Spellblade: Part 2Read time in minutes: 10
Calm the raging whirlwind of your mind like this: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, hold for four counts. Focus on Now, not Then or What Might Be.
- Alicia's Mother
Zekas' team shared a meal in the meal hall. The hall was unusually quiet as it was the chef's "experimental" day. This day usually drew smaller crowds of everyone but the sharks, because the smell was not as intense for them on land as it would be in the water. There was usually enough food to spare that Zekas could get a double portion, but yesterday's events had left him on edge.
"I can't believe we lost like that. We were so damn close. How could you let it get away like that? It was right there!"
Zekas gnashed his teeth at his teammates, but mostly at his right-fin man Blanu. Blanu sat there slightly shaking in fear, his tail tucked under the bench and between his legs. If this is that bad, then what happened with the teacher?, he thought to himself.
"That know-it-all cat keeps getting away with it. First she gets the good team, then she uses her blood to fake the flag? How stupid are you people? Can't you smell the difference between cloth and flag?"
Blanu decided that this was a good time to pipe up, "I don't think that was her plan, I was the one that stabbed her. Didn't think it would do so much though."
Zekas looked over at Blanu's direction. Zekas intently stared at the younger shark, studying his medium build and roughly short stature. "How much damage did you do?"
"I kinda sharpened my sword last night to try and buff out a knot in the wood, and when it struck her the cut was pretty good, about one knuckle-tip across. I figured she had thicker skin."
Zekas looked at Blanu incredulously. "A knuckle-tip? I saw the bleed had stopped by the time we walked back to the teacher. She had a bandage on it by then, but still she should have had some more bleed in her."
"Oh yeah, there was one other thing. I could swear this was glare or something but I think I saw her hands glow at the end of it."
Zekas looked over inquisitively. "Her hands...glow? Like a witch?"
"Mighta been the glare, but I could swear that I saw her hands glow."
Zekas stared down at his food. Hands glowing? Fast healing? Could she be a spellcrafter? Zekas laughed to himself a bit. "It was probably the glare. You need to pay more attention next time."
Blanu laugned to himself with a very nervous laugh. "Yeah, it was probably nothin', sorry boss!"
Zekas continued the laugh, making the rest of the team feel obligated to laugh as well. It's probably something, but I need proof. Zekas continued to eat his meal in an uncomfortable silence.
It was a beautiful day in Nord Sewlet. Alicia was up to no good with other kids building a snow fort. The other group of kids had challenged them to a battle, and Alicia was more than happy to oblige. Their snow fort was made, complete with their bunker full of snowball ammunition. One of the other kids taunted over with "dumb girls, I bet your fort isn't even ready!"
"You wanna eat those words?" Alicia shouted back. Alicia had a reputation for being the most accurate with her snow projectiles, using her body as a trebuchet she could easily thwack her foes across the battlefield...sometimes that is.
They cast the first snowball. The battle was on. The fight was not bloody, but it was over as soon as one of the snowballs missed the enemy fort. It struck the side of the mountain and then the shaking started. It was an avalanche.
It was crashing towards her like it always did. Then there was a flash and then
NO! Alicia screamed to herself in her mind, shocking herself awake. She was safe in the bladecraft school. There was no avalanche, it was a dream. I'm safe, it was a dream. I'm awake, it was a dream. That was years ago, it was a dream. Alicia ran down the list of affirmations from her town's cleric, using them to pull herself to her normal state of calm. Anxiety is a bitch, she thought.
Alicia looked over and saw Tistus unceremoniously on his back and twitching happily like he was dreaming. At least someone's having a decent dream.
Alicia quietly stole forward over to Tistus' cot. Her presence made his eyes flutter open and he instinctively purred in his sleep. Alicia grabbed Tistus in a tender, caring hug; the kind of hug that you can only understand when you wake up from horrific nightmares of your past. Tistus stirred and yawned. He whispered to Alicia "Another one?" Alicia nodded. "The avalanche?" Alicia nodded again. Tistus hugged back tighter, these ones always hit Alicia hard.
They stayed like that for what felt like an hour or two, but then the blissful silence was broken by the morning bell. Alicia stretched and yawned, then gracefully started to stand. It was morning: another day, another battle.
As Alicia was getting dressed in her class uniform Tistus looked up at Alicia. "You know you can talk with me about that any time you need, right? It must be tough to have all that bottled up so much."
Alicia nodded back and hugged him as her response. "I'll try. It's hard."
Alicia's thoughts returned to the battle yesterday. The anxiety from the adrenaline of the event was still there. No, she thought. I need to stop thinking about this. This will only cause trouble if I keep thinking about it. I'm not a witch, that was a fluke and it won't happen again.
She put on her boots and tied them, hopefully to spec. She was ready for the day, but first her stomach was ready for a meal at the canteen. The other members of her team were rousing with the sound of the morning horn and staggered along as they got up.
Alicia scowled across the battlefield as she studied the paper her teacher gave her. "Yep, they have the high ground. You need to capture their flag and bring it back."
Alicia nodded and turned to her team to start formulating strategy as the teacher went off to watch the situation unfold.
"Oh, one more thing:", the teacher interrupted. "If you travel in groups of less than two, the green team is allowed to tag members of your team out. This will count against you in the scoring. If you wanna do well, don't go it alone."
"I see, thanks for warning us." Alicia said confidently. The teacher replied "you're welcome, good luck."
That's totally not ominous, Alicia thought to herself.
Alicia looked over her team and sighed. "I knew that this would be hard, but it looks like this is going to suck. We're against green team. They have the high ground. We've got to take the flag from somewhere around here. No claws on the flag, it's supposed to be left intact as much as possible. Otherwise it's your standard recon mission trying to get a document from the enemy. Tis, you're with me. You two scouts pair up and you all-arounders are together. Please don't get caught."
Everyone nodded. Puri spoke up, "Do we know anything about the terrain? I've never been in this part of the field before."
Alicia gestured at the map. "This map is all we've got and it's 10 years out of date. Hopefully it's accurate. I think the river may be a safer place, but we're sneps so our heads are going to stand out. Stay low to the ground I guess. The river isn't the best to drink though."
"I see, thank you." Puri mused and settled into her place in the circle.
"Oh, one more thing. If they play dirty, don't play dirty back. It'll push our score down. Let's head out and kick ass!"
Alicia smiled and lead her team to victory, projecting an outward image of calm and collected focus but on the inside she was worried sick. This was one of the bigger ones. No, now's not the time to worry, she thought to herself, taking a deep breath and heading out towards the battlefield.
Over on the side, Zekas was watching. Blanu was laying in the grass next to him.
Zekas grunted and looked over at Blanu. "What do you want? I'm trying to keep an eye on the cat. Something bothering you?"
"Why do you care about this so much? She ain't done anything to you-"
Zekas cut Blanu off with a swift punch to the shoulder. "Shut up and focus on the girl. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it."
"Okay boss." Blanu nodded and scooched over away from Zekas, hopefully outside of the range of his fists. He raised his contraband spyglass to his face and looked out into the distance.