Ten: Summoner Camarade

Luminarist + November 2015 – June 2017: Chapter Ten — Summoner Camarade

Celestial Institute, a boarding school for adults, is located on the fabled world of Terra. Only those chosen by the Shining One may enter. People of all walks of life come here to hone their gifts and effect positive change. The newest recruit is Meissa, a young woman anticipating the future.

She becomes fast friends with Nadir, a man with little self-confidence whose guardian is the powerful Zenith. Upon the school throne stands Alhena, the Shining One herself. Backing them is the Acolyte of Archangels. Becoming entangled in Celestial Institute’s inner workings, Meissa knows that everyone has purpose, and her light shines the brightest of them all.

Why?

The sound of an arrow let loose from a longbow simmered through the air, and hit its mark dead on many metres away. Next came approaching footsteps that attempted to be concealed in the sands and dust, and throwing knives sliced into a long eared man’s cap. “I-I beg your pardon, Your Majesty!” was the shrill cry of a man nearly murdered as he had come to ask the other a question.

“Mistakes,” went a baritone, “can cost one his or her life. Do not sneak upon me in any matter should your purpose be benevolent.” The twinned suns beat down on a loosely dressed, mahogany skinned warrior, his dark blond hair gleaming in the intense rays of light. Forest green eyes still didn’t turn to his near victim; instead a gloved hand stroked the slash on his right cheek thoughtfully. A dark brown scarf kept his neck covered from the suns along with a moss green sleeveless turtleneck trimmed with a gold lining. There was a silver and cream quiver strapped to his back, and throwing knives were kept on a belt.

“My king,” went the wayward servant, “how goes the hunt on this fine day?”

“Perhaps I should practise my aim in the deeper tropical regions.”

“Now?”

The defined king grunted his reply. “First, I will consult the library before my esteemed guest arrives today.”

That didn’t exactly answer the servant’s query, but he went with it anyway. The pair trekked through steaming fields of sand and dust, never tiring as they took the time to rest by the plentiful water reservoirs in the desert, particularly in the oases. The king kept a throwing knife in his hands, constantly twirling it, reminiscent of his visions of a certain black haired, cold blue-eyed angel of death fondling his chain.

What you stole from me, great angel who wandered the three worlds, I will take from you.

What soon greeted them was the sounds of clashing weaponry, the scents of life all around them, and song and laughter were never too far away. The world of Faerel was in a perpetual summer, due to the combined effects of the dual suns in a binary system. No natural satellites graced their skies, neither were there oceans. There were many great lakes abound, and the water reservoirs in the equatorial and polar deserts ensured the survival of the long eared folk. Other than these areas and their buildings of stone, Faerel was a lush world with the people dwelling in trees. The daytime sky was far too bright for an ordinary human, but these were not ordinary persons.

A macaw of azure, cream, and golden feathers streaked past his vision, and without warning to anyone, the young king notched his bow and an arrow flew true, yet missed the parrot as it seemed to have anticipated his attack, dodging in the wind. It turned to the east and beat its powerful wings to escape its hunter. The king longed to chase after the bird, yet resigned himself to simply watch it go.

God damn that blasted library.

——

Nadir sat across from the Acolyte, the metallic blue haired man in his straight-backed chair while the white haired man was seated on a cushion. The Acolyte was observing him closely, with a scrutiny that Zenith usually employed. Nadir resisted the urge to shake his head – he couldn’t guess what sort of information the claircognizant man was receiving about him.

“The Prince attempted to kill you,” he finally pronounced.

“He doesn’t know that the parrot was me,” Nadir replied shakily. Ah, the Acolyte wasn’t omniscient. “And he’s the King of Faerel, not a prince.”

“Ah.” A flicker of something was brief in teal, but disappeared just as quickly. “So he is, all right.”

“Acolyte?”

“Hm?” The faraway, distant feel to the blue-cloaked man melted away as he got down to business. “Has the Uriel program been sufficiently modified for her?”

“For Miss Meissa? Yes, according to your instructions, picture books are being given to her as reading material. May I ask why? The Uriel program is best known for scholarship. Surely she needs to read the heavier works.”

“I would like for her clair to develop by usage of her intuition,” answered the Acolyte. “Pictures can contain more depth and meaning than words when placed in context. A masterful work of art has the potential to reveal more to the beholder than an entire volume of words.”

Nadir agreed, biased due to his affiliation with the arts, but he seemed to understand one of the points that the Acolyte was attempting to get across. It was similar to the use of divinatory cards – one was encouraged to examine the imagery more than the little white book that often accompanied decks, to glean more from the composition than the literature.

“Will examining a picture be part of the Title Examinations?” he asked cheekily, knowing full well what reply he’d receive.

“You know I cannot reveal such a thing especially to you, mentor to the prime candidate.”

“You’re already rooting for Miss Meissa,” Nadir smirked. The Acolyte turned his face, a faint trace of a blush upon his alabaster cheeks. “Ah ah ah, is the Acolyte of Archangels crushing on a simple yet cute lavender haired young woman?”

“Dismissed, Nadir.” There was a touch of humour in his tone however, and the amber-eyed man smiled.

“Fine, back to the pits of hell I go to that king that almost killed a perfectly innocent bird,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “Okay, not so innocent, but Acolyte, why are you sending me as a spy?”

“I fear that something may be amiss with King Zeru. I would like for you to get through to him and stop what may be brewing.”

“Brewing?” All jokes were tossed aside now. The Acolyte was serious. If it troubled the esteemed long eared man so, Nadir decided he must obey, even if his orders weren’t exactly clear. How was he supposed to earn the trust of a warrior bent on nearly killing anyone or anything that dared to come too close to his person?

“You’ll be late if you linger,” the Acolyte reminded him. Nadir nodded and clutched at the silver and celestine necklace bestowed upon him by the Shining One, Gatekeeper, and the Acolyte, worn hidden under his hooded sweater, instantly transporting him through his willful intention to go to Faerel. Something gnawed at his mind as he landed in sand and dust, however.

The Acolyte of Archangels and the people of Faerel all had those long ears.

——

Meissa was disappointed to not see Nadir on the Gabriel floor today; she’d been looking forward to her singing lessons. He quickly realized she was an alto that could hit the soprano range with decent vocal training. He’d also been teaching her preliminary musical theory, employing workbooks meant for children’s eyes after discovering that she rather liked pictures more than just words and symbols, although he noticed that she was more at ease with notation and signage than wordy explanations on paper. Pictures appeared to appeal to her the best, and he frequently employed a whiteboard to sketch her on travelling on a journey through the grand staff of her associating her steps with fantastical imagery such as unicorns, dragons, mermaids, and the faery folk.

She locked herself in the soundproof room, trying to sing along to music she couldn’t hear. A few seconds later, she grew frustrated and quit, slumping to the floor. Without Nadir playing the piano, she didn’t know how to appropriately tune herself into the right pitch for the required notes. She needed to blend, but knew she was spoiled and had to learn to rely on her developing ability to read the sheets of music.

There was a knock at her door. She opened it to reveal a tired looking Zenith, yet at the sight of her, his freckled face broke into a smile. “Practising, little one?”

“It’s not going very well, Gatekeeper,” she admitted shamefully. “I can’t get the notes right.”

“Let me see,” he gestured to her papers, and scanned them. “Hymn to the Archangel Uriel? How appropriate for you.”

“Well,” she corrected, “I am in the Uriel program now. I thought learning his prayer song would be useful, you know?”

“I do. May I be of assistance to you?”

She clapped her hands gleefully, tempted to tackle and hug him tightly in joy. “Would you? Please, oh please! Wait, how do you know this song? Shouldn’t you just be able to sing the Hymn to the Archangel Michael?”

“As the Gatekeeper of Terra’s Fire, there was a repertoire that I had to learn,” he explained calmly, pleased that her spirits had been lifted. “What would you like for me to do?”

“Sing with me,” she hurriedly responded, then wanted to smack her forehead. The point was to learn to sing by herself, not blend her voice like she’d always done before.

As if he was aware of her thoughts, Zenith squeezed her left shoulder. “You can do this, child.”

She was confused. “Don’t you want Alhena to still be the Shining One?”

All she received from him was a smile, and they proceeded to practise. Meissa quickly realized that she couldn’t blend too well with Zenith’s range; instead she was forced to focus on how she pitched her notes to harmonize with his. It wasn’t too long that she realized he was doing this quite on purpose, but before she could almost dare to chastise him, she knew she was having fun. Their voices rose and fell sometimes together, sometimes separately, with Zenith giving Meissa the chances she needed to express herself as well as she could.

“All right,” he grinned at her, “time for a break for a drink. You can’t overwork that those muscles and organs of yours.”

“Great!” she chirped. “Can I get us some hot chocolate?”

He blinked at her. “Excuse me? Are you craving a sugary concoction?”

“Is that bad?” she asked him innocently.

“Water, we’re only having water.”

“What!” she whined. “Don’t we need the carbs for energy?”

“Are you trying to play with me, head of the hunter? You think you’re such a smart cookie, but I don’t mind eating those as an unhealthy snack once in a while.”

“EH? What’s that supposed to mean?” she yelled, completely forgetting to whom she was raising her voice.

“It’s a comparison not meant to be taken literally,” he laughed, all fatigue set aside.

She tilted her head to the side. “You look really bushed, Gatekeeper. You should go take a rest.” Something caught her eye in the sealed window, a long black braided pigtail. Lady Alhena. As quickly as it came, it was gone again. She wondered if she simply imagined it. “Thank you very much for helping me. If I have to perform this song, I think I can pull if off now with some rehearsal on my own.”

“I look forward to your performance, little one.”

Her face brightened so much that she practically shone. “You mean you’ll be there at the exams?”

His expression softened. “Of course. If I can help with anything else, please let me know. I’ll either be here in the library, in the training grounds, or seeing to the Gate of Fire.”

“Not the Fire Tower at all?”

“You aren’t allowed to enter the Fire Tower.”

“Well yeah, but you’ll be okay, right? I’d hate to see a friend suffer so much.”

“I’m fine, friend,” he said defensively, yet touched that she considered him as such. He turned to leave, and she caught sight of the sword that nearly never left his person.

“That sword, is it something special?” she wondered out loud.

“Not particularly,” he paused at the door, a hand resting on the lock before turning it. He appeared lost in thought for a moment before asking, “Why do you ask?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, it’s just that everyone seems scared of it. It’s pretty awesome looking.”

“It’s merely a symbol of my status as the Gatekeeper of Terra’s Fire, and a weapon in my hands. Remember no matter how benign the object, anything can be a force of destruction in the hands that know how to wield it for that sort of purpose.”

She peered at the sheet music on the piano stand nearby to her. “Anything? Even a song?”

He nodded. “Ask any clairaudient, music can create and destroy. It is a matter of intention and reception.”

She wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but agreed anyway, and gathered her things to head to the Uriel floor. She might as well get some studying in, even though all she to do was analyze pictures and figure out ways to apply what she gleaned into various helpful segments of guidance for others. Wasn’t art analysis a Gabriel program thing? She exhaled and stared up at the ceiling as Zenith left her to be alone. She was expecting to fail because of intense scholarly homework; instead she was doing things she was particularly good at. “Where is my new life headed?” she asked the seemingly emptied room as she too made her way out.

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