I drift back into consciousness at nature’s prodding. I feel rested, though my stomach is still claiming hunger. I wish I’d packed some food. The bell rings twice. I hear groans all around me. We amble out of our tents. I use the bath room and wash my face.
“I feel like I just got here,” Martha mutters as she walks into the bathroom. “Did you get any Idols?” She shakes her head, “Of course you did, you’re of Ollerond.”
I am still confused why being of Ollerond makes any difference. Before I can ask she continues.
“Well at least I managed to get two of the clues, rather than being told them. That can’t be too bad can it?” She looks to me as if I might know the answer.
“I, I don’t know.” I manage to say, sounding as unsure as I feel. “I’m sure it must be, that meant you were second twice.”
“Second,” she moans, “but never first. I’ll never get my wings!” Martha slumps against the sink.
I am in an awkward situation. It as if the world has turned upside down. Normally I’m the insecure one, moaning at my failures. Hesitantly I reach out and put a hand on her shoulder. Taking a deep breath I try to produce a pep talk, my first, ever.
“Think of it as you’ve got a one in sixth chance of getting an Idol and a one in five chance of getting the clue, but a one in four chance of getting nothing...” I stop and shake my head. I was never really good at math. “I mean, Second has to still be good or they wouldn’t have some way of finding out who is second, right?”
“I guess, so.” Martha doesn’t seem thoroughly convinced.
I sigh, drop my hand and look back into the mirror. “I’m sure you’ll pass. I mean, if I can pass when I didn’t even know about this test until a month ago, then surely you, who have grown up knowing about it and being taught how to use your abilities can too.”
Martha’s look of shock echoes the noise of surprise that I catch over my earpiece. Just as she opens her mouth to say something the bell rings three times. Everyone gathers outside. Zack smirks at me and Martha.
“Get any idols halfies?” he snarls, nearly sending Martha into tears.
“I bet you had to cheat to get yours,” David retorts.
His arm moves protectively around Martha. I wish I’d had thought to say that. I just hope it doesn’t mean Zack got more than one by cheating.
“Gather around candidates,” Charles calls to us and we comply. “Here’s a little something for your tummies to tide you over till dinner.” He hands us what look like granola bars, but taste like they pack a whole lot more punch.
“Now you have one more Idol to go after today.” He grins at the couple of groans. “Now, as much as I’d love to show you it, it’s a bit too big and there’s only one.” He looks at Martha, “so yes you will be competing against everyone for this Idol.”
I look at Martha and see her face fall. David, whose arm is still around her, gives her a squeeze. I take hold of her hand to comfort her as well. In a way it comforts me. I am not the only one nervous as to the outcome of this test.
“You will all be guided to a starting point by your Instructors. From this point you will not be able to see anyone else against whom you are racing. This point also places you all an equal distance from the final Greater Elemental Idol. Once you reach the Idol you must enter it. Upon entry you will return here.”
Charles looks around at all of us. “Any questions?”
“Yeah,” Zack pipes up, “When do they eliminate the halfies?”
His friend snickers until Charles gives him a hard stare.
“No one who has passed the fitness test shall be eliminated until the testing is over.” His glance falls briefly on me. “And if I were you I’d watch out for the Half-Bloods are out doing you.”
Zack’s glare is flown full force at me. I let go of Martha’s hand and walk away. I feel her and David watch me. What is it that I have become that some hate me without knowing me and some revere me because of a name? I crouch beside the water of my pond, pendant in hand, waiting for my instructions.