Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chapter 28

by Amanda Cast

Restless Learning

Pandora could not sleep. Her muscles were restless and crawling. Her mind was exhausted and over taxed from meditating and attempting to pull energy into her body. Now her body would not rest. Perhaps her mediating had been successful, but it would not help her if she could not sleep.

She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Then she rubbed her muscles. It felt as though she had been sleeping on a stone floor, but her bed was as soft as any bed could be, and she had not slept.

Serene was tossing and turning as well, but occasionally she would snore quietly. The dragons, who know had a stock pile of gold, were sleeping soundly. Neither of their mother’s restlessness could make them wake up.

Pandora let out a soft moan and slid off of the bed. The cool stone was jarring, not because of its temperature but because of its hardness. She frowned and stretched, but even the stretches were not satisfying.

The girl pulled on a tunic and a pair of pants. She noticed that the small buds on her chest were getting larger and more defined. They felt awkward and sometimes excess movement hurt her chest if it was not bound tightly.

Quietly she opened the door and slid into the hallway. She wish that she had a friend her own age so that she would wake her up, but all of her personal friends were older by a year or two and in different halls.

Students were not allowed to be out and about after a certain time. There was a curfew for the students, but Pandora could not be bothered with it. She had to do something. Her body was pleading with her for movement. She understood it now.

She walked with determination to the mirror and stepped through. She was glad that the enchantment did not turn off during certain times. It made things easier. She then entered the garden square. Stretched her entire body and felt better before she even broke into a solid sprint toward the center.

She almost did not have the time to stop when she saw Raoul sitting on the fountain rim. His dark skin seemed to reflect the light. It was as though he was a full blood underdark elf rather than a half breed.

He looked up when he heard her running toward him and when she stopped he smiled at her. “Hello, Pandora,” he said brightly.

“Greetings, Raoul,” Pandora said with a small smile. She approached casually and sat down beside him. “I didn’t know you could be out at this hour.”

“Well, you’re not supposed to be,” he pointed out and poked her arm with a bony finger. “But I’m allowed to.”

“Why is that?” Pandora asked.

“Because I am a dark elf,” he said with a small, sad smile.

“Oh,” Pandora said uncertainly. “I guess they have racial exceptions. Anyway, I know I’m not supposed to be up, but I could not sleep.”

“Perhaps you should go to the healers,” he said. He nodded curtly, perfectly sure of his assessment.”

“Well, that is generally a good idea,” Pandora said, “But since the healers seem to have it out to end my life through inaction I think I would be better served with some exercise.”

“Is that why you were running?”

She nodded. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I have been so easily exhausted lately. I thought it might tire me out, but now I feel more awake than ever—body and mind.”

He nodded, understanding. “I would exercise with you, if you want company.”

Pandora smiled at the child. She could not stop herself, but it was a child’s smile that graced her face. It was wistful and her head was tilted to the side. “All right,” she agreed before the smile had faded from her face.

“Great!” he said and jumped excitedly to his feet. “Are we going to run?”

“For now,” she said and stretched with her arms up in the air. She lifted herself up on her toes before allowing her body to relax. She fell back onto her heals. “But you should stretch first. Your muscles should be limber before you run.”

She led him through a few stretches and tested his limbs before stepping back and nodding in satisfaction. “Very good,” she said.

“You think so?” he asked.

She nodded. “Keep up,” she said and loped off down one of the paths to the outer rim. He followed after her. Pandora adjusted her speed so that she was trotting beside him.

“You’re fast,” he admonished. “Were you really sick?”

Pandora nodded. “I was. When we can no longer carry on conversation, we’ll stop,” she told him.

He nodded and listened as she gave him breathing advice. “Serene said you were very weak.”

“I was,” Pandora admitted. “I was weak before I became ill. I feel like I’m recovering now. Mundane behavior tires me though.”

“That is strange,” he said. “You can run around and not get as tired as you do when you sit still?”

She laughed and then nodded. “I guess you’re right.” She led him around a corner. The gravel slid under her feet, but she kept her balance.

“Wow, that’s weird.”

“I am strange,” she conceded. “I would like to join combat classes again, but I don’t see why I should bother. Taking classes just adds to the illusion that I am not a prisoner.”

“Are you a prisoner?” he asked.

She nodded. “I am.”

“Wow,” he said. His breathing was becoming more labored, but he did not complain and Pandora did not stop. “You…you like fighting?”

She nodded. “I do. It is good exercise and it keeps your reflexes sharp.”

“I like magic.”

“Have you ever fought?”

“When I was a child,” he admitted. “I look different than the others do. Mother says that I look like a full dark elf except for my ears are rounded.” He reached up to touch them and then toppled over and skirted across the gravel.

Pandora stopped and reached down to help him up. He was heavy, but not dead weight. He got to his feet.

“Are you all right?” she asked. She squinted in the moonlit night to see if he had any abrasions.

He winced as he tried to get the gravel off of his hands. Pandora gripped his wrists and looked at them closely. “Nothing is bleeding. Your skin is just scraped some. You’re quite resilient.”

“Do you think so?” he asked with a shy smile and she nodded. “Nice.”

“Would you like to learn something about fighting?” she asked.

“I have good instincts,” he told her. “I don’t think I need lessons.”

“Instincts are well an good if you’re fighting someone who is inexperienced, but it will do you little good against someone who has trained,” she told him. “Some instincts are wrong. Trained fighters will use them against you.”

He frowned thoughtfully.

“I have good instincts,” Pandora continued, “But I do not rely on them anymore. Instincts are for people who are course and unrefined. You must be able to use training and instincts as one.”

“You sound like you’re reciting,” he told her skeptically.

“It is something my teacher at Ysfal used to tell me,” she said softly and looked away. She dropped Raoul’s wrists. “I think that my restlessness has been tended to. I should go to sleep.”

“When you were sick Serene would come and give me lessons in magic,” he told her quickly.

Pandora turned to look at him. “Did you learn anything?”

He nodded. He put his wrists together and opened his hands up and pushed them towards her as though he were casting a fire ball. She felt a rush of magic hit her. Very little of it did more than brush around her skin and disturb the fine hairs there. It was warm as sunshine and dark and cool as shadows all at the same time. It flowed like water or air. Some of it stuck as droplets of water and began to sink into her flesh.

“Serene calls it channeling,” he said with a pleased look on his face. “Neat isn’t it?”

“It…what purpose does it serve?”

Raoul looked confused for a moment and then his face dawned with comprehension. “Serene said you would not understand. It is a way of transferring power. I think you did it when you saved Chloe, only you gave it shape and purpose when you did. That’s what Serene says.”

“Oh,” Pandora said, confused. “I did not think of it that way.”

“I need to meditate and get more though,” he said.

Pandora tilted her head to the side and closed her eyes. She focused on Raoul in her mind and pushed her own power to him. When she opened his eyes he looked amazed.

“Not much got in, but what did,” he said, astounded.

Pandora suddenly felt weak again. She collapsed onto the gravel.

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