Chapter 41

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Like all chosen and priests, Leithan's door had a case next to it for letters, small packages or messages, and it was one of the novices' chores to distribute mail across the temple.

When he got up Monday morning and stepped out of his room, Leithan found a letter inside the case. He shuddered, uneasy, when he saw the thick, creamy paper that the elder always used for his summons. Leithan grudgingly unfolded it and read it.

He was indeed convened to the elder's study. This evening, at seven. There weren't any details. Just Tremes' lofty signature at the bottom. Leithan refolded the letter and slipped it back in the case. He decided to pretend he hadn't seen it.

And he made his way out to Veya's Gardens to run his laps in the pale, early sunlight.

It wasn't easy, but he pushed through. Sleep had been rough and too brief. It hadn't helped that his nightmares were plagued by men entering his room and firing guns.

They'd been quick to replace the window and erase all traces of their presence, but that didn't make it any easier for Leithan to forget. Not that he wanted to forget.

But, all in good time.

For now, he went about his day as if everything was normal.

He completed his laps, then met up with Saul in their usual section of the gardens. He made Leithan go through the drills, after which they took out their Rengleam-steel swords and sparred for a solid two hours. This week's training was particularly important because next week would be the qualifications to enter the annual fencing competition at the New Rimar Arena.

Leithan wanted in, mostly to challenge himself and to see if the four years had been worth something. Plus, if he got in, he'd make New Rimar history as the first person to compete without being a military school graduate. Saul was a judge in the competition, and he was vouching for Leithan.

After training, Leithan stopped by his room to shower and change.

Then he headed to the north wing of the second-floor to meet with the others at the Chosen Café.

It was spacious but intimate, with only three round tables and a dozen chairs. Faint sunlight slanted in from north-facing windows. Fancy drapes decorated the walls, along with numerous paintings of Veya.

Veya was usually depicted tall and athletic, with an aesthetically pleasing face and long, wild, pure-black hair. Because of the hair especially, she looked a little bit like Shay. But with darker skin, of a deep ebony shade – Veya had been from the south of the Rengleam Federation.

But, well, they couldn't know for sure that she'd looked like this. All they had to go on were the scarce descriptions from Kinali's Journal. And Kinali had favored writing about Veya's mind and personality over her physique.

Their little group was all here today – Peyton, Shay, Quin, Ikar, Ander. Leithan joined Quin at her table. Once everyone was properly set up with food and drinks, it was time to begin the quiz.

This week, Ikar had prepared the questions. He sat facing them now. Shay, Peyton and Ander swarmed the sides of the table, eyes fixed on the brass bells in front of Leithan and Quin.

Before Leithan became a chosen, Quin Shimmerlake had been undefeated, and they'd just given up trying to beat her. But now, since last year, Quin had some tough competition. So far, Leithan had won twenty-five quizzes, and Quin had won twenty-six.

Leith drank some coffee, rubbed his hands, and told Ikar, "I'm ready."

Beside him, Quin leaned forward, poised to reach for her bell.

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