We watch as the man pulls something out of the briefcase. Putting on the halfmoon glasses he looks over them at us. His hand strokes his mustache, accentuating his thin, pointy figure. Placing both hands on the podium he begins to talk. I listen.
“Welcome all young faeries to your final exam, everything you have learned must be put to the test over the course of the next few days. Scraping along will not do. Only the best of our race will continue it in the future.”
I sigh, I knew that much already. He pulls paper out of his briefcase and begins calling off names. “Anderson, Theodore?”
“Present,” Theo startles me by answering loudly. Katha snickers and he glares.
“Present” echoes from all areas of the room as he goes down the list.
“Hackensack, Zackory?” There is a pause. The man looks up and around at the group. “Hackensack, Zackory?” He repeats.
“Present,” the bully grumbles from the back. Katha, Theo and I can’t help but exchange amused glances. Roll call continues with a few more names.
“Romero de Jager, Katha?”
“Present,” Katha calls out cheerily.
Well that means we’re getting closer to my name, unless there are a lot of S last names. I start listening more intently, preparing to speak loud enough to be heard. How horrible would it be if he had to repeat my name like he did for Zack Hack Sack. I grin slightly to myself.
“Present.” I nearly startle myself with how loud I am. Everyone looks at me and I sink back into my chair. Great impressions you’re giving out Morgan, I tell myself. Apparently I was last on the list because he’s putting it away.
“Now, I'm sure everyone here already knows how proceedings continue but I will inform you all again anyway. Each of you will be appointed to an elder of the court to survey your testing.”
Theo and Katha lean back while I lean forward. I can hear them discussing who their elder might be. I notice most of the kids here are tuning the man out. It figures I’d be the only one who had no clue what was going on.
“This years testing will be quest based and you may need to compete with others at some points. When you leave this hall you will each be handed an envelope with a small tag in it. You won’t find out who you are assigned to until tomorrow. Just follow the instructions that come with the tag and I shall see you all tomorrow morning.”
The man takes off his spectacles and returns them to his briefcase. Snapping it shut he sits down. That was it? I need to know more.
Then a new man, a more imposing man, enters. I sit back, trying to blend in with the class. His gaze scans us all and I shiver as it passes me by. My eyes immediately go to the desk where my folded hands sit. Does he know I know nothing?
The man continues his gazing. I can hear others shifting in their chairs as the silence lengthens. I have felt his eyes rest on me a couple times now. I am now certain he knows how unprepared I am. At last he speaks, his deep voice surrounding us as it echoes through the room.
“As my colleague just pointed out, your lives are hinging on the next few days.” His gaze sweeps across the crowd. “Are any of you worthy of your wings? Are you cocky enough to think you will have no problem getting through this? Well think again.” Somehow he glares at all of us. “This is the most challenging thing you will ever have to undergo. You will be on your own without any of your creature comforts, without any guidance, just you. Do you think you can cope with the pressure?” I hear nervous gulps coming from around the room, including my own and Theo’s. “Prepare yourself children for tomorrow morning there will be a compulsory fitness test. After three people DIED last year the fitness test is now part of the exam. Fail it and you’re already out before you’ve even begun.” He looks around the room one last time. Giving a sharp nod and grunt, he sits down heavily on the chair next to the first man.
I still don’t know what this test consists of. And I’m sure as not going to ask that guy, or even talk to Katha or Theo with him sitting there. The pointed man stands and comes back up to the podium.
“Right, well then,” he puts his spectacles back on and looks apologetically at us. “You may leave the hall through either door in front. There are biscuits and tea for all of you in room 41, which is across the hall.”
Slowly we all file out. “Hope you don’t die half bloods,” bully boy Zack sneers as he pushes us out of the way.
“Zack Mack could hack no sack,” Katha rhymes softly. Theo and I smile. We each take the envelope that is handed to us as we exit the room.
“You going to go have some tea and biscuits Morgan?” Theo asks me.
“Um, no,” I suddenly feel closterphobic, though we’re back in the hall. It’s just the fact that I’ve been around so many people for so long. “I ought to find my Dad.” I still don’t know if he made it in after me. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot him among these suits, right?
“We can help,” Theo volunteers.
“No, we can’t,” Katha glares at Theo. She turns to me. “No offence Morgan, but my mom’s a stickler on being on time and she expects us to come home,” her focus shifts to Theo, “right after the briefing.”
“Right,” Theo says glumly. “Well we’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Tomorrow.” I wave with my right hand as my left goes to my pendant. I look around again.
~ Dad? ~ I send out hesitantly.
~ By reception desk fifty-three ~ is his response.
I turn back to look at the reception desk again. The one man there stands up from leaning against one of the pillars. I blink, realizing it is Dad.
~ You’re in a suit. ~ I'm too dumfounded to speak.
He puts an arm around my shoulder and chuckles. “Not for much longer.”