“Well, if you must insist. It was quite funny, I suppose. It started with one boy falling out of a basket of apples, and led to us catching three more hidden in the midst of them.” Darius summarized the conversation he had had with the bartender, and then spoke up to the point where he delegated Var to the boys.
“Let’s see then, Var’s report says that he had them stay in an inn near the middle of town. Nothing very exciting after that. He said they didn’t cause much of a ruckus, made friends with the orphan girl who assisted the innkeeper, and were safely escorted back home. It says here, wait, this cannot be right.” Darius looked closely at the page in front of him.
“What’s wrong, Darius?” Fidel asked inquisitively. He was feeling excited at the new development.
“Well, I know for a fact there were four boys we caught. But this report has five boys. I remember these four here. The half-lupus, the half-felis, the lupus, and the swine, but there is a fifth here, a human. Tanned skin, strangely colored robes? Red and yellow paint on his cheeks? I don’t recall this child at all.” By the time Darius finished scratching his head, the smile had left Fidel’s face.
“First things first, I need to confirm this. Tensh, come here,” Fidel commanded. A very old white hare took his place in front of Fidel, a large folder in his hands.
“At your service,” Tensh said slowly.
“The census was recently taken again, I believe. Tell me, Tensh, how many halfs live in Rising?” Fidel asked.
“Sire,” the old Hare said as he slowly flipped through the pages, “halfs are extremely rare. I’m sure we all understand why. Ah, here it is. Two. No record of any half being born or even living in the city for the last three hundred years is even found. Two born in the same decade, what coincidence. Just those two, Sire. I’m not sure if many more even exist in the rest of the world.”
“Just as I thought. This coincidence is too much. Darius!” Fidel assumed a commanding air.
“Yes, Sire?” Darius stood at attention, realizing that he was about to receive official orders.
“Bring me the five children in your officer’s report,” Fidel stated.
“Sire? But they are just children, what could you want with them? Surely, their parents have punished them enough. No one was hurt or affected by them either,” Darius said, astonished.
“Just bring them, all of them. I’ll tell you now; they are not going to be punished. Far from it. Please, there is something important I must check,” Fidel said.
“Yes sir!” Darius quickly replied. Darius felt awful at the sound of Fidel pleading, as it was Darius’ duty to always obey the words of the king. He quickly walked out of the room, now that he had been officially dismissed.
“Find anything yet?” Pete asked as he put down a heavy book.
“Nope,” Kelin replied.
“This is only a school library, after all,” Va’il said as he rubbed his eyes, “there probably isn’t anything helpful at all. Sorry Geon.”
“It’s alright, you tried. As I thought, there is only one option. But just how will I meet with the King?” Geon asked, mostly to himself.
“We will figure that out later. School’s about to start,” Kelin said.
“If you think you have the way figured out, you can head back to my house. We will meet up after school,” Pete said. Geon nodded to Pete and stood up. He was wearing normal clothes so he wouldn’t stand out in the city. The boys had decided on searching Makeen’s library for any information on the maroon and ancient civilizations; however, they were having trouble finding anything relevant. They had come very early when the school opened, and spent the last hour in a fruitless search for anything of substance. It was especially difficult since they didn’t know exactly what they were searching for. Geon left the grounds, and the rest of the boys walked to their first class with Sensei.
The boys were the last students to arrive in the classroom, however Sensei was absent. After a couple minutes, Sensei arrived, perfectly on time to start class. He took his place at the head of the room and looked out over the students. Everyone sat down and went silent.
“I see no one is late. Good. Well in that case, I have an announcement to make. I’m horrible at drawing things out, so I’ll be direct. Come in,” Sensei said.
The class turned their heads in unison as the door to the classroom opened again. In walked a lupus girl who stared straight ahead at Sensei. She was wearing a green dress and tall boots. She had long brown hair that was tied in a ponytail. Her hands were in front of her, holding a few books. She walked next to Sensei and bowed slightly without looking up.
“Thank you for taking care of me,” she said to the students, “my name is Teena Fen, daughter of Alen. Pleased, really.”
“Teena will be in our class from now on. Treat her well. She’ll need to be caught up on more than just a few things, so any help you can give her is appreciated. There is an empty seat over there, at the back. You can have it,” Sensei said.
Teena looked out over the classroom. She opened her eyes widely in surprise when she saw a few familiar faces smiling at her. She smiled in return and waved, then walked towards the empty desk next to Harnes. Harnes stared at her silently with large and inquisitive eyes. She had a large notebook in front of her that was full of notes and research.
“Welcome,” Harnes whispered, “I’m Harnes.”
“Thank you,” Teena whispered in reply. She smiled at Harnes.
“Hey,” Kelin said in a low voice towards the deeri boy next to him.
“Yes?” the boy asked in a cautious tone.
“She’s shorter than you. That bovine in front of her is pretty large. Switch seats,” Kelin said, ordering the boy. The boy looked at Kelin with a confused look that lasted only a couple seconds. The look that Kelin shared with only him forced the gears in his head to turn quickly. He tapped Teena on the shoulder, pointed at the large child in front of her, and in a matter of moments, they had switched seats. Sensei watched as the boy switched with Teena, and silently approved the change with a mark on the seating chart. Neither he nor Teena had noticed Kelin’s action. Teena and Kelin shared a look of recognition, but didn’t speak because Sensei had started his lecture.
School ended, however Teena had to leave right away, much to the students’ dismay. She quickly explained that because that was her first time there, the family that had taken her in wanted to pick her up from school right away.
“They are a wonderful older lupus couple, childless themselves. The wife is a schoolteacher, and has been considering having a child for the past decade now, so they were very happy to take me in. So you see; I don’t want to make them wait. Sorry boys,” Teena said quickly with an apologetic smile. She ran out of the classroom. The boys remained sitting in the classroom as they recovered from the small shock.
“Well, at least she’s here, of all places,” Pete said happily.
“We’re going to have to grill her for information later. A happy family that took her in, childless as they are? Suspicious,” Zeick said while staring off into the distance with what was supposed to be a look denoting suspicion.
“I’m just happy. Another friend. Of course, I have so many questions now. What really happened with her family? Why is she orphaned? Who took her in? Are they nobles? Why would they take an orphaned refugee into their house? So many questions.” Va’il scratched his head while thinking of what he should ask.
“Priorities. First, there is a whole set of questions posed by another friend, remember?” Kelin asked while trying to change the subject. It worked.
“Geon,” the other three said in unison.
“Exactly. Let’s get out of here; he’s probably being stuffed like a swine at Pete’s house. It’ll be really inconvenient if he can’t move when it comes time to fight our way through the king’s guards,” Kelin said with a smile. His joke went without applause from the group, who rolled their eyes then picked up their bags.
“Like Kelin said, let’s go,” Va’il said. The group walked out of the classroom together, ignoring everyone around them. Still sitting, watching, and hearing everything that had been done and said was Harnes. She didn’t look happy; however, Harnes rarely had a happy look on her face.
Va’il’s group exited the school building from the front, happily conversing. They got to the edge of the school grounds when they saw him. Darius, commander of the royal guard, was standing in the path, being carefully avoided by several cautious children who recognized the commander. At his side was Var, the massive bearan who looked far more fearsome than he really was.