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Thunderlight, p.13
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       Thunderlight, p.13

           Adrienne Woods

  If it wasn’t Paul, who else could it be?

  Lucian didn’t trust this story one bit, even though Professor Dickson claimed that Paul had been with him the whole time. Nobody could be in two places at once, not even Paul Sutton.

  As our room had been destroyed, it was decided that the three of us were going to sleep in the Infirmary until everything was sorted out.

  I struggled again to fall asleep on the white uniform beds as the shadows danced along the white walls. Secretly, I was glad that Constance was doing paperwork in her office only a few, short steps away.

  I knocked softly on the partially closed door leading to the small office.

  Constance looked up and gave me a smile when she saw me. “Are you struggling to sleep?”

  I nodded slowly as I spoke, “I’m so sorry that I missed our tea. The offer still on?”

  “Pull up a chair,” she said with a smile as she went to the kettle behind her on a small corner desk, surrounded by cups, and switched it on.

  She sat back down in her brown leather chair and sighed. “Trouble seems to follow you everywhere, Elena Watkins.”

  “I didn’t ask for this.”

  “I know. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.” She looked tired as she rubbed her eyes gently with her index finger and thumb. The footage of her in her dragon form, trying desperately to get back into Etan when the creepers swallowed it from the program, made me remember why I’d wanted to speak to her so badly.

  “Why didn’t you tell me about your family?”

  She looked at me for only a few seconds and then quickly back to her desk. A small, sad smile appeared on her face. “It was such a long time ago, Elena, and I didn’t want to burden you with my stories.”

  “They’re not a burden. After everything you’ve done for me. She was a Sun-Blast, right?”

  Constance nodded. “Her name was Anouk. It was long before I joined the academy. There had been a medical conference in Elm…” She took a deep breath as she paused. “Something told me that I shouldn’t go, but I was so determined. If I’d stayed…”

  “You would’ve been trapped too.”

  “I would be with my family, Elena.” Her eyes were sad and a small frown pulled her eyebrows together.

  “How old will she be?”

  “Nineteen, turning twenty. Isabel and I both laid at the same time. We were so excited since it was both our first eggs. When a little Sun-Blast cracked out of mine and Blake out of Isabel’s we couldn’t have been more proud. We thought the two would grow up together, and they had been really close. Blake searched everywhere for her after the creepers consumed Etan that day. He didn’t understand that she was gone.”

  “How do you deal with it?”

  “Keep moving forward, I guess.”

  It was silent for a while, and then I remembered something else. “So Ling?”

  She laughed. “My husband was the general of King Albert’s court.”

  I remembered the card of a general that was in my treasure box and I got up to retrieve it. “Just wait here.” I said and ran to my suitcase. The box was buried under all my clothes and I searched for the card. I finally found it and chucked the box back into my suitcase as I ran back to her office. “Is this him?” I handed her the card.

  She kept staring at it, then her hand covered her mouth and her eyes glistened with tears. “Where did you get this?”

  “First trading pack of cards Becky bought me.”

  She nodded as she kept staring at a picture of her husband. “It’s really a rare card, Elena,” she whispered as she handed it back to me.

  “Keep it. It’s more valuable to you.”

  She got up at my words and hugged me close. “Thank you so much, you have no idea how long I’ve searched for it.” She pulled the desk drawer open and showed me the hundreds of cards that filled it.

  “Finally,” I said softly.

  She let me go and looked at me with soft eyes. “What is?”

  “Something I could give you.”

  She smiled and hugged me again.

  “I wish I could give you more for all those time you saved my butt.”

  “I’m a doctor. It’s what I do. Besides, this is more than enough.” She spoke as we broke apart. She couldn’t stop looking at the card.

  We had tea to dry our tears and I listened as she kept talking about what an eccentric little Sun-Blast Anouk had been. She sounded like an amazing little dragon. Just by listening to her stories and what type of a husband Ling had been told me how much Constance had really lost the day the creepers consumed Etan.

  When the clock on the wall chimed twelve gongs, I got up. “I should really try to get some sleep.”

  “You should. Thanks for the card and sweet dreams.”

  I gave her a smile and went back to the Infirmary and crawled into bed. For a long time I stared at the outlines of the fan on the ceiling above me.

  God, I haven’t spoken to you in a long time. I forgot to count my blessings every day the way Dad told me, and complained about everything that was bestowed upon me. I don’t deserve to ask You anything, but please, keep Constance’s family safe, let the people of Paegeia find a way to free Etan and reunite families with one another. Especially Constance’s. Amen.

  When I was finished, I turned around onto my side and dozed off faster than I thought I would.

  My dream read like a book; me killing Brian, then switching over to Blake being beaten half to death. The blood on the bandages around Blake’s arm formed the morbid outline of a woman standing in front of a forest. The vision pulled me closer until I was with her once again. Still, she ordered me to go into the creepy woods, but then something completely new emerged. It wasn’t an image, but a sound. It was a deep husky voice reading poetry. I didn’t know what the voice said, because the language sounded foreign, but the rhythm in which he spoke sounded like poetry. It had a soothing type of tone as I lay there in the dark listening to it, until a horrible sound killed everything. It only took me a second to realize that the wailing belonged to Becky’s alarm clock. When it stopped, I could still hear the deep voice, until it slowly faded into silence.

  STARED AT THE blank page of my journal that Pheizer had given us for what felt like the entire day. I couldn’t name one feeling to write down, although I had plenty of mixed ones doing summersaults in my gut. The voice from the night before came and went into my mind throughout the whole day. My dream has never led to something like this before. Am I losing my mind? Maybe Master Longwei was right that night Constance tried to help me. That my mind can’t handle this world and I’m really starting to lose it. I don’t want to end up in the loony bin.

  Without thinking I grabbed one of the pastels Lucille had given me as a giveaway present when I left to go to Sammy’s, and started to draw a huge circle. I took another color, a deep purple and filled in some of the circle. I didn’t know what it represented but for some reason it explained one of my feelings. The colors just keep popping up as my fingers flew across the page. A yellow, green, blue, and black made it in there too. The only thing that I did write was a huge question mark right next to the colorful orb.

  Over the next couple of days, Darius became more human to me. He was right next to me during every change of class but it didn’t bug me as much as it did the other students as we were on a speaking basis with one another. He told me a lot about his family, where he was from, and how old he was when he joined the service. To save a life was really important to him. I could feel real danger nearby and I felt safer with Darius protecting me like a Rottweiler.

  Darius was exactly like me; his mother was a dragon and his father a human. “You don’t know how lucky you are to be born with that mark, Elena.”

  “Really,” I glanced sideways and up at him as he walked me to my next class. “I’m so not the dragon rider type.”

  He gave a deep gurgling sound which I assumed was his chuckle. “You didn’t grow up with it. I’m sure once you are used to th
is you will embrace it like all the other students.”

  “I can’t wait for that day.” I smiled. “So have you found anything yet? I mean, who was in our room?”

  He looked puzzled for a second and then his normal “glancing through the crowd” look appeared on his face again. It was the only thing that bugged me, Darius never looked me in the eye as we spoke, but I knew he was multitasking, still observing when he had these conversations with me. “I have a couple of leads, but I need to make sure that it is exactly the person I suspect before I take it any further.”

  We stopped right in front of my next class. “The only thing I can tell you is it’s not the Wyvern.”

  “Are you sure about that?”

  “Ninety-nine percent, Elena.”

  I smiled at him. “Thanks for sharing that. See you in half an hour.”

  He took his stand right next to the door and I went into my classroom.

  When I got out of class, Darius was gone, but my knight in shining armor leaned against the wall with his backpack slung over his shoulder.

  “This is a nice surprise.” I hooked my arm around his waist and give him a small peck on the mouth.

  “Darius asked me to make sure that I took you to your next class. He said something about a hunch.”

  “Yeah, he told me about a couple of leads he has and that he needed to check them out first before he takes it further.”

  “He told you who he suspects?”

  “No, but he told me who he didn’t suspect.”

  He gave me a look and I was sure he could read Paul’s name on my forehead as he looked away. “Don’t rule him out, Elena.”

  “He’s like a hundred percent sure, Lucian.” For crying out loud, the guy was questioned for the past two days by the authorities just because he was a Wyvern. I didn’t say it out loud.

  “Yeah. Just remember I know how easy it is to trust them. They aren’t to be trusted at all. Wyverns are killers. Remember that.” By the sadness in Lucian’s eyes I wished he could tell me what had happened between him and a Wyvern. Then maybe I would be able to understand where all this hatred toward Paul came from.

  We said goodbye in front of my next class and I looked at him until he disappeared around the corner. The day flew by fast but everyone was still speaking about the break-in.

  I couldn’t sleep that night again and I listened to each of the three guard shifts throughout the night. Darius took the first shift, followed by Becky’s guard and the last was Sammy’s. Around 4:30, I found myself in a pair of sweat pants, a top two sizes too big, and running shoes. When I left the Infirmary, Sammy’s guard was sleeping in the chair. I snuck past him as softly as I could and ran down the stairs.

  The fresh air cleared my mind and it felt as if I’d slept the entire night. I slipped through the main door leading to the Coliseum, and froze.

  Seven or eight huge Swallow Annexes stood right in front of the Parthenon dome. I’d never seen so many in one place and forgot that Lucian told me Constance took them for a flight every morning. Swallow Annexes loved the air, they would die if they couldn’t soar and glide. All of them were majestic with long necks and a fin-like mane on top of their heads. A small goat beard ran down their chin and huge swallow shaped wings covered their entire body.

  They all looked in my direction and the one that bowed made me wonder if it was Constance. I bowed back as they went back to what they were doing.

  After a couple of seconds they took off one by one. They were so beautiful that I kept staring at them until they were small specks in the sky.

  As I brought my thoughts back to solid ground, I took a huge breath and started running in the direction of the lake. Surprisingly, the voice in my head was silent.

  Should I tell Constance about this? She might be able to help me.

  An image of a syringe jumped into my mind as I thought about the word help.

  No, keep your mouth shut, Elena, my own voice demanded.

  I guess I would have to somehow deal with this extra voice and learn how to cope with it.

  Nobody can know.

  The wind that blew across my body as I sprinted left my skin tingling from head to toe. I had never thought that running would make a person feel so free. When the pain in my sides emerged, I stopped and held the left side of my stomach until it went away. A twig snapped close by and I jumped. I looked around as a creepy feeling pumped through my stomach and ran up my spine. I could feel eyes on me and realized that sneaking past Bradley, Sammy’s guard, had not been very wise. I had even forgotten the stupid panic button.

  Thinking quickly, I turned around and decided to make a run for it. I kept looking over my shoulder as terror began to build inside of me and I smacked hard into another warm body.

  “Sorry, I didn’t…”

  “Elena.” Lucian looked at me quizzically.

  “It’s you,” I breathed out with relief. He still wanted to say something with a scolding expression plastered on his face, but I cut him off. “There is someone behind me.”

  His head snapped up and searched past the trees. “Stay here.”

  “No, I’m coming with you.”

  He growled and started to run. We stopped at the spot where I had heard the noise and I could see Lucian’s body bending toward the left. He darted to the tree line and crouched down.

  A thousand needles and pins rushed over my body as I saw something large and human lying underneath the tree.

  “Elena, go get Master Longwei, now. It’s Darius.”

  ARIUS WAS DEAD. Whoever lingered in the trees had snapped his neck. He had a big gash of a wound that Lucian or Master Longwei didn’t want me to see. How he’d gotten killed, was beyond my knowledge as Darius and all the other guards were highly trained in combat. Bradley wasn’t asleep that morning when I snuck out, he was drugged. He didn’t see anyone drugging his coffee, or even smelled it as he took sips. Again all the leads just disappeared into thin air.

  I was devastated, not knowing why they had picked Darius. He was my guard and what was he thinking of going off alone after a hunch? He reminded me so many times a day to never wander off alone without him. Master Longwei gave me permission to take the day off and I spent it in my room. Lucian gave some of his classes a miss as he was sure whoever killed Darius was coming for me next.

  He obviously blamed Paul, who else could have done this?

  Police and investigators spent the day searching for clues and some even stayed behind. Master Longwei gave some of the investigators rooms and said they were going to carry on with their investigation tomorrow. I knew there had been someone there, lurking behind those trees. The only question was, did they want to kill me too or had they tried to make me turn around and walk away?

  It was scary not knowing if there was someone trying to keep me out of danger or trying to hurt us all.

  Some students left the Academy. Their parents didn’t feel that Dragonia could be trusted to protect their children with Blake still absent, even though Master Longwei had a long meeting with all of them that tonight. I guessed it was because it had been someone like Darius with all his training that died, that had gotten the parents really scared.

  “It must be Paul.” George jumped quickly to the same conclusion as Lucian the next morning at breakfast.

  “They’ve interrogated him yesterday, like the whole day. Kyle, his roommate, said he was in his room sleeping.”

  “Becky, Kyle was sleeping too. How did he know that?”

  “Apparently he was watching TV till four in the morning.”

  “I’m with Lucian. Something is not right. First he had an alibi with Professor Dickson when someone broke into your room and stole your necklace and now Kyle couldn’t sleep. That guy is like a male version of Sleeping Beauty.”

  “I’m not going to fight with you about Kyle’s sleeping patterns, George,” Becky said starting to get angry. “Paul has an alibi. Stop blaming him for everything.”

  George showed his teeth, got up a
nd left our table.

  “He makes me so furious. He doesn’t think properly about stuff, just jumps to conclusions all the time.”

  “Becky, what if Paul is behind this?”

  “Sammy, I know you guys want to believe he is guilty but they found nothing on him. What if he really is trying to be different from all the other Wyverns? King Albert…”

  “King Albert wasn’t here to witness what happened ten years ago, Becky.”

  “That was different, Sammy.”

  “They are all the same.”

  “You can’t say that.” Becky sounded frustrated.

  “What happened ten years ago?” I wanted to know and I was sick of no one wanting to tell me.

  “Not our story to tell, Elena,” Both said in unison.

  Sammy got up. “Lucian is so right. As long as Paul Sutton lives inside Dragonia Academy more people are going to die,” Sammy yelled and left.

  Some of the girls that had welcomed Paul threw glares while others clapped their hands for someone willing to say out loud what they were thinking.

  Professor Pheizer’s class still carried on as if nothing had happened. She was the only teacher that could take our minds away from the Darius incident.

  As soon as we arrived, she collected all our journals and started with her class.

  “I see we have an Ascending coming up.” We all looked around to find who she was referring too. My eyes landed on Peter, a small skinny boy resting his head against the wall. His nose was red and he looked like death. “It’s just the flu, Professor.”

  “Keep telling yourself that, Peter.”

  We all laughed.

  “Looking at Peter, what type of ability do you think he will get,” she asked everyone.

  “He looks like death,” Simon a Blake-wannabe said. “I’d say the Night Villain.”

  “Simon, Night Villain Aascendants have other symptoms far worse than Peter’s. Think, people.”

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