The last of the moonlight crept through Leif's window, giving everything in the room a pale, ghostly hue. He raised from his bed, and looked outside. On the horizon he could just barely make out the faint glow of the sun's presence, which meant it was probably an hour or so before sunrise. The majority of the fierce rainstorm from the night before had reduced itself to a strong breeze, and the rain had probably stopped a couple hours ago, since all that remained of it were small puddles and soggy grass.
Leif dressed himself and quietly left his room, the wooden door clicking shut behind him. He headed to his right to Eirik's room, and then heard his friend. "Lief. Over here." Leif turned around and spotted Eirik already waiting in the lounge room. He smiled and took a seat on a chair opposite from Eirik, who was still trying to rub the sleep from his eyes.
"Are you excited? I wonder what kind of stuff you can pull off with Water magic. Maybe you won't even need a fishing rod to fish, you can just suck 'em out of the water." Leif laughed. Leif hated fishing, but Eirik loved it. Eirik had always told him he enjoyed the serene quietness of the expansive blue ocean, but Leif just thought it was boring. Most of the time Eirik invited Leif to come with him to fish, Leif just talked to Eirik instead of actually fishing, which tended to scare the fish away. Eirik was never bothered by this, as he'd rather have someone accompanying him and less fish, rather than lots of fish and nobody. "Yeah, I dunno, maybe. I sort of like using a rod to fish though, I feel like using magic to do it would take all the fun out of it." Eirik replied solemnly.
"It was a joke, man." Leif laughed softly again.
"Hey. So there was something I've been meaning to ask you, but we haven't had time to sit down and really talk besides right now." Eirik's eyes shifted from Leif, focusing on the floor.
"Sure, what's up?"
"How do I... How do I uhh..." His voice trailed off, obviously apprehensive. "How should I talk to girls?"
Eirik finally looked up at Leif again, his face bright red. Leif wanted to laugh, but the question made him realize something. He didn't really know how to, either. Back in their little fishing town, Leif thought most of the girls in the village were boring, and never paid much attention to them, spending all his time at home or with Eirik. But telling Eirik he didn't know would only make him more nervous, so he pretended to be knowledgeable. He assumed Eirik was asking just so he could try to talk to Tanya.
"Well, first I think you're going about it the wrong way. You shouldn't really talk to them any differently, or they'll notice and think you're weird. I think you should just try to be yourself. Maybe try to learn about her, ask her what she likes and what her interests are. Don't force the conversation, just sort of follow it. I'm sure Tanya isn't hard to talk to." Leif stopped, the last part unintentionally came out. Eirik's face turned even brighter and he looked away again.
"I'm just saying you shouldn't really worry about it, just go with the flow of the conversati--"
"Mornin' boys, what's got you two up so early?" Tanya's cheery voice shattered the conversation, and Leif watched Eirik twitch slightly, wanting to bolt from the room. Leif laughed and replied, "Oh, nothing. Just wanted to talk since we were so busy yesterday. We always wake up early."
Leif wondered how much of their conversation Tanya had heard. They hadn't heard her leave her quarters, so she could have very well heard the whole thing without them noticing. Leif supposed it didn't matter. It would only make Tanya be more patient with Eirik, if she did have an interest in him.
"You boys want to go get some breakfast at the Mess Hall? I'm starving. I found notes on everyone's doors saying we should meet for training at the fountain an hour after sunrise, so we still have plenty of time." Tanya asked, looking between Leif and Eirik.
As they nodded, Eirik's stomach grumbled loudly, and he quickly got up and headed for the stairs, embarassed and muttering an apology. Leif and Tanya followed, not far behind.
The trip to the Mess Hall was rather uneventful, but the food was amazing. The trio didn't talk much on the way there, still trying to wake up, and once they arrived they were busy piling food onto their plates and into their mouths. Just like the dinner last night, the MH had platters flowing out with nearly every breakfast food you could want, and Leif would have eaten himself sick, but limited himself because he wasn't sure how grueling their training would be. Once they'd all eaten their fill, they left the large rectangular building, the crisp morning air still filled with the scent of fallen rain. The moon was completely gone now, replaced by arcs of orange sunlight in the sky as the sun began its ascension.
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm heading to the fountain now. I want to be early." Leif stated plainly, awaiting a response. Tanya considered sleeping again since she ate so much, but didn't want to oversleep and be late, so she obliged. Eirik agreed as well, saying nothing else. The three used the path leading to the outer edge of Alfheim, where the stone fountain awaited them.
Once they arrived, they instantly spotted High Wizard Yaga in his pristine white robes and neatly combed light brown hair. He smiled warmly as the three approached, mentally noting their early arrival. Yaga would never admit it, but he had a bit of a soft spot for Leif and Eirik. Unknown to the Apprentices, High Wizard Zenzin, the Psych mage, had peered into their minds and derived their backgrounds and memories, sharing them with Yaga. They didn't do it to invade privacy or to take advantage of the young ones, they did it to expand their understanding of the Apprentices, allowing them to accurately judge their character and predict their reactions to certain situations.
Leif had suffered through years of abuse, and Eirik was missing both his parents after an unfortunate incident. Yaga's early years were also formidable and testing, very similar to Leif's upbringing, only it was Yaga's mother who was the violent one. It was ages ago, and Yaga was long past grudges and sour emotions, but it still resulted in a relatable experience that he shared with Leif and Eirik.
"The rest of the Apprentices and High Wizards have yet to arrive, but I have a feeling you'll be the only ones coming early. If you three would like to start ahead of time, I can take you to the training building we set up. Normally we'd separate you out in groups sorted by type of magic, but we decided one large group is just fine, as there's only six of you. I can send word to the other High Wizards that we've already begun, they won't mind. Shall we?" High Wizard Yaga asked politely, looking at the three young Apprentices. They showed so much promise, the whole group did. Even though the mage convoy's yield was small this time, they would no doubt become talented mages.
Leif, Eirik, and Tanya looked to each other, and nodded, all yearning to start their training. Yaga acknowledged, and led them back down the path that headed to the Mess Hall. Their footsteps were softened by the moist grass and bricks beneath them, the most prominent sound were songbirds fleeting back and forth, chirping and singing as the sun grew brighter on the horizon. They traveled a small ways past the Mess Hall to their right, approaching a circular building with one wooden door at the front, accompanied by windows surroounding the whole structure. It wasn't very big, probably one-fourth the size of the Apprentice Residence.
They entered the building, and it was rather plain on the inside. Six tables had been arranged, one for each Apprentice, along with six chairs. The room was empty save for some rugs on the floor, and Leif couldn't see any objects on the tables. The tables were lined up, three in the front, facing an empty area, and three more behind the first set. Hints of sunlight streeemed in from the windows, illuminating the room in addition to the glow of the structure itself.
"Please take a seat in the first row, closest to the opposite wall." High Wizard Yaga motioned, outstretching a hand gently.