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Dex? Dex! Ah, back with us now are you?” A murmur of laughter rippled around the classroom from the other kids which the tutor squelched with an ill-tempered bark. “Perhaps you’ve discovered the answer to my question amongst your daydreams, is that it?” 

 

Dex stared glumly at the short, beak-nosed tutor. Since he was clearly expecting an answer, standing there with his beady gaze fixed intently on Dex, Dex shook his head, which only served to enrage their teacher further.  

 

Stalking down the aisle between student desks, Longhair lashed his cane through the air in short, sharp whips. The ominous swishing made Dex cringe. He knew what was coming.  

 

Dex stood outside in the hallway, banished from Longhair’s classroom for his misbehavior. Pulling a small ball from a concealed pocket, he began kicking it back and forth between his feet. Flicking the ball up with one foot, he bounced it off a knee, off the heel of his left foot, onto his shoulder and then back down to his right foot. In his mind, he started to hear the roar of the crowd. His imagination filled in the voice of the commentator, talking about this new, young talent that the Scholar’s Guild had found. The ball bounced in front of him once and as his senses blurred the lines from reality to fantasy, he took that shot on goal.  

 

There was a crash, and the sound of tinkling glass. Dex’s attention snapped back to the present and he realized with a slow, dawning horror that he’d kicked the ball through the glass in the Master’s office door.  

 

The door was wrenched open, sending some of the more precarious, remaining pieces of glass flying, and the Master’s large frame filled the open space.  

 

DEX!” He roared, and the young boy slunk guiltily towards the office.  

 

-- 

 

From where he stood at his office window, Master Augur looked down into the dark courtyard where Dex was supposed to be working. It was early evening although the courtyard was still light enough for the boy to work. Laboriously sweeping the heavy brush slowly around the courtyard, Dex never once looked up to see the master looking down at him.  

 

Beside Augur, Longhair groused on about the daydreaming student and all the ways he was unsuited to the Scholar’s Guild. The master didn’t disagree with his subordinate, but still there was something about the boy. 

 

Below them, thinking no one was watching, Dex had abandoned his broom and recovered a sad, slightly deflated leather ball that had been left by one of the senior students. With deft grace the boy moved the ball around the courtyard, bouncing it off walls and then intercepting the rebounds as if tackling another player in Guild Ball. Grudgingly, Augur admitted that the boy was gifted. Maybe it was a gift that the guild could make use of.. 

 

-- 

 

Walking out onto the practice pitch that sat nestled amongst large oak trees, Dex marveled at the fresh air and the feel of his boots on the turf. He didn’t pay any attention to the two men who stood shoulder to shoulder on the far side of the pitch, deep in conversation.  

 

“He’s far too young Augur,” said Sage. 

 

“Just watch,” the Master Scholar replied, although he didn’t disagree with his veteran goalkeeper’s assessment.  

 

The coaches sorted the hopefuls into two teams and blew the whistle to begin the game. Older boys and girls on both sides immediately tried to assert their dominance of the younger ones, holding the ball or attacking the weakest of the opposing team. Unsure what to do with such a small player, his captain had posted Dex out on the wing to be ignored. Their team got the ball and Dex ran down the side of the pitch into position to shoot on goal. Unmarked by the other team, he stood there, waving his hands frantically above his head, trying to get the attention of the girl with the ball. Ignoring him, she passed it out to the other side just before she was hit hard, taking a shoulder to her chest that knocked her on her back.  

 

Again, jumping up and down now, Dex tried to attract the attention of his teammate, indicating that he was open. Instead the boy tried a poorly aimed kick on goal himself which was easily deflected and once again the other team had the ball.  

 

Annoyed, Dex jogged back down the wing, following the play. Suddenly he felt a massive blow between his shoulder blades that made him stumble and fall. Face down in the dirt, he felt a heavy boot stomp once on a kidney and a sneering voice say, “Stay down. This game is no place for children.”  

 

Taking a deep breath, forcing himself to get over the pain in his back, pushing himself slowly up to his feet, Dex just shook his head and jogged back down the pitch. His opponents scored and one of his own team went to recover the ball for a goal kick It was the same girl that had ignored him earlier and Dex's hopes dwindled. To his own amazement, she kicked the ball hard in his direction, maybe seeing that he had clear grass ahead of him, or perhaps just taking pity on the young boy. Trying not to waste his opportunity, Dex took off running, the ball just ahead of him. One of the largest boys on the opposing team lumbered towards him. Kicking the ball between his legs, Dex deftly ducked the clumsy haymaker and sprang past. A stronger kick sent the ball sailing forwards in time for Dex to jump a clumsy, skidded tackle coming at him from the side. Suddenly he was clear. He took one step. Another. Planting his left foot squarely, he kicked, striking perfectly.  

 

“No way,” Someone whispered.  

 

Lazily arcing through the air, unaware that the shot shouldn’t be possible, the ball struck the goal. Just like that, Dex made the team. 

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