Kal thought for a moment “Because his parents are members of the Aleph Association, and they came to me for help.” He shrugged. “Besides, Obrin is barely sixteen.  At that age I figure you get a second chance.”

       “So, you think he’s salvageable?”

       Kal nodded slowly. “Yes.  He’s made some bad decisions, but from what I’ve gathered over the last few days, I think there’s a decent young man underneath it all.”

       “If that’s the case, I’d like a chance to teach him.  There’s nothing like arcane training to build discipline and self-respect.  Much better than committing crimes, that’s for sure.”

       Kal stroked his chin thoughtfully. “He can’t really begin learning attunement until he’s a bit older, but if anybody can teach him, it’s you.  You’ve got a gift.”

       “Not at all. I just show people what’s inside them all along.”  Rena quirked a smile. “Is there any chance Obrin reminds you of yourself, the follies of your youth?”

       Kal frowned.  He hadn’t considered that.  If Obrin reminded him of anyone, it was his younger brother Laiyn.  “No, I don’t think so.  I never stole from anyone, and I didn’t get myself into this sort of trouble.”

       Rena cocked an eyebrow.  “Is that so?  Didn’t you attend the Tulman Academy? Aven said say you beat up some kid with his own crutch before tossing him out a window.  How old were you?”

       Kal rolled his eyes. “That story gets bigger with every telling.  He got the broken leg and the crutch because I tossed him out a window.  It was barely two stories up, and he landed on some bushes.  I caught a sound whipping for it.”

       “I suppose a school can’t tolerate students sending each other to the dorser surgeon.”

       Kal laughed mirthlessly. “Shows what you know.  Tulman built its reputation grooming children for political office.  Half of the Great Families in the city send their children there. There’s an old school of thought in those circles that believes aggressive kids make better leaders.  Bullying was practically required coursework.”

      Rena shook her head in disbelief.  “That’s terrible.  Surely everybody didn’t think that way.”

       “No, some of the professors hated it.  Professor Julrich stood up for me, kept me from getting expelled a couple times, and Professor Moven let me serve my detentions in her office.  She even gave me private lessons.  Despite that, it’s the Great Families who use their influence to ensure the school keeps its funding, and the headmaster was well aware of the fact.”

       “I’m sorry Kal.” Rena sounded like she meant it, she always did.

       “Don’t be.  If I had it to do over again, I’d still attend Tulman.  It was rough sometimes, and I didn’t have many friends, but I walked away with a top notch education and plenty of practical knowledge besides.  I wouldn’t give that up for anything.”

       “Practical knowledge?  What do you mean?”

       “Well, aside from book knowledge, I learned to be careful.  That kid I pushed out the window?  His name was Ilber.  Out of all the bullies, I’d picked him to beat up long before I actually did.  I knew where he sat in class, I knew the professor liked to keep the windows open, and I even checked the bushes below the window, though I admit they didn’t do as much good as I thought they would.”

       “So, what made you pick Ilber?”

       “I snuck into the school’s records room and learned that Ilber’s parents didn’t donate to the school.  That way when I defenestrated him I was whipped instead of expelled.  See,” he tapped the brim of his hat, “practical knowledge.”


       “Fancy word that means to push or throw someone out a window, though it can be used in reference to an object as well as a person.  Like I said, top notch education.”

       Rena shook her head.  “Enough about that.  Smudge should be in position by now, and we should get to business.  About your plan though, do you really need to speak with Gara alone?  I’d be much happier if I could go with you.  Are you sure you don’t want someone to watch your back?”