Emmet and Koen struck as different paths as brothers could. There were ten years between them, making Emmet the dark-haired, bronze-eyed son of a man who had died too young, heir to everything his mother commanded, and Koen the blonde-haired son of a man still alive, captain, conqueror, and blunter weapon. Emmet’s keimon stood in his halls with him, guardians and entertainers under glittering lights. Koen’s stood at ship rails, face into the wind, and learned nothing better than how to burn, how to buy glory with ash.
Bryn had known that long before she chose where to apprentice. As young as they had been, she knew her twin, Riya had understood as well. And neither of them had hesitated to split ways, jump on a ship, train for the halls. Different was something magical to two ten-year-olds who had spent their whole lives as walking mirrors of each other.
Lediah’s Name Day passed in all the usual ways.
The night before was almost sleepless, and the first few hours of the morning passed between nervous shakes and stifled yawns. As she ate breakfast, she tapped her foot so quickly against the kitchen floor that her mother reached out and stilled her knee with a heavy hand, then stilled the rest of her with a wordless look. Lediah glanced around the table at the rest of her family, and swallowed her rice and broth as best she could.
The tests started mid-morning, deep inside a square stone building that felt as if had been constructed to hold people down to the earth. The walls were plain. The ceiling was high. The windows and doors were scarce. Lediah felt as if she had walked into a cave, the way her voice and motions echoed in the empty space. Her judges felt twice as tall, the way they spoke in the reverberating air. The sun continued its pace in secret, counting time somewhere she couldn’t see. Everything seemed to stretch and press in on her. When they finally announced that she’d passed, she was sweating, exhausted, and muscles slung loose with relief.
She walked out in the daylight, surprised at the shape of the shadows. Then she saw her parents. She smiled. Her momma beamed. Her father grinned. They both wrapped her in a hug, and walked her out past the front wall. Her teacher, Anxo had passed just before them, but had already disappeared, as he was supposed to. He’d left behind her new name, scrawled across the grey stone in clean white chalk. Lediah read it as she walked, facing it until her neck couldn’t bend any farther. Her mother and father read it, and said nothing aloud. The rest of her family followed after, just as silent.