He ascended another stone stairway, thinking with annoyance that all of these stairs would at least keep him in good physical condition. As he arrived upon the landing, a sign reading “Fifth Cycle Level” greeted him. Dar glanced around apprehensively, feeling finally alone and on his own.
He had seen each of his group, his “sheep” off to their respective Academies. Ander had seemed anxious to explore his new surroundings, academically inclined as he was, so Dar was not concerned about Ander. Furthermore, Ander would be much more skilled with his weapons than the other students at the Kyor Academy if the students milling about the grounds were anything to judge by. Hardly any of them even had belt knives, and how they’d ogled at Ander, walking up the steps of the entryway with a sword belt and sword buckled at his side. Ander would never be an excellent swordsman, but he was certainly mediocre, and that was better than any of his peers would be, Dar would warrant, experiencing a moment of pride in his fellow comrade.
Fiorra had seemed quite anxious to get to her Academy as well, and the girls had had their heads together all the way to Terruth, whispering and giggling. It appeared they had revealed the secret to Ander as well, but Dar hadn’t been sure the giggling had been connected to her beginning at the Academy until her demeanor became downright bubbly. He and Rick had exchanged quizzical glances and shrugged. Incontrovertibly a girl thing. Regardless, she seemed quite excited and strode off onto the grounds after sharing quick hugs with each of them, so Dar was not especially concerned for her. What could go wrong on the grounds of a Healer’s school, anyway?
He sighed. Then there was Emanuella. As always. He fervently hoped she would cease to dominate his thoughts. That aside, once upon the grounds of the Academy of Weaponry, he and Rick walked her over to the Girls’ Hall. They each stood their tallest, assumed their most formidable and imposing stances at her elbows, glaring at anyone who stopped to stare at her, and more than once, he heard a scrap of conversation in the air mention, “Kin’keska.” Well, she would have to get used to it. He would spare her that if he could, but there was nothing to be done for it save adjust to it.
Dar had heard her draw a deep breath and saw her raise her chin, her eyes flashing. Finally, he thought with some amusement, someone else would be the target of that look. She was stubborn, he knew she would prevail, but nevertheless, he’d felt as if he were abandoning her when she marched off into that crowd of uncouth people. Even Fiaz was some ways away, he knew, outside the city walls.
Rick, at least, was just a flight of stairs away, and though they weren’t likely to share the same classes, they were far more likely to run into to each other throughout the day and would be able to get together for an ale or practice or such.
Finally, as he stood staring at the formidable oaken doors to the common room of the Fifth Cycle Students, he grimaced and gathered his courage, disgusted to find himself a bit nervous. He grasped one of the iron rings and yanked a door open.
“Oh, hey. It’s you. You’re that guy, from last season, wasn’t it?”
Dar swallowed. “Yes.”
“Oh I do, from the practice rings.”
“Right then. You’ve made it, Fifth Cycle. Kenian Graystorm.” He held his arm out and they clasped arms. “Well-met, well-met.”