"Oy, dust for brains, you alright?"

"Nothing that a good kick in the pants would’t cure." He responded to his friend with a half smile, accepting the proffered hand to get back on his feet. They continued to the lake more cautiously, with the ache of carelessness still stinging.

The lake offered a unique escape in their otherwise busy and demanding lives. Here there were no tutors trying to fill Talis’ brain with pointless facts or theories, nor (in Weylan's case) trying to brain him. When they reached the water they both stripped down and went for a swim. Talis started to float letting the gentle waves keep him at the shore, while Weylan rummaged around the shallows, looking for small animals to study.

Talis watched his friend closely for a moment. Weylan was tall, had dusty brown hair and deep green eyes that laughed when he smiled, which he usually did. His face was covered in freckles and his ears were too big for any part of him. At first glance, no one though much of him. He could stand in the middle of the yard for hours and only be noticed if someone needed a horse or an errand run. Most people thought him simple and dim. Talis knew different, like the fact that he'd never have passed basic alchemy if Weylan hadn't helped him. No, Weylan was far more than the shallow credit that most people gave him. Bright, cunning, and most of all, kind to a fault. Talis found himself wondering where Weylan had gotten his lazy way of speaking, or his knack with small animals. Though he tried to push off the thoughts that followed, status and their relationship, his mind would not give him peace.

"Weylan?" He stopped floating and stood up in the water.

Weylan turned back to Talis carrying a small turtle that he'd found among the reeds.

"Eh? Whassup?" Weylan again casually assumed his customary, lopsided grin.

"I was just thinking about..." He looked at his friend and decided on a more direct route to his unformed question. "Did you know your parents?"

Weylan first answer came in the form of a grimace, expressing questioning confusion. "Yeah, course I did."

"What were they like?"

* * *

Chiranna sat at the window contemplating her small garden.

"How is he doing?" a deep voice began and startled her.

"What... What are you doing here? Talis could be back any moment!"

"Do not worry about him, I saw him reach the lake and you and I both know he won't return before dark"

Chiranna glanced worriedly towards the lake for a moment "You cannot take him yet, he has not finished his training."

She stepped up to the unexpected and unwelcome visitor, and with that stern, ageless face of hers, continued, "And of all the Riders, I think you the LEAST fit to be taking him"

The stranger began to laugh. "Calm yourself, woman". Being addressed in this manner only seemed to frustrate Chirianna more. "I am not here to take him yet, but I WILL be the one to do it." Patting her condescendingly, as one would a child, he asked, "What does he know of his parents?"

Holding back the desire to yell she responded, "He knows that they were gone."

"Gone? Is that all?"

"When he was old enough to ask the question, that's what I told him... He's never asked for more."

"I suppose it's for the best"

"I know it's not my place…" Chiranna suddenly took a very respectful and quiet tone, asking, "But, is he who I think he is?"

With slight irritation, the stranger closed his eyes, and painfully replied "Yes"

Chiranna’s hand involuntarily went to her mouth, and a lone tear forming on her cheek as she absorbed the meaning of his words... The man reached to comfort her, "Do not cry Chiri. Many parts of his life have already been decided, but many more have not. He may yet surprise us all."

After a while, she calmed down, and the stranger got up to leave.

"When will you be coming?" Chiranna asked, still with a sob in her voice.

The stranger looked back as his dragon revealed itself "Soon... Far too soon, I fear... Take care of him for me until then?"

"I will keep the promise I made to his mother, as I always have.  Can I tell him who you are? Can I tell him who is coming for him?"

Pain flicked across his face like the lash of a whip, then his countenance returned to stone in flesh. The mysterious visitor then quickly responded, "No. He is not to know who I am. Not right now." With that thought fresh in mind, he reached into the saddle of his dragon and removed a small packet. He looked at the parcel pensively, and then, tossing it to Chiranna, said, "Give him that for me, will you? Not from me...," he touched the insignia on his armor, "but from me…," he said as he placed his hand over his heart.

“I understand.” She held the package close, with both hands pressing it into her chest, and watched as he took off into the dimming night sky.

The End

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