There was a slight chill in the nighttime air as the two teens walked out the doors of Lyceum Arion and began to run along one of the illuminated paths. As they rounded the corner by the Tower of Water, though, they left the path and quickly sprinted between darkened gardens and exercise fields towards the high stone walls that enclosed the training areas.
“Field B, right?” Ken kept his voice low until he was sure there was nobody around to hear them.
“That’s what Arete said,” Rett confirmed. “You’re sure Commander Solace won’t come looking for you?”
Ken grinned. “I told her we were going running — which is true — and that we were going to try and prepare for tomorrow’s training.”
Rett laughed. “Technically that is also true. I couldn’t use that with Arete – she’d see through me too quickly. So I hope she doesn’t run into your mom and ask how things are going with our Thelian History project.”
Ken shook his head as he looked up at the stone wall looming over them. “She said she had a meeting tonight.” He looked back to his friend. “We’re not actually going in, right? Just getting a look inside? It’s gonna be hard enough getting up there. I don’t want to face either Mom or Arete if we get stuck in there and can’t get out.”
“Just up top to see what’s in there before Arete takes us in there in the morning.” Rett assured his younger friend. He took a step back and gestured to the top of the wall. “You first.”
“Me what first?”
“You know… get up there. Can’t you just do that air thing to fly up? That was really cool, by the way. I don’t think I ever told you since you were sorta ready to kill us at the time.” It was the first time in their four years of friendship that Rett had mentioned their initial meeting.
Ken’s cheeks colored. “It’s not that easy. I’ve tried it a few times since then — it’s gotten harder. Takes tons of focus and then I’m lucky if I can get off the ground.”
“Dang,” Rett frowned in thought. “And any other source would draw attention.”
“Oh, you think they might notice if we piled boulders up to make stairs? Maybe a geyser to shoot us up there?” Ken suggested sarcastically. “What do you think she’s got planned for us, anyways?”
Rett kept studying the wall. “There’s got to be a way up there without destroying something and without it draining all our power.” He hesitated a moment, looking at his friend, before apparently making a decision about something. “Look, Arete told me not to say anything, but at breakfast she asked me about our training. I told her I thought it was ok, but getting boring since it was the same thing over and over again. Maybe she’s trying to shake it up some.”
Ken frowned. “She spoke with me before training this morning. Told me not to tell you. Same question about our training. Then she…” He hesitated.
“Then she said we needed to decide if we want to continue with training for Dawn’s Light or if we wanted to leave and have a normal life,” Rett filled in.
“But we shouldn’t tell the other about the talk with her because the decision had to be our own instead of one arrived at together.” Ken added the last piece.
“Which is total rubbish if you ask me,” Rett replied emphatically. “I know I have to make my decision for myself but why not talk about it with you? It doesn’t make sense to not talk with people you trust.”
Ken nodded firmly in agreement. “You’d think she’d know by now we look at things differently. Heck, that’s what makes us a good team, right? And no matter what either of us decide, it’s going to effect the other as well. Only fair to consider what the other one thinks even if we make different choices.” He looked at the rock wall. “It’s pretty smooth, but there are some places to get a handhold.”
Rett stood next to Ken as the younger boy pointed out a potential path up the wall. “They look pretty shallow,” he noted, then grinned. “But the two of us using magic together should be able to get up there. Just use it as a boost where needed.”
“No easy way, huh?” Ken grinned and started up the wall.
“Never is,” Rett answered and followed behind.
Their progress scaling the wall was slow and demanding both physically and magically. That they continued their forbidden discussion of their potential futures didn’t help.
“You know, it may be pointless to make a decision,” Rett panted as they neared the top. “Eventually Ma is going to find out we snuck up here and is going to kill us.”
Ken let out a short, breathless laugh. “Arete will have to stand in line behind my mom.” With a final effort he pulled himself up over the edge.
“They’ll take turns.” Rett grinned as he pulled himself up. He got to his feet and looked back down the wall they had just climbed. “Wow — it looks even higher up from this end! You’re right, Ken, we make a great team!” He looked over at his friend when he realized Ken wasn’t responding. He blinked at the look of terror in Ken’s eyes and felt a chill run through him.
“So how is that Thelian History project going?”
Rett turned to find Arete and Bet Solace seated in folding chairs, waiting for them.