Part 1: Chapter 16
I arrived in magic class refreshed and ready to face my friends. Caiden’s presence calmed me more than I could’ve ever hoped for. He woke me up when it was time, and served me breakfast in bed. I reminded myself to ask him how he got the food in the room. Maybe it was in the fridge. I needed to look later. He would’ve walked me to class, if he was a Night student, but I didn’t care so much now. It was time to face my friends, and all their questions from the night before.
Dayona gave me a simple incantation, one that I didn’t need to practice because I had done it the previous day without any botched outcomes. So I gathered up my courage and went to sit next to Trayen and Isla who were working on calling Earth to put up barriers. So far they weren’t having any success. I hoped they wouldn’t try to place one between us.
Trayen shifted his eyes in my direction before going back to meditating. Isla stopped casting and focused more on me.
“You look like you slept well, Mallie,” she stated as she sat beside me on the ground.
“I did,” I responded.
“So will you tell me what happened last night? Trayen and I were extremely worried when we saw it was you in the forest,” she breathed.
I looked down at the ground. “Oh that, yeah. I really did smell something, and I followed my nose.”
Isla stared up at Trayen briefly. “You shouldn’t have said that to Staefan. He’s one of the Guardian Instructors. Guardians don’t smell things, Mallie. That’s an animal trait, which is how the Shapers track us. He thought you were being very rude.”
“That’s an understatement,” Trayen spoke up from getting the Earth to rumble under his feet. He stumbled back a little bit and resumed casting.
We both glanced up at him in shock. I thought he wasn’t speaking to me, although he technically spoke to Isla. She relaxed a bit beside me.
“Well, Trayen told me some of the things that I missed about how you show more traits of a Shaper than that of a Guardian. That’s why Staefan is furious at you. You’re not thinking like a Guardian. When you show up for Guard duty, you can’t follow your nose because you smell something. It will leave the Shrine defenseless.”
She was right. I had acted so stupidly.
“So what happened to cause you to follow the scent? What was it that you smelled?”
“I can’t even begin to describe to you the scent. I’ve smelled it before, but only in my bathwater.” I blushed a bit.
“That figures,” Trayen scoffed.
I didn’t understand what he meant by that, but luckily for me Isla was already explaining.
“Our water comes from the river. No wonder you were there. You were probably looking for the source of it.”
I nodded in agreement.
“So did you see anything on the riverbank? Did anything happen?”
Had they not seen the panther? I was knocked from his sight by Staefan. “Why?” I asked, not mentioning anything else. I wanted to know what she had seen.
“You didn’t look afraid that you were out there alone in the forest. I had to admit, it was weird. I’m surprised you didn’t run into anything. The Shapers were out in full force last night apparently trying to test us. They could’ve attacked you not knowing that you weren’t one of the ones on Guard.”
I thought about the giant cat. Was it possible I ran across another Shaper? But only the ones who’ve been Marked were able to shape-shift according to Staefan. I didn’t understand what it was I saw.
“I’m glad you weren’t harmed before we got to you, Mallie,” Trayen spoke up. He turned towards me. “I thought about it. You may have extraordinary skills for a Guardian, but you’re not a Shaper. Regardless, you’re our friend. I should’ve told you some of the rules of the academy. Maybe you wouldn’t have wandered out into the forest last night. It was extremely dangerous. I was just as furious at myself as I was at you,” he apologized to me.
“It’s okay. I rely too much on my instincts and don’t use my head often.”
Isla relaxed more than she was before. “I’m glad you two aren’t angry at each other anymore. I didn’t want to have to play favorites.” She turned towards me. “You need to get better at using your head Mallie, if you’re going to survive Guarding tomorrow.”
Oh yeah, that reminded me, I did Guard tomorrow. “I can do that. I’ll concentrate,” I tried to convince myself. It wasn’t working. Apparently, both Trayen and Isla didn’t buy it either. Trayen narrowed his eyes while Isla raised one of her eyebrows at me. “Okay, I’m not fooling anyone. It’s going to take a lot of work for me to concentrate.”
“I’ll be with you. To make sure you don’t follow your nose again,” Trayen stated. He went back to casting the spell. This time a small boulder appeared in front of him.
“Wow,” I stated in surprise. “You’re doing better.”
Isla beamed. “I know. Last night, he was amazing at the Shrine. It was like he knew you were in the forest. That’s how we found you.”
I stared at Isla. What was she talking about?
“He called up the Air element to check in on you; kind of like how you used it to follow us to class? At first, we didn’t hear anything. But then, it was weird. The element took off into the forest towards the school. He followed it. I went after him with Staefan in tow and that’s when it dissipated on top of the waterfall. We both saw you emerge from the forest then and land on the bank. Staefan motioned for us to follow him, so we took an alternate route to get you out of there.”
So they didn’t see the cat, or any of it. I took a guess that the cat blended itself into the background before they reached me. The amazing thing was I could still see it, as opposed to what it should look like camouflaged. That piece of knowledge bewildered me. If the feline was really a Shaper, who was it? And because it smelled so delicious to me, would that ruin the relationship forming between Caiden and myself? I shuddered to think that was possible. How could I love them both equally? I pushed those thoughts out of my mind, not wishing to dwell on them currently, and changed the subject. “So what is going on after class? I have a free period.”
Isla smiled. “Sadly, I have Animal Studies. I think Trayen will be off though, if he’s not sleeping.”
Trayen turned around. “We have to guard early the next day Mallie, so you might want to get more sleep. You’ll want to be around for Saturday evening. We’re to have some sort of competition between the Day class. It was announced earlier, but you weren’t at breakfast.”
“I ate in my room. Well, I guess I should get some more rest.” It would give me time to spend with Caiden if he was still there. “I need to learn the rules of the academy anyway.”
“Oh, those are easy,” Isla stated.
“Care to share?” I asked. It would save me time looking them up in my journal. I was beginning to not rely on all that was written there. In fact, I hadn’t glanced in it at all since yesterday.
“Basically, go to class, because if you don’t they’ll send someone to retrieve you from your dorm and then proceed to hand you over to the mercy of the Headmistress. She’s tough. Stay within the academy boundaries, they are the eastern and western grassland, the courtyards, the Arena, the stables, the archery grounds, and the building itself. Be on time to Guard at whichever Shrine you’re stationed at. Oh, and it’s discouraged to date the Day class, but not strictly forbidden, although I wouldn’t understand why you would want to do that anyway. We’ve had this discussion,” she finished.
She was right, there weren’t many rules. Although I didn’t add to the fact of the last one she stated I would go out and do, because I secretly was. They didn’t need to know that. Not yet at least.
Dayona called the class to come into the room once more. We got up and headed off to our seats, from the garden where we practiced in. On her desk were a various array of objects. Some of them were interesting looking, others were crudely shaped. One of them looked familiar although I couldn’t place where I’d seen it before. It didn’t matter much.
Dayona called the class to order as she stood in front of us. “Much of you are doing well in session. Some of you still need to work on form though. But for the rest of class, we are going to discuss these objects. Can anyone tell me what this is?”
She held up the one that looked familiar to me. It was a round glass globe, made of green and white marble that swirled gently, blending in the colors underneath the surface of the glass. It amazed me how it moved, for it looked solid on the outside and yet squishy underneath. She had plucked it off of a bronze holder shaped like a dish. A cushion of velvet red was inside the bowl of the dish.
Trayen raised his hand, ready to answer. She pointed at him and he responded, “It’s an artifact. Although, I do not know which one it is.”
“Correct, it is an artifact. All of these items are replicas of the great artifacts that we guard in the Shrines. This particular one is from the Shrine of Essence. It’s a powerful tool. All of the replicas use magic to aid them in the use of their abilities. But the artifact I hold uses only one kind of magic, that of Water. We have only learned of Air and Earth magic, because as Guardians we use that.
“The Ancients use Water magic to help them with the use of this artifact. It is used to store memories, particularly ones that they want to remember later. The reason why I am showing you this is because the Prophetess will be arriving tomorrow. She carries a globe just like this one. She will be our guest of honor at the Arena activities. I wanted you to know what this was.
“Now, for next class, I want you all to continue with the use of Earth magic as a barrier. I’ll be testing to see if you practiced. You are dismissed.” She set the object down on its pedestal.
I gathered up my bag and walked out of the classroom with Isla and Trayen.
“I didn’t know the Prophetess was coming here tomorrow!” Isla exclaimed. “This is exciting!”
“Prophetess?” I asked, curious about whom this person was. “What is she?”
“The council of Ancients has a Prophetess. She sees things, changes that will happen in the future. She’s blind though,” Isla stated.
“She hasn’t given a prophecy in a long time,” Trayen mused. “I wonder why she’s coming here.”
“She probably wants to get out of that hole she lives in.” Isla glanced at me. “Oh, Mallie doesn’t remember. She supposedly lives with the Ancients in the cave they call home. They don’t get out often.”
“Yeah, they live in a series of caves in the Northern Highplain. I don’t know why though. Everyone says there’s an active volcano up there.”
I shrugged. She was right, I didn’t understand that logic.
We ate lunch together, not saying much, but I was glad that we weren’t fighting anymore and friends again. After lunch, Isla and Trayen headed off towards their class and dorm respectively. I went up to mine as well, because I had nothing better to do.