Laughter rung on the early evening air. Two boys faced off against one another, and a bright blue balloon drifted on the air between them. A light blue glow formed around Rett’s hand and a sudden breeze sent the balloon dancing across the field towards a basket Ken was guarding. Reacting on instinct, Ken raised both hands and a jet of water shot from the ground, knocking the balloon away from the goal.
“Hey! No fair!” Rett laughed. “Supposed to be air only!”
“It was an accident!” Ken protested his innocence but couldn’t hold back giggles. Almost instantly he shot a hand forward and a strong blast of air drove the balloon away from his basket and towards Rett’s.
Two women stood a few yards away at the edge of the field, watching them. “Rett has made remarkable progress the past few months,” Bethany Solace observed. “I admit I had reservations about your plan to bring him to Dagr.”
Arete smiled kindly and nodded. “I did too,” she confessed. “It was a gamble, but I had a feeling it was exactly what he needed.” Her eyes never left the boys. “He knew what happened to his family wasn’t his fault, but he still felt guilt over not being able to stop it. When I explained to him about Ken…” The paladin paused as she recalled her talk with the lad. She smiled proudly. “He set his jaw and demanded that I take him with me even before I’d asked if he would go. He insisted he needed to be there and help the boy.”
“You showed him he was not alone in the world.” Bet nodded towards the field, her eyes on Ken. “It showed Ken that he was not alone, either.”
“How is he doing? His magic is impressive, but how is he otherwise? Is he settled in yet?”
Bet smiled. “Every once in a while he forgets himself and calls me ‘Ma’ though he makes it clear I am not his mother. There are still some rough spots, but he’s starting to trust me more. Or rather, he’s starting to trust that I can handle myself against magic if he loses his temper.”
Arete frowned. “Does that happen often?”
Bet shook her head. “Not often enough given his age and what he’s been through. He’s terrified that someone will get hurt so he’s keeping it all in. He needs to learn to control his emotions and find a way to let them out that doesn’t invoke a spell.”
Out in the field, Ken had a look of extreme concentration, sending an ever-stronger wind to counter Rett’s attempts to score the balloon in Ken’s basket. Rett scowled and tried to draw more power to his own wind spell, but the glow around him turned red and a bright spark flashed in front of Ken’s face.
“Uh-oh,” Bet muttered and started towards the field, but Arete put a hand on her shoulder, calling her back.
“Let’s see how they handle it.”
Ken’s face clouded with anger as Rett dropped his arms and rushed across the field towards his friend. “I’m sorry, Ken, that was an accident! I didn’t mean…” His voice trailed off as a purple glow started to form around the younger boy. “Hey!” he shouted, his own anger rising. “I said it was an accident!”
With a burst of speed, Rett closed the distance between the two of them, tackling Ken before he could finish drawing power. The two boys fell to the ground in a tangle of punches and kicks.
“That’s one way to deal with it.” Arete shrugged, then started across the field to break up the fight. She soon had the boys back on their feet, not looking at one another as she lectured them both about maintaining control.
“But you saw what he was about to do!” Rett protested.
“Yes, and that was quick thinking on your part, Everett.” Arete commended him. “But you still need to work on controlling your magic so you don’t slip back to fire accidentally. We’re lucky all you did was startle him.”
She turned to the younger boy. “And Kenneth, we need to work on controlling your temper. You know Rett is your friend and wouldn’t hurt you on purpose.” She put an arm around the boy’s shoulder and gestured to the flower beds at the edges of the field. Ken’s eyes went wide when he saw the desiccated, shriveled flowers in the bed closest to him. “That is what you were doing.” Her voice was soft, gentle in the harsh lesson. “There is no restoring them. They are dead. Is that what you wanted to happen to Rett?”
Ken slumped and bowed his head, his cheeks burning with shame.
“Hey,” Rett stepped over to him and nudged him. “We both messed up. So we’ll both work on it, right? Together.” His words drew a slight smile from the still bashful younger lad. “I bet dinner’s ready by now,” Rett changed the subject. “I snuck in earlier and saw they were making lemon cakes for dessert. Let’s go!”
With a cheeky grin to Arete, Rett dashed off towards the dining hall. A contemplative Ken trailed behind him.