Fable - Ask No Child Left Behind

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Alistair Krixus

The Rune Knight
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Alistair always had mixed feelings about traveling in the Empire. The cities were absolutely beautiful, none more so than Ragash, but the sun tended to turn Alistair's pale skin tomato-red within seconds of walking outside. Although, those were the complaints of the blessed, in a way. This trip was already far better than the last time he visited the deserts of Amol-Kalit. He would have died from starvation from heat exposure and dehydration had he not come across a very strange fruit and some stranger individuals.

It wasn't every day that you ran into mercenary captains and the most powerful woman in the entire Empire. Hopefully, this trip would be less eventful, although Alistair doubted that.

In fact, it was one of those individuals that he was here to meet. Raziya was an intelligent woman that he had gotten along well with when they first met. While his orders took him elsewhere he had kept in touch with the woman. It was unfortunate that his first time seeing her since then was to ask for her help.

The letter in his hand flapped in the dry winds and he hastily put it away. He did not know why he even kept looking at it. The contents had been read so many times that Alistair could recite the words in his sleep.

A sigh escaped his lips as he entered the walls of Ragash, it would seem that even in death, his father continued to cause problems for the family. His mother was pregnant, how was he supposed to explain this when he brought this kid home? No, if he brought this kid home. He was still not sure what exactly planned to do, but the letter had asked him to learn of his father. Well, the kid's father was an asshole, but the least Alistair could do was let him know that and maybe help him in some way.

It was all of these complicated thoughts that mudded his mind as he absent-mindedly rode into the city.

Raziya
 
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It wasn’t often that a foreigner sparked Raziya’s interests, but perhaps it was because Alistair had reminded her a bit of herself when she was younger. Much younger, mind you, but a younger version of herself that was still capable and had a good idea of what they wanted in life. Besides, his knowledge of rune magic was astonishing. A simple skill turned great.

She wondered if he would ever reach for more, how deep his hunger was.

Although he was traveling to Ragash not for power but for something else. Family matters. Here, in Ragash? What family did an Anirian have in The Empire? Regardless of not knowing enough details, it seemed that it was important. And a little good karma could go a long way when it came to the Zodiac.

When Alistair arrived to the gates of the luxurious bronzed city the sun had yet to set, but activity was bustling like it was still mid-morning. A city that hardly slept, glimmering in the desert lands like a beacon of gold fit for a queen of the highest stature. Or, in this case, an empress-regent.

Alistair,” Raziya’s strong, proud voice carried out to the Anirian, her common tongue extremely fluent to the point one couldn’t discern her accent unlike the other inhabitants of Ragash. Clad in her black leather armor, her brown hair pulled back in braids, the only remarkable thing about Raziya was her limpid blue eyes. “I see the sun has treated you kinder than last.” The commander said, and attempted a small smile which just didn’t match her eyes so it looked more like a smug smirk.

Alistair Krixus
 
Alistair turned to the voice with a smile. His pale appearance and looks made him stand out noticeably, his foreign clothes only being accompanied by a light Empire wrap that he used to shade his face.

"Only a little I am afraid."

He walked over to her, noticing several of the citizenry glancing at the fair-skinned young man and his strange attire.

"Thank you for receiving my letter. You look as beautiful as always Raziya." He offered a light bow as is polite.

His eyes looked around once more before he spoke. "Last time I was here, I, unfortunately, did not get a chance to enjoy many of the sights of the Empire, but this place continues to amaze me every time I see it."

It might be the sun that always seemed to be bearing down on the landscape full force, or the sand color of the buildings in contrast to the dull grays of Vel Anir, but the Empire often felt more vibrant than many areas in the Republic.

Raziya
 
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Raziya raised a brow at Alistair’s compliment. Yes, she understood it was a compliment, and perhaps many women would have appreciated such a thing.

You confuse me for the Empress-Regent.” Raziya said of Medja, although she very much doubted being called beautiful alone would impress him. “Or perhaps the Emperor himself.” A joke at Gerra’s expense, although because Raziya didn’t smile and her eyes didn’t twinkle, it was hard to tell if she were even joking in the first place. Sarvik was good at discerning when Raziya was attempting to be humorous, but he would no longer be by her side any longer.

Like her joy, they had taken him away.

Ragash is a lovely place,” Raziya said, gesturing to Alistair to follow her as she led him away from the gates. “The black market here has proven to be of use to me more than once. The bars are notorious for their spirits and dancers, and at times if you go to the Viper’s Den on the right day you may even catch a glimpse of the Mistress of Ragash herself.” Raziya prattled on, and as she walked, citizens were keen on making room for her. She stopped, in the middle of the street, and turned back to look at Alistair.

Should we get you some ointment for your sunburn?” She asked.

Alistair Krixus
 
"No need. I will heal it later tonight." There were some benefits to magic.

Most of Raziya and Alistair's communication in the last several months had largely been through righting. He did not know of all of her social tells. However, he knew her to be relatively straightforward. If she had a problem, then hopefully she would tell him.

"Right, my apologies I forgot the far more important compliment. You still look like you could kill a hundred men without breaking a sweat." He said with another smile.

The city itself was impressive, and maybe another time he would certainly come to enjoy the culture of the city including the...Viper's Den? No, maybe not that one. However, today he was here on business...Well, kind of business. It certainly was not pleasure.

"I appreciate the offer and I will take you up on them in the future, but I was hoping you could tell me about this Madrassa of War. It is like an Academy, yes?"


Raziya
 
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With Alistair’s polite decline of ointment, Raziya turned her back to Alistair. She did, however, paused to look back at the foreigner with a knowing smirk. Now that was a compliment because it held truth to it. Smart boy, was her only thought to it as he asked about the Madrassa of War. Where to begin?

Not quite. Your academy only takes those in that are magically gifted, by force if I remember correctly.” Raziya said, unsure of the rumors of the revolution being true. Apparently there had been a great reform. Raziya couldn’t imagine the reform going well, even if Anirians were known to be quite efficient. “Emperor Gerra created it because there were too many orphans after the Battle of Ningal. Often is the case after war, children always suffer the worse of it.” Raziya had seen it plenty of times, sometimes by her own hand.

Whether they had gifts of magic or not, all were taken in and welcomed. However, while they would be provided clothing, food and shelter, there was one thing required of them: to train and join Emperor Gerra’s army of elites. In that case, then yes, it is like the academy. They won’t stop fighting even when outnumbered. They, unlike dreadlords, still retain much of their sanity.” She paused again, considering her words. Perhaps it was too harsh.

Not that I think you’re one of the rabid dogs the academy has produced. But I’m certain plenty of your peers are.” Raziya then clicked her tongue along the roof of her mouth. For those who were broken, Raziya fully believed that it would be best to put them out of their misery like a savage dog. At least then they couldn’t tear more things apart with their blood-drenched fangs.

You’ve yet to tell me your business here. Is it because I am not allowed to know?

Alistair Krixus
 
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He had meant more Academies, in general, when he asked the question. He had to admit that the Academy of Vel Anir was more than a little...peculiar.

From her explanation, the Madrassa was more just like an orphanage where they taught them a skill. This skill being war. That made sense and the Academy back home was essentially like that seeing as they tried to remove as much interaction between parent and child as possible during the early years.

Alistair just smirked at the light jab about the Dreadlords that Raziya managed to slip in at the last moment. He understood how much of the world viewed the Dreadlords. He also understood that much of the world would rather fight almost anyone else.

"Rabid? An interesting term, but a painter that only knows painting will only paint. Some of us at the Academy were more...well-rounded, but others were raised from the earliest age to know one thing, killing. Not war, but killing. They are a killer that only knows killing, so...they kill. I believe those are the rabid ones you refer to."

He did not actually disagree with Raziya's comments entirely. The ones he described were often very difficult to interact with, but...if they were pointed in the right direction then there was no one better to finish a job. Then there were the truly frightening ones, those that could choose to enter that rabid state when they chose to.

"Oh, I have no problem telling you. In fact, I may need your help if what you told me is true. I have been informed that a child in the Madrassa is actually my half-brother. I intend to find him and bring him home. If he wishes."

Raziya
 
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Alistair was far more of a poet than she was, Raziya decided, very much liking his analogy. Somehow it was tame compared to what she had said, but it’s message was clear. Regardless, perhaps it was the nationalist in her, but she couldn’t help but to stick her nose up to the Academy and Vel Anir’s supposed power.

A thin brow arched high as Raziya looked at Alistair. A half-brother all the way out in the Empire? Perhaps referring to Anirians as dogs were more accurate than she first thought.

If he wishes,” Raziya repeated, unsure how to feel about such words. She nearly sneered at the thought of someone who had been rescued to be in the Madrassa wanting to go ‘home’ to Vel Anir. If she had found out that any of her men would relinquish their duty to go back home then she’d pack their bags for them.

Ah, perhaps she was far more nationalistic than she had thought.

I am unsure how the Madrassa would take to losing a soldier.” Raziya said. “As far as I have ever heard, they have always ended up in the army.” She let that hang in the air. “He may not be allowed to leave without paying back the Emperor.

Alistair Krixus
 
Alistair frowned at her description of his likelihood of success. He had worried this would be the case, knowledge of the Empire's militaristic fervor.

"If that is true, then I will attempt to negotiate. All I know is that the letter that was sent to me made it clear that I was likely the only family he had left...I plan on ensuring he is looked after."

His tone never rose or grew more agitated. He spoke as if he was reciting a fact from a history book. He still was not sure he would bargain if he had to, but he would.

Of course, as Raziya reminded him, there was always the chance that his boy wanted nothing to do with him. If that was truly the case then he would just leave. After all, could he blame him? A father that had left him here, not even dying in the fighting like many of the other orphans in the area. For a brief moment, Alistair squeezed his fist in anger before quickly relaxing.

"Let's hurry."

Raziya
 
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How strange.” Raziya commented. “That you feel so strongly for a boy you’ve yet to meet.” The woman hurried along though. Alistair did have a point: time was important. Wasting it on the chitchat wasn’t going to make things better if it ended up that he’d have to negotiate with the Madrassa.

If anything, Alistair’s eagerness to see his half-brother, and that bit of protectiveness in his blue eyes, was a small comfort to the General. Family was what one made it to be, and Raziya had made sure she kept familial bonds at bay. Made it harder to sacrifice them when the time came. Perhaps Alistair’s sense of duty was rather refreshing after all.

Looming ahead was the great structure that was the Madrassa. It was significant in both it’s architecture and the materials used in it’s design. The bronze throughout was lambent like the rest of the nicer buildings in Ragash but stones of blue and green were also embedded into pillars creating a mesmerizing mosaic that glittered beneath the sun.

It wasn’t unusual to see quite a number of soldiers milling about the front courtyard or standing on the steps with weapons in hand. As the two of them neared, they could hear the shouts of the drills that were currently being ran to the side of the building.

Raziya quickened her pace, pulling her shoulders back and lifting up her chin as if she were Emperor Gerra or the Emperor-Reagent Medja. Of course, her pride wasn’t uncalled for. She was the strongest cosmic mage in Arethil. Of course she held her head high.

Before her and Alistair could step through the gate, a guard came up, telling the two of them to halt.

I’ll explain,” Raziya said. “Not many know trade tongue.” Some did, but speaking in Kaliti always proffered better results. Foreigners usually got screwed, especially when speaking trade tongue in the merchant markets. As Raziya and the guard spoke in Kaliti, Alistair would see a cluster of children surrounding three of the older boys with wooden weapons.

One had a wooden mace-axe, the other had a wooden javelin, and only one held a wooden sword. The three of them were sparring, neither having a comrade and only able to see the other two as nothing but enemies. The clacking of wood against wood rang out in the courtyard and the children cheered excitedly as the boys showed off their skills.

Let’s go.” Raziya said. “You have til the evening to be here. When they serve dinner they’ll want us both to leave. Can’t ruin their training schedule too much.” She explained, beginning to cross the courtyard.

Alistair Krixus
 
Alistair continued following after Raziya and could not help but admire the city and specifically the Madrassa. It was something he had learned during his first visit to Amol Kalit, but the architecture of the desert highly valued aesthetic beauty.

That was not to mean that what they built was not structurally sound or practical. It was just Alistair had grown up in a society where the overwhelming majority of structures were constructed quickly and efficiently. Very rarely were things made to look nice, and when they were it was usually the result of additions decades later.

As they arrived at the front of the Madrassa, Alistair was more than happy to leave this to Raziya. It was partially why he had written to her. The last thing he needed is some guards getting aggressive because this foreigner had randomly appeared at their door.

He did not really pay attention to their conversation, as he focused on the kids. It reminded him of his younger years at the Academy, although they were given metal weapons at a much younger age...Could one of those children be his brother? He looked for the black hair that he, his father, and Marianna shared, but then stopped himself when he was reminded that this kid might just look more like his mother.

Alistair snapped back to focus on Raziya and nodded.

"Do you know where we are going, or are we just going to walk around?"

Raziya
 
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A sharp bark of a laugh escaped through Raziya’s lips.

We’re going to the front desk,” She said, her voice was serious but her eyes were alight with a poor expression of a jest. “They should call him to the front.” Raziya was not a humorous woman, even when she tried to be. Then again, stating facts was hardly good comedy. “His name is Bassel. Whether he is truly your half brother and if he wants to leave here, is going to be a long conversation. Hopefully he is smart to lead you to a place where the two of you could talk freely.”

Raziya knew that if she ran a school for future soldiers, privacy would be hard to come by. But rebellious teens always seemed to find a way, did they not?

True to Raziya’s words, at the front desk, a strong woman had already called for Bassel.

Minutes later, he arrived, with two adult soldiers behind him.
 
Hello.” Bassel said to what he assumed to be Alistair in poor trade tongue. He looked behind his half-brother, seeing a imposing women.

Why did it feel as if they were about to square off?

Bassel struggled in piecing together a sentence, thinking hard on how to speak it.

I am glad that you agreed to meet.” The boy said finally.

Alistair Krixus
 
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Oh, good. They already knew where the boy was. It would make all of this easier. As the young man, named Bassel appeared, Alistair could not help but give him an up-and-down look as he analyzed him.

So, it was the black hair that was proving to be the one constant that showed signs of their blood relations. It had been the same for Marianna. He was older than her, closer to his own age, but still relatively young.

He subconsciously stood up a little bit straighter as he met the boy's eyes. A part of him told himself to shake his hand, but that seemed almost too formal, so he just stood there.

"Of course, it is not every day you learn that you have a brother...I am Alistair, but you already knew that."


Bassel
 
The silence was uncomfortable. But neither party seemed to show it. All of them had had years of training, all of them were made to be soldiers. Was silence uncommon between soldiers? Hardly.

And in Bassel’s case, he was trying to piece together sings to say in common tongue.

He really should have taken his language studies far more serious when he was younger. Sure, he could write it and read it decently, because he had time. But in conversation? He’d rather pull out all his teeth.

When my mother died, I received her possessions. She had letters. From your… our,” Bassel corrected, “father. I was going to write to him but my letter was returned. He died?

Alistair Krixus
 
Alistair watched the boy try and figure out the correct words to say. When he was thinking the boy's eyes seemed to focus, searching for an answer in his own head, that was something people had pointed out about himself.

While he enjoyed the common tongue, primarily because it gave him a slight position of power, while others underestimated him. It was clear that it was not Bassel's preferred method of interaction, so he would help out this once.

Though it had been some time since he practiced with the language, he had begun the study of Kaliti after his first mission to the sands of Amol-Kalit. What had started as a hobby had quickly become more refined on several missions and trade caravans that brought him to the area. While he might not be fluent, he might understand it better than Bassel seemed capable of speaking the trade tongue.

Alistair glanced to Raziya before speaking in Kaliti.

"Yes...it was very sudden. Only about a year ago. I'm sorry I could not...respond to the letter, but I was still in my own studies at the time."

Bassel
 
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Bassel brightened up the moment Alistair spoke in Kaliti. It seemed not him, but the guard and Raziya were surprised as well.

“Well, another surprise.” Raziya said, a wry grin forming on her lips that seemed to be forever downturned. The guard seemed pleased by this, perhaps because he could follow in on the conversation.

Sudden?” Bassel question, switching back to Kaliti, seeming far more comfortable in his mother tongue. “Was it health related?” Bassel looked up at the guard. “Standing around is rude. I’m going to take my brother outside.” The guard stiffened, unsure if he should allow such a thing. He knew very well what Bassel was trying to do. “Please, I need to know about my father.” The guard sighed.

“Perhaps.” Raziya interjected, “since you’re on duty, you can lead me to the restroom.” Seconds passed. “I’ll pay.” That finally got the guardsmen attention.

“Outside only, I’ll be back.” The guard warned and then went over to Raziya with a open palm, clearly expecting his payment first.

Come. There’s a nice Cyprus tree outside.” Bassel told Alistair, beginning to lead him away and outside.

Alistair Krixus
 
Alistair couldn't stop the smirk from spreading onto his face when he saw all of their surprises. That was satisfying. He wanted to explain to Raziya that he had started learning after the first time meeting her, but Bassel continued talking about a more serious matter so the moment was a loss.

His mouth opened like he wanted to say something, but he closed it once more and simply nodded, following along with Bassel outside.

The Cyprus tree outside was nice, providing a good bit of shade for a nice spot to rest. Far more importantly, they were now along for the first time.

It was awkward, like a whole nother moment for Alistair to introduce himself. He quickly crafted some sort of lie to tell that his father had died of a mysterious and uncurable disease, but he stopped himself before he spoke it into existence.

"Our father was...murdered. We have no suspects at the moment."


Bassel
 
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Bassel’s eyes widened, his eyebrows lifting up in surprise. But soon enough the surprise was gone. Why should he feel surprised? Although, maybe it wasn’t so much as he was shocked to hear it but rather that he was shocked he had been too late. He could have met his father, could have met his other family.

A hand went up to anxiously trace the shell of his ear before going into his dark hair. The two brothers didn’t look too much alike. Bassel’s skin was like the color of fresh-baked bread, Alistair’s skin was like inside the bread. His brother’s eyes were far more impressive than his eyes but…

There was the shape of their nose, that sharpness of their jaw.

It was hard to mourn a death of a person that Bassel had ever met, but somehow, he was mourning. Because now he was truly a orphan. No mother, no father— but at least he had found a brother. Or half-brother.

I’m sorry for your loss.” Bassel said after a moment, feeling rather silly that he felt so emotional over the news that his father had been murdered. He had no right to feel sad, it’s not like he had grown up with him, not like Alistair had. His pain was far greater than his, was it not? “Why did you come all the way here? I know I asked to meet but you didn’t have to come.

Alistair Krixus
 
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Alistair watched Bassel with inspecting eyes looking for all the emotions that went through someone when they found out about this incident. Some were easy to spot, while others were foreign to Alistair. Still, he had some empathy for the boy. To suddenly learn you had a father, only to learn he was recently dead...by Alsitair's hands.

He said nothing on the subject. It was something that was difficult to speak on, and with every word he spoke about the murder seemed to risk more and more that he would let some information slip. Instead, he quickly turned to the second topic.

"I...will be honest. I did not have the greatest of upbringings as a child. It is only recently that I am beginning to learn the value of a family. When you sent the letter...I realized I might be all that you had left. So I came to make you an offer. You can stay here and likely never deal with me ever again, or you can come with me and I will take you home. You will be a part of what little family remains. A family that I think we all need right now."

He would not mention that he also had a half-sister at the moment, maybe save that for the ride home...if he agreed to come with him.

Bassel
 
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Like a bird, Bassel tilted his head to the side. It wasn’t the answer he was expecting, but then again, what was he expecting?

After one meeting, I’m supposed to decide whether or not I leave with you?” There was a incredulous look in his face, and he looked around and about. “I think family is important, but.” When he was with his mother, even without a father, Bassel was happy. He had his aunt and uncle, his cousins, his grandmother and grandfather. He may have been at the Madrassa now, but he had grown up being fed love on a silver spoon despite his family’s poor financial situation.

And when his town was wiped out by… Bassel shook his head. Don’t think about that, not now, now wasn’t the time for it.

I think family is important, but you’re like a stranger to me. I know your name is Alistair Krixus, we share a father, you’re from Vel Anir, you’re a dreadlord, and I know only the words that have come from your mouth.” A harsh yet awkward laugh came from Bassel. “We don’t even really look much alike. You must be disappointed.

Alistair Krixus
 
Alistair could not stop himself from smirking at the last comment.

"There are some similarities, but you are right. I don't think you would have survived out here if you looked more like me...My fair skin does not handle the sun well." He explained with a smile as he seemed to relax.

"You are also right about your analysis...This decision is void of logic, which I must admit, causes me a great deal of anxiety. However, I promised myself I would try and I will respect your choice. Either way, your choice will be respected. If you come with me, then you can leave if it is not to your liking. If you don't and then decide to change your mind then come to Vel Anir. I can not guarantee you I will be there, but accommodations can be made."

He had largely come here for this boy, but he also planned to set up a trade deal with a merchant in the nearby area if this did not work out. He should try to get something out of this trip.

Bassel
 
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Bassel appreciated the joke, smiling at Alistair’s jest. Perhaps the joke was just what the two needed, both of them seemed to visibly relax with some tension dissipating from Alistair’s easygoing words. He leaned a bit forward towards Alistair, a dark brow raising quizzically.

I can leave whenever I want?” He sounded surprised, and the top of his ears turned red from embarrassment. It wasn’t fair to assume that Alistair would be like what Anirians were rumored to be: merciless, heartless, and with a very bad case of OCD. He wasn’t certain he could trust Alistair to keep his word, what if they got to Vel Anir and Bassel was unable to leave?

But that brought forth the question as to why Alistair would even try and keep Bassel somewhere against his will? It made no sense, when one thought of it logically, and perhaps that showed Bassel how much he did need a family. A certain anxiety had plagued his heart, his mind. It plagued him in such ways that it was bone-deep and he couldn’t tell anyone, even if he wanted to he couldn’t even begin on how frightened he was.

At least at the Madrassa he had a purpose.

Couldn’t I just… visit? Make a decision after the visit?

Alistair Krixus
 
A small smirk slipped onto his face as he thought about a recently discovered sister, in response to Bassel's question. He nodded slowly before adding in some extra contest.

"Whenever you want...within reason. The last thing I want is unknown siblings ruining the name that my family has worked hard for...So, if you left and then proceeded to use our name while you committed any sort of lawlessness. Then I would take that personally, and may have to visit you again."

Bassel was different from his sister Marianna. She had a tendency for crime, although it was innocent and largely limited to theft, so Alistair had to keep a closer eye on her but it was not as intense. Bassel, on the other hand, had learned discipline from the Madrassa. He was less likely to commit crimes. However, given the other skills taught at this school, his crimes could be far more heinous.

The last question caused Alistair to pause and think. A visit would not be the worst idea. Although, he was not aware of the Madrassa's policies on such. Not to mention, Bassel's arrival might lead to some rumors...and even more rumors if he immediately left. However, he could deal with those later.

"I suppose that would work for me. How will your school react to such an idea?"


Alistair had not known much of the policies and traditions of this school upon arrival. A small part of him had planned on having to steal his newfound brother away. This could be far more simple.

Alistair Krixus
 
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Bassel’s eyes widen.

No, no-no-no, I would never!” He began, but then stopped speaking as Alistair continued. He wanted to show his older brother respect, but he couldn’t help but feel offended by the idea that he would put the Krixus name to shame. Who said he’d even want to take on that last name? He still saw himself as a Fadel. It had been the last name of his mother and grandparents. He didn’t want to get rid of it so easily.

Bassel Fadel. That had a certain ring to it. Bassel Krixus? Bassel couldn’t shake the feeling that the two just didn’t seem to mix. Of course, Alistair brought up a point that Bassel had thought about briefly, but hadn’t done enough thinking about. What would the Madrassa do? Bassel had asked around, but no one quite had a story like him.

I’m not sure if I left with you if they would let me back,” Bassel said, folding into himself. He should have done more research, maybe asked around more? How could he tell Alistair he had no idea on how the school would react to him leaving and going to Vel Anir? It seemed impossible.

No one gets to take vacations. Training is very important here.” Bassel looked off to the side. “When you leave, you serve Emperor Gerra. I don’t know anyone who’s done anything different.

Alistair Krixus