Kason inserted his pendant into the little groove in the bottom corner of his desk and pulled out his Ether Marker from one of the pockets of his uniform.
He watched as little blue sparks danced across the surface of his desk before coming together to form miniature sheets of virtual paper all piled together within the desk. The scene was still as beautiful and mystifying as when Kason had first seen it, making Kason smile slightly. He tapped at his desk with his marker for a few moments, fishing out his notes from the virtual mess, and then after one last decisive flick, he laid his marker down and looked back up at Ms Luxford.
The lesson went on like any other. Ms Luxford explaining the theory and setting them problems, with no more mention of the stolen pendant. Time seemed to flow particularly quickly to Kason, as it tends to do when you’re having fun or are in dread. Luckily it was the latter case for Kason; he enjoyed science the most out of the subjects they took, mainly because it incorporated the most magical theory.
Once lunch arrived, Kason went with Harper and the others to the dining hall to eat. He was feeling particularly hungry that day and so ordered one of the largest things on the menu, thinking that, given his hunger, he should be able to finish it all. Unfortunately for Kason, his stomach began to complain of over filling before he was even three-quarters of the way through the dish. He glanced around surreptitiously, trying to guess whether or not any of the others would be willing to help him with the remainder.
To his dismay, however, the others were already beginning to talk about leaving. “Are you coming too?” Harper asked him as he stood up.
“No, I should finish this.” Kason said with a wry smile.
“Are you sure?” Harper replied, “You don’t have to finish it you know.”
“No, I’m sure. I’m still feeling hungry.” Kason lied whilst sighing in his heart. Obviously, he didn’t really want to finish eating it but he didn’t want to seem ungrateful to whoever was cooking and so felt a sort of duty to finish the meal.
Harper shrugged and left with the others, saying before he did that they would be back at the classroom when Kason finished. Kason nodded and watched them depart before turning reluctantly back to his plate and picking up his knife and fork.
He left the dining hall ten minutes later massaging his stomach as he walked uncomfortably into the nexus. He was just deciding whether to go back to his room and rest for a bit before heading to the classroom when someone tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped slightly and turned around to see Lexia standing behind him.
“Hello,” He said in a rather shaky voice, “I thought that you would be in the classroom with the others.”
“I was going to, but I decided to stay. I’ve got something I need to talk to you about.” She replied firmly.
“Okay?” Kason said confusedly and waited for Lexia to begin speaking.
“Well, I think that we should go back!” She said enthusiastically.
“What?” Kason replied, feeling even more bewildered, “Go back where?”
“To The Forest.”
“The Forest!” Kason exclaimed. This was totally out of his expectations. “No! We can’t go back!”
He had spoken rather louder than he had intended and immediately began to feel embarrassed and guilty, especially after seeing Lexia’s hurt expression. “I- I mean we, we shouldn’t go back really, should we? It was so dangerous in there, or…” He paused while he struggled to put together a better argument than ‘I don’t want to’. “We shouldn’t, at least until we know enough magic to protect ourselves, right?”
Lexia looked less affronted than earlier but still had a stubborn glint in her eyes. “It wouldn’t be too bad. We don’t have to go as deep in as we did last time, I just want to go back to that clearing where Hugo and I found you up that tree.”
Kason, who was thinking that it wasn’t how far that she wanted to go which was the problem, sighed in distress. “Why do you want to go back there?” He said, shuddering as he remembered what he had gone through in that place.
“It’s about that owl!” Lexia said excitedly.
“But I thought you said that you didn’t see it?” Kason mumbled.
“I didn’t,” Lexia continued, “but I trust you. And you say that you saw something, which means that something strange must have happened there! Doesn’t it make you want to investigate?”
‘Not particularly’ Kason thought as he looked at her, trying to figure out what to say next. He gave a nervous laugh and looked around the nexus in desperate need of inspiration. He found none, however, and looked back at Lexia’s expectant face, grimacing to himself.
“A bit.” He began half-heartedly, “But I think it would be better to wait until after the introduction fair…” Lexia looked at him suspiciously. “I mean,” He continued hurriedly, “it would be good to have a period to rest and concentrate on studies, right?”
Lexia nodded slowly and seemed to go into thought. “Yeah, I suppose that’s a good idea.” She said with obvious reluctance in her voice. Kason tried to keep a suitably blank face as he secretly rejoiced in his mind at having successfully avoided giving an actual response.
“Okay then, we’ll go after the introduction fair then!” Lexia declared, suddenly becoming enthusiastic again, “We could ask the others if they want to go as well.”
Kason immediately tried to protest that he hadn’t actually said that he would go after the introduction fair but before he could get the words out, Lexia had already begun skipping over towards the exit, waving at him to come along as well. He sighed and began to walk over in the same direction, glad that he had, at least, managed to escape having to go in the near future.
The rest of the day went by as usual and flowed seamlessly into next with the busy school routine providing more than enough distraction for Kason to forget about his discussion with Lexia. At the end of that week, they got their first assignment from Ms Luxford, much to the consternation of most in the class.
Kason looked at the sheet of paper lying on his desk and wondered why everyone was making such a fuss about it. When he had attended school in Selmore, they had received homework every couple of weeks to complete and they had never been very hard. He assumed, with much optimism, that this assignment would follow in much the same vein and after the lesson ended, he made his way to his dorm in rather higher spirits than everyone else.
He could not have been more wrong. What he had thought would be just a simple question or discussion turned out to be an essay-length investigation into every topic which they had covered so far with Ms Luxford over the twenty-six days they had spent under her tutelage. This task kept Kason inside for the whole of his rest day, with the occasional visit to the library to borrow a few books.
He turned up to his first lesson on the morning of the following week with tired eyes all over again and a new found dislike of homework.
The following week also passed by with relative speed and Tarisday rolled around again; this time, much to the class’ relief, without an accompanying assignment. This specific Tarisday was, however, significant for another reason, it was the day of the introduction fair!
Kason, however, had completely forgotten. He went to bed the night before with the aim of getting a nice long lie-in and so was still asleep at half-past eight when Harper suddenly barged into his room.
“Kason, let’s go and look around the Introduction fair!” He proclaimed loudly as he pushed the door open.
Kason groaned and poked his head out from under the covers, then immediately pulled them back over his face. The lights had turned on as soon as Harper had opened the door, flooding the room with light that glared painfully into Kason’s sleepy eyes.
“Have you not gotten up yet?” Harper exclaimed as he stepped into the room and looked over at the lump that was Kason, curled under the duvet.
Kason gave a grunt that sounded slightly muted by the bedspread. He heard the sound of footsteps crossing the room and then the sound of his curtains being opened. He mustered up his courage and poked his head out again to brave the light of the new day.
He squinted in the light and made out Harper’s long-haired figure standing just in front of the window, looking out. He closed his eyes again momentarily and then, with one swift movement, threw the covers off himself and moved into a sitting position with his legs dangling off his bed.
Harper turned to look at him, “Didn’t you have breakfast?” He asked
Kason shook his head, yawning.
“Well, you’re going to have to wait until lunch now.” He said, “Anyway, do you want to go look at the introduction fair? It starts at nine and ends around mid-afternoon but the most exciting things happen in the morning.”
Kason nodded, “Give me a minute.” He yawned at Harper and shooed him out of the room.
Kason emerged from his room several minutes later, fully clothed and ready; if still half-asleep. They walked out of the junior dorm building into the courtyard and then down the path beside the planetarium going towards the Training Ground.
As they neared it, Kason saw that there were a great variety of different tents and stalls set up on top of the smooth grey surface. They slowly approached them, passing by the metal post at the closest corner of the area and stepping onto the Training Grounds itself. This was the first time Kason had been on the Training Grounds and, to his surprise, he found that the grey surface which he had assumed to be rock, was actually slightly springy.
His feet left faint indents on the surface as they walked over towards the closest stall, though they faded away after only a few seconds. They reached the stall after a couple of moments and found that it was empty. The person, or people, managing it had obviously not turned up yet.
“Well, we are a bit early…” Harper said as he gazed at the empty stall.
Kason nodded and looked down at his ring and, after twisting it around on his finger a bit, found the little flowing inscriptions that showed the time. The inscriptions showed that it was just past twenty minutes to nine, meaning that they were indeed quite early. Kason looked at Harper and asked whether they should wait for it to open.
“Nah.” Harper replied nonchalantly, “We’ll just walk around. There should be some people here, we just need to find them.”
With that decided, they set off at a leisurely walk around through the various stalls and tents; Kason enjoying the feeling of the slightly springy surface underfoot.
Unfortunately for them, most of the stalls in their area were just as uninhabited as the first one they had found. They wandered aimlessly for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden, a loud shout from behind a tent to their left made them both jump. After getting over their momentary fright, they made their way around the tent to investigate who had made the noise.
On the other side, they found a group of five people sitting down in front of a half-completed tent having an argument. As they appeared from around the red red fabric, one of the five people spotted them and got up to greet them.
“Hi!” The young man called out jovially as he walked towards them.
Kason and Harper returned the greeting and looked curiously at the tall young man walking towards them. He had light brown hair, whose colour reminded Kason of chocolate, which he had cut short. His eyes were the same colour as his hair and he looked rather muscular in a close-fitting black top.
“Hello,” He said again as he reached them, “If you’re here for the webmasters’ tent I’m afraid we’re not quite ready yet.”
“We weren’t here for anything particular,” Harper replied, ” we were just wandering around.”
“Oh right.” The young man said, nodding. Then an idea seemed to suddenly strike him, “Do you two need to go be somewhere soon?” He asked.
Kason and Harper both shook their head.
“Okay, do you think you could help us out for a bit?” The man asked with a pleading expression.
Kason looked at Harper, who shrugged, then back at the young man. He nodded his head.
The young man smiled when his saw this and spoke in a gratified voice, “Thanks, if you could just come over here, I’ll explain what I need you to do.”