Eagle Perfect: Legend of the First is a parody of dystopian young adult novels, in which two ‘chosen ones’ vie for the status of world-saving protagonist. New readers should start at Chapter 1, or you can consult the Table of Contents.
Chapter Thirteen: A Glimpse of Darkness
Eagle considered his predicament. Wren had told him to start talking, but she hadn’t ruled out lying.
“Frumf - my mentor and friend - explained so much to me,” Eagle said. “He told me all about mauve crystals and my powers and the Administration, and he was never once vague or needlessly violent or cross. He gave me that crystal, but you mustn’t tell anyone. And he cares about me.”
Eagle didn’t know how believable he was. He hadn’t told many lies in his life, other than Administration-approved lies like “that tunic is slimming”. If Wren didn’t believe him, all it would take was one word to the nearest Magic Knight and Eagle would be in chains.
* * *
Eagle was in chains. Realistically, he had thought it would take Wren more than one word to incriminate him, but she had been exactly that concise. A tall, green-skinned Magic Knight had bound Eagle’s wrists and ankles, and now frogmarched him across the Lyceum grounds with Wren in tow.
Shuffling across the grass, Eagle noticed something odd. From behind one of the gaudy caryatids, an ear came into view. This took several seconds. Then the rest of an otherwise dainty boy appeared. Eagle recognised the blank face and unparalleled ear-to-head ratio: it was the boy from Coordinator Nicer’s poster. Beside him was the Schoolmaster, which explained why Eagle now felt a superlative excitement that this boy was about to play a supporting role in making New Pangaea great again.
When the boy passed, it occurred to Eagle how odd it was that he should see this boy again, so soon after Eagle had inadvertently framed him for murder. Perhaps he was somehow destined to be a part of Eagle’s story.
The green-skinned Magic Knight stopped at a grate labelled ‘oubliette’. It sounded fancy. but from what Eagle could see, the grate only covered a damp, deep pit. Perhaps the Magic Knights had dug this hole but had never gotten around to putting a nice oubliette inside it.
“Spies go in here,” the Green Knight began, as he opened the grate, “and they don’t come out. If you want to resist manfully, now’s your last chance.”
The Green Knight looked eager for a fight - no surprise given he was heavily armed and twice Eagle’s size - but Eagle didn’t resist. The Green Knight visibly saddened, his skin turning to a miserable blue. Eagle looked to Wren. He read the doubt and internal conflict in her eyes. That was satisfying, but otherwise unhelpful. The Blue Knight threw Eagle into the pit and locked the grate above him.
Eagle landed on his back, his fall broken by a foul, mossy substance. From the distant Classification Arena came the sound of polite hand-slapping. It seemed to be mocking him. Eagle’s situation would have been hopeless, had he been less talented and clever.
Once he was sure he was alone, Eagle scraped the muck from his body, and took out the magical textbook he had earlier slipped into his tunic. Titled Let’s Learn Magic, it was a fun, interactive and practical guide to the use of every known magical ability. This book would explain how he could time channel his way out of the oubliette, or so he hoped.
He started from page one. Using humour and engaging characters, the textbook explained all kinds of magical abilities. It covered the basics, then intermediate-level abilities like telekinaesthesia, before reaching the more serious powers. At the very back of the book (save for a section labelled ‘Index’ that would have helped from the outset), Eagle finally found the section on time channeling. Unlike the rest of the text, it was written in a cautious, formal tone:
Most Magic Knights move forward along their own timeline at a constant rate, but not so the rare and complex Magic Knights who practice so-called “time channelling”. With a focused mind and a sharp intake of breath, the time channeller can launch his own consciousness, or any person or object, to another point on an existing past or possible future timeline. However, as time channellers seldom return from their travels, the current understanding of this ability is speculative. We need not explain how dangerous this power could be, with the potential to destroy…”
The remainder was something about time being like a fragile raisin bun, and time channellers being like reckless lunatics who chop raisin buns up with swords. Eagle only scanned this part, as the oubliette was getting chilly.
He decided to travel back in time to the Classification. That was where he had made the mistake of revealing his knowledge of mauve crystals. He could do it differently this time, though hopefully with the same grace and heroism. So he focused on the feeling of fear, on the scent of sawdust, and on the pounding footsteps of scared children. He shut his eyes and breathed in sharply.
* * *
The smell of sawdust was no longer imagined. He opened his eyes.
He was not in the oubliette.
But he was not at the Classification.
Darkness. A fire burning somewhere. The sound of hooves. A female voice calling out.
An unnamed terror.
A shadow, blacker than the darkness. Swallowing. Devouring.
His panic rose by the moment, threatening to overwhelm his sanity. Eagle picked another memory, the first he could find, and breathed in.
* * *
Wren held Viper’s mauve crystal just out of reach, and whispered:
This time, Eagle was in no state to talk. He was back in the near-present, but still terrified. When had he just been? Had that been his future? Or a past he did not recall, even as he relived it? Or something else, given he didn’t fully understand how time channelling worked? One thing was certain: he never wanted to go back.
All he really wanted now was to collapse, but he realised he was only minutes from being thrown into the oubliette again. Lacking the energy to invent, Eagle told Wren everything. About Frumf, and Eagle’s supposed destiny to save humanity. About Viper Sloen, and how she wanted to thwart some scheme of the Schoolmaster’s to overthrow the Administration. About how the mauve crystal worked. About the Schoolmaster’s mood-changing powers, and how Eagle mistrusted both him and Viper, but hadn’t decided which side to take. About his journey to the oubliette and through time into the darkness.
“A fine story,” Wren said when he finished, her face inscrutable.
Eagle sighed. “If I were lying, why would I tell that lie?”
“Eagle Perfect has no reason to lie,” Wren replied in a rich basso profundo, her eyeballs showing only whites. “Wren can trust Eagle Perfect.”
Eagle hoped his need for an explanation would be implicit.
“Sorry,” Wren said, sitting beside Eagle again. “When I’m asked a direct question, a wise Presence inhabits my body and answers it. If It says I can trust you, I trust It.”
Eagle was not too exhausted to be peeved. “Seems you could have asked your Presence about me last time, instead of having me thrown in a pit.”
Wren snorted. “You can’t blame me for something I never did,” she replied. “Or that you undid, or whatever.”
As Eagle’s mind turned again to the devouring darkness, he sat in silence. Wren gladly filled it. She explained how one minute she had been making grey tunics in Fashion Sector DX11, asking the Presence her deepest questions. The next, a cranky old man was telling her to climb into a sack.
“I asked myself what to do,” Wren explained. “The Presence said the Administration wanted to do awful things to me and to It, so I should come to the Lyceum. It said there was danger here, too, but also a friend.”
“Your situation sounds much like mine,” Eagle yawned, though her story sounded much simpler and less important.
“Maybe we can work together, and find out what the Schoolmaster is planning?” Wren suggested. “Maybe you could be my friend?”
Eagle appreciated Wren’s offer to become his assistant, but he had reservations. He was about to suggest sleeping on it when a grown woman appeared at the door.
“Roommates?” the woman asked, her dimples radiating excitement. “Wonderful!” She shook Eagle and Wren’s hands in greeting. “Eleanora Dant, Brancode 7732641. Though that means nothing now that I’m home!”
Eagle and Wren each said their names, which Eleanora ignored. She was too busy choosing a bed on the other side of the dormitory and rocking back and forth on it in the foetal position.
“I’m home!” she said repeatedly.
There were many unsettling things about Eleanora, but three really stuck out.
First, she was far too old to be a student. Eagle might have assumed she was inept, but the powerful smell of tomatoes flooding the air suggested otherwise. Second, she was carrying a multicoloured tunic with the name “Eagle Perfect” stitched into the tag. Eagle would have raised this immediately, if it were not for the third unsettling thing: her silver necklace, which bore a mauve crystal.
Eagle caught Wren’s eye. She had noticed the mauve crystal, too. They had to get out of the dormitory. Having been through a great deal in recent minutes, Eagle was pleased that Eleanora was a babbling wreck and in no condition to notice them leaving.
“That crystal,” Wren whispered in the corridor. “I bet it’s the Schoolmaster’s.”
“I’ll take that bet,” Eagle said, meaning the opposite of that. “And it gives me an idea.”