Altman broke the silence suddenly. “I’m sorry, what I heard last night was a lot to take in. I’m not quite ready yet to talk about it.”
Kaylene nodded slowly. Deman couldn’t hide his disgruntlement though; his eyes flashed briefly before his expression blanked. “Fair enough, Alt. Plenty of time for discussing business later, eh? Whatever it is must have been weighty and important to bring you all the way out here to talk about it. It’s only natural you’d need time to think about it.”
“I appreciate that. Thanks.” He felt awful hiding the truth of things, but the fact was he knew full well Deman was greatly looking forward to his position in the ranks of the academy administrators, perhaps one day to start moving up the ranks of the greater Conclave itself. He really didn’t know how his friend would take it when he learned what Altman had heard last night. He wasn’t yet sure what he himself thought about it.
Less than an hour later, Tremaine was as good as his word. With apologies to the others, he and Altman set out beyond the house yard and toward the hills. “I hope our conversation last night didn’t cause you too much stress, nephew. My eyes may be going,” and that was certainly true; their way was slowed considerably as Altman had to help him find his way over the rough forest ground, “but my ears aren’t, and though I tried not to, I heard something of the breakfast conversation.”
“I don’t know my own mind yet, so I certainly can’t know Deman’s mind. We’ve been friends for years, but I have misgivings. He is to start a position as an Academy junior administrator soon.” Altman’s voice was quiet, regretful.
“Overseeing those who perpetuate the agenda of the Conclave, and possibly to join their ranks directly soon.” Tremaine’s voice was low too, but Altman thought it sounded low out of weakness. His uncle’s face was drawn, tired, his pace faltering more. “Are you then coming around to my way of thinking then? You know,” he paused for breath, “you aren’t committed to this path. A life of virtual exile was my decision, for my reasons. You don’t have to make it yours as well.”