Heroes, p.34
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       Heroes, p.34

           Leigh Barker
It was another sunny day, almost exactly a year later, when Woe burst into her dorm, turned on his heel and ran back out, to return a moment later—and knock on the door politely. She let him wait, and finished dressing, then called him in as a mistress might call in the gardener.

  Woe pushed open the door and stepped into the tiny women’s dormitory, which contained exactly one bed. He was looking at his shoes, just in case he looked at something that would get him a thick ear.

  “What’s got you rushing around like your ass is on fire?” Anella asked, suppressing a smile at his embarrassment. All he’d seen was her knickers. Hadn’t he ever seen knickers before? Clearly not.

  “The date!”

  No response.

  “You know, the date?”

  Nope, not getting it.

  “The date… of… the… Games! They’ve announced it!” he said slowly, in case she was thinking girl-things, whatever they were. “Second week of next month!”

  She sat on the edge of the bed, suddenly very tired. “So soon?”

  “Yes,” he said and sat on the bed next to his sister—who wasn’t his sister, but nobody knew that… except the stork, and she wasn’t telling.

  “What are you going to do?” she asked quietly.

  “What do you mean?” He frowned deeply. “Do? I have to enter the Games. There isn’t an option to say I’ll give it a miss, thanks and just graduate.”

  They were both silent for several minutes as they contemplated the horror to come. They’d seen the Games in previous years, when squires earned their positions as Guardians or Knights… or the shame of failure and positions as officers in the infantry. It was a brutal affair, as it would always be with so much at stake.

  Woe was small for his fourteen years, and as we know, he was near hopeless at anything martial. He was, as young people might say, going to get creamed. A depressing prospect, made even more depressing by the thought of becoming infantry arrow-fodder. The Deputy Supreme Commander, also known as Father, but never Dad, would be bitterly disappointed. If it was possible to be more disappointed than he was presently.

  “Maybe I’ll get lucky,” Woe said, without much conviction.

  “It’s possible,” Anella lied. “Stranger things have happened.”

  No, they haven’t.

  “I could practice,” he said without any real enthusiasm.

  She turned her head and looked at him for a moment, seeing the younger brother he’d always been to her, despite being twins. “Probably a bit late for that.” She threw a thought out there. “You could get ill.”

  He shook his head. He was afraid, but he wasn’t a coward.

  She knew he’d say no to that, and she was proud of his courage. She would put that on his gravestone.

  He stood up and walked slowly to the door. “Do you think it will hurt?” He didn’t turn around.

  “Probably,” said Anella as he closed the door behind him.

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