Arc 1

They weren’t the hunters

… but we still became the prey! We didn’t belong here, not in this place, and certainly not in this time. The whole experience was surreal, and not least because we were outsiders. It wasn’t like we didn’t resist, we did. But we were fools to think we stood a chance against this class of capasians. Even today, that face haunts me. Those piercing hazel eyes, that uncanny and hypnotic glare, but above all, his unworldly ability to reduce me to a weeping, cowering and pathetic infant!

~Kral Fenley
5th March, 1174

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Everything was hazy and distorted

It took me awhile to open my heavy eyelids but more time still to focus through the fog clouding my senses. The sky was still overcast with thick dark clouds which threatened to extinguish all light from around me, but I could vaguely make out the maple leaves scattered on the floor next to my immobile body. Maple leaves… maple leaves? Wait… Where was I?

Was I dead?

As if on cue and to my absolute horror, the hunter descended directly above my powerless figure while I pointlessly willed my paralysed body to move, to run, to hide!  The stifling pressure was enough to suppress any further movements from my body, and the next moment I was screaming in pain and anguish as my captor raised his right foot and slammed it down on my chest like a piston, crushing my ribs and forcing my ruptured vessels to spew blood out of my mouth.

Coughing and wheezing, I could do little more than to concentrate on my breathing. If I wasn’t already dead I was surely dying this time but something was amiss, something wasn’t right in this whole scene. As my body continued to cough out blood and what little life force it was left with, my mind had decided that the anomalies I had discovered were more worthy of my attention than my broken and soon to be lifeless body: Luton and Moria’s corpses were no longer present; the maple archway which I had blown up had miraculously reappeared; and my captor did not have a face!

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“Stop it Luton!”

“Do you want to get us in trouble again?”

“Alright, just a little bit then. Just enough to bring him around… half a glass will do just fine I think.” Luton’s faint sniggering was really starting to irritate me now. Let him do it this time, he will regret every drop of spilt water!

It was my fourth day since waking up at the Academy, and I had experienced a rude awakening twice since then, of course, courtesy of Luton. So as I lay on my left side pretending to be asleep and peering towards the door from underneath my folded arms which covered my face, I waited as Luton persuaded Moria to let him bathe me with a splash of water for the third time. Poor capasa, let’s see how he enjoys an exploding glass of water! I didn’t want to injure him of course, but he’d been taking a lot of concessions lately and it was time to put him in his place.

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I was floating in the air!

Actually, it was the whole building that was afloat, and I struggled to make sense of it as I stood stupefied on the marble platform. A vast expanse lay before me as far as the eye could see, only interrupted intermittently by the sight of another floating cone-shaped structure. Some had spherical outlines, others more dome-shaped, yet others with no clear recognisable structure or form. Some were above and some below, and they seemed to cover the entirety like little ants crawling on a tree trunk.

Yet there was no smoke, so how were these powered if not by steam? How could anything provide anywhere near enough power to keep these gigantic monolithic structures afloat? But before delving on that matter, I still had to get around the idea of an entire building floating on thin air in the first place!

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But it was too late…

I had already made a fool out of myself!

The next few moments were awkward to say the least. There were focused stares and hushed murmurs all around, but a few were even audacious enough to openly point and snigger. A pinstripe-suited capasa with a black and white tie and short-trimmed hair was the most brazen. His hands were covered in silver gauntlets that shone in the daylight. It didn’t help that he was in the queue to my left, almost beside me.

“You think he forgot to kiss his mummy goodbye Osrak?” He addressed a sturdy capasa to his right before resuming to leer at me. His comrade, outfitted in a creamy dress and wearing similar gauntlets, meanwhile, gave me a blank stare. If there were any emotions behind that plain look, they failed to register.

A hand on my shoulder diverted my attention from the duo, and I noticed Elmada’s towering presence converging towards my left and gently pushing me forward.

“Whatever’s got you in a bother, shake it off young Eyte. There’s no danger here.”

At that moment, my respect for the friendly giant grew tremendously. Overlooking my momentary lapse to save me embarrassment, he also positioned himself to conceal me from the pinstripe-suited capasa. Probably for the the first time in many, many years, I could truly say that I felt safe.

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Anomaly 1

It watched the procession patiently.

The details were blurred and the focus wavered from time to time but that was OK. It was a price it was willing to pay to stay in this form. It needed to observe.

The scent of fear and nervousness was palpable and oh so, so, exciting! Seeking out the fresh ones hardly required any effort any more. It had almost become second nature, as easy as breathing, even. It could feel the nervousness which they disguised underneath hushed conversations and the fear which escaped through their ragged breaths. It could probably draw it out if it wanted to, paint in thin air with a million different strokes, each as vivid and clear as the realities unfolding before them. But it should probably check on the existing cogs first before it got overexcited. It wouldn’t do to lose progress.

It shifted, now overlooking the bulk of the rows stretching to the entrance of the hall and housing the majority of the larger, bulkier and more animated occupants. The nervousness was less here. Not quite absent, but noticeably less than the fresh ones. The vacuum was filled, instead, with hopes and aspirations, envy and hatred, pride and fear! Yes, the inescapable fear. No matter how brave, a trace of it lingered in all entities, waiting to be cultivated. But it didn’t need to sense the raw streams of emotions for this task, it wasn’t necessary.  Even with the blanket of suppression, it could identify the Chosen.

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I was momentarily blinded…

The sudden transition from semi-darkness to the blinding daylight had caught me off-guard, and my hand moved to shield my eyes from the intruding sunlight. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the new brightness, and everything seemed to come to life all of a sudden.

The opaque wooden walls around me had miraculously transformed into glass panels, permitting bright sunlight to wash its way into the hall. My eyes darted to the roof, noticing that it had also followed the example set by its two neighbouring walls. Moving my hand away from my face, I straightened my slumped form and peered ahead at the dazzling subject of everyone’s interest.

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The wave of nausea was overwhelming…

And I nearly buckled.

How many were dead now because this capasa, our ruler and King, had abandoned us? How many had given their lives for him, in his name? Their mutilated bodies flashed across my eyes as I glared at the Majestica, wavering between awe and anger. A decade of relentless persecution, nearly half of that period without any help or support from the Entim, from the Majestica! Were we any lesser than capasas who stood in this hall with me now, idolising their leader? Why had we, then, been abandoned? I gathered my courage. My people had given their lives to protect me, Dravon had died for the very same thing, surely I could muster a little bit of courage to say what needed to be said.

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There were no more Entim left!

“Your name, please,” the spectacled lady in front of the desk said rather loudly as she stared at me disapprovingly, bringing me out of my trance. Gallant was to my left, being quizzed similarly by a younger-looking capasa.

“Kral Fenley, ma’am,” I replied. Best to be polite when far, far away from home.

“Kral Fenley,” she said, staring at me from the top of her silver framed glasses. I wasn’t sure on whether it was a question or a statement. She stood perhaps an inch or so shorter than me, and her wrinkled face seemed to be twisted in a permanent scowl. Soon after, she brought her panel up to my face and aligned it in front of me. “Look at the camera, please,” she said flatly. I could tell she had done this many, many times over.

She removed the panel as swiftly as she had brought it up, and I wondered if any sort of picture had been taken at all. I had encountered such devices before in Rumess as well but they were not half as subtle as these. The ones back home emitted an excruciatingly sharp and loud sound when the picture was being taken, and, worst of all, a flash that would blind a person for half a minute afterwards. While the lingering shadow of homesickness accompanied me everywhere, I was quite relieved that my senses weren’t assaulted in such a crude manner.

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I realised the choice was mine.

“Shall we check out the different cohorts?” asked Gallant, pulling me out of a deep pool of thoughts. “So you can decide which one to pick?” he continued, looking first at Moria, then at me.

“Right, where do we go?” A throng of young capasi were now lining up ahead of us to talk to the chestnut-haired capasa whom Gallant had informed us was the Eagle’s Reach head. The bold figure’s presence was inducing excited murmuring and inviting sheepish looks. A part of me was also excited to meet the cohort heads, and yet I couldn’t forego the lingering sense of betrayal. But this was not the time for such thoughts. We needed to settle in first.

“Like I said, there’s the Eagle.” Gallant pointed at the towering figure. I noticed his hat-eyes were staring at the line of eager capasi splayed in front of us. “Well, he’s not the Eagle, the founding noble died a long time ago obviously, but it’s common to refer to the heads by the title of the founders.”

“What’s his actual name?” chimed in Moria.

Gallant’s Strassty accessory was going cross-eyed again. “I’m… I’m not really sure. I know the head of the Stallion Knights is called Golyan. I don’t remember the names of the other two though,” he said, pausing. “No, no, I definitely don’t. I think I have their names around here somewhere though,” he said, swiping at his Rimmpanel. “Pretty sure I downloaded a pamphlet detailing the cohorts and the Academy a few days ago.”

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