Critical Judgment

I take the last pie form the oven and set it on the table and breath deep. The house is now permeated with the scent of apples and cinnamon.

“I don’t think home has ever smelled this good before,” Katha laughs as she finally comes down from her shower.

I have no idea why it took her so long. I get in, I get out and I get dressed, thirty minutes maximum. She was up there for over an hour. She looks nice though, dressed smartly with makeup on.

“We’ll just have to make sure we invite Morgan over more often,” Layla smiles from her position by the door frame. She and Dad haven’t been talking much, but they stand together, one on either side of the door frame into the living room.

“You think we’ll be able to?” Theo asks, “you know, with the war and all…”

His voice trails off as the tensions of last night come flooding back into the room banishing all the good will of the baked pies.

“The war should never reach here,” Dad states suddenly standing up and beginning to pace. “When will the damn notification get here,” he mutters, “we have to go.”

I remember my dream and bite my lip, fearful of what I have to tell him. Fearful of what Ash’s transformation means. Theo looks around at us then to Katha’s mom.

“I’m missing something aren’t I?” He asks, puzzled by the sudden change in mood.

It’s Katha who answers. “Morgan and her Dad were the informants.” She rushes her sentences as if afraid she’ll be cut off. “The Van Helsings have Morgan’s boyfriend

“Morgan has a boyfriend?” Theo interrupts.

Katha frowns at him and rushes on, “and they have her friend’s daughter and they want her too.”

“Then she should stay here and,”

“No,” My Dad and I order in unison, yet all eyes swivel to me.

“I am going back to Peace Island with my Dad, we will fight them there. The last thing I want to do is have them come for me here. I’ve caused enough trouble as it is.”

“But,” Theo starts to protest. He’s interrupted by a knock on the door.

Layla walks over swiftly to open it, as if thankful for an excuse to move.

“Let’s see here,” an old graying Faerie stands at the door. He looks up at each of us, Katha, Theo and me, then rummages in his sack. He smiles as he pulls out a slim manila envelope. “This one here is for Miss Katha Romero de Jager.”

Katha scuttles up and takes it from him, eyes alight. She holds it to her chest.

“And this one here,” he rummages some more and pulls another envelop out, “is for Mister Theodore Anderson.”

Theo snatches the envelope and starts to tear into it, until he notices Katha’s glare.

“And last, but” he rummages only slightly to pull out a third envelop, “certainly not least,” he beams as he holds the envelope towards me, “Morgan Le Fae of Ollerond.”

I blink at the use of Le Fae, a whispered echo of the Greater Idol. Hesitantly I take the manila envelope from him. His hand does not give it up and so I look at him.

“To the most critical instructor the most brilliant student was passed.”

He lets go and we watch as he steps back. Spinning on his heel he turns and takes into flight. Layla shuts the door quietly and we turn to face each other.

“Ready?” Katha asks.

Theo and I nod envelopes at the ready. My heart pounds despite Queen Helena’s assurance that she would not let Cecil fail me.

“Open!” Layla cries.

The three of us tear open our envelopes in unison. Papers are pulled out. I stare blankly at mine as Theo and Katha erupt into cheers. The words swim before my eyes.

“Morgan?” Dad looks over my shoulder and I hand the paper to him. There is a short moment of silence. “What!”

We all turn to face him, I can feel his anger.

“Mike?” Layla looks at him concerned, “Mike what is it?”

“If she failed, we’ll all go appeal the council!” Katha stomps one foot for emphasis.

“No, she passed,” Dad starts to pace, “passed with the need for more training.” He stopped to turn and look at us, “need for more training!” The paper crumples in his hand, slowly burning in his anger.

“Mike!” Layla says as I also respond, “Dad.”

I reach up and touch his arm, my own affinities countering his, extinguishing the flame. Dad looks at me. “You don’t need any more training, there is no one who could train you more, you’re a natural you’re…”

“A novice,” I state softly. “Dad, I still need more training, there is so much I don’t know. Sure I can use my affinities but we never got a chance to do theory, we never had time. I don’t even know anything about Faerie history beyond those books Gramma B has. I do need more training, and,” I smile up at my Dad, “I’ll ask Cecil to train me.”

At first my Dad looks astonished, “You’ll never satisfy him Morgan, he’ll crush you he’ll,”

“To the most critical instructor the most brilliant student was passed,” I repeat what the old Faerie had said. “No, that’s how it’s supposed to be. How can I reach my full potential; how can I get stronger, if I don’t face that challenge?”

Breathe. Be Strong.

My mantra reinstates itself as I look into my Dad’s eyes. There is an awkward silence that even Theo has enough sense to not break. I wish I had time to take that training now. I know we don’t. Not with Sarah Morgan captive. Not with Ash transformed.  I turn, my confidence draining as I look at the pies; pies of apology. I sigh.

“Guess it’s time,” Layla looks from Dad to me. “Let us at least help deliver the pies Mike.”

I look to my Dad as he frowns. ~Let her have a proper goodbye~ I plead via our link. I never got one from Ash. I wish I had. I look into Dad’s eyes and try to convey what words can’t say. At last he nods.

“Alright, but only until the pies are delivered,” Dad concedes.

The End

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