03

THe king’s palace

 

 

I didn’t take long to decide. My family was in section seventeen, and that is where I planned to go. I thought about the destination before Afakan flew us east. The moment I passed the section’s borders, I saw them; four, winged magical creatures with ape-like faces and wolf-like bodies. They looked to be all brown, with lightning charges surrounding them.

Afakan and I flew above them, and I could see they were smaller than him but large enough to destroy houses with just two attacks. I glanced down at the people running in panic, chased by the magicals. This was no ordinary attack. They didn’t come down only to eat as they did every other night. They were angry, and their attacks seemed to be directed at the residents, in particular.

I glanced around to find Morian, the rider tasked with protecting this section, but he was nowhere to be found. I didn’t have time to think about him, though. I instructed Afakan to dive toward two of the beasts, nose first, breathing fire into them. I didn’t stop the fire until I could see their ashes rise, but by then the other two had moved against us.

I flew Afakan to the sky, but the creatures were smaller and faster. Luckily, they couldn’t throw their lightning attacks too far, but Afakan still panicked. That’s when I realized he didn’t like lightning.

We zigzagged our way around the sky with the remaining two beasts on our tail until we reached the clouds. We took advantage of the new environment to flip the chase on them, breathing fire into everything in the sky. For twenty minutes, it looked like the day was back as Afakan’s fire lit the entire sky.

We managed to beat them, however, we didn’t have time to rest. As the two magicals fell, I heard another boom of a cannon and saw the smoke rise. This time, it was my section that was under attack. I had only a moment to wish I could step to the ground to make sure my family was alright, but there was no time. We flew back to section nineteen at top speed.

When we arrived, I saw only one magical, similar in appearance to Afakan, only this one was green and could be no larger than half my magical’s size. I instructed Afakan to breathe fire into it, but he refused. It was the first time he didn’t listen to me. I began to repeat my order, but a strange feeling came over me.

My heart raced as panic snuck inside me. I wasn’t afraid of the fight, but then I realized, it wasn’t me who felt that way, it was Afakan. He didn’t want to attack a magical the same species as him. Perhaps they were related, I didn’t know, but I couldn’t order Afakan anymore. At least, I couldn’t bring him to kill the magical, but I had to do something before the wild beast destroyed my section.

We saw the beast dive toward one of the villages and followed him. Afakan’s weight allowed him to descend faster and we quickly rammed into the magical before it turned and breathed fire into the city.

The beast fell to the ground, and we landed in front of him. What happened next was Afakan acting on his own without my instruction. He moved closer to the beast as it tried to stand and roared in its face, shaking the ground below us. The green magical lowered its head and slowly moved backward as Afakan roared again, and again. After the fifth roar, the green magical flew away.

I wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired, but my section was now safe. I moved to the village to make sure everyone was okay and stayed among the people until the morning came to give them back a sense of security.

On my way to the capital, I received a message on my communication device. The king was summoning all riders to the palace, and I had to go there directly.

 

***

 

As I walked into the main hall of the palace, I saw the king on his golden throne and in front of him the other twenty-six riders. As I moved closer, I could hear their conversation.

Kasim moved closer to the throne. “Trust me, Your Majesty, this was no ordinary attack. I’m sure the Kingdom of Noman is somehow involved in last night’s raids.”

“Noman doesn’t control magicals.” The king slipped his fingers through his long black hair. “There’s no way the Noman’s could turn the magicals against us. They would have used their robots to attack us if that was their plan.”

Kasim shook his head. “Perhaps. All I’m saying is that we need to be certain before it happens again.”

“Fine, I will look into it.” The king turned to me, meeting my eyes. “Saya, come closer.”

I moved through the riders to the front, ignoring their stares of anger. “Your Majesty.” I bowed.

“You saved two sections on your own last night.”

“I only did my job.”

“Still, while everyone rushed to the capital for me, you took care of the people whose riders left them defensless.” The king turned his gaze to Morian with a slight shake of his head before turning back to me. “What do you think about Kasim’s theory? Do you think Noman could somehow do it?”

I glanced at Kasim, noticing his narrowed eyes before returning to the king, “As Your Majesty said, they have giant robots which they build specifically to fight our magicals.” I took a deep breath. “I have to point out, though, that the wild magicals of last night appeared to be scared rather than here looking for food. So I must agree with Kasim in that I believe there is a slight chance the Nomans may have used their robots to scare the wild magicals and push them down to us.”

“I see.” The king rested his back against his throne, stroking his chin. “Alright Saya. In honor of your performance last night, I will give you the chance to choose what you do next. You can either continue to guard section nineteen, take over Morian’s section, who is clearly incompetent, go to investigate the Kingdom of Noman, or fly to the top of the mountains and see what happened to the wild magicals. The choice is yours, but you have to decide right now.”

I knew I couldn’t take a lot of time to think as I needed to show the king I was capable of speed processing. In a way, he was testing me. I ran the choices quickly in my mind.

Keeping my usually peaceful section would give me more peaceful nights, but would also please the other riders who think I am not cut out for a more dangerous section.

Replacing Morian would give me the chance to prove my worth, but I am almost sure it would also turn every rider against me as they continue to push me further away from them.

Or, I could go to investigate either Noman or the mountains. Either choice is dangerous, and I’m not sure what section I would come back to, if I ever come back at all. But succeeding in either of the two missions would encourage the king to favor me even more, especially if I went to the top of the mountain and gained a new magical along the way.

“Alright you majesty, I have made my decision.”

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