Akarnae, p.3
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       Akarnae, p.3

         Part #1 of The Medoran Chronicles series by Lynette Noni
 

  “I just wanted you to understand that while it’s pretty cool, it’s not a dangerous gift because I can only do so much before you realise you’re being manipulated. So, no freaking out about me becoming some kind of tyrannical ruler bent on world domination, okay?”

  “That particular scenario hadn’t actually crossed my mind,” she told him dryly.

  “I kind of like the sound of it, though,” Jordan mused.

  “Fortunately, it’s me with the gift, then,” Bear said with a grin.

  Alex found herself enjoying their easy banter, but her mind was also distracted by the events of the last half hour. It was only just beginning to sink in that she was really, illogically, in another world.

  “You look like you’re going to pass out, Alex,” Jordan said, gently grasping her elbow to offer support for her swaying body.

  “You try looking okay when you’ve just had your entire world turned on its axis—literally,” Alex said, rubbing at her temples. “What am I supposed to do now? How do I get home?”

  “Don’t worry about that,” Jordan said. “Marselle will get you home, no problem.”

  “Who’s Marselle?” Alex asked.

  “He’s our headmaster,” Bear answered. “If anyone can get you back to Freya, it’s Professor Marselle. He can do anything.”

  “Sounds like a regular Einstein,” Alex muttered, too low for either of them to hear. Louder, she said, “All right, let’s go see this headmaster of yours.”

  Three

  Alex wasn’t sure where to look as Jordan and Bear led her out of the forest, around the edge of the lake and up through the grassy fields. When she turned to glance back over her shoulder, she had to stop walking to truly appreciate the postcard-perfect sight behind her. The lake and the forest were beautiful enough on their own, but they were overshadowed by a massive snow-capped mountain not too far off in the distance. It was a spectacular view, made even more so by the colours from the setting sun. Alex had a hard time tearing her eyes from the landscape, at least until the serenity was broken by a loud voice.

  “SPARKER!”

  Alex spun back around at the noise. What she saw caused her to swallow nervously and back up a step.

  The man was possibly the most intimidating person she’d ever seen, and he was walking their way. Tall and burly, he had short-cropped hair which added to his military appearance. But it was his clothes that really caught her attention, since he was wearing some kind of leather armour and… was that a sword strapped to his belt?

  Alex turned her attention towards the man’s face and found that, while his clothing and bulky physique certainly emphasised his formidable presence, it was his expression that truly made her fear for her life. He looked beyond furious, with icy blue eyes glaring out from under narrowed eyebrows. Even his lips were curled in anger.

  When the glowering man was just a few steps away, Jordan smiled and said, “What’s up, Karter?”

  Alex wondered if Jordan had a death wish, since his words seemed to have the same effect on the man as poking a rattlesnake with a fork.

  “You were supposed to report to detention with me after breakfast this morning,” the man—Karter—said. “Since it evidently slipped your mind, you’ll make up for your lapse in judgement next weekend—all weekend—with Finn.”

  Something about the last two words caused Jordan to pale. Karter seemed pleased with the reaction.

  “That’ll teach you to waste my time,” he finished.

  “Aw, come on, Karter,” Jordan pleaded. “The only reason I had detention was because I skipped Marselle’s speech. It’s not like I haven’t heard it all before.”

  “Attendance was mandatory, Sparker.” Karter frowned and shook his head. “Your arrogance will be your undoing if you don’t watch yourself.”

  Jordan seemed to wilt by Alex’s side. Despite all his bravado, she sensed that he truly respected the man in front of them.

  “Yeah, I know.” Jordan looked down as he spoke. “Sorry, Karter. I won’t do it again.”

  “Of course you will,” Karter huffed. “Just don’t get caught next time. Understood?”

  When Jordan glanced back up again, he appeared to be fighting a grin. “No problem, sir.”

  Karter nodded brusquely. “Good.”

  Just as Karter began to turn away, he seemed to notice Alex and Bear for the first time.

  “Who are you?” he demanded, looking directly at Alex.

  “Uh…”

  He turned his glare from her to Bear then back to Jordan. “You know you have to register visitors. What’s the meaning of this?”

  “Ease up, Karter,” Bear said. “She’s no ordinary visitor.”

  “She’s new here,” Jordan added. Then he lowered his voice, making his next statement sound overly dramatic. “And she’s from Freya.”

  Karter’s eyes widened a fraction before they narrowed again. “Don’t be ridiculous, Sparker.”

  “I’m right here, you know,” Alex interrupted, fed up with them all talking about her as if she was invisible. “I can speak for myself.”

  “What’s your name then, girl?” Karter asked and she instantly regretted opening her mouth.

  “Alexandra Jennings,” she said, before adding on a quick, “sir.”

  “Follow me, Jennings,” he ordered. “We’ll find out where you’re really from and what you’re doing here.”

  He didn’t wait for her to acknowledge his order, he just turned around and marched back towards the buildings.

  Jordan smiled encouragingly at her. “Shall we?”

  “I’d rather not,” Alex mumbled.

  Jordan and Bear chuckled at her words and she smiled back at them before they hurried to catch up to the strange, leather-clad man.

  Alex remained silent as the three of them followed Karter across the academy grounds. She saw students walking around, playing games, talking and laughing with each other and she knew that this was what a school was meant to be like. There were no stuffy uniforms or miserable expressions here.

  Karter led them straight towards the large tower-like building and motioned for them to enter. As they walked through the medieval archway, Alex noticed a bronze plaque attached to the stone wall with the inscription, ‘Akarnae Academy’. In smaller letters below were the words: ‘Kailas en freydell. Vayla en karsis. Leali en nexar’.

  “Strength in weakness. Victory in surrender. Life in death,” Bear translated before she could ask. “It’s kind of like our school motto.”

  “I see.” She didn’t. Exactly what kind of school was this?

  The archway led to an empty room. On one side was a winding stone staircase leading up, and on the other side a similar staircase led down, underground. Karter motioned for them to follow him over to the upwards staircase, and they hastily began their ascent.

  Step after step they climbed until they finally left the staircase at the eighth floor and moved into a small waiting room. Karter instructed the three of them to stay there while he walked across the room and knocked on a closed door.

  The moment he disappeared into the room beyond, Alex puffed out, “Fill me in—what’s going on here? Where are we? And seriously, haven’t you guys ever heard of an elevator?”

  “It was only eight floors,” Jordan said, and she turned incredulous eyes to him.

  “There’s no such thing as ‘only’ when it comes to eight floors, Jordan. That’s practically a small mountain.”

  He shook his head, amused, and answered her other questions. “This is Jarvis’s office, but I’m not sure why we’re here. I thought Karter would take us to see Marselle.”

  Before he could say more, the door opened and a middle-aged man with neatly combed hair and rectangular glasses walked out. His expression was warm and his smile genuine when he said, “We’ve been expecting you, Alex.”

  She looked at him uncertainly, perplexed by his comment and his familiar use of her name.

  “I’m Administrator Jarvis,” he continued.
Please, follow me and we’ll sort out your paperwork.” He beckoned her into his office, but she remained where she was, unsettled by his words.

  “I’m sorry, my paperwork?”

  “For your admission,” he clarified.

  “For my… admission?”

  “I was told you’d have your enrolment papers with you,” Jarvis said, looking at her hand pointedly.

  Alex tightened her fingers around the crumpled papers that were still miraculously clenched in her grip despite everything that had happened between the doorway and the forest. “I think there’s been some kind of mistake, Administrator Jarvis. I’m meant to be enrolling at the International Exchange Academy.”

  Jarvis smiled at her kindly. “And yet, here you are at Akarnae. Headmaster Marselle mentioned you might be arriving today, and he said you’d likely be confused. He had so hoped to meet you before he left, but unfortunately you just missed him.” Jarvis motioned for her to enter his office once again. “Please, come in and take a seat.”

  Realising she would have to enter the room to get some answers, Alex began to follow him, pausing after a few steps to look back at Jordan and Bear.

  Seeing her hesitation, Jarvis said, “Your companions are more than welcome to join us, if you’d like?”

  Alex nodded and Jordan and Bear stepped up beside her. Together they entered the room and sat in front of a large mahogany desk. Jarvis took a seat opposite them, while Karter glowered at them all and left without another word.

  “Perhaps we should start by getting your questions out of the way,” Jarvis offered, watching Alex fidget nervously. “You seem a tad… overwhelmed.”

  “Overwhelmed doesn’t quite cover it,” Alex said. “I’ve just been told that I’m from a different world. That’s not exactly normal, you know.”

  Jordan chuckled quietly beside her. At least someone was amused.

  “Oh, good,” Jarvis said, pleased. “That saves us a lengthy explanation.”

  “I think I’ve had all the explanations I can handle,” Alex said, feeling suddenly tired. “I’m ready to go home now, if that’s okay with you?”

  On the off chance that her parents were able to sneak a phone call in between their connecting flights, she really didn’t want to risk them discovering her missing once they landed. She needed to get back, pronto, even if it meant she’d have to put up with the zombie-like students at the International Exchange Academy. They might have been mean, but at least they weren’t from another world.

  Jarvis shifted uncomfortably at her question. “Unfortunately, that’s not going to be as simple as it sounds.”

  Alex stilled. “What do you mean? I have to get home. Right now, before someone realises I’m gone.”

  There was no way he could have misread the urgency in her voice. And yet, if anything, his expression turned pitying.

  “I’m afraid that’s impossible at the moment,” Jarvis told her. “Headmaster Marselle is the only person who can help you return to your world.”

  Alex felt her heart rate increasing. “Well, where is he, then?”

  “I don’t expect to see the headmaster for a number of months,” Jarvis said. “He’s on a scouting tour—something he does every five years.”

  Months? Did he say months?

  “But—but—” Alex didn’t even know what to say. “What am I supposed to do until then?”

  “You’ll remain here and attend classes as one of our students,” Jarvis said, as if it was obvious.

  Alex could feel a panic attack coming on. “I can’t stay here! I have a life to get back to—a world to get back to! My parents… my new school…” Admittedly, she wouldn’t be completely devastated to miss out on the International Exchange Academy experience, but the rest was a definite cause for concern. “I can’t just become a student here and go to classes like it’s normal. Not for months. Not even for a day!”

  At his apologetic look, she quickly grasped for another argument.

  “Akarnae is a school for the gifted, right? Well, I don’t have a gift. I’m completely ungifted. I can’t stay here—I don’t belong here!” she said. “Can’t you get a message to this Marselle guy and ask him to come back sooner?” Like, tomorrow, she added to herself.

  “I’m sorry, Alex,” Jarvis said, sounding like he truly meant it. “If it’s any consolation, the headmaster was adamant that you do have a gift, and that it will present itself in time. He assured me that you would find your place here at Akarnae.”

  “How kind of him,” Alex muttered. She wasn’t overly keen about some random guy making decisions on her behalf, but she also couldn’t suppress a tendril of curiosity. She had a gift? What did that mean? Would she be able to turn invisible, like Jordan? Maybe she’d be able to fly or move things with her mind; that’d be pretty awesome.

  Realising that there were some possible advantages to staying at Akarnae—not the least of which was that she could avoid the awful International Exchange Academy—Alex wondered if perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to hang around for a little while. And it wasn’t as if she had any better ideas.

  “All right, I guess I can wait here until he returns,” she hesitantly agreed, hoping that her parents stuck to their original plan and wouldn’t try to call her one final time. Judging by the alcohol-Valium cocktail her mother had ingested, Alex figured she was probably safe. Her dad would have his hands full keeping her mum conscious and out of trouble, so it was unlikely that either of them would even think about contacting her when they landed. Once again, Alex found herself feeling grateful for their inability to communicate over the next few months. If she had any luck at all, she’d be back to her world without them ever realising she’d been missing.

  “Excellent,” Jarvis said, genuinely happy with her decision.

  “You’re going to love it here,” Jordan promised, his eyes sparkling. “Just wait, you’ll see.”

  Bear nodded his agreement, and their enthusiasm was so contagious that Alex couldn’t resist offering a tentative smile in return. At least she already had two friends in this strange place—that was more than she’d ever had in her world.

  “Now we’ve settled that, may I please have your enrolment papers?” Jarvis asked.

  “They’re not for here, you know,” Alex pointed out as she handed them over.

  “I just need some basic information to create your personal file,” he said, skimming the forms before placing the paperwork into the top drawer of his desk. He closed the drawer and a moment later opened it again, pulling out an entire folder. Alex’s eyes widened when she read the label: Alexandra Rose Jennings.

  Jarvis withdrew a document out of her newly created file and handed it to Alex.

  “How did—?” She shook her head, realising that it was probably best if she didn’t ask about the apparently magical file. She was in another world—anything was possible.

  “Just sign on the line and you’ll be officially enrolled,” Jarvis said.

  She skimmed the paper quickly, taking in the rules and regulations of enrolment. Everything seemed pretty normal until she read four words at the bottom of the page: ‘Alexandra Jennings: Potential Untested’.

  What did that mean?

  “Wonderful,” Jarvis said after she’d signed her name and handed the document back. “Now all that’s left is to see which classes you’ll be attending. I think the best way to go about this is to test you and explain the results afterwards.”

  “Test me?” Alex repeated. “Test me for what?”

  “For your potential, of course.”

  “And that means…?”

  “Before I explain, I need to tell you a little more about the academy,” Jarvis said. “We have five years of official education, with two additional years for students who are chosen to continue on as apprentices in specific subjects. Due to the demanding nature of the classes, the youngest enrolments we have are fourteen years of age, meaning that students graduate at eighteen—or twenty for the apprentices.”

 
“Ooo-kay,” Alex said, drawing the word out. None of this was really going to affect her since she’d be leaving as soon as the headmaster returned. “That still doesn’t explain what you mean by potential.”

  “I’m getting there,” Jarvis promised. “Our classes are split into two categories: age-based and potential-based. There are five subjects for each. Core Skills, Medical Science, Species Distinction, History, and Studies of Society and Culture are all age-based classes; while Combat, Archery, PE, Chemistry, and Equestrian Skills are all potential-based.”

  Combat? Species Distinction? Alex wondered if she’d heard right.

  “You had your sixteenth birthday recently, correct?” Jarvis asked, glancing quickly at her file.

  “Yeah, in July,” she answered, not sure if that meant anything to him. Was the calendar year the same on Medora as on Earth—err, Freya?

  “That works out well then,” Jarvis commented. “Despite your lack of previous experience in the age-based subjects, you’ll still have to join with the third year class. Jordan and Bear are also in that class, so I’m sure they’ll help bring you up to speed.”

  “Go team!” Jordan said, holding his hand up for a high-five.

  Alex chuckled at his boyish expression before asking Jarvis, “How do you test for the potential subjects?”

  Jarvis handed her a lollipop and she looked at it dubiously.

  “Go on,” he urged. “This is the potential test.”

  “That makes absolutely no sense,” she said, but she took the candy and unwrapped it, sticking it in her mouth. She swivelled her tongue around the foreign object, surprised at the different flavours it produced. Apple, cherry, grape, pineapple, orange. Every swirl brought a different fruity flavour to her mouth.

  “Now,” Jarvis started again, “the potential-based classes are divided into five different levels of difficulty—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. The level you train at is based on your potential for that particular class. The potential-based subjects also tend to be the most physically demanding.”

  “Like Combat?” Alex asked around the lollipop. “Is that even legal?”

 
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LYNETTE NONI SERIES:

  • The Medoran Chronicles
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