The Pen and the Sword III

Most of my things were packed. My father was taking me to Thaybia the next day. My mother, of course, would stay behind. I'd have to say goodbye to her here.   There was a knock on my door, and my father came in. "Lukan? Will you come out here, please?" he asked.   I frowned. My father was clearly a bit distressed. I nodded and followed him out to the family room. My mother was sitting on the couch, and a woman I'd seen a few times—the local Order of Brim captain—in a chair across from her. My father brought me over and sat me between himself and my mother.   "The captain has something to say to you," my mother said gently. I looked to the captain.   "It's good to see you again, Lukan," the captain said. "I'm here to talk to you about your future. Your parents tell me you've been accepted into the University of Basilea?"   I nodded warily.   "That's excellent news. You must be very bright. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I can't let you accept that offer."   "I've already accepted," I said, voice touched with confusion.   "Then you'll have to tell them you've changed your mind," the captain said. "Let me be frank, Lukan. The Order does its best to keep tabs on… Special individuals, such as yourself. Those who display extraordinary skills, or who are born under extraordinary circumstances. You are such an individual." She looked to my parents, then back to me. "As such, I've come to recruit you into the Order."   I shifted nervously and moved a bit back on the couch. "I can't. I'm meant to start school next week."   The captain sighed. "With all due respect, I'm not asking."   "You don’t have to agree," my father said quickly, looking over at me. "They cannot legally force you to join. It must be your decision, and we will support whichever decision you make."   I looked around at all of them, finding all of them watching me. My mother smiled encouragingly, but I could make out a twinge of fear in her eyes. I realized suddenly that this woman knew all of my family's secrets and was likely willing to use them as leverage. Maybe she couldn't legally force me to join the Order, but she could put my parents in danger if I didn't. In my mind, I saw the shining towers of the university fading away, slipping from my grasp, as even looking like I was still grappling with the decision, I knew what choice I would make.   "I'll go," I said quietly. "I'll join the Order. But I think you're wrong about me. I'm not a fighter."

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