The next day I met my “suite mates.” My shroud didn’t have a watch, and alarm clocks didn’t exist here; so I woke a hand shaking my shoulder and whispering that it was time for training to begin. I nodded sleepily and tried to shake the fatigue from my body. As my sight lost its sleep-induced blurriness I took a look at who it was who had woken me.
“Come on! You’re going to be late!”
I pulled myself out of bed and just about fell flat on my face, but I was grabbed by my wake up caller.
“Thanks.” I mumbled.
“Not a morning person?”
I blinked when I heard the person speak. I shuffled forward and leaned in really close to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.
I wasn’t. It was a girl. Had I been back on Earth I would have appreciated the Co-Ed dorm situation a little bit more, but I wasn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate it, it just seemed rather insignificant when compared to everything else that was going on.
“Um no, not really.”
“That’ll change pretty quickly.” She said as I led the way out of my room.
“Yeah I guess so. So um what’s your name?”
“I like it. Mine’s uh… Juewuhl.” I said, suddenly embarrassed, as I realized for the first just how feminine it was. “Skrybe chose it for me.”
It was hard to see in the torchlight, but I think she smiled. “Then it is an honorable name I’m sure.”
I let her take the lead as we exited the collection of rooms and made for the Hub.
“So what’s your Shroud power?”
Before I could blink she had spun around and had two black swords crossed at my throat. The swords had sprouted from the back of her wrist, much like my fan blade, and seemed to be joined to her the sleeve of her Shroud. Her sleeve had gone black up to her shoulder. She lowered the swords and they went from looking sharp and dangerous to looking to slightly rounded and moldable. Then, much like what happens when two drops of water touch on a window, the black shapes that used to be her swords seemed to sink into the black of her sleeve, which then faded back to gray.
My mouth had dropped open in surprise and shock, first at having swords at my throat, and second because that was the first time I had seen a Shroud in action.
“Are you ok? Sorry if I startled you…”
“Uh yeah… I’m fine...”
“Great! We’d better hurry.”
We made it the arena with a minute or two to spare. I received a few odd looks as I walked in with Pailadyn, some were benign, others were downright hostile. I’d have to watch myself. There were no chairs or desks, so I expected this wouldn’t be a traditional class.
How could it be? We were dealing with some pretty untraditional stuff.
Traynur walked in and immediately everyone had quieted and turned their attention to him. It was almost like they feared him. I didn’t want to know why.
“Today you will conduct friendly sparring matches with each other while I work with Juewuhl.” this elicited a few snickers from the boys, “Your matches are posted on the wall.”
The rest of the class went to check out their fight line ups while I followed Traynur to a remote corner of the large nearly-empty room.
“So Juewuhl, what answers do you have for me?”
“Yesterday you were trying to… find out how I came to Cyst?”
“Are you asking a question or making a statement?”
“Making a statement. You wanted to know how I get here.”
“Well done Juewuhl. Now how can you apply yesterday’s lesson to your Shroud?”
I was a little stuck here. “I was not able to find any good way to connect loopholes to my power, other than have my power ready to exploit any loopholes I find.”
Traynur nodded. “Good. There was little I could think of either. Your next lesson: Do not try to force an answer where none exists. You must learn to recognize where an answer might be found. If one does not present itself you must look elsewhere.”
He turned and gestured at the other students, “As you can see, you are a bit behind the rest. I intend for you to join them as soon as you are able to grasp the basic tenets of your Shroud. There is no method I can use to train you that will work better than placing you in a desperate position.”
I nodded and did my best to not lose control again. Traynur stood and motioned for me to follow him. Part of the arena was devoted to combat dummies. They were black along with everything else, and they had certainly seen some use.
“Now Juewuhl, I want you to simply use your Shroud. Imagine it as simply another body part. Envision how you want it to be used.”
I pictured my fan and willed my Shroud to form the spinning blade. As I watched, my sleeve grew black, like Pailadyn’s had, and it began to mold itself into a small rotating blade with three “arms.”
Traynur looked surprised, “Well… well done Juewuhl. Not many are able to control they’re Shroud that early on. Skrybe was right to choose you it seems.”
The odd look he gave me dissuaded me from telling him that the whole process seemed sort of familiar.
Almost like I had done it before.