Chapter 10

Class Conscious, Part 2


Michael woke in the hard bed and rough sheets that he’d rented the night before.  He hadn’t realized until asked that he had money, a small pouch with a few coins in it hanging from his belt. 

He pushed himself out of bed.  The room he was staying in was so small he barely had room to stand.  He turned to the window.  The sun had not yet risen, but the sky was already lightening to gray.  He rubbed his eyes and sat on the bed.

Hector had come out of the tower with the symbol of that wolf on his axe.  The wolf that had chased the deer called Cerwyn.  What was Michael to do?  He stood and went to the foot of the bed, to the chest where he’d stored his clothes.  He pulled the lid up and started dressing.

His first goal was to learn what it meant to be a Pathfinder.  He had gained some type of power from the trial, but didn’t know how to use it.  When he was dressed he held his bow.  He found that, much like the original bow that he’d held in the tower, it felt comfortable in his grip.  If he lost this bow would he lose the ability to shoot completely or would did he just know how now?

He cinched the belt of his quiver across his chest.  The symbol of the deer Ceryn shimmered in the low light.  “Guide me,” he whispered to it.

Do not let the wolf overtake you, he remembered Ceryn saying to him.  It echoed in his head. 

He went downstairs but did not want to eat.  Instead, he walked outside.  The inn at Stoneybrook was set back from the road, amongst a small copse of trees.  He hoped that if he stood there, in a more natural setting, he could once again hear the voice of Ceryn and maybe find his power.

He thought he would be alone.  They had seen a few men and women when they entered into the inn, before Hector had stalked away up the stairs and before Michael, exhausted, had followed.  These few, he thought, he hoped, would not be here.

As he walked down the beaten path to the small clearing ahead, though, he heard sounds of movement.  Oh well, so much for being along.  He hoped, at least, that whoever it was would be testing their new powers as well.  Hector had explained that many newly Judged came here straight from the tower.  As he came around he saw that it was not one of the nameless travelers in the inn, but instead he found Hector.

Hector was not wearing his armor.  Instead, he wore simple clothes: a linen shirt and trousers with heavy, almost ruined, leather boots.  He wore gloves and carried his axe.  He held it in two hands and swung it about.  There was a certain fluidity to his movement, an elegance in spite of the raw power he tried to put into each movement.  It was clear he was exerting himself by doing so, but he kept at it until, finally, he collapsed, sweating and exhausted.  Only then did Hector look over to Michael.

“What are you doing here?”  He asked and looked away, up to the brightening sky.

“I wanted to learn to use my magic,” Michael said.  Hector sat up.

“Try to heal me.”

“How do I do that?”  Michael asked, but Hector didn’t answer.  Michael sighed, held up his hand, and focused.  He was sure exactly what he was doing, but he concentrated and, for a moment, he felt something ethereal gathering up around his hand.  A kind of white energy mixed there with a sort of green energy.  Small leaves and stars burst into existence around his hand.  He focused on Hector, tried to push that energy into him.  The colors swirled and moved, seemed to reach out and surround Hector.  Even as he did, he seemed to be revived some, sitting up straighter, the fatigue vanishing from his face.  Wild Flourishing.  He knew the name of the spell somehow. 

Michael stared at his hand.  He could hardly believe what he’d just done, or how easy it had been.

“Thanks,” Hector said.  Then he stood and hefted his axe again, ready to resume his training.

“Wait,” Michael said, still looking at his.  Hector sighed but let his axe drop.  “How did I do that?”

“Take out you bow,” Hector said, instead of answering.  Michael nodded.  He walked over where Hector had been practicing and stood, facing away from the inn, just to be safe.  He drew an arrow and nocked it.

“Okay,” Michael said.  “What do I do?” 

“Aim out there,” Hector said, pointing.  Michael chose a tree and pulled the arrow back.

“There are five main types of energy,” Hector said.  “Shoot.”  Michael let go of the arrow and it flew to the tree.  It hit a little lower than Michael guessed it would, but it did hit the tree he was aiming at.  He drew another arrow.

“Okay, five types, simple enough.”

“Each type of energy has three subtypes that make it up.  Each class uses two of these in unique ways.”  Hector tapped on Michael’s shoulder, the one that held the arrow.  Once again, Michael chose a spot on the same tree, raised up a little to compensate, and let the arrow fly.  This time it was a better shot, though still not perfect.  The arrow stuck in the tree with a satisfying thud, though, and Michael found that he could enjoy that, at least.

“So classes’ energy types overlap?  Your class now, you’re a what?  Axe Master or something.”  Hector seemed to turn away at that, as though he didn’t want to think about it.

“Executioner,” he said after a long beat.  Michael found that he was still just standing there, so he drew another arrow.  “But yes, types overlap.  My old class, Juggernaut, could use Glory energy, same as you.  Specifically, I could use the Bolstering and Healing.  Healing was my fourth energy type, though, so I couldn’t heal others as well as you can.”  Michael loosed another arrow, adjusting again, trying to get his aim perfect at this distance.

“What kinds of energy can I use?  I think the Deer said I was going to be a Pathfinder.”  Hector stopped again when Michael told him that.  He looked at him for a long moment, studying.  That meant something, Michael guessed.  It wasn’t typical, what had happened in the tower.  He knew that, based just on how Hector had reacted.

“Pathfinders use Growth and Glory,” Hector said, almost stumbling over his words.  “Specific subtypes, I think, are Life, Healing, Nature, and Wind.  Though, maybe not in that order.”  Hector put his hand to his head.  “I can’t remember.”

“So I heal other people?  What else?  Obviously I’m some sort of ranger.”  This time, Hector just shrugged.

“Not sure.  I never played with Pathfinders much in the game, and I never partied with them much when I was Orephius.”

“Orephius.  Where did that name come from?”  Michael shot another arrow.  He was starting to enjoy the simple repetition of it.  He hadn’t really gotten much better, but he appreciated the monotony of practice after yesterday’s excitement.

“It was given to me,” Hector said.  “Did you get a new name in the tower?”  Michael hesitated for a moment.  He quickly drew another arrow and pretended to be taking his time aiming.  He wasn’t sure if getting a new name meant something.  The deer – Ceryn, hadn’t it been? – had named Michael champion, though Michael had no idea what that meant.  Maybe it was nothing.  He shot.  Thunk.

“Rayne,” he said finally.  “They said my new name was Rayne.”  Hector nodded.

“I’m going back inside.”  Hector turned and walked down the path back toward the inn.  Michael thought he might go back, too.  He’d accomplished what he’d set out to do – learn more about his class.  Being a Pathfinder, it seemed, meant healing.  Now that he knew, he could go in, have breakfast.  He was getting hungry.

But he was also enjoying shooting.  He took another arrow from his quiver and found that he wasn’t running out.  In fact, it seemed as though he hadn’t used a single arrow, based on what he had left.  Though the tree was still sprouting the arrows he’d shot earlier.  Strange.

He thought about what Hector had told him, about different types of energy.  This time, as he drew the arrow back, he focused on that energy he had called earlier.  He didn’t think about healing, but instead he focused on the wind.  Hector had mentioned Wind, hadn’t he?  The energy gathered up around him, swirling and flowing like air, making the arrow glow a soft white.  He poured energy into it until it seemed full.  He didn’t really know how he knew when to stop, but he did feel it.  Then, finally, he let the arrow fly.

The arrow shot off like a rocket, launching itself toward the tree where he’d been firing earlier.  When it hit, there was no satisfying thud as there had been.  Instead, the arrow punched right through the tree, spraying bark and pulp out the other side.  Michael stopped for a moment and just gawked.  He couldn’t believe he’d done that.  Maelstrom Shot.  He made the words with his lips without even thinking about it.

As he walked back to the inn he considered all that he’d already learned.  He had been told to help Hector.  It had taken more words, but that had been the main thrust of the message.  He’d thought, when he’d seen Hector emerge from the tower, large and imposing in his armor, that it wouldn’t be possible.  After this morning’s training, however, he thought he could manage.

He was starting to think he really could find the path.