Chapter 7:

Interlude: Tower

The Hero's Shadow

From her balcony high on the stone tower, the young lady surveyed the forest cloaked by midnight’s embrace and the lights of the city beyond the border of the park. The world seemed quiet, but a great disturbance that day was still sending ripples racing out across the otherwise still waters. In fire-lit drawing rooms and unknown lairs, there were surely new schemes being plotted and generations old grudges being amended. She set her spirit out on the breeze, casting a silent challenge toward her enemies.

Within the room behind the balcony, a knock sounded at her door. The woman called out to her expected guest and returned inside from the night to greet her confidant. The youth who entered wore the black uniform of that famous school. He strode into her bedchamber without hesitation or shame, just as she showed no reaction to a young man seeing her in her silk nightgown. The newcomer raised a hand in casual greeting and brushed aside some of the golden bangs hanging over his delicate face.

“Well, it sounds like I missed quite a spectacle. What’s your opinion of him?” the lady asked eagerly.

Her visitor replied with a voice that could be as sweet as a song if it had not been stained through with enmity, “I don’t think there’s any denying his power, but he’s truly an idiot and a scoundrel.”

“But his heart must be true, he didn’t die after all.”

He shook his head severely and muttered, “It’s not his heart that concerns me, but his head.”

The lady laughed, teasing her guest, “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you so irritated.” She reached out to pat the student’s blonde hair affectionately. “What about the other one then?”


“You’re certainly being harsh,” she said with a touch of concern.

“That one merits no ill will; I simply don’t think he has a part in any of this, nor wants one,” the visitor replied disinterested.

The young woman glanced toward a stack of old correspondence that was strewn across her desk. She spoke as though referring to something vastly distant from the present. “I can’t be so sure. There are too many connections for me to ignore as mere coincidence.” As if to underline her point, she added, “As I understand it, you are scheduled to fight him.”

The other nodded solemnly.

“I suppose we will have a measure of him in that regard, though I do not doubt the worth of someone who was taken in by old Aimar. Enough of this business, let us go see what treats mother has saved for you. You stay away too much and we do love to spoil you.” The young lady draped herself with a robe and led her guest away toward the tower’s lower quarters.

Discussion of her recent exploits learning new recipes for pastries and cakes receded into the distance, leaving the high chamber to be invaded by the silence pouring in from the open balcony doors. On the railing sat a cup of still-hot coffee. Through the rising wisps of steam, across the expanse of trees, one could just make out the elegant shapes of a cluster of buildings which looked as though they belonged to another era.

Real Aire