Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A Chapter by Taylor0401

It was approaching the students’ curfew as we jogged up to the main entrance to the Academy.  Thanks to Lyv’s harp, we weren’t even winded.  She stowed her harp away, and waved at the boy she had left on duty in her stead.

“Good even-- Oh!  Hi, Lyv!”  His round face practically lit up with excitement at seeing her.  It was as if she hadn’t stuck him with a boring job just to go off with a friend.  I decided I didn’t like him.

“Hey there... buddy!”

“Hah, my name is Frederic.”

“I know your name, silly.  I was just out of breath from running,” she winked at me.  “Having fun out here, Fred?”

“Uh... it’s a lot less... exciting than I had hoped for,” he trailed off; obviously unsure what to say.  “But I don’t mind!  I’m just happy to help you, Lyv!”

She laughed her most musical laugh, and patted him on the shoulder as she walked inside.  “And I thank you for your help, kind sir.”

He looked confused as she passed.  I think he must’ve expected her to relieve him now that she was back, but he didn’t have the courage to say so.

“Better luck next time, lad!”  Tort chuckled as he walked inside.

I gave the dejected kid a look that was half apologetic and half triumphant before following the others into the building.  His sigh followed me down the hall, and I was forced to admit that I felt bad for him.  I didn’t know what it felt like to be taken advantage of by a pretty girl, but I imagined that it wasn’t great.  By the time I caught up to Lyv I had other things on my mind though.  

“Thanks for coming with me, you guys.  It means a lot, and I’ve got a lot to think about.  Right after I sleep for a few days straight, that is.”

Tort snorted, making his bushy mustache tremble.  “Ye’ll be et the Sounding Room first thing in the morning, boy.”

Lyv’s presence was the only thing that kept me from moaning out loud at that.  “Yes, Musica.  I’ll be there.”  He was already rounding the corner toward his quarters.

The two of us walked in silence until we reached my room.  She smiled, making me realize that everything was going to be just fine.  “Don’t forget what I said, okay?  You’re stronger than you know.”  She leaned in quickly and kissed my cheek.  “And strong is good.”  Another quick smile, then she turned and walked away leaving me dazed at my door.  She was incredible.  She didn’t even show how exhausted she must be after using her harp to carry us so far today.  

Strong is good.  Was that true?  It must be.  Why else would she say it?  I can be strong.  I nodded to myself, and stepped into my room feeling much better about the situation than I had just moments before.  

On the table next to my bed was a tall jar with a loose-fitted lid.  I lifted the lid, sent just a bit of Sound well above what I could actually hear into the jar, and closed it again.  As the night went on, the waves would loosen the lid, and as their energy seeped out they would become audible to humans.  I counted on this to wake me up every morning, and it hadn’t failed me so far.  It was a simple invention, but I was proud of it.

Sure that I would lie awake for hours thinking about the day, I climbed into bed.  Boy was I wrong.

The whistling noise from my wake-up jar jerked me from sleep entirely too soon.  Annoyed, I flipped the top off the jar to free the remaining Sound in a final, awful screech.  Despite not feeling very rested at all, I got out of bed and threw my clothes on.

Did Tort hear what Lyv and I were talking about in the woods?  Is that why he wants to meet this morning?  I knew I was probably overthinking things.  With everything that had happened, I would need all the training I could get, and of course Tort would realize that.  I’m sure that’s all it is.  Of course.  What was I going to do about Lyv though?  I couldn’t actually go hunt down such a powerful monster.  It would eat me alive.  Literally.  But... she wanted me to be strong.  Strong is good.  I had to show her that I was strong without adding stupid to the mix.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t rationalize tracking the creatures down knowing what they were capable of.  If only I were stronger...

I thought myself in circles while I navigated the maze-like passages of the Academy.  I only passed a couple other students in the halls.  Most were probably still asleep at this hour.  Although the ones I passed seemed to be giving me strange looks.  I dismissed the idea, thinking that I must be paranoid.  

When I reached the Sounding Room door, I was no closer to an answer than I was when I woke up.  I took a deep breath to clear my head, and grabbed the door handle.  After the quick flash of green, I entered the Room.

Just as he was before, Tort was looking impatient and standing at the far wall.  Or I guess I should say the far cliff face.  He had modified the highly-configurable room to look like a jungle complete with animal sounds, and even a slight breeze.  Only the instructors knew how the room worked, but they could replicate seemingly any environment to train us for whatever situation might be needed.  I wasn’t sure how a jungle was necessary right now, but I was sure I was about to find out.

“Ho, David!  I hope ya slept.  Ya’ve got some runnin’ ta do.”

As tired as I was, I had to admit that exercise would probably help organize my thoughts.  My first step into the “jungle” started Tort’s course.  I could see silhouettes of big cats lurking behind ferns, and at least one pit trap was apparent just a meter or two from where I stood.   Thank goodness the restrictions on my Voice had been lifted.  Without hesitating, I ran and leapt across the first pit.  I could smell the fur of the panther that landed where I had just been standing as we passed in the air.  It snarled and leapt again.  I released a hot wave of Sound, and the air over the pit thickened.  The cat slowed in midair before sinking slowly into the hole; a furious and frustrated look on its face.  

I smiled, but I knew I couldn’t stay still.  That wasn’t the only one.  There were always more.  I used my Voice to launch myself up onto a nearby branch where I could better scout the area.  There were two or three more pits that I could see from my new vantage point, as well as another panther slinking through the bushes toward me.  Not wanting to risk another close encounter, I shot a sliver of Sound straight between its ears.  It collapsed and disappeared.  Nothing in here was actually real, and when something was taken out of play it would just cease to exist.  That being said, it sure felt real when the mass of orange and black slammed into me and drove me to the ground.  

My whole body ached and my breath was gone, which rendered me helpless.  Tigers are big, but you don’t realize just how big until they’re standing over you roaring in your face.  I shoved as hard as I could to get it off of me, but there was no moving it.  I beat at it with my fists.  I had to get away from those teeth!  My eyes shut firmly as it went to take its first bite.  

The weight on me was gone.  I hesitantly opened one eye, and was relieved to see the tiger had disappeared.  I lay on the cool, pearly floor heaving air back into my lungs.  Oh, right.  The Sounding Room.  As soon as the tiger hit me, I had forgotten everything.  Everything except the fear.  I shivered and pushed myself up to face Tort.

“Well now.  That wasn’t pretty, was et?”

I shook my head, “No, Musica.”

“What did ya do wrong?”

“I was too focused on what I could see, and wasn’t looking for what I hadn’t seen yet.”

“Eh, ye’re right and ye’re not.  Don’t go looking for trouble where et’s not, or you’ll find it everywhere.  Ya have to find what’s dangerous now.  That cat on the ground wasn’t an immediate danger, but ya went after et anyway.  A quick look ‘round the trees would’ve saved ya from the tiger, and ya could’ve dealt with the panther after.  Always scan for danger from near to far, and not the other way ‘round.  Remember that, lad.”

“Yes, Musica.  That makes sense.  Thank you.”  I mentally berated myself for not having thought of it all myself, but I suppose that’s why Tort had a job in the first place.  If the students knew everything there would be no Academy.

Tort nodded gruffly.  “Again,” and the room reset into a forest.  He disappeared into the foliage.

I groaned inwardly, and began once more.

After many of these exercises I was bruised and exhausted.  I was unsure how many times I’d been pounced on by a tiger, or narrowly avoided being mauled by a bear.  I couldn’t take much more of this, and I knew it wouldn’t end until I won.

This round was just like the rest.  The pits were there, the streams with vicious fish, and the sounds of animals heading off into the distance.  I didn’t actually see any animals though.  Searching for danger above and around, I found nothing.  Something was off about this.  Peering around a moss-covered tree trunk, my whole body froze in terror.

Just a dozen or so meters from me stood one of Rathgar’s creatures.  Its course, fur-like hair bristled like spikes I’d seen on plate mail.  The hideous face twisted and writhed as it sniffed around, clearly searching for something.  For me.  I barely suppressed a whimper as I hid behind the tree.  How did that thing get into the Academy?!  Did it already get Tort?  I hope Lyv is okay... If it had gotten this far with the forest illusion still intact, it must have done it quietly.  Lyv was probably fine, and hopefully Tort had run to get the others.  Strong is good.  That left it up to me to stall it until they arrived.  I knew I couldn’t sit here and think about it without losing my nerve.

In one motion, I stepped out from behind the tree and hurled my Voice in a ball of pure force at the monster.  As soon as I saw the waves shatter against it, I realized my mistake.  Its beady, red eyes full of hate, it sprinted at me.  Adrenaline fueled my legs through the cold terror that threatened to immobilize me, and I was able to run.  I bobbed and weaved through the plants, hoping to disorient the thing enough to make my escape.  No matter how many times I changed directions, or tried to confuse it, I could hear it hunting me.  Each time closer than the last.

I knew there was no escaping it.  An idea sparked in my head.  With a shout I crushed the trunk of a nearby tree, felling it behind me.  Another burst of Sound sent it barrelling at the creature, forcing it to leap out of the way.  I had bought myself a couple seconds.  Visualizing the layout of the forest floor, I hurried to where I hoped to make my stand.  My breath came in gasps as I waited.  It came into view, and I brought another tree down in its path.  As I suspected, it didn’t slow this time, but sped up and ducked under as the trunk thudded to the ground.  Leaping over a rocky outcropping, it hurtled screaming through the air.  The look of shock on its face when it broke through the thin layer of branches over the pit was extremely satisfying.  

As it disappeared, I used my Voice to pull the fallen tree over the pit.  I did it!  It was trapped.  I slumped down against a tree and tried to catch my breath.  I can’t believe I did it.  Maybe Lyv is right.  Maybe I can be strong after all.  

My eyes went wide as I saw a hairy hand come out of the pit onto the trunk.  It pulled and snapped the tree in two, causing both halves to fall into the hole.  What?!  You’ve got to be kidding.  The thing leapt out of the trap and swung one of its massive hands down toward my head.  I rolled out of the way just in time to avoid the blow, but on my back I had run out of options.

The monster let out a victorious laugh and lifted me off the ground.  Its crushing grip made breathing impossible, but its stench was so bad I wasn’t terribly upset by that.  All I could hear was that terrible, grating laughter as everything went black.

© 2013 Taylor0401

Author's Note

This is a first draft of the chapter, so point out anything and everything!

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Added on July 28, 2013
Last Updated on July 29, 2013




I've loved writing ever since I was a kid. I haven't had time for it in years, but now I'm making it a regular part of my life and hopefully it will eventually go somewhere. I'd love to publish a no.. more..

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A Chapter by Taylor0401

Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Taylor0401

Chapter 2 Chapter 2

A Chapter by Taylor0401