The deafening sound of colliding steel ricocheted like bullets across the onyx walls of the Black Cove. Rainn, a cadet of six years, was still a novice considering his magical capabilities, but a strong practitioner with the sword. He stood in the white sand arena, a long bloodred longsword in each hand, his eyes fixated on his opponent. The ancient general on the opposite side of the arena gripped a snowy white katana, his dark brown eyes fierce. His long midnight robes swept the sand at his feet.
Rainn’s heart stopped as the headmaster twirled the katana in his hand, kicking up sand as it scraped the floor. He motioned for Rainn to advance with his hand. His throat reminiscent of the Sahara, Rainn crossed his dual swords across his chest, bent his knees, and assumed his crescent moon stance. The shouts of the cadets filling the seats around them echoed across the arena.
Kranz’s face wrinkled as his mouth twisted into a sinister smile. Rainn took a deep breath. He had fought Kranz dozens of times before. He was prepared.
The old man rushed forward like lightning, his feet leaving heavy tracks in the sand. Rainn watched the point of the white sword as the headmaster spun it upward in a large curve, swiftly bringing it down upon Rainn’s waiting blade. The headmaster recovered quickly and turned to advance again, this time leading with a roundhouse kick. Rainn smoothly ducked and countered with a neat sweep of his sword, aimed straight for Kranz’s face. To his surprise, the headmaster leaped into the air with a backward flip, dodging the attack.
Kranz lunged at Rainn, his katana jabbing at the boy’s chest. Rainn raised his sword, parrying the quick strikes, the background noise of the arena fading away as his world narrowed before him. The swords clashed hard against each other, steel against steel, as Rainn searched for an opening. Just as he was bringing his blade down for the attack, however, Kranz leaped high into the air.
Rainn looked up, his strained eyes locking onto an ebony black katana blitzing for his torso. In a rush of adrenaline, he swung his sword across the sand to block the hit, flying backward into the wall. He scrambled to his feet, but he was too late. The steel tip of the headmaster’s sword hovered over Rainn’s jugular.
“Excellent work, Rainn. You learn quickly.” he snickered, and sheathed his weapon. “You still have far more to go before you are ready for my army, however.”
Rainn’s lips parted in a small smile. The Headmaster was incredibly difficult to please. These were the kindest words that Rainn had ever recalled him saying. But to his dismay, the stark tone of the Headmaster quickly returned to put Rainn back in his place.
“You are dismissed.” Kranz turned to walk back inside the training room, shaking his head. “Your brother showed such promise.” he whispered, placing his hands in the silken pockets of his robe.
Rainn took a deep breath and wiped the dripping sweat from his forehead. Who was he kidding? Kranz could never be impressed.
He smiled to himself as the crowd erupted in cheers around him. He waved to the spectators as he walked back across the arena to the door on the other side, nodding towards the applause of his fellow students in the back room. It felt good to fight. It was a release of energy, and with every battle, he grew stronger. He sheathed his blade and pushed the heavy wooden door open.
Rainn sighed, breathing in the gust of crisp spring air as he finally stepped out onto the beach. The sun was on the edge of the horizon, the deep red and orange sky highlighting the thick white clouds clustered above.
Rainn skillfully climbed over the short brick wall that surrounded the hidden entrance. He landed lightly on the sand of the other side, heading down the beach toward the clear waters of the Eastern Ocean. Unlike most of the East Ravensdale coast, this place was tranquil, quiet, and pristine; the water was at low tide, and the waves washed over the edge of the sand. Rainn sighed as the ocean air filled his lungs. It was nice to finally have some peace.
He pulled off both his long navy academy robe and the black tunic underneath and tossed them on the sand, running straight into the warm water in his trousers.
Rainn stood knee-deep in the water for a few moments, looking out into the sunset. The sky was painted with hues of violet and blue. The waves crashed against the shore, a soothing sound to his ears after the hours of clanging blades. He touched the amulet around his neck, feeling the familiar smooth cut of the round stone.
He recalled on his brother’s last words. “Little brother… I am so sorry. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for you,” he had said in between gasping breaths. “This amulet… it should protect you. Fulfill your destiny, brother.”
Rainn looked down, feeling like a failure. He and Aysten had been polar opposites. His brother, an Imperial Knight for the Ravensdale circle, strong and capable, had been sent off to defend the neighboring districts from the attacks of the undead Zenians. The Queen of Zenia herself was the only one who could to finally put him down once and for all. Rainn had stood by his brother’s deathbed as he slowly succumbed to the deathly poison darts.
On the day of Aysten’s death, Rainn had immediately embarked on his endless quest to find his brother’s murderer. Though she was the Queen of the Zenian Realm, Rainn could find no information on her whatsoever. Relentless searching through all of Ravensdale’s best libraries and keepers was all in vain. Somehow, that Queen had managed to disappear, leaving no trace for anyone to find her or the way to the land of the dead.
Rainn stood in the water, blinking away tears. Why did he have to die? He was the good one.
Rainn heard a light laugh and whipped his head around, startled out of this thoughts.
A girl was standing farther down the beach, her long dark braid flying behind her in the wind along with her flowing white dress. Her face was blurred beyond recognition and a certain intuition told him that she did not belong here. He watched as she pulled a small stick out of a basket on her arm. Rainn squinted. No, it was a wooden fan. She flicked it open, held it out in front of her, and spoke into it. Rainn’s eyes widened.
Suddenly, a gust of wind came out of nowhere, creating a huge wave far back in the ocean. It began to race toward her with unnatural speed, growing in size as it roared through the water, transforming from a wave into a tall tsunami. Rainn stared in horror as the girl began walking toward the wave, completely calm and composed. His breath caught as he noticed that her feet didn’t splash in the water, but seemed to float slightly above it. Curiosity getting the better of him, Rainn slowly moved closer.
She reached the huge wave, lifted her fan, and then swept it downwards.
The wave twisted and spun around her, shot high into the air and finally crashed down around her body. She danced and laughed in delight, completely dry and unharmed. Rainn narrowed his wet hazel eyes in confusion.
He finally recovered his voice and shouted out. “Hey!”
The girl turned and jerked back in surprise. She locked eyes with him for a moment, then suddenly disappeared.
Rainn stepped back. Even the most skilled of mages didn’t have the ability to vanish.
Turning around, he thought of going back to the Cove and reporting what he had just seen but decided against it. Trying to explain would make him appear psychotic.
Rainn waded back to the shore, dried off in the sun for a few minutes, and picked up his clothes pulling them on in a daze. The sun was setting. He had to head home, or he wouldn’t arrive there before dark.
The memory of the girl remained a vivid painting in his mind.