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The day had come. Long before the trials started Laiva arrived at the
school, but she wasn’t remotely the first one. Even at the last day
the huge hall of the school was filled with spectators. It wasn’t as
if there was anything to see, the actual trials were held in another
room, but that didn’t stop the them. There was a good chance that at
least one of the applicants would make history, and that was surely a
thing someone could tell their grandchildren about later on. And
although the trials attracted so many people every year, most of them
didn’t know anything about its origins. In fact nobody knew much about
the history of the Order of Asterion, or the Red Order, as it was
often called because of the traditional red cloaks, and even the few
known facts were nothing more than shadows in the mists of time.
However, it was the most powerful institution the world had seen so
far; watching over law and justice, negotiating diplomatic issues, in
short making sure all the peoples could live together in peace – by
the means of weapons, if necessary. Not bound to any rulers or borders
they answered only to themselves. And she wouldn’t leave before she
got a fair chance to become one of them, show them what she was made
of, all those who had been laughing at her; she knew she could pass
the tests. Nobody would stop her that easily. Especially not now, not
after all her troubles. A hissed whisper went through the crowd and
interrupted Laiva’s thoughts. She stretched to get a glimpse of the
new candidate and was quite surprised to see that the boy was an elf.
‘You are number eleven?’
Number eleven? Was is already that late? She couldn’t even
remember whether the previous applicants had been accepted or not. The
boy walked to the board and handed the card with his number on it to
the three testers.
‘Yes, my name is Idnir Silva.’
‘Well, Idnir, why do you think we accept elves here?’ the
first one asked.
‘Go home, elf, go back where you belong.’
That sounded by far harsher than necessary; obviously the
tester shared the public opinion about elves, but the boy’s expression
didn’t change a bit. It still showed determination, the determination
of someone who wouldn’t give up just because of a few prejudices.
‘Because the rules say that anyone is to be accepted, who
passes the tests, no matter what his status or origin may be.’
The calmly spoken words struck the testers like lightning;
they knew the rules, or course, but it had never crossed their minds
that ‘everyone’ applied to elves as well. There was quite a pause
until one of them regained control of the situation.
‘Well said. Let’s begin, then. Follow us.’
The testers and the elf left the hall trough a back door.
In theory the board was to be completely impartial, but of course they
were subject to prejudices as well as anyone else. There had been a
few unwanted applicants now and again, but until now they had always
found a reason to doubt their qualifications. Fortunately Laiva didn’t
know that; it was hard enough for an elf to be accepted, but they’d
rather taken a dozen of them than a girl. The testers reentered the
hall, followed by the boy.
‘It is our duty to announce that this elf, Idnir Silva
failed.’ one of them stated, with an evil grin on his face. Idnir’s
expression, however, was completely motionless. Laiva could feel what
was going on inside him. He wasn’t sad or just disappointed; he was
furious. You could see it in his eyes, although nobody else seemed to
notice or, more likely, care.
‘He has some funny opinions about justice.’ the tester added
with a mixture of taunt and explanation.
‘You can join when we accept girls here, silly elf.’ another
one of them said.
The laughter of the crowd hurt, but the testers themselves
laughing was much worse. So they were not better than all the other
people? For a second Laiva wanted to cry, but then she knew what she
had to do. She would show them, them and all the others. And then she
would make them pay for their ‘silly elf’ as well.
‘Last applicant for this year. Number twelve please.’
Laiva stepped out of the crowd.
‘Laiva Azanee. I’m number twelve.’
Suddenly the laughter stopped; you could have heard a pin
drop. Instead, however, the jaws of the testers did.
‘Is that supposed to be a joke?’ one of them asked.
Silently Laiva handed her card to one of the board members.
‘Well, follow us then…’
The back door gave way to network of short passageways, that
eventually ended at another door, made of solid oak. The dark wood
seemed to be centuries old, centuries that had left their marks on it.
Nobody would ever know how many fights this piece of wood had seen,
how many enemies it had resisted, but the number was without doubt
enormous. Somehow it didn’t belong here; Laiva didn’t know why, yet
she couldn’t shake off the feeling. One of the testers opened it; when
passing through the door she had an odd feeling of distance, but how
big can the distance between two rooms be? They now were in a high
hall, the walls covered with ancient rugs and even more weapons. The
rust on them suggested that they hadn’t been used in ages, however,
the marks on them clearly showed that they had been used in battle
once. Light fell through the high windows, playing on the mosaic work
of the floor. One of the board members signalled Laiva to take a
certain position in the centre and left the hall.