Chapter 28: Before the Demonstration

Kason recoiled slightly upon hearing the irritated exclamation and looked up to see who had spoken. He saw a boy standing before him. The boy wore the white uniform of all junior division students, although his seemed to hang slightly baggily on his frame. He had a rather angular face of olive toned skin and a pointed nose that, combined with his current glower, made him seem quite intimidating. His hair, was most fascinating to Kason, however; it was black at the roots, but slowly became a platinum sliver as it extended out from his head.

The boy tutted impatiently, stirring Kason from his observations. He gave Kason a look of mild disgust and said, “Well? Haven’t you got something to say?”

“Ah, I-” Kason fumbled with his words, unused to someone speaking as aggressively as this, “I’m sorry. I, I wasn’t looking where I was going. Sorry.”

The boy rolled his eyes, “Yeah, idiot. Be more careful, okay?”

Just at that moment, Harper’s voice came out from the gap which Kason had emerged moments before, soon followed by his body.

“Did you get through alright Kason?” He said as he stumbled out of the gap.

He gave Kason a smile and then his gaze fell upon the boy who was standing nearby. His smile faded, almost instantly. The boy, on the other hand, noticed Harper as soon as he came out of the gap between the stalls and his mouth morphed into a slight smirk.

“Hi, Harper.” He said in a sardonic sounding voice, “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Hello Roan,” Harper replied stiffly.

“Oh, why so dull? Where’s the enthusiasm that I’m used to?” The boy, evidently called Roan, said.

“I thought you were going to study at the First?” Harper replied, ignoring Roan’s goading.

Roan’s face twisted into an unsightly grimace, “Obviously I didn’t!” He spat.

“Oh?” Harper began, a note of derision sliding into his voice, “And why is that? Were you not good enough for them?”

Roan didn’t reply, but a look of rage appeared on his face. He took a step forward and seemed about to speak, but before he did a streak of golden green flew out from behind him and hissed menacingly at Harper.

Kason was surprised to see what looked to be a miniature dragon hovering in mid-air in front of Harper. It had scales that glimmered in the sunlight with dancing shades of gold and emerald, and wings that beat the air with regular flaps as its small head moved side to side as if trying to intimidate Harper. The most amazing thing about it was, however, the fact that, unlike in all the stories that Kason had ever heard, this dragon was only about the length of his forearm.

Kason was immediately entranced by this curious creature and he unconsciously took a few tentative steps towards it, trying to get a closer look. The little dragon seemed to sense his approach however, and shot him what seemed to be a warning glare, before flapping back to perch on Roan’s shoulder. Roan raised a hand and began to stroke the little dragon’s nose as if soothing it. It nuzzled into his hand and wrapped its long tail around his wrist.

While Roan was preoccupied with this, seemingly having forgotten about his previous rage, Harper looked on with a nostalgic expression on his face.

“How is it?” He asked shortly.

“Fine,” Roan replied absentmindedly, disentangling his wrist from the miniature dragon’s tail.

“Anyway,” Roan began, his tone changing back to the same confrontational one had been using before, “don’t try anything here, okay?”

“What do you mean by, ‘try anything’?” Harper said, sounding both incredulous and annoyed.

Roan didn’t answer. He simply gave a snort then turned and walked away from them, the miniature dragon still perched on his shoulder.

Kason looked after him for a moment before turning to Harper, “Who was that?”

“Someone I know,” Harper replied vaguely.

Kason, sensing that Harper didn’t want to talk about it, let it be with that.

“What was that dragon thing which was with him?” He asked excitedly, eyes shining as he turned to glance at the small creature which was now climbing about on Roan’s retreating back.

“It’s a type of dragon. A Pukus I think it was.” Harper replied.

“Wow…” Kason breathed, as he watched the dragon which was now flying in the air above Roan’s head. He didn’t know a thing about dragon species but nevertheless, a dragon was still a dragon!

“Come on, let’s carry on,” Harper said after a moment of silence, “there are still a lot of places to see.”

They wandered around for quite a while after that. They did as they had said they would and found their way to the far end of the fair before making their way back in the direction they had come from, stopping at interesting looking stalls as they did.

Kason saw many fascinating items and skills on display as they went around. Each stall or tent was manned by some people from the society that they represented and each had a selection of activities or items on display to show what it was that their society was about. Most stalls and tents also gave out leaflets as well, which were difficult to refuse, so that by the time they had made their way back to the plaza where the Botanists’ tent was, Kason’s pockets were bulging with leaflets from the different places they had stopped at on their way back.

They got onto the main path that led to the plaza and walked along it at a leisurely pace. Harper checked his ring as they walked and let out an exclamation, “It’s almost half past eleven already! I didn’t think we had been walking around for that long.”

Kason checked his ring as well and realised that Harper was right. He too was surprised that they had managed to spend so long walking back.

“The Webmaster’s demonstration thing was supposed to be at around noon,” Harper said, “shall we go and see if they’ve started yet?”

Kason nodded. “I wonder if they’ve got that part back from the Botanists yet.”

Harper shrugged. They continued down the path and eventually came to the plaza which was filled with rather more people than it had been earlier. Kason and Harper stood still at the entrance to the plaza for a couple of moments, looking around at the crowd of people. Kason was surprised to see so many older students in the crowd. From the look of it, around a quarter of the milling students were wearing the black uniform of the senior division.

Kason and Harper made their way across the spongey grey surface to the back of the crowd. Harper, being the tallest of the two, tried to see what was going on nearer the front, but he was still too small to see over or around the tops of the older students who seemed to have congregated at the back of the crowd. Whilst they were at the back trying to glean an understanding of the current state of proceedings, they noticed a familiar green haired head a short way in the crowd.

They managed to manoeuvre their way over to it and emerged next to Ledia who seemed to be in a bit of a panic. She noticed them as they popped up next to her and gave them a strained kind of smile.

“Hello,” She said distractedly, then tried to make a sudden dash through a gap in the crowd that opened suddenly in front of her. Kason looked at her with bewilderment, wondering why she was seemingly trying to run away from them.

Ledia didn’t manage to get through the gap. The natural jostling of the crowd made it so that the gap closed only seconds after it had opened and Ledia was forced to return to her prior place.

“What are you doing?” Harper asked.

“Ah, well,” Ledia said still looking for a chance to get through the crowd. “You see, we’ve not managed to get that piece back to Jerald yet.” She smiled wryly, “Percy gave it to me to hand over, but I can’t get through. I tried going around the back but it’s all blocked off around the back of their tent. Their demo is set to start in about ten minutes as well…”

Ledia hopped anxiously from one foot to another and fell silent. “I’m just the wrong height!” She burst out suddenly, “I’m not tall enough, or strong enough, to just push my way through, but I’m too tall to try and squeeze through as well.”

She cast an agitated gaze around at the people surrounding her, then her eyes landed on Kason and Harper. They widened slightly as if she had just thought of something.

“Hey,” she called out to them, “Could one of you take it? You should be small enough to worm your way to the front quite easily.”

Harper looked doubtfully at the crowd and then turned his gaze upon Kason. Kason, under the combined pressure of the two gazes, squirmed uncomfortably and looked at the people surrounding them. Although there weren’t actually that many people, they all seemed to want to get as close to the front as they could which resulted in them all being packed together and creating the difficulty that Ledia faced.

He didn’t really want to dive into the seething mass of people, but the urgency of the situation made it all the harder to refuse. He cast an imploring glance towards Harper and found him staring back with eyes that plainly told him that he wouldn’t do it. He then glanced at Ledia and found her brown eyes staring hopefully back at him.

He wanted to say that he wouldn’t, that he couldn’t do it, but then he suddenly remembered the sight of Ledia’s back, gashed and bloody after she had been attacked by the drakelings in the Forest. He remembered his helplessness and felt again the guilt he had then.

“Yeah. I can take it.” He said.

He hadn’t done anything to help her then, he reasoned, so now was the perfect opportunity to start to make up for his mistake. Ledia beamed at him and took from her pocket a cylindrical golden tube that fit the exact description that Jerald had given them earlier.

“That’s great!” Ledia said, “Just try to get to the front and hand it over to someone in the tent. But be careful, you could end up getting hurt accidentally while you’re getting there.”

Kason took the cylinder and forced it into one of his pockets amongst all the leaflets. He then glanced around at the crowd before squeezing through a gap that appeared momentarily in front of him.

He wasn’t aware of how long exactly he spent floundering around in the mass of people. In his mind, it all turned into a blur of white and black playing with the drone of indistinct voices in the background, punctuated every so often by an exclamation of pain or annoyance every time he stepped on someone’s shoes. Each time this happened, he made sure to call out an apology, but in the chaos, he couldn’t tell who he needed to apologise to. He could only hope that the correct individuals heard his apology in one way or another.

Towards the end of his journey, the crowd seemed to have noticed that there was someone trying to make their way to the front and so his journey became less difficult as people began to budge sideways as he passed to make room for him. Eventually, he made it to the front of the crowd where he found a thick, blue low-hanging rope that kept the crowd from actually getting into the Webmasters’ tent.

He looked at the little of the inside of the tent he could see from where he stood and saw quite a few people milling around with anxious expressions on their faces. He recognised a few of them as some of the people who had been sitting with Jerald earlier, but Jerald himself was nowhere to be seen. He debated whether he should call out to them, but seeing that he didn’t know anybody’s names, he wasn’t confident that he would be able to get a response.

Kason stood at the front of the crowd, eyes peeled for any signs of Jerald, but as time crawled by and Jerald still hadn’t appeared, he began to feel anxious. A minute or two passed in this fashion with Kason standing there, his distress mounting. He had just decided that he would just have to try and climb over the rope that blocked the crowd off from the Webmasters’ tent, when Jerald finally appeared in the opening, a worried expression on his face.

“Jerald!” Kason yelled, startling many people standing near him.

Jerald, who had been scanning the crowd with a nervous expression on his face, heard him and looked in his direction. He noticed Kason standing there at the front of the crowd and immediately hurried over to him.

“Have you got the piece?” He asked in an urgent tone.

Kason nodded his head and pulled the golden tube out of his pocket sending several leaflets fluttering to the ground as he did so. Jerald’s eyes lit up when he saw it and the anxious expression on his face vanished to be replaced by a look of profound relief.

“Brilliant!” He cried hoarsely and let out a sigh, “Just in time as well, a few more minutes and we would’ve had to cancel.”

He then stuck the golden cylinder securely in one of his pockets and began to run back to the entrance of the tent.

“You come in as well, Kason.” He called over his shoulder.

Kason, feeling quite self-conscious, climbed over the low rope and followed Jerald into the tent. He almost found himself running as well, just to get away from the curious stares of the people in the crowd. He entered the tent and stood in the entrance, unsure of where he should stand or sit or whatever it was he was supposed to be doing.

Another senior division student, presumably one of the other webmasters hurried past him to speak to the waiting mass of people outside and Kason moved to the side to allow him to pass through the entrance. He stayed there and began to examine the inside of the tent.

The inside had very few items in it, which was probably mainly due to the fact that there wasn’t an awful lot of space. The majority of space under the blue canvas was taken up by something that stood almost as high as the tent and was covered in a dirt coloured tarpaulin. The tarp hung on the thing in such a way that it was impossible to tell what was contained underneath, but occasional movements suggested that something was moving underneath it.

Kason observed the movements of whatever it was under the tarp for a few moments when to his surprise, the dirt coloured material was lifted up and Jerald emerged from underneath it. He wiped his hands on the tarpaulin after he exited, turned, and saw Kason standing in front of him. He walked over with a cheerful expression on his face and put a hand on Kason’s shoulder.

“It’s all ready!” He said excitedly, “Just got to wait for everyone to be in position.”

He then steered Kason over to a section of the tent where some other senior division students were standing and planted him in their midst.

“You can watch from here, okay.” He said, “It would be a bit dangerous to watch from anywhere else.” He then turned to a senior division student who was standing nearby, “Can you make sure he’s okay Spencer?”

Spencer looked over at Kason, then looked back at Jerald and nodded. Jerald nodded back at him and then walked off to another group of senior division students with whom he began to converse in hushed tones.

I kind of abandoned this site for a while, sorry about that. I’ve now gotten this site all caught up with released chapters and I plan to make sure it’s kept up to date from now on.




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