I finish and clean the buckets and brushes, making sure to put them back where I found them. Charles breaks down the last box as I pass through the kitchen to wash my hands.
“Just in time to pick your tent.”
I follow him outside where he rings a bell that’s stationed on the porch between kitchen and dining area. I see that tents have been set up in a semi circle before us, surrounding a fire pit. I step off the porch to join the others who gather round.
“Ick! You stink!” Zack exclaims as he pinches his nose.
Given what I was just doing I probably do. I stand at the edge of the group, down wind.
“Now, lets go over camp rules,” Charles begins. “First and foremost, there will be no rough play. Especially around the campfire. This is a serious event. I don’t want any injuries reported due to non trial related events, understand?” He gives us all a hard stare. We all nod.
“Now, the bell. Two dings is your fifteen minute warning. Three dings and I expect you here in five minutes. If the bell keeps ringing that means it’s an emergency. Drop what ever your doing and gather immediately.” He again looks at each of us to make sure we have understood.
“Good, now grab your things and claim a tent. Once you’ve done that I want you to go out and gather firewood for tonight. Alone.” After another hard stare he grins. “Roam as far as you like, but be sure you’re back in time for dinner. Just listen for the bell.”
Zack immediately pushes his way to be first to grab his things and claim his tent. Big surprise, he takes the one furthest from the bungalow. My bag isn’t where I put it and I have to groan as I see it was kicked under a chair. By the time I find it, all but one of the six tents are taken. It’s the one closest to the lounge.
Well, it means I’m closest to the bathroom. I kneel and look in. There’s a rolled up sleeping pad and sleeping back inside. I thrust my bag in before standing up. I wonder if there is a way to protect my stuff. I sigh, wishing I had had more time to learn about my Faerie abilities. Walking around to the back of my tent I head out straight into the woods.
“Remember you’re to gather wood ALONE,” Charles calls out, “And return when I ring the bell.”
“Don’t get lost halfies!” I hear Zack call to us in his sneering tone. His crony laughs.
I smile, for I am now surrounded by the trees. Natures welcomes me. I feel almost whole here. There is still that empty space where my link with Ash used to reside. It is tender to the mental touch. My hand clutches at my pendant, but I force myself not to check it.
I must pass this test. If I do not, I will never gain wings, I will never attain my full potential, I will never finish my training. Without all that I will never have Ash. Tears spring to my eyes. I focus on finding and gathering wood to try and distract my mind. It only works partially, as I begin to think about everyone else.
How are Gloria and Thalion doing? How is Sarah Morgan doing? How is my Dad going to pass the time during my test. Suddenly I remember him flirting with Katha’s Mom and decide I probably don’t want to know.
My pile of firewood is beginning to be unwieldy. I stop by a small spring fed pond with the intent to adjust it.
A gruff imperial voice startles me and I drop the wood. I keep glancing around me as I start to pick it up methodically. There is no one there.
I am Cecil of Ollerond, your instructor.
The voice continues. I briefly touch the disk that’s attached to the back of my left ear. I’d forgotten about it.
“Good Evening Sir,” I stammer out, not knowing if he can hear me or not.
There’s a sort of harrumph that comes through before Cecil continues.
At least you have some manners, but you will need a lot more than manners for me to pass you.
“I expect so Sir.” I have no idea how to pass, because I have no idea what the test is. I only hope I really am worthy.
I will be watching you Morgan of Ollerond, pray that you please me.
“Yes Sir.” I can not help but gulp. We are both of Ollerond and I wonder how we are related. Hadn’t my father said something about my grandfather being more concerned with a strong line than family? I don’t know. I just know I’m suddenly nervous again.
I hear the bell ring twice. Quickly finishing restacking my wood I hurry back to camp. Judging by the looks on everyone else’s face, their instructors have talked to them to. I have no heart for a bonfire tonight, though I feel it tug at my affinity. Instead I turn in early.
Setting up my bed, I pray for nature to help and guide me through tomorrows test. The calm of the night flows through me as I sink into sleep, nature cradles me in a loving embrace.