“Valiente!” Dei called to me as I entered the dining hall. Cittrite was sitting a chair way from him, a space left open for me. I passed by them, lightly touching their shoulders, a small feeling of comfort rose into me. I saw they both looked horrified at the sight of me, but I had nothing but one thing on my mind. I wiped my puffy red eyes and focused on a single action that had nothing to do with feelings and emotions. It was separate from time and space, had nothing to do with Keres, the Black Knight nor the pain I was feeling from the wounds, I could not feel anymore.
I saw the dining hall staring at me, bloody and beaten. I knew the elfin youth would have loved to know who put me in this condition, after I put him in the same. I growled at people as they passed by, staring at my skin through my cut clothes and the blood dripping from various wounds. I went through the line, grabbing tacos, enchiladas, quesadilla pieces and baby back ribs. I felt like I had no eaten in days and my body was a ravenous beast ready to take me apart to get the nutrition it needed. I sat down between Cittrite and Dei, and, thankfully, they allowed me to brood over my thoughts and eat in silence. Within fifteen minutes, my plate was clean of all but rib bones, my hunger satisfied for a while.
Dei and Cittrite looked at me, the orcling asking, “Are you ok?”
I looked at my arms and shirt, remembering the slices and slashed inflicted on me by the Black Knight. Keeping a one-track mind once I had my food, allowed me a moment’s reprieve from the memories of the fight. “Yeah, went through training and met up with an opponent I could not handle.” I told them what happened from the time that I was in Athde’s office until I walked into the dining hall. Dei and Cittrite were quiet through everything and I was glad they did not ask me more about Keres and my feelings for him.
Cittrite placed his hands over each one of the wounds and I felt tingling warmth transfer from him to me. I looked at one of the wounds and noticed the skin stitched itself back together, healing the cut. I did not protest when he healed every cut on me, until he started to reach for one on my wrist. “Not that one. It stopped bleeding, but I need that one to scar, a reminder of the fight.”
“You can rip it open in battle and it will bleed again.” Cittrite protested.
“It needs to scar, Cittrite. If I forget what he did to me, then I will start to forget everything else.” The meaning of the scar brought up one of my worst fears, the fear of forgetting and being forgotten. “Look, it terrifies me to forget and to be forgotten. To forget is to destroy the memory of someone or something. I have hundreds of scar on me for the purpose of remembrance. There is a quote someone once told me that started this fear… ‘It’s sad how a nobody can become the star of the show, just to become a nobody when everyone forgets the performance.’ The merprincess told me that when she took me to see a show in Atlantis, the star was some nobody, but it was the best performance I had ever seen.”
Dei grabbed my wrist and I watched him hold a butter knife in the other hand. Cittrite and I watched him closely, as the edge of the butter knife started to glow red, then yellow. He pressed the knife blade to the slice on my wrist and I had to bite my lip to keep from crying out. He pulled the blade away and I saw what he did. He cauterized it, giving Cittrite the reassurance that it would not reopen and I got my scar.
“Happy now?” Dei smiled to the both of us.
“Yeah… Do you know what the second year test is?” I asked them both.
They shook their heads in unison. They had not heard anything more than I did. Dei spoke quietly, “I think we need to go somewhere where we can figure out our strengths and weaknesses. We need to find a way to capitalize on our strengths and use it to work together.”
Cittrite and I nodded in agreement, before Cittrite came up with an idea, “Since the Gates are in the Library, we should start there. During classes, it should be empty enough that we will not disturb other students. And actually, I heard there are soundproof rooms that we could discuss this, without being heard.”
I smiled, “That would be perfect. Meet you two there in an hour?”
“What do you need an hour for?” Dei asked.
“My clothes are sliced halfway to pieces and I smell. I’m taking a shower and getting a new set of clothes.”
Dei rolled his eyes, “Women…”
I grinned, “Just remember, if I don’t, you two would be stuck seeing my fat hanging out everywhere, like it is now. And you will have to smell me while confined into a small room.”
I let them chew on that while I walked towards the door-portal of the dining hall. Cittrite called out tentatively, You are not as fat as you seem to think you are.
I smiled before answering, You haven’t seen me completely naked to make that assessment. I walked out of the door-portal, telling it to take me to my room. I let the emotions wash over me, while I was secluded. I scrubbed at my skin to scrub away the feelings of pain, sadness and self-loathing.
| _-_ |
“What do you mean you have never lifted up a weapon in defense?!” Dei and I looked astounded at Cittrite, who was blushing in his chair. I was leaning against the wall; Dei standing off to the side.
“There was no need for me to. I am a healer by life and trade, I never needed to raise a weapon to defend myself.” He admitted.
Dei spoke quietly, “Dear Lord God, this is going to be a pain…”
“Why do I need a weapon anyways?” Cittrite asked us.
“Because I don’t want to constantly have to save your arse. It’s for you as well as for us. It would make me feel better if you had something to defend yourself, so if something happens to Dei and I, you will live long enough to get help.” I told him.
“Well, I know it’s a weapon, and I’m not too bad at it, but I can use a short bow.” He leaned forward on the table, hiding behinds his folded hands. “All Orc princes are taught to hunt using the short bow.”
I looked to Dei, “Is there too much of a difference between hunting bows and war bows?” I then did a double take, “Wait… Orc princes!? You’re a prince?!”
Cittrite nodded, “The one and only heir to the Orc throne. Just like Dei is the only heir to the Elvin throne.”
I looked to the both of them, shock dancing across my face. “How…” How could I have not known this?! I am a peasant bossing around two princes… Dear Lord God, please don’t let have screwed this up too badly!
Dei looked at me, “You did not know?”
I shook my head, “How in the seven hells was I supposed to know? Humans don’t leave their Realm!” I knelt to the both of them, “I apologize my lords for not knowing.”
They both looked to each other and grinned, “I am surprised you know how to kneel, Myst.” Dei pushed me back up, “You bow to me again, and you will be doing more than that while you are down there.” Cittrite nodded in agreement, both of their grins were infuriating.
“Males!” I growled and folded my arms over my chest. I found a gallon sized plastic Ziploc bag on the ground under the table. I bent over and picked it up. I stuffed it in my pocket to throw it away later.
“That is the Myst we know and love.” Dei’s mind changed back to the topic at hand, “The difference is that war arrows fly faster to impale armor.” He explained, before I saw the lights click on behind Cittrite’s eyes.
I grinned, “We will have to find him a bow that fits him.”
Dei pushed me into a chair and Cittrite moved to sit in front of me. They both looked at me, and I knew what was coming, “I know…”
Dei shook his head, “No, you do not. We know you keep the pipes and stones, but beyond that, do you have any power?”
I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to tell them about the seal just yet, “I don’t know. You two have to remember, magic is not accepted in the human realm. They do not like magic and try to use technology to make up for their lack of magical ability.”
“How did the Academy choose you?” Cittrite asked.
“The Dean had me play the pipes and he watched my Potential to come into power. Then you both saw what I did to the crystal during the first test. That was human science and power combined into a single strike.”
They looked at each other and I felt something pass between them. I knew that I was weak with magic, because I had just learned about it a year ago, when mum passed the stones along to me.
Cittrite spoke softly, “Maybe we should get some sheet music and have you play it. Depending on the music, you might achieve different ends.”
“I already know it will. I play something happy to make the stones come out and sad to make them go back in. To have them lead me to the enchantment, I played a song of harmony and love. To get a protective shield, I play a song of faith. When I tried to get them to break the enchantment on the both of you, I played a song of friendship. How is reading more music going to help?” I felt helpless. They knew more about magic and power than I did, and I knew I was stuck down to only being able to use brute force.
Dei brought up his thoughts, “Protection is good, but what if we could make it better by adding a rebound to it? Something that if the shield is hit, that it would snap back with a retaliation.”
I watched the gears working in Cittrite’s mind. “That would work, or maybe a song to cause them to attack each other when the odds tilt away from our favor at a certain degree.”
They started to discuss the uses that I could have if I played more music with the pipes. After they started to suggest that the pipes and stones could be used to sway Keres back to me, I had to derail their thought train, “How about we don’t go there… But if a mind control could work, it would be for use only on enemies. Maybe even could be used to force enemies to attack their allies.”
Cittrite and I looked to Dei, the orcling smiling, “Since we know what our two weaknesses are, what is yours?”
Dei shifted in his seat, “Well, I have no weaknesses.”
I narrowed my eyes, “Liar.”
He scooted his chair away from Cittrite, “Fine… My weakness is…” He mumbled the rest of it.
Speak up. I projected to him, and I knew both Cittrite and Dei heard me.
“My weakness is peoples’ emotion.”
I tilted my head to the side, “How so?”
His hands clenched into a pair of fists, “I anger easily and within a second, I am calm. I go from happy, to sad to loving to hatred. I am a mirror of others’ emotions; if they feel it, I do as well.”
“Can you block it?” Cittrite asked, concerned that this could be deadly under the wrong circumstances.
“Never tried…” Dei looked up at me, “Your emotions are the worst.”
I growled, “And what do you mean by that?”
He looked down at the table, “You hide your inner emotions, but I know the emotions you are hiding behind and the inner ones. Because you try to hide it, I feel it amplified more than any other.”
I blushed a deep red, flustered at this new piece of knowledge. I looked down at the table, letting my hair hide me Cittrite looked to Dei and I, “Well, we have three weeks and no classes to stop us from learning. Valiente, we will help you with your music. Dei, we will help you with an emotional shield.”
“And Cittrite… We will make sure you can hit a target nine out of ten times and can outshoot Milt’s top student.” Dei grinned, but I kept my face hidden by my hair. He looked at me, his face worried, “Valiente… can we talk?”
“Say it. If you can say it to me, say around Cittrite. We should not have too many secrets from one another, especially when you both can read me like a book.” I folded my arms on the table and laid my head down.
Dei looked to Cittrite uncertain, but he spoke anyways, “What is your connection to Keres?”
I choked back a sob, caught off guard by his question, “I like him… When he is around, I feel like a queen, someone who can be seen as more than a mere human.”
Cittrite spoke up, “We do not think of you as being a mere human…” He was trying to make me feel better.
“You two weren’t there when he got close to me… His voice dancing across my skin, a light waltz, a caress of sorts. When he admitted that he didn’t hate me, I felt uplifted in a sense of joy. When I felt him feeling betrayed, I wanted to slit my wrists and offer some sort of reconciliation to stop him from mourning.” I lifted my head up and looked to the door to the rest of the Library. I felt a tear slide down my cheek, “When he said he didn’t want anything to do with me…” I suddenly felt suffocated in the small room, but I knew they would not let me pass by without an explanation. “You two probably think I’m pathetic for this.”
Dei smiled, “No, because I know how you feel. You are ashamed that you fell in love and highly depressed because you can not have him.”
Cittrite grabbed onto my hand, “Vali… Myst, these feelings are normal for someone who fell head over heels for another. How about we talk to Keres for you?”
I snatched my hand back and shook my head violently, “No. Please don’t…” I looked to the two of them, “Even if he liked me back, there is nothing I can do. Father warned me that anyone I love could be used against me. Tools to destruction. You two can be used just as much as Keres can, but I doubt you two will ever let me go alone. But Keres… I can protect him if he hates me, and I know he will be safe; I can live with that.”
They both looked at me, astounded. “Wait, you can live with his anger and loathing, but you cannot stand him loving you?”
“That’s not what I said, Dei. I want him to like me, to love me. But I can’t. Anyone I love can and will be used as a tool for my destruction. Even you two are at risk of being used for that purpose. Since I can’t get rid of you two, I won’t allow him to become a tool that will be used by the Black Knight.”
“Black Knight?” The color faded from Cittrite’s face.
“Yes. I thought I told you two about it.” They shook their heads and I sighed. “After I fell unconscious from the test, I woke up in the center of my soul, ya know, where the power is kept? Well, I looked at the walls of the canyon and I saw two scenes. One, I was against you two and you two did not survive. The other, we were fighting together, but the army of Blood Knights defeated us. There was a Horned Black Knight that demanded you two, Keres and Athde to hand me over. I ended up hurting Athde and Keres, before you two grabbed them and fled through a Gate. The Horned Black Knight is the leader of the Blood Knights.”
“Does Athde know about this?” Dei asked, composing himself before Cittrite did.
“Yes, both him and Keres know.” I admitted and I knew that there was no turning back from this point. “I understand if you two want nothing to do with me….”
“Stop this cycle of self-flagellation.” Cittrite said, exasperated at the cycle of doubt. “We had the chance to leave if we wished it. We chose to stand by you, and there we will stay.”
I tried to smile to them, but this was too much loving emotion for me. “I need to go. I’ll meet you two in a couple of hours by the Gates.” They looked unsure. “I just need to go talk to…” They both nodded and we all stood up at the same time. I hugged them both before going into the main part of the Library.
Athde might as well have pounced on me, for the shock he gave me, “It is time for the second test.” He was standing about three feet off the ground
“You told us we had a month!” I whined, all of our plans going for naught.
He shook his head, pointing to my wrist and the Mortalitas wrapped around my hips, “That was the plan, but plans change, as you know yourself.” He was speaking of the Black Knight and the new form for the Mortalitas. “The second test is an individual’s test, just like the first, but unlike the first, you will be nowhere near your friends.”
“It’s a fight against myself, isn’t it?” I grumbled, but I knew he heard me when I heard him gasp.
“How… How did you know?” He took a step back in shock. “I did not tell anyone, and I know for a fact Keres did not tell you!”
I looked into his eye sockets, “It wasn’t too hard to figure out, the first test was a fight against those we know and trust. Since you said it was an individual test, it means it has to do with me and only me.” I looked at the ground, “So, the second one should be a battle against our inner demons, a final preparation to separate us from the rest of our people until the end of all of the tests. Bias is only one part of a person’s personality that is dark… And since I am apparently the leader of our little group, I get to go first…”
Athde looked at me, before landing on the ground, “You are your father’s child…” He held my face in his bony hands, “You are right, Myst, in all of it. You will be fighting against your most inner demons and, I have to ask, do not try to cheat by destroying the enchantment crystal, like you did in the first test. All of your fears, your dreams, your past will come back to haunt you. Are you ready?”
“Will I be going back into my memories to relive anything?” I hoped that I would not go back to dropping the underwater volcano on top of one of my exes.
He shrugged, “Kind of. Some will be memories, some will be illusions and some will be real.”
I patted my pockets, where the pipes and stones were, my hips for the Mortalitas and my chest for my light, key and crystal bear. “I’m ready.” I smiled to him, “And tell father I want to meet him later.”
Athde looked thoughtful, an inner war going through his mind. I could see the little hamster running its wheel, looking at all of the possibilities. He grinned, his white bone flashing, “I will.” He reached out to my hand and I grabbed it.
We teleported down into the basement of the Library; the Gate swirling in front of me. I took a deep breath in, stepping up to the Gate. I wanted to look back, but I also did not because I was worried of who I would see. I took the chance and glanced back to see Keres standing on the spiral staircase, hatred in his eyes. I turned around back to the Gate, just to escape that deadly stare. I shouted, “Keres! I’m sorry!” I jumped through the Gate before I could hear his cynical retort.