Several days later, Brother Martin sat in his office mulling over the response the Grand Council had given. “We do not doubt that Father Sevas has told us everything as he believes it to be. However, with that being said, we must accept the fact, that losing almost his entire command has coloured the perceptions of our most honorable Father. We do not agree with your assessment that these unknown forces are servants of the ancient enemy, rather, we think they are just pirates.” They had spent almost four hours trying to get the Patriarchs to see the danger. But no amount of arguments or speeches was able to get them to change their minds. He could not allow himself to focus on that dismissal right now. In about thirty minutes, his trainees would be waking up; and today was one of the most exciting days for them. Finally, after five months, they were going to learn what division of the Order they would be assigned to as novices, he thought even Alex seemed excited about this day.
He allowed his mind to dwell on Alex for a few minutes. He was not entirely sure why he had joined the Order, but he suspected it was to escape the draft. The White Falcon Order had a lot of influence in the Dieron Federation, so its members were exempt from the draft. It was a shame, really; although young, he had a lot of potential as a leader of men. The incident at the way station, as well as the fact that he was one of the leaders within his group of trainees showed that. Even Sierra, who was a nobleman’s daughter, tended to listen when he spoke. But, he was very self-centered and was usually unwilling to do anything that might threaten his comfort or safety. He shook his head ruefully and wondered what it would take for the boy to finally think beyond himself; much less actually believe in the Overlord. He had recommended that Alex be assigned to the services section. He had done this because it appeared that requiring Alex to serve and help other people was the best chance at getting Alex to be less egocentric. He would be assigned to places that would require hard work and discomfort in order to assist others, and, in time, he just might consider more than his own desires.
Even after five and a half months, Alex still could not understand why everyone else in his training cadre thought seven in the morning was early. He got more sleep here than he ever did on the farm. Today however, no-one was complaining about being up so early. They were finally going to find out to which divisions they would be assigned as novices. Alex was hoping he would get assigned to the agriculture division, as far away from darkspace as possible. Looking over at Benjamin and Chris, he asked both of them, “So, what divisions do you two hope to be assigned to?”
Benjamin looked right at him with a giant grin, saying, “I would really like to be able to work in the communication division.”
At the same time, Christopher said, “I think I shall have to join the King’s Guard, teach them how to smile.”
At that Benjamin laughed, and Alex said, “Somehow I don’t think they would take you. You’re a little too round in the midsection.”
Chris just shrugged his shoulders, “Well, it just means I have slightly more padding to protect my vitals.” That caused both of the others to laugh, as they strode out of the room into the common area. Rebecca, who was already in the common room, looked up and, observing the laughter, asked what was so amusing.
However, before any of them could reply, Sierra, who was just walking out of her room, spoke up, “Who cares? With those three peasants, it’s probably just a bug with five legs instead of six.”
Christopher just rolled his eyes at that comment. However, Alex looked ready to explode and was opening his mouth to reply when Wulfric suddenly spoke up in a rather dry tone. “I see our local lady is still attempting to amaze us with her wit and intellect.” Alex laughed at that comment, and Sierra shot Wulfric a look that could have melted ice. That caused Wulfric to grin impishly, and, tossing everyone some breakfast bars, said, “Eat those on the way down. Brother Martin wishes us all to assemble in the main courtyard in ten minutes.”
As they were all walking down the stairs toward the main courtyard, Bethany stepped up beside Wulfric. “That was fast thinking back there. We almost had another fight.”
With a smile Wulfric said, “Why do you think I did it?” At that moment they all entered into the main courtyard, and Alex and Sierra had to put on sunshades. Even after five months, the brightness of the sun still hurt eyes that were accustomed to a far weaker sun.
Lining up in their standard line formation, Alex began looking around the courtyard. Before he could see anything Brother Martin shouted out, “Trainees, attention.” With that any chance of looking around or seeing what was happening was gone. All Alex could hear were other training cadres being called to attention by their training Brothers.
Several fathers came out of the main administration building, and Alex watched as they lined up opposite where he and the others were standing. A Brother who he could not see and whose voice he did not recognize suddenly began speaking.
“All who are gathered here today have passed the first training process, and will soon be passing on to their novice training. Today these trainees will find out which division of the Order they will be joining. ” After a brief pause the unseen Brother continued, “Father Alden of the Agriculture division is first.” At that a middle aged Father with red hair and glasses stepped forward, he was holding six green ribbons. Alex watched the Father step forward with great anticipation; he knew that with his experience and knowledge he would get this ribbon. His excitement quickly turned to horror as the Father walked right past him, continuing on to several other training cadres. Alex couldn’t figure out what had just happened, surely he was supposed to have received a green ribbon. He was about to say something when he saw the expression on Brother Martins face. Noticing the way he was holding his stick and watching him, Alex chose to keep silent.
The ceremony continued in this manner for some time, with the unknown brother calling out each division head and that Father striding forward to hand out his division’s ribbons. Blue was for communication; red for the Kings Guard; purple for humanitarian services; silver for scribes and teachers; gold for missions; white for pastors; orange for the medical services; yellow for science; and brown for general administrative services. After roughly a half hour, Benjamin and Sebastian had received blue cords, Perrin, Christopher, and Bethany had received red cords. In fact Bethany getting a red cord was as surprising as Alex not getting a green ribbon. Jonathon and Michael were given the silver cords; that was no great surprise, they both were well suited to the scribes and teachers division. Alex Boret was given a gold cord, followed quickly by Rebecca who received an orange cord. That left only Alex, Sierra, and Wulfric without cords.
As Alex watched, the last remaining Father, who wore purple for the humanitarian services was called forward. He carried only two cords, and striding directly over to Alex and Sierra handed one to each of them. Alex was rather shocked, but remembering that Brother Martin was watching him, took the cord without complaint. He was not particularly happy about being assigned to this division, and having to be with Sierra just made it worse. Although Sierra had gotten better, he still thought she was a stuck up brat.
This left only Wulfric without a cord, which made all the trainees rather confused. Then something rather unexpected happened. A man who looked to be in his mid-twenties dressed in black and grey tunic and trousers, walked up to Wulfric and motioning for him to follow him left the compound. As the man left, Alex got a good look at his weapons. They were unlike anything he had ever seen, the sword was flatter, less pointed and wider than any rapier he had ever seen before; it seemed like it was more designed to slash rather than stab. The rifle was just as odd, being both longer and sleeker than normal rifles; it also lacked the energy rings of most weapons. Those coupled with the way all the Brothers and Fathers gathered around shied away from him made Alex very curious.
After he was gone the unseen Brother dismissed the training cadres and as Alex walked with the others up to his dorm, he noticed that Perrin, Bethany, and Christopher were no longer with them as well. Looking around he saw Brother Martin, and was about to ask him about it, when he spoke first, “Perrin, Bethany, and Christopher have gone to begin their training with the Kings Guard, as for Wulfric well he will no longer be with us.” Alex was about to ask who the unknown Father was, for he had to be a Father of some sort Alex thought, when Brother Martin spoke again, “Do not worry where he went, it is none of your concern. Congratulations on being assigned to your new orders; however, for now I suggest you put the cords in your closet and head off to your afternoon classes. Which, by the way, start in just fifteen minutes.” Strolling into his office Brother Martin shut the door behind him.
The whole group went back up to their rooms and, after putting the cords into their lockers, they split off into groups heading to their small-group studies that started each day. Joining up with Benjamin, Sierra, and Rebecca, Alex smiled and said, “Well, what do you all think of your assignment?”
Benjamin grinned. “It was just what I wanted.” Rebecca smiled at Alex, saying, “Well, no surprise with mine. I already have some training with medicine so it was expected, but I’m sorry you didn’t get the green cord. I know you wanted it.” Alex smiled back at her and shrugged his shoulders.
Sierra then spoke up, “Well, I intend to do something about it. I am the daughter of an Earl, and am not meant to be slogging through rubble and ruins picking up teddy bears!”
Benjamin just snorted at that. “Somehow I think the teddy bear would rather have someone else picking him up anyway.” Alex just started laughing while Sierra shot them both an icy glare. Rebecca had started to make a comment about what had happened to Wulfric when suddenly an air raid siren went off. Forgetting all else, the four rushed to the closest window. Looking out they saw the last thing any of them ever expected to see.
Three shuttles were heading towards the planetary spaceport at a breakneck speed. The shuttle on the left was Dieron blue and very clearly a military shuttle. The one on the far right was solid white and bore a Stellar Tec ensign on the port side, while the middle craft was jet black and bore no ensign meaning it was probably privately owned. More alarming was the fact that it was heavily damaged with thick black smoke rolling off the stem where the engines were located. Through the smoke Alex could see blue and yellow flames licking out. He shouted, “The engines are on fire!” causing the others to look at him quickly. “Look through the smoke. You can see the flames racing up.”
The other three looked up at him with Rebecca saying, “But how? There is no oxygen in space, so how could it have started?”
Benjamin then said, “The re-entry friction must have sparked the fire.” Suddenly Sierra spoke up. “Let’s hope it doesn’t explode.” The military shuttle was also giving off smoke but was clearly made of more durable material as it was not ablaze.
Suddenly there was a loud explosion, and the middle shuttle split into two sections. The smaller piece which was clearly the engines went spiraling backward; and, hitting a glancing blow on one of the spaceport towers, ended up slamming into the flight line. The body of the shuttle spiraled forward and slammed into the northern end of the tarmac at which point a huge fireball blossomed out of the shuttle and spiraled twenty feet skyward. Seemingly out of nowhere, Brother Martin walked up behind them and, rapping all four of them on their shoulders, in rapid succession, growled, “Come now, trainees, stop gawking and get on your way to class.” He raised his cane to forestall any protests, and the four students, knowing full well how willing he was to use it, went scurrying down the hallway. Brother Shiras stood waiting for them with his typically amused yet scornful smile. The four soon-to-be novices filed into his classroom and, taking their customary seats, waited for their instructor to begin the class.
Brother Shiras walked into the room, and, taking his seat behind his desk, steepled his fingers and just sat there looking at his four students. After several minutes of silence, he suddenly spoke. “So I take it you found the shuttles fascinating to watch?”
At that Alex spoke up quickly. “Who are they, and why were they coming here?” The impertinent nature of Alex’s question made Shiras smile inwardly.
Outwardly he said, “Who or what they are doing here is irrelevant to you, trainee! All I asked is did you find it interesting to see?”
Alex sat there staring defiantly at the brother, “It may not be relevant to what you asked but, somebody has got to do something to help them; if not us, then who?”
Brother Shiras simply nodded to that question, “Do not worry son. The Order has already sent people to help the survivors. And, you can bet that Brother Martin will probably be among them. Now back to my original question?” The three trainees just sat there staring at their instructor for several minutes.
All of a sudden, Benjamin spoke up. “Yes, it was interesting, Brother Shiras.”
At that Brother Shiras shifted his gaze over to Benjamin, and, nodding his head, sat back in his seat, “Now, Sierra, where did we leave off last time?”
Looking down at her notes, she flipped through several pages and, reading the last page, looked up at Brother Shiras. “The last thing we talked about was the difference between knowing and believing, how one can know something exists but not believe in it.”
Brother Shiras nodded his head, and, looking at his four students, smiled. “That’s a great job at quoting the notes I gave you. Alex, I want you to tell me the difference but without looking at your notes.”
Alex just sat there thinking for several minutes, then finally said, “To know something exists simply means that you acknowledge it as being true and/or real. However, if you believe in something, you do not stop at only acknowledging it as true but also follow what it says in your own life and submit yourself to it. In the case of the White Falcons, it is a willing submission to the commands and dictates of the Overlord and living our lives for His service.”
Brother Shiras sat in his seat and, nodding his head at Alex, said, “That is a good answer and shows a good understanding of the difference. Now, Benjamin, tell me why it is not enough to simply know the Overlord exists. Why does He insist you believe in Him before one is allowed to enter the world of Irtas?” Benjamin sat there thinking hard. He was currently wishing he hadn’t been given that question. He knew that the Brother was watching and expected an answer, so, licking his lips and swallowing briefly, he said “The Overlord is called that because He is Lord over everything. He has provided a means that we may enter his world, but in order to be allowed in we must accept that He is the rightful ruler of creation and our Lord. We are required to acknowledge his Lordship and sovereignty or be refused access to Irtas.” Brother Shiras smiled at that. “And I thought you weren’t paying any attention to me for the last couple of weeks. Right, moving on. Let us talk about what it means to acknowledge the Lordship of the Overlord.”
“As you all know, according to the ancient texts all the races, along with many others, lived in what is now darkspace which at that time was a larger universe than this one. During this time we lived in union with the Overlord, and there was peace throughout the universe. However, there came a time millions of years ago when one of his top commanders decided he was not content with his current position and, gathering like-minded warriors from the Overlord’s army, went out to wage war against those who remained loyal. This commander called himself the Master and went among the races gathering many to his banner. These creatures collectively become known as the Dark Races, and the warriors who betrayed the Overlord with the Master become the Dark Creatures.”
At that point Alex raised his hand and, after being acknowledged, asked, “Here’s what I don’t get; if the Overlord is so powerful, then how did the Master rebel at all, much less have taken so many with him?”
Brother Shiras smiled at that question, “That is a question we cannot fully answer. However, the best we can say is that, just like the races both young and old, the armies of the Overlord have the ability to choose to serve him. The one who calls himself the Master wanted to replace the Overlord and managed to lead many in rebellion.” With that answer, Alex and Sierra both nodded their heads. While he was sitting there listening to the conversation between Brother Shiras, Alex, and Sierra, Benjamin noticed a small orange light start glowing on his ring. He quickly slipped it into his trouser pockets, hoping no-one else saw it.
Brother Shiras was about to continue his lecture when Fathers Saxus, Sevas, Brother Martin walked in. “Trainees, go to your rooms. Shiras, come with me.” At that Alex, Sierra, and Benjamin got up and, exchanging confused glances, filed out of the room. Once they were all out, Brother Martin shut the door and locked it. Suddenly Alex grinned at his three companions and said, “I am going to find out what’s going on.” Sierra gave him a curious look and then grinned back as he moved over to the key hole and stood there, listening to the conversation.