One had to admit, there was never anything quite as stunning as gazing up at the way the sun shone through the verdant green of the treetops. The way that shadows and patches of sun were cast about in such a hap hazardous manner seemed so disorderly, and yet if one thought about it (not that he did) there was really a pattern that you could find, just as their was in the blades of grass. It was probably a very good thing that the male enjoying them was not really 'deep' enough to notice all of that. Right now all that he cared about was relaxing in the limbs of his favorite oak and enjoying a nap in the cool green light.

"That's where you are man!" a voice called out from eight feet below the youth resting upon the branch. "You gotta get down here! We've got drilling in about twenty minutes and we're fifteen minutes from the fort!"

"Hence the reason I'm here," the youth chuckled as he opened an eye and tilted his head just enough to catch sight of the other male in the corner of his eye. How he had ever ended up with such an excitable friend was really beyond him.

"Ree-mus," the dark youth groaned in annoyance. The way he held out the first part of his friend's name was more than enough of an indicator as to what he thought of the stall tactic of his friend. "Master Ardrak won't be happy if we are late!"

"Then don't be late," Remus chuckled before easily jumping from the tree and landing upon his feet with no harm done to his body. That was probably because he'd temporarily shifted his legs to those of a rabbit, to better absorb the shock of the fall.

"What, you think I'm going to leave you behind?" his friend asked, glaring at the reckless male he considered a friend.

"No, I think I'm going to leave you behind," the youth laughed before running off, not even waiting for the other to realize they were now racing.

The dark skinned youth, a boy from Veshano named Filan, chuckled as he rushed after the slightly older boy he'd known for a year now. Together the teens barreled through the forest, running with all their might so they would not be late. Remus, refusing to be beat by his nimble friend, willed his legs into those of a cheetah and crouched lower to get more speed. In response to that Filan too took a different appearance, that of a large bear, which ambled after his friend quite easily.

As was obvious from their abilities, the two were far from your average fourteen year old human boys. Filan, while capable of full shifting, was of a more common kind than Remus. The dark-skinned boy was a Totemic, a being capable of fully sifting into the form of one specific animal whenever he wished. Normally he was a slender 'black' boy, as some of those in Veshano called him. He would wear his hair in long braids, and fought with daggers with the best of them. It was quite lucky for the boy that he was a Totemic too, because it kept him from buying too fine of clothes. The thing about his shifting was though he didn't do it often, he always tended to need it in the past when he was dressed in fine clothes, causing the clothes to be ruined. Now a days his clothes were all cheap, and an extra set was carried with him at all times in a pack which he now carried in his jaws.

If Filan's kind was uncommon upon Carodos, Remus's was flat out rare. While Filan's abilities came from heritage, the skills of the other teen were purely magical. Ever since he was eight Remus had known of his ability to change parts of his appearance. It had begun with a mastery over eye and hair color, and soon, seeing his potential, the retired mage Sakor had agreed to tutor the youth. The first year did not get the youth far, and then had come an odd encounter with a Unican male in the middle of the Sulanet marketplace. Even now Remus could sense the reassuring weight of the carved dragon claw that hung ever around his neck, what he'd come out of that encounter with. After that the four years of magical training had honed the skills of the boy, but had always stopped growing just before the ability to fully shift as Totemics could. Now the most that Remus could change about himself at a given time was half of his body, but it was still a very useful skill. It was this skill, like Filan's Totemic powers, that had gotten the boy recruited into an early training program at the human Fort Darnaw. And it was to there that the boys now raced.

With the added speed from their transformations the duo reached the border of the forest nearest the gates of the Fort in ten minutes flat. In an unprecedented act of kindness (or more likely of sheer lack of desire to go to the fort) Remus paused and waited while Filan quickly changed into his spare set of clothes. Together the two headed for the entrance, chatting all the while.

"Why do you always disappear to the forest?" Filan asked, stretching his human muscles a bit as they moved down the path to the heavy wooden gates.

"It's 'cause you aren't there," he easily teased. While Remus had not become better at looking ahead over the years, he remained just as evasive about his private life as ever. He'd not even told Filan, his best friend, the importance of this day. <

As had become a habit of his, the hand of the youth moved to brush where the claw rested. Filan thought nothing of it, as it was a very common gesture that he'd always seen in the youth. How was he to know that on that morning news had come from Sulanet regarding Romus, brother to his best friend? What Filan did know was that Remus did seem sorta tense, because the other teen had forgotten to shift his hair back from the green he'd had on in the forest to the brown he was required to have while within the fort.

"Um, Remus," Filan said, running a hand through his own hair to indicated what was the matter.

Quickly green melted to brown, Remus's eyes widening in shock at the realization that he'd forgotten this. Had the message really hit him that hard? His hands, calloused and roughened from his year training with bow and with sword dived into his pockets to finger the message there. Could it really be?

"Remus?" Filan asked again, sighing this time. "Man you're not paying attention at all. Master Ardrak wants us to meet him in the training room, not on the grounds..."

Once more the youth was shaken from his revere, "Oh... Yeah. Sorry."

"You okay man? It's like you're not all here today..."

"Got a message from home," the youth responded, casually as possible. "About my brother Romus."

"Romus? The cool guy who told you all of those stories that you told me? What about him?"

"There was an accident... the ship went down and..."

"Woah man, is he okay?"

Remus shook his had. "Paralyzed, waist down. It's my fault."

When the dark haired youth shook his head it always made the most interesting sound, and this time was no different. One could chalk it up to the fact that beads hung in his braided hair and struck together when he shook his head, but Remus always believed it was more about the world itself chiming in with him when Filan said something. "No way, it can't be. You're here man."

"But I never gave him Eeil's message," Remus mumbled, more for his own sake than that of his friend.

"Whose message?"

"This Unican man named..." the boy began, only to be cut off by a voice that somehow was familiar and yet at the same time was new enough to instantly draw his attention to the speaker.

"Name Eeil, correct?" the large man said, arms crossed over his broad chest and gut.

"Master Ardrak!" both boys said, springing to attention.

Nothing about Ardrak seemed to be right for the military training fort of the human race. The man was wider than he was tall (in the opinions of the youths he trained), his beard was rough and everywhere (almost like a dwarf's), and unlike all of the other instructors he lacked any scarring whatsoever. Yet he was, none the less, an instructor of those within the fort. He was no weapon master though, he was the strategy instructor.

"You are both quite late," Ardrak pointed out, pointing a grubby finger at them both. "And now I find you dilly-dallying and talking about the new librarian. You know you're supposed to be prompt! No battle was ever won by an army arriving late."

"That isn't true Master Ardrak. In fact, in the battle for Litiah Hills the Unicans easily took victory because the reinforcements arrived too late."

The old man chuckled, "Well well, bested once again by your cheeky attitude boy. Come on, we've got lessons for you to learn before the lunch hour and gods above know it will take me forever to drill the points into your heads. Maybe I should ask Master Eeil for some help..."

So the trio entered the large fort and headed for their lesson, with Remus's mind focused more upon the news of the arrival of Eeil within the fort. Already the teen was plotting a way to sneak to the library, as he wasn't supposed to have time there for another three days.

Part 6
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