"I am Professor Ceph, and you are the protectors of Edalon Your training commences from now

N

"I am Professor Ceph, and you are the protectors of Verno. Your training commences from now.". A hushed excitement grew over the new arrivals, as the large hall echoed with importance. "Some of you were chosen because of your social standings," the professor raised his eyebrows in the direction of one particular boy, who gloated at his position "others, on the merit of your families, however…" there was a stilted silence and some of the children shifted uneasily "some of you, were chosen by fate." Hushed whispers floated around the room as they glanced at each other nervously, waiting in anticipation for the speech to continue. "Being a Protector, is not an easy position, it requires training, intelligence, dedication….and passion. You are the lucky few, the replacements of those who have already served. You will become like the protector that you are replacing. Being a protector, is not all about thrashing a sword, or riding a dragon into battle, it is about skill, compassion and connections. Over the next three years, you will find allies in your ranks, you will find enemies, but you will all work together. If the unity of the Protectors is broken, then what peace shall Verno endure?"

He was a tall man, with a long black beard, his eyes were cat-like, yellow and piercing, and he had an ornate way of capturing an audience. The twenty youth sat ridged in their chairs, the excitement and fear of their education penetrating their souls.

"What about our families?" a young girl piped up amidst the silence of the crowds, voicing what the others were enquiring. Yet, a hollow gaze met her question.

"Your families…" he replied, silencing the girl back to her seat "are to be forgotten. As far as you are concerned, you no longer exist. In the eyes of Verdon, you are dead. This is your family." A small gasp rose around the room, as some protested to his speech, yet the professor continued, adjusting his black coat around his shoulders and reaching for a glass of water. He was a feared man, not one to be crossed, but well respected in his small community. He taught the arts of black magic, and battle, and had done so for many years. "What if we refuse this position?" a sturdy boy challenged, rising from his seat and pointing a finger accusatively "What if I choose not to be a Protector?"

"You have no choice!" the Professor growled, and the boy took his seat timidly, cowering as the Professor leant over his desk. "You were chosen. To put it to you bluntly, master Bowles…" he snapped, twirling his moustache between his fingers "if you leave here, before your time, you will die."

1