Monstroth groaned. He had been practicing since before sunrise to no avail. While he was used to harsh training from both his father and his Uncle when he was younger, Monstroth had learned well enough that they could not compare to the Sovereign.
Well, this 'lesson' was harder than any he had gone through before. Instead of picking up rocks, sensing minerals in the earth, or just all around practice, the Sovereign had Monstroth trying to 'lock' a boulder in air and try climbing on it afterward. It sounded simple in theory, but Monstroth was hit by reality the moment he tried it.
“The problem is with how you are doing it, boy,” his master said for what seamed like the fiftieth time that morning. “You have to create a bond between two sources instead a bond with yourself. Once you get that part through your thick skull, I'm sure you'll figure it out.”
Monstroth sighed. “I get what you mean but...” The boulder hit the ground next to another larger boulder. Sands, how did he explain it? “I just don't feel a connection between the two rocks.”
The Sovereign cursed and thought for a moment. “I hate giving metaphors because I think using them makes you rely upon an image. I told you about my dog correct?” Monstroth nodded. He vaguely remembered hearing about his master's 'connection'. It was what enabled him to use his Mineral Mystic so well. “Well, when he died, my Mystic suffered. I was grieving. I got over it, of course, but it was a weakness that could have been exploited. Understand?”
“Yes, master,” Monstroth replied. He wondered why Naetia had been sent out of ear again. Maybe these techniques weren't meant to be passed to those who weren't Sovereign? Sands, why did it matter? She was a distraction and Monstroth hated switching between pity, anger and sadness at seeing her. He should be paying attention to his master.
“So, don't rely on this too much,” the former bandit continued, “Imagine that the two sources are your friend Rhazin and... Let's say your younger sister. I think I heard that fool boy liked her or something from your father anyway.” His master spat at the ground. Romantic relationships were something the Sovereign seemed to hate. He had always looked annoyed when Monstroth spoke of them. “Those two also have a bond, so imagine that bond and let it control the Mineral in the boulders instead of your own bond.”
Monstroth followed his masters orders and tried imagining his sister as one of the boulders. She was energetic and prone to doing reckless things, but kept herself polite in public. If anything, she was more like a boy than most other boys, honestly. It was easy to see her in the Mineral, just like he did Rhazin.
Something clicked and Monstroth knew he had his 'connection.' It wasn't as strong as his connection when he thought of Rhazin, but it was still there and pretty powerful. He used his Mystic to grab the other boulder and place it above and to the right of the first one. Almost like stairs.
Then, Monstroth tried imagining the bond they shared. Those times they had both been with him around Faerein. Rhazin was younger than Monstroth, yet older than Kaela, so at the time there was no romantic feelings, but they were close even then. It was slight, but Monstroth could feel the connection between the two boulders. Or he thought, at least. He wasn't sure how he should feel when they were connected. Sands, he had a lot to learn!
“Try stepping on it,” the Sovereign said dryly, though Monstroth wasn't sure if he was embracing his Mineral Mystic or not. Either way, Monstroth did as he was told. The pain of disobedience was not something he enjoyed.
“Yes, Master,” Monstroth said, walking forward. He climbed onto the first boulder and tenderly placed his armored foot on the next one. Despite his large frame, it was a large step and keeping a strong hold on the 'connections' in his head was no easy feet. Still, the feeling of accomplishment that followed when he managed to get on top of the second boulder without falling to the ground with it again was worth it.
“I did it!” Sands, but it felt great. In his mind, Monstroth could feel the connections becoming easier to maintain as well. It had been like this all his life, but even still, it was amazing to be able to adapt to a new skill or move. His master said that was one of the qualifications for being a Sovereign.
“Well, it's about time, boy,” the bald man said, looking honestly annoyed. “Any longer and I would have probably tried to find another apprentice.”
For the next couple hours, Monstroth was made to practice holding the boulder at different heights and even lifting himself with the boulder. It wasn't easy, but – like his master had said – he grasped it quickly now that he knew the basics. The hardest part to learn, though, had been slowing down the boulder after dropping it. He had to establish a connection while the boulder fell and slow it down to a stop.
Monstroth didn't like it when he found out why his master had emphasized on slowing falling boulders.
“You're going to throw me?” Monstroth asked again.
“Still got sand in your ears, boy? Yes, I'm going to throw you to Mar.”
Though the prospect of flying like the Air Herost of legend excited him.... Monstroth was scared. Who wouldn't be? He was no Air Mystic and his Plasma wasn't all that powerful yet! He didn't want to die! Sands, did any other apprentices of Sovereigns have to deal with this!?
“Get on the boulder, the both of you!” Barked the bandit leader. Naetia had been called over, reminding Monstroth she was still there. Her presence made him distracted for a different reason now.
If he messed up, she would die, too.
But, Monstroth knew he was being thrown one way or another, so he helped Naetia onto the large rock and climbed on himself. Just for safety reasons – and because the girl seemed to be literally scared speachless – Monstroth pulled her into his lap and put his dominant arm around her stomach.
“Don't think you'll have sweet alone time with the girl, boy,” the Sovereign spat, “Focus on landing.”
Before Monstroth could reply, he was flying through the air toward Mar.
The fear of falling was slowly replaced with the excitement of flying. The air was cold enough to make Monstroth tremble, and Naetia screamed wildly in his grip, but honestly it was like nothing he had ever seen before.
Mar was below him and stretched far across the plateau. Unlike the ground view, Monstroth could truly grasp the magnitude of the capitol and the plateau that housed it from here. He also saw the far expanse of plains on the other side of Mar that stretched farther than he could see. In the distance, there was the Wall, if barely. It's peaks were jutting upwards like a row of sharp, ragged teeth.
And then Monstroth felt his excitement leave and fear replace it. The ground was getting closer, Mar bigger.
'Sands! A connection! I need a connection!' Monstroth felt frantically for another rock to use as his connection, but found himself to be far from anything he could sense. 'Damnable Sands!' Below, a courtyard in front of a large building greeted him. Mar was starting to encompass his surroundings, too. Hurry! He needed a connection!
He fell below the walls. The ground was almost to him. Naetia screamed louder, grabbing Monstroth's arm and squeezing it tighter than she should be able to.
A connection! Sands!
A large statue sat in the middle of the courtyard. Monstroth quickly established a connection and slowed the boulder beneath his feet. It was hard to completely stop it, so Monstroth used the connection to divert the boulder – and Naetia and himself – to the side.
They hit hard, sending Monstroth and Naetia to the ground. Naetia groaned, but got up and dusted herself off. Monstroth felt the desire to groan himself, but his pride helped him swallow the pain his body felt and stand up. His desert jacket had been torn in the fall, ruining it, and his trousers were in similar shape. That left his armored boots the only thing he had left that wasn't ruined. Sands!
Naetia was inspecting her own dress and seemed displeased. “I really hate these last two days...” Her voice was less despair and more annoyance, meaning she was probably getting over her brothers death. A feeling of guilt passed over Monstroth at that thought, but he shoved it aside as his Master floated down towards the courtyard.
“Not the best of jobs,” the Sovereign said slowly with his usual frown, “But you aren't dead. Yet.” The man stepped off of two small stones that had been underneath his feet and glared at Monstroth for a moment.
Monstroth remembered his masters rule from over a month back. 'Don't make me kill you.' Not only once had Monstroth realized the truth of those words.
Footsteps brought two men dressed in colorful tabards. They were both similar looking – with long black hair pulled back and stern faces – and wearing leather armor underneath. Guards, then?
“Let me do the talking, boy,” the Sovereign snapped, “Lest you get us killed. The same goes for you, girl.” Naetia just nodded and moved to stand beside Monstroth.
“Ah,” the first guard said sarcastically as he came close, “If it isn't the Sovereign of Mineral, himself!”
The second guard spit on the ground before him. “What do you want, old man?”
Monstroth was about to say something about their disrespectful tones...
...But was cut off when he saw the door from the large building nearby rip of it's guards and fly towards the statue near them. Sands! He hadn't even known what it was a statue of! Nevermind that, though!
“Filth!” The guards rushed toward the smoke filled doorway.
Monstroth started to do the same, but his master stopped him. It was probably the right idea, now that he thought about it. It was pointless to rush into danger without being aware of what the danger was. There was also the guards there to help, and they could handle the situation. Yes, Monstroth couldn't argue this time ar-
The dust had settled in the doorway, revealing a small child.
Sands! It was Zero Zalazore! The General's son!