The soft leather seats in the Ifreann Tan ship were more comfortable than Niht expected. They stood out against the austere metal room. The three Sen that boarded the ship with him sat a little way off talking among themselves. Airoh sat in the opposite corner with the other Ceeri. Niht pushed their conversation out of his mind. He didn’t like to eavesdrop on Airoh’s conversations when he wasn’t involved in them. Sharing his entire life with another being made him prize any moments of privacy he stumbled into throughout his life.
One of the Sen, a young boy about his age, broke away from the others and walked over to him.
“My name is Iarann Kynsia.” He said with a broad smile on his cherubic face. His short reddish brown hair stood up atop his head like a well-manicured lawn.
“I’m Nithwyn Scathaan.”
Iarann sat next to him. A quizzical expression took over his face. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you here?”
Niht weighed the question carefully.
“Don’t misread me.” The boy said with a nervous laugh. “I just meant I don’t recognize you from the temple. Did you come from another?”
Niht sighed. No good relationship started with a lie, so he parsed his words. “No, I just arrived and saw an opportunity to surround myself with those stronger than me. The priest said they were evacuating the novitiates. So, here I am.”
Iarann smiled. “It is a bit scary, isn’t it? I mean, leaving Oben while it is being invaded. Not knowing what is happening with our families, or what we will face in the trials at the mother temple. It’s a lot.”
“It is.” Niht thought about his brothers and hoped they were all right. “What trials are you talking about?”
“The ones that make us Phersu.” Iarann furrowed his brow. “We have sworn our lives to the hidden way, now we face Providence’s judgement. If we are meant to walk the path, we will find our true face, and if not…”
The way his voice trailed off spoke volumes.
Niht glanced over at Airoh, who turned to connect with his eyes. This might have been a mistake. They boarded the ship to find safety, not to risk their lives differently.
“If we don’t find anything, we get to leave, right?”
“Not exactly.” Iarann slid closer to him on the couch and lowered his voice. “The priests should have explained it to you before they let you take the oath. If this isn’t our path, we won’t find the strength to carry on.”
“We’ll die?” Niht’s stomach dropped.
“We won’t survive.” Iarann almost whispered. “We are going to relive the trials of Neevh Tiar.”
The deeds of the Neevh floated in the dark recesses of Niht’s mind. Mobs drove him from several worlds, and he often fought for his life. He hadn't read the scriptures in years. The details were fuzzy. The trials could be anything. After the dark nova, the order of the universe broke down. The Neevh saved his people on so many occasions from famine, disease, raiders, and slavers. What would the Phersu expect a group of young adults to endure?
His fear must have etched itself across his face, because Iarann said, “They will train us before each trial. It’s not like they think we are ready for this life with no preparation.”
Niht watched a member of the Ifreann Tan stride through the room in his jet black armor. “If that is what they ask of their priests, I can’t imagine what they have to go through.”
Iarann laughed. “That is a special calling. Do you know what means of divination speaks to you yet?”
Niht shook his head.
“Me neither.” Iarann said. “I think I might be a scryer. At least once, I think I saw something in the water.”
“I shouldn’t be here.” Niht said. “I’m not cut out for this. I am a nobody. Why would fate tell me anything?”
“The Neevh said, ‘Fate speaks through every action around us.’ You wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t part of your path. Just being here makes it your fate.”
“What was it again? ‘Every circumstance we find ourselves in is our fate. Since it has happened, it cannot be changed.’ My father used to say that all the time.”
“So very true.” Iarann said. “At least we don’t have to go through all this alone. I’ll help you through if you’ll do the same for me. Vaalyn and Sarial have already grouped up.”
“I see why you came over here now.” Niht looked at the cold metal grates on the floor as his shoulders slumped.
“Because you looked lonely.” Iarann put his hand on Niht’s knee. “I thought you needed a friend.”