Chapter 20



he next few days were a haze to Landon. There were moments when time seemed to stretch on forever, prolonging his cursed bed sentence. And then there were moments when everything went by in the blink of an eye. Or maybe he just fell asleep and didn't know it. He wasn't sure. The only thing he was sure of was that if he had to stay in bed one more day he was going to explode. He gradually went from zero energy to too much energy, and neither of them were very pleasant. He'd always been more of an outdoors person. All this pent-up energy was dying to escape. Two days after he'd been Healed, Mary had finally allowed him to get up for short periods of time, but he still had to stay in his room. He would shave twice a day just for an excuse to be doing something. He scowled. She had seemed amused at his impatience! It was so aggravating! Then again, how did he expect her to understand? All she did was sit in her rocking chair and knit! He sighed. He was just bitter because he was trapped in his own room. Oh, they treated him like a king, but he was trapped nonetheless. Stupid, cursed avalanche.

            Today was worse than ever, though. All traces of sickness and exhaust ceased to exist, leaving him more desperate than ever. They couldn't keep him bedridden forever! He was going crazy cooped up like this. He tried to convince Mary to let him free, but he had long since lost his credibility in his judgment since he had made the same argument twice a day since day one. She wouldn't believe him.

            He exhaled stubbornly and turned to her from the book he was reading. It was a good book, but he had trouble paying attention. Instead he had taken to practicing flipping the pages with his power. "How long are you going to keep me captive against my will?" he asked. He had become familiar enough with her in the past few days to humor her a little. She knew he didn't truly mean the sarcasm. Well, for the most part. She was a good sport. "I feel fine! Let me out of here. Please?"

            She sighed pleasantly. "Very well, I shall have a Healer check on you. But not until later." He slumped back against his pillow. He couldn't wait until later! He had to get out of there now. She smiled genially. "You remind me very much of your father. He was impatient and restless, just like you. I can see both of them in you. You have the makings of a hero." He had heard many stories about his parents from her and she never failed to address his likeness to them. Not that he minded. He had gotten that as a child, too. It always made him feel proud. Would they have been proud of him had they lived? He hoped so.

            A servant brought in his breakfast and departed as quickly as she had come. They were a shy lot. Or perhaps they had been trained to be inconspicuous. If so, they were good at what they did.  

            "Ah, is it breakfast time already?" Mary said, gathering up her knitting supplies. "If I don't attend the meal with everyone else, Druik will have my hide." In his extensive time to himself, Landon had speculated on exactly who ran the Palace, but came to the conclusion that it was something of a team effort. Mary seemed to be in charge, or rather the first among equals, probably because of her seniority and experience. Druik was the only exception. Everyone deferred to his wishes, even Mary. Other than that, Mary pretty much kept everything in line.

            Landon sipped his soup innocently as Mary left, his mind working. He had never been much of an insubordinate child growing up, but then again he had never been confined to his room for a week, either. There were exceptions to every rule.

            A silent breeze slipped under the door and down the hallway, feeling for any disturbances in the current. All clear. He yanked off his covers and hopped out of bed. He pulled on his boots—they had already given him a shirt, a loose white one that he'd rolled up to his elbows—and snuck out the door. Everyone was eating in dining hall, so there weren't many people wandering the hallways. A few passing servants gawked at him as he strode down the hall. Once, Eban rushed passed him, chasing his two Greyhounds, Thunder and Lightning. He didn't stop for idle chat. It felt good to be moving again.

            He wandered about for a while, absently searching for a way out. He needed fresh air. As he meandered, he came upon some gigantic oak doors. An entire forest seemed to be carved into the wood, complete with streams and animals. He could have stared the art all day, always finding something new, but curiosity brought his hand up to the huge brass handles. Before he could second-guess himself, the doors were swinging open and he strode in.

            The moment he stepped in he felt an immediate rush of calm and peace wash through him. He could think clearer, his worries stopped festering. The tension in his muscles left and he sighed with relief. Everything was going to be okay.

            After gaping at the marvel of it—how could simply walking into a room have so much effect on him?—he took the time to look around. The gigantic circular room was made completely of white marble spider webbed with silver. A few yards from the walls stood massive marble pillars that stretched up to the impossibly high ceiling. As he craned his neck, he saw the top. He walked toward the middle of the empty room to get a better look. Inside the circle of pillars, the ceiling was made of colored glass that illuminated the center. Hundreds of colors, blending together. The clouds above swirled the many colors, making it look as though the colors were moving around. Perhaps they were; he couldn't tell. He found the beautiful sight strangely soothing.

            "I see you have found your way to the Heart. Everyone does eventually."

            Landon whirled to where the voice came from. At first he couldn't see anyone in the shadows, and then the speaker stepped out. He was a strange man by sight. He looked to be a little bit older than himself. He wore earthy colored robes that were unusual to traditional Adrian and Saldian garb. Gold hoops hung from his ears and rings glittered on his fingers as they caught the light from above. His dark hair was short and his green eyes narrowed. His mouth was set in the image of distaste.

            "The Heart?" was all Landon could think to say.

            The stranger stared him down for a moment before answering. "The very Heart of the Palace, the dead center. Generations ago they made this room so the Stormsingers could have a place to go to think clearly and work things out for themselves. Many famous Stormsingers mastered their powers here. I hope for the sake of the world that you learn to master yours quickly." He studied him with measuring eyes. He had a slight accent that Landon recognized from Raina, though hers was much fainter. He must be Jenti. That would explain the strange clothing.

            "I think I've got my power under control," Landon said lamely. This man made him feel ignorant of his own ability. He didn't like the looks of this one. He got the sense that he didn't like Landon either.

            "'Under control' and 'mastered' are two different things entirely." He hesitated for a second. "My name is Jordan Thorne. I am an Earthsinger. I expect you are the fabled Landon Evers, the Windsinger." It wasn't a question but Landon nodded anyway. "We'll see who you really are soon enough."

            Landon opened his mouth to say something, but right then Leanne burst into the room. She sighed with relief upon seeing him and strode straight for him. It seemed that Mary had set off the alarm as soon as his disappearance was discovered. He laughed inwardly. She acted like he was a child, needing to be watched at every moment. He didn't mind. It reminded him of his mother.

            But he was also dreading his next encounter with her. She'd no doubt be angry that he'd disobeyed her. He sensed that she would be doubly as watchful over him now. That is, if he didn't manage to convince her he was fine. If she didn't believe him....well, he'd just keep on sneaking off until she did.

            Changing what he was going to say as the words came out of his mouth, he put on the act of innocence he had learned from Mark so long ago. "Leanne! Fancy seeing you here. I was just talking with Jordan here. I assume you already are familiar with him." She nodded curtly, her eyes on the Earthsinger.

            "Jordan," she addressed him stiffly.

            "Leanne," he replied, equally as placid. The air was thick with dislike between the two as an awkward moment passed by. He didn't blame her. Jordan didn't seem like a very companionable person. Finally, Jordan broke the silence. "I had best be on my way. My maid has surely brought my breakfast by now." Without another word, he turned away—strange cloak billowing—and marched out of the Heart.

            They both stood for a moment and watched him go, but as soon as he was gone, Leanne turned to him. He frowned in anticipation of the lecture he knew he was about to receive. She squared up and looked him straight in the eyes. Even though he was about a head taller than her, she managed to appear much more superior to him. "Is there a reason you are wandering about the Palace when you should be in bed?"

            He shrugged ever so slightly. "Well, that's a good question. I figure it has something to do with not being sick anymore and lack of exercise. Plus sitting around is unbearably counterproductive and not to mention the strain it is listening to Mark brag about being allowed to walk every once and a's a combination of many things, really. Does that answer your question?" He didn't mean to sound sarcastic—well, maybe a little—but he couldn't help it. He would take a lecture over another day cooped up in that room any day.

            She sighed. "I suppose you're right." This caught him off guard. He hadn't expected her to agree with him so quickly. "We were all getting a little restless waiting for you to get better. Mary wanted to make sure you were ready to start training. Personally, I think you were ready days ago. She's just concerned about you. She speaks highly of you, you know." He was even more surprised at this little tidbit. Mary spent her free time scolding him on his manners. What did she really think about him?

            Leanne inspected him from head to toe, from his old black boots to his flannel shirt that hung loosely around his neck. Under her gaze he became suddenly aware of how disheveled his hair must look, or what she might think of his lazy posture. He wanted to look ready for training, not like a scruffy delinquent. He stubbornly kept his hands in his pockets and didn't change a thing. If he moved now, he would appear flustered or uncertain. Even if that was exactly how he felt.

            Her eyes finally found his, challenging him to say anything. When he didn't, she raised an eyebrow in a puzzling manner. He wondered what she thought about him. He felt the need to impress her. Not like how he wanted to impress Chelsea to make her happy, this was different. This felt more like a student that wanted to show off to his teacher.

            "Do you think you are ready to start training?" she asked testily.

            The corners of his mouth tugged upward into a small smile. "I've been ready."      


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