So, here’s one more scene to whet your appetite.
Theklan sat with his back to an old pear tree in the middle of one of the lawns of the Academy and sharpened his spear. Not that he needed a sharp spear here, but it was a way of working out his frustration and anger. He’d tried for the third time to pass on Zoria’s warning about the Exiles’ intentions. Not that the Valson would be ready for a fight if—when—it came to them, but he couldn’t even get a hearing before the Valson Council. The few people who had pretended to listen to him dismissed him as just a boy worrying over fantasies.
Before he’d left the Dardani last summer, he’d already been recognized as a grown man. No one there would have just dismissed his warning. And, if he were still with the Dardani, his chosen people, they could have been warned of this threat. At least they’d be prepared to try to do something about it, even if they weren’t able to counter the Exiles’ magic. He should be there to help with that.
At least the spear helped him feel less disconnected from where he belonged. It was a Dardani weapon and Vatar had made it for him. He could feel a tingle of Vatar’s magic in the spearhead, whispering protection. But that life was far away, over the mountains and on the other side of the forest. Most of all, he belonged with Kiara.
“What’s that for?”
Theklan looked up to see Sharila, his study partner, standing over him. He sighed. “Nothing. It just reminds me of home.”
Sharila reached out to touch the point of the spear. She hissed and pulled her hand back, sucking on the tip of her finger. “Seems like a pretty dangerous memento to me.”
“It’s not a memento. This spear was meant to be used—to hunt, to protect against predators, to fight in battle. And, apart from its intended uses, it’s not dangerous if you don’t do something stupid like trying to test the edge with your finger.”
“I’d never seen a spear before,” Sharila protested.
Theklan huffed a bitter chuckle. “Why does that not surprise me?”
Sharila walked around, to the side away from the spear point, and sat down next to him. “What does that mean?”
He really shouldn’t blame Sharila for her ignorance. He’d probably known less when he followed Thekila and Vatar out of the Valley for the first time. It was only seeing it now, after living on the sea coast in Caere and especially after living on the plains among the Dardani, that the Valley seemed so . . . spineless. Theklan let the spear rest across his knees and gestured around the perfect grounds of the Academy. “No one here would know how to use a spear. Or any other weapon. Oh, maybe a few hunters up in the mountains. Even they wouldn’t know how to fight. They can’t imagine having to fight. Even when I try to warn them about what the Exiles plan, they won’t listen.”
“What you say the Exiles plan,” Sharila corrected.
Theklan ground his teeth. “No, what Z—” He cut himself off before using Zoria’s name. No knowing if the Exiles were actually still in contact with anyone in the Valley through Far Speech. And it wouldn’t do to expose her real purpose. “What Thekila—and Teran and Terania, the Valson emissaries to Caere—say they’re planning. What they’ve told me to pass on to the Valson Council.” He shook his head. “Sharila, if they’re not stopped first, they’re going to come over that Pass at the head of an army. And nobody here will even know how to resist. And the Council won’t even hear me out.”
“Well, it would be unusual for the Council to take advice from a boy—”
Theklan surged to his feet and paced in front of her. “I’m not a boy. I passed my manhood test among the Dardani before I came here. Even before that, since I got my Clan Mark at my initiation,” he paused to put a hand over the place where his tunic hid the feather tattoo on his left breast, over his heart, “I’ve had the right to be heard in my clan councils or the tribal council. But the Valson Council can’t even be bothered to let me relay a message. A message—from their own emissaries—meant to warn them so they can save themselves.” He stopped and kicked at a stone. “And I’m getting very tired of being treated like I can’t be trusted to put on my own boots without supervision.”
“It’s not that bad,” Sharila said.
“No? Your brother just denied me permission to go to the City to try for another chance to be heard. I’m restricted to the Academy grounds, according to him.” Theklan turned toward the mountains and the Pass, now blocked with winter snow, trapping him here. “If I could figure out a way to take my spear with me, I’d fly over that Pass and never look back. I don’t belong here.” An empty threat. Not just because the Pass was closed with snow until the spring thaw. He’d only come here to learn better control of his magic—specifically so he could help fight the Exiles. He had to stay until he’d accomplished that—but not one day longer.
By spring. Because the Exiles would be on the move then, attacking Caere. It wasn’t hard to figure out that the coastal city was just a stepping stone to the Dardani—and then here. And being able to help defend the Dardani was the reason he’d agreed to come back to the Valley in the first place.
Sharila drew in a breath sharply. “We can’t even go up in the mountains to practice your flying?”
Theklan snorted. That would be the one thing she worried about out of everything he’d told her. “Oh, he made an exception for that. As long as we let him know in advance. He wants to be the teacher who instructed only the third Valson to learn to fly.” He gripped the spear tighter. “As soon as that Pass opens in the spring, I’m leaving this place. And I’m never coming back.” A chill in his belly cooled the fire of his determination. Except that he didn’t know whether he’d be welcome back among the Dardani, who had an irrational fear of magic. And the shaman had seen him use his Powers. He hoped Vatar would find a way to make that right. It didn’t matter, though. If he had to go back to Caere, it would be better than this. Or . . . a new thought occurred to him. Orleus needed help to the south in Tysoe, where the Exiles and the Themyri had attacked the outposts last year. Maybe he could go there. It wouldn’t be home—only the Dardani could ever be that for him—but it would be at least away from here and on the edge of the plains. And not Caere.
“Sharlin won’t like that,” Sharila said.
“You know what? I don’t really care. He’s welcome to try to stop me—if he thinks he can.”
“What about showing him—and me—about this Spirit magic, then?”
Theklan turned back to her. Another recruit—or two—for the coming war could make all the difference. “You could come with me. Or you and Sharlin could follow later.”
Her mouth twisted to one side in a kind of grimace. “What would we do out there?”
Theklan restrained himself from reaching for her hand. That could be . . . misconstrued. But he looked directly into her eyes, willing her to understand, to agree. “Help fight the Exiles so they don’t reach the Valley.”
Sharila made a rude noise. “You just got through saying that no one here has any idea how to fight.”
“I could teach you. Orleus taught me—he’s Captain of the Tysoean Guard.” Theklan paused, staring back at the dormitory buildings, a slow smile growing on his face. “In fact, I could teach any of the students who want to learn. Maybe then there’d be at least a few who could fight back against the Exiles.”
“Why would the teachers allow that?” she asked.
Theklan shrugged, turning his gaze back to her. “It’s good exercise.” He was already constructing drills in his imagination. He’d start with staves. Easy to make, with all the wood available around the Academy grounds. And it was the first weapon Orleus had taught him to use. Then . . . maybe bows.