"When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes, they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." - Tecumseh
"Lua! Lua!" The voice of her brother echoed through the house.
She stood before her mirror, a tiny reflective thing that sat on a small wooden dresser. Light shone through the patterned oceanic weaves of her curtains, caressing the fishes of creases in the wooden walls. Her black vest hugged the white undershirt as she pulled the two sides together to close the jade buttons. Once done, she pulled the two onyx green-lined gloves onto her hands and up to her elbows. Finally, she smoothed the creases in her red and green-edged pleated skirt.
"Lua Orniter!" Her brother shouted again. Full name meant frustration. Full name meant being close to being chewed out. "It's the first day of the new school year! Don't make us be late again!"
"Just a few more minutes!" She yelled back.
She swept aside the left of her medium blonde hair, revealing her poking elf ears. On her dresser sat an ear clip patterned by a pair of emerald clover leaves layered to look like the wings of a butterfly. She took the clip to her ear where it played a role in holding back her hair. Her uniform was now set. Pristine, pressed and glancing. She was to be that. 'Best foot forward' was what her parents used to say. The first day of school was calling her.
She winced. The first day sounded an awful lot like her brother.
The only other furniture in he room was a bed. And on that bed waited a pair of sheathed swords connected by chains and leather straps. She slung one strap across her right shoulder and buckled its extension at her waist. With one final slip-on of her boots, she charged out of her room, ready for school.
Down the old creaking stairs of her home and out the door into the Twins' dawn light, the streets barely whispering its waking around her as the capitol of Aleynonlia started its day. Waiting outside their modest two stories wooden shophouse was her brother, short blond hair styled spiked and his uniform set to the same colour scheme as hers'. It was worn as a neat suit with black leather shoes shined to a mirrored perfection. He held a large round shield in his off-hand, a curved scabbard poking out the bottom edge. Her brother had gotten more of their mother, with his eyes the shining green known of wood elves while she inherited their father's human blue. But they both had the same lesson. 'Best foot forward'.
His eyes scrunched. "It's the new school year, Lua. I don't want to be late for our first day. Again."
"Quinton Orniter, will you relax?" she casually rebuffed. She looked to the sunrise barely peeking out above the eastern horizon. "We have plenty of time. Besides, there's that new kid who's joining us. I bet he's late too."
Quin huffed and adjusted his emerald cufflinks before turning away from her. He began walking north towards the castle as she chuckled and followed after her oversensitive brother.
The Kingdom of Aleynonlia was held as the jewel of the world, and its capitol, the City of Aleynonlia, was the foremost metropolis of magic. Stone streets were sided with lines pulsing a soft yellow glow – of conductive cryst wires – all leading up to lamps of crystals shining a gentle white. As the siblings walked down the waking streets, the lamp lights started fading .The crystals held within the glass orbs slowly returned to their translucency, signalling the break of dawn. The trees that separated the middle of the roadway rustled with a rolling breeze. Bright flowers of yellows, reds, and pinks, fell with the first leaves of spring. Fresh seasonal scent whiffed by.
Castle Hawkins watched over the city from its perch built into the side of Mount Riveria in the distance. The city's outer walls were built to match the rotund ramparts of the castle, separating the city into three distinct districts. The outer district was where farms and expanses of lands were left to their devices; The inner city where the siblings lived was where residents and stores were bumbled into stone and wooden blurs; And the castle grounds were made for the army, royal extensions, and their school, the Spellblade Academy.
The siblings turned to see a man on a cart filled with varying produce. Corns, kentals, beans and baskets of what-nots. The farmer's hair was ruffled and dirt brown like his stained shirt and pants.
Lua greeted, "Morning, Mister Ted."
Slowing down his cart, the man paced himself beside them. "How many times must I tell you, girl? It's just Ted. Mister makes me sound old." She laughed and her brother chuckled. Ted continued, "Heading off for school?"
Her brother replied, "Yes, sir. First day of our last year."
"Well, how fortuitous of you then. I'm on my way to deliver some goods to the castle." Ted gestured back to his cart. "Last of the autumn beans for Adam. Climb on. I'll give you two a lift."
They thanked the man for the offer and scrambled onto the side of the cart. The city roads were not overtly bumpy, though the rumbling stone texture still made for a slightly shaky ride with each of the horse's hoofs clacking the stone. On the way, they passed shophouses opening their doors for the day and roadside stands pulling back blinds for business. They stopped by the central market, a large circular square with a common fountain – decorated with stone statues of soldiers – in the middle that supplied water to the district. Ted made a quick drop off of a basket of produce to a stall and bought a large bag of seeds on sale for one-five pence. Lua tilted her head to watch the man climb back onto his seat with weary huffs before they went on their way.
The man scared her terribly, though not from fear brought forth by intimidation, but by sheer presence. Casually referring to the king as 'Adam' was something not many could do, let alone a farmer given exclusive access to the castle grounds. Yet, the man was not imposing and offered little in way of size, with the only unique aspect about his built being his toned body from years of farm work. She was unclear what role the man played within the kingdom but was sure it was nothing to scoff at. But she was not surprised by that fact. Aleynonlia had been a gathering for the odd and powerful since the end of the second war.
Ted began, "Have you two heard the news about the Overseer?"
Quin answered, "About her death and Light's overthrow?"
"Well, there's that. But that's not it. They discovered her last predictions. The last set of epitaphs she doled out before her death."
Quin huffed. "I would pity for whoever gets assigned those titles. Titles that predicts your future? Epitaphs are basically death sentences."
"How so?" she asked.
"Imagine it. People get epitaphs if they are destined to do something world changing. That kind of pressure just given to you, with or without your consent, is that not intimidating? The Jack Boot. Rolling Ones. The Walker. The kind of places and situations those people ended up in are nothing to laugh at. How many of them even live to die a natural death?"
Ted answered, "It's not fixed, one's destiny. Prophecies are vague for a reason. They focus on things that will happen rather than can. Things that won't be changed within the normal course of things. Usually acts or events that will happen even if you knew about it or decide to intervene."
She replied, "That sounds complicated."
"It usually is."
She asked, "How do you know so much?"
"Oh, well, I'm a farmer."
The man did not elaborate as they rode on towards the castle's gates where they were allowed through the thick portcullis with a wave from the guards on the ramparts.
Widely spaced large buildings littered the vast castle grounds. Twenty carts could fit on the broad roads with space leftover for a Titan's foot. Conversely, having just a couple of nobles and soldiers walking around the premise made the space seemed even larger than life. The structures around them were grand works of architectures made from carved grey stones and dark wood. They stretched a field wide each and three floors tall, with cryst lines running up the sides of the walls, pulsing a dim vectored light that highlighted their edges. The cart pulled to a stop next to a gate-and-walled compound.
Ted announced smoothly, "Ping boong~ Ladies and gentlemen, you have reached your destination. Please unbuckle yourselves and alight in an orderly manner."
Quin asked, "What was that?"
"Oh, just an in-joke. Now hurry on or you'll be late."
The siblings waved the farmer off as he headed for the castle. They turned away from the road to enter their school.
"Must be nice..."
The siblings jumped with a yelp, almost tripping over each others' feet as they spun to face the new voice. Standing next to them was their fellow classmate. Dressed in a full black suit underneath impossibly dark short shorts and a cropped topped, she was like a walking shadow with her bunned onyx hair. Save for a swamp-green cloth belt and maroon sling pack, she would be unidentifiable in darkness. Her weapon of choice, a black metal four bladed shuriken twice the length of her arm was folded and hung by her belt as if weighing a feather.
The girl ended softly, "...having a ride."
"Shit! Ishumi!" Lua almost yelled. "You scared the circuits out of me!"
Quin breathed deep to collect himself before asking, "Why do you always sneak up on people like that?"
Ishumi gave a shrug before nonchalantly walking through the large double oak doors of the school entrance. The siblings sighed and followed after her.
Their steps echoed in the empty main hall. Undecorated and unexciting, the chamber had small doors to the sides that lead to the hallways of the rest of the building. To their left was the classrooms and labs while their right held chambers for teachers and dormitories for students who had no home in the city. The trio headed towards another large double door opposite the entrance which would lead out onto the school field. Though the door looked heavy, the master mechanics of Aleynonlia had made the joints sturdy enough that the weight of them were non-existent as they pushed smoothly outwards.
As they stepped out onto the field, they were greeted by a fierce shout. "Nato! Orniters! You're late!"
Quin ribbed his sister. "Told you."
The voice came from Rehiy, the head of the 4th year students and one of the academy heads. He stood in the middle of the field with his wings tucked in, facing three distinct lines of students. Two of the classes were standing at attention in large groups of fifty. Backs straightened and fists clenched, their eyes notched to their peripherals and glanced at the newcomers with stings and barbs. Their uniforms were uniformed onyx with lines of green and innards of white. Their standardized weapons neatly sheathed. Models of perfection.
Ishumi shrugged and the siblings waved an apology, actions which brought tongue clicks and scorned glares from their peers. They made a slow jog to the last class in the row, dwarfed by the rests at a small number of 11. Yet they stood out with their unconventional dressings and assorted signature weapons. The trio joined the line at the back and got casual waves from their classmates. An unfamiliar male stood with them which Lua suspected to be the new student. Sadly, he was not late as she had thought.
"Well," Rihey raised his voice. His lean drakin body sifted naked as he breathed. While a brown leather tasset and maroon waist cloth covered his nethers, the rest of his navy blue scaled torso shimmered in the morning light with each movement. "The morning briefing is over. So, congratulations, Orniters. Final year and you're still late for the first day. Your record held."
"Woo!" Lua cheered to chuckles from her classmates and groans from the rests.
"Yes, well, 'woo' later. I'm not done with you yet." Rehiy warned. "Classes A and B, you have your schedules. Proceed to your respective lessons. Class C, I have something to say to you lot."
The two full classes saluted in unison, their arms tucking and sliding horizontally across their chests. After which, they drifted out of the field, whispers of possible punishments and reprimands for Class C made it to the latter ears.
When all else had left, Rehiy began again. "As some of you might know, the final predictions of the Overseers have been uncovered. And, they have been given to you." An immediate following of hushed questions and inner befuddlement flowed through the class. The drakin held his claws up and the group quietened themselves. "The king has decided to allow you knowledge of this and the school agreed. It is much better you hear it from us now than from other sources later, risking dangerous actions that I am sure can only be accomplished from individuals as unruly as yourselves. However, you are not to breathe a word of this until you have been further briefed later in the day."
Someone from the front of the line faked a muted sneeze and Lua did not need to guess it was from Joachim.
Rehiy ignored the interruption and was about to reach for something from his back when a girl asked, "Which one of us got the epitaph?"
Rehiy paused. When drakins raised a brow, it looked intimidating instead of quizzical. Their flat snout curved their face into an almost scowl. "I think you misunderstood, Four-Chan."
There was a sigh from the middle followed by a soft, "It's Fornelia Chantervalica."
The drakin took out and unrolled a scroll. "You all got an epitaph."
It had been four years since the class had acted in unison. Ever since the welcoming ceremony, each of the student in Class C had behaved more or less as individuals, never in tandem or rehearsed synchronicity. It just was not their style. But at that moment, everyone froze and looked to Rehiy with bated breaths and martial similarity.
"Kingston Hox," he read aloud. His eyes settled on the student in question. "You are 'Thirteen'." There was a shift from the familiar sharp brimmed hat at the front.
Rehiy trudged on. "Quinton Orniter. Your epitaph is 'Twelve'."
Lua exchanged glances with her brother. Her brother exchanged glances with Rehiy.
"Shjacky Loyard. You are 'Eleven'. And Ishumi Nato..."
Ishumi made a barely noticeable twitch.
She expected half of the following as the pattern emerged.
"Enneya Devini. 'Nine'."
"Shimona Zettai. 'Eight'."
"Shichi Katayagi. 'Seven'."
"Pempe Byrne. 'Five'."
"Fornelia Chantervalica." Lua was sure that was the one time even Four-Chan did not want to hear her real name. "Very aptly, 'Four'."
"Trini Alquin. 'Three'."
"Lua Orniter." Her heart nearly punched its way out of her chest. "'Two'."
"Nossaral Unn." The new student in front of her took a deep breath. "'One'."
"Joachim Kerr." Rehiy kept the scroll to his side. "Zero."
Author's Note; Hi everyone. Thank you for reading Tearha: Deck of Clover. This story will be serialising throughout 2017, updating every Friday. If you like what you've read so far, and would like to support my writing, you can buy one of my books at my website. Or you could check out my Patreon to help out for the long run. Of course, just sharing, commenting, and reviewing helps a bunch as well!
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