The Pentad awakens from a deep sleep. They glance at one another in their bed chambers before donning their tunics, trousers, leather armor, and training sword and shield. They filter out of their bed chambers where they follow a herd of Rniti to the Gallery.
The Pentad consumes a moderate breakfast of eggs and sausage where they then head out to the first ring.
As they walk, they pass by Firose who stops the Pentad after separating from two Rniti males.
“Santhemum!” Firose yells.
Santhemum leading the Pentad stops and turns to see Firose smiling at her. Santhemum returns the smile, but does not respond, she merely waves at her adopted older sister.
“Hello, Hawk, Desert, Fox, and Pork,” Firose says after embracing briefly with Santhemum. “Where are you all off to today? I see you have training equipment.”
Santhemum makes a circle with her hands in response.
Firose nods in understanding, “Ah, with Vulcan to learn of fighting skills. Most excellent. Though, I feel I must warn you of the first... task... that Vulcan will have you perform. If you thought the Edge Run was difficult, you are in for a rude awakening. And I am afraid that is all I can say for I am sure Vulcan would not want you all to have a gross advantage where others did not.”
The Pentad gapes in unison at the implication that the first task will be even more physically demanding than an Edge Run, but regains their composure as Santhemum and Firose embrace as sisters before walking towards the first ring yet again.
Before the entrance of the first ring, Vulcan stands ready to welcome the Pentad. The sigo Daijok has a wicked smile set firmly upon his face where he waves to the Pentad as they make their way down the hill to the first ring.
After the Pentad has assembled before him, Vulcan states, “Well, Pentad, the first lesson of your training is to become better acquainted with your new equipment. That being said, the best way for you to become acquainted with your sword, shield, and armor, is to wear it all day. While walking. The entire circumference of this ring. You may begin, and be sure you finish before dark. I hear beasts hunt at night.”
Vulcan opens the gate to admit the Pentad into the ring where the Pentad can only stare in wonder at the size of the first ring. They begin walking along the edge of the fence where they see Vulcan shuts the gate and watches as the Pentad disappears from his sight.
The Pentad completes the first quarter of the circumference with relative ease, their equipment not hampering their progress in the slightest. But after a few more miles of walking, they start to feel the effects of the added weight and bulk of their new equipment.
Hawk notices signs posted on certain posts of the fence where he reads, ‘Circumference Run: Quarter II: Mile VII.’ Hawk swears to himself as he realizes that he and his Pentad have already walked thirteen miles.
‘No wonder Vulcan wanted us here immediately after breakfast. How long is this task going to take?’ Hawk asks himself.
After another hour of walking, the Pentad finds themselves crossing the threshold of the third quarter where Hawk sees a sign saying, ‘Circumference Run: Quarter III: Mile I.’
Hawk curses loudly. He turns to see that no one is around to hear him. He glances back to see Desert a few yards behind him, Santhemum a few yards behind Desert, Fox at least a dozen yards behind Santhemum, and Pork at least fifty yards behind Fox.
Hawk glance ahead of him to see the slight curvature of the fence and knows that they will never be able to accomplish the task before night fall if they keep at the same slow pace.
The wind seems to blow harder in that second. Hawk raises his head as if a voice is calling to him. Suddenly an idea floods into his head. He glances at his sword, his shield, and the extra layers of clothing in his pack. He smiles as he pauses for the rest of his Pentad to assemble next to him.
Just as the sun dips into the horizon, the Pentad chuckles with one another at the entrance gate to the first ring. They each comment on the ingenious tactic employed by Hawk and their complete disbelief that the trick worked.
Hawk shrugs, “Well, ya know, if the wind wasn’t blowing, it never would’ve worked.”
“Well, it did, and I’m glad,” Desert compliments. “I was tired of walking.”
“We all were tired,” Fox adds.
“At least you guys were somewhat together. Thanks for nearly leaving me,” Pork pouts.
Santhemum places a hand on Pork’s shoulder where Pork’s pout disappears to be replaced by a calm smile.
“You are finished?!” Vulcan’s voice in absolute disbelief tears through the air.
“Yes, thanks to Hawk here,” Desert says.
Vulcan glances at Desert then at Hawk in an expression of wanting an explanation.
Hawk shrugs, “We finished using our swords as masts, our shields as a platform, and our clothing as sails. We sailed across the circumference with the wind at our backs.”
Vulcan in utter disbelief gazes at the children’s shields where he sees scratches and gouges on nearly every inch of the shields and upon closer inspection, he sees holes from where they stuck their swords through in their clothing. Vulcan laughs to himself.
“Very well, Hawk,” Vulcan says, “can you inform me how using your shield as a boat and sword as a mast aids you becoming acquainted with your equipment?”
Hawk swallows, “Well, we now know how versatile the sword and shield can be. They can be used as more than tools of war.”
“Tools of war? Where have I heard that before?” Vulcan asks himself. “Ah, Makayla. She always has had a great wisdom for possibilities. I see you all have had a chance to meet with her, excellent.”
Vulcan gazes at the sky to see the sun disappearing behind the horizon. He glances back at the children, “Well, considering how well you performed today, I say tomorrow shall be the first day you will use the sword and shield for their intended purpose.”
The Pentad smile at the dismissal. Vulcan disappears in a flash of blue to the Chamber Rniti where he finds Vaiqon alone.
“Your Pentad is quite extraordinary,” Vulcan starts.
Vaiqon chuckles knowingly.
“They used their swords and shields and clothing to create makeshift boats and sails to complete the Circumference Run, most ingenious,” Vulcan continues.
Vaiqon smiles, “Allow me to stake a wager that Hawk was the mastermind behind that tactic.”
Vulcan slumps in defeat, “Correct.”
Vaiqon laughs aloud after tearing his gaze from a parchment posted on the wall.
“Do you now see why I wish to enter his aura why is asleep?” Vaiqon asks.
Vulcan thinks back to the meeting of a few nights ago where Vaiqon laid before them a plan to lead Hawk to a path of their own creation of greatness and the epitome of light. Vulcan shudders at the memory.
“Yes, I do see. And I feel you should start. Tonight,” Vulcan says.
Vaiqon smiles, “Excellent.”
“Just be sure to only make yourself acquainted with his slumbering aura. You do not want to alert him to your actions, no matter how young he is, Hawk has an uncanny proclivity towards aura,” Vulcan warns.
“Of course not,” Vaiqon consoles, “I will merely embed myself in his aura so that when we wish to truly guide Hawk, he will be all the more compliant.”
Vulcan nods slowly before flashing away in a purple hue.
Vaiqon glances out the stained-glass window where he sees a figure standing atop a hill in the moonlight. He is about to reach out with his aura when it is slammed back into him. He feels utter darkness consume his heart for a moment, but when he opens his eyes, he finds himself in his bed chamber staring at a portrait of a raging fire.
Vaiqon gasps, flashes from his bed chamber to the Chamber Rniti where he makes an air mattress and falls into a restless sleep where his dreams are often hijacked into nightmares.
“How are you still so weak?!” the dark master’s voice explodes through the room as the apprentice is flown to the ground for the fifth time in a minute.
The dark master storms to hover above the apprentice in a blink, the sigo energy wafting off of the dark master in a haze of sparking energy.
“I have taught you well, why are you still not defeating these weaklings?!” the dark master demands. The apprentice’s two opponent’s straighten at the insult, but are far too wise to speak against the master.
The master slaps the apprentice forcefully. “Get on your feet and try again.”
The master burns back to the throne at the front of the room where the apprentice does indeed rise again to attack its opponents. The apprentice dodges, blocks, and parries, but cannot land any strike against its opponents.
The apprentice can feel the master’s building anger and disappointment. The apprentice connects to a being of energy inside and explodes in a fury at its opponents, slicing and attacking as a blur. The master watches every move as if the apprentice is moving as slow as a snail. The master notes every flaw, every weakness.
When the apprentice has concluded its attack, it turns towards the master for praise. When the dark master merely rises, the apprentice gulps and prepares for another lashing.
Instead, a clap sounds from the throne.
The apprentice glances at the master with utter bewilderment.
“Excellent, for once,” the master says. “Again.”
The apprentice attacks its opponents with ferocity yet again, amusing the master greatly. The master notices that the slight praise has exponentially increased the apprentice’s confidence. The master observes how the apprentice cuts through every block, stops every trick, explodes with every attack. The master smiles sinisterly at the progress of the apprentice. The master glances upward to see a dark blurring over the ceiling. The master ignites flames at the blur that suddenly disappears. The master scoffs, then continues to observe the apprentice.