Chapter 8 - The Final Test
Upon completion of the two tests, Me and Aldis were then taken to the next testing area for the team evaluation.
“A canyon?” Aldis said as he looked around the surrounding rocky walls.
“I guess,” I replied.
The canyon that me and Aldis were currently in only had one way forward because behind us, the canyon was closed off. The walls surrounding us were steep and seemingly unscalable and the blistering heat was near unbearable for me.
“So we just have to find the exit, right?” Aldis asked.
“Yeah but, like the last test, it may not be as easy as it seems. Do you have a waterskin on you?”
Aldis pulled out a waterskin and shook it.
“It’s about half full,” Aldis said.
“Let’s try to conserve our water for now until we find a river.”
Aldis put back his waterskin and nodded.
Unlike the last test where I forgot to take into consideration the size of the forest, I’ll be sure to account for the fact that the canyon may stretch a long distance.
Me and Aldis then started to walk and find the way out of the canyon.
As we walked, the canyon still looked barren and devoid of any life. There were no visible trees in sight nor animals. We walked. And walked some more. And walked even further, and still, no end in sight. My feet started to ache and my face and clothes were filled with sweat. The heat started to become unbearable and at times, the thought of stripping off all my clothes seemed like an appealing plan.
Unlike me though, Aldis seemed to be having more trouble with the heat and was squinting from all the sweat that rolled down his forehead. His clothes were visibly drenched and his breath was ragged.
We both looked at each other and I could already tell what he was going to ask.
“You wouldn’t happen to use water, ice, or wind magic?” Aldis asked.
“A little bit of wind but, not really. Can you?”
“Hmm. I could create some small fans if you would like?”
“I would greatly appreciate it.”
I then conjured small fans and handed Aldis one.
“Before I came to this academy I lived in a cold mountain and, I’ve never experienced heat to this degree,” Aldis said as he waved the fan to his face.
“Is that why you chose to learn fire magic? To keep warm in the mountains?”
“Sort of. I had a brother once. He was really nice and optimistic. One day, we got caught in a snowstorm while we went to go get firewood. We ended up trapped and unfortunately, I was the only one to make it out. My brother, the cold and...” Aldis then took a deep breath and said, “he died.”
“Oh...sorry I asked.”
“I don’t really mind. It’s a thing of the past now. My brother always told me to keep hope and follow it. There are other kids in the mountains and hopefully one day, I can keep them from meeting the same fate as my brother. How about you? Why do you use conjuring magic?”
“I don’t really know. It just happened to be the magic I was best at.”
“Maybe once you awaken your memories you’ll find out.”
“Maybe. I wonder how much land we still have to cov-” I couldn’t finish my sentence because in the distance, I saw something. “There it is, Aldis”
“What, water?” Aldis asked as his face brightened.
“No, even better. The exit,” I said and pointed towards the opening at the end of the canyon.
Me and Aldis increased our pace and started to run towards the exit. The exit was getting closer and closer. Then, a large shadow covered the canyon.
“Aww come on,” I said and I started to run backwards. “I should’ve known.”
Descending at the exit of the canyon was an ethereal looking dragon. The dragon had shiny blue scales and two horns. The flap of its wings sent gusts of wind and as it descended, ice started to form on the nearby land. Once it had landed, it fully blocked the exit of the canyon. The dragon then stood there on it’s four legs and waited. Wings tucked and eyes surveying the land.
“Well, what now?” Aldis asked.
“I don’t have a clue. Let’s go hide behind some boulders for now.”
Me and Aldis found some boulders a good distance away from the dragon and started to think of a plan.
“Aldis, can you try shooting a fireball at it. Except, compress it so that the force and heat of the fire is focused.”
“Ok but, what if the dragon attacks back?
“Try using the cloak and hope it protects you.”
“What will you do?
“I’ll try to get it to face me while you shoot it.”
Plan made, me and Aldis left the boulder. Aldis went right while I went left. The dragon immediately noticed both me and Aldis. Its eyes were then focused on me and stared at me intently. The dragon didn’t seem like it would do anything and instead just stood there while me and Aldis got into position. I conjured a crossbow in my hands and Aldis started to compress a ball of fire in his hands.
I shot first and the projectile shattered upon striking the dragon’s scale. The dragon seemed unfazed and faced in between me and Aldis. Aldis then shot his fireball. The ball of fire struck the dragon’s wing and nothing happened. The fire was gone and the dragon was unscathed. The dragon then opened its mouth.
“Aldis, cloak,” I shouted and held the cloak in front of me.
Out of its mouth came a burst of cold air and spikes of ice. The sound of ice shattering and wind blowing filled my ears. The dragon’s breath blew me and Aldis back as we held our cloak dearly while the surrounding scenery became engulfed in ice.
Once the dragon’s breath had ceased, the canyon was layered with ice and the blistering heat was no more. Instead, it was freezing cold. With every exhale, I could see the shape of my breath leave my body.
I looked at the dragon again. The dragon looked at me and Aldis and made no moves. It just stood at the exit, patiently waiting.
“Zeff, look at your cloak,” Aldis said.
I looked at my cloak and saw that it was fading. And then, the cloak dissipated into thin air. The dragon’s breath was enough to overwhelm the silencing enchantment on the cloak. I looked at Aldis and his cloak was also gone.
I walked over to Aldis and he produced a small flame in his hands to keep us warm.
“So what now?” Aldis asked.
“We wait and let’s just observe for now. I don’t know who made the pact with that dragon but, they must be a very strong spirit magic user. I heard it was rare for anyone to even make a pact with such a beast.”
Me and Aldis went back to the now frozen boulder and sat down.
“At least it’s not hot,” Aldis said.
“That it is not.”
“What was the point of your plan?”
“I wanted to see if we could damage it. That’s why I asked if you could compress your fireball. If we both can’t damage it, there’s probably no point in attacking it.”
“I see. Do you think it has a weak spot?”
“It’s possible but, it’d be too hard to find out. The dragon seems to only retaliate and we don’t have our cloaks anymore. We do have the chestplate but, I’d rather not see my limbs get frozen.”
I looked at the dragon once more. It still stood there and made no action against us. Beside the dragon were the walls of the canyon coated with ice and it made it hard for the dragon to extend its wings.
“I’m going to try something. You can stay here for now,” I said.
Aldis nodded and stayed behind while I walked to the space in front of the dragon. I started to walk closer to the dragon and as I got closer, it’s mouth could be seen opening. I quickly backed away and the dragon closed its mouth.
So I can neither attack the dragon nor approach it.
I then created a crossbow in my hands and looked at the dragon. The dragon did nothing. I placed the crossbow on the floor and created another crossbow and placed it on the floor. The dragon still did nothing.
It was then an idea struck me.
This could work.
“Aldis, my plan is ready.”
“I thought you said attacking the dragon was pointless,” Aldis said as he walked over to me, carefully avoiding the array of crossbows on the floor.
“With our magic, yes. But look at where the crossbows are pointed.”
It was then that Aldis understood.
“If this plan works, we run for the exit,” I said. “If it doesn’t, we wait until the owner of the dragon can no longer give the dragon a physical body because this is probably all the magic I can cast today so...”
“Do you want me to melt the ice first?”
“That would be helpful. Just concentrate on heat. Let my crossbows deal with the rest.”
Aldis held out both of his hands and as if holding a ball, formed a ball of fire. The fire raged between his hands and I could feel the heat emanating from his hands get hotter.
Aldis shot the ball of flame and it struck the ice on the wall near the dragon. The ice melted easily and it was then that I released the barrage of arrows from the crossbows I placed. The sound of the arrows flying in the air filled the canyon until the sound was replaced by the sounds of the rocky walls crumbling.
Just like how my swords could leave a crater on an object it couldn’t cut, an arrow by itself could do the same to the rocky walls. And with a barrage of arrows, I could very well break the walls and cause chunks of the earth to fall.
The falling rocks hit the dragon which then opened its mouth in order for another burst of its breath. A small wave of frost escaped its mouth before a chunk struck the dragon on the head, causing the dragon to be dazed. The wave of frost barely touched me and Aldis. After seeing the dazed dragon, we ran for the exit. The dragon tried to stop us and swung its arms but it was too dazed to hit us. Avoiding the sweeps of its arms easily, we made it past the dragon and exited the canyon.
Somewhere in the distance the headmaster, Lloyd, and Priscilla watched. Their drakes beside them.
“Judging from your reaction, I take it he’s the one you’ve been searching for,” Lloyd said referring to the headmaster’s pained expression.
“I never thought I’d see him again,” the headmaster said in disbelief. He then extended his hand, as if trying to grasp something and then pulled away.
Priscilla looked up from her book and at the headmaster, surprised. “You know who he is?”
“He’s my last disciple. The disciple I trained before the time I founded this academy. The first one to ever have taken this test and, even in this life he still completes it in a similar method.”
“Did he fight your dragon at full strength last time?”
“No, not at all,” the headmaster chuckled as he reminisced about the past. “He came to me seeking guidance and power. I wanted to turn him away then because I didn’t have the time. There was a war after all. So, I gave him this test. He was much better at conjuring then but, he still couldn’t damage the dragon.”
The headmaster then shook his head and said, “But what has become of you? The disciple I knew was clever, quick-witted, bold, and most importantly, determined. The one I knew would have run for the exit not knowing whether his plan would succeed or not. If he saw a chance, any chance left, he would take it all the way without hesitation despite the odds.”
“Considering he’s a disciple of yours, he must be a formidable fighter. Does he belong to a house already?” Priscilla asked as she flipped a page on her book.
“Before you can consider making him a member of your house, you will first have to ask and answer these questions. Will you accept him for who he is, what he has done, and what he will do? Albeit he is my disciple, he is also the one I have failed. When someone has a death wish, you must be prepared for what will come. Unlike me.”
“...What do you mean? What is his name? Who is he? What did he do?”
“That, is for you to find out. And for him, to reveal.”
“I’d say you have a good start already,” Lloyd said. “If you’re looking for more capable members to join your house, Aldis seems like a promising candidate. As someone who uses fire magic myself, being able to control the properties of your flames freely is quite the skill. Well, I’ll go and tell your teammates that they have passed the test”
Lloyd then got on his drake and flew down the canyon. Priscilla also got onto the saddle of her drake and was going to head to Zeff and Aldis.
“Thanks for saving him. Also, I want to ask that you don’t remove that seal until he says so.”
“How do you know about that?”
“Please, you became one of the strongest silencers before even attaining a second wing. I’m sure it’s more than just talent and hard work.”
“I wasn’t even going to remove the seal anyways without his saying. One of these days, I wish you could share your knowledge with me.”
“In due time.”
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