21.1: The Pawn and the Rook

“Keep pushing, Elijah. Just a few more and you’ll be done for the day.”

I was exhausted from today’s training. Halfway through TE, I lost any natural energy that I had in my body. Solana then taught me how to channel Essence in a way that it could enhance my endurance. She mentioned something about using my Essence to control my muscles rather than my brain, vastly eliminating feelings of fatigue. Nonetheless, my body screamed at me to rest, but I denied its cries for reprieve. Maybe it was just my tired brain speaking, but...I was starting to enjoy all of the exercise.

Solana seemed to be impressed with my perseverance as well. My punches were still as weak as they were this IE, but to enhance my physical strength was a trait that only most Reds could master. Solana, only coming from the same spectrum family, knew very little about enhancement other than endurance. That lesson would have to wait until I finished basic training.

After a couple more punches, Solana tossed the punching bag to the side. “Alright, that’ll do for today. Nice job, Elijah. Although, you really could work on your upper body strength.”

“Working out wasn’t really a priority back home,” I slumped to the ground.

“But your endurance, even before I showed you how to enhance it with Essence, is pretty good.”

“Wyatt and I ran from Dwellers a lot. The burn in your legs goes away much easier when you’re running for your life from some psycho who wants some food.”

“Dwellers in Old Tenebris are cannibals?” Solana shivered at the thought.

“No, they wanted our groceries.”

Solana let out a sigh of relief, “Well, I’m going to take a shower and then get some dinner. I suggest you do the same. We’re going to have a big day tomorrow.”

“Right. See you at dinner,” I smiled.

“Yeah, see you later.”

Solana exited the tent while I lay there. After a few moments, I struggled to stand up and trudge out as well. My legs were refusing to take me to my room, and I didn’t blame them. I had been training for so long, and after transitioning from the less strenuous routine I maintained back home, it was no wonder why my muscles stiffened so much.

At last, I was able to reach my bedroom. Surprisingly, I was already beginning to map out the castle layout in my head. Maybe I gave myself too much credit; the castle corridors were still perplexing, besides the paths from my room to the mess hall and the training tents.

I snagged the key from my pocket and jammed it into the door. After a twist, the door opened, and my room appeared before me. It was just as I left it: a disheveled bed and a deluge of items scattered over my counter. The metal case I found the day before sat close to the edge, tilted at a strange angle to keep it from falling over.

I picked it up from the counter and brought it to my bed. I examined the lock again; it was completely fried from when Solana forced it open with her Essence. I opened it from the charred handle and picked up the rook that lay within.

The note from inside the rook slid out with ease, and I studied its words again:

Our rook may have been captured,
but so long as our pawn reaches behind enemy lines,
we will return to the battlefield gloriously,
where the pawn and rook will fight as one.

Just what did my parents leave me? This message made no sense. My father tried his hardest to teach me to play chess, but I could never strategize as well as he could. The rules, to this day, still boggle me. But this message...it didn’t even seem like it was addressed to me.

And then it hit me. Maybe it wasn’t addressed to me, but rather, it was addressing me. Perhaps I was the pawn. But then who would be the rook? My parents? The way they mentioned “our rook” made it seem unlikely. However, given how esoteric these lines were, none of my theories could be accurate.

But that last line: “the pawn and rook will fight as one.” Maybe, just maybe, my parents were waiting for me to find them. It was as if they knew I would be searching for them.

No. There was no way. If they were waiting for me, what would have stopped them from coming home? Why wouldn’t they have just returned to Old Tenebris? It made no sense if they were truly waiting for me to arrive somewhere.

Was it all just a way of bringing me to this castle? All of the Guardians I’ve met have said that Old Tenebris was beyond their influence. No, that couldn’t be it, either. Mom and Dad could have easily taken me to the castle to be trained. Solana said training usually begins at a young age.

Mom, Dad, just what the hell happened to you?

The End

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