He sat down in a coffee shop and began his story. There was a moment of silence and he lifted up his head to stare out the entrance. The door had been left open in the early morning on account of the busy season with so many customers coming in and out for their hot drinks. On his right, he could hear the hiss of steam as one of the servers pressed down on a lever, ejecting a scalding hot stream of coffee into a mug.
“Landera! Coffee’s ready!” A woman cried out as she slid the mug across the counter to her side. The young man sitting at the table observed all this and shifted his focus back to his table. He twisted himself a bit deeper into his worn, battered bar chair – his favorite seat, even after all these years – and lifted his pen to write.
It was a cool fall’s morning, in September of 1637 that Jimmy Chartron finally sat down at his table in the
middle of a small class and looked towards the empty black board that loomed over all the students from across the room. He was quite nervous – an excited sort of nervous – and he twiddled his thumbs together as he waited for the timepiece on the as-yet vacant headmaster’s table to strike eight o’clock.
After another minute of twiddling his thumbs he reached down and grasped the flap of his bookbag, pulling it onto his lap. Papers... my pen, compass... wait, where is it?! His eyes widened in shock as he continued to fumble inside the leather bag without coming across the slip of paper which he needed to see the most. Where’s my letter of acceptance?! In one swift move, he feverishly turned the bag over and dumped its contents into a messy pile on top of his desk, earning him a stare from more than one fellow in the classroom.
A drop of sweat beaded down across his forehead as he hastily pushed, turned, flipped and tossed the random paraphernalia across the surface of his desk.
“What’s he doing?!” a young woman whispered to her friend two rows behind.
“I have no idea...” the other woman replied, seemingly more interested in taking down notes of some sort. Jimmy, oblivious to everyone else staring at him, began to put his things back into the bag while he mentally
called out the object to himself. He put the compass back in... compass. Then his notebooks went in... notebooks... wait! He pulled the two brown-covered notebooks back out and fanned the pages over his desk hoping to see an envelope fall out. Nothing. He put the notebooks into the bag... notebooks. Next was a metal case and a couple of erasers... pen box and erasers. He tucked these into a side pocket located on the upper flap of his book bag.
Then there was nothing.
Blast! Jimmy muttered under his breath. He threw the bookbag down the side of his desk with no small amount of frustration and plopped himself into his chair. He began to scratch his head incessantly when he shifted his weight slightly and heard a crinkle in his left pocket. Wait... did I? He raised his left eyebrow and stuck his left hand into the pocket. There it was! He hastily pulled out the crumpled envelope which housed his acceptance letter:
“To Jimmy Chartron:
It is with great pride that I announce your acceptance of enrollment into the Navale Academy of Eagleon. Your first day at school will commence sometime in September with an exact date to be sent to you in a separate letter.
I look forward to seeing you soon in the fall.
There was a signature on the bottom that no doubt belonged to the headmaster. “Duh-nan? Doonan?” Jimmy whispered as he tried to find the least awkward way of pronouncing the headmaster’s name. He finally settled on the latter, albeit practicing a bit to shorten the sound when he said the “nan” part, which came out as more of a “nun” sound.
“Doonun...” he whispered again, seemingly satisfied with how it sounded.
Jimmy heard the clock stroke and gently left the letter on his desk. He stared straight ahead. For some
reason, he started to have a gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach – nervousness, no doubt.
It was now eight.
The whole class immediately ceased their chatter and turned around, gazing towards the entrance to the
classroom in silence. The mahogany boards on the floor creaked in anticipation as the footsteps from down the hall gradually grew louder. Nervousness changed to curiosity on Jimmy’s part and he found himself slightly elevated from his seat as his body leaned forward across the table even more.
THOCK! THOCK! THOCK!
The headmaster’s footsteps moved into the classroom. He was an elderly gentleman, with a quiet and stern face that showed practically nothing but a few wrinkles from his advanced age. He planted himself into his chair and rubbed his clean-shaven chin as he surveyed the small group of young men and women in front of him, trying to gain first impressions on all of them before he uttered a word.
There was the young man with the dark, broody coat hidden in the far-left corner that was clearly trouble. His hands toyed with a switchblade as his eyes danced frivolously from side to side. A very foul practical joker, perhaps? The lady with the blonde hair in the center of the room who was busy sitting up with square shoulders and a not-so-subtle smirk across her lips? She was likely privileged enough to enter the academy, but not by her own merits; she would either be the bully of the class or drop out midway to pursue more romantic ideas.
There were two teenagers, sitting exactly on the same row of chairs but both on either side of the class rather than together. Yet, their eyes closed the distance between as they glanced each other with shrewd looks and tapped their pens occasionally from moment to moment. It was a code of sorts between the two... cheaters, most likely. The headmaster’s gaze shifted to Jimmy for a moment and as the latter looked up, he found himself caught by the superior’s piercing eyes and felt that the man had just read into his soul.
I wonder what he’s thinking of me... Jimmy shook off the wave of coldness that swept over him in that moment and he refocused his gaze onto the table. He decided the best course of action would be to keep his face pinned to his table until further notice. Was this the headmaster who had sent him the letter? If so, then, he was quite scary in person as opposed to on paper, Jimmy concluded!
The headmaster took another moment or two to grasp the character of the other students in his class. Once he was satisfied, Dunan stood back up and let out a cough. “Class,” he addressed them with a deep-set and serene voice, “you have been accepted into the prestigious Navale Academy of Eagleon. A great honor, but a great responsibility.” His voice turned heavy as he continued, “All of you will in one way or another, leave this class. Some of you may fail, while others may succeed. Some may succeed because of their hard work, and others because they are smart.” He paused a moment and his eyes shifted constantly between the two teenage boys on either side of the classroom, “Make no mistake though; smart does not entail cheating; and that act will no doubt bring grave consequences.” The two teenagers kept their heads lowered, unwilling to lock eyes with the headmaster.
Dunan’s left hand slammed down a gavel onto his table, and class commenced.
For the rest of the day, Jimmy found himself enthusiastically going through history and science textbooks. There were books on element alchemy as well, a topic that he found fascinating but a bit beyond his mental grasp. What caught his eye though was the first edition of ‘Farwell’s Theory on Electricity’, something which he found himself to have a natural interest towards. More than once, he found himself going back to the book in- between lectures and during his breaks.
This was not his first exposure to the new concept of electricity, though. The discovery of it had been made years prior to his birth. However, no one had thought much of it. Yes, it could light up a bulb on one end of the room, but what good was that when light stones were aplenty? Still, in some rare group of people’s minds – Jimmy’s included – electricity was an opportunity for technological advancement. And here, at the Navale Academy of Eagleon – the only school in the eight countries who had entire courses dedicated to the forgotten discovery – Jimmy hoped to learn more about this ‘electricity’ and to hopefully pursue a career down that path. The possibilities were endless in his mind and he daydreamed of utilizing the power to somehow help gentrify the poor neighborhood where he returned to at the end of each day.
At the middle of the day, slips of paper were distributed amongst the students. On each piece of paper was a form listing the possible career outcomes that a student could choose to pursue. Jimmy filled out the paper with the necessary information and ticked off the box right beside ‘Electrical Engineer’. He leaned back to review the entire form and sighed happily. Things were looking up for him now. He gently got up and handed his form to the headmaster who couldn’t help but wonder why the odd boy was smiling so much.
The hour before class ended was one of his favorite parts of the day; after spending hours and hours in front of text books and handouts and listening to elderly men and women droll on about high standards and whatnot, it was admittedly a nice change to be able to run into the courtyard and practice fencing and other physical activities with the other students. Educating at the Navale Academy of Eagleon also meant that one was listed as eligible for serving in the navy or army, and thus a physical regiment was prescribed to every student accepted to provide for the unforeseeable outcome.
This isn’t to say that war was a common occurrence. In fact, the last war had ended close to a hundred years ago and peace had reigned dominant throughout the countries since then. There were skirmishes throughout the known land, though, and the responsibility fell upon Eagleon to provide the necessary troops. It was the one part of studying at the academy that Jimmy did not find appealing, but he accepted it as a necessary hazard. Then again, what did the skirmishes consist of? Poachers on someone’s land? A few dissidents who weren’t very happy with a new bill passed by the ruling government? It was nothing ever too serious, and Jimmy found it highly unlikely that he would ever be anyone’s first choice for combat.
Playfully, he swung the sword at his partner – a young Peluvan boy whose name he didn’t bother to hear during class introductions – his eyes stared out at the horizon where he caught glimpses of white sails flying out from Eagleon’s harbor. Life wasn’t easy, but he could see things looking up for him as he countered his opponent’s lunge. The Peluvan boy over-stepped and tumbled gently onto the grass. Jimmy let out a hearty laugh as he stretched his right hand forward to help the boy up. As he did so, he jumped up and down a bit in excitement at winning his first duel. It was a mock duel, but why did he care?
Today was a day of firsts: his first experience at studying at an accredited institution; his first experience at sitting down in class amidst a group of strangers from different avenues in life; his first real chance at a better future! The months of waiting before hearing back that his application had been accepted for the fall term now culminated in an exhilarating rush that started from the first moment that he woke up till now.
At long last, and to Jimmy’s slight disappointment, the school bell tolled, signaling the end of day. All the students rushed indoors again to hear the final words that Headmaster Dunan had to say before the day ended.
“Class,” again with his deep-set voice and that address as if he were talking to the most prestigious family in Eagleon, “tomorrow, actual classes commence. You all have chosen your desired professions. If you have any second thoughts, speak to me tomorrow morning.” He eyed the class again and this time his eyes seemed to fall on Jimmy, “Before you go, I must say this: Life is tricky. Where one expects to find something, he usually does not; and in the least expected of places, he will find what life truly wants to give him.” Every word was enunciated slowly, and the headmaster made sure to stress every single word with a grave emphasis.
For a moment, Jimmy felt as if that whole last sentence had been directed towards him – even if it was unintentional on the headmaster’s part.
“However, no matter the course you find yourself walking down; I urge you to persevere, to try new things out since you owe it to yourselves to find the answer to your lives and above all else, to keep moving forward.”
His left hand brought down the gavel for one last time, and the first class was dismissed for the day.