Desmon stood at the edge of the courtyard, eyes focused on the lake below. The harsh shadows from the Learning Hall behind them made the young professor appear as old as Professor Rickby – seeming strands of gray hair emerging from the dark ones framing his face. “Remember when we thought we could change the world; protect it from the undesirables in such a way that our future was secure?”

Jalem continued writing in her scroll and Allen leaned against the rail, studying his classmate, his equal, his possible krov-brother. “You think we’re losing?”

Desmon’s knuckles cracked as he curled his fingers into a fist. “I think I’ve been fighting myself – killing myself without knowing how or why. You wouldn’t know, Allen. You’re not one of us.”

“Desmon,” Jalem said, “that’s an unfair argument then and now. Don’t-.”

“Don’t tell me what can’t be known! Look at everything we’ve been through together and tell me, do you think we’re where we should be?”

Allen shrugged. Removing his glasses, he asked the same question in a different way. “We’ve fallen short, is that it?”

A spark flew from Desmon’s want towards Allen’s cloak draped on the rail. Nothing happened to the material. “We’re falling. Worse than when we purposelessly descended the walls from-.”

“That was a foolish prank taken too far,” Jalem said. “We’re not there anymore. And I don’t think we’ve lost or failed or-.”

“By Quinton’s beard, you’re the ever optimistic one,” Desmon snapped. “Why can’t I see the way you do? Why can’t I hear what you hear, Allen? I’m not saying this right! You don’t-!”

“We didn’t succeed in keeping the village from burning to the ground tonight,” Allen said. “How do you expect us to be? No matter how far we get away from here – well, you guys – it won’t be far enough outside of the magistrate’s reach.”

“Especially if I’m a part of it,” Desmon said with disgust.