‘Al, I know a great game.’

Altair frowned for a second as he looked at his friend. Tybalt, a strong, young man descending from the tribe of Water Elves, grinned at him devilishly. Beside him, the Shape-Shifter Yvain had propped his feet on a table they had been sitting on.

‘What kind of game?’ Altair asked, leaning forward as Tybalt explained what he had in mind. ‘You know that weirdo that never trains with anyone?’

‘His name’s Avondir,’ Yvain added, growing one sharp fingernail to pick out something between his teeth. ‘Not even your Dad know who he is.’

Altair hesitated for a second, remembering the talk his father had with Ace at dinner about that guy named “Avondir”. Eventually, he nodded. ‘Yeah, my sister seems to know him.’

‘Two dumbasses together,’ Tybalt chuckled, and Altair felt his stomach turn around slightly at such a mention of his sister. He didn’t know how to feel about it; usually, he was one of the people who couldn’t stop insulting the girl, but he was her brother – he was supposed to say that.

However, he didn’t say anything about it, and let Tybalt continue speaking.

‘What if we ransack Avondir’s room?’ The Water Elf eyed a little too smug for Al’s liking, but before he could even answer, Yvain had already punched the wall beside him in excitement – which Al found a really weird way of expressing yourself.

‘I’m in, man,’ the Shape-Shifter exclaimed, throwing his feet of the table and sitting up straight. ‘Let’s break stuff.’

‘Guys,’ Altair tried to interrupt them, ‘I don’t wanna get in trouble with my Dad, y’know-’

‘Wimp!’ Yvain shouted, and Tybalt laughed as if he found the other boy’s remark hilarious. ‘Al, you’re funny! The General won’t even notice it if we do this, and just imagine the look on that loser’s face if he sees we plundered all of his belongings and steal his stuff!’

‘I-I don’t know…’

Tybalt groaned. ‘I knew it; you really are a wimp. A real Daddy’s little boy, hm? Bet you don’t even have to do the exams, with having such a special family!’

It took all of Altair’s self-control to not break the other boy’s nose at that exact moment. Instead, he took a deep breath, and said, more certain of himself than he wanted to be: ‘Where is that room?’



Acacia smiled softly when Avondir grabbed a small book from his desk and blew the dust away. ‘It’s not much,’ the young man whispered, ‘but it’s a beautiful story, Ace.’

‘What’s it about?’ Acacia asked, and Avon gave her a grin as he sat down beside her on the bed. As he opened the book, dust flew up, and both young adults began to cough loudly. They looked at each other, and laughed.

‘I-it’s about a princess,’ Avondir explained, after the two had come down from their enthusiasm. ‘She wants nothing more but to be a warrior, but her parents don’t think she could be. For this, she’s kept inside and is not allowed to talk to anyone.’

‘That’s awful,’ Ace commented, and the young man nodded. ‘Yes, indeed. Then, she meets a stable boy, who helps her sneak out of the palace, and together, they go on a journey to become the warriors they wanted to be.’

‘Avon, don’t spoil the ending! I wanna read the rest!’

Avondir laughed, and closed the book again. He looked at it for a second, and then, placed it in Ace’s lap. The girl frowned, and asked: ‘What are you doing?’

‘Y-you can borrow it, Acacia,’ he mumbled, avoiding the seventeen-year-old’s green eyes as his cheeks flared red. ‘T-this is the last copy.’

‘How do you know?’ Ace frowned, opening the small book to look at the front page. There was nothing on there, just a few words of thankfulness and a name. ‘Who is “Feray Solberg”?’ the girl asked as she read over the smooth sentences and tidy letters. Her eyes suddenly widened, and she pointed at a name at the end of the page. ‘Why does she thank you?’

Avondir chuckled nervously, but before he could answer, Ace had already interrupted him. ‘Do you know a real life author? My sister, Cassi, would love to meet you, she aspires to become a writer herself! If you’re still in contact with this Feray, can you maybe get her to meet Cassi? It would mean so much to her…’

It was then she noticed the teary expression in Avondir’s blue eyes. Ace’s words quickly died, and she looked down at the book in lap. ‘Did… did something happen to her…?’ she asked softly, not having the courage to look Avon in the eye.

‘She… she died seven years ago,’ he mumbled, quickly bringing up one hand to rub the sudden tears from his eyes. Acacia held her breath, and, in an act of not-knowing-what-to-do, she placed her hand over the one still laying on his knee.

She saw how the young man tensed up, and took a deep breath to talk to him. ‘I’m… I’m sorry, Avondir,’ she whispered, ‘I-I didn’t know. I’m sorry I kept talking, and didn’t let you tell that she… that she had passed…’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ Avondir mumbled, ‘it’s been so long, I would be surprised anyone remembers her.’

Ace nodded slowly, before looking up at him. ‘Did you know her well?’

‘Yes… she was the most amazing person in my life and now…’ He held in his words for a second, before speaking again. ‘Now’s she’s gone. Don’t worry about it, Ace. It’s all in the past.’

Acacia’s eyes widened slightly. ‘But you’re obviously still hurting…’

Please,’ Avondir interrupted her, ‘don’t worry about it, Acacia. This is something I have to deal with myself.’

‘A-are you sure…?’

Avondir nodded, and took his hand away from Ace’s. The girl sighed as he stood up, walked to his desk, grabbed the key, and opened the door. He smiled at her, before throwing the key at her.

‘I suppose you want to change for the night,’ he said, with a soft, unbreakable look in his eyes. ‘Just open the door when you’re ready, I’ll wait outside.’

With that, he walked into the hallway and closed the door behind him. Acacia stared at the wooden plank for a second, and took a deep breath. It was like he didn’t even want to open up – but could she blame him? She herself hadn’t even been completely honest with him; she had kept her father being the General a secret, she herself not even knowing the reason why she did that.

They both had stuff they didn’t want to talk about, and Ace didn’t know what to think of it.

It was then the sound of something falling against the door and laughing voices overtook all her thoughts.


***

Altair and his "friends" have been introduced, everything surrounding Avondir gets darker and darker...
What's next?

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