“All right then!” boomed Coach Wachler. “Today you are not training in here; today you are not even training! Today,” he paused for effect. “You had better hope you are ready, because the High Order has decided to hold the Flight Test early!” An overall groan of dismay rushed over us. “Why?” I dared to ask. Coach turned his penetrating stare to me. A few buddies of mine and I once made a joke that he wasn’t really a faery, but a metal frame with an outer shell of man. Like in the movie The Conforminator.
The High Order, he told me, had chosen to have the test early because the Watchers of Starglass, the astronomical observatory, had seen a great storm coming our way and had deemed it necessary to test all sledders early for their own protection. “Who knows,” he said, as he continued striding in front of his legion, “of what that storm may bring? There are many who say it comes not as worldly weather, but from some kind of conjuror.” He watched us for reactions. Nobody took him seriously, and most braved something of a smile. Coach hinted a smile back. He wasn’t really that bad, I thought then, not really at all.
We had ten minutes to warm up before learning which course we’d be tested on, so we set to doing flying exercises. I found myself to be much stronger than I remembered and more graceful. But what I needed most was speed. Tests were timed and you had to make it before the bell. I wasn’t sure if I could. But I had to. I had to pass. I had to.
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