I nodded to Artonus while the healer finished patching me up. We hadn’t even started the lesson and I was already completely winded. My muscles were so sore from the constant abuse and the frequent healing that they could not adjust fast enough to the repairs. It made my whole body tense and stiff.
Artonus truly was an adept swordsman. Even when I tried to adjust to his combat style, he would discover a new way to throw me off. Aside from being painful, it was...inspiring to see him topple a mage without an overwhelming magic reserve.
I was excited to learn from Artonus, but also worried. How much more of this could I take? I managed pretty well with Grimlock as my mentor, which kept me a little less frightened about the whole ordeal. But I still didn’t know Artonus well enough as a teacher to properly gauge my own endurance.
For all I know, he could be much worse than Grimlock.
“Stand up, boy!” Artonus called to me once the medic finished healing my back for about the twentieth time.
Groaning in pain, I struggled to lift myself off of the ground. My sword trembled in my hands, not from fear (at least, not most of it), but from the throbbing in my upper arms.
“Alright, boy. Now I want you to—”
“Excuse me! You three!” A woman shouted at us. A guild member, I assumed.
“Is this important? I’m trying to train this kid, and I need her here to heal him.”
“Master Grimlock is assembling all of Supernova in the center bonfire. He wants the entire guild present.”
Artonus laughed, most likely at Grimlock’s new title of “Master.” Had Grimlock been in proximity, he would have yelled at that mage in annoyance.
“Fine. Your training can wait. Seems like good ol’ Grimlock has something more important to discuss. You know this place better than me, so I’ll follow you to the central bonfire.”
I responded solely with a nod, and Artonus, the medic, and I approached the bonfire. All of the guild members crammed on one side as a wooden platform stood across from us, towering over the blaze. Mages of every shape and size flocked to where Grimlock requested. Conversations of all kinds went on around me, and I had become so distracted by the massive crowd that Artonus could no longer be found.
He probably went off to see Grimlock, I thought to myself.
“Hello, mages of Supernova!” A gravelly roar hushed the crowd completely. Everyone stopped immediately and turned to the platform that rested behind the scorching flame. The roar was so familiar to me; I had heard it many times during my time as an apprentice.
Grimlock stood on the elevated platform with his daughter, Ceres, by his side. He must have been relieved that he was done training me because they could finally spend time together again. Just before he could announce retirement, however, he stood above us, taking the title of Guildmaster against his will.
I have to give Grimlock credit though. He sure knew how to keep an audience attentive.
Seeing Grimlock behind that vigorous flame reminded me of Master Juxon. Although, he never assembled the guild in this manner—or at all during my time there—but everyone could feel the intensity in the air. It was very much like when I met Master Juxon for the first time, and I could sense the magical aura that permeated his skin.
It pained me that someone so influential could die so quickly.
“I assume all of you know what has happened to Master Juxon. As a result, I have been elected as Supernova’s newest Guildmaster. However, I did not gather you all here just to tell you that. I, for one, loathe my new title, but I shall wear it with honor.”
“As for why I truly gathered you all here, my daughter and I have composed a list of all those killed or missing in action after our battle with Nightwing. Let us take this time now to honor our fallen comrades, and do our best in the future to prevent such a tragedy from befalling us again.”
The breeze that once sailed through the air died down in an instant. Whimpers and depressed moans were dispersed within the crowd. Even the fire, the luminous inferno that brilliantly burned in our midst seemed to be tamed. Its once ferocious roar was reduced to a somber flicker.
But that was probably how all of Supernova felt.
Ceres handed Grimlock a few pages of paper. After a deep, melancholic breath, he began reading off the names. On and on, the list grew, and I could hear members sobbing within the group. Just how many did we lose?
Grimlock continued, until he hit a name that finally I recognized. And in that moment, my once lifted spirit, the revitalization that Supernova brought me was replaced with sorrow.
A wave of emotions rippled through my head. I should have went with her, even if Grimlock told me to follow him. I could have prevented this. She did not have to die; she couldn’t be dead. She was the only person that could make me smile whenever I saw them.
She was my anchor that kept me from spiraling into the next world.
I turned around. I could not handle my emotions. I ran, pushing people out of the way. They yelled angrily, but I did not care. I just kept running, faster and faster.
I knew where I wanted to be. I knew where I had to be. And no one would stop me from going there.