A Few Good Friends

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The armory, the building which housed the various closed test and practice pits, was only a couple of turns' walk through the sprawling wooded city of Aerlorn to the palace, a beautiful tumble of seasoned wood and granite that was as pleasing to the eye as it was useful for the defense of the city. As such, it served as a focal point for local communities, a gathering point for members of the civil defense force as well as neighbors looking for a central place to visit.

It was in the shade of the southern pouch, a venerable structure that was once part of the original armory built when Aerlorn was first erected thousands of cycles ago, that a handful of young elves anxiously waited. They were an unusual collection, a mismatched handful that drew not a few curious looks from passersby, walking in the warm Watches of the afternoon.

<<How do you think he did?>> one anxiously asked another. The speaker, a wiry young Sylvasin male, looked no more than seventeen or eighteen cycles, a handsome fellow with a ready smile and the sparkle of mischief in his eyes.

There was no smile today, however. Nor did the young woman he asked wear one, a stunningly beautiful Sylvasin female with long blonde hair and dancing blue eyes. She could only shrug in reply, looking as concerned as the speaker.

<<Save Lili from your questions, Thom,>> a third member of the small company rasped, a broad shouldered Lithosin youth with a goatee adorning his strong jaw, as he jerked his head in the direction of the porch's main doorway.

<<Here comes the man himself. Why don't you ask him?>>

The company concertedly came to their feet as a frowning Shawn stepped from the doorway's shadowed interior and into the bright light of the outdoors, a light cotton shirt and loose-fitting breeches replacing the arena gear he wore a few shades before. Officially on his own time until tomorrow, he had eschewed wearing his academy uniform in diffidence to the mid summer heat baking the Larsh. He looked up at the young Lithosin's voice and quickly replaced his frown with a faint smile.

<<You lot didn't have to wait for me, you know,>> he softly pointed out, his long legs quickly drawing him even with the small knot of friends. <<You could've been out here for turns!>>

<<Knowing you and your skill?>>  the elf named Thom by the Lithosin youth replied with a grin. <<Turns of the small glass, maybe. So, how'd it go? Did you pass? Will you graduate?>>

<<Or did the commandant and the other instructors find yet another reason why a human shouldn't be granted a rank like everybody else?>> Lili indignantly hissed, obviously referring to the reluctance of the academy officials to allow Shawn admission into the academy. She folded her arms expectantly beneath full breasts to await Shawn's confirmation of her suspicions.

<<Why wouldn't they?>> That from the Lithosin lad, who grimaced. <<They'll take any measure to prevent a human from proving himself worthy, even though he's been in battle with Tjor'riin and renegades a number of times to earn his da'godei. As if we were all ignorant of the Silvermane and how humans engage in battle all the time.>>

<<Hsst, Banik, not so loud,>> Thom said in a mock whisper as he made a shushing gesture. <<We don't want our betters to know that we know humans know how to fight.>> His grin quickly grew after the sarcastic statement.

<<How could they deny the fact Shawn knows how to handle himself in battle?>> a fourth member of the company wondered out loud, a beautiful Lithosin woman that wore a puzzled expression on her face. <<Or that any human does? And deny them the respect they deserve? After all, are we not taught that honor belongs to any being able to raise a defense against the Shadow?>>

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