A very good question, thought Fiorra, one that she had been wondering herself.
Gabriella took a deep breath. “You will be leaving the Illyth next fall.”
Fiorra stared at her, her cup of cider arrested in the air. “What?” Her mind was whirling. Where would they go? Was she casting them out or coming with them?
“Where – where will we be going?” Dar asked.
Gabriella smiled. “Relax. You each will be entering a school here.”
Rick groaned. “More school.”
Gabriella raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Terruth City is home to the finest training schools in the entire Land,” she informed Rick.
“Training for what?” Fiorra asked.
Gabriella looked at each of them. “Fiorra, you will be entering Terruth School of Healing, Rick, you and Dar will be entering the Terruth Academy of Weaponry, as will Emanuella, though she will be attending classes with Ander, who will enter the Terruth School of Kyor.”
Stunned, Fiorra stared at Gabriella. She was splitting them up?
The entire table was silent.
“Your silence is deafening,” Gabriella said lightly.
Dar took the hint and cleared his throat. “Will – will we be together still?”
Gabriella looked at Dar, her face implacable.
Fiorra watched as Dar gathered his wits to stand up to her. “We’re not ungrateful, but… as a… shepherd, I want to know what’s going to happen to my flock,” he smiled weakly.
Well said, Fiorra thought, liking his allusion to Gabriella’s cryptic description of him to Javversten.
Gabriella laughed. “Yes, you will all be here, in the same city. The schools are all in the same sector. You won’t see each other as often as you do now, since you will be taking classes that will keep you busy, but none of you will be farther away than two leagues or so.”
Fiorra relaxed somewhat, sharing a look of relief with her fellow sheep.
“I have taught you as much as I can,” Gabriella gestured with her hands. “Dar is my equal with the sword now and can learn little else from me, except, perhaps, a little restraint,” here she looked at Dar, who had the grace to look down at the table ruefully. Fiorra knew she meant Emanuella.
“Rick, you are my equal at tracking and certainly excel with the sword yourself, though your riding skills need grave attention,” Gabriella smiled gently. Rick smiled wryly.
“Fiorra, your skill at avril’shusta certainly exceeds my own, but your true talents lie in Healing, and you have much to study this summer before you enter the School of Healing.” Fiorra flushed at the compliment, but she wasn’t so sure that she had as much talent as Gabriella thought.
“Ander, you have worked so hard on your talents. You are well ahead of many of your peers, and are certainly the strongest I have ever met, which is indeed powerful, but you have a long road to mastery ahead of you. I have little else of principal to teach you, you need only now to apply it.”
“Emanuella.” Gabriella waited until Emanuella looked up at her. Her face was strangely pale. Gabriella sighed. “You remind me so much of myself at your age,” Gabriella placed her hand on Emanuella’s to comfort her. “So determined and brave… and yet so vulnerable. Through sheer determination, you have mastered the use of a bow much bigger than yourself, and learned the use of the sword and avril’shusta as well. And with a zary’andu at your side, a feat not accomplished by anyone in several hundred Cycles. You have learned much. But your largest lesson yet, I think, is forgiveness….”
Embarrassed for her friend, Fiorra glanced up to see her comrade’s lower lip trembling; Emanuella folded her lips inward and looked down at the table.
“It is a great honor,” Gabriella was now addressing all of them, “to attend these schools; many are turned away. I attended these schools myself.”
“How is it that we have been accepted, then?” Rick asked.
“Ah. That was arranged long ago,” Gabriella replied with a strange look on her face. “But you shall have to prove yourselves once you enter the school, for you will be among the best in the Land and competition is fierce. Only strength prevails.”