The sun was coming up over the dense tree line that surrounded the Silver Pastures. Birds were beginning to call, taking over the fading sounds of the nocturnal Deepwoods creatures.
Far in the distance, but swiftly approaching, a flight of skycraft were swooping in, past the Pastures and on to Lake Landing. The leader of the dozen crafts signaled to his craft. Swoop in low and silently. We don't want to wake the apprentices. NO TALKING!
They followed his orders, diving in as one and landing on the jetty that extended over the water. They dismounted, and still without a word, proceeded to the enormous corrals at the end of the jetty. There they locked up their delicate craft and headed towards the mess hall for breakfast.
Once inside the vast hall, the atmosphere relaxed and the librarian knights began chatting among themselves. The young flight leader removed his helmet, revealing a long cascade of dark hair. Turning to the knight at his side, he chuckled.
"Some raid! Next time Rook says his lancers have detected a raiding party to the South we'll just send a few baby oakelves with sticks to run them off."
Magda Burlix laughed. "He was serious, though. I wonder where he got his information from."
They entered the line for breakfast, and when they got their plates, went to sit at a table right next to the buffet. Xanth and Magda had barely started eating when another youth came and sat at their table. He was tall and muscular, with untidy black hair and wearing the tunic of a Freeglade lancer.
"Rook!" said Xanth, clapping him on the back, "You're goblin raiding party turned out to be nothing more than three tusked goblins who lost their way while picking mushrooms! My squadron guided them home and that was that. Not a single arrow fired."
"Well that's not what my scouts told me," replied Rook, embarrassed, "they said a party of fifty to sixty flatheads, fully armed."
"Oh, it doesn't matter. A little morning air is good for anyone." said Magda comfortingly.
"Hello, Magda," said Rook, "I didn't get a chance to say hello to you before I was accosted by this oaf." he elbowed Xanth in the stomach. The two tussled playfully until a shadow fell over their play.
"Um, can I sit here?" said a voice. Rook and Xanth both looked up. It was a librarian that neither of them had ever seen before. He was very handsome, with blond hair and very blue eyes. He was not, however, talking to Xanth and Rook. His question was directed at Magda, at whom he was staring dumbly.
"Of course," replied Magda with a little laugh, "there's room for everyone at this table."
Rook and Xanth sat back up and resumed eating, shooting inquisitive stares at the newcomer every so often. He was eating slowly, never taking his eyes off of Magda. Seeing the look he was giving her, Xanth felt something in his stomach knot. Very tightly.
"So, what's your name?" asked Xanth gruffly.
"Oh, I'm Noah Bunting." he replied with a jump, finally peeling his eyes off of Magda. "I'm a librarian knight under the Professor of Light." He smiled tentatively. "And who are you?"
"My name is Xanth Filatine," said Xanth, ignoring the young librarian's wide eyes. "This is Rook Barkwater, Captain of the Freeglade Lancers and the young woman you have not stopped staring at is Magda Burlix."
Noah blushed to the roots of his blond hair, mumbled an excuse, and left hastily.
"Why did you have to do that?" asked Magda angrily, "He wasn't bothering me and what you did was beastly."
"Magda, the only reason he was here was for you," said Xanth, blushing as well.
"That's no reason to drive him off!"
"I'd better get going now," said Rook nervously. He'd been caught up in fights between his two friends before and ne had no intention of being involved in one now. "I'll see you both tonight."
"It's not as if I have a boyfriend or anything," snapped Magda, ignoring Rook. Xanth's stomach gave a painful twist, and he stormed off for the peace of his office.
Magda watched him go defiantly, and then went and sought out Noah, who was about to leave the dining hall.
"Noah!" she called, "Noah!" He turned and looked at her, his face full of hope. "I'm sorry that Xanth went after you like that. He's kind of suspicious, especially now that he's a Captain."
"That's alright," said Noah with a smile, "I understand"
"Good, well I was wondering if you wanted to sit at our table tonight."
Noah was at first shocked and then his smile spread slowly, illuminating his handsome face. "You really mean it?" Magda nodded. "Well, I'd love to. I'll see you tonight, Magda."
Standing in the doorway of the dining hall, Xanth watched and listened to this exchange, his frown deepening with every word. He couldn't believe that Magda had invited this kid to sit at their table without consulting anyone.
Turning, he walked slowly to his office. How did he really feel about Magda? She was definitely one of his best friends with Rook and Tweezel. Lately, though, he was beginning to feel differently about her. His heart sang when she laughed, and when she smiled at him he thought he'd float away.
Shaking his, head, Xanth decided to talk to Rook about it.