The Cadet of Tildor

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Book: The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alex Lidell
judgment.
Twenty journal pages due in six weeks. Have you started?” he asked her.
    Twenty pages. Renee winced and shot a look at Sasha. As a magistrate cadet, she would have had this course a year earlier; the archives of her mind could save them hours of work.
    “All right, all right. Hold on.” Sasha pulled an old journal from her drawer and rustled through pages of her neat writing. “Here. In essence, two boys took a pair of the Crown’s prized horses for a night ride. Bandits attacked, killing one horse and severely wounding one of the riders. The surviving boy took the blame, but swore that he intended to bring the horses back. Claimed he wasn’t a thief.”
    Renee snorted. “Thieves always claim they had meant to give the loot back.”
    Sasha shook her head. “In this case the claim was true—all agreed the deed was a jest. The boy just wished to ride the stallion, not keep him. But, the guardsman—who was responsible for said horses and didn’t take kindly to a pair of children making him look the fool—claimed that intentions are irrelevant. Said the boy was a thief and a heinous one, since he stole from the Crown himself.”
    Renee pulled her legs up under her and sat back against the wall. She was inclined to side with the guardsman. “What happened to the boy?”
    “Court agreed with the guard. Ordered the boy flogged for horse poaching and sent to the dungeons for treason.”
    Renee blinked. With Tildor’s economy bound to commerce, thieves received harsh treatment, but common reason separated a boy’s prank from a criminal conspiracy. “How in the Seven Hells did two boys even get close to the Crown’s horses to begin with?”
    Sasha’s smile confessed that she had awaited the question with some eagerness. She put her palms on the writing table and leaned over them. “They were Servant cadets—fighters—in this Academy.”
    Cadets?
Renee jerked her head toward Sasha. Cadets weren’t criminals; they were kids like her and Alec and Sasha. Moreover, they were kids training to do right by Tildor while others did right only by themselves. To scourge a cadet, much less shut him in a dungeon, was to violate . . . something. The word eluded her. The peasants on her father’s estate pledged their obedience and lives to Lord Tamath, but he pledged to protect and care for them in return. Did King Lysian owe anything to the Servants who swore to him? Did he owe anything to Savoy, who took his arrow? “Who was it?” she asked softly.
    “I don’t know.” Sasha dropped the journal back into the still- open drawer and shut it with her foot. Her lips tightened as if the lack of information was a personal affront. “The Academy precedes the anti-mage rebellion, so we can narrow things down to several centuries of students and closed records.”
    The logs in the fire began to crackle and the room filled with a savory aroma of burning hickory. Renee scooted closer to the flame and reached for her ink. The bottle tipped, spilling blackness over the blue trim of her uniform. The cap rolled mockingly under the bed.
    Cursing, she righted the bottle, sprang to pull a rag from her trunk, and blotted the mess. At last settling back down, she grabbed another bottle from her desk. The cap slithered off in mid-motion, spilling ink over her hand. She cursed again.
    Once an accident, twice . . .
    Renee opened her drawer to find all the bottles identically sabotaged and glared around the room. One day she’s in battle for the Crown’s life and the next she must check her quarters for juvenile pranks. Wonderful.
    “We didn’t play jest with your ink.” Alec held up his hands.
    “Yes. Triple promise,” a voice added from the doorway. Sloshing mud on the ink-stained floor, Diam and Khavi padded into the room. Beads of murky water dripping from the boy’s once blond hair had turned him into a grinning mound of dirt.
    Sasha threw a towel at him. “What happened?”
    “I learned the

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