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The next years flew by. In the final year of the four year training program, the prince visited the academy less frequently, sometimes he wouldnt be seen for weeks. These disappearances coincided with the visits of a dignitary from Elune, a lady from one of the noble families there. Each visit usually involved a ball, and all the knights and nobles of the kingdom were invited to such functions, but the biggest celebration of all, was just a few months after the prince's 19th birthday, when he announced his engagement to the lady, Katrine Charmonte.
To celebrate the engagement, there would be a festival, and a tournament, for all the people of Lollica. It would last a week, and everyone in the castle was incredibly busy, preparing for the days of feasting and dancing and chivalrous dueling that would go on.
Knights from all over the realm came to the palace, and the castle and barracks grew crowded, with some of the younger soldiers having to sleep on the floor, giving up their bunks to the more senior Knights. It was hot, and uncomfortable, but Tarin loved it. He had never seen so many people in his life, and the Knights were all in high spirits because of the celebration.
The night before the opening ceremony of the tournament, where the Krynn Knights would perform a carefully rehearsed battle scene from Lollica’s history, they hosted a celebration in the dining room. A minstrel played and the men danced and drank, laughed and told stories.
Tarin and Jim watched for a while, enchanted by the music, and slightly overwhelmed. Jim shrugged it off and joined several Knights in a lively jig near the head of the room. Tarin laughed as his friend showed off some of the fancier moves from Grenwood’s summer festivals.
“Your friend is very agile,” said a voice to his left. Tarin turned to see a knight he didn't recognize. He was honey blond, and dressed in a green surcoat emblazoned with a stylized golden leaf.
“He's a good swordsman too,” Tarin said.
“Then I would hate to meet him as an enemy, if his swordplay is as fast as his feet.” The knight raised his goblet, smiling at Tarin. Tarin tapped his goblet on the rim of the knight’s, and took a deep swallow.
“Are you nervous about tomorrow?” The knight asked.
“Performing in public has never been my strongest point,” Tarin said ruefully, a grin spreading across his face.
“Then here, take a swig of this,” the knight pulled a small flask from his belt, and pouring some liquid into Tarins cup. “It's a tea I brew, to help channel my energy and help me focus. (Chi enhancing tea) it'll calm you down.”
Tarin took a sip, but found it was alright, bitter but sweetened with honey. He took another swallow, and the knight smiled, clapping him on the back. “See, what did I tell you? You'll handle yourself just fine.”
Tarin woke the next morning with a strange, warm sensation in his chest. It wasn't pain, it didn't even feel bad. It felt good, actually, like it was supposed to be there. Ignoring the feeling, Tarin dressed in his uniform and headed to the parade grounds early. He traced his steps in the choreography, swinging his sword through the air slowly at an imaginary enemy. His role wasn't important in the battle, he was just one of many, but he wanted to get it right. His path took him directly in front of the pavilion where the prince and his entire family, as well as the delegates from Elune, would be sitting later that day. Right now though, someone else was sitting in one of the throne like chairs, lounging in it, with one leg hooked over the arm. It was the knight in the green surcoat from the night before. He grinned at Tarin from the queen’s throne.
“Nice moves there, my friend,” he said. Tarin put the sword down, standing at parade rest.
“You shouldn't be sitting there,” he said.
“Oh, I know,” the knight replied. “I'm just here, looking in on my investment. It took a lot longer to track down the source of the power in Krynn than we expected. Someone's been suppressing it, redirecting it. But they're not around to do that any more.”
Tarin thought about this. He had noticed, in the back of his mind, that the magic he had grown so used to as a child, prone to causing trouble, making plants grow at an accelerated rate, had not had much of an effect on his life at the academy. Occasionally it manifested itself in strange ways, like it had with the four bullies who had terrorized Jim throughout their first year, but nothing like it had been before the midsummer’s festival four years ago. Curiously, Tarin knelt, plucking a small, morning glory flower from the grass of the parade ground. As he touched it, it grew, sprouting more blossoms, and twining it's vine-like stem around his hand.
“Now it's coming,” the knight said. “But it’s going to be a lot worse than just making a few flowers bloom. I'll see you around, my friend.” With that, the knight stood up, and sauntered out the back of the pavilion. By the time Tarin had rounded the tent, he was gone. In his chest, the warmth had grown hotter, and he began to feel uneasy. What had been comforting and familiar that morning was rapidly becoming strange and unpredictable. Tarin tossed aside the morning glories, mentally tossing away the uneasiness with them. He had other things to worry about.