“Any Savant should, as a basis for versatility and aptitude in the use of their Aspect, attain flight in some way. Be creative enough for that.”
–The Dream and Dreamer authored by Talis Ranis.
“I want a rematch, Hales.” Magun was making conversation during the midday meal. Twelve students were gathered around eating and talking. Everyone here had awakened their Aspects, turning them into full fledged Savants. They had been training rigorously for weeks with Professor Vandle. The other half of the class was with Master Klyle. The camp had only two weeks left before the end. Some students were trying to brainstorm what the final challenge would be. It was pretty obvious that there would be some finale to this camp. What that entailed was anyone’s guess.
Hales had been in half a dozen duels with students since her fight with Magun, she had won them all. It seemed she was not the girl to beat. She versed Dartan, Magun twice more, Hido, Jillian, and Talayia. Talayia had been the last to awaken her Aspect, despite probably being the most athletic kid in the class. She was the weakest Specter, still learning the ropes, but her Stiletto Aspect proved dangerous as Hales had ended the duel with a deep gash in her leg.
“How many times are you going to get beat before you give up?” Jid, the boy with the hawk-like features answered for Hales, provoking Magun.
“Want to fight me instead?” Magun turned to Jid, his cannon already beginning to grow. Magun could activate his Aspect without any trigger words. His connection was scary good. His cannon also regenerated at a much quicker rate.
Jid stood up and walked towards Magun, who leveled his cannon and fired.
“Hunter.” Jid spoke calmly, becoming translucent before going almost completely invisible. A moment later he reappeared behind Magun and pinned him to the ground.
“No fair.” Magun grunted, his arm twisted behind his back.
“Not really, I can barely even move in my Aspect.” Jid said releasing Magun and bringing him to his feet.
“Yeah, so what’s it like in your Hunter?” Dartan asked, between bites.
“Everything becomes like an ultraviolet color, and I can see the life force of living creatures as well as trails of their movement. It’s a lot like if you move your hand really fast you see the trails and afterimages of your hand but with Hunter everything looks like that in crazy colors. It’s pretty trippy and it takes tremendous effort just to walk in that state.” Jid concluded and a few classmates started waving their hands trying to get an idea of his power.
Conversation changed from subject to subject, the general atmosphere was light and the group was feeling good about their powers and the relief at nearing the end of the camp.
It was Jonatan that cut into the good humor of the group when he spoke.
“Why don’t you and me fight.” He was pointing at Hales. He sounded to Hales like a serpent. He was one of the few kids in the class she genuinely did not like. It would feel good to humble him.
“Now works?” Hales asked coldly. Jonatan nodded.
They stood and walked to the usual dueling and training area. The rest of the group followed behind, interested in the fight.
“I’ll call it.” Magun said.
“Good luck Hales!” Abajem said in support. Hales forced a smile, her game face already on.
Magun looked back and forth, “Ready Jonatan?” He nodded. “Ready Hales?”
“Yup.” Hales said.
“Go!” Magun shouted after a second’s pause.
“Solar!” Hales immediately brought forth dozens and dozens of planets and stars, creating a protective shield, centering the orbit around herself. Her defense ready, she drew ten stars out, increasing their size. Hales knew Jonatan had a strong Aspect, but she would ensure she kept her offense and defense at their maximum. She wouldn’t give him any openings.
Hales launched her barrage of stars directly at Jonatan, some taking wide angles and paths.
Jonatan stood his ground, and just before being hit he put his pointer finger up to his nose and mouth.
“Silence.” He whispered. An invisible field extended from him, causing all movement inside of it to slow down, nearly to a stop. The stars rotating in extra-slow motion. Jonatan easily walked around them.
Hales was standing still as a statue, her defense hovering in mid flight, moving only millimeters at a time. No sound escaped her lips, and she couldn’t even hear her own breathing or feel her heartbeat. No outside noise could reach inside the field, which extended a dozen or so meters around Jonatan. Enough to trap Hales inside.
Jonatan was walking casually, a twisted grin adorning his face.
Petals of lavender blew in the field, appearing from nowhere. Hales could smell the sweet scent of the flower. Her mind was racing to figure out something she could do. She tried drawing out another star, the spec floating in front of her, but it wouldn’t grow in size, instead the tiny star burnt out, disappearing altogether.
The lavender was almost overwhelming as Jonatan approached.
He stepped in front of Hales.
“You lose.” He taunted.
Jonatan savagely kicked Hales in the stomach, with perfect form, the extended leg parallel to the ground. He held the pose as Hales flew back a meter, out of his Silence field.
Hales coughed and threw up, and trying to stand her legs gave out under her. Jonatan is strong!
Hales couldn’t get up, she had lost utterly.
Abajem and Magun went to her side immediately, helping her to her feet.
Jonatan walked off whistling.
“Guess this makes me the best.” He said snidely to no one in particular. Yillo had a wild expression forming on his face. Jonatan was a part of the group with Garriot, Emilo and Benhan, who constantly picked fights with him. Yillo was ready to pounce.
Jid was standing near Yillo and put his arm on his shoulder.
“Don’t, you’ll lose.” Jid’s voice cut into Yillo’s building anger. Yillo sniffed and shook off his hand, but stalked away instead of instigating another fight. The truth was Yillo knew he would still get beat by Jonatan. He had never once won a fight against him. Yillo needed to be alone and so he left.
Hales groaned as she walked, hands on her stomach.
“That went well!” Abajem pointed out.
“Not really.” Hales retorted.
“Oh not for you, it went well for Jonatan.” Hales flashed Abajem a mean look. Abajem just giggled.
“You look so dorky when you’re angry.” Abajem laughed again, making a face that was supposed to resemble Hales’ face.
Hales could only roll her eyes. It took a while, but she eventually got up.
She took the rest of the day off and had a tender bruise on her stomach for the next few days. It wasn’t anything seriously debilitating, so Hales grit her teeth and forged on.
“Want to do some training?” It was Talayia who asked. She was the newest Specter and had the least control over her powers. She was depressed about the drawback, but ever the athlete, Talayia refused to give up or slow down. Being behind merely meant that she had to train twice as hard. Her usual talkative personality had been replaced by a cold determination.
“Sure thing.” Hales agreed. She didn’t realize how much she enjoyed winning until she lost. It was not a feeling she wanted to repeat. Having powers may have made her arrogant to some degree, but for once in her life she felt good about herself. She had earned her Aspect through intense training and before that, years of studying to even enroll in the school in the first place, all to get to this point. This was a new world, and one she could excel at. She wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip from her grasp. It was train or die in her mind.
Hales and Talayia found a place away from the others. They needed a lot of room to work with, mostly to avoid hitting anyone nearby.
Talayia took a minute gathering herself, and when she was ready, activated her Aspect.
“Stiletto.” Talayia was a mancer that could summon and project thin, needle-like blades from herself.
“The usual?” Hales asked
“Of course, but this time don’t hold back.”
“Oh I won’t.” Hales’ face was set. “Solar.” She wasted no time summoning planets and increasing them to various sizes. When she had close to thirty planets all orbiting around her finger she began launching them one by one at Talayia. She set all their gravitational pulls on Talayia herself, but threw her planets at different angles and directions.
Talayia began pointing at each planet, one by one with her index fingers. This ‘marked’ each object, a mark only Talayia could see. When ten planets were marked, her aim almost perfect, with only one mark tagging a tree far in the distance, she clapped her hands together. This triggered her stiletto knives to erupt from all around her body, shooting out of her skin without leaving any evidence and always from the closest body part to whatever object each knife was marked to hit. The blades flashed out at sonic speeds, easily cutting and skewering the planets, taking them from their course. In some cases, depending on the planet’s material composition, would even pierce all the way through or shatter them.
Talayia wasted no time watching the knives as she dashed to the side, giving herself more time, and dodging other planets whose path she ran into. A red planet collided into her shoulder and burst into chunks that fell to the ground. She grunted but quickly spun around and marked another ten planets, her fingers darting from planet to planet. This time all her marks met their targets. Another clap and the blades zoomed from her body, destroying another set of space rocks.
She stood her ground and dodged the planets, one by one. She was nimble and had the eye coordination to be able to see the planets and guess their route. There was the added challenge of being the gravitational center to these planets, but she made adjustments accordingly and dodged expertly each planet, marking them as she did. When they flew by her, she clapped and the knives erupted from her back, destroying the last of the planets.
“That was good, you only missed once, and only one planet hit you.” Hales praised. Talayia nodded, working to catch her breath. Her limit was ten marks and she hit that limit three times in a brief span. She needed to be able to do more.
Hales saw the look in her eyes.
“Get ready.” Hales warned and drew out another planet. This one she increased to the size of her head and kept it above her finger, rotating it in place. She spun it faster and faster until it was a whirling blur. The planet was beginning to tremble from the velocity and pressure. It was the fastest she could go. She took two heavy steps forward and flicked her wrist and arm, mercilessly launching the planet directly at Talayia. It was clear that it would demolish anything it hit.
Talayai began marking it, using all ten marks. She clapped and the knives were sent forth.
The first few bounced off, knocked aside from the violently spinning rock. A couple knives were able to penetrate the planet, but still it didn’t slow down. It was too late to jump out the way when she realized her Stiletto’s didn’t stop it.
Talayia braced herself for the inevitable impact, and the possible permanent injury.
A loud boom stunned her instead, and bits of rock flew into her face. Magun was standing half a dozen meters away with his cannon arm pointed in the direction where the planet used to be.
“Close one.” Magun pointed out.
“Yeah!” Talayia agreed tersely. “Thanks Magun.”
“Anytime, I was just passing through.” Magun said trying to sound nonchalant.
“Want to join our training?” Hales interrupted.
“I’m working on control and stamina.” Hales added.
“So you just make stars and stuff and we shoot them down?” Magun asked.
“Yeah put simply.” Talayia finished.
“Sounds fun.” Magun stepped next to Talayia, cannon-arm swelling up.
“Ready.” He declared. Hales sent out the most planets and stars and asteroids she had ever released at once. There were hundreds. She kept some in solar systems and others she left solo. They spun at various speeds and took random flight paths. This time Hales didn’t tether any of her power to Talayia or Magun. They could still get hit in the chaos, but the risk was reduced to a minimum. Talayia and Magun worked as a team, shooting in tandem to take out as many objects that they could.
Professor Vandle and Master Klyle stepped up just as the trio was finishing their target practice.
“Hello Specters. Training is going along well I hope?” Master Klyle’s deep voice resonated through the forest. The three rushed to greet the Master, it was the first time they had seen him in over a month. They made conversation for a short time.
“We’re gathering everyone in the class to meet up in the next day.” Vandle cut in, as Kyle was getting carried away discussing and answering questions with the three students.
They made it to the main campsite, nearly everyone accounted for. The students lined up. Master Klyle and Professor Vandle stood in front, waiting for the last of the students to arrive before speaking. Klyle was making more small talk, and the students could finally catch up with the other half of the class.
“We’re just waiting on Yillo, has anyone seen him?” Vandle addressed his students.
“Last I saw, he went off by himself out in the mountain somewhere, but that was a few days ago.” Jid answered.
Vandle nodded, and activated his Aspect, Seeker. The two beams of light sped from his eyes and began a search of the surrounding area. It only took a few seconds to find the boy, as he was on his way back to the campsite. Although he was covered in blood, on closer inspection Vandle could see bite and claw marks. A run in with an animal. Vandle continued the search, and simultaneously pulled Klyle aside and informed him what he saw. Klyle gave a knowing nod, and asked if the boy was alright. It looked to Vandle that Yillo was not going to die at the very least, but some of his wounds would require stitches.
Vandle found the body of a large, beheaded mountain cat. It was a few kilometers away, reaching the edge of his Seeker’s range. It wasn’t uncommon that a cat like this be found in the mountains, but to pick a fight was very rare. Perhaps Yillo had provoked it.
Vandle shut off his Seeker, and the class turned to see Yillo approach slowly. He had a slight limp and was bloodied all over. A couple kids asked what had happened and if he was okay.
“I’m fine.” Was all he responded with. He took a seat near the line of students. Hales saw Klyle make eye contact with him. She thought she saw something more in that gaze, but Klyle began talking and the subject wrested her from her thoughts immediately.
“There are only two weeks left in this camp. You are all Savants, or Specters. Congratulate yourself on that rarity. One in a million, all twenty-five of you. Each of you has unique powers. Find ways to use them with different approaches. Be unpredictable and don’t be afraid to try crazy ideas. Madness and genius are two sides of the same coin. Strive to be a genius, but in battle, madness also has its benefits.” Klyle was a captivating speaker, and his deep voice was strangely soothing.
He continued, “The last week of camp will see you lot versing me or Professor Vandle in battle. You will divide you into groups of five, and you’ll train for this next week, honing your skills and working out strategies on how to beat us. Whether you fight me or Professor Vandle is random, so train to fight both. We have our own tricks and tactics so be prepared for anything.”
“Show us why you deserve powers.” Klyle finished and left it at that.
Professor Vandle added, “We will still be training any of you that wish to work on specific skills. Now go and find your groups, keep in mind which powers will work with your own, talk to each other. Most of you are meeting for the first time in weeks, so take some time to catch up. You have an hour to pick teams.” Vandle concluded and voices erupted all at once, asking questions to fellow students and to their teachers.
Hales found Abajem and asked if she wanted to team up.
“Duh.” Was the response. Hales searched around, Talayia was already being pulled into another group. Magun and Dartan approached them.
“Got room for two more?” Magun asked.
“Yeah you know anyone?” Abajem challenged sarcastically. Magun grinned and joined anyways, and the friendly banter ensued.
“We still need one more.” Hales pointed out. Almost everyone had been picked with only a small handful of students and minutes remaining. Hales noticed Meanu didn’t have a team yet and waved her down. The girl was average height, her face spotted with freckles and forest green eyes. She was still figuring out her how to use her Aspect in fights but Hales felt bad that no one had wanted her in their group yet.
“Want to join us?” Hales asked.
“Sure,” Meanu said shyly, “Not sure how useful I’ll be.”
“We have Dartan on our team sooo…” Magun let the word hang, spreading his arms. Dartan tried punching Magun but he dodged easily. Magun was probably ten times more athletic than Dartan.
“See what I mean?” Magun pointed out. Dartan shook his head cursing sarcastically. The group began more lighthearted conversation and Hales turned to spy out the other teams.
The first group was Uana with her Gale Aspect, Hido with Guardian, and Jillian with Alacrity, they were the usual three girls that teamed up. In addition they had Hijo and Bregan. Two guys Hales hadn’t seen the powers for yet.
The next group consisted of Benhan, Garriot, Emilo and Veron. Four Specters from the other half of the class, and their fifth was Jonatan with his Silence Aspect. They were a gang of crooks, simple as that. Except for Veron, she was cool, thought Hales.
Hales looked for the next group, it was Lo, Aulus, Winnow who was smoking a pipe now, Bria, and Xander. They looked intimidating, although Hales didn’t know any of their Aspects. Hales thought that they would be the most organized group out of them all, based off the kind of people they were.
The last group was Talayia with Stiletto, Jid with Hunter and Genjam and Antho, their Aspects unknown to Hales. Yillo had been taken to get medical help, but by process of elimination he would join their team.
All teams were set, so now it was time to strategize and train. Lots were drawn to determine which teams would fight first, and there was only one fight per day.
Hales’ team, something she thought objectively as needing the most training and work out of them all, picked the shortest stick. Her team would fight first, either against Professor Vandle or Master Klyle, which would be determined right before the fight.
Seven days to figure how they could beat two elite military warriors, one of them being a Master Specter.
Hales hoped it wouldn’t be against Klyle.