The old man’s knuckles rapped softly on the door, and he took a step away from the door, waiting next to Darren. A few seconds later, the door flung open, and a lithe woman flew into Darren, wrapping her arms around him. A man followed on her footsteps and glared at the older man, “Who are you, and why do you have our son?”

The man inclined his head, “My name is Leodor Sultasar.” Lifting his head, he asked, “I assume you’re Darren’s parents. May I come in?”

“Oh,” Darren’s mother squeaked. “I’m sorry for my husband’s tone, we’re worried about Darren.”

Leodor nodded, “I understand, but we need to talk.

Darren’s father took a step inside, ushering everyone into the house, “Please come in.”

Walking inside, Leodor followed Darren’s parents to the dining room. They all sat down, and Darren’s father asked, “What would you like to talk to us about, Leodor?”

“Darren’s education,” Leodor replied, drumming his fingers along the table’s edge. “Birel, may I get a drink of water?”

“Certainly,” Birel answered. “Salazar do you want anything?”

“I’m fine dear,” Salazar said, focusing on the old man. “Why do you want to talk about his education?”

A slip of a smile formed on Leodor’s face as his fingers continued their beat. “Have you heard of The Academy?”

“No,” Salazar answered.

Birel placed a cup in front of the old man, “I have.”

Leodor lifted his cup and asked, “What do you know?”

“It’s a private school,” Briel answered as she sat next to her husband.

“We couldn’t afford a private school,” Salazar said as he scooted his chair from the table.

Swallowing the water, Leodor placed the cup down, and his fingers resumed their beat. “Salazar, may I speak with Birel in private?”

Her face blanched, but she quickly forced color back into her face as she nodded. Salazar stood and collected Darren and left the dining room. When they left Leodor snapped his fingers, and a low thrum filled the air, and Briel’s pale skin went even paler. “Darren’s a mage isn’t he?”

Leodor’s fingers continued their drumming as he nodded his head.

“You can teach him how to control his gift?”

Leodor nodded.

“Salazar is right, we can’t afford a private school.”

Leodor’s fingers stopped, and they reached out to grasp her hands. “The Academy is a school, and all my students receive financial aid.”

Nodding Briel wondered, “How strong is he?”

Leodor released her hands to take another sip of the water, “Did you notice his belt?”

Briel shook her head.

“How strong was your gift?”

Briel gripped herself as she shuddered. She slowly started rubbing arms like she was half-frozen. “I never had to worry about The Hunters.”

Leodor ran his finger along the rim of his glass. “The Hunters would have taken our son if I hadn’t found him first.”

Her gasp filled the room, and Briel forced her hands from her mouth as she wailed, “NO!”

“I already tested his commitment,” Leodor assured her. “I wouldn’t be here if I found it lacking. But if you don’t want him to learn how to control his abilities, then he will have to wear that belt from now on.”

“Will his abilities go away if he ignores them?” Briel asked through running tears.

“No,” Leodor answered softly. “He embraced it already. It’s how I found him.” Leodor fingers returned to their beat.

Briel wiped away her tears and forced herself to stop crying. “I guess there isn’t a choice. Will we be able to see him?”

“In time, Darren will be able to visit,” Leodor said in time with his drumming. “But he will have to learn how to contain his power without using the belt.”

“How long does that take?”

Leodor continued drumming against the table as he replied, “It’s always the first thing we teach our students. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a timetable because every student learns differently, though Darren appears to be a quick study.”

Looking into the house, Briel murmured, “He is an intelligent boy.”

“Are we ready to bring them back into the room?”

Briel nodded, and Leodor snapped his fingers, and the low thrum in the air vanished.

“Salazar, please come back and bring Darren with you,” Briel called out.

When Salazar returned with Darren Briel told them, “Darren will go to The Academy.”

“We can’t afford it, Briel,” Salazar said with sorrow in his eyes.

“Leodor explained that we qualify for financial aid,” Briel said as she waved for Darren to come to her.

“The government will pay for everything,” Leodor assured Salazar. “I’ll help you through the paperwork for the application.”

Darren disappeared into his mother’s arms. “You’ll need to study diligently, Darren. Can you do that?”

“Yeah, mom, I can do that,” Darren answered as he tightened his grip on his mother.

Briel looked up into her husband’s eyes, “The Academy is the best school for Darren. He will go there.”

Salazar sat next to his wife, “When can he go?”

“The Academy is a boarding school,” Leodor answered. “We accept students at any time and ensure that they get up to speed with other students their age.”

Salazar looked at his son and took his family into his arms, “I assume that means he’ll be leaving right away.”

“In a few days,” Leodor answered. “The paperwork needs to be submitted and accepted before he can come to the school.”

Briel’s eyes went wide, and with a shaky voice, she asked, “It’ll take that long?”

Salazar stared at his son and complained, “I’d like a few more days.”

“It’ll be fine,” Leodor said as he stood up running a hand along his belt. He grabbed his glass and asked, “May I top off my water?”

Briel nodded as she tightened her grip on Darren.

“Mom, not so tight,” Darren wheezed.

“I’m sorry, Darren,” Briel replied as she loosened her grip. “You’ll get the best education we can provide.”