The air was rich with a crisp chill. The long shafts of morning light peeked through the trees where it was already turning the dew into a lingering fog. Oscar loved his trips down to Newearth. They reminded him of his own past. He had spent his first life on a world that was similar. He reminisced as he walked through the garden of mortal boys.
There were no buildings, or structures of any kind. The bare simplicity of the green landscape filled him with joy. His twelve students were already up and working at their assignments. Oscar watched each with a fatherly fondness as he walked. He felt a thrill as he thought of the honor it was to train these boys.
“G’morning, Teacher,” one of the boys said. Oscar glanced over to see Oseas looking up at him from where he was working on his assignment. Like all of the boys, Oseas was a perfect image of respect and studiousness. The boy quickly went back to working with the plant.
“Hello, Oseas. How is your assignment going?”
“It’s going well. I’m finished but I’m making sure I’ve made the right choice,” Oseas said but did not look up again. He was cradling a small leafy green plant between his palms and staring at it with intensity. Oscar continued to walk through the midst of the other boys who were in similar postures.
“How about you, Shameless, are you almost finished?” Oscar questioned.
“I am, Sir, but I’m coming up with a backup in case I’ve chosen poorly.” Oscar placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder as he responded.
“In this exercise there is no wrong option. It is up to your creative nature to decide.” Shameless looked up at Oscar. A wide smile of satisfaction stretched across his face. Oscar could see that he was enjoying his training.
“In that case, I am finished, Sir.”
Oscar continued to walk through the working boys. He thought back to his own former life. Teachers on his home world would have killed to have students like these. He counted eleven clustered near the place of learning. There was one missing. Oscar spun around slowly looking for the twelfth.
“Abriel,” he called when he could not find the boy. His eyes roamed the tree line of the garden. From behind a nearby tree trunk, a head popped out. Oscar walked toward him. “Ahh, there you are. How is your assignment going?”
“Fine, I guess,” Abriel said.
“Is there something amiss?”
“No, not really.” Abriel picked at the bark of the tree as he looked up at Oscar. The boy was intelligent and respectful, but Oscar could see something was troubling him. It was strange for anything other than satisfaction to be on the face of any of the boys. Oscar leaned in underneath one of the low hanging branches.
“Have you chosen a plant yet?” Oscar said.
“Um, well.” Abriel looked around quickly. His eyes rested on the tree for a brief second. “I have now.”
“Very good,” Oscar said with a little chuckle. “You are well on your way to-“
“It’s just that-“ Abriel began to say but then stopped himself. “Oh I’m sorry, Sir, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“It’s fine, Abriel. Finish your words.”
“It’s just that, I’d rather do something else.” Abriel looked sheepish, as if he didn’t know how to tell anything but the truth but was a little confused about his own feelings. His candor was refreshing.
“What would you prefer to be doing?” Oscar asked.
“I guess I don’t see the purpose of this assignment. I want to do more important things like you do.”
Oscar let the moment soak in before he said anything. He surveyed him hoping that there was no seed that could grow into twistedness in the boy. Oscar had seen firsthand what twistedness could do to a world. He spoke slowly, letting Abriel hear the seriousness in his voice.
“The King has said, those who are responsible in small things, will be given greater responsibility. Those who have a prominent place in the Great City did not come by it easily,” Oscar said. The boy’s face lit up at his words.
“I want to go to the Great City. I want to see the shiny streets, and the sea, and the tree-“
“There is a path to that place, and this assignment is along that path.” He let an assertive note saturate his tone. Abriel held the gaze of his teacher. There was no defiance in the boy, at least not that Oscar could detect.
“Yes, Sir,” Abriel said. He had taken his correction with respect, but the interaction gave Oscar concern. Being the former inhabitant of a bent world, Oscar knew the consequences that misplaced ambition could bring.
“Very good,” Oscar said. He smiled and patted Abriel on the shoulder. “It will all make sense in time.”
Oscar walked away still pondering the conversation with his ambitious student. He could feel the creeping concern turning in his stomach. He would not allow it to turn to worry. It would not be fitting to worry in a place like this, he thought. He whispered into the cool morning air so soft that none of the boys could hear it.
“My King, I have concern.” As soon as the words escaped his lips he could sense the change. He did not hear the voice as he sometimes did but he knew the King had responded. He relaxed as the warm peace washed over him. The tension eased, and he released the concern into the open air as he exhaled. “Your plan is good,” he breathed.