Part XII: The Sound of Drums
In the end, we got to witness the new guys (and Allison) get their butts kicked, which admittedly made me feel a little better about myself… For once in my life I wasn’t the worst at something…
The fights over, the Rook left and people divided into three groups; Allison and Sage remained there since the former was stuck in some kind of big foamy bubble, over half the remaining others went to the classroom building while a handful accompanied Jaeger to the doctor’s office.
Amber and I followed the school-going group and got into our first science class of the year which was held by a teacher who either high on speed or in dire need of medication to calm him the heck down… At least the next class, history, was a breeze with a much saner teacher.
After an evening of gaming with Tyler as I’d promised while showing Amber the ropes of HotM, I retired early to nap before waking once more before midnight. I left my room quietly and settled in the downstair living room. Thankfully Ahti didn’t seem to need me that night.
Rather than boot up a game, I decided to try to find some answers. Why the heck was magic so completely unknown? We had aliens, mutants and people who had become imbued with powers following freak accidents… It wasn’t like there was a lynch mob waiting for them spanish-inquisition style. There had to be a reason it was all hidden from the world…
Sadly getting my powers hadn’t come with an instruction manual and the only two people I knew who might help me; Abraxas and Síthmaith, I had no way to know where they were or how to contact them…
I was in the middle of my research when Amber went down the stairs. She went for the coffee machine and microwaved a cup old coffee from the pot before coming toward me.
“I thought you’d gone to bed.” She asked, holding the steaming cup of coffee.
“I just took a nap. I get nightmares if I’m sleeping around this hour. What about you, not sleeping either?”
“What is this ‘sleep’ thing you speak of? I’ve heard many legends about it.”
“Ah, very funny.”
“But in all seriousness, I just haven’t been sleeping well since the accident…”
“I noticed; last night you practically ran down to the bathroom.”
“Had to clear my head.” She said, looking down at her cup. There was a few seconds of silence. “So, what are you working on?”
“I was researching magic.” I sighed. “Well, more like magic themed capes. I tried looking into magic itself but I mostly got a buttload of dubious grimoires and old superstition about witches or newage-slash-neopagan stuff.”
“Any luck on that front?”
“Not really. Those who weren’t confirmed as scams are just believed to be mutants, even Abraxas whom I know is the real deal.” I sighed. “You know what? I need some fresh air. Care to join me for a walk?”
“Sure, I better get a thermos.”
She skipped back to the kitchen and put her coffee into a more portable thermos before joining me. We grabbed our coats and left the house. Her hand found mine and we walked along the paved path of the academy with no clear destination. There was a cold breeze and I was positively freezing.
“Damn it’s chilly.” I sighed, putting my arms around my body.
“Not used to the season?”
“This is cold winter temperature in San Francisco.” I sighed. She wrapped an arm around me and dragged me closer in answer.
“Stay close, I’ll keep you warm.” She said with a grin.
I stopped and she turned her head to look at me, so I took the opportunity to kiss her nose.
“Guess I made the right choice letting you be my girlfriend. You’re really warm and I’m hella cold.”
“Thermal-equilibrium; the true goal of any relationship.” She laughed, contagiously enough that I couldn’t resist joining her.
“You know, I never asked where you’re from.”
“Seattle. Well, Renton really, but it’s like right next door. But I moved a lot because of my parents’ job.”
“What do they do?”
“Eh…” She bit her lips and looked away.
“They run a family business… At least officially…” She sighed. “They’re vigilantes.”
“Your parents are heroes?”
“Not quite… They’re not the type the Legion would approve of… June, she joined this place to get away from them… I guess they felt sorry for me after what happened and took me in without question.”
“Oh… I’m sorry.”
“What about your folks?” She asked.
“They’re alright. They’re bakers, spend most of their times in the bakery we own. I just kind of which we could communicate better…” I sighed. “Being the difficult child, I just don’t feel like they love me as much as Emma.”
Amber didn’t say anything just yet. Rather she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me with superhuman strength.
“I know how you feel…” She muttered.
“Thanks… Why don’t we—” I didn’t finish my thoughts as a repeated noise came to my ears, like the frenetic pounding of drums.
“Do you hear that?”
She looked at me strangely.
“I don’t hear anything except crickets.” She timidly said. “Are you…”
I knew what she meant, after all she knew of my schizophrenia, but this wasn’t an hallucination. I’d been dealing with them since I was young, I knew the difference.
“No, this is different.”
I examined my surrounding and I could feel it growing stronger when I looked at a specific spot…
“It’s coming from there.” I said pointing toward it before starting to walk again.
“Annabelle, I’m not sure you should be following it…”
“I have to.”
With that, she hesitantly followed me as I followed the drumming in my head deeper into the academy and into a thicket of wood alongside the perimeter walls, hoping it’d find the source. We came to a tiny clearing and there it was; A snake perched on top of a rock with black and yellow scales. The snake was balled up except for its head which was raised and stared at me intently. I could feel it in my bones, feel it calling to me. I didn’t know why, but I just knew that the drumming had come from it…
I took a step forward but had to stop as Amber grabbed my arm.
“Annabelle. Please, wait a second. What’s going on? This is seriously weird and creepy.”
“Let me go…” I muttered.
“No I’m not—”
I jerked my hand away and the words of a spell spontaneously came to my mind. I didn’t even think before reciting it. A bright shimmering barrier formed between the two of us. She pounded on it but it did nothing.
“I’m sorry… I have to.”
I took a few steps forward and with the tip of my fingers touched the snake. The contact sent a jolt of power coursing through my body. And just like that, I was somewhere else…
I floated through space, or maybe it wasn’t space… I didn’t know the words to define what it truly was. All I knew was that around me there was an endless swirling, pulsating vortex where innumerable presences dwelled just beyond my perception. That world, drew me in, calling me to its center, my form following its siren song.
And there was another presence, a figure clad in white basked in a radiant glow. It sit on a throne that laid on a mountaintop. It called my name and I came forward. It extended a hand and my body moved to take it. The contact made, Thousands of images seared themselves into my brain within the span between seconds, so quickly I couldn’t make sense of them individually, but I knew the meaning of them;
And then I fell back to earth, back to my body. When the experience was over, I stood there, still shaken by what I’d felt. It wasn’t the type of thing that could be explained with words, at least not without failing to catch the awe and majesty of it…
The barrier I’d cast must have fallen as Amber had rushed to my side and had wrapped her arms around my body, holding onto it tightly.
“Annabelle?” Amber said, but I didn’t have the clarity of mind to answer. “Annabelle, you’re scaring me… What’s going on?”
I tried to form the words in my mind but couldn’t…
“I understand now…” Was all I answered after a moment.
“Why this is happening.” I turned around and faced her. “I’ve been chosen. By god itself.”
“Annab—” She began.
“I know how it sound, please trust me.”
“I…” She bit her lip. “Okay… I trust you…” She took my hand and squeezed it. “I have no goddamn idea what’s going on, but whatever it is, I’m at your side.”
“Thank you. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” I wrapped my arms around her and held her for a moment.
“I so fucking need a smoke right now…” She sighed once we broke apart.
“We better head back. But before that…” I turned back to the snake which was still waiting there. I moved my hand closer and it climbed onto it before coiling itself around my arm.
“What are you doing?”
“It was sent for me, I can’t just leave it there.”
“We’re going to have a hell of a lot to explain.”
“We have an antlered bunny in our dorm, I don’t think a snake is the worst of their worries.”
“Correction: I need two smokes.”
“Pff. As if I’m going to be kissing an ashtray.” I mocked her before starting to walk back toward the dorm.
“That is so not fair!” She answered, jogging to catch up the meter or two of advance I’d taken.
“If you have to put up with me, I guess I can put up with some smoking.” I answered after pondering it for a moment. “But you are going to need all of the breath mints in the world.”
“That sounds like a fair deal.” She said with a smile.
Her hand found mine and together we walked the rest of the way.