Eclasius Jortac stood on the parade grounds replaying the events of yesterday’s graduation in his mind. He had fervently hoped that graduating with top honors from the prestigious Otharian Institute would be the catalyst to rebuild his relationship with his father. He naively thought his father would be proud of him.
No such luck.
His only pleasant memory of the day was seeing his mother’s smile after the ceremony. She was proud of him although she’d never speak her mind openly, especially not in front of his father. Just as well, Eclasius thought, he didn’t want his mother to bear the brunt of his father’s brutal temper because of something he did.
Eclasius fought hard to convince himself that his father’s words didn’t matter, but the sunken feeling in the pit of his stomach told a different story.
Throughout his young life, he’d tried hard to live up to his father’s expectations. Unfortunately, nothing he did was ever good enough. Yesterday, when his father said he was disappointed because Eclasius had not made the ‘right connections’ while in school, he bore the criticism silently. It was merely the latest in a string of criticisms and insults that the elder Jortac barraged his son with.
Eclasius kicked the dirt in frustration.
“The right connections? What does that mean? He can’t expect me to be friends with those Dalcon idiots.”
In his mind’s eye, he saw the scene unfold. His father’s tirade, watching him stride off the field without a backward glance for his son, storming through life with his mother following close behind like a small bird caught in the wake of a fierce wind. He thought of answers after his father had left him, but it did little good now. He secretly feared his father was right and he would never measure up to the expectations of a Jortac heir.
Eclasius looked up and spied the Telkur twins approaching from the dormitories. He was puzzled why these two would be here today. Like everyone at graduation yesterday, he’d heard the tragic news of the Persing murders and thought they’d be in mourning. Eclasius looked at the twins suspiciously. What could they possibly want from him?
Damn, I don’t need this today.
The perfect Telkur twins, the duo that excelled at everything. He wanted to walk away, but seeing Dyla coming towards him held him in check. She was a devastating beauty and he didn’t want to give up an opportunity to talk to her one last time. He doubted that he would see her again anytime soon.
He liked her and had tried numerous times to talk to her during their school years, but the right time never seemed to present itself. She seemed to have an impenetrable wall surrounding her. Her biting wit and icy veneer made even casual conversation difficult. Of course, her brother didn’t help matters, always hovering nearby, whenever Eclasius found himself lucky enough to be alone with her.
Eclasius had met the twins through Ty. Ty’s acknowledgement of his telekinetic power had brought about a certain level of trust in Eclasius and that trust blossomed into a friendship between the two young men. It was during one those telekinetic practice sessions that Eclasius had met the twins.
From that first moment, all Eclasius could concentrate on was Dyla in her form-fitting training attire. Even though Dyla tried hard to downplay her beauty, it only served to make her more attractive. He was still looking at Dyla when Ty introduced him to Darius. As Darius shook his hand, the handshake turned into a vice grip and Darius’s expression changed. Eclasius quickly backed away from him, not realizing what had happened.
It wasn’t until later that Eclasius learned Darius was a telepath. He guessed that Darius had read his thoughts during their brief handshake and, with Eclasius engrossed in his sister’s form, it was no wonder that Darius had turned sour towards him. He often wondered how much of his thoughts Darius had read while he was admiring Dyla. Neither Ty nor Dyla had seen the exchange; both were occupied in their own conversation.
From that auspicious beginning, Darius had a knack of interrupting Dyla and him at the worst possible moment, usually when he had finally built up enough confidence to carry the conversation beyond talks of schoolwork.
Looking at Dyla walking towards him, Eclasius again felt the pull of her allure, but quickly dispelled the feeling as her brother approached. He worked hard at concealing his feelings towards Dyla whenever Darius was around.
Eclasius took a deep breath, clearing his mind of Dyla and pushing away the lingering thoughts of his father. He would come to grips with those feeling later, when he was alone, as he always did.
The twins were nearly upon him. Dyla’s dazzling smile captivated his attention and it was for her alone that he didn’t simply walk away from the pair.
“Hi Eclasius,” Dyla said. “Do you have a minute to talk?”
The sound of her voice thrilled him and his heart started to race.
“Hmmm, sure. What can I do for you?”
“We have a problem, and I think you can help us.”
Darius stepped between the two.
“Yeah, Eclair, maybe you can help us.”
Darius’s arrogance was too much for him to bear today and he turned towards Darius, refusing to step back. Eclasius felt his power flair and the air around them suddenly crackled with his simmering power.
“Back off, Darius, we’re not in school anymore. Do you really want to antagonize the top graduated telekinetic? You’d be truly surprised at what I can do.”
Darius raised his hands in mock surrender and stepped back beside his sister.
“Calm down, calm down. I’m not here to argue with you today.”
As quickly as Eclasius’ ire surfaced, it dissipated. He looked over to Dyla and winked.
“What kind of problem do you have?” Eclasius asked Dyla, purposely ignoring Darius.
“We need a third for our team, a telekinetic, and we’re thinking of you.”
Eclasius opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He stared incredulously at Dyla and then at Darius. It took him a few moments before he could gather his wits and answer the question.
“Your team? You mean for the Grand Competition? I heard about Ty’s family tragedy, but I figured you two would drop out.”
“Yes, we thought the same thing until a few hours ago,” Dyla said.
“What do you say? Yes or no,” Darius asked impatiently.
Eclasius’ head swiveled back and forth between the twins. Their question was so unexpected, his mind was reeling from it.
“I don’t know what to say. The Grand Competition is pretty heady stuff. People have gotten killed competing.”
“People get killed if they are careless. We are not careless and we need a telekinetic if we want to compete. You’re the best telekinetic in the school. We can’t have Ty, so we want you.”
Eclasius saw Dyla cringe at her brother’s bluntness.
“Eclasius, what my brother said is true. Of course, we want Ty. We’ve trained hard together, and we make a good team. But, with this tragedy, he won’t be able to compete and we don’t want to quit. We need a telekinetic, and we both think that you could help us win the competition.”
Eclasius stood mesmerized by Dyla. This was the longest conversation he’d ever had with her in all the years of advanced training.
“Why stay in the competition now? Why not wait until the next one when Ty can rejoin the team,” he asked.
“Because we have to do it now,” Darius growled.
Eclasius was stumped by Darius’s answer, but thought better about further probing on the subject.
“You’ll have to come to our estates to train and learn to move with us as a team. It’ll definitely not be a walk in the park,” Dyla explained.
“I want to think about it,” Eclasius said flatly.
“What’s there to think about? You’re either in or out,” Darius shouted. “We don’t have time to waste. We need someone now. We have two weeks to train and every minute we stand talking about it is wasted. Come on, Dyla, I told you this wouldn’t work.”
Dyla didn’t move.
“How long do you need?”
“I need a day. I’ll give you my answer tomorrow.”
“Fine. By the way Eclasius, you realize that your name is a mouthful. If you decide to join the team, what should we call you?”
“Uh, I guess, Eclair will do,” he said with a shy smile.
“Eclair, it is. See you soon,” Dyla said, grabbing her brother’s arm and pulling him away.
Darius let Dyla pull him away. Dyla’s contact with Darius elicited a stream of chaotic thoughts between them. Dyla’s thoughts were too fast and fleeting for Darius to make much sense of, but he did get an underlying sense of confidence from her. They were half way across the parade grounds when Darius finally looked back at Eclasius. He was still standing there watching them leave and Darius turned back to confront his sister.
“What’s that all about? If he doesn’t show, we’re screwed! It’ll be another day lost and we’ll still have to find another damn spoon bender.”
“Don’t worry Darius, he’ll show. He wants to do this. I felt it in him.”
“I hope you’re right. I wonder why he needs a day, though. Don’t you find that odd?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure he has a good reason.”
“Then let the waiting begin,” Darius said.