Friday, June 21, 2019

Serialization: "The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice" by Roberta Downing: Chapter Ten

The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice
Novel by Roberta Downing
Cover artwork designed by Jerry Langdon

Chapter Ten

As winter break approached, Bell was given permission to spend that time at her mentor’s home. The past few months had been difficult for her with the classes, combat training and periodic bouts with Tessa. Bell kept wondering what she could do to help Tessa not hate so much and to become the type of student that the academy expected.
Yuletide came and passed and with it came the presents from family. It was the usual things family would send; clothes, supplies and money. Money, that was something she had not had since she gave all hers to Jake. She opened an account at the bank because she had no real need of money since all of her time is already allotted for learning. She didn’t have permission to go to the shops and she wasn’t old enough to go to the pubs.
During her winter break when RavenDance had left her alone in the cabin, Bell would go into his study and find his spell books. Every book she had thumbed through thus far were all squiggly lines that would not form words or symbols. Finally she finds one where the lines form words. She began teaching herself how to make sense out of the words. She studied the first spell and the action it required to make it work only it didn’t work. She would need to keep practicing until it did. She knew she may be too young yet for the magic to activate within her but there was no harm in trying.
It was the night before she was due to be back at the academy to resume her classes. She had taken a nice long hot bath, something she hadn’t had since they were in Draconos. It was as if her body was screaming for that hot water. She lay there submerged. The aches and pains she had from fighter’s practice, which even over winter break continued, subsided. She dried off, cleaned the tub and went to bed.
She pulled Satyr’s portrait out and looked at him. She thought he was so handsome and she was drawn to his eyes which were filled with kindness and honesty. His eyes…they were lavender…so different than anyone else she had ever come across. She kissed his lips, told him she loved him and that someday she would marry him. She put the portrait back into her bag and blew out the candle.
She found herself walking in a grave yard. It was dark and fog was rolling in. She heard a strange sound and walked toward it. She found Darklyn skipping rope.
“Ah Ding-La!” he said with excitement “you found me!”
He was dressed in his usual ghoulish jester attire. He was skipping rope and every time he landed the little skulls hanging from his jester hat rang out a death dirge.
“Um hi Darklyn” she questionably waved. She sat down on top of a grave. She crossed her legs and bent her elbows so that her head was resting on her fists.
“Why are we in a…a grave yard Darklyn?” She asked.
“We are here to talk and play games. Wanna jump rope with me?” He asked.
She stood up and grabbed the rope. It was slimy. She looked down at it. It wasn’t a rope. No, it wasn’t a rope at all. She knew she should be afraid but the fear just wasn’t in her.
“Darklyn! This is NOT a rope.” She stated
“No” he cackled “Sure it is.”
“No. It isn’t. What is it?!” Bell asked.
“Oh Ding-La! Don’t be so squeamish. It’s just intestines. Go on! Jump! It’s fun!” he said.
Bell dropped the body parts and sat down. She receded deep into thought.
“Oh my poor Ding-La” he said as he sat down next to her and wrapped one skeletal arm around her. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I’m just tryin to figure out a way to help someone I want to be friends with” she said.
“Oh. Having friend issues are you. Well! I have a lot of friends” he said as his hand motioned insinuating that everyone buried here was his friend.
Bell told him all about Tessa; every fight, every slur. She didn’t know why but she felt comfortable telling him everything moreover, she wanted to tell him everything.
“I just…don’t know what to do to help her or even make her like me” she said.
“Ding-La, not everyone you meet is going to like you, hmm. There are going to be people in your life that you also will not like. She was taught to hate and you yourself have chosen to hate which is why you decided to forsake becoming a bard and now you are…pardon the pun here, hell bent on killing demons. Is she really deserving of your friendship?” he asked.
She held her head up high, “I want her to be.”
“Hmm. Alrighty then, I guess you are going to have to prove to her that you do like her and that you are worthy of being her friend.” He said
“Me? Be worthy of her?”
“Of course Ding! You also need to learn that just because you are a Singer that the world does not and will not revolve around you and that sometimes you do have to prove yourself to others. You would have had to do that as a bard yes?”
“Yeah.” She said.
“Alright then. It’s settled.” He stated.
Darklyn reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a beautiful and ornate hair comb. It was black onyx with gold painted design and had three diamonds on it. He handed it to Bell.
“Give this to your Tessa. It’s an ancient royal Niteri hair comb. There are not many of these left now. The wars have destroyed a lot of their artifacts. This is something that will prove you worthy of her friendship, her love and her trust. Now, it is time you wake up and get back to school.” He concluded as he snapped his bony fingers.
Bell woke up holding the hair comb in her hands. She knew she was dreaming but she had no idea how she actually had it in her hands. She got up, put the hair piece in her bags, got dressed and went out to eat breakfast. The half elven apprentice was finally starting to feel settled in the life she chose.
She returned to her dorm room and put the things away. Tessa was in the room and was staring at Bell like a hunter watches his prey. Bell could feel the change in the room; it was like waves of hate rolling into an army on a battlefield.
Bell picked up the hair comb and slowly walked over toward Tessa making sure not to make eye contact with her. She stopped three steps before Tessa’s bed and then she knelt as she held out the hair comb in both her hands. She kept her head down and she waited.
The student who had been so mean and cruel to apprentice Bell gingerly picked up the hair comb. She didn’t udder a word and Bell didn’t move. Tessa stared at the gift she had been presented with. For Bell, it felt like an eternity before Tessa spoke.
“Where did you get this” Tessa demanded.
“A friend” she replied.
“Do you know what this is girl?”
“Yes.” Bell kept her answers short.
It was quiet for a few minutes and then Tessa thanked her for the gift and declared a truce between them. She would now allow Bell to be her friend.
Bell was much relieved.
“You can get up now, Bell” she said in a friendly tone.
“We shall be friends from this moment on. Thank you for this gift. It shall not be forgotten.”
The rest of the year went by without any further incidents between them. They were now even sparing partners. Their masters were shocked that that two of them somehow managed to get over their differences and thought that was nothing more than miraculous.
The rest of the school year passed once again without any issues and summer break was just two weeks away. Bell one again received birthday presents and turned seven. She was first in her class in all of her studies and combat training. The magic that was lying dormant within her was not quite ready to emerge however the words on the pages of the book she took from RavenDance’s home were starting to make much more sense to her.

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