Johan Theodin is admitted to the Seminary at a young age, but “admitted” is a lie. It means that he was kidnapped and taken to the Seminary in a bag. He is six years old, which is old enough to speak if you’re a dwarf, but only if you’re spoken to. He stands in the middle of the floor, naked.
“What’s your name, fish?” That’s a big piece of muscle speaking to him.
“Johan Theodin, sir.” Johan was raised to be polite, even when he is being kidnapped.
“John… Theodin? Fuck, I can’t say that dwarven shit. You’re John Toad.”
“That isn’t my name, sir, I’m sorry.” Johan was raised to be honest and polite.
“It’s your name now, fish. This is the Seminary and you go by the name we give you.”
“I am Theodin, son of a Theodin, son of a Theodin, daughter of a dwarven clan lord, sir, I am sorry, I am not a toad. Or a fish.” Johan was raised to be honest and polite and most of all he was raised to know his ancestry. (Twenty years later he will have forgotten it, but “forgotten” is a lie. It means that the memory will be beaten out of him with sticks as big around as your thumb.)
“John Theodin doesn’t eat here, fish. John Toad does.” The big man motions towards the door. Johan starts walking in that direction but it seems that the motion was not meant for him. It was meant for the prefect who will be overseeing his every move for the next year. The prefect picks Johan up by the scruff of his neck and hauls him off for a de-lousing. Johan has no lice but why take chances?
The next day, Johan is waiting in the food line. There is a different big piece of muscle serving up food. There is nobody small in the Seminary except the students. Johan is still wondering why. He will not learn why until the first time he tries to escape, which is some time in the future.
“What’s your name, fish?” It’s the new big piece of muscle asking.
“I am Johan Theodin, sir.” Johan is still polite. When he breaks that habit he will break it in a very final way.
“We don’t have one of those on the food roster, fish. Are you sure you aren’t John Toad?”
“Yes, sir. I am Johan Theodin.”
The big piece of muscle looks a little sorry. “Look, kid, you just have to say you’re John Toad.”
“But I am not.” And Johan will go to sleep hungry.
This happens again every day for the next three days. They feed him breakfast, because he represents an investment. But there is no afternoon meal for a dwarf named Johan Theodin.
On the fourth day Johan figures out that his clan is of higher stature than the clan of this other young dwarf who is going through much the same thing. This wasn’t true three days ago, but the other young dwarf decided that his name was Harry Fourth instead of Haraldsen Forthendin. That means that Harry is no longer part of the prestigious Forthendin clan, and so any member of the Theodin clan outranks him. Johan is also stronger than Harry.
For the next two days Johan and Harry both have half of an afternoon meal to eat, but the Seminary figures it out pretty soon. It’s not as if this is the first time something like this has happened. Then Johan goes back to not eating much. The Seminary is pretty happy about it all because the new students who show fire work out better in the long run. (“Students” is a lie. You know what it means. So does the Seminary but lies help them sleep at night, not that they need much help.)
At the end of the first week, a betting pool involving the new student’s stamina reaches a total of 34 gold coins.
During the second week, Johan finds a rat. It helps him last through the entire week.
On the second day of the third week, Johan Theodin dies and John Toad is born. That first big piece of muscle wins a great deal of money from the pool. John Toad will not be raised to be polite or to know his ancestry. There are more important things for him to learn, not the least of which is respect for his teachers. That one will take some time.
At least the honesty will stick with him.