“A notable point to mention is this, never assume you know all of a Savant’s moves. Go into each fight with a clean slate of mind, even if you have faced your opponent in the past.
–The Dream and Dreamer authored by Talis Ranis.
Hales saw vividly the relief in Emilo and Garriot’s eyes when the coin landed with the heads faced up. Jonatan looked sure of himself, out of the whole group Hales only knew his power. And to tell the truth Hales thought that his Aspect alone could be enough to beat Professor Vandle. It was that ridiculous.
The group in general was more relaxed, confident in their abilities, especially when combined as a team.
Professor Vandle called for the ready up, Jonatan gave his response and the fight started with no hesitation. Vandle sprung into action, using Seeker and shooting off his light-beams, covering ground in the field. He had visual of his surroundings at all times, something that is arguably imperative in a heavily uneven match such as this one.
Professor Vandle had an Aspect more suited for a spy or a scout, rather than a duel against five other Specters. That was the common mindset of everyone present at least.
They learned instantly how very wrong they were. It happened almost immediately, but before they knew it, Veron was knocked unconscious just as she was drawing on her Jinx’s. A small rock rolled on the ground next to her head.
Professor Vandle had sent a stone through his Seeker light. No one had been able to react, the stone zooming through the path of the golden beam, emerging out the end, which was pointed at her head. Hales remembered her conversation with the professor some weeks ago, he had told her he was a Mancer. Hales now understood why.
Jonatan, Benhan, Garriot and Emilo got more serious in an instant. They called on their Aspects. Hales heard the names all at once, she wasn’t sure who was associated with which Aspect, however.
“Goblin!” “Steelskin!” “Lethargy!” Jonatan was waiting for the perfect moment to use his Silence.
Professor Vandle was slowly advancing. His Seeker zigzagged dozens of times over across the battleground. It was a like a vast web of golden light, only this web was moving and writhing at high speeds. Vandle was always moving his two Seeker beams which gave a dizzying and mesmerizing affect. Hales seemed to think it was distracting, like an added benefit of his power, more than a legitimate ability. He kept it at eye level. Vandle had all the vision he needed while reducing the vision of his opponents.
A little green creature with an iron helmet appeared. Hales couldn’t make out what it was saying but she saw a round egg-shaped object appear in its hands. It threw the object at Vandle, just as Jonatan was close enough to use his power. The object and Vandle both slowed down to a near stop.
The smell of lemon thyme hung in the air, Hales could smell it from where she sat. Vandle’s beams of light were caught in the Silence field. Garriot, Emilo and Benhan circled around Jonatan’s power, standing behind Vandle only a meter away, careful not to be caught in it. The thing, Hales assumed to be the Goblin, was prancing around and making a throaty noise she assumed once more to be laughter.
Jonatan grabbed the egg object that Goblin had thrown, he hefted it in his hands. Jonatan was ready to humble his teacher. He stepped forward and placed the egg on the ground below the near motionless Professor Vandle.
“It’s a poison bomb.” Jonatan announced. For some reason his Silence Aspect muffled all noises, except for his own, which projects in a way that makes it sound as if he were talking right behind your left ear. Hales shivered from the creepiness.
Professor Vandle managed to finally raise his eyes upward. His beams were still connected to his eyes but Jonatan caught the movement and followed his gaze.
Looked in time to see a thin long stick land on his forehead with very little momentum. The stick seemed to gracefully kiss his brow, and nothing more. The surprise was enough to shake Jonatan’s concentration and he dropped his Silence field.
Professor Vandle reacted first by kicking up the poison bomb by scooping it under his foot. He launched it straight up to his Seeker and immediately it shot along the path at a blinding speed before detonating only heartbeats after, safely out of harm’s way.
Vandle in the same motion lunged forward, grabbing Jonatan’s wrist and twisting his whole body around it. Jonatan grimaced in pain as Vandle tackled him to the dirt, the pin threatened to break his arm in two places. Jonatan had no choice but to yield. He knew his professor wouldn’t have hesitated to break his arm if he hadn’t surrendered.
This fight wasn’t worth a broken arm is what Jonatan determined before cursing profanities.
Vandle knew from his Seeker that the last three opponents were rushing him, which is why one of his Seeker beams wrapped around the group a hundred times over, blocking their view. Emilo charged straight ahead anyways, only to find Vandle was gone. Emilo activated his Aspect, turning himself completely into steel, but immobilizing him in the process. Emilo remained there, anticipating an ambush.
It never came.
Vandle was fighting in hand to hand combat with Garriot and Benhan. His skill in martial arts far outweighed both of his students combined. Perhaps not in raw talent, but with the use of his Aspect, Vandle could see from every angle and direction his opponents. He could simultaneously read eye, hand, hip, feet, shoulder, and neck muscles as well as any twitch of the eyebrow, flow of blood in veins, the quickening of the pulse. Seeker allowed him to fight with full awareness of everything visual in the battlefield. His opponents were open books and he savagely beat them down. Benhan never had the chance to use his Aspect, and Goblin disappeared when Garriot received a punch that Hales swore was a rib cracking. She winced.
Emilo remained a statue, but his eyes were wrapped with Seeker beams. He had no way of knowing when to drop his Steelskin. Eventually he lowered it and took a deep breath. A drawback of his power was that he apparently couldn’t breathe during it’s use, Hales deduced.
At that same moment a rock clunked into his nose, causing it to bleed on impact. Professor Vandle touched his shoulder from behind and he spun around, and saw his team was all out of the fight. He yielded, knowing with a busted nose and his Aspects poor versatility that a fight with his teacher would end with a lot more hurting than his nose.
He shook his head and pinched his nose, stopping the bleeding. Professor Vandle gathered that group and talked them through the fight, as well as giving advice. Hales stretched.
“I don’t get how he got out of Jonatan’s Silence.” Magun stated his confusion out loud. Hales was curious of the answer as well.
“That stick he launched through his Seeker, I think it was fast enough that the slow affect didn’t quite stop it from touching him. Maybe gravity still makes objects fall faster in that thing, even if its a slower fall than normal.” Dartan theorized. Debate broke out and the topic shifted to Professor Vandle, who had turned a relatively weak Aspect into a vicious tool. The training and hard work he put into his abilities were forged over a lifetime. Vandle exhibits the characteristics of someone that has learned from everything they ever encountered.
It was obvious for Hales to see that. She gained a new perspective as to why Professor Vandle was the primary teacher of her class. Who to train the deadly but the deadliest?
The third match was over.
The class met the next day under pouring rain. Pouring was perhaps an understatement, it was a torrential storm. Thunder boomed and lightning streaked across the sky. They had trained through most of the spring, though high in the mountains, the temperature was closer to a mild winter. The first of the summer rains had begun, and still the fourth match was about to start. The coin flipped, revealing a tails. Master Klyle’s turn. He stood across, unphased by the storm, from his opponents on the muddy field. The five students at the ready were Aulus, Lo, Winnow, Xander and Bria. Winnow looked the most frustrated out of them. The other four had determination written on their faces.
Hales assumed Winnow’s Aspect was affected by the rain. The pipe she always had with her was out of sight, unable to be used considering the extreme weather.
Klyle’s voice could still be heard through the thunder.
“You won’t always have the luxury of choosing the circumstances of a fight. Take this drizzle for example.” Hales decided to place a large star over her head in an attempt to umbrella some of the rain. It helped somewhat, the heat felt nice at least.
“Can you give me one of those?” Magun was shouting over the rain. Hales too embarrassed, sent a star over his head. She regretted even making the one star for herself. She felt like a wimp that couldn’t sit through the rain like everyone else or the five students who were about to fight in it.
Klyle continued speaking, “Adapt your mind and change the way you use your powers. Ready?” The last word rumbled out as lightning shot over head.
Aulus shouted back but the words were lost in the rain. His response was clear when the students sprung into action even before Aulus finished.
Xander and Bria took the front, sprinting ahead. Hales had seen them training on the logs for hours everyday. The twelfth challenge. Hales had completely forgotten about it as she had hardly finished the first one months ago. Walking one day along the river, Hales spotted Xander and Bria sparring with staves on the log bridge. An expert display of athleticism and martial skill.
Hales was witnessing the results of all their practice.
Xander and Bria engaged Klyle in hand to hand combat. The unstable footing seemed not to exist with these fighters. Their movements were blurry and all Hales could see through the storm was the massive outline of Klyle’s frame as well as Xander’s gold glowing eyes. Ribbons were tossing and shooting in every direction, a result of Bria’s Aspect.
“Bria’s Aspect seems a little underwhelming.” Dartan had to raise his voice over the storm.
“Xander’s too!” Magun shouted.
“Xander’s Karma Aspect works subtly. He’s a Sage that can give himself good or bad luck.” Garriot overheard the conversation and explained his Aspect since he had trained with him.
“Why would he ever give himself bad luck?” Magun asked.
“He has to maintain a balance, or something like that.” Garriot said plainly.
“What about Bria?” Dartan was questioning Garriot now.
“She sheds ribbons from her skin.” Garriot kept everything simple, it was hard enough to hear.
The conversation died as the rain picked up in waves.
Xander dodged a punch, and then another. Klyle was having trouble landing any hits on Xander. Xander’s eyes were still bright, his Aspect running strong. He was using his good Karma to help his fighting, it was effective in that he hadn’t been knocked out yet. Bria had a fighting style more akin to a dancer or a gymnast. She would flow from dodge to kick to cartwheel, all the while spewing twirling streams of flowing silk and cloth ribbons. Some were long that stayed attached to her and some simply shot out. Each movement accented her power, a dozen ribbons shed from her skin every second. She was hard to hit or even see, like a wispy ghost.
Xander and Bria lacked firepower however. All they were doing was stalling for the heavy hitters to prepare their attacks.
Lo and Aulus crept up behind Xander and Bria.
“We’re ready, fall back!” Aulus was shouting. Hales noticed that Aulus was now a tall, black garbed warrior with two swords.
“I can hardly tell what’s happening.” Hales said frustratingly. They already had to be farther away from the fight than normal, something to do with Lo’s ability apparently. The added rain and wind, and the natural shifting of the fight made it nearly impossible to see anything.
Hales could spot the occasional sparks, clanging of metal and claw, and then huge flashes of light, but not from lightning. They were massive spectral looking swords that swept across dozens of meters.
“Doesn’t look like Winnow can do anything.” Garriot pointed out. They could see the plumes of smoke and ash billowing around the dueling ground, but nothing significant. Mother nature proved too powerful for Winnow’s Aspect.
The minutes passed by and yet the burly students fighting the Master were holding their own. No group had fought for as long as Aulus’ group. Especially not in a melee. Though no one watching could tell, but they were hitting their limits. There were five silhouettes against a massive one.
“Their beat.” Garriot pointed out again, “Xander’s luck as gone sour.” Hales looked for the golden eyed boy. All she saw was a glowing blue set of dots. A sign of his Bad Karma. Before long he was dropped and never got up again. Winnow was next to fall. Lo shortly after.
Klyle was sweeping the board. Punching and pouncing, Aulus was defeated too, but not before sending a sword strike that sent a plume of blood spraying.
Bria was the last on her feet, but she raised her hands in surrender. Exhaustion overwhelming her. That and the lack of offensive discouraged her from fighting any further.
The fourth fight was over, and the rain remained relentless, almost as if to say it was the true victor.
The class met in one of the barrack houses. Drying off and dining on a warm meal. Hales joined a table at where Aulus and Lo were conversing about the fight with some of the other students. Winnow, Hales noticed, was not among them.
“You think you could have won if the weather was clear?” Magun asked with a mouthful of food.
“We were relying on Winnow to choke out the Master, giving us time to recover and prepare stronger attacks.” Aulus explained some of their strategy.
“Still we got in good hits.” Lo spoke in his thick mountain accent, the consonances exaggerating.
“She seems like she’s beating herself up over it.” Xander noted.
“To answer your question Garriot, no we wouldn’t have won but we could have done more damage.” Hales appreciated Aulus’ honesty.
Hales sat quietly listening in, she let her mind wander as the debating became background ambience.
Only one day left. Five months of mountain training, superpowers, and blood mixed with sweat. Have I changed at all? I have an Aspect so that’s one change. I have more friends, even a team at one point. They listened to my plans and carried them out, that was a pretty good feeling. But in real combat I couldn’t have deaths on my conscience like that.
It was getting late and the rain was reduced to a light drizzle. Everyone made their way back to their bunks. Hales laid in bed and created a miniature solar system, she kept all the planets and star marble sized as she watched it orbit above her.
I never got to test my star shower out in combat. I think Klyle would have easily destroyed or dodged it. It could have been good against Professor Vandle to zone out an area, pin him down to allow for Magun to take shots. I want to think of more attacks.
I could make a wall of planets or stars, kind of like Meanu’s Candle wall. That would just be a defensive wall, since I can’t launch them all after setting them. I wonder if I can give a supply of stars to Magun to shoot from his Cannon. That would allow him to use explosive rounds as well as saving his own ammunition. I’ll have to remember to ask Magun about that.
Hales daydreamed for hours, planning and imagining. Before she knew it dawn had arrived. She had blown through a dozen solar systems, the scaled down stars burning out quickly.
Hales followed the students out to the clearing, it was still muddy and the sky hosted a grey overcast cloud system. Hales got lost staring at the different clouds, which were so much closer up in the mountains. It would be the last day she would see the clouds this close she realized.
Someone had said something but she wasn’t sure if it was addressed to her or not. She just shrugged anyways to be sure.
Hales was in a sleep-high state. She really hadn’t slept at all through the night.
A group of students emerged from the forest. Looking ready to fight. She recognized them as Yillo, Talayia, Genjam, Antho, and Jid. Hales overheard someone say something about two of them having Color Aspects. The rarest classification for a Savant. She knew Talayia was a Mancer, Jid and Yillo both Augurs. That meant Genjam and Antho had Colors.
Hales saw Professor Vandle step up. Not long after, the fighting began.
Hales thought that she was dreaming. Colors of all different kinds flashed on the battlefield. The Seeker beams zig-zagged. Genjam had some sort of blue and black swirling mass over his head. Antho produced a yellow aura around his hands, which left a trail in the shape of whatever they were in behind him. It was a trail of floating yellow. Yillo was turning red all over his body. His Aspect was not considered a Color, but it was still colorful and it added to the scene.
Talayia was shooting knives out. Cold steel and black handles flew in the air constantly.
If this was what Hales was seeing, she could only imagine what Jid must be seeing in his Hunter Aspect.
Hales was too tired to really understand the fight, a lot happened really fast. The blue mass hovering over Genjam changed shape into spears that he controlled and shot out from the mass. It turned out Antho’s yellow was really like hardened steel. He was running around making a wall with his yellow trail.
Yillo was fighting in hand to hand combat, every time he punched or received hits, the red color would drain from his body. It would take a second for the redness to reapply to him. In those moments he was vulnerable. It was an all or nothing Aspect. Quick combinations would drain his Aspect leaving him vulnerable and without as much offensive power. He had to be careful to allow his Aspect to build up, giving him a deeper and brighter red.
Professor Vandle gave him no opportunity.
Despite all the projectiles and the sneak attacks from Jid, Vandle had complete dominance over the fight. His vision proved again an effective tool.
Talayia’s Aspect backfired on her when Vandle caught one of her knives, sending it hilt first through a Seeker beam and clocking Genjam in the back of the head. The speed was much faster than when Talayia shot it. The end of the Seeker, where any object was launched out from, moved around target to target. Vandle kept launching knives out, while dodging attack from Antho, Yillo and Jid alike. He was multitasking with impossible timing and speed. Everything was exact and precise. Although Talayia stopped shooting knives out, there was enough for Vandle to kick up into his hand and send through his Seeker.
Professor Vandle set his Seeker to line up right around Antho’s yellow trails, making it hard to tell what was what. Yillo at one point had hit his hand on the steel. He had shattered that section of it but bruised his hand harshly.
No one could lay a hand on Vandle. Hales didn’t realize it, as her mind had left her eyes, but the fight ended leaving only Professor Vandle standing.
I guess Yillo didn’t even out his score with Professor Vandle like he wanted.
It took a few minutes for it to kick in, but the camp was essentially over. All twenty-five students had awakened their Aspects successfully, turning them into fully fledged Savants, or Specters.
Although no one had won their matches Master Klyle and Professor Vandle gave encouragement and pointed out effective tactics and strong moves.
Hales hadn’t been able to stay fully awake during it, so she missed almost all that they said.
As it turned out they were leaving the following morning, the rest of the day would be spent cleaning the campgrounds and preparing it for next years group. Before boarding the bus home, Hales gave one last looked at the mountain. Her life had changed forever here, for better or for worse.
Hales stepped out of the School building. It was mandatory for Specters to add themselves onto the Registry. An official Garghent list complete with a government website that contained every known Specter, friend or enemy.
Hales could finally go home for the first time in months. She said bye to her friends and parted ways from them back to her house.
It only took until the next day, but a letter arrived labeled specifically to her. Neither her house address nor a return address were printed on it. It had been delivered in person.
She opened the curious envelope and unfolded the document inside. There wasn’t a lot of text, but it was cut and dry, the message clear.
Congratulations. Dear Hales Ailor, you are invited to join The Tournament.
A time and place was posted at the bottom.
“The Tournament” was only two weeks away.
The end of Arc 1: Savant