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Thunderlight, p.12
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       Thunderlight, p.12

           Adrienne Woods

  “It always happens on the first try,” Paul said. “It’s not normal for your brain to focus so hard; a nosebleed is the result you get.”

  I had to admit, the nosebleed thing was really tugging on my nerves.

  “But I guess for the girl who escaped the Sacred Cavern, moving a box is nothing.” The bell rang before I could say anything to him in response and I decided to just leave without saying a word.

  “Goodbye, Elena,” he sang in an amusing tone as he skipped down the stairs to the door. I just shook my head, threw my backpack over my shoulder and left. Is this going to happen in every single Enchantment class?

  HE REST OF the day was long and painful, Arithmetic was right after Enchantments followed by an hour of History. For some reason I struggled to get Paul out of my head as I made my way to various classes. It was weird, I really didn’t want to think about him, but he just kept popping up like a sore tooth.

  The bell rang and it was finally lunch time. My stomach grumbled and if I didn’t get something in my system soon, I might drop dead. On my way to the cafeteria, banners of Warbel game try-outs hung everywhere on the wall. They had taken over last period for those that wanted to go to the try-outs. I wished I wasn’t so scared of heights; it beat whatever last period was.

  I found the girls and George at a table inside. They were deep in a heated discussion when I walked up.

  “I heard that she wants to claim a dragon ASAP.” Sammy answered one of Becky's questions that I hadn’t heard.

  Becky pulled me down onto the seat next to her.

  “What’s going on?”

  “Nicole wants to claim a dragon. Lucian has been trying to talk her out of it for the last ten minutes. She’s going to see her ass and fast too,” George snickered.

  I looked at Nicole and Lucian as they spoke to one another in the far corner. Her hands were up in the air and he had a scowl on his face again. What is happening to him? He hardly ever got upset and now it looked like he was constantly pissed off.

  “She isn't even good in Art of War. I heard that she begged Lucian to help her the way he had you.” George laughed as he remembered how bad I had been. I could tell Becky was really rubbing off on him.

  I looked down at what they were having for lunch and saw bowls of pasta that made my stomach growl. I got up and walked directly over to the board where Chef posted the riddles each day.

  A box without hinges, lock or key, yet golden treasure lies within. What is it?

  Without hinges, must be round. Lock or key? What is round that you can open and has gold inside of it. I thought on it for a couple of minutes. Dad had always said it had nothing to do with what it sounded like but that I should concentrate more on the clues. In this case it was round, couldn’t be opened, and had a golden color inside. Could it be broken? An egg popped inside my head and I thought about it for a couple of seconds. I couldn’t think of anything else but how could an egg be a treasure? It could be if you are starving.

  I walked over to Chef who stood proudly behind the buffet counter. “Elena, how are you this afternoon?” He greeted me warmly.

  “Good, but not too good if we start the year off with pasta,” I joked.

  He laughed. “Then what is the riddle?”

  “Is it an egg?” I wasn't sure, but when he smiled, went over to the bell and rang it twice I wanted to do Becky’s silly dance.

  Becky's table cheered the loudest when he announced the riddle had been solved.

  “So what will it be?” Chef instantly produced a notepad and pen in his hands.

  “For breakfast, the usual.” I loved breakfast. “Lunch, let's go with pizza. Dinner, I want stews served on rice; Beef Stroganoff, Chicken a la King, Sweet and Sour Pork Dumplings, and something for Sammy. Maybe a vegetarian stew?”

  “I know just what she likes. Well done,” he praised as I grabbed a tray, dished up some Gnocchi and went back to my seat.

  “So what do we get tomorrow?” Becky asked expectantly.

  “Something for everyone,” I said, and she clapped her hands excitedly.

  Lucian said nothing as he ate quietly next to me. He had this sadness in his eyes again and I did everything I could think of to take it away. When the bell rang, he gave me a quick kiss on the head and we parted ways. I guessed now that Brian wasn’t here anymore, he had nothing to worry about, that and the fact that Darius followed me everywhere, but then again Lucian hadn’t been anywhere near my Enchantment class earlier.

  As I was thinking about what to do about Paul I almost passed the door leading to my last class of the day; double period of Aptitude. A woman with glasses resting on her nose and thick gray hair turned up in a bun waited for us by the door. She had a very warm and welcoming smile.

  The only seats left were in the first row and I sulked as I made my way to the front.

  When the second bell rang, she closed the door and walked over to the front of her desk so she could face all of us. “Welcome to Aptitude and Ascending,” she said, with her hands folded and resting on her thighs. “My name is Professor Pheizer and we are going to learn about everything that’s got to do with your abilities, preparing you for Ascending, and what to expect during Ascending. The best part is how to get in tune with your dragon before you even know who your dragon is.”

  She had our attention. Something told me that this was the class Becky loved right after she’d claimed George.

  “Can we really do that?” Charlie asked. His red hair had everyone convinced his dragon was a Sun-Blast.

  Brian… What if Brian was Charlie’s? Then I’ve killed his dragon.

  “If your mark is really dark,” she said looking at me, “and you concentrate on your feelings, then yes, which brings me to my next point.” She turned around, and walked over to a stack of boxes. She opened the top box and took out something that looked like a manual. “This will be your journal for this year. I need you to write in them every day exactly how you feel. What your mood is when you wake up, when you have your lunch, every minute your mood changes without even a hint of frustration, or happiness, or something sad, leading up to the change.” She walked past us and put a leather journal big enough to fit in any kind of bag on everyone’s table. “What you write in them is completely up to you. If you want, I can help you dissect any hidden clues inside your entries to find out what kind of a dragon you are made for.”

  “Is it true that a dragon always knows who their rider is?” Mike, a blond guy with bulgy eyes asked. I remembered Cheng had told me that in one of our tutoring lessons.

  “That bit of fact is still hotly disputed. Some Metallics claim that they did know just by seeing them, the Chromatics, well, maybe you should ask George.”

  The entire class laughed as George and Becky were the only ones sharing a dent. A bond so rare that they say only one happens every hundred years.

  “So let’s start with lesson number one; Ascending. Who can tell me the three ways for a Dragonian to Ascend?”

  Reily had her hand held the highest in the air. Becky was right, she was a real know-it-all.

  “Yes,” Professor Pheizer asked Reily.

  “Reily,” she said her name first. “The first one is through sickness.”

  “That is right. Any sudden cold or flu will turn into a deadly virus. Just as it feels like you are going to kick the bucket,” Professor Pheizer mimicked kicking a bucket, “you will go through a transformation and wake up refreshed and with an extra ability. Your human body won’t be the same after that. It will be immune to whatever ability you’ve gained. If it’s acid, the Night Villain’s breath won’t harm you. If it’s fire, you will become a wielder. The ability never does belong to a dragon, but its rider. They say that our human bodies, even after transformed are too weak to handle that kind of power and that is why dragons are the carriers. Or the way they use to say a hundred years ago, the keepers. Who can tell me the next one?”

  I had no clue what they were, then Becky’s Ascending popped in my head and I
lifted up my hand. “Elena?”

  Not a big secret that she knows who I am.

  “Lightning?” It sounded more of a question than an answer.

  “Meaning the elements of nature.” Professor Pheizer turned to the blackboard and scribbled both sickness and elements of nature on it. “I believe Elena witnessed Ascending through lightning first hand. Becky was struck by lightning last year and if it wasn’t her ability, I assure you, she wouldn’t be here with us today. Acid rain and snow storms can also help their riders to Ascend. Lord Diggory, a very wealthy and honorable man, lived about five hundred years ago back before we knew that the humans born with the mark were special. He loved the winter and could even handle working outside in a blizzard. Then one day he developed hypothermia. The doctor said that his lungs were frozen solid. Now, if it hadn’t been for his ability to handle so much cold, he would’ve never recovered. But through every major sickness or injury as a result of the ice cold storms, he grew stronger and better. They just couldn’t explain it. He obviously died without knowing about his extra ability and that he would have been able to claim a Snow Dragon.” She ran over to the board again. “And the last one,” she said with her back still turned to us, ready to scribbled it down on the blackboard next to the other two.

  I looked around and nobody, not even Reily knew the answer.

  Master Longwei’s explanation of me handling Fire-Powder jumped into my head. I raised my hand slowly. Look whose turning out to be the know-it-all this time.

  “Elena,” she seemed surprised.

  “I don’t know if it’s one, but someone told me that you can Ascend if you face a dragon that carries the same ability as yours.” It sounded so stupid now that I’d said it out loud and I stopped.

  Professor Pheizer smiled as she scribbled the word ‘Identical Matches’ on the board and went over to her table and sat on the edge of her desk. She folded her arms in her lap, with the chalk still clutched in her hand. “What Elena just said is true. It is a really a rare one. Through classes like mine, where the Dragonian does detect through their feelings who their dragon is, the change in emotions are so precise that the riders not only find out what breed their dragon is but who their dragon is.”

  Shock filled the entire class. To think that just by opening your feelings up on a couple of pages could lead to that.

  “The only problem with that is the Council doesn’t like to use that sort of claiming. Especially if it’s one of the big three or the Rubicon.”

  “But Lucian got a second chance to try and claim the Rubicon,” Tracy pointed out.

  “Well, he is royalty honey, and with that, he gets a lot of bonus points.”

  We laughed again.

  “He also knows the consequences,” Professor Pheizer said in a more serious tone, “If you think he just gets a pass every single time, you are mistaken. He has to explain to the Council why he thinks the Rubicon belongs to him. If they feel that it’s not in your best interest, they will decline your proposal.”

  A fussy feeling warmed my chest. To think he was mine. Becky apparently hadn’t been lying about having to ask the Council for everything. I never knew Lucian had to go through all of that every single time he wanted to claim Blake. He was really determined.

  “Can we really discover who our dragon is just through our journals?” Mary, a girl with a Justin Bieber fringe who was really good at Arithmetic, asked.

  “If you are true to yourself and don’t lie, then, yes. That is why I’m going to ask you to be really honest in your journals. Remember, claiming the wrong dragon can lead to your death.”

  The class went super silent as her words sunk in.

  She looked at her watch and looked back up at the class again. “This year is going to be really interesting. We are going to see many Ascendings throughout this class and you will also see the kind of transformation I talked about earlier. If any of you feel like your Ascending is close, please don’t keep it to yourself. We do have a lot of staff on board that can help make it easier. Doctor Ling and Nurse Derado are really good at detecting the difference between a sickness and signs of Ascending.”

  Doctor Ling? I didn’t even know that it was Constance’s last name. She didn’t appear to be Asian but then again, I never even knew about her daughter trapped on the other side of Etan. I found that out during my third week staying with Becky and Lucille. They have this program that plays each year reminding everyone about the night the creepers consumed Etan. Constance lived in a village near the creepers and was at a conference in Elm when it all happened. She left her three-year-old dragon daughter with her husband, and the rest was history.

  For the next two hours we read up on people Ascending in history. It was fun, but not many were documented until about 100 years back. After that, they made claiming the number one event in Paegeia. From what the pictures showed us, it was huge.

  There weren’t a lot of questions from the rest of the students and any I had, Cheng and Lucian had explained to me last year. When the bell rang we all left with high spirits.

  I couldn’t stop thinking about the three procedures a Dragonian could Ascend through as I climb the steps to my room. As I approached our landing my eyes caught on pieces of wood lying in front of our door. When I looked up, I found the edge of the door was broken and the door was hanging slightly open. I picked up the pieces of wood off the ground and looked back up slowly to the door as my mind put two and two together.

  Someone had broken into our room.

  SEARCHED MY BACKPACK frantically for the cool plastic touch of my panic button. When I couldn’t find the stupid thing, I yelled Darius’s name as loudly as I could while racing down the stairs as quickly as my feet would carry me. As true as Master Longwei’s word he found me in two seconds.

  “Elena, calm down.” Both his gorilla-sized hands were on my arms holding me in place in front of him.

  “Someone broke into our room,” I spoke so fast that I wasn’t sure if he had heard one word. I could feel my heart beat pumping in my chest and I wasn’t sure if it had been caused by my mad dash down the steps or the fear those small pieces of broken wood had laced through me.

  “Just stay here,” he said quickly, his voice filling with authority. He ran up the stairs like a panther, taking two in each of his cat-like strides.

  As I watched him go I pressed my back against the wall, letting the coolness sink into my shirt, calming my racing heart. I could hear a faint order being spoken into his communication device, and after a minute, three more guards ran up the stairs; their shadows disappeared around the turn in the staircase. Becky found me with a shield and a raider I hadn’t seen before in hand.

  “Where did you get that?” I asked momentarily distracted by the device she carried.

  “I bought it just before we came back,” she explained as she stared after the guards that had just ran up the stairs. “What’s up?”

  “Someone broke into our room.”

  Her eyes raised high onto her forehead and she ran up the stairs after the retreating figures of the guards.

  “Becky, they said to wait here.” I followed her none the less and found a guard in front of our room blocking her from entering.

  “I need to get into my room, get out of my way!”

  “It’s not safe yet, Ms. Johnson. Let us do our job,” he said back to her with a venomous expression, his hands were on her arms holding her in place.

  As if he could sense her fear, George appeared out of nowhere and charged the guard standing at the front door. In less than a minute the guard had him in a tight grip and George couldn’t do anything but grunt. “We are here to protect you guys, now let us do our job, please.” His tone was gentle and George nodded in understanding.

  Becky and I just stared at him amazed how quickly he had been subdued.

  As the guard released his grip Becky pulled George closer to her. “Seriously, you couldn’t take out one guard?”

  “Don’t,” George grunted and mumbl
ed something else I couldn’t quite make out.

  If the situation had been different I would’ve laughed, but the thought that someone else beside the people we knew had been inside our room, someone that didn’t belong there…. the reality of how dangerous this year could be washed over my body in a harsh wave

  VERYTHING WAS PLUNDERED, our beds, the TV, even our chandelier. If any of us had been inside when it had happened, we could have been killed.

  The guards were still busy searching for clues to reveal who the perpetrator might be as we gathered some of our belongings. I took my small wooden box and clutched it to my chest, relieved it had been unharmed. I had christened it my treasure box and it held all my precious belongings: the pack of cards Becky had bought me during our first year, a broken arm bracelet that Dad had gotten me, I had promised myself I would fix it one day when I had enough money. Looking through the box I couldn’t help but think that the picture of my Mom holding me at my first birthday party would’ve looked nice in here too, but I’d lost it the night the dragons attacked us on Interstate 40.

  The strangest part of the entire night was that we realized nothing was missing, except for Becky’s necklace. The necklace was valuable, if not in price, but in memories. It had been the only gift she’d received from her father when she was a child. During the break-in she had been at the Warbel tryouts with George and she always took her necklace off and put it in her secret hiding place inside the room whenever she had Art of War or a subject where she could end up losing it. The necklace had a small purple stone with two small dragons holding it in their metal talons. When she had finally gotten back into the room it was nowhere to be found.

  Sammy and I had watched in horror as clothes and books flew through the air as she searched for it, and saw the tears glistening in her eyes when she realized that it was gone.

  I had never seen her so devastated before. She even phoned Lucille to tell her about what had happened.

  As the commotion died down, Master Longwei assured us that the perpetrator would be found and dealt with. Paul was even brought in for questioning but he had an alibi; he had been having a meeting with Professor Dickson at the time our room was broken into.

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