Friday, July 23, 2010

Chapter 26 - CHECKING FOR MESSAGES

Eventually, I learned where it was they had taken me for my magic taming. In order to isolate me as completely as I needed to be, and more completely than I ever thought possible, they had taken me to the core of one of the moons. That explained why the walls were so cold and why I burned so much magic just to survive. It explained a lot of little anomalies I only remembered later, like why my attempts at making food only produced the approximate in stone, and why there had been no water within reach. I was impressed with their skill and strength. I only hoped I could do as much someday.

My lessons progressed day after day, but none of them was like the first one. Instead of anything that might resemble formal training, our lessons were more like war games. More often than not, all three of my teachers were involved every day and all at once.

Instead of getting up in the morning and saying to myself, ‘Okay, yesterday I had sword lessons with Tsan so today will be lessons with Larak,’ they would take us to a suitable location, outline the day’s ‘mission’ to us and then help us accomplish it. Our missions were usually something like ‘track one of the other teachers then try and subdue them’ (ha).

There were different scenarios where different weapons were used and there were many breaks where we were taught different techniques that would help us with the mission of the day. There was no end to the imagination when it came to our lessons, so our days were never dull.

Thanks to my leather armor and my magic, I could take the punishment and was learning many different tactics and skills with my magic. My friends had the advantage of size over me, which meant that their armor was somewhat thicker and they themselves were tougher.

One day, almost as if I had some sort of internal clock, I heard my father’s words echo in my head. ‘My replacement should be there by the end of the month. I’ll send you a message as soon as I know someone’s there.’ Though I hadn’t counted the days, I had to have been back here at least a month now. That meant that my father’s message should have been waiting for me for at least two weeks.

The four of us headed out for our first day of freedom like a pack of wild horses let out of the barn for the first time in the spring. We ran, laughed, pushed, fell, rolled, wrestled and then did it all over again. We got most of it out of our systems by the time the village came into view, but we were still giddy.

We were all dressed more or less the same with our swords at our hips, so we felt the need to enter the village with the dignity such attire warranted. We entered the town, walking abreast of each other; I felt like we were in one of those old western movies as we strode into town ready for a gunfight.

As we made our way through the village, my friends pealed off to go visit their families. I went on ahead to the house that had been my home for three years. The place looked forlorn, but I wasn’t convinced until I walked through the door. Dad’s replacement wasn’t here yet.

I walked through the place and numbly began to pick up the little things that had been left in disarray during our hasty departure. At first, it was just closing a few drawers and cabinets, and then I found myself sweeping the floor and vacuuming the carpets. I even allowed myself to wash the dishes, and then went around with a dust rag; not that I was particularly domestic, but I was waiting for something . . . for someone to come . . . for the phone to ring.

Eventually, I sat at the kitchen table and made myself a big fat sandwich, rivaling one my mother would have made, and chased it down with a tall glass of milk. When I was finished, I had to smile. There had been no mess to clean up aside from a few crumbs.

I tried to find something of interest on the television, but though a couple programs I used to like were on, they didn’t hold my attention for very long. It was dark outside now, so I went to my room and lay on the bed after shucking my sword belt and leathers. The house felt so empty. I wondered where my parents were now.

The next morning, we headed back. Our trip back was only a little more subdued than our trip out.

We then made that trip every month. I rattled around in that house two more times before I found a resident on my fourth visit. He was a youngish man and he was alone. He also seemed very surprised to see me.

“Hello, I didn’t know there was anyone else outside of the space port. Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m Liam McTavish. I’m here to see if there’re any messages from my father.”

“McTavish. I’ve read some of your father’s papers. They’re very insightful. I’m told they left some time ago. Why are you still here?”

I ignored his question; my business was my own. “Are there any messages for me?” I asked again.

“No. I didn’t know I was to expect any messages. Let me check and see if there is anything on tape.” He allowed me to follow him into the house.

While he checked the message machine, I looked around. The place looked different now; it felt different too, though little had been changed. This was his house now, so aside from a peek into the kitchen, I didn’t intrude into his house very far.

“No, there is nothing for you,” he said. “I’m sorry. Now tell me, why are you still here?”

“Everything should have been explained in my father’s final report. Do you mind if I spend the night? I’ll be out of your hair in the morning. I’ll make other arrangements next time I come.”

“Of course you can stay. I was just about to fix myself some supper; would you like to join me?”

“Oh, all right, if you have enough, I don’t want to impose.”

He continued his questioning during a supper of beefsteaks and mashed potatoes followed by beer. “That’s a fine sword you’re carrying; where did you get it.”

I was having a bit of a problem with the beer. Mother had never had much in the house. Father liked to have one or perhaps two in the evenings once in a while. It had never been offered to me and I had never bothered to try it.

“My sword? Oh, I bought it at a sword shop at the mining colony where we first landed after leaving here.” I would have changed the contents of my glass into something more palatable, but I couldn’t think of anything that would look the same and I didn’t want to insult this man’s hospitality. “You never did tell me your name.”

“Oh, how careless of me. I’m so sorry. My name is Jonathan Preston. Why in heaven’s name do you find it necessary to carry a sword around here?”

“I have been taking lessons for the last few months. Wearing it has become a habit. I feel . . . odd without it anymore.”

“Sword lessons? Why on earth would you want to do that?”

“There’s nothing wrong with sword lessons. My father took some, he told me.”

“Well, yes. I suppose some people do that, but no one goes off on some little known planet to do it for months at a time, disregarding all other education. You look to be still in high school at best. How old are you?”

“I’m fifteen years old, sir, and I’m here with my father’s full knowledge and consent. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go to bed now. It’s been a long day.” I wasn’t really tired, but I was getting very tired of this interrogation.

He seemed a little affronted, but he didn’t say anything. He just showed me to the room that used to be my parent’s room and wished me a good night.

I lay there and listened to Mr. Preston move around in the other room. Eventually, he settled down, but he didn’t go to bed until very late. I couldn’t sleep in my parent’s bed; it was just too creepy for me. I left before the sun came up.

I still came back every month to check for messages from my father, but I slept at Lagge’s house at night.

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