Two soldiers stood outside the double doors to the boards’ chambers protecting the powerful wizards inside more from the annoying students than any danger. Few people could injure the four wizards comprising the board.
“Meck is here about his assignment,” Vedder announced to the soliders. He infused his voice with power, crackling the room with his energy.
The guards shivered, but held their ground. “We have permission to allow him inside but you must remain out here.”
Vedder hugged Meck tight before letting him go. He gave Meck one last reassuring squeeze on his shoulders. “Go get your assignment. If it’s a bad one I’ll convince them to reconsider.”
Meck gave his friend a shaky smile. “Thanks Ved, I’m sure I’ll be fine.” He tried to infuse confidence into his trembling vocal chords. Fear of the unknown shook him deeper than he dared to confess. If they’d just given him a crappy assignment up front it would’ve bypassed all his anxiety.
“I’m here for you, Meck.”
“I know you are.” After four years as roommates he had no concern about his friend not watching out for him. Maybe one day he’d find a lover as caring as his closest friend. Meck turned to face the guards. “I’m ready.”
They opened the doors for him in a smooth coordinated motion no doubt honed by hours of long practice.
“Good luck.” Meck didn’t know which guard spoke. He had to focus on not falling on his face before he made it to Criss, the academy’s secretary who sat behind the greeting desk. Gracefulness wasn’t on his list of skills.
“Good morning, Meck.” Criss smiled at him, her short white hair cradled her head in a flattering no-nonsense style. No one could remember a time when she hadn’t held her secretarial position and yet she never appeared to age.
“Good morning. They said to come back today.” He nodded toward the second set of double doors opposite the ones he had entered through.
“Yes, I know. They have been debating your placement all evening.” She said, in a confiding tone.
Meck bit his lip as anxiety churned his stomach. He didn’t like the sound of that. “Why? I mean are they going to kick me out?”
“No! Goodness no. They’re trying to decide who would best suit your talents. I know the others don’t always appreciate your abilities, Meck, but you’ll find small magics can sometimes change everything.”
Meck’s cheeks burned. Pleasure swept away a bit of the apprehension. Most of his teachers had downplayed Meck’s powers. He appreciated Criss’s show of support. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.” Her eyes glowed bright blue for a moment. Meck waited patiently while she communicated with her boss. After a minute or so her eye lashes fluttered. “They’re ready for you now.”
“Thank you again.” At the last minute he remembered his manners and gave her a quick bow before rushing to the door. It never paid to keep the board members waiting, they weren’t known for their patience.
Two men and two women sat at a long table all on the same side to face anyone who entered the room.
Meck stopped two feet before reaching the table. The proper distance he’d been taught when facing elder wizards. He gave a lower bow to them than he’d given the secretary but not by much. “Greeting board members. I am here as requested.”
“Thank you for coming, Graduate Meck.” Grand Wizard Fariah nodded to Meck. She always spoke for the board. Meck had never heard the other three wizards speak—he didn’t know anyone who had.
Meck entwined his fingers behind his back to stop his fidgeting. He couldn’t go so far as to exude confidence, but he didn’t need to show them how close he was to passing out either.
“We’ve looked over your record and your abilities and have come up with a special assignment for you.” Fariah cleared her throat. “Because of the nature of this placement you have the option of turning it down.”
“Um…thank you.” Meck had never heard of anyone getting a choice in their assignment before. Somehow it didn’t reassure him.
Fariah’s approving smile struck a bit of fear into his heart.
“We are assigning you to the northern battlefield. You’ll be part of the support team for General Anders.”
The name tickled the edges of Meck’s memory. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the general.”
Fariah twirled a pen in her fingers. “He’s a wolf shifter. He’s also one of our strongest warriors.”
A warrior like that wouldn’t have gone into the front lines without a proper support staff. “Why do you need me? What happened to his wizard?”
Each general was assigned a personal wizard before they went out into battle. Fariah looked at each of her companions before speaking again. Meck wondered if they could communicate telepathically.
“The general dismissed his last wizard. He says he can’t stand being fussed over. We let it go for a while but rumors are spreading that the general is becoming battle sick. We can’t afford for him to lose his edge. With your skills we think you can pull him back from illness. You’re one of our cleverest wizards. It is our belief that you can find a way to help the general without become too intrusive.”