It was the first day of a new school year for the Sorcier Academy of Magic. The new students were filling in for introductions and orientation. As they walked through the gates, they were greeted by a second year student.
Catarina Claes had been asked to perform greeting duties at the gates by her friends on the Student Council. Normally, this would’ve been done by a member of the Council, which Catarina was not. But in this case, because of how well-liked Catarina was and how at ease she made people feel, her friends asked her if she could do so, which she was happy to acquiesce to. As the first-year students filed in, she shook their hands and smiled brightly at them.
“Welcome to the Sorcier Academy of Magic!” said Catarina to one of the new students. “I am Catarina Claes, and I’m happy to have you as a classmate!”
“Th-thank you!” said the young woman she was greeting, who blushed as she shook Catarina’s hand. “I am Louise Cox.”
“If you have any questions about anything, please see a member of the Student Council, or if one isn’t available, another second-year student. We’ll be happy to help you!”
This continued on and had been rather cursory. Catarina always enjoyed meeting new people and was eager to find out more about her new classmates. Eventually, a young man walked up to her uneasily. He had messy black hair, wore an ill-fitting black suit, and looked out of sorts and possibly ill. Catarina extended her hand and greeted the young man, “Welcome to the Sorcier Academy of Magic!” The young man seemingly did not notice her extending her hand. After a few awkward moments, she asked the young man, “Young Sir, are you okay?”
“Oh!” The young man snapped out of a seeming trance. “Yes…..I am fine. Sorry.” He then reached for Catarina’s hand and shook it. Catarina felt the young man’s grip. It seemed unusually strong to her. “I am Catarina Claes, and I’m happy to have you as a classmate!” The young man let go and then stood awkwardly before Catarina. Confused, Catarina asked, “Is something wrong?”
“Oh! No, nothing is!” said the young man. “My name is…..Starke. Starke Simmons is my name.” Catarina found the young man’s delivery to be rather odd and robotic. “Young Sir, you don’t look well. Perhaps you should see a nurse.”
“Oh! No! That won’t be necessary. I’m fine…..thank you.” The young man then walked forward and eventually began to blend in with the crowd. Catarina found the whole sequence with Starke odd. He seemed unnatural, almost like a machine programmed to say something. He also looked rather ill. She decided after she was done that she would find her fiancé, Prince Geordo Stuart, and tell him about that young man. She figured that as the Student Council President, he would be able to help the young man better than she could.
Eventually, she finished greeting the new students, and went off to find Geordo. In a rather fortuitous occurrence, she found him rather quickly. Upon spotting him, she waved to him, which Geordo spotted. He went up to her and greeted her.
“Hello Catarina! How did the greeting of the new students go?”
“It went well, though there is one student I’m worried about.”
Curious, Geordo asked her, “Which student?”
“It was a student named Starke Simmons. He seemed ill, and also seemed to fall into a trance. I’m worried about him.”
Geordo heard this and got out a list. He looked over it, and then asked Catarina, “What did you say the student’s name was again?”
“It was Starke Simmons.”
Geordo looked over the list again. He then asked Catarina, “What did he look like?”
“Well, he was wearing a black suit that seemed to be too small for him. He also had black, messy hair, and he looked pale, like he was sick.”
Geordo took this in. “I’ll help that young man. In the meantime, lunch is about to begin. Our friends should all be at a table. I’ll join you when I get that man some help.”
“Okay! Thank you Prince Geordo!” Catarina then set off to the dining room for the orientation lunch. After she was out of view, Geordo quickly made his way to the Dean of Students, Doctor Lawrence Cope. Doctor Cope, whom the students knew as “Dean Larry”, greeted the Third Prince. “Good afternoon, Prince Geordo.”
“Good afternoon, Dean Larry. I want you to check something for me.”
“Certainly, Your Highness.”
“Could you check your list for a new student named Starke Simmons? The list I have is accurate as far as I know, but I do know there can be last-second additions.”
“That won’t be a problem.” The Dean then got out his list of new students and checked it. After running through it twice, the Dean looked at Geordo. “I don’t see that name anywhere on this list.”
Upon hearing this, Geordo was startled. “My fiancée told me about a new student who called himself that. I checked my list but didn’t see him on there, and your list doesn’t have him either. Call some guards. We have a trespasser on our hands.”
Catarina walked into the dining room, more than ready for lunch. She had been feeling hungry halfway through greeting students, and was now ready to eat. Due to today being orientation, the dining room was packed with numerous students, both first and second-year, as well as faculty and school staff. Lunch on orientation day would be for an extended period, so as to allow new students to interact with each other and second-year students. Catarina had enjoyed that last year when she attended orientation, and was looking forward to meeting new students.
After a short look, Catarina spotted the table she was going to be sitting at. Her brother Keith Claes, as well as her close friends Prince Alan Stuart, Mary Hunt, Sophia Ascart, and Maria Campbell were all waiting for her. About the only thing Catarina regretted was that Sophia’s brother Nicol was not present. Nicol had just graduated, which meant he would not be present with them this year. As she walked up to the table, Catarina waved at the group, who noticed her and smiled. Mary in particular was waving enthusiastically while Catarina walked up to them. Upon reaching the table, she greeted her friends and took a seat.
“Good afternoon everyone!” she said as she took a seat. “How has orientation been going for you?”
“It’s been going quite well Sister,” said Keith. “We’ve been busy keeping things coordinated and flowing smoothly. How was it greeting the new students?”
“It went well. Though there is one student I’m a bit worried about.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Keith.
“Well, he seemed to be ill, and he looked like he was in a haze for some reason. He was wearing a suit that looked too small for him, so I’m wondering if that’s why.”
“I think I know who you’re talking about,” remarked Alan. “I saw someone that fits that description earlier, and they looked out of sorts.”
“Did you get their name?” asked Mary.
“Yes, he said his name was Starke Simmons,” Catarina answered.
“Simmons…..Simmons…..I might be mistaken, but I don’t remember seeing anyone with that name on the list of new students,” said Mary.
Just then, Catarina spotted the student in question. “That’s him right there!” she pointed out to the group. They looked at him, and were wondering what was going on with that young man. He clearly looked uncomfortable and uneasy, though he didn’t appear to be any sort of threat. They watched the young man look around, before he took a seat at a table by himself. Seeing this, Sophia mused, “He might just be nervous since it’s his first day. You are right though Lady Catarina, that suit looks too small for him.”
Maria then turned to Catarina. “Where is Prince Geordo? I’m surprised he’s not here yet.”
“Well, after I told him about Master Simmons, he said he would get help for him. Maybe he went to the infirmary to get some nurses.”
Catarina’s thoughts were immediately contradicted when they saw Geordo walking in with two Academy guards behind him. He spotted the table Catarina and her friends were at, to which he then briskly walked over. He then asked Catarina a question. “That Starke Simmons you told me about, have you seen him?”
“Yes Prince Geordo,” Catarina answered. “We just saw him take a seat at that table over there.” Catarina then pointed out the table to Geordo. Maria then spoke up. “Prince Geordo, why do you have guards with you?”
“There isn’t a new student here with that name. That young man is trespassing, and we need to remove him.” Geordo then told everyone, “Just stay here. I will handle this.” Geordo then motioned to the guards, and began walking to the table where Starke was. Catarina and her friends began watching the scene unfold as Geordo confronted the young man.
They saw Geordo walk up with the guards and talk to Starke. After a few things were said, Geordo then motioned to the guards, who proceeded to each grab one of Starke’s arms. The guards then hoisted up Starke, to which the young man yelped. The commotion drew the attention of the rest of the dining room, who then went silent as the scene played out.
“What have I done?” Starke asked plainly.
“You are trespassing on the grounds of the Academy of Magic. You are not a student here and should not be on this campus.”
Starke began struggling. “I have done nothing wrong,” he responded. Geordo was surprised at the cool, unnatural tone with which he protested. Geordo then quickly replied, “Yes you have. You are not permitted to be on this campus.”
“I was told I needed to be here,” replied Starke, again in the same cool tone.
“Who told you that?”
“An authority greater than yours,” Starke replied.
Geordo had enough of the young man’s obstinance. He looked at the guards and told them, “Take him to the jail in town. He will need to be interrogated.” The guards nodded and proceeded to take Starke out of the dining room. After the guards began taking Starke away, the commotion and chatter amongst the students resumed. Geordo walked over to the table Catarina and her friends were sitting at.
“Catarina, thank you for telling me about him. He is not a student here. I checked Dean Larry’s new student list and he didn’t appear on it. I called in those guards to take him away. This will need to be investigated thoroughly.”
“What do you suppose he wanted?” asked Maria.
“I don’t know,” responded Geordo. “Hopefully we’ll figure that out when he’s interrogated.”
Suddenly, Starke was heard yelling, “LET GO OF ME!” The group looked over and saw the two guards that had been taking Starke with them struggling to keep hold of him. He began to shout some more. “I WILL NOT BE DENIED! YOU ARE PREVENTING MY MISSION!” Starke began to shake the guards off. Suddenly, with a mighty yell, he threw both guards off of him. “MY MISSION WILL NOT BE PREVENTED! I WILL OBSERVE! I WILL REPORT!” The students in the dining room looked in shock as Starke began to convulse violently. A few moments later, he screamed loudly, so much so that many students present were forced to cover their ears. Something then erupted from Starke’s torso. It seemed metallic and covered with an oil that glistened. He then began ripping off his suit, and his skin began to take a dark grey complexion. Shortly after that, other metal appendages with the same glistening oil began erupting from his skin.
Starke, transformed into some sort of biomechanical monstrosity, then yelled out “TERMINATE ALL FLESHLINGS!” A noxious vapor began emanating from his body, which caused several students to feel sick. Seeing the threat that was present, Geordo yelled out, “EVERYONE! LEAVE THE DINING ROOM NOW!” The gathered students, faculty, and school officials did so, leaving through the main doorway or the windows, whichever was closer by. Catarina and her friends quickly got up and ran for the exit. As they left, Catarina looked back and saw Geordo drawing his sword.
Catarina and her friends got outside of the building. As they got out, they quickly joined up with the crowd of students and school staff. The students that had been sickened by the monstrosity’s toxic vapor were still sick, and other students were helping them. Catarina turned to her friends. “Is everyone alright?”
“We’re fine,” affirmed Alan. “I need to go back in. My brother is facing that thing by himself. Who knows what it’s capable of?”
Just after he said that, everyone’s attention was drawn to the entrance of the building. Geordo was running with all deliberate speed. “Everyone! Leave the area immediately! That monstrosity is going berserk!” The students began to run away, while Alan ran up to try and assist his brother. Suddenly, the biomechanical monstrosity ran out of the building and was charging at the students. Geordo quickly called out to Alan, “Alan! Get out of here!”
“Let me help you!” Alan called back.
“I can’t hurt this thing! I can only delay it!”
“Let me delay it with you then Geordo!”
Geordo, seeing his brother was dead set on helping him, called out, “Don’t engage it with your sword! Use your magic!” Alan did as he was told and quickly conjured a gush of water, drenching the abomination with it. It was no use however, and the monstrosity charged through, to which Alan quickly got out of the way. Geordo meanwhile fired off a gout of flames at the horror, but the attack did not slow it down. The monstrosity then slashed at Geordo with its hands, and Geordo cried out in pain as he suffered a gash on his torso.
Catarina had been running when she tripped and fell. She went to get back up, but suddenly, something landed on top of her and pinned her down. She looked up and saw the monstrosity, its face now made of a blackened, burned-looking metal, staring down at her. The terrifying visage made her scream in fear, and she began crying hard. The vapors it was emanating sickened her, and she began to cough. She struggled against the terrible thing, but it did not let go, declaring, “FLESH IS DEFECTIVE. IT MUST BE REPLACED.” Catarina closed her eyes, waiting for the worst, when suddenly she felt a burst of heat.
Geordo, wounded but still able to fight, had thrown a gout of flame, which hit the monstrosity. It turned around, looked at the wounded Geordo, and declared, “AGGRESSOR FLESHLING MUST BE TERMINATED!” It quickly leapt at Geordo and knocked him down. Geordo began scooting back on the ground and called out, “CATARINA! RUN!” Catarina however was scared to death seeing the deadly abomination stalking Geordo and seemingly ready to kill him. Her friends had run back for her, but before they could reach her, she had gotten up and began running towards Geordo and the biomechanical being. As she ran, she began preparing her Earth Bump spell to try and trip the abomination. She knew she was taking a risk: with her being in a weakened state, casting the spell could put a strain on her body and injure her. But she didn’t care. She needed to try and save Geordo, even if it was a long shot.
As she prepared to cast, the physical and emotional duress she was under indeed strained her. Suddenly, she felt the sensation of something exploding inside her, and a burning sensation washed over her. But oddly, it did not feel painful. In fact, it felt good. The sensation continued, and suddenly, she felt something in her mind and in her body. Something that told her that she now had a new way to do things. Something that imparted the ability to draw on a power she hadn’t known about.
She finished her cast, and stuck her hand out. But instead of an Earth Bump, a sphere of electrical energy flew out from her palm and struck the monstrosity. The horror howled when the sphere hit it, and it appeared to hurt it. The monstrosity then turned towards Catarina, who promptly drew on that power and fired another sphere, which struck the abomination and staggered it. It tried to shake off the blow, but Catarina fired a third sphere which hit. The biomechanical horror dropped to its knees, hurt badly by what Catarina had done. Catarina did not understand what she’d just done, but she somehow knew how to do it. Geordo looked on in disbelief, not believing what he’d just seen.
Seeing an opening, Catarina then felt another source of power she could draw on. She drew upon it, and then cast a spell, which ensnared the abomination in roots and vines that erupted from the earth. It struggled to free itself, but couldn’t. Catarina then drew on more power and began channeling it. A green beam emanated from her hands and began enveloping the monstrosity, which howled as the power overtook it. Then, with a final surge, Catarina completely enveloped it, and the beam stopped firing from her hands. After the beam disappeared, she found a gnarled but verdant tree standing where the monstrosity once was.
Seeing that the threat was no more, Catarina quickly ran over to Geordo’s side. Geordo was still in pain from the wound he’d received on his torso.
“Prince Geordo! How badly hurt are you??” she cried out, as tears began rolling down her face.
“It hurts…..It hurts a lot.”
Alan then ran up to the two. “Geordo, I’m sorry! I tried to stop it, but it just powered through and I let it wound you!”
“Don’t apologize Alan,” Geordo responded. “I wasn’t any better at stopping it. And at least it was me that got hurt and not you.”
“Catarina! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine! We need to help Prince Geordo!”
Catarina held Geordo in her arms. His wound needed immediate treatment, as while it was not a mortal or fatal wound, it was nevertheless significant. Seeing this, Alan told Catarina, “Wait here. I’m going to get a doctor!” Suddenly, she felt another source of power flowing through her, and she got the sense that she could do something to help him. “Prince Geordo, stay still. I think I can help you.” She then began drawing on that source of power and held her hand in front of Geordo’s wound.
“Catarina, what are you…..?!”
An energy radiated from Catarina’s hands, and it began mending Geordo’s wound. Geordo and Alan could only look on in shock as his wound healed. After about a half-minute, the wound was completely mended. Geordo and Alan looked at Catarina.
“How did you do all of that? And how did you know how to do all of that?”
“I don’t know,” Catarina replied pensively. “I just saw that thing looking like it was ready to kill you, and I had to do something about it. I felt this sensation inside me, and then I felt like a new power was running through me. I can’t tell you how I did it. I just did.”
Catarina and Alan then helped Geordo stand back up. Geordo twisted his body around a bit. “It doesn’t hurt. It feels like it’s been completely healed.”
“PRINCE ALAN! PRINCE GEORDO!”
The group looked and saw their friends running up towards them. Keith quickly ran up to Catarina and embraced her. “Sister! Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine Keith,” Catarina replied, as she began calming down due to Geordo now being okay. After Keith finished hugging Catarina, Mary followed suit. Sophia and Maria checked on Geordo and Alan. “Prince Geordo, are you okay?” asked Maria.
“That thing gave me a cut on my torso that was painful, but somehow, Catarina was able to completely heal it.”
“How? Lady Catarina doesn’t have light magic!” said Sophia.
“Whatever it was, it wasn’t light magic, but she was able to heal me.”
Before the three of them could discuss this any further, they saw school faculty and officials walking up. She heard them talking among themselves, discussing what had happened and what course of action to take. They seemingly came to an agreement and nodded among themselves. They were followed by other students, who had from a distance seen the entire thing unfold. The Dean, seeing that most of the student body was nearby, made an announcement.
“In light of what has happened, and due to the need to do a complete investigation, the rest of today’s orientation activities have been cancelled. Students, you are to return to your dorm rooms and not leave until word that it is okay to do so comes out from me.” The Dean then came up to Catarina. She wondered if what she’d just done was against some part of the Student Code of Honor and braced herself for the Dean’s words.
“Miss Claes, I don’t understand how you did what you did just now, but thank you. Your actions prevented anyone from being seriously harmed or killed.”
“So I’m not in trouble?”
“No, you’re not,” the Dean assured her.
“Thank you for clearing that up, Dean Larry!”
Catarina was put at ease being assured that she was not in trouble. What had happened shouldn’t have been possible based on what was known about magic. She was just as curious as to how she was able to do what she did. The Dean then spoke further.
“Your actions are going to draw the attention of the Ministry of Magic, but right now I think it’s best if everyone here just goes back to the dorms. The Ministry can wait.” The Dean then turned to Geordo and Alan. “Prince Geordo, Prince Alan, the Ministry will want to speak with you two as well, since you were primary witnesses and directly affected by Miss Claes’s actions.”
“Understood, Sir,” the two princes replied simultaneously. With that, the Dean bade goodbye and Catarina started heading towards the dorms. As she did, she was beset by students.
“Lady Claes, how did you destroy that horrible thing?”
“What did you do to heal Prince Geordo?”
Catarina, not having any answers, responded, “I don’t know. I just felt something inside me burn, and all of a sudden I knew how to do those things. I can’t explain it.”
“Well, it’s a good thing,” remarked a student. “Thanks to your actions, you stopped that monster from harming anyone and saved Prince Geordo’s life!”
“Lady Claes, you’re a true heroine!”
Catarina was flustered at the praise she was hearing, not having expected it. “Um, I wouldn’t say that. I just did what I could.”
“Your actions saved our lives Lady Claes! How does that not make you a heroine?”
“Those powers can’t be arcane. Could they be divine?”
“What god or goddess has smiled upon you, Lady Claes?”
Catarina eventually found it impossible to go any further, as the students were eager to speak to her about what had just happened. Seeing this, Geordo went up to Catarina and addressed the other students. “Your questions will be answered in due time. But for now, please return to the dorms as Dean Larry instructed everyone here.” The students however ignored Geordo and continued to ask questions of Catarina. Seeing as how he was ignored, he again called out, “Everyone, please listen to Dean Larry! Return to the dorms!” Still the students beset Catarina. Finally, desperate for control, he turned to the rest of the group. “They’re not listening to me. Could you please help me and form a circle around Catarina so we can escort her back?”
Keith was amused at Geordo’s request. “You need our help? So you can’t do it all yourself, Your Highness?” Normally, Geordo would’ve simmered at Keith’s barb, but seeing that Catarina was becoming overwhelmed by everyone, Geordo put his annoyance aside. “Please, I need your help.” Keith, who shortly after realized how uncomfortable Catarina was, then said, “It’s not a problem. Everyone?” The group then formed a circle around Catarina. Alan then spoke up. “I know you all have questions, but for right now, please follow Dean Larry’s instructions and return to your dorm rooms!” Geordo then turned to Catarina. “Catarina, just follow us.” With that, the group began walking towards the ladies’ dorm, calling out “Make way!” and “Excuse us!” The group was able to make their way through the students and escort Catarina.
After a decent walk, they reached the ladies’ dorm. The group walked Catarina to her dorm room. She then turned to them. “Thank you everyone for helping me with the crowd!”
“Lady Catarina, what kind of magic is that?” asked Mary.
“I don’t know,” Catarina replied. “I just found myself able to do it somehow. I’m as confused as all of you are.”
Just then, the door to Catarina’s dorm room opened, revealing Anne. “Good afternoon everyone. From what it sounds like there’s some sort of commotion.”
“That’s an understatement,” remarked Geordo. “A young man who was trespassing here transformed into some sort of monster and attacked. But Catarina was somehow able to destroy it.”
Anne’s eyes widened at Geordo’s explanation. “What??”
“It’s complicated,” added Keith. “But we’ll explain everything to you.”
Just then, Catarina yawned. “I feel tired. I think I’m going to lie down on my bed for a little bit.”
“I think that’s a good idea, Lady Catarina,” remarked Maria. “With everything that happened, you seemed overwhelmed.”
“We can explain everything to Anne,” added Keith. “Go ahead and rest.” With that, Catarina took her leave and walked into her dorm room. She went to her bedroom and sat down on the bed. She then laid down on her back, and within a few minutes, had fallen asleep.