Fire in Pinewood
My eyes had grown used to the dark as Adrian again swore under his breath and fumbled with his hands. I watched his eyebrows wrinkle together as he concentrated. A tongue of fire erupted from his palm, illuminating the clearing around us. I stared in horror at the flame, which seemed to blaze in his unburnt hand. "I can conjure fire anytime. You'll discover your element once we can actually find the school!" He threw down the flame in irritation, causing the damp leaves to burst in fire. Realising what he had just done, Adrian swore and proceeded to stamp out the fire with his foot. While Adrian was conjuring up another fire, Astor tugged on my sleeve, like a child on its mother’s. He swooped off into the depths of the forest that might’ve been towards the exit, or even deeper into the cluster of trees. I looked around, hoping for any sign of variation but there were only pine trees a shade of brilliant green even I could see in the dark. “I think I remember seeing the school tower north of where we were travelling so if we just travel north for a bit, we’d eventually arrive. Better hurry as well. Not a good idea to stay in the forest long.” “Astor went in that direction, should we follow him?” “Not a good idea. He might have gone hunting, and it’s best if we don’t get even more lost.”
He had a good point and I didn’t want to stay among these trees any longer than necessary. Something about the forest put me off edge.
After trekking through the wild undergrowth, a towering stack of Oreo’s came into view. Except they weren’t Oreo’s. The tower was taller than any of the trees in the forest and wider than any regular tower. A thin wiry fence surrounded the building, leaving ample grassy space around the base. As we walked forward, bright globes of light appeared suspended in front of us, further illuminating the pathway. Intricate writing filled a sign supported by sturdy poles, creating an arch welcoming us into the school.
"Welcome to Pinewood Academy," Adrian said with disinterest, "the greatest place in the world."
“Okay, this time you’ve got to be joking. Pinewood Academy? I was expecting something more impressive, like ‘Element Sanctuary’ or something. But Pinewood?”
“Element Sanctuary?” An eyebrow cocked up to his forehead.
“Better than what you call this.”
“Well, it’s logical. The school is surrounded by pine trees, so why not call it Pinewood? That’s probably what the first headmaster thought when he named it.”
We approached the gate, rusty with age, and Adrian pushed it open, the creaks sounding the night. For a gate surrounding such a modern looking school, I was expecting something of better quality. Our footsteps were eerie, being the only thing heard in the empty night. I expected noise to be coming from the Academy, but there was nothing. Must be some quality sound-proofing system.
Instead of a door at the bottom of the tower, there was something like a lift. Two panes of white strikingly bright against the black with a screen joining the two seemed to be the entrance.
Warm air rushed over us as we entered the strange, pure white pod that glowed eerily. The fresh smell of office buildings wafted over me. It was like it was brand new and had enough room for an elephant, giving us plenty personal space. Everything looked like it had just come out of a sci-fi movie. I was expecting some sort of alien to come in after us.
A screen emerged from the side, demanding identity for access. A laser appeared out of the screen and scanned Adrian's face, emitting a satisfactory ‘ding’ when completed. I grew nervous when it was my turn to be scanned. What identity could I possibly have at this school?
Like it read my mind, ‘INTRUDER ALERT’ flashed on the screen before the ground erupted in flames with a thundering roar. Tongues of flame licked the floor, threatening to eat our feet. They leaped from side to side, teasing the walls with their touch. I tried to call the strange, silvery water to douse the flames, but they weren't coming. I was going to be cooked. Well, it wasn’t the weirdest thing that had happened to me this past year.
"Sorry," Adrian coughed, "Security measure's gone wrong."
Panic crept up my skin as I watched the walls drip with the intense heat. I drew back my hand in alarm as an ember landed on my fingers. It was more in shock than pain. I backed away from the largest flame, afraid of what damage it might cause. I stomped on the smaller flames escaping from the screen, reducing the amount of danger present. The surrounding flames rejoiced in the air fanned towards them and leapt in delight.
"What are you doing?" Adrian's eyebrows crept together like caterpillars in rage as he abandoned one of the dying fires and turned his attention to the one I had raised.
"Stay back and don't touch anything. These fires aren't natural, hotter than normal fires."
"Not as hot as you are."
“You know, with all your fire stuff.” I used my hands to explain how he controlled fire, but I don’t think it got the message across.
“Ohh-kay, then.” He returned tending to the fires.
I was confident that the flames were under his control, magnificent and beautiful as they died away. Golden sparks erupted from his hands, bursting into tiny fireworks as they left. They were like a physical form of his energy, escaping him.
His palms faced forwards, like someone warming themselves at a campfire. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead as he concentrated. A clear circle formed around us, not even embers were able to penetrate the protection of the bubble he created. The only problem was the smoke. The deadliest part of a fire. I kept my shirt over my nose, holding my breath as a precaution.
Smoke found its way into our lungs, polluting them with its hideous stench. A high, piercing sound rang through the air, signalling an alarm. A bit late for that. Coughing, I dropped down, desperate to clear my lungs from the smoke. The intense heat beat down of my back, although there were no flames caressing it. I pulled up the collar of my shirt over my nose, hoping to filter the smoke I was breathing in.
I heard a faint buzzing noise in the distance just when I was about to drift into unconsciousness. A familiar hand grabbed my forearm and started to tug me out of the flames, which were slowly dying down. A wave of cool air rushed over me, bringing me back to consciousness. Air rushed into my mouth, pushing out the smoke in its way. I stabled myself and sat up, still feeling a bit woozy, ready to thank my saviour.
A girl who seemed a few years older than me knelt down, channelling air in and smoke out. Soon enough, I was breathing normally.
"Thanks," I said, “For saving my life."
"It's no problem, it's not actually that difficult to do. I'm Jaime, by the way. My little brother brought you here and I wanted to check up on him when this happened," She gestured to the damage.
"How did I get out of the pod? I didn't see any way out," I asked, still disoriented.
"Oh, that wasn't me, that was the work of the principal's assistant, Kaeley."
I faced the smoking pod, lying in ruins, but only saw Adrian trying to minimise the fire.
Someone tall and slim popped up from the debris. She towered above me, with the impression of menace wrapping around her. Her wings. They caught my attention and I just couldn't stop staring. Whether it was out of terror or amazement, I didn’t know. The stygian membrane rose above her, with the cartilaginous bones jutting out, as if it were hard bone chaotically broken into pieces.
"I'm Kaeley by the way. The principal will be expecting you soon.” She immediately made her way back to her large circular desk placed a good distance away from the smoking ruins to arrange some of her files. It was centred in the large atrium and the scattered pieces of the pod stuck out of the pristine floor, which gleamed with the excessive polish on the wooden panels.
From a distance, Adrian seemed unharmed, who was lying on the floor, drained of his power. His face was deathly grey, and the only sign of life was the fluttering of his eyes.
"How are you not burnt?" I asked, my mouth agape.
“Gee, you’re dumb.”
“Well, thanks. If you hadn’t noticed, I have no idea what’s going on.” My question remained unanswered, but I had a faint idea of what happened. With all his energy sucked out, Adrian’s breathing deepened as he slipped into a light sleep.
Kaeley appeared next to me, with no sign of movement. Fury showed on her face, contorting her features, as a glamour-like shield started to fall away. Her slim face fell apart to reveal a grotesque image with distorted proportions.
“Time to go, dear.” The ends of her mouth stretched up into a smile filled with malice.
“What’s her deal? I muttered to Jaime.
“Oh, don’t mind her. She has a short temper.”
“But I didn’t even do anything?”
“As I said, don’t mind her. Don’t take it personally.”
She led me towards a large door on the left, definitely not a pod, to my relief. I glanced back, my wide eyes seeking relief somehow. Jaime was in the corner.
“What is she?” I wondered, the image of the mangled face flooded my mind and I shivered in fear and disgust.
Her grimace was filled with sympathy. “Kaeley’s one of the faeries from the Seelie Court. The good court.”
My fear intensified as I took in what Jaime had said. If Kaeley was one of the good fairies, I couldn’t even imagine what the bad ones were like. The brief flash of her true nature was horrible enough.
We arrived at the intimidating double doors, and I froze mid-step. What would the principal do to me? I glanced back at the destroyed pod and a burning sensation turned in my stomach. What if the people of Tedalia believed in a different punishment system? I was still unsure about Tedalia. Now I felt really screwed over.
Jaime forced me into the room and left me there alone without any further explanation. The room wasn’t filled with unfamiliar torture devices like I had expected. A fire burned quietly in the corner of the room.
A low, chuckling sound caught my attention and I turned around. The voice belonged to a rotund person, who reminded me of Santa Claus. Except for, you know, the giant beard and the red suit.
"I’m Professor Torus,” he boomed in his echoing voice. “It’s a pleasure to have you at Pinewood Academy.”
“Okay, you’ve really got to change its name.”