Babel of voices fills the atmosphere of our room.
Groups of students are goofing around, chuckling, or babbling in this circular quarter, whose walls are buried with layers of bookshelves, and whose lighting came from the four lamps hanging upside down around the rune stone that rests at the center of the room.
Despite the noise, my mind reels throughout the pages of my book, delving into the rich descriptions of some of the extinct creatures of Ard. I mesmerize on the future of excavating one myself in a lost ancient ruin. After all, tomorrow will be my commissioning. All the sleepless nights studying will have paid off as I become an inquisitor of Aelyorn.
I’m about to flip the other page when suddenly someone casts an incantation to the rune.
The trunks sprout next, together with its branches and leaves, both of which sparkle like stars. The branches rise quicker. My arms itch as the branches’ diamond barks scrapes my skin. A salted sweet scent lingers in my smell creating a soothing effect, then I realize that the Healing Garden of Nutrasia has been summoned.
My classmate Levi, who is the head of the fourth-meriter prefect of discipline, confronts the first-meriter who was experimenting with the rune stone out of curiosity. He is scratching his head making some excuses while the cool hymn of the trees plays. A group of second-meriter girls murmur something about Levi. They are probably admiring his looks: coal hair, fair complexion and dark-emerald eyes.
“Relax, you don’t have to be hard on him, he’s a first meriter” I tell Levi while he was jotting down the name of the boy “besides, it’s our last day”
“Whether we’ll be commissioned tomorrow or not…” He snaps. “It’s still my duty to supervise students, especially in this meeting.”
He’s right. The situation calls for his duty. Different sets of students from the first to the fourth merit crowded the room, waiting for the professor to report the latest archeological discovery this eron.
I understand where his sense of responsibility is coming from. We are both from the poorest sector of Aelyorn—our families are farmers. Also, we are both scholars. The only difference is: I earn my scholarship through high grades while he earns his by working as an administrator.
Levi whispers something that made my brows cross. “You know what to do.” He teases.
Mr. Farrol hastens to the platform. His ballooning belly and bulging chicks flap as he walks. He put his books on the pulpit, and moves toward the blank rune, which is laced with alternating gold, silver and bronze at its edge.
He draws a small scroll and throws it into the rune. It burst into flames, then bright blue inscription—zigzagging and overlapping lines—slowly materialize in its face. The letters read as the ancient language for stop: “Claudicus”
Afterwards everything returned to normal. Mr. Farrol looks at me straight in the eye signaling me do my duty whenever he is the professor: lead the inquisitor oath.
He has taken a special liking of me, asking me for some assistance, and treating me as a protégé. My classmates notice that kind of favor toward me. They say it’s because I am the top of the class, but I couldn’t care less. Though I’m grateful, I really don’t mind being at the center stage. I’ve studied hard simply because it’s my dream to be an inquisitor. More importantly, I would be able to provide better for my family through this profession.
The oath is long, stoic and tedious. It speaks about the inquisitors’ duty to unearth the lost history of Ard, and report every discovery to the other two kingdom—Nutrasia and Erindale—besides ours, Aelyorn. It narrates how 600 erons ago the Great Collapse had wreaked havoc to the 12 ancient civilization—one of them is our kingdom. Series of storms, earthquakes and floods laid waste to the 11; only ours survived, mysteriously unscathed. Adding to the conundrum was the enchantment that fell upon those who had survived. They had gone on living without any memory neither of the past nor of the tragedy. Any records of their own history were also missing. Only through the discovery of the magic of rune stones that the chronicle of the Great Collapse was discovered and the reality of the enchantment was remembered. The runes stones said that when the 12 birthstones of each ancient kingdom are collected, the missing history of Ard will be revealed.
After reciting the last line, Mr. Farrol calls me again.
“Shalom, please take this scroll and cast it to the rune when I say so” he asked, handing me a long scroll sealed with a red stamp. As I walk toward my seat, he apologizes to the class for being late and apologized again saying that despite the lost time, he will not cut to the chase with the report, and would instead ask a question.
“A certain rune, which we experimented with magic have revealed a narrative. We have successfully decoded it. I want to know if ever one of you could extract its meaning.”
There is a long pause. Everyone is puzzled. The question asks for a great decryption skill. I barely passed decryptology last eron.
My mind races to every page I read, every lesson I heard, every rune inscription I saw. Still nothing. Time is tickling fast.