Roderick handed his horse over to a stable attendant in front of his family’s home. It wasn’t amongst the largest homes in Winsdell, but it was very comfortable and handsome. He walked up to the front door and looked at Galen who was standing still, staring at the door.
Roderick smiled at his little brother. Galen had always been very serious, even as a small child, he didn’t smile or laugh much. He was always busy. As a young boy, he would find different things around the house to take apart, such as clocks and music boxes. It got so bad, their mother had to pack many things away or put them on high shelves.
As Galen grew, he started reading and studying beyond what the tutors brought in would teach him. He never seemed to tire of learning. He learned so much about Mystics even before the lower academy that Roderick figured Galen had already absorbed the first-year material when he left at the age of fourteen.
When he would come home on breaks, Roderick would be amazed at what Galen had learned. Galen never seemed impressed with himself, but Roderick was sometimes in awe of his little brother’s skills. He wondered how much was due to hard work and how much was due to Galen’s natural ability.
He knew their mother had great hopes for Galen. She thought he could one day be the head healer of the city or a great professor in the Royal Academy. She hoped he would choose a career in healing or academics, a place where he could advance himself, while keeping safe. She had been working on Alaric to make sure there were enough funds to send Galen to the Academy.
She was adamant that father had set aside money for his children’s education. Alaric only went to the Royal Academy for one year, and Roderick went straight to the Sentinel Disciplines from the lower academy. Their mother reasoned there should be plenty of money left to support Galen for however long he needed to study.
Roderick had a feeling that money would stay where it was. Galen had talked for years about joining the Sentinel. His mother had begged Roderick to tell Galen not to join. She urged Roderick to tell the High Captain not to accept Galen’s application, but Roderick would not do it. Galen was more than worthy of joining the Disciplines. He knew it and more importantly, the High Captain knew it. He was one of the first she accepted, granting Galen the high title of level three novice. He remembered his conversation with her about Galen.
“Roderick, your brother seems very impressive. It’s a shame he wasn’t the older brother; perhaps he would have made a better second,” said The High Captain with a laugh.
“Or perhaps he would have been High Captain,” replied Roderick smoothly.
The High Captain laughed again. “You might be right if all that is said about him is true. What is your honest opinion on Galen?”
“Honestly, he is the brightest young man I have ever known. I’m not saying that because he’s my brother. My other brother, Alaric, couldn’t use Mystics to heat a cup of tea, but Galen has done things no man that young has any business doing. I believe he is also strong. He is well rounded, and he will throw everything he has into becoming an Elite.”
“Yes, that is what all his instructors think as well, but what of his temperament? Is he honorable? Will he fit in with the Sentinel?”
“He is very honorable, and he will do his duty. He is a serious man, and it takes him a while to make friends, but once he does, he is the most loyal person I know,” replied Roderick.
“Very well, I will write his letter first. I am going to ask him to come as a level three novice.”
Roderick raised his eyebrows. “So high? When was the last time someone came to the Disciplines as a level three?”
Dracia shrugged. “I believe that would be when I was accepted to Disciplines.”
Roderick made a low noise in his throat. “You think he deserves it then?”
“No, if what you and his instructors say is true, he might deserve level four or even five, but there are things he will need to learn about our way of life here. I also want to give him time to change his mind.” She pulled out a sheet of fine paper and starting writing. “Do you think he will accept, Roderick?”
“I believe he will. He has talked of nothing but the Sentinel with me since I joined. My mother will try to talk him out of it. He is rather a favorite of hers.”
“Wonder what that must be like. My mother practically pushed me out the door when I got my letter,” said Dracia quietly as she wrote. She looked up for a moment. “You should be the one to deliver this to your brother. Be there with him and support him when he talks to your mother.”
“I’m not sure how much good it will do, but I will go if you wish, of course.”
“It may not do any good with your mother, but it will mean much to Galen if he has your support.”
Roderick clapped Galen on the shoulder. “It won’t be as bad as you think, Galen. Be honest with her, and tell her this is what you want. She may not like it, but she will accept it. I will support you. If you really want to choose to go to Disciplines, I will tell her this is the right path for you.”
Galen looked up at Roderick with a crooked smile and nodded. He went to open the door, but before he pulled the handle, he turned and looked at Roderick and said quietly, “Thank you.”
They walked into the dim entryway and were met by the head of the household staff, Jac. He bowed quickly.
“Master Roderick, it is good to see you. I trust all is well with the Sentinel,” said Jac.
Roderick nodded. “The High Captain is strong and just,” replied Roderick, giving the traditional Sentinel answer.
“Long may she serve,” said Jac, answering properly. He turned to Galen. “Lady Glain is looking for you, Master Galen. She is currently in the east sitting room.”
“Thank you, Jac,” replied Galen as he took off his cloak. He hung it behind him on some hooks by the door, grabbing his letter from the pocket.
Roderick elected to keep his cloak on. As an Elite, he was taught never to get too comfortable anywhere except in the Fortress of the Sentinel. Even here. in his old family home, Roderick needed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. He would stay properly dressed in his full uniform at all times unless it wasn’t necessary.
Roderick followed Galen down a small hallway and through a doorway to the left. They entered the east parlor to find their mother sitting on the sofa next to the fire. She was drinking a cup of tea. She put it down and stood up as her sons walked into the room. She smoothed out the skirts of her blue day gown and lightly touched the updo of her dark brown hair. Her blue eyes twinkled as she looked at her sons.
“Roderick,” said his mother brightly. “I am so glad to see you have returned safely. You were gone for a few weeks. I started to become worried.”
Roderick walked over and took his mother’s hand. He gave it a quick kiss as she smiled up at him. He wondered how glad she would be to see him when she heard Galen’s news.
“Galen, come here, my dear, you have had a letter. I believe you will want to open it this second.”
She picked up a large light gold envelope. It had Galen’s name on it in very handsome handwriting. Roderick knew immediately it was from the Royal Academy. It was, no doubt, Galen’s acceptance letter.
Galen walked over and took the letter from his mother. He looked at her, “Roderick has brought me a letter as well, mother.” He held up the black envelope that contained his Sentinel acceptance message.
His mother sat back down quickly with a loud sigh. She looked up at Roderick. “I suppose this is why you visited today? Your High Captain sent you here with that letter, didn’t she?”
“She did,” said Roderick sitting down in a chair close to his mother. “You shouldn’t be surprised; you knew Galen had applied. You must have known he would be accepted. You know of his skills and work ethic.”
She looked over at Galen, who was opening up the message from the Royal Academy.
“I was hoping you would speak with your High Captain, Roderick. What is the use of you being one of her seconds if you cannot have her grant favors for you?” asked his mother as she picked up her teacup.
Roderick shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “I do not serve my High Captain so she can grant me favors. I serve her because I believe in her leadership of the Sentinel.”
“Of course you do,” said his mother. “I only meant that you have the High Captain’s ear. I had hoped you would sway her from selecting your brother.”
“Why would I do it? I do give my High Captain advice when she asks for it, but I can only speak the truth to her. The truth is Galen is more qualified than any other in at least the past seven years to be accepted to the Disciplines. You should know he has been accepted as a level three novice. It is practically unheard of.”
His mother shook her head and looked at Galen. She cocked her head and looked concerned. “What is the matter, Galen? Were you not accepted?”
Galen looked up at her with wide eyes. “No, I was accepted, but there was another short message in with my acceptance letter.”
“What does it say?” asked his mother as she put her teacup back down.
Galen looked a little confused and handed the letter towards Roderick. Roderick got out of his seat slightly and leaned to snatch the letter. He read over it.
I have heard of your skills from the headmaster of the lower academy. Our headmaster here at the Royal Academy has come to speak with me of you. He is very impressed with all he has heard about you and believes you have an unlimited amount of potential. He begged me to write you to let you know it would please me if you would decide to come to the Royal Academy as not only a student but an apprentice under our head healer as well.
I would, of course, be very pleased for you to attend our Academy, but I hear your heart may lie in a different direction, so I propose a compromise. If you do choose to attend the Disciplines of the Sentinel, I will find a way for you to take classes here at the Academy as well. As you know, the Sentinel serves at the royal family’s pleasure, and I will arrange your schedule with the High Captain myself.
I hope you will accept this compromise as I feel you have much to offer the kingdom.
Always for the good of the kingdom,
Crown Prince Leal of the family Cassendar.
Roderick looked up at Galen and then turned to his mother. He handed her the letter and looked back at Galen. He wondered what was going on in his little brother’s mind. To not only be accepted to the Sentinel and the Royal Academy but to be offered to attend both by the Crown Prince himself.
Roderick also wondered how his High Captain would take this news. Surely the prince had already talked of her about this. If not, Roderick did not want to be in the room when he asked for an audience with her. He wondered if The High Captain had talked to the prince about Galen. It wouldn’t surprise Roderick; how else would the Prince know of Galen and his wish to join the Sentinel?
Their mother looked up at Galen with a shocked expression. “This is a message from the Crown Prince,” she said as she turned and looked at Roderick.
“It is,” said Galen as he stood up and walked to the fireplace.
“Galen, you have to go to the Royal Academy, now. You cannot deny the prince. You should write back this second and say you will accept your place as a student and an apprentice.”
Galen turned and looked at his mother. He walked over and held his hand out. She gave him his message back. He tucked it back into its gold envelope before bending over and kissing his mother’s cheek. He then turned and started to walk to the doorway.
“Where are you going, Galen?” asked his mother.
“I’m going to go write two letters. I will accept the prince’s compromise,” answered Galen as he walked from the room.
Their mother turned to Roderick. “Go now, and tell him that is a mistake. You must see that he needs to put the Sentinel off. He needs to take this opportunity and go study full time at the Academy. He will be an apprentice of the head healer. Do you know how rare it is for a first-year student to be an apprentice? I’m not sure it has ever happened.”
Roderick stood up and walked towards the door; he looked at his mother. “I will not tell my grown brother what to do. He is of age, and he will make his own choices.”
His mother opened her mouth to speak, but Roderick cut her off.
“Furthermore, I believe he has made the right choice. If the prince is willing to go to the trouble of meeting with the High Captain to arrange a schedule just for Galen, the prince must want Galen to go to the Disciplines. You have to know it.”
His mother sighed and stood up. She walked over to Roderick and took his hands. “Galen is not like you, Roderick. He is sensitive and quiet. What will happen to him in the Sentinel? I am afraid he will be taken advantage of. I am afraid he will be lonely.”
Roderick gripped his mother’s hands. “Galen is much too clever for anyone to get the upper hand on him. He is quiet, but he is not unfriendly. He will find his place in the Sentinel. I know he will.”
“You will watch out for him, won’t you?” asked his mother.
“He will have to find his own way, but I will not abandon him completely. He will always be my brother.”
His mother nodded.
“If you need my support for Alaric to give the necessary funds for Galen’s education at the Academy, please let me know. If it is necessary, take the money from my share of our father’s inheritance.”
“But you might need that one day, Roderick. What if you have a family?”
“Mother, you know I will never marry or have children. You know the life I have chosen.”
“But there have been Elites who have found love and married.”
“But I am a second of the High Captain,” said Roderick with a small smile. “I am already committed to a woman, though she isn’t my wife. She and the kingdom have my full devotion.”
His mother squeezed his hands and let them go. “Do not throw away the idea of finding love and a family yet, Roderick; you are still young, many things could happen.”
“We will see, mother, but if Galen needs the funds for school, please do not hesitate to take them from my share. He is much more worth the investment than me. My way in this world is already set, but Galen will have unlimited opportunities.
“He might still choose a different life than an Elite, you know. He is not committed until he reaches two more levels in the Disciplines, passes his test, and takes his oath. Let’s give him every opportunity we can so he will have a choice someday.”
“I will speak with Alaric tonight. I am sure there are enough funds for Galen’s education without robbing you. I always want you to know you have a choice as well, Roderick. Do not think I do not love you as well as Galen.”
“I know you do, mother,” said Roderick picking up her hand and kissing it. “But my choice has been made, and I am satisfied with it. I have to get back to the Fortress. Please give my best to the lord. Tell him I shall come to dinner the day after mid-spring if I am welcomed.”
“You will be, my dear. You know you are always welcomed in your family home.”
Roderick walked swiftly from the room. He was in a hurry to get back as he wondered how much his High Captain knew of the prince’s plan for Galen. Roderick was very interested to see what she had to say about it.