Pomp and ceremony.
Connor had never seen so much of it in his life. He'd heard the local fae preparing nearly two hours before dawn, and if he hadn't felt as though he would be underfoot, Connor would have helped in whatever way he could. He didn't like waiting for something to happen.
The breakfast bell rang. Food wasn't top on his list for the morning, but joining the others appealed to him. Liam wasn't at his door, but Connor couldn't be sure if he'd gone down earlier or not.
He'd never known any place but Northgate, and the world of the fae. Oddly, Ordin's taunt had awakened in him a need to know more about his people, the humans. Once they were past the testing and the oaths, he'd have to ask Lord Northgate some questions. They were probably long overdue.
Flowers and ribbons decorated the already crowded dining hall; he wasn't the only one anxious to get started today -- and maybe anxious to have everything over with as well.
He could wish the others a pleasant journey home, to be honest. Even Ordin. Get them all out of Northgate and life back to normal.
Liam sat at the table already, his hands circling a cup of tea as though winter cold had invaded the room. He gave a weary nod as Connor arrived, Rendon and Erlis right behind him. Connor looked around and found Nylia talking with Druce, both of them somber and nodding. That was better than the glares of not so long ago at least. She left him with a nod and came to Connor's table.
"Someone tried to get into your room last night," Liam said as Connor took the chair beside him.
He should have realized Liam would know.
"He didn't get in," Connor said with a shrug and purposely reached for a plate and food. Liam still frowned. "I locked the door, Liam. Someone would have had to use magic to get in, and that would have brought half the keep. Let's not worry about what might have happened if I hadn't been wise enough to realize my enemies might just walk in on me."
Liam nodded. "They won't be here much longer," he said, though he didn't sound very assured. That didn't help Connor's state of mind.
"You talked to Nylia about my visitor, didn't you?"
"It was either her or go straight to Lord Northgate," Liam replied, looking up with a steady stare. "Someone else needed to know -- someone who might be able to find answers without drawing down anger. You can't argue it, Connor. It's already done."
He realized Liam truly worried about his safety, and he couldn't decide if that reflected something he had seen or just a feeling from the situation. Connor hadn't missed the few glances that came his way as he entered the room. Few of them had been friendly, but none had been outright hostile.
Of course, Ordin hadn't arrived yet. He came in with Antisha at his side, and Connor had the feeling of a bad dog on a short leash. Ordin barely had time to turn Connor's way, and glare before Antisha tapped him on the arm, and they walked past.
Connor forced himself not to grin though Nylia let out a quiet little laugh.
"Don't make this worse for me," he said, meeting her amused stare.
"Worse? I think a little humor is what we all need, Connor."
"Oh yes. I'm sure Ordin is ready for it, right?"
She gave a shrug and went to her own food.
Connor ate little, though he mostly played with his food while the others ate. He couldn't imagine how they kept their appetites today. Even without the other trouble going on, the swearing of an oath to the royal court was a serious matter.
Perhaps they were accepting the inevitable part. This was almost done. Connor and his friends had passed. Anyone of the outsiders who hadn't passed would have left, but he'd not taken the time to really pay attention, and there was no one noticeable missing from the room. His group had made it through. So had Druce and those at his table. So he didn't think anyone from Northgate hadn't made the cut this year. Better and better.
The ceremony itself would be at noon. Connor went with his friends out to the gardens; better that than to wait alone in his room and listen for someone at the door.
He hadn't realized how much that moment had bothered him until he found himself clinging to the company of others. He didn't like the feeling at all, but he suspected this would pass in the next couple days when all the strangers were gone.
Life would be different, though. Now that he was beyond the Testing, there would be guard duty more than classes. Since no one stood the guard alone, his lack of magic wasn't nearly as important as his excellent eyesight. He'd done well enough in the training that even Godewyn -- whom he suspected was not entirely happy at having a human in his charge -- had noted it and given his approval for Connor to join the Guard.
Connor planned to still spend time with Rion, though. He wanted to learn more about the keep, the fae, and all the fascinating history he'd come to love. Connor wanted to learn about the humans, too, though. He thought Rion might be able to help him there as well.
Court dress was tiresome: Lace cuffs and high collars, stiff boots, and bulky embroidered vests. He dressed and came to the door a little anxious when he opened it for fear of what he would find on the other side. Liam was leaving his room as well and looking far less comfortable than him. That reminded Connor that his companion was not Keep-born and probably had never thought of himself dressed up in such finery.