Chapter 11 - Introductions

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The door opened.

Nine individuals marched inside. Guardian Eska knew two of them intimately—they were his youngest conseleigh. Still, they gave council as well as any. The oldest member of his council, Tundra Iycel, was sixteen to thirty-one years their senior. She stood by his side now, just as she had stood by his side and behind his decisions for thirty-five years when she replaced Neil Marmod at the age of thirty-eight. She had been widowed by that point after her husband died in a mammoth hunt. He hoped each would remain until he passed his duties in his two hundredth year.

Guardian Eska focused his mind toward Tundra. He didn't want to speak aloud to all of them. Not yet at least. Is that Prince Paen of Acquava leading, Tundra?

He resembles his father greatly, doesn't he?

Indeed. Any others you recognize?

The large man, third in line. Cadmar Briggs. His father is an elite in service to Lady Aprah.

Father and status doesn't matter. Not here. Competence does. Those here are equals until the Trials conclude. If Guardian of the Core was based merely on a family's lineage, I may not be here right now; Victor Zigarda may be in my stead.

Yes, I was merely telling, Edwyrd.

Guardian Eska moved his eyes to each of them. Only six of the eight candidates showed. So, the sorting begins. He took note of the owl of Epoch, the badges of both Gazo's and Gracie's Academy, and the mansion of the Clayses.

I did not know the Clayses had a son.

They do not, Edwyrd.

Then who is that? He is wearing their sigil.

Luvan would know better than I, but he is not here.

I suppose it matters not.

Guardian Eska studied them all equally. His mentor, Guardian Matthau Crevon, told him to not let sigils, badges, or prestige bias the choosing of apprentice. The Trials would sort the strong from the weak. Nothing else mattered.

By the time he finished his examinations, the other Conseleigh were by his side. Like the conseleigh before them, they made Eska feel complete. They had been his family since time took his. He raised one hand, gloved in darknether, the only material strong enough to contain the different powers given to him by the Twelve. It was the same material that made up the reimaje on his head, but that was dipped in a pool of ether from Gladima itself. Although it looked like a black bandana, its function was much greater than that. It stored memories as he willed it to, and because of that, he was able to see everything that Guardian Matthau Crevon saw and Guardian Jorey Raule saw before him. When removed from his head, it had even greater power.

"Contestants, state your name, where you are from, and who you are here for." Eska remained stern.

Prince Paen stepped forward and laid his sword on the ground. "My guardian, I am Prince Hydro Aylán Paen II, son to Lord Hydro Paen from the nation of Acquava. I am here for my family and my nation." Afterwards, the prince bowed and knelt.

Most princes are. The woman from Gracie's stepped forward next. "My guardian, my name is Gabrielle Ravwey from za nation Empora. I am here on behalf of Gracie's Academy, which taught me to be zankful for our minds, free to think." Gabrielle placed the palm of her left hand to her forehead. "For our bodies, free to fight." Her right hand clenched into a fist and was placed over her heart. "And for our souls, free to bind." She then combined her two hands at her lips and kissed them. She curtsied alongside Prince Paen.

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