way he readily listened and deeply appreciated what was said to him. His intense mental thirst had led him to acquire a broad range of knowledge which it was his great joy and privilege to share. That Sira’s best friend, Reag, was Merin’s son only added to her estimation of them both.