Broken Dagger

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Getting Back On The Horse



Getting back on the horse

A dark orange glow spread its warmth across the horizon and shined on a mountain peak and reflected off the back of two dragons sitting with their wings tucked behind them. Just ahead of them on the ledge Millaney and her Shrkai sister Sarnay knelt on the ground with their heads lowered before a marble casket. They sat quietly together as the sun rose overhead shining on the casket with these words etched across the white marble covering.

Beloved Patrah

man of peace and understanding that united two worlds”

The two girls stood slowly together and turned to head back to their dragons.

“I’m headed back to the south to continue my patrols,” Sarnay said after a moment, just before throwing her leg over the saddle on her dragon. “Are you going back to the academy?” Millaney didn’t answer at first. She just stood quietly next to her dragon while Sarnay mounted hers and her dragon lifted up preparing to take flight.

“Oh… No not at first,” Millaney finally replied, as she mounted her dragon as well. “I’m going to visit father for a few days or so. How have you and Frolin been doing?”

“Ya know what. I never thought he’d be my type, he’s so… fragile, but he’s brilliant and in his own way quite sexy. I don’t understand it either,” she shakes her head nudges her dragon forward. “Give father my love,” she hollered, as her dragon flew off into the sunrise. Millaney smiled and flew off after her. Together they flew out over the mountaintop with the orange glow of the sunrise reflecting off the wings of their dragons.

A short time later back in Schilling Harbor Millorny was being helped out of bed by an attractive young woman when Millaney stepped in to his bedroom.

“Good morning father,” she said, as she kissed him on the cheek and shooed off the young woman and helped him out of bed herself. “I was thinking we’d take a trip into town after breakfast.” The young woman returned carrying two crutches specially designed for Millorny. She went again to aid him, but Millaney turned to take the crutches from her with a cautioning nod of her head and piercing smile. The woman let her take the crutches then bowed and quietly exited the room.

“I wish you two would get along better,” Millorny said, as he leaned over to watch the young woman walk across the room.

“Oh we don’t need her. I can help you when you need it, or even better you can leave your crutches closer to the bed.” Millaney added with a not so subtle taunt. She then handed her father his crutches and stood nearby, as he lifted himself out of bed. She had grown much in the last couple years and was about the same height as her father, who was less than average height for a man. It had been more than two years now since Millorny had woken from his coma. At first he had great difficulty getting his muscles to work freely again as they once did before he was nearly burned to death by the Shrkai. His legs were especially badly burned and despite months of therapy and exercises working his leg muscles, the strength in his legs had not fully returned.

“It’s not so much about need,” Millorny added, as he smiled at the young woman when she turned back to close the door. “I… uh enjoy her company.” Millorny turned back to look at his daughter .

“Yes I know what you ‘enjoy’ and you should ashamed, she’s half your age.”

“Well… I do my best.” Millorny smiled at her in whimsy, but she just rolled her eyes and walked with him toward the door.

“Well what about our trip into the city?” she asked, as she followed him out of the room and down the hall.

“I don’t think so. I don’t really want to go anywhere.”

“Come on father. You haven’t been out of the house in months and I’m leaving for the academy tomorrow, Please?” She turned to look at him and gave him her best pouty look until he smiled.

“Alright have our carriage hitched and we’ll leave after breakfast.”

“Oh Yes! Thank you father.” She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed him on the cheek.

A short time later Millaney was walking beside him down the stone path toward the edge of their yard where a carriage sat on the street waiting for them with the top lowered and folded behind the single two-person bench and a small seat set forward for the driver who sat with the reins in hand. Millaney held her father’s shoulder, to keep him balanced, as he climbed up onto his seat, then she handed him up his crutches and climbed up beside him. The city of Schilling Harbor spread out before them, as they started down the short hill road lined with homes built along the western shoreline north of the city. The docks were lined mostly with galley ships waiting to be loaded with goods for destinations along Annuvin’s many river cities. One ship stood out amongst the others, the only ship in the bay designed for ocean passage. It was anchored further out with its deep detachable keel extension laying on shore only used for deep sea exploration.

Millaney looked out over the choppy ocean waters. It had been more than three years now since she escaped from the island of the dragon clan of the Shrkai and met her father. She was raised in a Shrkai family by the man she called Patrah, her Shrkai great grandfather, a man of great reverence in both the Shrkai and human society. The streets soon began to fill with activity, as their carriage neared the docks. The driver slowed, as he neared the shipping warehouse Millorny owned, but Millaney leaned in and whispered.

“Aww father it’s such a nice day. We don’t need to stop here. You said yourself, the place runs better without you.” The driver resumed the pace, as Millorny nodded to him and they trotted their way through the crowded streets with wooden warehouse buildings on one side and commercial store fronts on the other. They stopped at a lively inn with an overcrowded biergarten. With one look from Millaney’s soft eyes, they exited the carriage on the other side and headed toward a wide open park with filled with folia and shade trees. Millaney helped her father down and walked beside him, as he used a crutch under each arm. The two of them made their way to the same swinging bench they sat in more than three years ago when Millorny finally confessed that he was her father.

Millaney nuzzled up next to him put her head on her shoulder and pulled up her legs. They sat quietly with Millorny pushing the swing gently with one of his crutches and nodding to almost everyone who passed by recognizing him. The two spend the day together first sitting for a long time swinging on the bench, then going to all the shops in town where Millaney loaded up on new clothes for the two of them. They ate lunch at the busy inn where they were both well-known by everyone. After lunch they went to see a play in an open-air amphitheatre styled much like the one outside Shrkai City, then as the sun was setting they say together on the roof of their home with the sun watching the sun set over the western ocean.

Millaney crawled out of bed and stretched out her long strong arms. She turned her legs to the side and set her bare feet down on the smooth wooden floor with moonlight shining on her from the three windows facing the ocean. She quickly threw on some clothes she had laid out on a upholstered wooden chair nearby, then lifted a packed canvas bag sitting nearby and stepped out of her room. She walked along a railed balcony overlooking the lower part of the house, then quietly descended the stairs. She stepped through the kitchen and grabbed some fruit out of a large barrel and stepped out into the night air. She heard soothing rush of the waves lapping up against the rocks along shore fall below the cliffs, as she walked across the lawn where her dragon Dahvy was curled up against a wooden structure built for the dragons with the embers of a large fire dwindling in a pit in front of her. Millaney walked up to her dragon and hugged her tight around her neck. She set her bag down on the ground nearby then turned to grab a saddle off a half-wall. She through the saddle over the gentle behemoth she’d raised from an egg four years ago. She tied her bag on the back of her dragon behind the saddle, then climbed up.

She guided Dahvy away from the structure and toward the cliff. She looked up to see her father standing on a balcony with his crutches braced under his armpits and wearing his long night shirt. He leaned against the strong wooden rail with one arm and waved to his daughter with the other. Millaney smiled big and felt moisture begin to form in her eyes, as she looked up at him. She brought her fingertips to her lips and kissed them, then waved back and turned her head quickly forward, as she nudged Dahvy up into the air and off the cliff. She turned Dahvy in a wide circle flying so low over the choppy ocean waters the tip of Dahvy’s outside wing skimmed the water surface creating a rooster-tail of seawater, as she flew by then with a flap of her wing they gained altitude and ‘wooshed’ over the port and the city of Schilling Harbor waving to a guard in a wooden tower, as she passed by.

The towns and villages faded behind her in a flash, as she sped out toward the capital city. She guided her dragon to the north so she could approach the city from the northwest to view the newly completed council building from the best visual angle. She flew in low just over the treetops and just as the sun was peeking its rays above the horizon to the east. The new council building was designed much more with incorporating the surroundings. The entrance was turned to face slightly to the northeast and the buildings were spread out in two half circles that grew gradually in height until it reached about three stories high. The sun’s rays were just beginning to pierce the structure, as Millaney made her approach to the building. At the top and to the rear of the buildings two dragon statues were set on top of the walls with each dragon spreading out its wings. The tip of the right wing of one dragon and the left of the other formed a perfect archway with the sun rising up perfectly centered under the arched wings.

Millaney continued to fly toward the council building complex as the sun rose under the outstretched wings of the dragons and shined its warmth down onto the balanced courtyard below. Every bench, every tree and bush in the spiraled pathways of the lush gardens of the council building courtyard had an exact replica on the opposite side along a matching curved stone pathway and in the center there were statues erected to the five main deities worshipped by the Annuvian people. The twin sun goddesses that were normally depicted separately were merged into one, just as the sun that’s amber warmth now reflected off the feminine statues with golden gemstones set in their eyes. Joined at the shoulder each statue had a separate head and opposite arms, the statue of Norganna on the left held and open book in her hand while Zeganna held a paint brush and painter’s palette in her hand. Seated in front of the solar deities were the three other main god’s statues about a third smaller in size. Lunarri the moon god of Justice sat on a bench holding a scepter with a bright green gemstone affixed at the top with his wife Tarleena curled up beside him with a necklace with a bright blue gemstone in a necklace around her neck. The statue of Crimsonna the moon god of war sat on Lunarri’s left on a separate bench holding his longsword with a bright red gemstone affixed at the hilt.

The sun was perfectly centered under the arched dragon wings, as Millaney flew over the buildings toward a stone stable built on the hillside just beyond. She landed in the enclosed structure built with dragons in mind. She threw one leg over the side and leaped out of the saddle landing on the soft ground nearby, as Dahvy tucked in her wings. Millaney stretched out her muscles Dahvy put her front legs out in front and leaned on them stretching as well, then stepped over to a pond of fresh water and lapped it up. Millaney left the saddle on and her canvas bag tied on her back, gave her dragon a final pat on her neck then headed to the large wooden gate and pushed open the heavy doors. On the other side she was greeted by two armed soldiers who saw her fly over and knew it was their duty to guard the stables to keep people out while there was a dragon inside.

“I won’t be long,” she said as she passed them. “I’m just here to pivk up my brother.” Millaney nodded to them as she passed and started down the meandering stone steps that led down the hillside toward the back of the council buildings.

Millaney entered the rear of the curved building and turned to head up an open spiral staircase with framed clear glass on the front and back giving her an excellent view of the early morning sun, as it lit up the courtyard. She paused briefly at the top level to look out over the garden courtyard, then entered a door leading into a hallway at the top level. She entered the first door on her left into an office apartment. Her brother Kahvy was sitting at his architect’s desk with huge wraparound curved windows in front of him and a messy apartment behind.

“Please tell me you’re ready to go,” Millaney said, as she entered.

“Huh?” Kahvy lifted his head from a drawing he was working on. “Oh it’s morning already!” He jumped up and pulled on some britches that looked like they were made for a shorter man and threw the suspenders up over his shoulders. He gathered up his drawings, as Millaney just stood shaking her head.

“Are you at least packed?” she asked looking around the messy room.

“Oh yes, yes… it should be over there somewhere,” he pointed to a bag over by a cushioned bench. Millaney pushed some dirty laundry aside and walked over to lift his bag, as he hobbled on one foot pulling on a boot.

“Come on. Let’s go down and get some breakfast,” she laughed and grabbed his arm after he finished pulling on his second boot. Kahvy filled a tube with the canvas drawings he’d been working on and followed her out into the hallway.

They stepped into a large dining hall, the one room that changed little with Kahvy’s architecture. There were several round tables of equal size spread out across the room with several dignitaries seated eating and drinking coffee. They looked the odd pair, as they made their way to a table, Kahvy with his tall lanky body and trousers that exposed his skinny ankles and wearing a hat with a long feather making him appear even taller and Millaney in her short ruffled dress of light blue that was hemmed at the knees with stockings and knee-high laced leather boots. Millaney smiled and nodded and set her brother’s bag down on the floor near a round wooden table.

“You did a great job with this building,” Millaney said casually, as a server set down plates of food in front of each of them and Kahvy removed his ridiculous looking hat and set it on an empty chair next to him, the long feather reaching past the back of the chair. “If only I could say the same for your sense of fashion.”

“Huh?”

“Oh nothing,” Millaney smirked, as she lifted the two-pronged fork and stabbed at a seasoned potato. They ate a quick breakfast then got up to head away from the table, Millaney just shook her head at the sight of her tall lanky brother stood and reached for his feathered hat.

“What?” he asked when he noticed her looking at him standing there in a white tunic with suspenders and holding up trousers that barely reached the tops of his short boots and that bizarre hat of his. She just smiled and turned toward the exit.

Millaney nodded to the two guards outside of the stable who opened the door for them. Her dragon got to her feet when she saw Millaney and her brother approach, and met them in the center of the corral Millaney took her brother’s bag and tied it to the back of the dragon next to hers, then her brother clumsily climbed up onto the saddle nearly falling over the other side. Millaney held back a laugh, then climbed up in front of him and pulled a harness strap over both of their shoulders and buckled it tight around her waist. Kahvy tucked his tube of drawings in tight to his chest and held on to his hat, as the dragon leaped up into the air and flapped her massive wings flying over the wall of the structure and out toward the council building.

Millaney flew up high into thin clouds giving her brother a wild a ride as possible without being too obvious with rolls or loops or even flying upside down out of fear it might make him vomit. She smiled though when she saw his obnoxious hat take flight and swirl its way through the clouds. It was only a short flight between the city capital and the academy about a hundred miles to the southeast. She flew out over the tops of the tall towers of the building which was modified from an ancient castle that was damaged during the end of the kings’ wars more than a century ago. Millaney landed her dragon on a high tower roof. She couldn’t help but smirk when she unhooked the harness and climbed down.

“Haa very funny. You know you’re buying me a new hat,” her brother commented, before clumsily sliding down the side of the dragon on his belly.

“Why whatever do you mean? You think I conjured up that gust of wind just to blow away your hat?” she laughed, as she untied their bags and let them drop onto the stone roof. Her brother just gave her a stern look and reached down to grab his bag, only he picked up hers by mistake and started to storm off. “Oh you might look funny trying to wear some of the clothes out of that bag,” Millaney giggled. Kahvy realized his mistake which made him even madder and he put down her bag and came back for his and turned in a huff, as Millaney just laughed at him while removing the saddle and setting it on a wooden saw horse nearby.

Millaney snuggled her dragon around the neck. “Remember there are plenty of wild animals for you so please don’t eat any of the villagers livestock,” she said in her dragon’s ear as she hugged her tight and her dragon wrapped a wing around Millaney’s back. She watched her dragon fly off toward some mountains nearby, then picked up her bag and headed to follow her brother down the stone spiral staircase that led down out of the tower roof.

Having a full day off before needing to report for classes, Millaney dropped her bag off in her small room just under the tower roof, then strolled down to a building built just outside the academy grounds. She nodded to the guards at the gate and many others as she passed and stepped into the inn. The inn was crowded with students both newly arriving for their first year and several returning students as well of all ethnicities and gender. A small fire was burning in a pit in the center of the inn and a group of senior students standing near the fire pit gestured for her to come join them. She waved back and started that way when she noticed a young man sitting on a wooden chair near the entrance wall playing a pan flute. A small crowd of students was gathered around him and some tossed coins into a gourd bowl placed near his feet. Millaney stepped up near two dagnaar students sitting at a table near the young man and listened to him play.

After a short time the flute player put his flute to the side picked up a rebec and ran a bow across the strings.

“Now gather ‘round ye to hear a story of the elven princess and the moonstone,” he quietly played his rebec while telling the tale. “In time of old when the great volcano erupted the elven kingdom had to escape the ash cloud.” He looked at Millaney standing in the front row head and shoulders above the two dagnaar students standing nearest her. He continued his story , as looked into her deep blue eyes with a single braid of her wavy blonde hair dangling just to the left corner of her left eye. He pulled his bow across the strings of his rebec and moved his sight more to the rest of the crowd. “As the ash from the great eruption encroached upon their village far to the northwest of the explosion the elven princess came forth with a plan to protect her people.” The bard’s eyes could not seem to veer long from the sight of Millaney standing there in her bright blue dress. He even fumbled his words ever so slightly when he saw the strings that tied the dress over her exposed cleavage. “b-beneath the light of the summer moon she went to the hillside with a large gemstone in her hand. ‘oh spare my people I beg of thee.’ She called out to the silver moon overhead.” The bard was sure to pause and run his bow over the strings of his rebec as several small coins were tossed into the gourd bowl at his feet.

“The moon shined down on the princess that night holding the gemstone in her hands,” the bard continued “Then a voice rang out from above, ‘Your devotion honors you I shall grant your wish’ just then an intense beam of light shined unto the gemstone held in the princess’s outstretched palms and she was engulfed in a blinding light. The king screamed and ran up the hill after his beloved daughter had disappeared.” The bard paused to look around his crowd and mow plucked at the strings of his instrument with his fingers. He again returned to telling his story, but slowed the pace of his prose. “The king knelt down at the top of the hill. He reached out to pick up the shimmering gemstone. The elven people behind looked on in awe, as the ash cloud retreated from their village. A single tear dripped down from the king’s cheek and fell upon the gemstone. ‘don’t worry father. I am alright’ He heard his daughter’s voice echo from within the gemstone. When he looked down he could see her within the stone.” The bard paused again. He looked directly at Millaney. “The king lifted the moonstone with his daughter still inside and brought it to the center of the village. He had a stone pedestal erected in the center of the village and placed the stone upon it. Word of the elven village that was safe from the encroaching ash spread throughout the land and soon the village became the home of all the refugees from the eruption. The village was no longer an elven village but a safe haven for all the species to live free and prosper.”

The bard bowed to the crowd and backed away. He turned to gather up his flute and rebec placing them in felt-lined cases. The crowd tossed a few more final coins into the gourd bowl and Millaney reached into a pocket in her dress and pulled out a gold coin that was worth more than all the coins that were already in his bowl. She stepped forward and when the bard was packing his instruments, she tossed the coin into the bowl.

“I really loved your story,” she said to him. He turned to look at her and politely, but coldly bowed and said ‘thank you’. “Where did you hear it?”

“Please forgive me miss, but I must be going now.” The bard picked up his bowl and noticed the gold coin in there amongst the silver and copper pieces. He paused.

“Why leave? It’s only mid-day. Please stay and have lunch with us. Are you a student? I’ve never seen you before.”

“No! I am not a student. Now please the show is over. Return to your friends before you’re missed.” The bard slid the coins into his pocket and put the bowl in the case alongside his rebec and turned to leave.

“I.. What? I won’t be missed. At least tell me your name.”

“I am Lash. Lash Bavil,” He said after he turned to leave with his back to her.

Millaney stood watching him leave.

“It’s not you,” a female dagnaar standing behind her started to say. “He’s like that with everyone here. He’s applied to join the academy several years in a row, but been rejected every time.”

As Millaney turned to join the other students, Lash walked along a quiet path through the nearby woods toward a small village of only a few stone buildings built in a circle. He walked through the village and into one of the stone cottages. He set his instruments against a wall near the door then pulled the coins out of his pocket. He studied them for just a short moment then slid them into a ceramic jar on a shelf over the hearth. Lash stepped out to the village circle and cleaned the ashes out of a large fire-pit. He put some dry leaves and twigs and scraped some flint with a steel poker to shoot sparks onto the leaves until they started to burn then he added some dry logs.

Meanwhile back at the academy Millaney stepped into a room with colorful light shining through the stained glass windows. Her brother was sitting behind a wooden desk making notes in a ledge as Millaney walked up to him with a new hat hidden behind her back.

“Registration has closed if you want to change classes come back in the morning,” Kahvy uttered as he had dozens of times without even looking up to see who it was, when he heard no response he lifted his head to see his younger sister standing there with a canary-eating grin and her hands behind her back. He paused for a moment looking her over before responding. He stood and came around from behind the desk trying to see what she held behind her back and when he got near she showed him a hat that was similar to the one he lost, but without the ridiculous long feather. “I know you must want something,” he mentioned, as he accepted the hat.

“What? I couldn’t just come to see…,” she started to say, but he looked up at her under the brim of the hat he was trying on.

“Cut the crap and get to the point.” He walked back over to his desk with Millaney right behind him.

“I’d like to look at the files.”

“The files?” he asked quite surprised by her request.

“Well more specifically the applications of a particular person,” she said with the biggest friendliest smile she could muster. Kahvy looked at her as if he was sizing up a foe. He knew what she wanted was a matter he could easily do with no problems, but by the look on her face she wanted it bad and he figured that gave him rare leverage over his little sister.

“And his or her name?”

“Lash Bavil,” she said, as she came around behind his desk.

“Uhuh. And when did he last apply.”

“Oh I can’t say for sure…”

Kahvy looked up at her, “I’ll start with this years,” he said, as he got up from his desk “Ya know we don’t keep those records for more than two years.”

“Well just do your best,” she said, as she followed him to a wall in the back with squared out notches in the wall filled with scrolls. “You can help actually the names are marked at the top of the scroll like this,” he pulled a handful of scrolls out and showed her where the names were marked. “You can start at that end of the wall.” He pointed the end of a long stone wall filled with scrolls.

Later that afternoon Millaney knelt on the hard stone floor digging out more than a hundred scrolls as her brother did the same and they worked toward the middle of the wall. Millaney paused as she was about to shove a group of scrolls back in the wall when she took a closer look at the name.

“I’ve found it!” she announced excitedly and leaped to her feet leaving the rest of the scrolls to fall at her feet. She ran it over to her brother who after glancing at it, he looked passed her standing there with a beaming smile on her face to the pile of scrolls that fell on the floor then back to her. She turned to see what he was looking at, then ran over to return those scrolls to the wall. She came back and stood nearby, as he read through the application.

“Hmm? He had some good scores,” Kahvy read on. “Oh I see why he didn’t get in. He had no sponsor, or least no known name.”

“What?” Millaney asked with a wrinkled brow.

“Ostleron can only accommodate about five hundred students. We get thousands of applications every year. No one gets in without a good sponsor. I’m sorry.” He handed her back the scroll. Millaney read it over for a minute and saw his cores were almost as good as hers, then she ran over to Kahvy’s desk passing him on the way, She dipped a quill in an ink jar and wrote her father’s name in as a sponsor, then handed it back to her brother. Kahvy looked at it for a moment, as he sat in his chair. “I’m only an assistant to the director.”

“Who is going to know? You handle all the acceptance letters. If anything happens because of this I’ll take all the blame.” She put the quill in his hand. “No one with scores like that should ever be turned away. “An education is a right for every capable mind regardless of sponsors.” Kahvy looked his sister over carefully. He knew that determined look on her face and also knew not to cross her. He took a blank parchment out of his desk drawer and started writing the acceptance letter.

“You’ll owe me for this,” he said, as he continued to write.

“I’ll make you breakfast for a week,” she said, as she gave him a big hug causing him to lift his writing hand to avoid making a mistake with the quill.

“More like a month, and you’re also taking me shopping,” He poured some wax on the bottom of the letter and pressed a gold stamp with a symbol of the school on it then handed the letter to his sister.

“Oh I’ll gladly take you shopping,” she laughed as she accepted the letter. “You’re the best brother ever,” She kissed him on the cheek and turned to run out.

The sun dipped over the horizon casting its shadow over the village as the villagers danced around a blazing fire with Lash playing his pan flute and kicking up his heels in the center of the dancers. Millaney approached riding on a dark horse with a tringle of short horns on its head. A couple of young men wasted no time in coming to help her dismount, her bright blue dress reflected the light of the fire which danced in her eyes, as she looked toward the merriment of the villagers. She nodded to the young man and accepted the offer to dance with one of them, as Lash continued to play on his flute. The villagers formed two circles around Lash going in opposite directions, as they spun around him changing partners as they went.

Millaney was easy to spot in her bright blue dress with the laced hem at her knees spinning around exposing her white stockings and the dagger strapped to her right thigh. Lash finally spotted her dancing among the villagers in the front row. He raised an eyebrow at her, but otherwise didn’t miss a beat of the rhythm, as he continued to play his flute. The fire blazed behind the dancers, as the music ended and they all bowed inward toward Lash, as he bowed to them. He nodded to two other musicians that stepped up holding stringed instruments much like his rebec, then he stepped away from the crowd toward Millaney.

“You here for another show?” he asked in a not so polite manner.

“Now now Lash. Don’t be rude to our guests.” A woman a few years older than him scolded him, as she stepped up to dance with the others. Lash and Millaney walked together away from the crowd toward a bench set up near a tree.

“I apologize,” Lash started to say in more polite tone bowing to Millaney, who bowed back. “I’m just not accustom to being followed home.”

“Well I’m not accustom to having to follow someone home,” Millaney replied, as she sat on the bench. “but I must say if I knew your village was so lively I’d have done it much sooner.”

“Well we are here for your entertainment, as most of us do work at the academy.” Lash replied, as he looked into her bright blue eyes. He then broke his gaze and walked in front of the bench. Millaney loosened the laces on her boots, noticing that Lash watched her though he tried not to be obvious.

“Ah yes Ostleron. My father always spoke so highly of his time there,” she said, as she slid her feet out of her boots and pulled her legs up onto the bench. Lash looked away as if he saw something he shouldn’t have as her stocking feet slid out of her boots. “But as you said earlier, you’re not a student.”

“No I am just a humble musician here to entertain the students and tell stories for my supper.” He said with strong conviction, as he turned back to face her. He wanted to let free his anger and frustration of the years he’s tried to enter the academy, but when he saw her sitting there in the moonlight his mood suddenly changed. “Would you like me to play for you?” he asked suddenly, as he lifted his pan flute to his lips.

“Yes I would very much love to hear you play.”

Lash blew across the pan flute and played the softest melody he could. Millaney listened to the smooth notes that came out of the flute in a most hypnotic tune. The sound took her away to a place of magical beauty. She could see only Lash. The moment swept her away like nothing ever before. When he finished playing he stood before with a smile. Millaney reached an arm out to him and when he placed his hand in hers, she pulled him to her. Lash let his pan flute slip to the side and he dropped to one knee on the soft ground and leaned in to her.

Their lips brushed up together in a soft sweet kiss. Lash pulled back and sat on the bench beside her. She curled up and rested her head on his shoulder and they both watched the merriment of the dancers by the firelight before them.

“Come!” Lash shouted out suddenly, as he lifted himself off the bench with a hold of her hand. “Let’s dance.” He pulled Millaney up without giving her time to put on her boots and they ran back to the other villagers and danced and danced and danced some more.

Before long the fire started to dwindle and the villagers went their way to their different homes leaving Lash and Millaney alone together. He led her back toward the bench so she could put her boots back on, but she just carried them instead and walked over to where her horse was tied. They stood together near her horse Millaney held the reins in her hand.

“You should be going. It’ll be morning soon and the academy classes start tomorrow,” He said to her as she stood holding her hand. She stood tall even in her stocking feet she was near his height and strong from her martial arts training. When he politely nodded to her and was about to turn from him, she pulled him to her and kissed him deep. His arms went immediately around her waist and pulled her in tight. When they finally came up for air Millaney reached in to a pocket in her dress. She handed him the acceptance letter and put one stockinged foot into the stirrup of her horse and threw her other leg up over the saddle.

“You had best get some sleep as well. We found this. I thought I’d bring it out to you.” She placed her boots in her lap and turned her horse. “The admissions office opens early. Don’t be late,” she hollered back and rode off into the night, as Lash did his best to read the letter with the limited light of the pale green moon.

As the sun was rising the next morning, Lash walked with a group of villagers that worked at the academy. He paused, as he stood under the arched gateway with the group passing him by. Living in the shadow of Ostleron for his whole life, Lash dared to dream of this day. Even as he held the acceptance letter in his hand, standing under the arches of Annuvin’s great academy, he still had trouble believing his good fortune. After a short moment he ran to catch up with the group ahead of him.

Lash separated from the group and walked up the wide stone steps toward the main building of the facility. What was once a mighty castle one of the few to escape the final kings’ war with only minor damage to be then rebuilt as Annuvin’s prestigious Ostleron academy. Actually Ostleron was the only institution for learning in the northern territory of Annuvin covering more than a thousand miles of territory from the far north with the unexplored region of snow down to the southern border with the Shrkai, Ostleron was the only place to go for a higher education.

Lash walked almost aimlessly through a sea of students flooding the halls to get to their first morning of classes. He stepped in the admissions office which was built out of part of what used to be the king’s throne room. On either side of the room was a large hearth with a fire roaring within and students sitting on cushioned benches with books in their lap. Lash stepped up to a wooden counter with student workers behind it handed out class assignments to late arriving students.

“Next,” one of the student shouts without even looking up. Lash realizes he meant him and steps forward. He hands the paper to the student who after glancing at it finally looks up at the bewildered new student standing before him. “Uhh this is an acceptance letter,” the dagnaarian student worker said with a mix of snobbery and disbelieve. “You haven’t chosen your classes yet? What is your name?” before Lash could answer the student worker found it on the acceptance letter. “Lash Bavil?... You’re in the wrong line I don’t know that I can help you.” Kahvy stood up from his desk wearing his new hat, a nicer tunic, but in his usual pants that barely reached his ankles held up by leather suspenders.

“I’ll take care of him,” Kahvy announced, as he came up behind the dagnaarian student worker who gladly gave him the letter. Kahvy gestured for Lash to come around the counter as the student worker wasted no time in calling out ‘next’ in a robotic-I-wish-I-was-somewhere-else voice. Kahvy went to sit behind his desk and gestured for Lash to sit at the chair in front of it. “Welcome to Ostleron Lash. What type of classes are you interested in?” Lash sat back in his chair.

“Wow ya know I’ve lived in this university’s shadow all my life. Most of my family and friends have worked here to help maintain the buildings and feed the students. I tell them stories and play my music to help pay the rent. I’ve dreamed of coming here ever since I was a boy, but I have no clue what type of classes I want to take. I want to learn everything I can.” Kahvy smiled and looked back at Lash’s application. He pulled out a well-worn parchment with class schedules on it and made some notes on a blank piece of paper and handed them to Lash then stood up and came around from behind his desk. Kahvy was tall and thin and stood about a head taller than Lash.

“Come with me,” Kahvy gestured, as he passed in front of Lash who followed in tow. He led Lash on a quick tour of the grounds showing him where the main library was where he could get the books he needed to read and loaded up on a few he needed for his classes. He led him to his first class on the second floor of the converted castle, he opened the large wooden door and shoved him into the small room where about a dozen student had already gathered. Lash looked at the mix of students before him and smiled. Later in the day Lash reported to his first meeting of mandatory weapons training, only to find Millaney was his instructor.



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