Chapter 25: Lost Pendant

The group managed to get out of The Forest without any further interruptions. They exited the world of gloomy darkness of that existed beneath the treetops and basked for a short while in the light of the sinking sun. Then, just as they had before, the senior division students cast some spells on their juniors and then they all speedily crossed the gap bridging The Forest and the artificial woodland that wrapped around the majority of the college buildings.

After reaching the other side of the open space, they followed the seniors around the edge of the woodland until they were back at the main path leading to the college buildings. Throughout the short walk, the seniors spoke quietly amongst themselves and the juniors simply trudged along behind them in silence. Kason, who was walking next to Harper, felt too tired to talk. The adrenaline that had kept him going during the eventful time in The Forest had worn off and now all he wanted was a chance to rest his weary feet and get something to eat.

When they arrived back at the path, Philera turned and spoke to the children. “We’ve now officially finished our excursion into The Forest. I expect that you will all be rather tired and hungry so you should hurry back to your dorms.” Her face then took on an expression of slight embarrassment, “I am, umm, sorry that things ended up being so dangerous. Make sure you go and see Kamadus if you’re still hurt in any way, I’m taking Ledia to see him now so you’re welcome to tag along if you want to.”

She looked around at them for a moment longer and then said, “I don’t expect I’ll see any of you around the college so the next time I’ll see you will be two weeks, which is when I think, the introduction fair is.”

She gave them a bright smile, waved and then walked away, supporting Ledia with one of her arms, down the path that led to the main building. The rest of the Botanists said their own goodbyes to the group of children and went their separate ways as well, Perceval following in his sister’s footsteps towards the main building while Hugo and James wandered off in the direction of the senior dorms.

Kaon sighed as he watched them leave. The sigh was one of relief for the most part, and as he gazed at their retreating backs, he couldn’t help thinking that he was glad that it was all over. A small commotion behind him made him turn around, but it was only Lexia and Alford squabbling over something. Their argument ended shortly with Alford forcefully dragging Lexia off in the direction of the main building while calling back over his shoulder that he was taking her to see Kamadus; Lexia struggling futilely against his strong grip whilst complaining loudly that she was perfectly fine. After a couple of moments, Kayla chased after them, quickly telling Kason and Harper as she passed that she was going to Kamadus as well.

Now it was just Kason and Harper standing alone by the side of the path. They stood there for a short while in silence, then Harper spoke. “You sure you don’t need to go see Kamadus? For your back or something?” Harper asked, looking towards Kason.

Kason slowly shook his head in response. Harper nodded absentmindedly and turned away from Kason. They then stood there rather awkwardly for a few minutes, staring down the path through the trees towards the main building. The sun was setting almost directly between the two stained glass windows on the front of the main building which were barely visible over the tops of the trees, creating an image of surprising beauty which made Kason forget momentarily about his tiredness. After a short while, the moment was broken by a chilly gust that blew over them and rustled the leaves in the trees nearby.

Harper shivered slightly and stamped his feet, “I’m going go back to the dorms, are you coming as well?”

Kason gave his head a slight shake and then nodded vigorously, eager to get back to the comfort of his dorm room.

They walked back to the junior dorms chatting about nothing particular and reached their destination after a few short minutes. They bade each other goodbye outside room 17f which Kason entered, while Harper walked the short few paces to his room further down the corridor.

Once inside his own room again, Kason promptly walked over to the bed a flopped down, face first, on top of the quilt. He didn’t know, or particularly care, about how dirty his clothes were; at that moment, all he wanted was was to take his weight off his feet. He lay there for a few minutes breathing deeply, his face buried in the soft fabric, going over the events that had happened that afternoon in his mind.

Eventually, he pushed himself back to his feet and went and sat on the teardrop chair that floated in front of his desk. When he had first been looking around the room, he had found a mirror, measuring roughly forty by forty centimetres, in one of the draws of the desk. This mirror now hung above the desk on the wall and Kason stared into it, examining the exhausted face that stared back at him.

He gingerly touched the many scratches that ran across his face and was reminded acutely of how dangerous his day had been. None of the scratches were particularly deep, and none seemed to have bled at all, which was a good thing. He frowned slightly as he found a large dry mud splotch that had somehow managed to get under his chin. He gave a quiet snort of mirth as he considered how it looked like he might’ve been stabbed, but then became solemn again as he realised that getting stabbed might have been a very real possibility if he had been unlucky. After all, he thought with a shudder, who knew what lurked in the darkness beneath the great trees that lorded over the deep reaches of The Forest.

He spent the remaining time until dinner cleaning himself up so that he didn’t look so much like someone that had just dragged themselves through a pile of leaves and then, as soon as eight o’clock came around, he made his way to the dining hall on hurried feet; salivating at the prospect of the meal to come.

He thoroughly enjoyed his meal that night. He chose the first thing on the menu in his hurry to get food and immediately dug in as soon as it appeared in front of him. He almost finished the entire thing before even paused to have a drink and after he finished, he pushed his bowl away from him with a reluctant expression, lamenting the fact that he couldn’t get seconds.

After having finished, he went straight back to his room feeling, if not completely full, satisfied for that moment in time. He entered his room again and slid straight into his bed, feeling so tired that he doubted he could remain awake for even a minute longer.

It was perhaps a blessing that he managed to get to sleep so quickly. Or then again, as he thought later, it might not have. His dreams were plagued by larger than life forms of the drakelings which prowled around the outside of his dream self’s vision, howling unearthly howls that were much distorted from as they had been in reality.

In one dream he ran through a maze of trees, fleeing from the spectral four-legged forms that haunted him. In another, he found himself trying to run down the corridor to his room, only to find that he seemed to have forgotten how to run. He flailed and shouted in distress but the only thing that answered him was the long, lonely call of an owl that floated to him from where he knew not, accompanied by a chilling cold that froze him down to the bone.

Needless to say, Kason awoke many times that night, each time covered in cold sweat with his heart beating hard in his chest. When morning finally came, he felt as tired as he had when he lay down to sleep and although he hadn’t thought that he would get a good sleep, he still felt terrible.

The day that followed passed in a haze of tiredness. He could hardly pay attention to whatever it was Ms Luxford was telling them in class and once lessons were over, he went straight back to his room to take a nap. Thankfully, his nap was uninterrupted by fearful dreams and so when he awoke again two hours later, he felt a bit more refreshed.

The next day he felt slightly more awake. He had slept better, although not perfectly, and so could now begin to pay attention in class without dozing off every couple of minutes. He noticed as he took his seat in the classroom, that Harper and the others who had gone with him into The Forest also had drained expressions on their faces and dark rings around their eyes. He supposed that they were also having problems sleeping satisfactorily.

Harper seemed to be faring the worst out of them all. He entered the classroom with a listless sort of atmosphere about him and slumped over his desk as soon as he sat down, resting his head on his arms. A few minutes later, the sounds of deep breathing and light snores coming from him told Kason that he had fallen asleep. Kayla and Alford, on the other hand, looked to be faring quite well, they were both visibly tired but not to the extent that Kason or Harper were.

Lexia, however, took the uncontested place of least affected by the excursion. She seemed to be almost back to her usual self; her looks and actions showing only small signs of tiredness. Kason observed her for a few moments while he waited in his seat before the first lesson of the day began. He thought back to when he and Harper had tried to dissuade her from coming along on the grounds that it would be dangerous and sighed at how badly they had misjudged her.

Ms Luxford entered the classroom at exactly nine o’clock and walked up to her podium at the front of the classroom. Kason took the chance while she was still preoccupied with laying her things on the desk to poke Harper awake so that he didn’t get into trouble. Harper awoke and gave Kason a groggy scowl before putting his head back on his arms and closing his eyes again.

“Wake up Harper!” Shouted a voice from the front of the classroom and Harper’s head immediately sprung up from his hands to look towards the front where Ms Luxford stood gazing at him with a stern look in her eyes. “I noticed that you fell asleep in my lessons yesterday as well!” She continued, “Your desk is a place for you to learn, not to sleep!”

Harper blinked at her for a few moments before giving a croaky apology.

Ms Luxford pursed her lips and gave him one last glare before turning to look at the class as a whole. “I have an important notice to give you today,” She said tersely, “so it would be best if you pay attention and try not to doze off.” She cast a pointed glare Harper’s direction, who was in the process of laying his head back on his arms. Hearing her words, he looked at her guiltily and quickly changed to lean upon his hands instead.

“A first-year senior division student had their college pendant stolen from them last week. It happened in Constantin at around mid-day and as of yet, we have not been able to locate the missing item. This may not seem like devastating news to you lot, but I’m telling you to remind you that just because you are near the college, we cannot completely guarantee your safety. If you ever go out to Constantin just make sure to be careful and don’t deliberately put yourselves in situations where something like this could easily happen.”

Someone’s hand went up towards the back of the classroom and Ms Luxford signalled for them to speak. “Do you know who took it?” Asked a young boy’s voice excitedly.

“No,” Ms Luxford replied, “but I’m sure that they’ll be found soon enough. Anyway, that’s all I have to tell you this morning so let’s get on with the lesson. Today we will be continuing our work on transverse waves and their ether applications, if you could all locate your notes…”



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