I yawned, as I leaned on Mortalitas, trying to force myself to stay awake. I heard voices come from my left, as I saw Cittrite and Dei approaching. “Good morning. Have a nice nap?” They both grumbled, but it was half hearted. I pulled out a bottle of coffee and handed it to them. “Drink up!”
They both looked at the bottle and grabbed it out of my hands. They both drank as much as they could, the caffeine waking them up. They handed it back to me, a third of it left. They waited for me to take a drink, but I smiled, “Sorry, but I don’t like the taste of it.”
“Then why bring it?” Dei asked me.
“I had a nightmare and couldn’t sleep. I went down to the dining hall and grabbed some soda and this for yall.” I yawned again.
Maybe you should have some, even if just to wake you up enough to do whatever Athde needs. Mortalitas pushed.
I looked down at Him, “When pigs fly…”
Cittrite snickered at me, “Ya know, talking to yourself is the first sign of madness.”
I looked at him, and realized they could not hear the Mortalitas, “Blame Him.” I pointed to the mallet. “He is the one who won’t stop talking to me.”
His smiled grew, “Yup, you’re mad…”
I flipped him off as I stuck my tongue out at him. “Screw you!”
“Children…” Athde appeared out of the shadows, with Keres at his side. “Tonight, we will truly see just how powerful you three really are. Keres will be going with you, just to supervise and to report back to me with the results.”
Cittrite’s eyes widened, “Where are we going?”
Athde smiled, though to me it looked a little bit sad, “You are going through a Gate to the first year’s test. If you pass, then you will have one month to prepare for the second year test. If you fail…” He left it unsaid.
The weight of what lie ahead started to press down on the three of us. I looked to my companions, “Weapons?”
Cittrite looked grim, “Healers don’t use weapons.”
Dei looked at the ground, “I didn’t get a chance to pick one. But my magic will make up for it.”
Athde nodded once, “Do you all have your magic equipment?”
I nodded, placing a hand on my pipes and bag of stones. I looked at Dei as he bared the underside of his wrists, where I saw three stones embedded into his skin on each wrist. We all looked at Cittrite, as he rolled up his shirtsleeves, revealing an impressive set of runic tattoos that continued passed his sleeves.
Athde nodded again, “Please follow me.”
I picked up the Mortalitas and put Him into the sling and followed behind my companions, followed by Keres. “Scared?” Keres whispered.
“No.” And I was not lying; I was not scared, I was terrified.
“This first test was designed to push you to your limits.” He spoke softly, so only I could hear. “Have faith in yourself and your friends… The only thing that will hold you back is your fear. Stay calm and you all should breeze by it with ease.”
“Why are you helping us?” I whispered softly.
“I’m not helping them.” He pointed to the guys in front of me. “I’m helping you, because if you don’t come back, I’m stuck with clean Dr. Athde’s office without someone to do it for me.” He flashed a sharp-toothed grin.
“Great… Thanks…” I could not help but give a small hint of a smile.
We walked in silence into the dark Library. Tall shelves with ladders covered every inch of the walls, with the spaced between strewn with study tables and chairs. In the center of the Library was a spiral staircase that led up into the offices and one that led down into the bowels of the Academy.
I remembered in the hotel room, where mum had shown me schematics of the Academy, so I would not get lost going anywhere. The upstairs belonged to the faculty offices, that students were only allowed to go after they got permission from the teacher. The downstairs on the other hand… They were banned from the students, unless they were being escorted.
We reached the spiral staircase and Athde started the climb down. I pressed my hand to Mortalitas, What’s down here?
This is where the Gates are as well as books of ancient history, scrolls written in dead languages, and weapons like me.
There are others like you?
No… I am the only demon trapped. But there is a long bow that has an angel trapped and a sword carrying an ancient hero’s soul. There’s a staff that carries an evil wizard’s soul, trapped for eternity after the crimes he paid.
How did you get to the fields this morning?
I only heard silence answer me. Apparently, He chose not to indulge me of His secrets. We walked down for a while in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. I asked Dei, What does power matter when we don’t have the skills to survive?
Dei answered me, We have the skills, we just have to put them together to survive. There must have been a reason we were gifted with this extraordinary power, we must have been gifted with something else as well, to balance it with the skills to use it.
I stopped, my heart falling to my knees. We were gifted with powers to open, close and protect the Gates, but not in the ways we intended. Something nagged at the edge of my memory, a memory of something before my good-for-nothing father left. I could not quite remember the memory nor what significance it has.
I jolted when Keres touched my forehead; he was standing in front of me., “Are you okay?” There was a slight concern in his eyes, but I knew it was due to the extra work he would have to go back to doing if I was not fine.
“Yeah.” I tried to manage a smile, but I knew it would have been a sad one at that. Something about all of this did not seem right, like a trap. We started walking again as I touched the Mortalitas, Are we walking into a trap?
It depends on how you look at it. You all know you are going into a test, but there is a trap that is the test itself.
Do you know what the test is?
Yes and no. Athde told me, but I was forbidden to tell you.
When did he-
We reached the bottom of the cavernous basements of the Library. Silence and darkness pressed in all around me, the feelings of oppression and hatred formed around my mind. I now knew that test was a trap and I only hoped we would be able to survive it. There was a reason there was a high fatality rate…
Athde turned to face our little group. “I will lead each of you to a different Gate. You are to fight to survive for six hours straight. If you die, Keres will collect your soul and place it through the gate it belongs. Any questions?”
“No, Dr. Athde, we are ready.” I gave Dei and Cittrite one last look, as Athde and Keres led them to two different gates on the opposite ends of the Library. Dei was taken to a Dark Gate, as Cittrite was taken to a Light one. I noticed there was another Gate in the center of the cavern that glowed with a pure grey light. I took a step towards the Gate and felt my light pulling me towards it. I watched as Cittrite and Dei stepped through their Gates. I took a deep breath in and waited, knowing this was my Gate, but wanting to wait.
Keres approached me from behind, “Are you ready?”
“Yes. I know its a trap and I only hope I can stop them before they destroy each other.”
Keres smiled, “I knew you would get it.” He looked to the Mortalitas, “Take care of her; I need her so I can finish my training as a Lord.”
He stepped back and I touched Mortalitas, Athde brought you up to the weapons class, so you would choose me, while explaining the test. Let us see if he was right in allowing the two of us to be together. I stepped into the grey light, a cooling mist that saturated my skin and mind with an enchantment.
| _-_ |
The world swirled with smoke, clouding the eyes and mind from being able to see or think clearly. I held Mortalitas ready, in case we were attacked. I grabbed the pipes from under my shirt and knew the stones were within reach. I bolted forward, running with the Mortalitas in my hands.
I could hear the sounds of fighting to the side of me, as I skidded to a halt. I listened closely, before taking a deep breath. My head was still full of fuzzies, but I had to force myself to think clearly. I had a mission… What was it…? I pulled out the bag of stones, from my pocket and I held the pipes to my lips.
The air tingled with magic as I blew a low C from the pipes. The bag opened in my hand and the stones stepped out of the bag, precarious. I played a small tune to give them more stability and to entice them into helping me. They danced, all fifty of the stones danced into a circle around me, a protective sphere appeared around me. The fuzzies left me, leaving my mind razor sharp.
I moved forward, all my senses on alert as the smoke started to dissipate as I walked closer to the sounds of fighting. I reached the edge of the battlefield, a war torn land filled with dead bodies. I looked to the horizon and squinted as I saw a lone pair squaring off. I recognized them as Dei and Cittrite based upon the feeling I got off them. I ran towards the pair, stopping when they both yelled at me to stay put, Dei mentally and Cittrite verbally.
Dei looked to me and sent a message, This is my fight. I may not blame Cittrite for the war, I do blame Svenga for destroying my family. I caught a glimpse of Cittrite through Dei’s eyes and it looked like the Orc Warlord, Svenga. I knew that Svenga was responsible for starting the war between the Orcs and the Elves, and that he committed uncountable atrocities.
I looked over to Cittrite and tried to establish contact to him. He allowed me to speak with him mentally, Who are you fighting?
I am not fighting anyone. I am going to kill Donwon, the leader of the Elves that started the war between Orcs and Elves.
I took in this information and knew what the test was. They were to destroy each other if they could not put aside their hatred. I knew as soon as I stepped onto the battlefield, I could become ensnared into the enchantment. I hoped my stones would protect me, but then I heard a male voice in my mind from long ago. Do not hope… Hoping will not do you as well as knowing. Even if there is a chance of failing, always know, because knowing are the most powerful thoughts that a person can have…
I stepped onto the field, knowing the stones would protect me from the enchantments that brought out our deepest hatreds. I watched them step towards each other, the battle lines drawn and their weapons honed.
The six jewels imbedded into Dei’s wrists flared as two translucent blades erupted from his hands, as the runes on Cittrite’s started to glow red with blood lust. They both surged forward, readying for the kill. I ran up, keeping pace, before making it between them before they collided.
They both slammed into my stones’ shield, sparks colliding where they struck the shield. They both screamed at me for getting in the way of their vengeance. I felt them pull away, but then I noticed something change in their eyes. “YOU!” They both yelled at the same time before slamming into the shield again. I knew that the enchantment would cloak me into something they hated.
I quickly went through the thoughts in Dei’s mind, noticing the image he was seeing of me. I even recognized the image as the human queen who destroyed the diplomatic proceedings that could have ended their war centuries ago.
This is bad. Mortalitas told me. They both are going to band against you, you know that right?
“Yeah, I figured so. But I can handle them and as long as I defend for the next five hours and a half hours, the enchantment will lift and we will all have survived this test.”
Will you do what is necessary to stay alive? He asked quietly.
“I will not kill them. They are blinded to what is in front of them, I just need to figure out how to show them the truth.” I pulled the shield in closer to me, conserving the stones’ power.
I slammed into Dei, knocking him back a few feet. I took the escape and ran, both of them chasing after me. I saw their eyes change, as they recognized each other, their killing focus on me. Perfect. I can do this…
I turned to face them, dropping my shield, as the stones circled around Dei’s and Cittrite’s heads. I blocked an attack from Dei with the Mortalitas, before following up with a slam to the ground. Dei hit the ground with enough force to rattle his head. It gave me some time, but it also gave Cittrite time to attack while my back was to him. Cittrite slammed his arm into me, before I hard time to block, knocking me back away from Dei. “You will not hurt my friend, you coldhearted bitch!”
I breathed hard, trying to find the elusive air. Without the stones’ protection, I knew that if I had any thoughts of anger or hatred flash through my mind, I would be caught in the enchantment as well. “Cittrite, it’s me… Valiente!”
My voice came out in Orcish, and apparently, my words were twisted to mean something different. Rage filled Cittrite and I knew something snapped in his quiet demeanor. He shifted from healer to warrior without a second thought as to what was happening. “Oh shit…”
I held the Mortalitas and hoped that I could survive this. Cittrite came at me, his fists and legs all working in tandem to take me out of the game. I blocked as well as I could, but when Dei rejoined the battle, I knew this was not going to end well for me. I could not call the stones back to me, because I needed them to just think of me once for the stones’ power to start leeching away the enchantment.
I kept using the Mortalitas as a blocking tool, but even He was caught up in the battle lust, Just swing at them… Knock them to the ground… Smash their heads in…
I did the only smart thing I could have done, I ran. I put the Mortalitas back into the sling on my back and hand to think of another tactic. “How much longer?!” I turned a corner, hidden from their sight. Apparently, I was faster than the two of them, or they knew I was getting tired and were waiting to pounce on an exhausted enemy.
I saw Keres appear ahead of me hold up three fingers. We survived the first half of this battle. I watched as Keres vanished and I gained an idea. Well, let’s fight enchantment with enchantment. I found a pillar of rock, as we started into the rocky landscapes. I hopped onto the pillar and found one taller, I climbed up the pillars until I knew they could not find me. I sat on the ground and pulled the Mortalitas off my back. I set Him in front of me, allowing my thoughts to be my own. I put the pipes to my lips and blew, creating a wild wind that collected my stones.
They flew towards me and awaited my commands. I played a note of harmony and love, the opposite of the enchantment. The stones glided away to the center of the enchantment’s web of power. I stood up, grabbed the Mortalitas and raced after the stones’ path. I did not watch my footing and fell a couple of times. I stood right back up and ran, trying to stay with the stones.
The stones led me to a towering pillar that went high into the air. I put the Mortalitas in the sling and started to climb. I was tired, but I knew between fighting, running and hiding, I would not be able to last for another three hours.
I climbed up the rock, using the fear of losing friends as my energy. After what felt like half an hour, I reached the top of the pillar’s peak. I saw a single crystal with a web of power expanding across the landscapes. I grabbed the Mortalitas off my back and swung Him high to shatter the crystal. I saw out of the corner of my eye, that Dei and Cittrite climbed up the other side of the pillar-peak
Dei got in front of me and blocked the Mortalitas from destroying the source of the enchantment. He pushed me away and I fell into another body, dropping the Mortalitas. Cittrite looked down at me, as I looked up at him. I tried to move away, but the battle lust raged through his eyes. He pulled me up off the ground, none too gentle. He grabbed my arms and held them behind my back. “Finish her.” I watched as Dei pulled his arm back, ready to plunge his wrist blades into me. I screamed loudly and felt a resonance from the crystal. Dei paused momentarily, covering his highly sensitive ears, but that was all the time I needed. I looked up at Cittrite, his blood still cold as he spoke, “Kill her and avenge your people.”
Using a scientific knowledge that was drilled into my head by my old teachers came from the depths of my long-term memory. I only had one chance at this, and I knew it was a long shot. I put all of my power, energy and will into a final, single drive to destroy the crystal. I screamed, feeling the resonance of the stones clattering against the resonance of the crystal and my voice. Dei was blocking my view of the crystal, but as long as I heard a mental picture and knew what it was, he would be unharmed. I watched Dei grab his head again, pressing his palms to his ears to block out the sound. I continued to scream until I was out of air, power and time. I fell slack against Cittrite’s hold as I fell into the darkness of unconsciousness.