The Pentad arises to a pitter-patter of rain drops falling upon their bed chambers’ roof. They open their eyes but all swear they can still see the remnants of their dreams upon their vision. They sit up slowly in their beds and look around. They each glance at one another before laughing.
The Pentad scurries out of bed, dresses in their leathers, straps on their swords, shields, bows, quivers, their special weapons, and makes their way to the Gallery of Rniti for breakfast.
They sit on two benches along the great table that stretches the length of the Gallery with Hawk, Fox and Santhemum on one side and Desert and Pork across from them on the other. Arriving late they are left miniscule morsels but do not mind because they do not know what is in store for them and are cautious to not overeat. They clear the remaining food crumbs and notice they are the only ones left in the ominous Gallery. They quickly leave and head for the first ring to join Vaiqon.
They pass through the giant doors leading to the fields of the Injhihato, where they hear a noise behind them. They turn and see Firose hurrying towards them.
Panting, she begins, “Finally, I found you. Vaiqon is wondering where you are.”
Santhemum smiles at her sister, but worry creases her forehead, “Firose, why are you looking for us and not Vaiqon?”
Firose pants, “Oh, because I am helping him again today. Apparently you are focusing on zoltind more specifically today. He sent me to find you. I feel it is best we move quickly.”
Firose begins to walk and the Pentad falls in line. Firose sets a very fast pace, almost a slow jog, and faster than the Pentad wanted to. They arrive at the first ring. Vaiqon is indeed waiting for them with Oukton and Jtoon behind him. As the Pentad and Firose enters the ring, Vaiqon’s commanding voice rings out:
“Ah, good to see you all. I am sorry for the weather, but no less, we must continue; the weather will not always be perfect outside the Injhihato either. Please, Firose, stand behind me and join the others, I must explain to the Pentad what our objective is today.” Firose moves quickly behind Vaiqon. “Now, Pentad, I know Firose has told you we will be focusing on zoltind techniques today. That is somewhat true, we will be focusing on zoltind, but not techniques, and not necessarily zoltind for you. What you are going to do is learn how to feel which direction an attack is coming from. To do this, you will each have a turn standing on this cross that I am standing on. Firose, Oukton, Jtoon, and myself, will stand on dots at each of the cross’s points. We each will fire a blast of zoltind, but only one will be strong enough to reach you. You must learn to sense which direction that will come from. Hawk, you will go first.”
Hawk, not willing to decline, steps onto the cross. He watches as Vaiqon, Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon prepare to play target practice with Hawk. Hawk takes a cursory glance around to see where exactly each one is. Vaiqon, directly ahead, Firose to his right, the Oukton to his left, and Jtoon directly behind. He hears air moving about and quickly looks to see Vaiqon creating a wind current. He hears sparking to his right and realizes Firose is a sigo making embers. A rush of water is heard behind him, and Hawk knows Jtoon is a fuhok. Rumbling from his left lets Hawk know earth will come flying from Oukton to his left.
Suddenly, Vaiqon unleashes his current and soon Hawk is put flat on his stomach. He stands up and notices he is dripping wet, but not from the light rain from the sky. He senses all the warnings again that another quadruple attack is incoming and sets about to sense where the attack will come from. Using the only skill he has, he concentrates on the air. He can only get a fuzzy picture of his surroundings for the rain is disrupting the air slightly. He then feels the attacks unleash because the air waves refract around him. He notices that the air waves to his left are the most refracted and soon, Hawk is smacked on the head by a dirt clod.
Preparing himself for a third attack, Hawk positions himself in a defensive posture with an air wall ready to go. The four zoltoks loose four more attacks and this time, Hawk is able to tell that the attack is coming from his right. He conjures an air wall and the fire spark from Firose is stopped dead in its tracks.
“Good, Hawk, very good. Now again,” orders Vaiqon.
Hawk, at the end of his turn, finishes with thirteen blocks and only three received hits to his name. Firose, Oukton and Jtoon lightly praise him on a job well done.
“Hawk, that was very good indeed. Please take a rest,” Vaiqon praises. “Boar, please be the next one to step up to the crossfire.”
Pork walks to the cross and takes a look around just as Hawk, and discovers an identical orientation of Rniti around him as Hawk. Pork does not know how to sense at all and feels he is not going to perform well. He sees Vaiqon begin his motion for a wind current and something in his bones tells him that the other three are preparing to fire their connections as well. When the blasts come at him, Pork feels a slight bump in his feet from his right that travels quickly up his entire right side. Firose’s ember burns Pork on his right hand. Pork cocks his head to the side as a thought occurs to him. Pork readies himself in a position ready to conjure a stone wall.
The four zoltoks fire at Pork again. Pork, feels the expected bump just before him that travels up his stomach Pork then moves to bring the stone wall up to block the wind current. He is too slow and is knocked to the ground. Pork’s attempt at sensing the attacks continues and the rain begins to drizzle and makes the ground muddy. Pork notices, as the ground becomes softer, the less and less noticeable the bumps become. But at the end of Pork’s turn, he has eight blocks and eight received hits.
“Ah, great, Boar, just great. You deserve a rest. Fox, would you please take the next turn,” Vaiqon orders.
As he walks onto the cross, Fox sees where each zoltok is positioned and is ready to begin. Fox is quickly sent to his back because of Vaiqon’s wind current. As Fox is standing up, he thinks that he might have felt the rain bend slightly toward him from ahead of him. As the four zoltoks fire again, Fox is sure he feels the rain bend from all directions and especially from behind him. He turns and creates a water bubble that blocks the incoming water jet.
“Fox, you are lucky it is raining today. Be careful when it is not. Now, again,” Vaiqon says.
Fox leaves the crossfire with ten blocks and six received hits.
Desert steps into the crossfire next. Just as the others, he has little idea of how to sense incoming attacks, until after the first wave of attacks knocks him down from behind. He gets up and sees the fuhok setting up another water jet. Desert starts to receive bumps from all around him, he hears the zoltoks fire and the bumps coagulate into one at his left. Quickly, Desert pops a stone wall from the ground and ends the okit’s rock throw. Even as the rain drizzles harder, and the ground becomes muddier and softer, Desert feels no decadence in his sensing abilities. When he leaves the crossfire, he leaves with twelve blocks and four received hits.
“Excellent, Desert. You are very adept at sensing,” Vaiqon praises. “Santhemum, you are last. I am sorry for the weather.”
Santhemum, with a baffled look on her face, steps into the crossfire. Just as the others of her Pentad, Santhemum is hit by the first wave of attacks, but unlike the others, she is also hit on the second, third, and fourth waves of attacks. Becoming aggravated, Santhemum unknowingly raises her body temperature and the temperature of the surrounding area. On the fifth wave, she is able to block the okit’s rock throw with a fire blast and thinks to herself, ‘How did I do that?’ On the next wave, Santhemum blocks the jet stream coming from behind her. Santhemum becomes less aggravated and unknowingly lowers her body temperature and the temperature of the surrounding area. She is hit again on the seventh wave of attacks.
Santhemum becomes perplexed and frustrated again. She suddenly feels as if her blood is boiling and feels her aura escape outside of her. She feels as if her clothes and armor are beginning to dry. She scratches her head. The zoltoks fire another wave and she is able to block the wind current in front of her.
She smiles and her aggravation declines. She then feels her blood cease its boiling and the rain begins soaking her again. She smiles. She now knows how to sense the coming attacks. She raises her body heat, and without fully realizing, the temperature of the surrounding air, and is able to block the rest of the waves. She leaves the crossfire with ten blocks and six received hits.
After leaving the crossfire and gathering before the Pentad, Vaiqon asks, “So, how did each of you sense the incoming attacks?”
“I sensed slight bumps in the earth,” Pork says.
Desert nods his head in agreement with his okit brother.
“I somehow was able to sense the rain bending to me from your attacks,” Fox says.
“I sensed the air around me refracting,” Hawk says.
Vaiqon nods at each of the boys in agreement. When he turns to Santhemum, he sees a frowning face.
“Santhemum, how did you sense the attacks?” Firose asks hoping her voice will calm Santhemum.
Santhemum responds, “I do not really understand how I was able to sense them. I just could after I somehow made my blood feel as if it were boiling.”
Firose smirks knowingly, “Sister, you were able to sense the attacks after raising your body heat, where you felt your blood boiling, because you also raised the temperature of the surrounding area. I could feel the air myself getting hotter. Though you did not know it, you were actually feeling the rises and falls of temperature from all of our attacks. Mine were hotter, the others were cooler.”
Santhemum looks at Firose with a confused look.
Firose takes a moment to think, then says, “When a sigo knows her body temperature and the surrounding area’s temperature, she can feel the cooling or warming caused by anyone or anything in that area. Think of it like being in a silenced room that all of a sudden begins to come alive with noise all over the place. You get accustomed to the noise and when a completely different noise enters the fray, you can immediately tell where it is coming from. Understand?”
Santhemum answers, “Oh, so it is like being in a crowded market with multiple voices all around you, but you cannot comprehend any of the words being said for they are foreign to you. But when you hear a familiar voice, you immediately know where to turn and speak to your friend?”
Firose replies, “Yes, exactly like that.”
Vaiqon interrupts, “Santhemum, you did just splendid today. I was worried the rain would hinder your progress, but I see I was wrong.”
Before Santhemum can ask, Firose says, “Rain throws off a sigo’s ability to sense temperature. It helps fuhoks like Fox or Jtoon drastically, but dims our sigo perception terribly. That is why it took you so long to discover how to sense our attacks.”
Santhemum nods her head.
Vaiqon speaks, “Firose, Oukton, Jtoon, thank you for your help today. Now, please go inside, get dry clothes on, and warm up.”
Oukton and Jtoon nod. Oukton raises a fist to Desert and Pork who return the gesture. Jtoon salutes Fox who returns the movement. And Firose and Santhemum embrace warmly before Firose, Oukton, and Jtoon sprint towards the Central Complex.
Vaiqon turns to the Pentad, “Pentad, we are done for the day as well, but we are going to continue this exercise until you all can block every wave of attacks. So be gone and relax inside, it is raining far too hard for any of you to train on your own today.”
As Vaiqon says this, lightning strikes and the loudest thunder the Pentad has ever heard follows.
“I cannot read another word!” Desert says as he thrashes through a stack of books upon the table in the Pentad’s bed chambers. Pork raises his eyebrows at his brother.
“I thought you enjoyed reading, especially of architecture?” Pork asks.
Desert scoffs, glaring at Pork, “I do, but we have been in this room for hours now. My mind is numb.”
“Perhaps we can practice the crossfire inside,” Hawk says after overhearing Desert’s outburst.
Desert glares at Hawk, “You think?”
Hawk nods, “Yes, we each hold a connection to zoltind, just because it is raining outside does not mean we cannot train inside.”
Desert shrugs in defeat, “Very well. Where shall we practice?”
Hawk motions around the room. He conjures air currents to push the table, chairs, and sofa to the edges of the chamber where he says, “Here, of course.”
Desert smirks behind his scarf, “Allow me to go first.”
Hawk nods as he places himself before Desert, Santhemum to Desert’s right, Fox behind Desert, and Pork to Desert’s left. Desert easily blocks ten waves of attacks with the solid floor allowing him a perfect glimpse at the incoming attacks.
Desert then is replaced by Pork who blocks eight of ten waves. He leaves the center of the Pentad with a disappointed expression, his thoughts turning toward Desert’s superiority.
Fox steps in the center next. He is struck by multiple pebbles, wind currents, and embers before he realizes the air itself seems to bend to him from the attacks. He thinks to himself, ‘The air always seems to be sticky with moisture before and during a rain storm. Perhaps air always has water in it.’
With the thought in mind, Fox is able to sense the attacks even without being in a rainstorm. He smiles as he then blocks the remaining of his waves. He steps away from the center where Santhemum easily blocks all ten waves of attacks after raising her body temperature in pulses.
Hawk steps into the center next where he not only blocks every wave of attacks, but seems to throw them back at each individual. To challenge himself, he even begins to close his eyes to allow his sensing to grow without his vision.
The Pentad continues to train into the night until their exhaustion forces them to bed.