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The Order of Zarai 2

Fragment 1

Amy sighed with relief for the end of another day. Today had been particularly exhausting. Ever since her near death encounter with Vincent in the realm of the Dark, her Leader Anthony had been keeping a close eye on her. The Council expected her to run and hide again, and Anthony was determined to prove them wrong. Amy didn’t mind that. The Council lacked faith in her, and it was nice to have at least one defender now that Donovan was missing. The problem was Anthony’s method. He believed the best way to keep her in line was constant training and supervision. If he made her main purpose for life the eternal fight against the Dark, she would be more hesitant to abandon her duties.

She had tried many times to explain to him that she didn’t need training to make her loyal to the Order of Zarai. She just needed time. She had severely misjudged the situation with Darian. If she had truly believed he had betrayed her she never would have gone to rescue him. She had believed he had run from her because she didn’t care for him the same way he cared for her. Given time, she might have, but he had run away too soon for that. And after the harsh words he had spoken to her in the Dark a few weeks ago, she had closed her heart to him and everyone else. She would not be betrayed that way again. Everyone else had misinterpreted her supposed lack of interest in life and a sign she was going to run away again. The only person who may have understood her was Donovan, and he was nowhere to be found.

And so Amy was left to deal with her life the best way she knew how at this point. She went to class, attended Anthony’s training session, and spent as much time alone as possible. At night she waited until she was exhausted before she went to bed. This normally meant she only slept for a few hours that definitely did not leave enough time to dream. Tonight however, she was having a difficult time falling asleep. She spent most of the night tossing and turning. She finally fell asleep a few hours before dawn.

A young woman sits on a rock facing a lake in a quiet tranquil forest. The breeze plays with her long red hair as she stares at the lake. The sound of a twig snapping startles her to her feet. She prepares to defend herself until she sees the source of the noise. A man steps out from the trees. He has medium length black hair and golden eyes. The girl smiles when she sees him and rushes joyously over to him. He chides her for her behavior and she laughs as she throws her arms around his neck. He briefly returns the embrace before untangling himself and leads her back over to the rock. He sits down beside her and leans down to kiss her gently. He wraps his arms around her to pull her closer to him, and kisses her once more…

Amy struggles to pull herself out of the dream. Her breathing is quick as her eyes fly open to stare at the ceiling. A moment passes before she is able to organize her thoughts and remember where she is. “Only a dream,” she whispers. She sits up in bed and swings her legs around to touch the floor. It takes a few deep breaths to calm the fast beating of her heart. “Just a dream.” Her voice is stronger this time. But it does not calm the intense feeling of unease.

It was too late to try and get more sleep even if she was capable of calming herself that much so Amy got out of bed to face the day. She brushed her teeth and got dressed in a daze. She was outside locking the door to her empty house before she realized she had subconsciously made the decision to go to the college. She didn’t have any classes today, but she needed to go somewhere to distract her mind from wandering dark paths. A quiet empty house was definitely not the place. She walked quickly past her car. In her current daze she was less of a danger on feet than behind the wheel of any machine. It was only a few miles to the school. The crisp autumn air might be just the thing she needed.

Amy tried counting her steps. She memorized the colors of the cars that passed her, reciting the list every time a new color was added. Nothing worked. The memory of the dream tugged at her too strong. There was no way she would ever be that happy. No way she would ever allow someone into her heart. The girl in the dream had definitely been her, but it had all been a lie. Dreams represented the wants and desires of the dreamer. “And I don’t want that.” She stopped walking. Are you sure? A voice deep inside her whispered. She shook her head and walked faster. Positive she reaffirmed.

But now that she had allowed herself to think about the dream there was no stopping her mind examining it. The man was strangely familiar. Where have I seen him before? As she imagined him in her mind, the only thing that really stood out was his eyes. Gold was an unusual color. Once she started focusing on the color, it was easy to guess who he was. Amy had only ever met one person with golden eyes. It had only been a few weeks ago. Her stay in the Dark had been short and besides the people at the castle she had only come across one other person. He had tried to talk her out of going to the castle. The encounter had been so brief she had almost forgotten about it. So why is he showing up in my dreams?

The sound of other people’s voices made Amy pay attention to her surroundings for the first time since waking. She had arrived at the college. Groups of students wandered the grounds. Some were heading off to class while others stood in groups and talked. Amy scanned the grounds quickly to see if any of the members of her group were among the students. She was relieved when she didn’t see any of them. She wasn’t quite ready to be around them yet. The walk hadn’t cleared her mind and she knew she wouldn’t be able to hide that she was troubled this morning. She didn’t want to explain why.

Amy made her way to the front entrance of the school, and wandered the hallways until she was in Anthony’s office. The secretary looked up as she walked in, but didn’t ask to know why she was here or whom she was here to see. Amy was one of Anthony’s “troubled” students. She was practically a fixture she was in the office so much. She slumped down on a chair in Anthony’s office with a sigh.

Anthony didn’t even look up from the paperwork he was filling out. “Good morning Amy.”

Training, that’s what I need to clear my mind. Amy leaned forward eagerly. “So what’s on the schedule today? Sword fighting? Shielding? A history of the order?”

Anthony raised an eyebrow and glanced up from the forms on his desk. “You don’t have any classes today.”

Amy didn’t like the way he emphasized that. “Yeah, I don’t have any classes at the college today. But I’m always up for some training. Have to be ready to defeat the Dark and all.” She finally had his full attention. She smiled enthusiastically hoping she wasn’t laying it on too thick. Asking for extra training was very out of character for her.

“No, I think you deserve a break. I have been working you too hard lately. In fact, take tomorrow off as well.”

That was not the answer Amy wanted to hear. A wave a panic threatened to overwhelm her. Why was a silly dream bothering her this much? “Can I go up into the tower to study then?”

“Yes, that should be okay. Just be discreet.”

Amy didn’t reply, she just got up and hurried out of the office.

Anthony watched her go feeling somewhat worried. He was used to her somewhat unpredictable moods, but today felt different. There had been an edge of desperation to her voice he had never noticed before. He almost decided to go after her, but a student walked into his office for some real guidance.

***

Amy walked through the halls avoiding all the other students. Her destination was in a mostly abandoned section of the school. Students were supposed to stay away from here. Something about it being unsafe. In reality, Anthony used it as a training ground for his group and a meeting place. Amy looked around her to make sure no one was watching and slipped into the dark hallway. About halfway down was a door. She opened it and ascended the stairs. When she reached the top she passed her hand over the sensor that would allow her to enter the room. It glowed and the invisible barrier at the top of the stairs disappeared.

Amy dropped her bag on the meeting table before walking over to the bookshelves in the corner. Anthony kept a small selection of books relating to the Order and magic in the tower room for his group to study.