The Mylian Forest was quite enchanting. The trees, with their smooth beige bark, were giants to the trees of other forests. So tall they stood, Rebekka could barely see their tops. In their hike, the recruits encountered three different terrain types. In the first mile or so, the ground was rocky. The beige bark trees grew in numerous amounts, but the numbers grew as the recruits trekked deeper into their trip. The deep woods contain rich, soft, and spongy soil blanketed a small amount of fallen leaves.
What struck Rebekka as strange was the absence woodland shrubs. Everywhere the recruits went, the ground was clear of any undergrowth. This was understandable in the hike through the rocky terrain, but were the soils were rich and moist should have contained a fern of two. There weren’t even any mushrooms to be seen.
‘We still haven’t encountered any form of shrubbery,’ Rebekka thought within their third of forth mile, ‘These forests are much too large to maintain in this manner. Something strange is afoot.’
In the entire five-mile hike, four people had passed out. Commander Bastōn was sure to keep the group at sprinting speed and didn’t slow until they completed the five-mile hike. For those who couldn’t keep a steady pace, they fell behind, and their collars suffocated them. Of course, none of the other recruit knew this until the wizards had returned with the four floating above them.
“As all of you can see,” Commander Bastōn said waving to the four unconscious bodies. “There is no room for weakness here. If you can’t endure the rigorous courses, you cannot and will not survive at all.”
Rebekka looked away from the four to Mason, wondering how she was fairing. As everyone else was trying to regain their breath, she was poking her foot around a nearby boulder at ease.
Suspicious, Rebekka asked, “And how come you are so spirited?”
Mason looked up and grinned craftily. “That’s my secret,” she replied.
At that, Rebekka instantly knew she was using a charm. “You’ll either feel it now or later,” she told her. “There is no escaping true work.” Mason’s grin fell flat.
“How come you aren’t that tired then?” Mason asked and crossed her arms with suspicion.
“I’m plenty tired. I happen to be more resilient than most.”
“Puh! I don’t believe that for one second.”
“I’m not asking you to believe the truth, I’m only telling it.”
“You’re not changing my mind. There is something your hiding. I know you are, and I will be watching.”
Rebekka shook her head with a faint grin and moved on to explore some of their surroundings. Beyond the small clearing the recruits were taking their rest in, appeared to be a thick canopy of droopy trees and below it a heavy sluggish moving mist. Rebeka walked over to examine the area, as several other curious recruits had done. Everyone stood along the edge of the clearing, right at where the mist began.
“I think there’s water down there,” a young woman said beside Rebekka. “Wouldn’t make since if it wasn’t.”
The burly man beside grunted his agreement and squatted to peer at the mist with squinted eyes. “Don’t know,” he said after a few moments, but didn’t go on to elaborate.
Rebekka narrowed her eyes in thought. The mist did seem too thick to be above a source of water. The way it moved was also very suspicious. It slowly swirled in three different circles, each the same size. It could’ve been water currents… or, as a far-fetched fancy, air currents.
“Ha! The lot of you are cowards!” Tweedy said exclaimed and stepped between Rebekka the man at the other side of her. “I’ll just jump in myself.”
Rebekka put an arm out before him, stopping him before he could go any further.
“Wait,” she said, “don’t do it. You don’t know what it is down there or how deep is.”
“Well, that’s why I’m going to make the jump.”
“It isn’t safe.”
“She’s right Tweedy,” Swish iterated. “It’s a risk not worth taking.”
Tweedy glanced back at his sister and then looked back to Rebekka. “What are you saying then? There’s nothing down there?”
“Jump!” someone shouted.
“Yeah, do it!” another person shouted.
Annoyed, Rebekka decided to prove things in a more logical way. She flicked a hand and whispered, “Be Gon!”
Her intentions were to clear the mist with a gentle breeze, the magic being as gentle as her whisper, but the opposite happened. The mist violently erupted up and imploded back in on itself, completely disappearing in the process. Almost everyone had stepped back. Several people had stumbled back with surprise and fell or took off in a run. Even Tweedy had become startled somewhat. However, the most spectacular event was what awaited below the mist.
For as far as the eye could see, was an expansive abyss. One could see the hanging roots of the drooping trees but even further below, thin white clouds sped past floating chunks of rock or above small floating islands. At the very bottom, if it was the bottom at all, more thick mist swirled, hiding silhouettes of mysteries never to beheld.
After seeing all of this, Rebekka quickly concluded they were currently on a floating island. That conclusion lead to a next. The portal had opened to a place that wasn’t real at all or in other words, a Pocket Fold, a dimension of space separate from the physical word and yet only accessible by magical means.
Tweedy swallowed, suddenly appearing nauseated. He had been one step away from death.
“You,” someone hissed behind Rebekka.
Rebekka turned and came face to face with one of the wizards in blue and from the quality of his voice, she assumed him to be the older of the two. His hood cast a dark shadow over his face, too dark to be natural, put Rebekka was sure she could see his eyes were glowing. The second was close behind him, his face hidden within the darkness of his hood just as well.
“Come with me,” he hissed and turned, sending his cloak on a twirl.
Rebekka felt her collar tighten around her neck, closing her windpipe and pull her forward. In a panic, she struggled and clawed at the collar, but it was all in vain. Just when she thought she would faint; she was thrown to the ground and the collar loosened. She gasped painfully, curling into fetal position, and coughed hoarsely.
“This one used magic,” the wizard in blue hissed as Rebekka struggled to gain her breath.
“Is that so?” Rebekka heard Commander Bastōn asked. “On what account?”
“On what account? Was it of violence?”
“No… She cleared the mist.”
“And possibly saved someone from foolishly stepping off to their death.”
The wizard said nothing to combat this.
“On your feet, recruit.”
Still weak from her strangling, Rebekka struggled to get to her feet.
“You heard your commander,” the wizard hissed. “On your feet!”
Rebekka’s collar lifted her up to her knees.
“Erik that is enough,” the commander snapped.
The wizard bowed submissively and backed away. Rebekka rubbed her neck watching him and got to her feet.
“As I was saying,” Commander Bastōn resumed. “As long as you are under my command refrain from using magic to aid your training.”
The Commander lifted an eyebrow as if expecting a rebuttal.
“Am I understood?”
After a sharp dismissive nod she looked up beyond her to the rest of the cadets. “And I say this to all of you as a first and last warning. Do not use magic to aid your training. Doing so is a serious offense and has severe penalties. Now that all is understood, we will make our return back to camp.”
“I wonder why we aren’t allowed to use magic,” Rebekka mussed staring at the empty cots across the room. “And what happened to the people who didn’t pass the fitness course.”
Earlier that day, after the 10-mile hike, Commander Bastōn had announced that those who endured the hike were officially emitted into the Axon and were now cadets. Those who had fell behind were taken to the infirmary. At last meal, Rebekka didn’t see them, but then again she barely knew any of her new “peers” in the first place. Perhaps she would take a head count in the morning…
“Why do you think it was a fitness course?” Mason asked yawning.
“What else would it be? We are, I mean, were recruits. It would make sense to any commander to test the basic physical limits of their future troops. But then she could have been weeding out the weakest of us. That would explain the absences of the others…” She trailed off murmuring different possibilities and their reasons.
“*yawn* How do you know all of this stuff?” Mason asked.
Rebekka paused and looked at her. Her eyes were red, droopy and she swayed were she stood. In her hand she held on of her boots and still had the other on her foot. She was ready to collapse at any moment.
“…Because I do,” Rebekka replied and took the boot from her.
“That’s not a *yawn* reason why.”
“Sure, it is. Now come on and get your other boot off.”
Once Mason had done so, Rebekka helped her climb into her bunk.
“In the bed you go. Her let me help you with the blankets”
“Leave me be… I’m sixteen not ten….” But she had fallen asleep before she could even pull the blankets over herself. Shaking her head, Rebekka took it upon herself to defy the teenager’s wishes and tucked her in.
“I’m sure Jude would do the same,” she told the sleeping girl and sat in her own cot. She hated to see Mason so exhausted when she was one so vibrant but in a way, she had brought it upon herself. Jude had warned her against the use of charms, and this was one of the reasons why. But what would have happened if she wouldn’t had used the charm?
A ten-mile jog, with only minutes to rest would take some type of toll on anyone. Even Commander Bastōn had broken into a sweat at the end of it all. Someone like Mason wouldn’t have lasted the first three miles.
If the cadets had to do the same tomorrow, she wouldn’t stand a chance. For one, after Rebekka’s stunt earlier, those wizards in blue would be on the prowl for any magic users. It was a miracle they didn’t find out that Mason had been using a charm as it was. If they had, they would have certainly dispelled the charm leaving Mason to take the hike unaided. She would have surely fallen behind and who knew what would have happened then.
Rebekka thought of her promise to Jude and a knot formed in her stomach. How could she keep her from falling out of the training? She knew a more gruesome future lay ahead; things a hundred time more taxing than a ten-mile hike. They were training to be the Maledicted and now that they were cadets, their lives were surely to start descending straight into hell. Only the strongest of the most elite were going to survive.
At that moment Rebekka made a decision. She would have to make Mason stronger, push her past what she knew and what she was. Most importantly, she had to do this without Mason using her magic. Her decision cornered her and would force her down a path she didn’t want to go. But a promise was a promise and on her life she intended to keep it.
Rebekka blew out the candle at the corner of her cot.
“Silais,” she uttered. A thin, faint light of purple escaped her mouth, whipped its way upward, and seeped through Mason’s cot. It was a sad thought what she had done, but necessary.
She sighed, and in the dark, to the ghosts and shadows of a past, whispered, “And so it seems…. you have won…. Father.”
Click Here for the previous post Rebekka: Challenges (pt. 8)
© 2020 Alison Bankroft