Chapter 2, Draft 1

Thoughts ran through Seamus’s brain like a colony of ants. Though he had a full, duck feather bed courtesy of the Council, the room still felt oppressive.

Then again, it could have just been the elephant smell. Part of him loved Alabaster but another part resented him. The elephant, needing not much more than four or five hours of sleep himself, kept him consistently awake. Seamus’s room was specially padded, all of the museum antiques removed, but the elephant could still be annoying, pushing Seamus awake with his trunk or even trumpeting some mornings. But if he couldn’t take care of one pony-sized elephant, what kind of many would he grow up to be?

What kind of man would he be?

In his heart, he’d always known he wanted to be like the brave heroes in his books, like the giant warrior Balwa who traveled from town to town on his warhorse battling monsters and mediating disagreements. In the books, Balwa couldn’t stand when a man attacked another man, but he wouldn’t hesitate to raise his sword against a fire-breathing parrot or a pack of mountain wolves. But then how could he do something like be a brave traveling warrior? It was easier to feel what he wanted to be than it was to write it down on paper. And that’s exactly what he had to do. Write a proposal. But if he couldn’t tell the truth, what could he say that would be more realistic? What else could he say to get his life path accepted by the Council?

Well, it was no good lying down when you couldn’t sleep. Mom had said he had to do something to get himself tired. He slapped his cheeks, stirring Alabaster from his slumber. Alabaster’s trunk uncurled from his chest and he stretched out his legs.

Seamus touches Alabaster’s trunk before opening the door. “We’re going to the kitchen,” he explains. The elephant follows.

To get to the kitchen, Seamus has to go through the glass hallway with its giant windows. During the day, there’s a beautiful view of the museum gardens and the hills that border Marca. At night, there are a few torches lit by the night guards. Not much else to see except for a long-haired girl bent over next to a tree. Seamus stopped and stared. That wasn’t a very normal sight, to be honest. Was she sick? Or injured?

If he were an adult, he’d be allowed to go outside. But there was a curfew for anyone who hadn’t completed their Passage. But then, it was right outside his door, right? No problem if he just opened the back door a bit and asked her if she needed help. Besides, what kind of hero would he be if he didn’t help someone in trouble right outside his window?

“Stay here, Alabaster,” Seamus whispered.

But Alabaster wanted to follow, stepping down the few steps to get into the atrium.

“No. Stay here.” Seamus slips out the door and closes it behind him so Alabaster doesn’t get any ideas. The elephant’s nose is stronger than Seamus’s arms put together and giving him a chance to slip out wasn’t an option. Seamus would be in huge trouble for sure. Maybe they wouldn’t even let him join Passage this month.

The girl sat curled over a book. She seemed okay, if a little pale and tired. But since he was already outside, he might as well see if she needed any help.


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