Association was the high point of a villager’s day. Even older villagers had association at their different points.
Village children have normal school until the age of ten. From then on they have Pre-Association, which would include Prophecies and Potions, Basic Barding and Linguistics.
Once fourteen you’re tested to see which four Associations you should belong to.
After the age of twenty, you can either choose to continue training in these Associations, or transfer to new, sometimes softer options.
I was part of Advanced Barding, Eagle-Keeping and Serology. My fourth association caused much contradiction among the villagers. Most people complained that women shouldn’t be part of Combat and Stealth.
I made my way to Playman’s Meadow as the rest of the town hurried toward their first association.
Bevan spotted me halfway along and walked beside me. He was quiet and brooding. Once he turned his back on me to greet someone else, I saw why. Thin lines of barely visible blood stained his black linen shirt. I knew strips of flesh had been ripped away by a belt buckle. It probably stung like hell. Guilt settled in the pit of my stomach, it had been my fault we were late.
I smiled pitifully at him, receiving a scathing glare.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he said angrily, not meeting my eyes.
“You need to be looked at like that,” I said, “he can’t do this to you Bevan.”
“Yes he can,” Bevan answered bitterly, “he can do anything he wants.”
“Just because he was a warrior doesn’t mean he’s almighty you know,” I said to the ground.
“Just drop it okay,” Bevan said wearily. “What happened to your ankle?” he asked, staring at my slight limp.
“My foot crashed through the second stair,” I said. I related what happened that morning.
“So we can’t practice at all this week?” he asked with out right disappointment.
By this time we’d passed through the opening to the field. It was completely surrounded by forest trees, forming a sort of square fence.
Magorian and a few other guys were waiting for the rest of us in the middle of the field.
“Good day you two,” Magorian said curtly. He was clad completely in a simple white frock. His black hair was short and wavy, his eyes a pale shade of violet. Magorian was the son of a Sage. All the teachers were children of Sages. Only they were allowed to teach. They were called Sage Bearers.
He stared for a while at my ankle, then looked at me, shaking his head slightly.
“Will you never learn Astrid?” he asked quietly.
I looked up at him sheepishly. He was serene and calm, but still brilliant at Combat. If it hadn’t been for Magorian, I’d have been kicked out of Combat and Stealth a long time ago.
A few stragglers came running up, including Kermit. He was a bit of a klutz, but good company nonetheless. Everyone was surprised when he got into this association.
Once everyone was assembled Magorian spoke in his soft calm voice.
“Morning all, I see most of you are well,” his eyes lingered for a while on Bevan and me. “Today we’ll be continuing the obstacle course through the forest.”
With a sigh the children got up to walk back through the opening.
“Bevan, Astrid,” Magorian said, his voice a bit sharper. “The two of you will stay behind.”
We started to argue, but he cut in.
“Neither of you are fit to continue the course at the moment. Once your wounds have healed completely we’ll go on.”
“That’s bull,” Bevan argued ruthlessly. “I’m just as fit as the rest of those fools!”
“And my ankle’s fine,” I spoke up.
“The matter is not debatable,” he said, starting toward the opening.
“What’re we supposed to do then?” I called after him, barely able to conceal my indignation.
“Amuse me,” he said with a trace of a smile playing around his lips.