Midsummer Graduation – Terya Tales – Short Story

*Kalik didn’t really want to join the Guardians, but once he’s started something he gives it his all. That effort is starting to pay off as he Graduates from Cadet to fully fledged Guardian.*

*This short story was shared to my mailing list party in July 2022. For exclusive early access to stories like these, sign up to join the party here. It also fits into the larger world of the Guardian Cadet Series but can be read independently.*

My heart thundered in my chest, rattling my ribcage enough to make breathing feel like a challenge. I would have expected this from a training session in the Gym at the base of Tower One but not in the ballroom at the base of Tower Five.

Elaborate light fixtures illuminated the tapestries coating the walls, depictions of historical events like the founding of the Guardians, as well as legends of what happened on Shima before the Guardians settled it over a thousand years ago.

Other Guardian Cadets loitered at the base of the of the Guardian crest built into the floor just below the temporary stage erected directly opposite the ornate wooden door. PT’s surprisingly short presence still stood out amongst them, primarily because he was always on the move, pointing this way and that, his voice carrying enough that it was clear he was speaking but not so much that I could make out the words themselves.

The clock in the top of the tower chimed the hour. I was late. Again.

“Ah, there you are,” he greeted, waving me over from where I hovered just inside the ajar doors. “I had hoped you wouldn’t be running in at the last minute like you normally do, but I will take just on time over late.” It would have been all too easy to read the interaction as hostile, PT’s gruff voice always implied a hostility that wasn’t usually real, but the way his mouth curved into a smile solidified the teasing nature of the words. “And in your full Formal Uniform at that.”

I rubbed at the back of my neck, fingers catching against the stiff collar of my new Formal Uniform shirt – I had destroyed its predecessor in the laundry thanks to too much soap. “It was required.”

“I was just talking the Graduating Cadets through the process of the ceremony—“ his attention snapped over my shoulder to the still ajar doors behind me “—but I’m sure one of the others can catch you up.” He strode past me to huddle close to Commander Sheffing.

I smiled at the other almost-Graduates.                                                  

“I still can’t believe they’re letting him Graduate already,” Ghraine muttered, leaning close to Marcan.

“Come on, Ghraine, you can’t be like that.”

“I’m just saying. He’s hardly old enough to start making his way through the ranks.”

“Have you and I not been in training the same length of time?” I interrupted.

Ghraine sneered. “I have been alive four whole years longer than—”

“But we have been in the Guardian Cadet Training Programme for the same length of time, have we not?”


“Done the same number of patrols partnerships, the same amount of training sessions with PT? We’ve learnt the same techniques? Worked with the same partnerships? Did we not pass the same test? Have we not gained the same amount of trust from the Commander and the Colonels?”

“That’s not what I mean!”

“You mean to tell me you think PT should be above the Commander in the hierarchy just because he’s older?”

“Of course not.”                      

“Then why is my age a factor at all?”

“You’re barely even an adult!” Ghraine snapped, voice echoing in the relative silence of the ballroom.

“Enough!” Commander Sheffing called. “If you do not support your fellow Guardians, you will not be permitted to Graduate, am I clear?”

“Yes Sir,” we all chorused.

“Sorry,” Ghraine muttered.

“Forgiven,” I replied. I was never going to make friends. Was it going to be like this forever? Would I always be known as the youngest ever Graduate? I wouldn’t begrudge someone else coming to take that title, even if I could already see what Ghraine meant by my being particularly young for Graduation. Maybe not a younger Graduate then, but hopefully someone would come along with a more dramatic story than being the youngest ever Graduate. Didn’t seem likely though…


The Formal Uniform shirt clung to my shoulders in a stifling, unexpected way, made all the more potent atop the stage looking out on the gathered crowd of people. It wasn’t that my regular Uniforms didn’t fit, they just didn’t fit as close as this shirt that seemed to emphasize the sheer breadth of my shoulders – had they always been this broad? Of course, not when I was a child, but was this new or just exacerbated by the clinginess of the white shirt?

It was fine.

It would be fine.

The ballroom door opposite me stood ajar, letting in a warm summer breeze, tantalising me with brief glimpses of freedom and the shifting trees in the central green of the Five Towers campus.

So lost in my own thoughts, in my attempt to remind myself this painful amount of attention was all for a purpose and was not, in fact, a pointless exercise in my personal discomfort, I almost didn’t recognise my own name as it was called.

A forgivable error for a name I’d only been using less than a year.

Deciding to enter the Guardians under two separate Surnames was sensible, lest both Jon and I be called on as Cadet Whitclé – that would have been a nightmare. So I’d entered with our mother’s Surname instead.

I should have thought it through further. An unfamiliar name and one I associated so strongly with my mother was sweet but perhaps unwise.

It was only when PT hissed the name as me that I stumbled out of my thoughts and over to Commander Sheffing.

He affixed the accolade button to the reinforced fabric over my heart, the official signal that I was no longer a Cadet but a Graduate. And in one year’s time I would be a fully-fledged Guardian Private.

I looked out over the gathered crowed once more, smiling and excited faces turned toward the stage to watch their family, friends, or fellow guardians move from Cadet to Graduate. Formal outfits of every conceivable variety and colour were regularly interspersed with  Guardian Formal Uniforms, their black and whiteness stark in contrast to the sparkling multitudes. A head of coily black hair caught my eye. I swallowed thickly, the face wasn’t the one I wanted to see.

Eyes stinging, I headed back to the line of Graduates as the Commander called the next Graduate up.


I leaned against the cold stone wall at my back, basking in the chill after the insufferable  heat of the ballroom once people had started dancing. My chest was tight, eyes burning with the threat of tears. I leaned my head back and let myself sink into a crouch, only not sitting to avoid dirtying my Formal Uniform Trousers, and allowed the threat of tears to become a reality.

“I should have known I’d find you hiding away somewhere like this.” Why was it that Jon always looked better in everything than I did? Everyone had always said we looked alike – part of the reason I’d started growing my hair out as a teenager – but somehow Jon always looked more put together than I did. Maybe he just spent more time on his appearance than I did, but that didn’t seem very authentically Jon. “What’s wrong?”

I sniffed. “There’s parents here.”

Jon’s face fell. “Oh, E. I’m sorry.”

I shook my head. “It just hit me is all.”

“Come here.”

I let Jon pull me to my feet and into his arms. I buried my face in his shoulder, using it to muffle the sobs that escaped me. “They should be here.”

“I know. They should.” He pulled me tighter.

“I miss them so much.”

“Me too, E.”

Eventually I snuffled my way out of his shirt. “I cried on your shirt.”

“That’s fine. Do you want to go home?”

Home. A word I suddenly struggled to find connection with. When we had been accepted as Guardian Cadets, Jon and I had moved out of our old family home and into barracks. I liked  the barracks, liked sharing the space with the other Cadets, liked the relationships that built in a way that would otherwise have been much more challenging. But I’d had to move into the Graduated barracks and I didn’t know my new neighbours yet.

Even if I had been going back to the Cadet barracks, it still didn’t feel like home. Not the way our actual, childhood home had. But there were new people in the house now. The life we had had there was gone. And Jon and I were all that was left.

“We can’t get them back, but we can live in a way that would make them proud of us,” Jon said, echoing the words our mother had told us when our grandparent  had died.

I nodded, sniffled once more, and stepped out of my brother’s comforting hold. He did, in fact, have a small wet patch on his shoulder where my tears had fallen. I wiped my hands over my face. “Okay, I can go back in.”

His eyebrows were still pinched. “Are you sure? I don’t think anyone would mind if you bowed out early.”

I shook my head. “I’m okay. I want to see this through.” I offered him a watery smile and dipped back into the humid, bustling ballroom.

The band still played, as they had done when the ceremony ended and I had begun my desperate search for somewhere to hide in order to deal with my emotions in private. The central area was filled with people dancing in pairs and trios. Smiles and laughter filled the room even over the undercurrent of chatter. This was a happy occasion and, my brief blip of grief aside, I was happy to be here. Particularly now that I was off the stage.

A shudder rippled down my spine at the memory of the attention. Here was hoping I could avoid ever doing that again. The only reason I should ever need to repeat the experience was if I started moving up the ranks of Guardians, and I didn’t have to do that. But, even as I stood at the edge of the room I had just graduated in, the idea of remaining static at the rank of Private sat uncomfortably around me like the too-fitted Formal Uniform shirt.

Maybe it would be easier next time. At least I shouldn’t feel quite so abandoned by my lack of available parents.

“There you are,” PT’s unmistakable voice said from my left. I turned away from the happy dancers to offer him a smile. “I’m glad I managed to catch you.”

“Yes Sir?”

“I wanted to congratulate you.”

“Do you do that with everyone?”

“Most people. But I think it’s particularly important to let you know that I really do think you deserve this, regardless of what people like Ghraine say. I’ve seen how far you’ve come.” His hand landed on my shoulder, heavy, grounding, and immobilising. “You are far different from the young man who sulked his way through my training sessions. You are truly worthy of your Graduation. And I’m glad you decided to shave off that ridiculous attempt at a beard.”

A surprised laugh escaped me.

“Trust me,” PT said, looking past me to the assorted Guardians in the room with a severity that belied his recently jovial tone. “You’re exactly what the Guardians need. When you can get past that self-sabotage streak.” 

“Lieutenant Aramos doesn’t seem to agree that I’m what the Guardians need.”

““Lieutenant Aramos wants the Guardians to return to the old supposed glory days. We began as a military organisation. We should be moving away from that, don’t you agree?”

“Of course. But what do you expect me to do? I’m just a Graduate.”

PT’s fingers squeezed my shoulder. “You’ll figure out your own path, Graduate. Just trust your instincts – at least about other people.” He stepped back. “And work on that self-sabotage thing.”

“I don’t self…” I trailed off as PT disappeared into the crowd.

“…portrait?” someone asked from behind me.

“Sabotage,” I answered, turning to find an Elf with stunning red eyes.

He laughed. “Is that as dramatic as it sounds?”

“No, I was talking to…”

“To?” he prompted.

“Sorry, you just have the most amazing eyes.”

He grinned, all sharp angles for such smooth teeth. “Flattery will get you everywhere.”

“That sounds promising.”

The Elf laughed, tilting his head back to expose the long column of his throat. “Ooh, the Graduate knows how to flirt. That’s rare.”

“You got a thing for Guardian Graduates?”

“By the sands, no. I do have a thing for people who can dance, though.” He held out a hand.

I took it and let him lead me into the area the dancers had claimed. I should probably have warned him I wasn’t the most efficient dancer, but when he scooped me into a hold and started to move it was all too easy to follow.

“I’m Asha, by the way,” he whispered in my ear.           

“E—“ my throat closed on the name. I coughed. “Kalik, I’m Kalik.”

“Well, Graduate Kalik, it’s exceedingly pleasant to meet you.”


Want to see more of Kalik? Check out Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse (signed books, unsigned books) and Merry Arlan: Finding The Heir (signed books, unsigned books)

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