Akarnae, p.19
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       Akarnae, p.19

         Part #1 of The Medoran Chronicles series by Lynette Noni
 

  Just the idea of it made Alex feel even more tired, so she bid them goodnight and stumbled up to her room.

  She was asleep before her head even hit the pillow.

  Twenty-Two

  “Excuse me, Alex, may I have a word before you leave?”

  Alex quickly swallowed the last of her breakfast and looked up to find Administrator Jarvis standing at the head of her table.

  “Sure,” she said, leaving her friends and following him outside and around the corner for some privacy.

  “Firstly,” he began, “I’d like to apologise for not contacting you before now. It’s been some time since we last discussed your transition into academy life and I should have paid more attention to you, especially considering your unique circumstances.”

  “Don’t worry about it,” she said, waving aside his words. “I’m sure you’ve had a lot to deal with, what with the headmaster still gone and everything else.” She didn’t mention the Lockdown, but she was sure it was still causing Jarvis some concern, if the bags under his eyes and his pale complexion were any indication. “And besides,” she continued, “you know what they say about the whole sink-or-swim concept. Sometimes it’s good to be thrown straight into the deep end.”

  “From what your instructors have said, you’ve become quite adept at treading water,” he said with a smile.

  Alex snorted in disbelief. “They’re lying.”

  He chuckled before turning serious again. “There’s something else I’d like to talk to you about.”

  She nodded, prompting him to continue.

  “I understand that you’re staying with the Ronnigans for the holiday, is that right?”

  “Yeah. Jordan spends Kaldoras with them every year and Bear invited me along this time. They didn’t want me to be left here on my own.”

  “Of course, of course,” Jarvis said. “Very kind of them.”

  “Is there a problem?” she asked when he trailed off into silence.

  He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. “No, no problem. I’d just like to caution you—while I know you’re a smart girl, and I’m sure your friends and the Ronnigans will take good care of you, you must stay on your guard. It’s still vitally important that no one discovers where you’re from, especially now that you have access to the Library and its secrets.”

  “You know about that?” she asked, surprised.

  “Professor Marselle contacted me as soon as you were Chosen,” Jarvis explained.

  “He knows about that?” she asked, even more surprised.

  “He’s the headmaster—of course he knows,” Jarvis said. “His position affords him the responsibility of knowing the truth about the Library, much like yourself.”

  “And you?” Alex asked, wondering how Jarvis fit into the picture.

  “Much like your friends—who I presume you’ve told—I’m not Chosen, nor do I have the access granted to a headmaster. All I know is that there are some who are able to discover the Library’s mysteries, and that you are one of them. Again, it is vitally important that you keep this secret.”

  “I know,” Alex said. “I’ve already been given the lecture.” When he looked at her sternly over his glasses she tried to take back her flippant remark. “I mean, yes, I’ll be careful.”

  “Good,” he answered, apparently satisfied. “Now, there’s one last matter I need to speak with you about. I’ve never mentioned it before, but your enrolment here lists you as a scholarship benefactor due to your… unorthodox circumstances. As such, you’re entitled to certain benefits.”

  Jarvis reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather pouch, handing it to her. It was heavier than expected, and something inside jingled with the movement.

  “Akarnae’s scholarship students receive a monetary support supplement in addition to having their educational fees waived,” Jarvis said. “I’ve been keeping track of your allowance since there was no point in giving it to you before now, but it’ll likely come in handy for you over the next couple of weeks. Especially with Kaldoras just around the corner.”

  Alex’s eyes widened. He was giving her money? She’d never actually thought about how she would support herself outside of the academy. She hadn’t even considered how she would afford to buy Kaldoras gifts for her friends. But now she didn’t have to worry about any of that.

  “The pouch is self-updating and accessible only by your DNA fingerprint,” Jarvis said. “Your allowance is deposited weekly and anything you don’t use will remain in a networked savings account for when you have need of it. Just be sure not to let anyone else put their hand in the pouch, as they’ll find themselves without their fingers.”

  Medoran technology was amazing. Alex felt like she was holding her own little bank—a very secure little bank. “How much is in here?” she asked, weighing the bag between her hands.

  “Enough to last you for a while, I dare say,” he responded cryptically. “You’ll find that we’re rather generous when it comes to supporting our students.”

  He indicated for her to put the pouch away and when she tucked it into her pocket he asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss before we return to your friends?”

  Alex was going to deny it, but she figured it was better to finally get it off her chest even if she didn’t think there was anything to worry about anymore. “Actually, there is,” she said. “You know a few weeks ago when the academy security triggered the Lockdown?”

  Jarvis froze and Alex worried if perhaps she shouldn’t have brought the subject up. But there was no going back now.

  “Well, after it was all clear and we were allowed out again, I ran into a man on my way to your meeting. It was actually the second time I’d seen him, the first being the day I arrived in Medora.”

  “A man?” Jarvis asked, his posture as tense as a brick wall. “What man?”

  “He said his name was Aven.”

  Jarvis showed no outward reaction, but his next words sounded strained. “Did he say anything else?”

  “He was kind of weird both times,” she said, mentally replaying their conversations. “He mentioned that he used to be a student here, and I’m pretty sure he came to see Professor Marselle. I told him the headmaster was away but you were here if he wanted to speak with someone else.”

  Jarvis seemed to be concentrating on her intently, and Alex wasn’t sure whether that was a good or bad sign.

  “He, uh, said he didn’t want to bother you and that he’d just come back another day,” she told him.

  “Is that all he said?”

  “Yes,” Alex answered, before remembering something else. “Oh, wait, both times he went on about some kind of power he expected me to have. I thought he was referring to my gift—which I still don’t have, by the way—but he seemed to be talking about something else entirely.”

  Jarvis was so still that Alex wondered if he was even breathing.

  “And how did you reply?”

  “I didn’t,” she answered. “The first time I was completely disoriented and just thought he was a complete wacko, and the second time D.C. interrupted us and he took off before I could say anything.”

  Jarvis sent her a sharp look. “Your roommate saw him too?”

  “No.” Alex shook her head. “At least, she said she didn’t.”

  He seemed to think about that before he relaxed slightly and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner, Alex?”

  “I just didn’t want to cause a fuss over nothing. I’d completely forgotten about our first encounter out in the forest since I was so distracted with settling in here, and as for the second meeting… well, I overheard Fletcher telling someone that alumni were always welcome on academy grounds and could get through whatever security wards the headmaster had set up, so I just presumed Aven was telling the truth and wasn’t any kind of threat.”

  “Then why bring this to me now?” Jarvis asked.

  “Because I did some research and I wasn’t satisfied with the results.
At his questioning look, she explained, “Aven didn’t look much older than thirty and I was curious about him because he was…”

  She paused, trying to find a more appropriate description than ‘hot’.

  “There was just something about him,” she finally said. “Something that captured my attention.” She shuffled her feet and hurried on to say, “I wanted to make sure his story checked out, so I went to the Archives and looked up the academy records from the past fifteen years. It took some time, but he didn’t come up in any of the class lists. Since I didn’t have any evidence or proof that he even existed—let alone that he was here—I let it go, not seeing a point in bothering anyone.”

  Jarvis appeared to be lost in thought and Alex nervously moved from foot to foot while she waited for him to speak.

  “Thank you for telling me about this, Alex,” he eventually said. “I’m acquainted with the man you speak of and I’ll be sure to pass the message on to Professor Marselle that Aven was here to meet with him.”

  Alex wilted with relief. She’d worried for a moment that she’d made a huge mistake by not going to Jarvis straight away with her report. Fortunately, that didn’t appear to be the case.

  “If you ever have any concerns regarding strangers on campus again, please don’t hesitate to bring them to my or another professor’s attention. Your safety is paramount,” Jarvis said.

  Alex thought his emphasis on ‘your safety’ seemed a little strange, but she presumed he’d meant it to encompass all the students—not just her—despite how it had sounded.

  “Yes, sir,” she agreed.

  “Good,” he said, nodding. “Now, let’s head back before your friends come searching for you.”

  They retraced their steps until they stopped at the entrance to the food court.

  “I hope you enjoy Kaldoras, Alex,” Jarvis said. “And remember to stay on your guard.”

  Alex promised to do so and headed inside, thinking all the while about how strange their conversation had been.

  Twenty-Three

  “Are you ready for this?” Bear asked ten minutes later as he led the way out onto the grounds.

  Alex fidgeted with her backpack and said, “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

  “You’ll be fine,” he encouraged. “My family can’t wait to meet you.”

  “No pressure then, huh?”

  He laughed. “It’s not like you’re my girlfriend. You don’t actually have to impress them, you know.”

  “You can be my girlfriend, if you want,” Jordan said, winking at her.

  She made a face at him. “In your dreams.”

  “Break it up, you two, or Mum’ll give you both ‘the talk’,” Bear said. Then he cocked his head thoughtfully and added, “Actually, never mind. That’d be hilarious to watch.”

  “As hilarious as the time she gave us ‘the talk’?” Jordan asked.

  Alex burst out laughing. “What?”

  “Total misunderstanding,” Bear murmured, looking uncomfortable. “Jordan was giving me some pointers about how to talk to the girl I had a crush on a few years back. Mum overheard part of the conversation and jumped to the wrong conclusion.”

  “I couldn’t look her in the eyes for a week,” Jordan said with a chuckle. “But it sure gave Bear the incentive he needed to go get his girl.”

  Alex had to hold her stomach she was laughing so hard.

  “No wonder you want me to act like your girlfriend,” she said, elbowing Jordan. She then turned her attention back to Bear and told him, “I’m suddenly feeling much more confident. Let’s get out of here.”

  Bear grinned in response and pulled a Bubbler vial out of his pocket, throwing it at the ground. As soon as the iridescent portal was large enough, he picked up his backpack and stepped through it.

  Alex waited for him to get clear before she approached the colourful wobbling substance. She’d seen a few Bubbledoors open up in her time at Akarnae, but she’d never used one herself. Nor had she ever been so close to one. It truly was beautiful, with the sunshine glinting off the rainbow-coloured, bubble-like substance.

  “Any day now,” Jordan drawled, pulling her from her observations.

  “Patience is a virtue, you know,” Alex said.

  “I have too many virtues already. I don’t think my personality could handle any more.”

  Alex shook her head at his arrogance and stepped forward into the Bubbledoor. She was instantly surrounded by the colourful light as her weightless body travelled across a vast distance at an impossible speed. She almost fell flat on her face when the movement stopped, and she was still trying to get her feet under her when Jordan walked straight out behind her like a pro. No jelly-legs for him, apparently.

  “That was so cool!” she said, finally managing to steady herself enough to look around and note the woodland surrounding them. “I wish we had these back home.”

  “They’re not hard to make,” Bear told her. “All you need is the proper chemical equation and the right ingredients.”

  Alex snorted. “So says the Chemistry genius. Most of the stuff we learn about in Fitzy’s class isn’t even possible in Freya. Before coming here I’d never even heard of—”

  “You know the great thing about holidays?” Jordan interrupted loudly. “The fact that we don’t have to talk about anything academy-related. Like Chemistry.”

  Both Alex and Bear understood the not so subtle hint and dropped their conversation without argument.

  “How far away is your house?” Alex asked Bear.

  “Turn around,” he said, grinning.

  Alex did so and she couldn’t help but smile at her first glimpse of Bear’s home. The Bubbledoor had delivered them onto a little cobbled path that wound from the edge of a forest straight up to a cottage. Well, ‘cottage’ probably wasn’t the best description, since it was quite a large house. But it was just so homey-looking, with wildflowers in the garden and a half-sized wooden picket fence. Vines grew along the walls of the house, making it look like something straight out of a fairytale. All in all, it was completely enchanting.

  “Wow, Bear, this place is amazing,” Alex said.

  He shrugged, but she could see his pleased expression out of the corner of her eye. “It’s home.”

  “Let’s get inside,” Jordan said. “I’m starving.”

  “You just ate breakfast!” Alex was amazed yet again at the never-ending pit that was Jordan’s stomach.

  “That doesn’t mean I’m not hungry again,” he said, nudging them forward.

  Bear led the way up the winding path and pushed open a wooden gate that squeaked a little on its hinges. As they approached the house, Alex saw a curtain flutter on the other side of one of the windows. When they were just steps away from reaching the front door, it was thrown open and a blurry missile launched itself at Bear.

  “BARNY!” the missile squealed.

  Bear laughed and picked up the little girl who had attached herself to him. He threw her up in the air before catching her again and swinging her around in his arms while she giggled madly. When they were both so dizzy that they had to stop, he set her back on her feet and she stumbled over to give Jordan a hug.

  “Jordie!” she greeted, just as enthusiastically.

  “Hey, kiddo!” Jordan said as he picked the little girl up and squeezed her tightly. She started laughing when he began to tickle her mercilessly.

  “Stop! Stop!” she gasped.

  “Never!” he cried, cackling maliciously.

  “I’ll tell Mummy”—she tried to say between laughs—“that it was you”—she hiccupped—“who broke her favourite vase last year!”

  Jordan stopped immediately and lowered her to the ground, raising his hands in surrender. “How do you know about that?”

  “I know everything,” she said, with the confidence only one so young could exhibit. She then turned and squealed again, throwing herself at a surprised Alex. “We’re going to have so much fun together!” she sing-songed as she hung f
rom Alex’s waist.

  Not sure what to do, Alex hesitantly put her arms around the smaller girl. “I—um—can’t wait?” she said, looking to Bear for some kind of explanation.

  “Evie, let go of Alex for a second,” Bear said. “Do you remember how to introduce yourself properly?”

  The little girl released Alex from her surprisingly strong grip and stood up as tall as she could—which meant that she reached Alex’s hip.

  “Hello,” the girl said in her most proper voice. “My name is Evelyn Louise Ronnigan. I’m five years old and I live here with my family. It’s very nice to meet you.”

  Alex tried not to laugh when the child who had been wrapped around her a moment ago held out a hand to shake. Instead, Alex knelt down so they were at eye level and she formally took Evelyn’s hand in her own.

  “Hello, Evelyn,” Alex said seriously, shaking the offered hand gently. “I’m Alexandra. But you can call me Alex.”

  Evelyn beamed and bounced excitedly on her feet, causing her brown ringlets to swing wildly around her head. “You have to call me Evie! Evelyn is only for when I’m in trouble.”

  “Evie it is,” Alex agreed, and the little girl smiled even wider. She then grabbed Alex’s hand and pulled her into the house, leaving the boys to follow along behind them.

  “MUMMY!” Evie called out. “THEY’RE HERE!”

  A middle-aged woman with light brown hair and piercing blue eyes walked into the hallway, wiping her hands on her apron. “Evelyn, remember what we said about not yelling in the house?”

  Evie hung her head. “Sorry, Mummy.”

  “I’ll let it go this time,” Mrs. Ronnigan said, “but next time you’ll be given a time-out.”

  The little girl nodded eagerly, happy to get off with a warning. Then the older woman turned to the three newcomers.

  “Sweetheart,” she said, holding her arms out for Bear.

  Jordan was closer and he jokingly stepped into her embrace. “Hey, Dotti!” he said, hugging her fiercely while Bear tried unsuccessfully to swat him away. “I’ve missed you!”

 
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LYNETTE NONI SERIES:

  • The Medoran Chronicles
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