The boy didn’t hesitate. He flung his body out the door before his feet had time to catch him.
“Be back before Moonfall!” Her voice seemed to trail him as he crowned the first hill and disappeared into the tall darkwood trees.
Chiranna smiled to herself. She did not really worry whether Talis would fail his Dragon exam; some were born to lead that life and intuitively made the right choices. Talis was one of them. She really only worried that he would do too well. That thought made her shudder, and the room suddenly seemed much colder than the crackling fire would realistically permit. She pushed that thought aside in favor of denial or ignorance; perhaps the day would never come.
* * *
Weylan stood under the giant's nose waiting for his friend. The large, water eroded hole in the rock made the protuberance from the mountainside take on a distinctive shape. He heard the quickened light footsteps on the lower-path bridge and assumed his most nonchalant pose. After a few short moments of scraping and short grunts of effort, Talis dropped down through the hole.
"About time you showed up." Weylan maintained his bored posture.
"Sorry, Master Loquerin told Chiranna that I fell asleep in Mysticism and I had to reread today’s lesson.”
"Hey, better that than mucking out the stalls after 'Lady Priss' went for her ride and said she couldn’t stand the smell. Gervais made me clean every one, lay out fresh hay, all just to please her."
"Lady Silae isn't that bad Weylan."
"Yeah, whatever. All I know is that if she sneezes, I'll be mucking out the gutters because some dust got up her-'
"Enough!" It wasn't often that Talis spoke with that kind of authority; he hated anything that reminded him of his station, especially in contrast to his best friend’s lot in life. He regretted the action instantly as a look of injustice played across Weylan's face. "Just lay off Silae, will you? She has her own problems."
"Yeah. Sure." Weylan replied somewhat dejectedly. Then, he suddenly grinned at Talis with his crooked front teeth and taunted, "Race you to the lake!"
The two youth darted through the forest in a mad dash for the lake, dancing around the forest’s dangers gleefully, heedlessly, and without reserve. Talis found that he could not hold on to the joy like he had countless times before
... Sitting in his study with Chiranna he hadn't been able to contain himself, his only thoughts had been of escape, adventure, seeing his friend. But, now that he was here, flying through the forest, his mind was drawn back to that room...
Chiranna had been his nurse since birth, taught him in the ways of the scholars, and been his companion (and constant harassment) since the day he'd been chosen to join the dragoons. Their relationship was a special one, something he suddenly suspected he'd under-appreciated. Just as his sidetracked mind collided with a low-hanging branch, laying him flat on his back, he thought, "If I'd ever been allowed to meet my real parents, this is how I'd feel about them too..."