Ancasta the Sionnach stood on Breakes Hallow Warf, her eyes trained on the lights glimmering across the sound. She was in Glenfallen, but her thoughts were not.
“You’re a very bright girl, and very enthusiastic, but I cannot train you as a Sentinel, Miss Princeport. The Initiation Trials showed that your lack of a Familiar spirit not only excludes you from any sort of combative situation but also hinders you from completing tasks on target.” said Arthur Windleash from behind his desk.
“But I can work on my timing, and not every position in the Guard is dedicated to combat. With my abilities, I would be an asset for espionage—or maybe I could be a-a tracker, even.” she argued.
“But even a spy or a tracker must be prepared in the event of assault, my dear. And your Trial results show that you did not complete a single conflict scenario, even though you were given twice the amount of time to finish.” He shook his head, “A Sentinel, no matter what, must finish the mission with as little loss of life as possible. I cannot in good conscience train you as a Sentinel, Miss Princeport. Your presence would leave your fellow Guard at unnecessary risk,” he said.
“Please, my dear. No more.” Walking around his desk, he took her hand, “You are a Sionnach, Ancasta. To be born to the Fox Magic is rare, and you should be proud of that. Your mind-powers are amazing. There’s not a witch in the world that could keep you from slinking into his head.” He smiled. “Ever since she took you as an apprentice, Coventina earmarked you for diplomacy, and I agree with her decision. The country is filled with squabbling witches and fractured covens. Who better to settle disputes than one with the ability to understand both sides completely?
“Now, I believe Blackmoore has already given you your first assignment?”
“Y-yes.” She could not breathe.
“Good luck, then.” The Boston master nodded toward the door for her to leave.
Opening the door she stepped into the reception room, a small crowd in her path.
“By the West Watch, I knew he would do it!” said Alexander Mountrain slapping his son on the shoulders. “A Sentinel!”
“I’m not a Sentinel yet, Dad. I’ve just been selected for training.” Said Arawen as his Aunt Coventina threw her arms about him.
“Oh, but I’ve raised him right. Haven’t I, brother?” She laughed at Alexander while tousling her nephew’s hair.
“Aye. Ye did good, Covey.” Merlin Blackmoore, Arawen’s former teacher, cracked his crooked grin, “Top-notch, young Arawen, top-notch. Perform in trainin’ as ye did for Initiations, and I’ll be recommendin’ ye to the Red Guard.”
Mighty Mordred, she could not bear the scene. Without a word, she darted past Arawen and his well-wishers.
“Cas? Hey Cas, what’s the matter?” Arawen called out to her.
“Nothing.” She kept walking, biting her lip to stop the tears.
“Ancasta Princeport! Don’t tell me you are still blubbering over the Initiation Trial results!” Coventina called out from the group, “Stop daydreaming you silly girl, and start packing for Omaha. Master MacCrimmons needs a translator for the natives.” Coventina explained to the others, “They’ve got a Pawnee Medicine man that keeps ice forming on their summer crops.”
Laughter. They all were laughing at her.
“Cas wait!” Arawen was on her heels.
“Go away!” She whimpered, tearing down the hall. “You heard your Aunt, I’m on a ‘big assignment.” Her voice cracked, “I can’t believe it—fifteen-hundred miles west to figure out why some native prefers cold corn.”
Arawen caught her arm, his snicker making her cringe.
“Don’t laugh at me!” She shouted, pulling her arm free.
He hugged her.
“Then don’t make me laugh.” His hands patted her back, “Great Mother, you always have had great wit.”
“More like witless.” She sniffled against his shoulder, “Windleash seems to think so, anyway. All these years of study, the last two dedicated to Pennick Mountrain’s work on the physics of Essential Transmorphy, and I’m sentence to ‘pick melons’ in some godforsaken—Ooo! The Nebraska territory, Roo? It just isn’t fair!” She threw her arms in the air. “You’ve said so, yourself.”
“Yes, and I meant it. Believe me. I’ve been pushing for you. You should be working for the Guard in some capacity. I even approached Windleash about it last night.” he said shaking his head, “I thought for sure he was going hire you as his personal secretary. I still can’t believe he chose that needle-nose, Pudgie Nightwood.”
“S-secretary? You think I’m only cut out to be a secretary?” she felt stabbed.
“Cas, I don’t mean it as an insult. Windleash needs more people like you. You’re brilliant, but—
“I’m weak, slow, and spirit-challenged.” She spat.
“I didn’t say that.” He defended. “Look, I know you don’t want to hear it, but your abilities are limited to mind reading. It takes more than that to be a Sentinel. You don’t have the muscle, and let’s face it. You don’t have the temperament. When you don’t get something right away, you get flustered and give up.”
“Ha! Easy for you to say, when everyone’s always cheering you on!” She shouted. “Maybe things would be different if I would have had someone grooming me for the Red Guard since I was in diapers. But I didn’t. I got apprenticed to your Aunt, who decided what my career would be on my first day of tutelage. Then she stuck me in the Mountrain library for eight years and forgot about me.”
“That’s not true.” Said Arawen. He struggled to control his anger, “Coventina is very proud of you. She loves you like her own.”
“Please. For eight years, I’ve done everything she’s ever asked. And the one time I ask her for something, she says, ‘no.’” she scoffed. “I could have passed the Trials with flying colors if she would have let me use The Cage of Bloodlines.”
“The Cage of—ha. Okay I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you say something that ridiculous.” Arawen looked almost amused. “The Cage of Bloodlines, Ancasta? Its use was outlawed in the time of Henry Tudor.”
“Yes, well this is a different age, day and country, isn’t it?” she argued. “I even had someone willing to share their power with me.”
“So what? That’s not the point.” Arawen defended. “When witches start swapping and merging powers with each other, there are all kinds of unwanted side-effects, most notably, insanity. Coventina would never take that risk with you.”
“Because she already had plans to send me to Omaha.” She rolled her eyes.
“Fine, Ancasta. You win. The entire world is against you.” He threw up his hands, turned to walk away, but then added over his shoulder, “You know why I think you really couldn’t make the Guard, Cas?”
“Why?” she asked.
“You have a bad attitude.” He walked away.
A drunken fisherman passing by accidentally brushed Ancasta’s cloak.
“Eh—err, sorry there, miss.” He touched the brim of his hat.
She whirled on him, her boot connecting with his groin.
“Why don’t you watch where you’re going, jackass!”