I’m not usually the one to brag, but please lend me a moment of your time as I introduce to you my very bright future.
Dear Adrien Rivers,
We, the council of the Knights’ Academy are proud to inform you that you are accepted into the Knights’ Academy. We’ll be sending you your acceptance package and instructions in two weeks. We’re looking forward to having you join your brother-flight on our campus this upcoming fall semester.
Congratulations and good luck.
The Knight Council of the Knights’ Academy.
See! Told you it was bright. I got this letter two months ago and I’m still very proud of it. My only hope is that I won't be disappointed in the end.
Just like for most of my friends, four years in undergrad school earned me a degree. The difference is, I don't want to be like everyone I know. I want to be like the ones I love - my father and my mother.
My heart and soul hungers for adventure: must be some kind of a family trait. Taking this lesser beaten path and purposely finding uncertainty is a good start for feeding this appetite. This letter is my baby, but a diploma and knighthood will be my pride and joy. So watch out, because here I come!
“Adrien! Wait up!” Kai, my best friend is calling. He got accepted too and I’m glad. As excited I am, I’m also nervous; waiting to be taken away into an entirely different world is a bit nerve wrecking and having my best friend alongside me would make this change easier. Having my best friend in a sea of same- uniformed strangers is a life saver.
I halt and smile at him as I adjust the bag strap over my shoulder. With just a smile, I wait and watch him maneuver his way thought the crowd. His bag bounced at his hip as he tried to keep it from hitting other travelers. A trail of “pardon me” , “excuse me” and “coming thought” echoed behind him as he finally made it to the platform.
“Ready?” I nudge him.
“Ready.” He nods, but he wasn’t speaking to me. Kai was talking to a vision ahead.
The train must have heard us. It whistles, announcing its arrival. The machine huffs in relief as its speed is dialed down. Its iron joints scream under the squeezing pressure of the breaks. The metal monster exhales a breath of exhaust as it happily obeys an engineer’s command to stop, ever so smoothly. The machine is honored to undertake this journey and make the pickup for Knights’ Academy precious cargo.
With curiosity, Kai and I watch the station workers rush to cure the tiered joints with oil and bring buckets of water to help cool down the monster’s core.
The conductors did not lost any time. They have a lot of cadets to board. “Calling all Academy cadets! Come aboard! Thirty minutes till departure to the Knights’ Academy!”
“Come on, gentlemen. Get on moving.” One of the train employees encourages us.
“Let’s do this.” My hand reaches for the rail and pulls the weight of my body to climb up the steep stairs.
“Alright!” Kai’s pumped up. We did stand out in the crowd and I think the uniform is starting to get to his head. The district black, white, and gold colors are unmistakable. The pattern and the cut spelled out to the whole world who we all are destined to become.
“Woo!” I can’t help myself either.
The conductors keep on calling, but their yells are muffled by the glass window.
“I can’t believe this is finally happening.” Kai says as he secures his luggage.
“Well...” I didn’t quite know what to say, “It’s happening.” My experience lacked wisdom for situations like this and was in disbelief myself. The clicking and the adjustments of the straps temporarily fill the silence.
With our bags secure on top of the shelves, suddenly I felt uneasy and let myself lower onto seat. On the opposite of me I see Kai do the same. We say nothing, just stare out of the weathered glass. A crowd of faces came to see us all off. An unsynchronized dance of hands wish us a farewell. The smiles are all the same, but the eyes are different from each other. In the depth of their irises I see admiration, pride, pity, worry, and the never-failing-to-show-up hate.
“We’re dead meat, you know that?” I realize it just in time.
“I know.” He keeps on observing at the audience looking up.
“Adrien!” A familiar voice calls my name and just like that I wake up from my sleep. Only a few images survive from my dream, but I just can’t remember what it was about. Forgetting so easily, that kind of thing bothers me.
“I’m up.” I stretch.
“We’re here.” Kai is glued to the glass window and glances at me just for a moment.
I join in and smile at what’s outside. Just over the misty hills, there stood a subtle simulate of a grand castle guarded by towers. They are the beacons that represented each royal house. A test would determine which one we will be trained to serve.
“What kind of a test do you think they’ll do?” Kai swallows hard.
“I can’t even begin to imagine. Each year they switch them up.”
It's quite again, but only for a short time. Our silence is the calm before the storm.
“Alright you little shitheads get the fuck out!” A yell shakes the train’s halls.
This is it. We're here indeed. Kai and I jump from our seats and hustle to get out bags.
“Get out!!!” It shouts again. Whoever it is, she has very little patience. The knight instructor holds no tolerance for simple folks like us. Bang!! The doors to our quarters bust open. In its frame stands a dwarf. She huffs and puffs like an over-boiling soup pot. We stare at her in horror. Our dumb-stricken faces must have really pissed her off even more.
“Proceeding, Sir.” Kai tries to appeal to her.
Oh, no. I thought as I give him a look and hopelessly watch his fate unravel. He doesn't even know it yet, but my poor, poor friend is about to have a new one ripped open.
“What did you call me!!” She squints at him. “What! Did! You! Call! Me!”
Before Kai can answer, the dwarf jumps up and takes a hold of the frame with her hands. The wood snapps at her grip and the splinters dig into her fingertips. Her footing dents the paint as she hang on. She's right at Kai’s eye level and that is when she got right in his face. “Do I look like a Sir to you?!”
Shit. He did it again.
“Do I look like a Sir to you?!” Her spit showers his face.
“No, Ma’am. You look like a Ma’am, Ma’am. ”
“Get your sorry face out of mine.” She growls at him and jumps back down on the floor. The knight dwarf has waisted enough of her time on us and went on to look for new victims. Kai and I rush out like scared goats. Like fools, we think that we are getting away from that little monster without even realizing that we are rushing right into the lions’ den. That dwarf was just a little sample of what is to come. I hear others being screamed at in other train cars and like scared cats they're herded out.
“Well, hello my darling princesses. Hope we didn’t interrupt your manicure.” Another knight is waiting for us just outside on the platform. He is tall and has silver hair. His eyes are ice blue and his posture is just as ridged and cold. Clearly, an elf. An elf dressed in full, white armor. There are others with him, with dignity and discipline they wait for their share of fresh meat.
“Welcome to your finishing school.” He smiles. “Your acceptance letters please.”
His hand waits for my comply. Without a word, I place the letter with the knight’s seal in his palm. To my surprise I have no problem giving it up. For a split of a second, my reflection in his armor caught my attention and it’s disappointing to see myself looking like an idiot like that.
“Line up with the rest over there.” He points behind him.
I go forward to line up with the rest, but can't see much beyond the platform. The fog from the hills made its way to the train station, but I don’t have to rely on my eyes to know what’s waiting for us.
I hear them. We all hear them. Their calls and roars are undeniable. Dragons.
“Your test will soon begin.” The elf knight grins at us again.
I can't believe my own self and feel my mind betray me. That is when I began to question my choice to pursue knighthood and that thought terrifies me.