251 Days Until Surrender and The Uncertain End
Heia walked with her head high, feeling the wind on her skin. The caravan had stopped for the night and this was to be her second sunset outside. The first one she had missed as she had been out cold catching up on sleep. Her adrenaline had hit zero and her body had collapsed under the weight of the sleepless night. The LowerLands were like she remembered them to be, desolate with looming Towers in the distance taller than trees and taller than mountains that she saw. The Towers were massive, grey blobs in the distance, reaching into the heavens and from where she was she could only see one. One they were approaching and would be upon early the next morning. It was not their destination, so they would pass it. Their journey was to the CloudCity of Valaria and her accompanying tower.
The center of the world.
The sky was fading in colors — blues, purples, reds — in a vibrant array. The few times that she had seen it in the past had been accompanied by terror. If there had been times before then, she was not sure. She was sure that the sunset she saw that day was particularly beautiful. It was built for her.
“Heia!” Evester called to her, finally using her nickname.
“Yes.” Heia turned to him. He stood with his hood up, as if it stopped them all from knowing who and what he was. His secret was already out. Both of them: status and name. Unless he had more that she did not know to question about. Was that possible?
“Practice.” Kori smiled to her. The triplets liked him, had from the beginning. The triplets had taken to learning his techniques from weeks before. And the triplets? They had the largest kill count, having dropped Aralax bodies like no other two nights before, as they adapted and tested the techniques that Evester had taught them. They were better fighters than he was. Robee and Trace were supposed to be better than them and Heia was supposed to be the best of them all.
This is why she was chosen. Or at least it was why she hoped she was chosen. She was the fighter of their family. She was the one who had killed an Aralax when no one knew what they were and without any specialized training. If she could get the training that the Triplets got… She believed herself to become terrifying.
“We have no idea what we will face in the future.” Evester began the lesson. “Thus I want to teach you a few things. Yes, I will teach you to fight. However… I feel that a few more skills are important.”
“Like?” Robee asked.
“Information on my world. EverDanger’s specific code. How to break free of restraints, to break locks, to break through magic. There is far too much to teach you and I have no clue if we have enough time. So. I want to test you to see what is going to be the best.” Evester spun is deactivated holoblade in his hand.
“Test?” Shawn asked. “Alright. What sort of tests?”
“Tests to see your current level in everything you need to survive. First, team up into teams of two.” Evester looked to them. Robee and Trace gave each other a nod. Andre and Layla stood by each other’s side. Shawn looked to Heia and Heia rolled her eyes but for the sake of this she would. The triplets had a dilemma.
“That’s fine. Kony you are out. Kori and Karla together.” Evester instructed them.
“I want to learn too.” Kony complained.
“And I will be teaching you, but separately from them. You may be skilled in killing an Aralax, but we need to get your blood retested.” Evester said the words and to everyone’s surprise he didn’t need to be prompted to explain what he meant. He did anyway. “Your holoblade being blue? It means you are genetically a Circle or a Star. It’s a sign of a Circle or Star. It means that the people who tested you as children were not doing it properly. I wonder if they were doing it properly anywhere…”
“What does that mean?” Layla asked. “He can use magic?”
“He might. If he is a Star. However, I will not know. I will not know unless he is retested. That can only be done in a Tower or in a CloudCity. Instead I’m going to teach him everything about magic as I can.”
“And if I’m not?” Kony asked. “If I’m a Circle?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m teaching you information for magic. That’s why when partnering for fight training… pair up with Shawn. He already has the most amount of fight training, and together your specialized training won’t affect the other.”
“What?” Shawn stopped his walk from where he had stood to Heia, facing Evester head on. “I’m with Heia.”
“Heia was chosen by the project. She sticks with me.” Evester’s eyes went to Heia, “Sorry. I know, I just—“
He had only wanted to save her because he thought he needed her by his side. She was chosen by the project to work along side him and the one called Zeydar. They were a team of three and not a team of two designed to kill Aralax. “I understand.”
“Excellent.” Evester then addressed them all. “We begin testing now.”