Eldnium, p.5
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       Eldnium, p.5

           Enoch Pyle, Jr
 
Li’an had stopped at the bottom of the cabin stairs to tie the laces of her leather shoes, and she was just finishing up when Landon joined her.

  “Isaac will want to be with us at The Fountains,” she said. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard of them before now. They’re what every new hero waits for. We should find Isaac after breakfast and let him know we’re going there today.” Li’an started off ahead of Landon, leading the way through the village.

  The sun was beating down on Landon, but it didn’t feel hot. It felt refreshing, and he said, “You know, I’m not really hungry. I could skip breakfast.”

  “It’s the most important meal of the day,” Li’an argued, but Landon just smiled. “Okay. I’ll grab something later. Let’s go.”

  They continued down the dirt pathway, which was fitted on either side with cabins like Landon’s. Here and there, another path would branch away and lead to even more cabins. There seemed to be hundreds, all different shapes and sizes.

  “How many of us live here?” he asked.

  “Don’t let the number of cabins fool you,” Li’an answered. “At any given moment, there are only about thirty of us here training. The extra cabins you see are assigned to other heroes, but they’re either away on a mission on some other planet or…well…dead.”

  “Missions?”

  “Missions. Quests. Jobs. Errands. Whatever you want to call them. Once you’ve been trained, you’ll be set out just like the others.”

  “Set out to do what?” Landon asked nervously. Each day spent in this place left Landon feeling horribly uninformed. “I’m not much of a fighter.”

  “That’s what training is for. You’ll get some equipment, and then, with the help of your abilities, you’ll save more heroes and bring them to safety here at The Sanctuary.”

  “I thought Isaac was the one who saved heroes.”

  Li’an scoffed, “Well, he can’t be everywhere at once, can he? No. He takes the missions in which the hero is either in the most danger or in which the hero’s gifts are most promising.”

  “Have you ever been on a quest?”

  Li’an’s eyes shone a bit of a scowl. “No. I’ve told you. I don’t have an ability.”

  “But you’re a hero?”

  “Isaac saved me, if that’s what you’re asking. But I’m no hero. I’m only here to help new heroes get situated, and because…well…I don’t have anywhere else to go. If I leave here, I’ll be hunted down and killed. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a hero. It just matters that The Control believe I am. They’ll kill me, just as they kill the others.”

  “Well, that leads to another question,” Landon said.

  Li’an sighed, “Of course it does,” exasperation leaving her lips.

  “On my first day here, I noticed we all speak the same language. You told me that communicating is more than the words we speak, remember? And that we can understand each other because that’s one ability all heroes share.”

  “So?” Li’an said.

  “So, you understand me, and I understand you. Doesn’t that make you a hero?”

  “No,” Li’an said bluntly. “It’s more complicated than that, Landon. The ability to understand each other doesn’t have to go both ways.”

  “Well, on my home planet, I could never understand the Waiki Tribe. If language is something that comes naturally to me, why couldn’t I understand them?”

  “On your home planet, you were told that you only spoke one language, and so you never tried to understand another one. You constructed a barrier for yourself…and it probably wasn’t the only one. But when Isaac found you, you were able to understand him just fine. And that barrier slipped away, because your perception of reality changed. If you returned to your home planet, you’d be able to speak with everyone as easily as you’re speaking with me.”

  Landon scratched at his messy hair. “You’re right,” he agreed. “It is complicated.”

  “Come on. We have a busy day ahead.”

  Landon followed Li’an through the village center, past the Steamshop (where steam-powered weapons were forged), past the armory, through the Center Garden (where a number of younger heroes were playing hide-and-seek), and out into the training grounds.

  Landon had been here on his first day, but couldn’t quite get over how beautiful the training grounds were. Before him, they stretched out into acres and acres of golden fields, with five or six arenas marked out in large circles by giant boulders. A few of these were occupied by sparring heroes. A pair to the left were sword fighting. A set of five heroes on the right scurried from cover to cover, engaged in gunplay.

  Beyond the arenas stood the Jumping Stones, large boulders stacked into columns, the smallest on the left standing just five feet high, and the tallest on the right towering over sixty feet into the air. Each of the columns sat about thirty yards apart, stretching across the field, twenty columns in total.

  Landon spotted a hero practicing atop them. The idea, it seemed to Landon, was to jump from smallest column to largest and back again. Without falling to your death, of course. This particular hero seemed to have it all figured out. He was soaring from column to column effortlessly. Landon imagined the hero’s gift to have something to do with flight or incredible leg strength.

  And then the hero slipped and went crashing into the side of one of the columns, smashing through it and shredding the boulders into pieces that exploded across the field, followed by the hero hitting the ground and carving out a massive crater, dirt and rock splattering around it. Landon could feel the ground shake beneath his feet.

  “Holy crap!” Landon shouted, trying to keep his balance. “Is he okay?”

  Li’an laughed. “Yeah. He’s okay. That’s Tommy. He’s what we call a Tank. There’s not a rock on this planet that could stun him. He’s hard as diamond.” When Landon didn’t seem convinced, Li’an continued, “Look, Iclovar is there with him. Let’s ask if Isaac is around.”

  The two continued toward the crater Tommy had carved out of the terra. From a distance, the damage didn’t seem like much, but from up close, Landon estimated the impression to be at least ten feet deep and thirty feet across. A massive hand reached up out of the crater and grabbed its rim. It was Tommy’s, of course, and Landon watched as he pulled himself out of the crater.

  Landon was shocked at how large Tommy was. He stood at least eight feet high, and his body was massive and muscular. His shoulders bulged outward, and veins could be seen weaving beneath his skin like mineral deposits in granite.

  Tommy shook his head, as if shaking out the dizziness.

  “Oops,” Tommy laughed, his voice deep and thunderous.

  Iclovar, the trainer, walked over to the three heroes. “You’re getting better, Tommy,” he said, his accent strong and obvious. Iclovar was a bit of a mystery to Landon. He wore a strange white leather robe that flowed down to his knees at the front and into two long tails at the back which dragged on the ground behind him, though they never seemed to get dirty. Over his eyes, Iclovar wore a pair of round goggles that reminded Landon of something a pilot may have worn back on his home planet, except these had black lenses with lights encircling them, which would occasionally flicker on and off in different colors. Strapped to Iclovar’s waist was a small dagger in a metal sheath. The dagger’s grip was wrapped in brown leather, and at the tip of the hilt, a small stone was set, which seemed to change color with Iclovar’s mood. Today, it was blue.

  “The gravity here,” Tommy complained, still catching his breath between huffs, “it’s too much.”

  “No, Tommy,” Iclovar explained, “not if you continue to train. When your legs adapt, you will be a mighty force.”

  Landon crinkled his brow. “I thought all life-bearing planets were the same. You’re the first hero I’ve seen that’s so…well…different.”

  Tommy looked confused, and Landon wondered if he was nothing more than a big, dumb brute.

  Iclovar said, “Ah, opportunity for an impromptu lesson. Li’an, would
you care to explain?”

  “Yes, sir,” she answered, clearly excited to showcase her knowledge, another of her pretentious habits that Landon disliked. “All planets begin the same, but The Control don’t intervene in the evolution of the planets themselves, so some planets can be changed through natural means. For instance, Tommy’s home planet of Terath was struck by a large, rogue planet. The collision resulted in both planets being nearly destroyed except for a small rock of low density, and thus low gravity. The remaining bits of the collision formed a ring around the planet, with some pieces being sucked down to the planet’s surface as meteors on a regular basis. The low gravity allowed life to grow larger than it does on most planets, but the constant meteor showers forced life to evolve toughened exteriors.”

  Tommy held out his hand, “Feel.”

  Landon was taken aback for a moment, but let his curiosity win out, and he set the finger of his right hand against Tommy’s palm. “Whoa. It’s…it’s like a shell…”

  “It looks like skin, but it’s not,” Li’an continued. “It’s an exoskeleton.”

  “Very good, Li’an,” Iclovar said.

  Landon’s finger was still pressed against Tommy’s hand, and a strange sensation ran up Landon’s arm before…

  “Look out!” Li’an shouted and ran, diving as the column Tommy had struck gave way and began to crumble, leaning into a long and dramatic fall.

  Iclovar pushed Landon out of the way, forcing him into a sprawl several feet away. But it wasn’t far enough, because a massive rock smashed down onto his right arm, pinning it to the ground.

  The impact startled Landon, and he decided that it must have been the shock that kept him from feeling the pain in his surely crushed arm.

  Tommy came over and grabbed the rock, which was the size of a large tree stump, and tossed it aside as if it weighed nothing at all.

  “Are you okay?” he asked, helping Landon to his feet.

  Landon looked at his arm, which was fully intact, though the ground around where it had been was severely damaged. “Yeah…” he said. “Yeah, I am.”

  Iclovar looked at Landon with the corners of his mouth turned in interest. The lights on his goggles were flashing white. “Interesting,” he said. “Interesting indeed.”

  “That should have crushed you to bits!” Li’an said.

  “I’m just lucky, I guess,” Landon said.

  Iclovar huffed. “Well, no more standing about. Back to training, Tommy.”

  “Yes, sir,” Tommy said, and jumped back into the air, landing on a column some twenty yards away.

  “Did you need something?” Iclovar asked Li’an.

  “Today is Landon’s sixth morning,” she answered. “Is Isaac around?”

  “Ah, The Fountains,” Iclovar said, the lights on his goggles still flashing white, though slower now than before. “Yes, he’ll definitely want to be there for you, Landon.” Landon shifted his weight uncomfortably, rubbing his arm, which was now a little sore. “Unfortunately, he’s not here now. But I can assure you that he knows what day it is, and he’ll be along shortly. Head over to the stables and have So give you a ride to The Fountains and wait for Isaac there.” He put a hand on Landon’s shoulder. “You’re in for a real treat, boy.”

  The lights on Iclovar’s goggles flashed green and then went dark, and Iclovar turned his attention back to Tommy, shouting, “Keep jumping! Train those legs!”

  “Come on,” Li’an whispered to Landon. “The stables aren’t far.”

  The Prophecy

 
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