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Saturday, June 3, 2017

EMBEREDGE second chapter


          It was later that morning when Henry and Tom loaded their gear into Henry’s personal mini-carrier arrived at the front gates of the legendary Warriors of Avalonia Academy, the massive complex building at the center of Yar Yu City, the largest city in the country.
          Tom didn’t grow up in a cityscape, so for him it was somewhat of a treat to be able to spend time within the city was somewhat of a treat for him. In the country, Tom never had much a chance growing up to explore the vastness of the city
          For Henry, being in a city was nothing new. He had grown to personally found the countryside much more visually pleasing than the stone and metal buildings he had been around the majority of his life. To him, tranquility was found in nature.

          Both Henry and Tom sat in the back compartment of the mini-carrier, both silently enjoying the scenery and just being happy to be back to their home away from home.

          The Warriors of Avalonia Academy had been founded by the same legendary swordsman who shared his name with the city. A man who lived over a thousand years ago named Yar Yu Yinnes.

          Tom and Henry travelled closer towards the Academy’s main gateway, they could within the fountain in front of the gateway the large statue of Yar Yu Yinnes glistening in the warm glow of the suns.

          A knight standing with both feet on the ground, his massive left arm extended in the air, counterbalancing the large Claymore in his right hand. His wings unfolded. The same pose that Yar Yu Yinnes had almost always been depicted in history as taking.

          Tom always felt a kinship to Yar Yu Yinnes, even though much of the history of the man had been lost to time. Perhaps it was that both men wielded large swords and fought to protect rather than destroy. Though, Tom wondered if Yinnes had been as conflicted as he has been since he first discovered the Emberedge.
          The carrier stopped in front of the stairway leading to the main entrance. Henry’s butler, a gopher, immediately left the driver’s side door and headed towards Henry’s door, only to find Henry did not wait for him to open his door.

          Henry walked over to his butler to shake his hand and give him an envelope. “That’ll be all for today Wilbur. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?”

          Wilbur could feel that the envelope’s contents was much thicker than his previous paydays. He smiled gleefully and bowed to his employer before walking back to the driver’s side door with more of a bounce to his step.

          Tom gingerly opened the right side door and tried to hide his limp as he pulled his satchel of books out of the vehicle.

          “So, who’s this Garrett person anyways?” he asked.

          “Shhh, we don’t want Wilbur to hear us.” Henry responded quietly.
          “Well, it’s a small vehicle, I’m pretty sure he’s heard us.”

          Henry walked around the back of the vehicle with his satchel slung over his shoulder. Wilbur drove the carrier off the way he came, but not before waving back at Henry. It was only then that Henry begun to speak.

          “Garrett is not easily explainable. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of you.”

          “Heh, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

          The two men continued their conversation as they walked up the staircase, talking low out of habit, as to not let anyone hear their conversation. Avalonians cherish their history, but abhor violence. The Academy teaches the art of multiple methods of combat, but in the hope that their students would never have to use them. This school’s hope was that its students would utilize other skills that were available to the population of the planet Elysian.

          “Can he utilize any form of magic?” asked Tom.

          “Well, no. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen him do so.” replied Henry.

          “Can he change his form at all?”

          “Technically you’re asking me the same question again, hee hee.”

          “Okay, okay, point taken. I’m just really curious as to why you’d suggest this person to essentially go to war with me. That Astarean that almost killed me skewered his own flunky right in front of me. These people are monsters.”

          Henry stopped in his tracks. “Bro…why didn’t you tell me that happened?”

          Henry thought back to the report he had been given about how an Astarean had been killed but not recovered. The thought quickly went to the back of his mind, covered by worry for his best friend.

          “I told you before Henry, this is my battle.” Tom stared at the ground.

          Henry placed his hand on Tom’ left shoulder. “No it’s not. This is the entirety of Avalonia’s battle and it isn’t fair for an entire country to constantly expect the Embers family to fight off whatever nightmare comes rolling out of the woodwork.”

         “Just let me introduce you to Garrett and I guarantee you will understand just why you want him on our side. But there’s one little caveat I should mention to you now.”

          Tom figured it wouldn’t be as easy as to just meet this Garrett and just ask him to back him up against the next Astarean raid. “What’s the caveat Henry?”

          “You’re going to have to convince him yourself. Because he’s…hey…what’s that?”

          A large cylindrical transport carrier rushed past the front gateway, narrowing missing the fountain where Yar Yu Yinnes’ statue stood.

          Several humanoids and animals emerged from the carrier’s drive section and back hatch, scrambling to set up their equipment.

          Two human women walked from the small crowd, one holding a microphone, the other a computer screen connected to a back-worn device, commonly used for holo-news streams.

          “It’s not new recruit day, is it?” Tom whispered to Henry.

          “Let’s continue this conversation later.” Henry whispered back. They both begun to move quicker up the stairway, hoping the crowd wouldn’t notice them and hold them up with questions.

          The taller of the two women, with light blonde hair and a bright red jacket, begun to spruce herself up for a quick recording as she talked to the smaller woman, with jet-black hair and a yellow tank-top.

          “How’s my hair Noelle? Is it shiny?” the taller woman asked.

          “You look fine Hannah,” replied the smaller of the women, “I don’t know why you bother getting dressed up, we’ll be lucky to get a thousand viewers.”

          Tom and Henry got up to the door before the reporter noticed them.

          “Hey there! Mind if we ask you two some questions?”

          Hannah walked up to them both, wearing the biggest smile, holding her microphone in hand.

          “Are you too newcomers to the Academy, or are you seniors?”

          Tom spoke up first. “Seniors.”

          “Well, would you both be interested in possible commenting on the Academy’s yearly induction of fresh talent?”

          Tom spoke up once again. “Um. Not really anything to say about it.”

          “A man of few words.” Henry laughed awkwardly, trying to figure out just how to end this conversation.

          Noelle became ecstatic. “You’re Henry Hornetblade? The teenage billionaire? I had no idea you were enlisted in the Academy! What a scoop!”

          Henry wasn’t amused. He had made an effort to keep his private life private. He whispered to Tom “We’ll talk later. Let me see if I remember how to talk to journalists.”

          Tom walked the steps as Henry threw his satchel over his right shoulder and stomped towards the crowd talking louder than usual. His ‘corporate’ mode had been turned on.

          The doors opened with their familiar creak as Tom stepped foot into the Academy. The student body had been off for several weeks as the Academy had prepared for the mass influx of new students, each attending for their own motivations, but all in the hope of self-betterment.

          The usually sparse entryway was littered with people from all manner of species. Human. Humanoid. Mammalian. Reptilian. Florae. Avian. Aquatic. Non-organic. Hybrid. Miscellaneous. These young men and women would be the future of the Avalonian country.

          Walking past a large, bulky hyena and a thin, lanky salamander, Tom slowly made his way through the crowd, wondering just which of these individuals was the fabled Garrett. Memories of his first day at the Academy filled his head, until someone bumped into his injured left shoulder. It wasn’t all that painful, inasmuch as it had startled him.

          He turned his head to his left in time to see what had bumped into him. A rather large metallic wing.

          Tom felt an odd sensation in his body. Usually whenever he was in the presence of a user of dark magic. He shrugged it off as nothing, as the wing’s owner stopped and turned towards him. She was a bat, but far more human looking than others of her kind that Tom had me in the past.

         “My fault. I should have watched where I was going.” Tom smiled half-heartedly. The bat just scoffed at him and continued on her way. Ignoring the awkward feeling he had felt, Tom went about his business as well.
          A warthog man came down the main hallway as Tom had finally gotten past the crowd. “Alright everybody, please listen.” The warthog shouted. “Registration has now, snort, opened in the office down this hallway. Please, snort, form an orderly line and make certain to have your identification cards with you. If you are a senior, all I, snort, have to say is, snort, welcome back.”

          Tom walked up to the warthog “Hey Barry, would you happen to know if the dormitory’s opened yet?”

          “Welcome back Tom, and yes, snort, the senior’s dorm is just how you left it.”

          Smiling, Tom continued on his way, “Excellent. Thank you Barry. It’s good to be home again.”      

          Henry walked into the dorm room exhausted. “Ugh. The semester’s workload seems like a breeze compared to talking to the press. That’s a whole other matter.” He looked down and saw Tom sitting by the bed on the left side of the room, rifling through boxes he had previously stored under his bed. “Everything still there?” Henry asked.

          “Yep. The knicks are still next to the knacks.” Tom snickered at his own joke. Dropping his satchel onto the bed on the right side of the room, Henry stretched and looked at Tom, who was still sitting on the floor. “Shall we go see what kind of eats they’ve got in the cafetorium? I’ve had a craving for spicy seaweed salad and my cooks at home just can’t make it the way the cooks here do.”

          “Henry, mind if I ask you a question?” Tom asked, looking down into his box.

          “Sure thing, not sure if my brain’ still functioning at max capacity after those wannabe reporters, Academy this and break-ins that…oh you want to know why I said you’ll have to convince Garrett to back you up? Well, funny story…”

          “No, it’s not that,” Tom stopped him, looking up at him now. “Do you think my parents would be proud of me, if they could see me now?”

          After a moment, Henry came up with an answer. “I think as long as you live your life as best you can, they would be proud. At least, that’s what I tell myself.”

          “I’m sorry man, I wasn’t thinking.” Tom remembered how Henry inherited his family business.

          “Think nothing of it. Now come on, let’s go grab some grubs.” Henry had moved on from his parents’ death. It wasn’t something he liked to think about, but at least Henry knew his parents. All Tom knew of his family was from historical documents.  The Embers’ clan had been heralded as heroes of the Avalonian country, defending the populace from all manner of horrors, including the Astareans. Everyone knew Tom’s family more than he did. But only Henry knew that the Emberedge had been discovered.

          “So, what are you going to eat first Tom?” asked Henry, breaking Tom’s concentration. “Oh, um, uh…heh, better question is what will I eat last!”

          At the cafetorium, seniors had already begun to partake in the massive feast laid out in front of them. Many custodians helped dish out the delicious food for those still in line, free for the day. Henry smiled. “Spicy seaweed salad, here I come!”

          “Can you see Garrett in this crowd?” Tom’s curiosity was getting the better of him. He knew Henry wouldn’t have brought this guy up if he wasn’t capable of holding his own in a fight. He turned his head to the right of the room, seeing the bat from before eating a bowl of soup all alone. Tom still felt uneasy around her but couldn’t quite figure out why.

          Tom turned his head to his left to see Henry standing there with the biggest grin, with so much salad on his tray, you couldn’t see the plate.

          “I may have gotten a little carried away.”

          “Well, you know darn well we’ll have to work it off soon.”

          Henry made his way to an empty table in the middle of the cafetorium. Tom headed over to the pasta table. “Hey Clark, can I get the protein and calcium powders added to the sauce?”

          “Sure thing Mr. Embers, do you want the enriched noodles too?” said the large rhinoceros man. Tom looked embarrassed. “Sure thing Clark, but it’s just Tom to my friends, hehe.”

         “This is our table newbie!’ Tom stopped from walking back to his table to see what the commotion was about. The three resident bullies, Salen, Octo-Bean and Plant Punk hovered over the female bat. The three, by themselves, were not as skilled as Tom or Henry, but together were a formidable force, and they knew it.

         Salen, the leader, was an orange badger known for his razor sharp claws and single protruding horn from the top of his cranium. Octo-Bean was a special type of octopus, able to walk and breathed with lungs, not gills, while Plant Punk was a plant/human hybrid, humanoid on top, vines and foliage on bottom, living up to his name with his goggles, Mohawk and sly grin.

         But to the bat, they were just pests.

         Salen leaned in close as he spoke through his teeth. “Listen little lady, since you’re new here, we’ll give you some free advice. Newbies sit on the farther tables from the buffet. Now, kindly get away from our table.”

          “I have a better idea Mr. Senior.” The bat piped up.

          “Don’t do it.” Tom thought to himself. He hated these three for years. He wish he could do something but knew he’d just escalate the situation.

          “Oh, and what might that be, Miss Newbie?” chortled Salen.

          “Leave before I tear your spine out.”

          Tom gulped. The entire room had gone silent. All eyes were on this table. The situation had just gotten worse.

          “Ex-excuse me? Do you know who we are?” Salen was rageful; he did not stomach disrespect well.

          “We’re going to have to make an example out of this one Salen!” said Plant Punk in a raspy voice.

          “Haven’t had to discipline a newbie in a long time. Y’think they’d learn by now!” said Octo-Bean in a high-pitched voice.

           The bat stood up from her chair. “If you three don’t leave me alone, not even Yar Yu Yinnes himself will be able to help you.”

          Tom had to act. “Don’t worry.” Tom turned to Clark as Clark spoke. “I think the cavalry arrived.” Tom turned his head back to the situation, to see from the largest human being he had ever seen towering over the bullies, from the other side of the table.

          The three bullies looked upwards at this man in terror. Standing silently, the human behemoth leered back. Salen struggled to get words out. “Hey there. How did…how…how did you get there?”

          With a rather blank expression on his face, the mountain spoke very softly. “You heard the lady. Leave now. Or you can deal with me. It’s your call, seniors.”

          Begrudgingly, the trio walked slowly away, never once taking their eyes off of the large, silent guardian. “Never a dull moment, eh Tom?” said Clark.

         Once the trio were out of sight, the bat lost it “I didn’t need you!!!” The giant looked down, the expression on his face unchanged.

          “What, are you expecting me to say thank you? I’m just some damsel to you, huh? I could have taken all three of them down with one arm tied behind my back!!! Why don’t you just get?”
          “As you wish.” The giant slowly turned and began to navigate his massive body through the interweaving tables, leaving the bat completely stunned.

          The man begun to walk past a rather relieved Tom.

          “Garrett?” he asked.

          The goliath stopped in his tracks, and looked down towards Tom. Same blank expression.

          “I believe Henry’s waiting for us.” Henry was waving his hands wildly between bites of salad, elated to see his two friends at the same time.

          “You go. I’ll catch up.” Garrett said to Tom, slowly turning his head as he decided on what food he’d partake in.

          After saying good-bye to Clark, Tom made his way to Henry’s table, his tray of pasta in hand. As he sat down, he breathed out. “Never a dull day.”

           “I bet you know now why he’d make a good teammate, huh?” Henry said in between bites of salad.

          “How on Elysian did you ever befriend such a titan?” asked a very curious Tom.

          “Oh, we met at the Stew the Duck fan club meetings.”

          Tom held in his laughter. “That giant watched that ridiculous holo-toon?” Henry stopped eating. “What can I say? Stew is love. Stew is life.”

          Shaking his head, Tom twirled pasta onto his fork and took a bite.

          Garrett made his way to the table. Tom was surprised by his tray, not so much for the amount of food Garrett had, but for just what he had chosen. Garrett had on his lengthy tray a bowl of thick soup, a bowl of thin soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, a tuna and chives sandwich, a lobster sandwich, a bowl of rice, three potato skins, a stuffed mushroom, a stuffed orange pepper, one raw carrot, grapes, blueberries and a fried egg. Garrett had visited almost every line-free table in the time in took Tom to make his way towards the table and sit down.

          “Henry told me he wanted to introduce me to a friend who needed help. I’m guessing that’s you?” Garrett asked as he dipped the cheese sandwich into the thin soup, then the thick soup.

          “Um, yes, I am in need of some assistance.” Tom looked at Henry, not certain as to how much Garrett knew. “But for now, let us eat. The Academy had some of the best food in all of Elysian.”

          “I guess I’m about to find out.” Garrett ate the cheese sandwich in one bite. After swallowing, he said one word. “Wow.”

          “The food alone is worth the trip.” Henry said, happily eating the last of his prized salad.

          “I didn’t come here for the food.” Garrett replied. “I came for the experience. In which case, I didn’t catch your name.”

          “It’s Tom. Tom Embers.” He extended his hand to shake. Garrett reached out his hand as well, easily dwarfing Tom’s hand. Just another reminder of this man’s massive size. “Don’t worry man, I won’t crush your hand.”

          The two shook, and turned their attentions to their meals, Tom taking another bite of pasta as Garrett continued to dip his sandwichs in his soup.

          “As you have probably guessed, I have to be cautious with how I move. If I’m not I could seriously hurt someone. Which is going to make combat training all the more stressful for me.”

          Tom realized the reason Henry said he’d have to be the one to convince Garrett to join up with them. This gifted giant was in fact a pacifist.       

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