Halfling Part 3
The pair joined their fellow senior Air apprentices at their table and began to eat their last dinner feast at the School. Between bites of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes swimming in gravy, the senior students shared memories and plans of the future. More than once, an unfortunate classmate had to run to the cleaners or back to his or her dorm for a spare robe after a drop of gravy soiled theirs. Once they had their fill, it was a leisurely walk to the main hall to wait for the graduation ceremony to begin.
Caden tried not to fidget in line in the waiting room outside of the main hall as the Air professors inspected each and every student, more than once straightening a robe or telling someone to fix his hair. The Fire and Earth professors would be doing the same to their own line of graduates in their designated waiting rooms. Caden was so anxious that he jumped and nearly fell into the girl in front of him when the trumpets blared for the ceremony to begin.
Back straight, head held high, the graduates all marched in sync into the main hall. The Air graduates went to the stage from the right of the audience, the Earths from the left, and the Fires right down the center. After practicing for the better half of a month, the graduates all ascended the stage and settled themselves in alphabetical order without missing a beat of the trumpets’ music. Caden sighed after they were all in place, content that no one had tripped.
As the master of ceremonies began, Caden glanced out at the proud families, the parents, the siblings, of all the graduates, and grinned as he spotted Uncle Rand. The older, rounder man returned the grin with a smirk and a small wave. Caden schooled his face back into a neutral expression to listen to the master of ceremonies, Headmaster LeMay.
“We are very proud of our graduates this year,” the headmaster said, gesturing to the line of students behind him. “They have all proven to be exceptional and we believe they will all make a positive impact on the world.
“Graduates.” Headmaster LeMay turned to the students, his eyes crinkling as he smiled. “Many possibilities lie before you. The future is yours. Go out and change the world.
Without further ado, I grant you your diplomas, Academy Graduates!”
The audience cheered their approval, and the headmaster began the tedious task of calling the graduates over to him one by one. They shook hands and he gave them their diplomas along with a silver cloak, lined with blue, red, or green thread depending on their type of magic, to signify their mage status to the world. Caden did his best not to fall asleep while waiting for them to call him.
He jolted and hoped he wouldn’t trip on the way to the headmaster, but he avoided any mishaps. Thanking Headmaster LeMay, Caden shook his hand, and grinned sheepishly when the headmaster said softly, “Now, stay out of trouble.” Caden took his cloak, marveling at the silky touch of the strong fabric, before descending the stage and joining Uncle Rand in the audience. His uncle thumped him on the back, and the pair stayed quiet until the rest of the graduates had gotten their cloaks.
“Caden, we did it!”
Caden was almost knocked into the buffet table during the celebration party when he was hugged from behind by Dahlia. He chuckled and turned around to return the hug, marveling at how the silver and red cloak fit her.
“Of course we did,” he said. “Did you have any doubts?”
“Well, during the final exam, yeah,” she said with a giggle and looked to Caden’s uncle. “Hello, Mr. Turner, how are you?”
“I’m doing just fine, young lady,” Uncle Rand said. “Congratulations on graduating. I’ll let you two talk. Besides, I spy a gentleman that I need to speak to about contracts anyway.”
Caden sighed as Uncle Rand walked away; the man could never just leave his business at home.
“Hey,” Dahlia stole his attention again, “which part of the final exam did you find the most difficult? I bet you aced the practice battles.”
“I did do pretty well with those,” Caden admitted. “It was probably the history portion, especially about the beasts.”
“Ugh.” Her small nose wrinkled. “I can’t stand hearing about those. They’re so… strange, aren’t they?”
“I suppose,” Caden said, “although they probably think the same of us.”
“I cannot imagine that they have rational thoughts like we do,” Dahlia said. “All they think about is probably food and mating.”
“You make them sound like animals,” Caden said as he allowed the young woman to lead him out to the middle of the dance floor.
The brunette glanced up at him. “Aren’t they?”
Caden shrugged and didn’t respond. The music would have drowned out his words even if he had an answer. Instead, he allowed himself to relax and enjoy the celebration, relief at finally graduating making him giddy like when Uncle Rand has too much to drink. Dahlia and he danced to most of the music together, taking breaks occasionally to share a dance or two with other classmates. Jaxon at one point had persuaded Caden to join in a dance contest with some of the other guys to “impress the ladies,” as Jaxon put it, where Caden failed miserably. He was thankful that Dahlia seemed fine with him dropping out of the contest early, and the pair exited the dance hall out to the balcony.