Whatever the Disciples were busy doing, every one of them, it seemed, was pleased to give a nod to the Moonchild who sat, still clothed in a blue guest robe, by himself on a bench. With each acknowledgment, Eben grinned and nodded his head in return.
Eben lifted his shoulders, sitting upright. He looked, masking his surprise, into the eyes of the young student standing before him.
“Hi,” Eben replied.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Eben.”
“I’ve seen you sitting here a lot recently. I had never seen you before. Are you considering joining the Discipleship?”
“No. I just enjoy being here.”
The student, given his narrowed eyes and tilted his head, seemed confused by that answer. He was eying Eben’s yellow raeth, but he couldn’t place it.
“I like being able to talk to all of you.”
“Oh,” replied the student. His look was one of pity, which amused Eben.
“How many years have you been a student in the dastarium?”
“This is my third.”
Eben nodded and opened his mouth to reply, when an elder Disciple inserted himself into their conversation. He was far taller than Eben, even if he had been standing, and his shadow cast Eben into the darkness, or so it felt.
The student looked up to his elder. “Sir?”
“What are you doing talking to yourself? Stop standing about like a cow and hurry off to class.”
“I wasn’t just standing about,” replied Kassell, holding a hand out toward Eben. “I was—”
“No excuses, child. The exam starts promptly at the seventh hour.”
Kassell’s eyes glanced to Eben, his brow knitted. “Yes, sir.”
When the older Disciple turned and left, his robe billowed up and hit Eben in the face. He didn’t turn back.
“I’m sorry, Eben,” Kassell said. “He usually isn’t so rude.”
Eben couldn’t take his eyes off the hallway where the elder Disciple had turned and disappeared. “It’s…alright. Don’t worry about it. You’d better get to class.”
Kassell took a swift bow and hurried off, but Eben quickly forgot about him. His thoughts were trapped by the elder Disciple who had snapped at Kassell for standing around “like a cow.” Not a phrase Eben had ever heard, but he understood what it had meant.
That man had not been able to see Eben at all.
It wasn’t so uncommon most of the time; Eben had gone a great deal of his life without people noticing him. He wasn’t invisible to them, exactly, just…completely insignificant. If he started jumping up and down and hollering, everyone would notice him. But if he sat still and quiet, most people’s eyes would never land on him. Their subconscious would never notice he was there. He had grown used to it in most places.
But in the dastarium?
Here, everyone saw him. He had thought so, anyway.
His eyes flickered again down to the hallway where the elder Disciple had walked. Something had been off about him and it made Eben’s skin crawl.
He stood up from bench, rubbing his hands down the side of his blue robe. He turned his head away, though it was like prying a door from its hinges, and walked the other way. He thought about taking the robe off and tossing it on a bench as he walked out, but stopped himself.
“Excuse me,” Eben found himself saying, waving a hand in front of the next young Disciple who walked past him.
The young acaethess’s eyes jumped up to his. “Oh! Yes?”
Eben smiled. “Sorry to bother you. Have you seen Lixa? She’s a friend of mine and I…” Eben stopped himself as he saw the girl’s head shaking.
“I’m sorry, sir. Lixa no longer serves here.”
“She requested a relocation.” The girl spoke with a hushed voice and it made Eben even more uncomfortable than he already was. “She lives in another country now.”
Eben found himself at a loss for words. “Another country? But…did she—what about her family?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ve really got to get to class.” She rushed off without another word.