Choices

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Darren drew a handful of letters out of his box and hurried up the stairs. As he emerged from the stairwell, Darren flipped through the missives. He ignored the pair from his parents, but smiled when he found his friend's handwriting. With a grin, he stuffed his parent's notes into a pocket and opened Randall's. He removed the paper and shoved the door open with his shoulder.

Maxwell turned around, leaning against his chair. "What are you reading, Darren?"

"A letter," Darren muttered, waving the missive as he crossed the room and slipped into his desk. Darren pressed the note to his chest, adding, "I left your mail in the box."

"Who's it from?" Maxwell asked, twirling a pencil.

Darren lifted an eye and glowered over the paper. "Does it matter?"

"No," Maxwell replied through a lopsided smile. He leaned over the chair and pointed towards the door. "I'm just looking to strike up a conversation, you've been spending all your time with Wayne."

"You don't like him," Darren commented as he lowered the letter. "I thought you were keen on judging people after getting to know them."

"I waited until then," Maxwell refuted. He turned the chair around and tipped it back onto his desk. "And I do not understand how you can look past his abrasive attitude. It's not like he treated you any better than the rest of us."

Darren folded the letter and placed it on his desk. With a huff, Darren rubbed his eyes. "There's a familial connection."

"Seriously?"

"Yes," Darren moaned. "That's what he told me." Darren sighed as he drummed his fingers. "According to Wayne, my mom fled the family to marry my father."

"With his attitude, I can't imagine why he'd be willing to interact with you."

"Neither can I," Darren responded. He leaned forward and recovered his letter and flashed it to his roommate. "But what I really want is to read my friend's note."

Maxwell's chair thumped to the ground and in the same motion the Dwarf crossed the room, liberating the missive from Darren's grip.

"Hey," Darren howled.

With a smirk, Maxwell hurried to his desk and examined the message. Then with a grim face he returned it to Darren. "Do you think it's an intelligent plan for you to torment people with magic?"

"I'm doing no such thing," Darren muttered, cradling the missive.

"It sounds like your friend Randall is your lieutenant in a gang you robbed from an old bully."

Darren rolled his head and laid the letter face down on his desk. "First, Dolmen is the Dwarf I had an issue with. And second, outside of that initial burst, I never used magic on the kid."

"Is that when Leodor discovered you?"

"Yeah," Darren mumbled.

Maxell stroked his lips while his eyes glazed over. He took a deep breath and released it like water escaping from a block of ice. "Reconsider your plans, Darren, staying this course will undermine everything you accomplish here."

"What are you going on about?"

Maxwell's hands wrung together as his gaze focused everywhere except for Darren. "The Academy has a longstanding story amongst its students."

"Gotcha, this tale is conjecture, out with it already."

"Fine, according to the myth, an Academy student did something similar to what's hinted at in your letter."

Darren rolled his head and growled, "I've no intention of slinging magic outside these walls. I refuse to become a Hunter's target."

"An understandable concern for us," Maxwell agreed. He clapped his hands and let his chair thump back against the ground. "But if that's true, how'd you usurp that gang?"

Darren's eyes closed as he slapped his thighs. "I used the martial arts lessons that Volodar drummed into me. The thug never stood a chance."

"Be careful you don't blindly waltz into an identical trap as that unfortunate student did."

"And what does the narrative say happened to the power mad pupil?"

Maxwell tipped his chair against the desk, letting his feet dangle. "The story doesn't delve into the details except for his punishment, he was burnt by the instructors."

"The Academy burned a kid for casting spells outside of the campus?"

Maxwell clapped his hands. "The tale revolves around the student claiming the accusations were false."

"I'll repeat the question, why did Leodor consent to burn a student without concrete evidence?"

"You're not understanding what that term means."

"What does burning mean then?"

Maxwell rubbed his temples and muttered, "Being burnt, is to have one's magic forcibly removed. It's not something the teachers do often." Maxwell laced his fingers behind his head and stared at the ceiling tiles. "In fact no one here has witnessed the instructors perform that act."

"Has anyone talked to the professors about the tale?"

Maxwell chortled as his eyes drifted back to Darren. "Would you broach that subject?"

Darren grabbed supplies and arrayed them before him. "No, I expect that's a topic I would avoid myself."

An eyebrow crept up on Maxwell's face. "Who would you ask?"

Darren pounded his desk and glared at Maxwell, "I'd speak with Arlen about it."

"You would?"

Darren cocked his head towards Maxwell and scratched his nose with his pen's tip. "I have a solid relationship with her, and it makes some sense that burning is tied with healing."

"You're a braver man than I am." Maxwell strode over and peered over his roommate's shoulder. He clapped Darren's back and sighed. "You are playing a dangerous game by staying involved in that mess."

"If it helps protect my friend," Darren said while he started his response. When he finished the brief reply, he folded the page and stuffed it into an envelope. He laid it on his desk and pulled out the other two messages saying, "Then I'll let him continue to keep me as a figurehead. Besides, you have your own mail to deal with."

With a shake of his head, Maxwell left, leaving Darren to finish examining his letters in peace.

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