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Chapter 34: In Which Nothing Happens

The tension was still there the next morning as Rat arrived for breakfast with the Grand Master, at the latter's bidding.

Whether or not he could take this Tournament was open to speculation, but he had proven himself powerful beyond question and was more skilled than the average Wielder. A person with his abilities could get along in life, in whatever he tried. Magic would always give him an advantage over anyone else.

The thought that was the most disconcerting was that if the boy had been truly determined to leave, there would have been no way to stop him. But he seemed tied to this place not out of sentimentality toward Marning, not even toward Burgen but because of someone held in the Goddess of Dreams temple. Wasn't two years in the life of a boy a long time? Why hadn't his loyalties shifted, just slightly, toward Marning? There, perhaps, lay the greatest difference between Cooper and his son: the life they had led before they arrived at the palace. Rat couldn't bring himself to trust anyone who hadn't suffered as much as he had.

"You mustn't take for granted the fact that I give so much of my time to you," The Grand Master said, slicing a piece of fried sea-bream and placing it in Rat's plate. "Not every Grand Master in history has been as dedicated to their pupils as I have."

Rat looked at his plate that was cluttered with an assortment of foods placed there by Marning, but he made no move to eat. His good hand rested on the table by his fork while his bandaged hand was on his lap beneath the table. He silently looked up and regarded the Grand Master with his steady dark gaze. "Don't you have a family?"

The Grand Master was cutting a spinach tart in half. He put down the knife, giving the boy a sharp look. That was the hardest thing about dealing with Rat, there was no knowing when he'd decide to ask unexpected questions. "I do," he said slowly. "My wife, Leatrice, passed away some years ago. My three girls are all grown up with families of their own. My son is a scholar and yet unmarried. They all live in different parts of the city."

Rat tentatively picked up his fork and thoughtfully stabbed at the pickled cauliflower on his plate. "Do you ever visit them? Why don't they come and see you?"

"I visit them on occasion."

"What's the point of having a family then?" he asked, stuffing his mouth full of cauliflower.

Marning picked up the knife and continued cutting the spinach tart, placing a large portion on the boy's plate. "Families can be pointless," he said while taking a helping of spinach tart for himself, "and they can also be worth the good few years they give you, People will always have families regardless of reason."

The boy continued to crunch on the cauliflower in his mouth, nodding thoughtfully. In the past, Rat had had the tendency to speak with his mouth full, as if he couldn't possibly have enough time in his life to accomplish both tasks each on their own. It took much scolding to rid him of that habit, but by the time he managed to swallow the bite that had been too big for his mouth, he didn't seem to wish to discuss the matter of families anymore.

"We have to see the King this morning," Marning continued a few moments later as he dusted crumbs off his chin. "There is a, eh, formal matter."

"Why should I go?"

Rat was up on the news and procedures, and there was no need explaining to him what he already knew. He and Burgen were both the Grand Master's apprentices, and the position of King's Magician was yet to be filled before the Tournament. The King would never choose Rat, nor would Rat accept the position. While he had agreed to compete in the Tournament, he did not have to be the King's Magician to represent Auranora. "For appearances," the Grand Master replied.

Rat - YA FantasyWhere stories live. Discover now