As the days slipped by, even as something as strange as a daily bare-knuckle brawl became little more than a piece of routine for the combat students. The alternative training course posed different challenges. It was a mishmash of light sparring, discussion, and “mind exercises.” These challenges presented by Coach Persephone could be as simple as a riddle or as complex as an intricate battle scenario where one was expected to provide a step by step plan for victory. The riddles were, on the whole, considered the more popular task.
They, too, settled into a rhythm, and soon spring was beginning to slip subtle touches onto the landscape. It was a flower here, a green patch of grass there, things that showed winter was losing its stronghold on the terrain. Of course, some signs were less subtle than others.
“Freshman River Trip. March 18 – March 22. Final sign up date February 2,” Vince read from the flyer posted on the door to Dean Blaine’s classroom. He turned and looked at some of the other students who had pooled behind him. “Anyone know what this is?”
“My sister told me about it,” Shane volunteered. “It’s a big event during spring break for the freshman class. They provide transportation, tents, and tubes for us to float the river on.”
Vince shuddered involuntarily. Ever since the mountain he’d gotten a spike of cold every time he thought about camping.
“Apparently it’s also tradition for the sophomores chaperoning to bring tons of beer and liquor so that the whole weekend is quite the celebratory event,” Shane continued.
“Great,” Vince said unenthusiastically. That made it sound even less fun. There was nothing that seemed even remotely appealing about this trip.
“Hells yeah. I’m putting our names at the top of the list,” Sasha said, stepping forward and plucking a pen from her bag. “About time we get to have some fun. I’m still kicking myself for missing that sophomore party last semester.”
Vince considered trying to stop her, then thought better of it. He wasn’t exactly experienced at relationships, but he knew enough to not try and deprive his girlfriend of something she would view as ample fun. Besides, no one was going to force him to drink. He could go and just enjoy the company.
“Rock on!” Nick said, sidling up to him. “Okay, Vince, this is it. This river trip, I am seeing you finally unwind. You, good sir, will try drinking. No arguments, because every time you open your mouth to say no I’m just cramming a shot down it.”
Vince supposed a couple would be okay. It was a new experience and all. Besides, they’d be out in nature, along with heaven only knew how many other college kids on spring break. It might be nice to blend in for a bit and get away from all the Lander uniqueness.
“I heard about this thing,” Gilbert said, adding his own name to the list. “Don’t they have a deal with some landowner so we’re the only ones on that river? No worrying about anyone seeing us use our powers.”
Vince was... well, Vince was pretty much just thinking “Damn it” over and over and over.
“All right, class, get inside,” Dean Blaine said from within the room. “The sheet will be there for at least a week. I assure you, a chance will be had by all to sign up.”
There was some grumbling, but they all piled in and took their seats.
“Settle down, class,” Dean Blaine told them. “I know you’re all excited about this weekend, but try to keep it under control. It’s only Tuesday after all.”
There were several exchanged glances of curiosity, followed by a multitude of shrugs admitting ignorance.
Julia raised her hand.
“Yes, Ms. Shaw?”
“What’s this weekend?”
“Tsk tsk, Ms. Shaw. I would have expected you to pay at least some attention to the Lander event calendar. Would anyone care to inform Ms. Shaw of what she has forgotten?”
He was met by vacant eyes and silence. The few in the class who did know the weekend’s significance didn’t dare proclaim it for fear of being judged as looking forward to it. Which they, in truth, were.
“I must say, I’m disappointed. Over thirty of you here and not one person knows what this weekend is? It’s Parents’ Weekend. I’d have thought you’d all have it marked on your calendars,” Dean Blaine, barely hiding a chuckle. He was significantly older than his students, but not so old that he’d forgotten the stomach-tightening terror of knowing your parents would be visiting you at college.
“Wait... you mean our parents...” Stella said, slowly circling the answer she didn’t want to hear.
“Your parents were all sent invitations inviting them to a weekend of fun and mingling here at Lander. They’ll be allowed to tour the facility, join in some parent and child social events, or just wander the campus meeting your friends and professors,” Dean Blaine explained.
“And these invitations, these are already sent out?” Rich asked from the front row.
“Indeed. Ever since one year when a student attempted to hijack the mail truck we’ve made it policy to only remind the students of Parents’ Weekend after all invitations are delivered,” Dean Blaine, glossing over the whole of the story. In truth, it had been several students who’d gone after the mail truck, but his class didn’t need to know that any more than they needed to know how Dean Blaine had such extensive, one could even say firsthand, knowledge of the event.
“Um... what time will they be arriving?” Will asked.
“Friday afternoon. On that note, you should know that gym will start an hour early, during what would usually be your study period. We want you to have extra time so you can all be cleaned up and ready when your parents arrive.”
Some of the students looked sullen, a few looked eager, and most looked downright terrified. It gave Dean Blaine a small sense of comfort knowing that no matter how powerful a child might be, they could still fear the embarrassment of their parents. Then he noticed a few faces in the crowd that looked nothing like the others. These were the faces of a few who were trying very hard not to look as sad as they felt. Dean Blaine’s amusement swiftly passed.
“Enough of that,” he said. “It’s time to start class.”