Over the next few days, I’m releasing the chapters in order, but if you can’t wait, please feel free to download the PDF, which has all five chapters and the afterword.
4 – The Work of Masters
A few hours later, Kyle, along with most of the tyros of Soul Gate Academy, were on the practice grounds waiting for the night’s events to begin in their swimming wear. They sat around an area the size of two soccer fields, filling the hundreds of large towels that had been laid out for them. It was a warm cloudless night and the first stars began filling the sky as though being spread by a paintbrush. Kyle had never noticed before how they seemed to pop into view with all the effort of a flick of wrist. He laid back on his towel, ignoring the chaotic symphony of hundreds of teenagers talking to each other. He even blocked out his friends, who seemed to be in a conversation about the classes Rayne would be taking.
Something about looking at the stars just felt different than usual. It was like he was floating amongst clouds and drifting higher by the moment. Each star drew in his focus, vying for his attention with their luminescent posturing against the subtle cosmic vastness. His gaze never stayed on one star for very long. It’s beautiful. His eyes wandered as it solidified into a fuller image. He could tell that this was not the sky of his childhood, but when he tried to remember the sight of that distant sky, nothing came to mind except for an empty blackness. That felt wrong, but perhaps he’d just never paid that much attention to it before. That was likely. He wasn’t even sure why he looked at the stars so intently now. Shouldn’t he have been talking to his friends?
A loud sudden beep went off right next to Kyle’s ear.
“What the—” Kyle sat up so hard he almost lifted off the ground. He scanned everyone in sight. Had someone played a prank on him? No one else seemed to be reacting to it. They were all still locked in conversations. BEEP!
“Gggrrr—brz brz,” A sound like a static radio echoed directly in Kyle’s ears. “—ber—sszz—you can find—ggrzz—”
“You can find?” Kyle said, quietly. “What?” He narrowed his eyes, continue his search for he would be pranker. How were they doing it? But no matter how hard he looked, he only saw a crowd full of people who were thoroughly ignoring him. That was odd in its own way. He could usually expect to find a glare or two in a crawl this big. Am I’m hearing things?
Another loud buzz, “Brzz—last—doh—rzz.” It was followed by a tiny pop! Then complete silence. And then the noise of talking teenagers, again.
Kyle kept looking around. Someone was obviously poking fun at him, snickering at his obvious confusion. Who the hell is doing that? I—
“Kyle?” Terra sat next to him. “You feel like you’re about to jump out of your skin.”
“I feel?” Kyle asked.
“Well, I would have said ‘you look’, but I don’t think you would have believed me.” She waved a hand in front of her eyes, smirking.
“Right,” Kyle smiled. “Sorry, I’m just—well I thought I heard something.”
“You heard something?”
Kyle hesitated. He didn’t exactly think his little episode—or whatever it really was—should be kept it secret, but he didn’t know Terra very well. What if this made her think less of him somehow? He found that he didn’t want that. But if there was anyone that might have heard what he just had, it was probably Terra.
“It sounded like someone was trying to talk to me with a broken walkie talkie or maybe they were using one that was too far away to work.”
“A walkie talkie?” Terra tilted her head in a very dog-like fashion.
“Yeah,” Kyle nodded, realizing that she probably had no idea what a walkie talkie was. “It’s a device that people from my realm can use to communicate over far distances. I don’t really know if there is anything like it in this realm.”
“And they decided to call it a walkie talkie?”
“Yeah—I’m not actually sure if that’s it’s official name. It’s just what people call them.”
“I see,” Terra pursed her lips. “Kevin’s notepad can be used over distances. Is it like that?”
“Sort of,” Kyle said. “So, one person talks into this little box device and the other person can hear them talk out of a matching device somewhere else.”
“I see,” Terra nodded. “And someone used this walkie talkie to talk to you now?”
“Well, no,” Kyle said.
“I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming from one, but I don’t have one of those devices on me.” Kyle had never actually even held a walkie talkie before, but making that point now seemed like it would be anything but helpful. “I’m probably just going crazy.” He tried to sound like he was making a joke.
“Maybe,” Terra said without a hint of amusement. “I didn’t hear anything, though. Is your hearing particularly good?”
“I think it’s okay,” Kyle answered.
“Helpful,” Terra rolled her eyes. “Can you hear what those two over there are talking about?” She pointed at a couple of young men sitting opposite of them on the other side of the large opening. The pair looked like they were whispering to each other.
Kyle shook his head.
“Did you just shake your head?”
Kyle almost nodded, “Yeah—sorry.”
“I can hear them,” Terra said. “I think I would have noticed something like a voice coming out of nowhere near you. Maybe it was a Thoughtbend? That would at least explain why I couldn’t hear it.”
“You think that’s possible?”
“No, actually. I mean it’s possible, but without directly touching you it’d be one of the most difficult things a person could try doing with a key. Not to mention dangerous. All the mind unlocks are like that. Aurabending is somewhat different but—damn it!”
Kyle jumped! “What’s wrong?”
“I sound like a Master,” Terra hissed. “Ugh.”
“That’s bad?” Kyle said, instantly regretting it.
“Yes, it’s bad,” She said, running her hands through her hair. “It’s—ah! Forget it. Don’t worry about the details. You’re probably just crazy. Not that you should worry about it.”
“Right,” Kyle sighed. “Any reasoning for that?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s not a little crazy. But for your case specifically, I think it’s likely you’re stressed and imagining voices. You’d be surprised just how many people start hearing voices when life becomes stressful. Just try to relax and not worry about it too much. If things persist, ask the Grandmaster about it. He’ll help.”
Kyle didn’t really have a response for that. He was hearing things that no one else could. That wasn’t normal, even in Endera. He was, however, oddly comforted after having talked to Terra. She listened in a way that was like a master, but friendlier. More familiar. Kind of like an older sister. It felt odd to admit that, but it felt right. Somehow. Maybe I am just a little stressed out. He let out a deep breath. “So, what were they talking about?” he asked.
“Oh them,” Terra grinned impishly. “They’re planning some trip over break. Going to the Old World or something, I don’t know. I stopped listening.” Her grin grew wider. “Now the couple a few rows behind us, they’ve got this steamy plan to sneak away and partake in some adventurous activities in their dorm room. Too bad they’ll never get away with it.”
“How do you know?” Kyle asked trying to sound nonchalant, even though he could feel his cheeks warm up. He immediately imagined sneaking off somewhere with Garnet and deemed this information too vital not to gather.
“The Masters have this placed locked down. Three of them are hanging back near the castle for the exclusive purpose of catching the naughties. And the rest of them are prowling around us. I’d be surprised if a mouse could get in or out of this place.”
“You certainly see a lot,” Kross said, suddenly. It looked like he’d only been paying attention to the most recent bit of their conversation. “Are you sure you’re really a blind girl?” To anyone else, it might have seemed like a rude comment, but knowing Kross, he was just being blunt. Kyle suspected that it might even be a joke.
“Girl?!” Terra’s eyebrows angled, but the anger never fully reached her eyes. She must have known what Kross was about. “I’m a woman, thank you very much. Kevin defend my honor.”
“Ah,” Kevin wrote on his notepad. “You’d have to some for me to defend.”
They burst out into laughter, but Kevin didn’t escape a perfectly well thrown towel to his head from Terra.
“How do you do it,” Kross pressed her.
“Mostly, it’s vibrations,” Terra pressed her hands to ground and was silent for a moment before continuing. “Each person’s aura emits a near constant and unique vibration. Those special vibrations cover the world, mixing and shifting as we live. I’m able to unlock a mixture of modifications, amplifications, and aurabending that give me the ability to feel auras as unique sensations. It makes things easy to distinguish and I’m able to navigate the world because of it.
“To put it simply, I feel auras rather than see them. Most people think of auras like colored smoke that bubbles around an individual, unique to each person. To me, they are more like textures and patterns that send me barrage of different sensations.”
“That’s fascinating,” Kross took out his notebooks and began writing in his notebook that he always carried with him. “Is it something you learned or was it inherent?”
“Some of both actually. Mostly learned, though. I wasn’t born blind.”
“What happens if you’re alone in an area with little life?” He could write faster than some people could read.
“If I lose the auras, I can get around with my own, but it isn’t as effective. It’s—” Terra squealed. “I did it again! Damn it, I really do sound like a master.”
“Right,” Kross finished scribbling in his notebook. “You explained it well enough. I’m not sure why you dislike sounding like a master.”
Terra answered by wadding up another towel and throwing it at Kross this time. He caught it without much effort.
A giant fireball flew across the sky to land in the center of the gathering of tyros. In its center was Grandmaster Dante, leaning on his cane. The fire was draped over him in a translucent form that made him glow rather than appear to be made of fire. Kyle had seen the Grandmaster work his fire on numerous occasions during training, but this was stunning. His beard and hair glowed like heated iron. His eyes were embers and even his clothes took on the golden brilliances of flame.
“My tyros,” Dante bellowed to a now silent crowd. “You’ve worked hard this year. And you’ve made me proud to be Grandmaster of Soul Gate Academy.” His flames slowly began expanding around him. “There can be no denying that you’ve all grown stronger, smarter, and…hungrier. The food bill alone this year was nearly twice what it was last—”
“—Ahem,” Master Yvette coughed loudly from behind a group of students. She could be seen with her arms crossed, staring daggers at her husband.
“My point,” Dante smiled, “is that you’ve all grown into fine young men and women. Despite each of you having your own personal battles and difficulties throughout the year, each of you have brought focus and determination into your lessons. The Masters and I cannot thank you enough for all the effort you’ve given us, but allow us to try.”
Dante raised a hand and the fire that’d been surrounding him gathered into it. He twisted his cane with his other hand and it all formed into a sphere. The sphere then floated high into the sky, giving a bright light to the entire area. In that instance, every Master of Soul Gate Academy was now in a line with the Grandmaster.
Each of them dressed in their white uniforms. In total, there were more than two dozen masters. Kyle knew most of them by appearance, but there were few that he was sure he’d never seen before. That didn’t seem right. How could he have missed seeing a master throughout the whole year? He should have at least seen them during a meal time. The bigger mystery was finding out what they taught. Since he’d never seen them, he guessed it had to do with the Eternal Title tyros. Advanced classes, probably.
The masters, along with the Grandmaster, suddenly bowed to the students. Kyle might have thought it an odd gesture before coming to Endera, but with this year of learning, fighting, and working harder than he ever had in his life, he understood the weight of those bows. These men and women before him were more than just teachers. They were leaders in their knowledge. Proficient enough and talented enough to earn recognition outside of Soul Gate Academy. And yet, they stayed to pass on what they knew. For them to acknowledge tyros even with something as small as a bow was recognition worth having. It was a treasure.
Kyle, and he was sure the entire school felt the same way, swelled with pride.
“Now enough of the serious stuff,” the Grandmaster said standing straight with all the masters following suit. In another breath, they all disappeared again. “Please enjoy tonight. Have fun. No fights. And of course, eat your fill! This may be the last night we have together this year, but let’s make it one to remember until we see each other again.”
As soon as the Grandmaster stopped talking, two masters jumped high into the air. Master Proculus long blonde hair and scar across his cheek and Master Julius with his distinctive sideburns were floating in the air reaching into their own MicroDimensions. From them, they each pulled large wooden poles. They threw them like javelins the moment they were free of the MicroDimensions, sticking them in the ground around the students to stand like pillars. They’re torches, Kyle realized.
“They’ve got muscle,” Terra said approvingly. “A girl can appreciate that.”
Kyle noticed that Rayne and Garnet both nodded their approval. He’d have to work on some strength training.
Grandmaster Dante sent the fireball moving in a giant circle, lighting the torches along the way. They worked unbelievably well, lighting the area as though they were stadium lights and changing the temperature from pleasantly warm to a downright toasty. How do they do that?
Master Theodosia stepped into the spotlight next. She had long black hair tucked behind her ears and three beastly scar that ran the length of her face. Kyle saw little of her since he didn’t take her class, but Garnet and Kross spoke highly of her. Theodosia smiled as she twisted her key. The air next to her immediately distorted as she opened a BioDimension. The giant snout of a lizard popped out of it. It was followed by the body of an enormous lutumdragon, dragon-like lizard that looked like it was entirely made from mud. Kyle was familiar with the creature since Kross regularly liked to summon one that was a much smaller version of it.
“I didn’t know they could get this big,” Kyle said, his eyes widening.
“They can get bigger,” Kross said. “Master Theodosia likely didn’t summon forth an adult because it would probably accidently step on us.”
Kyle gulped. This lutumdragon was easily bigger than any elephant he’d ever seen in a zoo. Each step it took sent a little shockwave through the ground and left imprints. He felt the familiar pang of jealousy course through him as he looked at the giant creature. He didn’t have the talent to unlock BioDimensions, but the idea of having a companion or two to summon at will greatly appealed to him.
Master Theodosia whispered a command and the lutumdragon tilted his head back, letting out a thunderous roar. Then it jumped, tilting itself as it came back down to nose dive into the ground as though it were water. It disappeared for a moment, reappearing when its monstrous jaw protruded from the dirt and chomped down to engulf it. It’s eating, Kyle realized. He’d seen Kross’ lutumdragon do a similar thing in the King’s Temple. This was on a larger scale, each bite leaving a refrigerator sized chunk of dirt missing. It also didn’t magically reappear seconds later like the platform in the temple had. Before long, the entire area before the tyros was a rectangle hole with walls and floor that looked remarkably smooth. The lutumdragon, finished its task, let out another loud roar before lumbering back to Master Theodosia and disappearing back into the BioDimension.
Five other master jumped down into the hole with giant spatula like shovels. They each took off in different directions, using the spatulas to spread a light-colored clay all along the walls and on the floor of the pool. They moved, aided by unlocking Amplifications, like whirlwinds. Whenever they came close to each other they would tumble, doing wild flips and pushing each other off into other directions. The walls and floor of their pool in progress were covered in the clay in less than five minutes.
One of the Masters Kyle had never seen appeared next to Theodosia. He was a head shorter than her and had short mossy green hair. Two gold loop earrings hung from each ear.
“Master Uru,” Garnet supplied before Kyle could even ask. “He doesn’t come down from the Master’s Facility often. Rumor is that he is too dedicated to his dimension research, but no one ever seems to have specifics on it.”
“The more I learn about this place, the more it seems I don’t know,” Kyle said.
“Pretty much that way with everything,” Terra said. “Take it from a genius like me. That’s life.”
Kyle didn’t have much time to reflect on that, for Uru opened a BioDimension. Hundreds of tiny squirrel-like creatures began pouring out of it. Their bodies and limbs were wooden and their tails were thick green bushes, which made them look like bonsai trees that could move on all fours. They horded into the middle of the giant pool. When they were all finally massed together, they reached into their mouths. Their cheeks were bulging to twice the size of their heads. From their cheek pouches, they each pulled a single sparkling gem that ranged from every imaginable shade of blue or green. If it made a difference in the size of their cheeks, Kyle couldn’t see it.
They took off, moving together in a giant circle that made them look like a short rotating forest. It slowly became wider as they spread out and, as it did, the little creatures could be seen laying down their gems only to stick their little hands into their mouths and pull out another one. They pressed gem after gem into the clay, setting them with such precision that they had selected lighter colored gems to form into the letters S O G A across the bottom of the pool. The artistry was impressive enough to make many tyros gasp in delight. Kyle grinned in appreciation. Cool.
It didn’t take the bonsai-squirrels long to finish the rest of the pool. This included a surrounding rim that consisted of smooth grey pebbles.
“Tyros,” Uru bellowed. His voice was a deep rasp that carried well, but sounded like he didn’t use his voice often. “Hold out a hand with it palm open to the sky.” Every single tyro obeyed with little hesitation.
The bonsai-squirrels suddenly rushed into the crowd of tyros. Screams of jovial excitement and surprise followed. The little creatures were climbing each tyro and onto their hands to leave something in their hands. The one that found Kyle zoomed on to his arm in a single breath. The touch of it was so light that it felt like someone had just run a feather across him leading to his hand. It dropped a sky blue gem the size of a golf ball into his palm before scurrying away. Once everyone had been given one they lost no time in finding their way back to their dimension.
“What is this?” Kyle asked, holding the ball up close to his eye.
“They’re aura gems,” Kross answered. “Just hold on to them and they start glowing the same color as your aura.”
“Ah,” Kevin nodded, writing on his pad. “My brothers and I used to sleep with buckets of these next to us. The next night we’d go into the woods and throw them at each other for hours.”
“Seems like that would hurt,” Rayne pressed her own aura gem to her cheek. It was beginning to have a deep rouge glow. “Especially if it hit you in the face.”
“We modified our skin,” Kevin said with his notepad. “Hardly felt a thing.” He smiled baring his teeth. His own aura gem started to glow fluorescent green. “I think these are probably just for finding underwater, though. My brothers and I used to do that, too.”
“Sounds childish,” Garnet grinned, eyeing her own gem that glowed blue. “That being said, I’m sure I’ll find mine before any of you. Well, probably not you, Terra.”
Before anyone could answer her challenge, Grandmaster Dante rained fire into the pool. It spread out covering the bottom before climbing up the walls. It reached the top, only to completely dissipate. Steam rose from the gems which had grown to fill the gaps. Kyle guessed that the fire had somehow caused a reaction that effectively sealed pool to prevent leaks. He again found himself impressed with the gems. Were they capable of this type of manipulation naturally or had they been created?
His attention was drawn to the beach when a giant ruby red wall of aura was erected to tower over them. Master Helen stood beneath it, turning her key in rapid succession. The wall grew wider and taller becoming the most massive use of aura Kyle had ever witnessed. Helen bent the wall in, aiming the point of it directly at the pool. With another turn it stretched, morphing into a giant tube that reached the pool. Kyle eyes widen in surprise. Isn’t that water too cold? Three other masters stood nearby, each creating fine nets out of aura of their own. They worked on placing those nets in front of the of the funnel that Master Helen had created.
BOOM! A bright light erupted over the dark ocean, but beyond that nothing could be seen. It shook the ground, like dynamite had been set off. BOOM! Another light and another shake. BOOM! This explosion was followed by a sudden burst of air that came from behind the tyros, like it was being sucked toward the ocean. It was followed by the water, which although dark could clearly be seen receding from the beach.
Everyone stared in silence, waiting for what they knew would come. Kyle could barely keep himself from dropping his jaw wide open. The masters created a tidal wave? This wasn’t just a simple show of strength. If the aura wall wasn’t there, it was enough to destroy all of Soul Gate Academy. It was enough to kill scores of people and level towns. A sudden vision of Dilu Village being hit by a crushing wave entered Kyle’s mind. Would they be okay? The town wasn’t so far from them. His eyes fell on Rayne. She was grinning, looking awestruck. Of course, they would be okay. He almost wanted to chastise himself for even questioning it. Grandmaster Dante wouldn’t allow harm to come to a town just for some pool party.
A loud hiss broke the silence as a dark swollen mass of water moved toward them. Moments later, it crashed into the aura wall with a loud smack to announce its arrival. The walls funneled the Cold Ocean water into the pool while the nets worked as filters. It gushed through the tunnel to blast into the pool. Splashes of icy cold water hit some students, but it all stayed surpassingly contained. Unsurprisingly, the tidal wave’s thousands of gallons filled up the pool almost instantly. Master Helen sealed the tunnel at a wave from one of the other masters. Her aura wall bowed in the middle as it took on the added pressure of the whole wave, but it was short lived as the wave began receding back to rejoin the ocean and it was calm once again.
Kyle let out a breath, he hadn’t known he’d been holding. He felt smaller than he’d ever had before. There would have been no fight for him to win against that wave. It could have come beyond the wall of aura and he would’ve been trapped, tumbling underneath water with hundreds of others not knowing which way was up or down. The very real possibility of made him shiver. He was not living in a world of games. Endera was home to things and people that could kill him in less time than he could hold his breath. Perhaps it was one last lesson the masters were trying to instill in them before they left for break.
“It’s turning to ice,” Garnet pointed to the top layer of water which had started to form a white sheet of ice.
“How?” Kyle asked. She shrugged.
“That’s what happens if the water gets separated from the Cold Ocean for too long,” Rayne answered. “It’s likely the result of some ancient lock placed on it.”
“Crazy,” Kyle muttered.
“Woah,” Garnet pointed up. Other tyros were doing the same.
Above them, Grandmaster Dante was on one of the giant torches they’d placed earlier. He stood within its flames without so much as a bead of sweat falling down his forehead. In front of him over the pool was an orb of white fire the size of a beach ball that grew, becoming more translucent as it did. Grandmaster Dante often liked to use this fire while meditating. Its nature was different. It could touch anyone without burning them, but this, Kyle knew, was a fine line. If Dante wanted, he could change its nature with a simple twist of his wrist. And that white fire would turn black. Kyle had never been shown black fire, but he’d been told that it could burn anything it touched to ashes and was next to impossible to extinguish. This level of control was the true mark of mastery over Synchroneity Fire. Kyle hoped that he would one day master lightning half that well.
When the orb was the size of a bus, Dante lowered it into the pool creating a hole in the top layer of ice. It didn’t fizzle out when it was lowered, but instead allowed water to flow into its center. Dante put it to spinning as he submerged it completely into the pool. It took to creating a whirlpool quickly, breaking up the remaining ice. When the ice also began melting it was evident the water was getting warmer.
“Throw those gems in, tyros!” Dante shouted.
The aura gems flew from the students’ hands before the words had entirely left Dante’s mouth. It looked like dozens of colored comets flying into the pool with little splashes. The whirlpool grabbed them, throwing them in a swift tumble that ensured they’d be nowhere close to where they’d all thrown them in. Garnet might have a harder time at finding it than she thought. Kyle smiled as the pool stilled. Through the crystal-clear water was a sparkling array of hundreds of different colored gems. If the masters had wanted to impress them with fine workmanship, they’d done it.
A few masters walked around the pool inspecting it and turning a key every so often. Kyle guessed they were doing some final touches.
“Tyros,” Dante dropped from his standing place on the torch. He went over a quick set of rules that amounted to no fighting and keep it safe. Some students were shifting closer to the pool with each word. “And lastly, but not least…think fast.”
What? Some half-screams erupted from everywhere around him.
“Make sure you keep your lightning locked up tight,” the familiar voice of Proculus said from behind him.
Kyle was grabbed in a wrestler’s hug and unceremoniously catapulted into the pool. He managed to get his head around just in time to see his friends laughing as he flailed about in the air. There were others who’d come to the same fate and were falling toward the pool. Together, they landed with wild splashes.
When his head popped above the perfectly warm water, Kyle saw his friends and what appeared to be the rest of the academy jumping in of their own volition. It then proceeded to be one of the most enjoyable nights of his life.
Kyle Demore and the Falling Moons – First Five Chapters
Copyrighted © 2017 by Samuel J. Vega
All rights reserved.