Kellen winced as he heard Lienna eject the contents of her stomach into a nearby bush. It wasn’t enough to distract him from his surveillance of the road, but he frowned at his classmate’s predicament. Fortunately, the bout of illness didn’t keep her from spitting venom about carriages as she returned to the group. It was as sure a sign as any that she was alright.
It didn’t appear as if anyone was coming from behind, but Kellen eyes wouldn’t stop darting about until he knew with certainty what situation they were in. It was perhaps because of this that he almost felt relieved to see Auberon, followed shortly by Jorah. They didn’t appear to be in a rush, but Kellen nodded robotically as Auberon voiced his support to arm themselves, though he seemed nonplussed. As did Jorah. His House Leader, in garments befitting his station, seemed prepared for combat, if his earlier stretching and bravado was any indication. “Okay.” He muttered, though he didn’t follow them towards their weapons, keeping his eyes focused on his surroundings.
It was only as he heard the riders approach that he turned around to take a closer look at them, remarking with surprise that Kayden, Imogen and Jorah had somehow managed to strike out ahead, though it appeared as though the Kalonic siblings had gone ahead to meet with the riders. From this distance, Kellen was quite certain they weren’t a threat. His eyes immediately searched for weapons, which he didn’t spot, though he noticed the dash of crimson on the one’s hand that indicated some sort of wound. From this distance, he couldn’t make out the conversation between his professors and these villagers. He saw Imogen respond excitedly to the news but had no idea how to react when she started barreling in his direction, a look on her face that seemed to portend ill omen. He quickly turned around, scouring the road to see what she saw that was bringing her so rapidly towards him, but was altogether more shocked when he felt a pair of small hands place themselves -- not gently -- over his ears. He whipped back around to look at his assailant. “Goddess above Imogen! What’s—”
The explosion that followed both interrupted and answered his question. He slowly looked down at Imogen, his face as quizzical as it was relieved. The explosion hadn’t been too loud, and he wasn’t sure if the scare from the sound would have been worse than that of her accosting him suddenly. But how had she known to do so in the first place? He knew lightning could be seen before it was heard, had something similar happened here? “Thanks.” The word fell out of his mouth. Realizing it wasn’t much of a show of appreciation, he looked at her, not quite smiling but managing to wipe away the aggrieved look on his face for half a second. Then his gaze returned to the sky, his previously strategic watch was replaced by a thousand-yard stare.
Even as Michail started to explain the situation to the students, Kellen couldn’t pull his gaze from the long plume of smoke on the horizon. That smoke, and the explosion that had preceded it, made the abstract concept of a village under attack into one that was real, and close. He knew mages capable of such things, but his mind had a hard time figuring out why bandits, who from what he knew were concerned with enriching themselves, would do something this destructive. The question of motive sat with him as he stared out and Michail finished his speech.
Dully, Kellen realized he had sixty seconds to make a choice.
Michail had made it clear that’s what it was. A choice. But Kellen had felt ill at the prospect of a training exercise. And the thought of genuine combat made his stomach somersault. He was quite certain the bandits wouldn’t come out this far – they hadn’t seemed interested in pursuing these villagers, and Kellen’s anxious surveillance had revealed little to be concerned with. So how was it even a question that he would stay here, where it was safe?
The feeling of his sword pressing against his chest brought Kellen back to the world. His House Leader didn’t stop long before he entered the carriage. On instinct, his hand had grabbed on to the base of the sheath, which was now hovering lightly over his stomach. It sat there for half a moment, somewhat awkwardly. Auberon hadn’t even questioned whether he would follow. Imogen, after quickly patting his head, also followed in Auberon’s path, her usual enthusiasm by no means diminished by the prospect of combat.
At some point, Kellen’s other hand, on instinct, had gently placed itself on the pommel of his sword. He could feel his right leg starting to twitch, but worse than that was the chill that ran up his spine. He had not at all relished the prospect of going to Garreg Mach, but at the very least he had hoped it would mean an escape from this feeling. He wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to sustain it, if he even were to last long enough to each that breaking point. Far more likely some opponent's strike would make that decision for him. He had hoped the Academy would be an escape. An escape from the call to arms, and the investable bloodshed that followed. But here they were, and the call had gone out. Just like then, Kellen slipped his sheath and blade into a loop on his belt, and dutifully set off after his commander.
He stopped along the way though, looking to his fellow Lions. He couldn’t tell how Derec would react to this news, whether or not he’d come along. But he had a better read on Lienna. He remembered how she had reacted when the vagabond had burst into the dining room a few days prior. As he passed her, he paused for half a moment. “You, uh. You shouldn’t do anything you don’t want to.”He said quietly. He knew uttering anything too loudly would invite her ire. “But if you do come I’ll, um — I’ll have your back.” With a quick nod, he set off to clamber in the carriage behind Auberon and Imogen, his face set. As much as he tried to project a sense of calm, the moment he was seated, his right leg started to bounce up and down. He knew better than to try and stop it.