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Chapter Fourteen- A Sacrifice

1 June

Tenila went into the library where Lila, Naelen, and Damien were hard at work. Each of them sat at their own desk, reading from their assigned books. It was late in the afternoon, the time when Lanara always had the children reading.

In Tenila's hands was a sealed letter. "This came for you, Lilathanor. A messenger just passed it off."

Lila looked up from her reading. Inside, she was ecstatic but she made a point of not showing it. She took the letter and dismissed Tenila. "Thank you for bringing it to me."

When Tenila was gone, Lila tore open the letter and skimmed its contents. Naelen and Damien were already leaning in to see.

"What is it?" Naelen asked.

"Go away," Lila pushed her brother. A moment passed as she read. "Oh my goodness," she beamed. "I--I got it."

"By the Fates." Naelen snatched the letter from her. "You did it, Lil. You got into the Fighters Academy!"

"Shh! Could you be more loud?"

"Sorry," Naelen hushed his voice. "I'm so glad for you."

"Yes, but I have to perform my entrance exams."

"Still, it's a big deal. Your sword master has given you the highest recommendation. They want you to come in person."

"It is a big deal," Damien agreed. "Congratulations, Lil. My only concern is how you're going to convince your parents to let you go."

"I already have a plan for that," Lila said. "I call it leaving without telling them."

Damien shook his head. "That's a terrible plan. Besides, you can't expect Naelen to keep a secret for long."

"That's true," Lila pondered. "Neither of you will be able to keep my cover."

"You don't really plan to just leave, do you?" Naelen asked.

"I'm seventeen years old, why shouldn't I? I'm grown-up enough, right?"

"The fact you have to ask that tells me you're not."

"Well, I feel old enough to make my own decisions," Lila said.

Another voice came speaking from behind them. It was impossible to miss Lanara's words bouncing off the bookshelves. "Why aren't you all reading?"

The children all turned to look at her. Suddenly quiet.

"Uh, it's nothing," Lila said, glancing at the letter in Naelen's hands. She watched as Naelen fumbled with it, forcing it to pass out of Lanara's sight. But his plan didn't work. Lanara saw what Naelen was trying to hide.

"And what is this?" Lanara took the letter from him. "Oh. It's from a sword master in Careth." She looked at Lila, appalled. "And it's for you?"

"Yes," Lila seemed guilty. "My sword master recommended me for submission. I'd really like to go, Mom."

"Hm," Lanara hummed while tucking the letter away. "I shall speak with your father."

"But, Mom, he hates the idea of me going."

"I know," Lanara winked. "And I shall speak with him."

The thought made Lila smile. "You're sure about this?"

"Darling, you've been working toward this for six years now. You are meant for great things." Lanara glanced at her son. "You, too, Nihilan. Just because your father could not make his own path does not mean that you two shouldn't."

"Mom..." Lila's face turned brighter. "I don't know what to say."

"I want you to go to school, Lilathanor."

"That's such a relief," Lila said, giving her mother a hug. "You don't expect anything in return?"

Lanara chuckled. "I expect you to work hard and make something of yourself."

"I can do that."

After kissing Lila on the forehead, Lanara made her exit. The children went back to their reading, but Lila didn't read. She was too nervous over the argument bound to arise between her parents. With her nerves built up, she closed her book and went out of the library.

Damien and Naelen sat at their desks, sharing a look as if to say, "well, that was unexpected."

...

It was later in the evening when Kallus called his family into the living room. He was sitting down in his favorite plush chair, with arm-rests that were worn along the sides. Lanara sat close to him in her own chair, and Lila sat facing them in the middle of a long sofa. Damien and Naelen joined her there, sitting at both her sides. On a colder day, the room would be lit by fireplace. Today, however, it was not. The fireplace sat lonely and untouched.

Kallus folded his hands together. "I understand there is a matter to discuss? A matter of school?"

"Yes, Dad," Lila nodded. "I'd really like to go to the Fighters Academy in Careth. I just heard back from them."

"So, you already applied?"

Lila nodded. "That's right." She could feel her stomach churning. "I applied by myself because I-- I knew you wouldn't approve."

"You assumed I wouldn't approve?" Kallus raised his eyebrow. "After discussing it with your mother, I believe I can offer my consent."

"Really? Dad, that's great!"

"Don't get too excited," he said, shifting in his chair. He gestured to Damien and Naelen. "If Lilathanor is going off to school, one of you must promise to stay here. One of you must continue your studies without going to Careth. I will let you boys decide amongst yourselves."

Lila looked at her brothers, frowning. "Dad, that-- that doesn't seem very fair."

"I am not claiming that it is fair," Kallus replied. "But it is the only way I will let you go, Lilathanor. I will not lose all of my children to this Fighters Academy. One of you must inherit my burden when the time comes."

From his seat, Damien glanced around at the others. Lanara was sitting quietly, listening to the discussion rather than partaking in it. Naelen was quiet, too, as if he were afraid to add his voice. After a long while of listening to silence, Damien spoke up.

"I'll do it," he said, raising his hand slightly. "I promise to stay here, Kallus. Inherit your burden--whatever that is."

Kallus looked at him with a sense of approval, yet his gaze made Damien uncomfortable. "That is a promise you can keep?"

Suddenly Damien's throat felt dry, so he swallowed. "I'll do my best."

"Damien," Lila faced him, "you don't have to do this for me. I--I can figure something out. If not this year, then maybe in a few years."

"It's okay, Lil," Damien smiled. "I want you to chase your dream. I'm lucky to be here as it is. I've been given a second chance at life, I might as well live it here. In Gumber."

Kallus turned his attention to Naelen. "What do you think, son? Do you wish to stay in Gumber, or do you wish to follow in your sister's footsteps?"

"Um..." Naelen's eyes widened. "The only thing I know is I don't want to stay in Gumber. Not forever."

Kallus nodded. "I see. Then it is decided. I will finish training Damien up, and you two can go on to become whatever you wish to be. In truth, I was rather hoping for an outcome like this. Damien has the courage to do what it takes. He is willing. In a few years, he will be worthy." Standing to his feet, he went over and lifted Lila's chin. "Don't take his sacrifice lightly, Lilathanor."

"I won't," Lila said. When Kallus let go of her chin, she hung her head low. Naelen also kept from making eye-contact as his father passed out of the room.

When all was quiet again, Lanara got up and faced the children lined in a row. She kissed the top of Lila's head, smiling. "When do they expect you to arrive in Careth?"

"I believe their sessions start in August."

"Well," she paused, "that doesn't give us much time."

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Author
Lynea
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