Part 1: Chapter 3
“I’ve called a special gathering this morning,” the Headmistress began. “There will be several changes over the next few weeks. The first change begins tonight. The Day class as well as the Night class will begin to report together. If there is a challenge, they will fight their opposite.
“Last week’s tests were more competitive than usual. Some of you present tonight will be given the chance to show off your skills.”
Cheers went up from the crowd on both sides of the Arena.
“You have all heard by now that Competition will be held at Winter Break. Those of you who wish to compete will have to stay at the academy instead of returning home. All participants will need to see their instructors.
“And now, let us begin!” She paused for a minute. “Lady Mirabella of the Day Class,” she announced.
A girl near the back rows stood up, and headed to the front. She was among the students who stared at me when I first entered the Arena. Her short plaid skirt flounced as she gracefully descended the steps to the stage in the middle. Her golden brown hair was long and left down. It encircled her round face and fell down to the middle of her back. She approached the Headmistress and stopped.
The Headmistress sat down as another professor, with a sun embroidered on his sweater, stood up and took her place. He spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “What Shrine did your test take place at?”
“River Shrine,” she answered. Her voice was stern as she kept her answer short. She sounded slightly bored.
“How did you overcome your test?”
“Speed.” She flashed a dazzling smile at him, exposing perfect white teeth. I noticed that she looked extremely annoyed about something.
“Is there a challenge?” the professor asked us.
For several minutes no one spoke, until one of the Day class students challenged her. The boy stood up and I recognized him as the same boy who passed the note to our teacher earlier. He loped gracefully down the steps to stand before her. His black hair was out of his eyes, but fell back into his face as he rushed forward.
“Mirabella, I challenge you!” he exclaimed. I could swear he added, “Let’s show these Night class students a real fight,” from under his breath. But I shook my head not understanding how I overheard that statement from a thousand yards away.
“Sir Caiden of the Day class has issued a challenge,” the moderator spoke.
Mirabella looked more annoyed than she did before. “I accept,” she added hastily as if she didn’t want to expose her skills to the Night class.
“Sir Caiden, choose your weapon.” The professor backed away to the edge of the platform.
Caiden grabbed a sword off the rack of weapons nearby.
The battle was over in two seconds. Mirabella ran at him with inhuman speed. She overtook him, grabbed his sword and turned it around to where the end was pointed at his chest.
Caiden chuckled to himself.
“Mirabella wins!” The professor looked unimpressed by the two.
Everyone on the Night side of the Arena gasped at her speed. Half of the Day class looked bored while the other half was intrigued.
“You may take your seat,” the man stated.
Mirabella dropped the sword on the ground and stalked gracefully off to her seat.
Caiden stayed on the platform as he took up the fallen sword. The instructor stood off to the side. Another unspoken conversation passed between the two. Caiden stared straight at me as the instructor called my name out.
“Mallie of the Night Class, Caiden challenges you!”
I couldn’t move. I froze to my seat. If the wood had an extra limb, I had become it. Isla had to nudge me and push me out of my rigidness to get my feet moving down the stairs. I walked to the stage, feeling everyone’s eyes on me, and hearing the whispers of people no doubt talking about me. I briefly saw Mirabella’s brown eyes as I passed her. She was incredibly agitated, but I couldn’t tell at whom it was directed towards. All the way down the steps, Caiden kept his eyes focused on me. It was a wonder I didn’t stumble and fall on my face. I reached the platform and stopped. We were closer to the professors than I first perceived.
Now as I was suddenly in front of him, I could see his face clearly. He was quite handsome. I wondered why he hid his face from view in class earlier.
“What Shrine were you at?” His voice penetrated my soul and it took everything I had to resist the need to move closer to him. His voice hadn’t sounded that alluring back in class, but that was probably because I wasn’t paying attention to him. I was already emotionally exhausted by the trauma of waking up and not knowing who I was, that I didn’t trust myself with my emotions at the moment. I took in a breath to steady myself.
“Sun.” I paused not knowing how to answer. “Shrine,” I added weakly.
“How did you overcome your test?” His brown eyes twinkled at me.
Again I had to resist the need to get closer to him. I froze as I read the meaning behind the twinkle. He was laughing at me from behind those chocolate colored eyes.
How was I to respond now? I don’t remember what happened, if anything had happened, at the Sun Shrine. I needed a way out. I tried to remember what Isla spoke to me regarding the Arena rules, but I failed to recall them. Instead, seeing as how Caiden probably knew what happened at the Shrine, I decided to ask him about it. “Remind me,” I whispered, hoping no one heard it.
Caiden smiled at me like we shared a private joke. I still had no clue what that was. His body was relaxed as we stared at each other. He never once tensed up. Here I was standing in front of a Day student. I was tense, and he was not. He never answered me and I couldn’t think of anything to say, so we just stood there staring at each other.
Several whispers started, as the crowd grew restless. I heard some of the students behind me talking, and then I heard Isla’s voice ask Trayen if I forgot what she said to do. I shook my head again and took a step back, confused about everything in general. Caiden held back a laugh as he twisted his smile in a funny way.
Finally, the Headmistress approached us. I tore my eyes from him to face her. Her light blond hair was pulled behind her head, held in place by a barrette I couldn’t see. She crossed her arms as her amber eyes stared into my face.
“Mallie, do you think this is a joke?” she whispered.
Caiden chuckled quietly next to me, for he had turned to greet her presence as well.
“No,” I whispered.
“Then why don’t you report? Caiden can’t show you what happened, not here.” She kept whispering, clearly keeping the rest of the populace from knowing the conversation taking place between us three.
“I don’t remember what happened,” I blurted out. I don’t know why I said it. I partially hoped that she would believe me.
She stared at me, just like Isla and Trayen had. “Mallie, who am I?” she asked me straight up.
I faltered. Isla hadn’t told me her name. I knew she was the Headmistress but I didn’t actually know her or remember her. “You’re the Headmistress.”
“And?” she asked expecting more of an answer from me.
I had none to give.
Caiden withdrew his smile and stared at me with new eyes, like I was a whole different person.
I couldn’t answer. What would I say?
She took a step closer to me. “Who’s Caiden?” Her voice was so quiet that I barely heard it. In fact, her lips hardly moved as she formed the words. I know no one else heard it but me.
I glanced at Caiden. Was I supposed to know a Day student? It was a very strange question. I felt like she was trying to find out why or if we knew each other. It was forbidden to be with a student from the opposing faction. I remembered how Isla had stressed that rule in class. “He’s in the Day class,” I blurted out, sounding a little disgusted by the thought of me knowing a Day class student.
She understood what I meant. “Yes, he is.” She paused between sentences. “Mallie, I want you to come with me.” She brushed past us as she proceeded to stand before the classes. “Challenge has been defended. Caiden, you may rest. Zanith of the Night Class, Report!” she called. She didn’t wait to see what happened. She met my eyes and I followed her out of the Arena, from a door that was off to the side.
Zanith, one of the night students sitting on the front row, stood up and took her position on the platform. I glanced back, noticing Isla and Trayen looked frightened as I walked out of the Arena with the Headmistress. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Caiden was already in his seat next to Mirabella. They were having a heated conversation that I couldn’t hear. One of the professors greeted Zanith as they facilitated the report. I no longer heard anything from the Arena, for I had passed onto the grounds and eventually into the building.
We went back down the hallway I’d passed through earlier with Isla and Trayen. Instead of continuing on down the hall, we ascended a circular staircase that I missed on my first trip to the Arena. On the third level, a door opened, allowing us to enter into a large circular room. Windows covered the south and north walls, allowing views of the Arena and surrounding countryside to be seen. From the north windows, tall trees with snow on them peeked out from the horizon. The school was larger than I originally thought. Two wings stretched out on either side of the building. Five floors, in the wings, were easily seen from the windows on the north side. Vines grew up the sides of the stone walls adding to the building’s ancient artifice.
The Headmistress went to her desk near the middle of the room and sat down. I sat opposite her in a chair and waited for the consequences I was sure to receive after I didn’t report.
“Now Mallie, I repeat, who am I? What is my name?”
I wasn’t expecting her to still question my memory. “I don’t know.”
“Do you know who you are?”
Again, her question surprised me. “No.”
The Headmistress sighed. She didn’t say anything but her eyes drifted ahead as she stared at nothing.
I glanced around, taking in more of the décor of her office. It had expensive furnishings, and wherever there was wall space paintings, of what I assumed were the nine Shrines, covered it. The ceiling was made of glass, forming a dome against the sky. Candles hung from the walls, mounted on iron branches. Dark red carpet blanketed the floor.
She sighed again and I drew my attention back to her.
“Well, Mallie, it seems you have a lot to learn about yourself.”
I paused, not quite understanding what she meant by that. “You’re not going to tell me who I am?” I asked, scared.
“It’s not for me to tell you.” She got up and opened a drawer. She pulled a white book from it and preceded to hand it to me. “This is for you, for when the time came.”
I took the book and opened it to the first page. It read,
There was no author. I glanced questioningly at the Headmistress.
“You wrote this and gave it to me in case your memory became boggled. It seems that is now the case.”
I sighed. “You believe me.”
She nodded. “You were unsure and scared of what to say. It’s the first time I’ve seen you like that.”
“You know a lot about me?” I instinctively knew she did from the way she addressed me.
“Why would my mind be erased?”
“There are several ways, but I will only say this. The majority of memory altering magic is only achieved by the user on themselves.”
I did not understand what she meant by that statement.
“What…” It was all I got out before she cut me off.
“Read the journal. You may head off to the dorms. I’ve sent for Isla to lead you there. She’s waiting outside. You’re dismissed.”
I slowly stood up, clutching the journal. Her hasty dismissal had my mind reeling with unanswered questions that I knew she could answer. I couldn’t ask her any of these questions for she had turned away. I opened the door that led out to the staircase. I stopped suddenly, spotting Caiden leaning against the wall opposite me.
His eyes darted around my face like I was a puzzle he was putting together. I don’t know how long I stood there staring at him, for Isla’s voice broke me from the trance.
“Mallie, let’s go.” She urged me from my right. “Please don’t tell me you forgot how to walk.”
I shook my head to clear it again, and followed her down the stairs. She handed me my bag as we went. I felt eyes watching me as I descended the stairs, but when I glanced back, Caiden was gone. As soon as we hit the ground level, Isla was pounding me with questions.
“Mallie, you completely freaked out Trayen and me. What happened? What did she say to you? What did you tell her, and why was that guy staring at you? What did you do to him?”
“Um…What?” I asked. My mind slowly processed all her questions as it was still processing everything that had happened to me today.
“Mallie, you have to tell me what happened starting with the Arena.”
“Well, there’s not much to tell. She knew that I couldn’t remember everything from before.”
“Oh.” Isla paused. We crossed no one as she led me down the grand hallway and to the left. “She saved you from presenting a challenge. That was…nice, but weird. How do you think she knew?”
“I don’t know.”
Her eyes fixated on the book I clutched in my arms. “What’s that?”
“Oh, she gave me this. She said it would help.”
Isla offered to look at it and I handed her the book. She opened it and stared at the front page. “‘Tips for restoring lost memories and repairing your mentality, volume I,’” she read.
I leaned over and glanced at the first page. I still saw ‘For Mallie’ written on there. “Where’d you read that?” I asked.
“It’s on the first page.” She saw me staring at it in bewilderment. “Did you forget how to read as well?”
“No.” I looked back at the ground. I didn’t understand why I saw different words written there than what she saw. The book must be enchanted so that only I could read it.
We reached the dorms and ascended the staircase. On the fifth floor, she led me down the hall towards the end. There were very few doors down this hallway. She paused in front of one. I turned to see my name scripted onto it elegantly.
“This is your room. I’m down one floor. Classes begin tomorrow night at eight. I’ll meet you downstairs at 6:15 so I can show you where the dining hall is. Will you be okay until then?”
“I think so. Where is the key? Do I need a key?” I examined the door. I wanted my privacy to look through this book tonight.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you don’t remember these things. You don’t need a key. The doors are magically sealed. Only you can open it. You can let others in, but only you, your essence, can unlock the door. All the doors are like that in the dorms.”
“Oh.” I was thrilled and intrigued. “Thank you.” I reached for the handle and it opened easily. “I guess I’ll see you later.”
“Yes. Have a good morning, Mallie. Get some rest and try some of those tips in the book. They might help.”
I turned to her. She still looked worried about me. “Thank you, Isla. I’ll be fine.”
She paused as she was already starting back towards the stairs. “Anytime.”
As she walked away, I saw surprise mingled with wonderment written on her face. I knew then that I definitely wasn’t acting like I used to.