To put the next few hours bluntly, George thoroughly whipped us. He did his best to have us learn how to counter each other and himself, but it was like asking a turtle to take on a bear, or in the case of Pete a ferret. George was an immovable object, but he promised us that once we learned to properly throw and counter his weight would be an almost negligible issue. I had trouble believing it, but still worked hard. Pete on the other hand was merely encouraged further and continued to quickly outpace me in skill. I’ll always have strength on him, but he’s always been quicker on his feet and with his hands at the worksite.
Del tired out after a while and watched us, no longer put on edge by our practice as she was getting used to it. Layla had gone inside to prepare us some drinks, but she took a while. I think she appreciated having some time to herself.
When she came back out with ice water for us, her hair was wet from a shower. I wondered what it would be like not having access to the amenities of modern life here back on Gaileas, but decided that I didn’t want to think about not having access to a shower, let alone a toilet and other standard hygienics.
I was completely beat before Pete was, but he agreed to end training and George relented as well. Pete and I took turns washing up, and George talked with Layla. I took my time in the shower, enjoying the steam. I took longer than I thought though, as Pete knocked on the door for his turn, and later I heard his complaints about how little hot water I had left him. It felt unintentionally justified though for the countless throws I had received.
As I joined the others in the living room with a beer for George and myself, I uncapped mine and sank deep into my recliner I nearly fell asleep, but for the half-asleep vision of the person in armor watching me through the living room window. I tried to get a good look, but the sun glared in my eyes, and suddenly there was a blinding heat in my head.. I sat bolt upright and spilled my beer on my lap. Pete happened to be walking out at the time and gave me a puzzled look, as did the others. I positioned myself out of my slumped posture and apologized before going to my room to change again.
When I came out, Pete had sat in my recliner and taken my slumped seat. Our back and forth was now with him grinning at me, which I couldn’t blame him for after the presumably cold shower. I pulled up a chair next to the couch where Layla and George sat and rested heavily.
“What happened?” Layla asked me with some concern. Her hair was mostly dry, though a few strands still clung to her tall ears giving her the look of wings on her head.
I chuckled to myself at the thought, shaking my head. “Just a bad dream. I startled myself out of near sleep is all.”
Layla persisted. “What did you dream of? Your dreams have been connected to what is happening before.”
I rubbed the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes, picturing it again. “It’s the person in armor. I… I think that can feel it’s always the same one. This time they were watching us from outside.”
Pete scoffed. “What an asshole. The least they could do is knock.”
I sighed. “Their armor is like that of the Royal Guards that we see on TV, but somewhat more ornate.”
Layla frowned, looking down in concentration. “The Royal Guards are always led by a warrior-priest or priestess. They have armor that is more decorated, and the symbol of the gods is emblazoned in gold on their forehead and chest.”
I thought back again. “Every other time I’ve seen them it has been dark, and today I didn’t really get a chance. Anyway, what makes you think my dream reflects reality that closely?”
Layla scrunched her face slightly in concentration. “I don’t like the thought of it, but it’s possible that the current head of the Royal Guards has been using Vis to probe the minds of people who are near the locations of portals, or who have been touched by the Light.”
I raised my eyebrows. “I thought Vis was used to influence a person’s actions, not read their thoughts.”
“The two are not mutually exclusive. In order to influence someone, it is necessary to touch their minds and read surface thoughts. As far as my admittedly incomplete understanding goes, the user can focus their own mind to either probe or influence more. It is like a balance of the person’s mind with the light. Too much push in either direction of influence or reading could break the person’s mind, which is another reason that the practice was outlawed. There are stories of people left comatose until death after being affected by Vis.” Layla rubbed her arms uncomfortably.
My eyes widened as I looked at her. “So you think a priest has been probing my mind?”
“It is a possibility. I don’t see any other reason for your dreams or visions to have such distinct repeating details. It wounds like he is trying to make his influence known to open your mind and encourage you to reveal anything important that you may know.” She stared at me, and I knew what the next question was.
I tensed. “…Not long ago when he was attacking me in my dream, I was able to fight him off using some moves that George had taught me.”
George squinted at me. “It’s good of you to remember, but the Royal Guard use a fighting style different than what I have taught you.”
I swallowed. “Do you think a priest might recognize it?”
George frowned. “Only if he had been to the far West, or had seen me using it. It is not a style common to our lands. And to be perfectly frank, you are not an accomplished user. Not yet, anyway.”
I sighed. “Hopefully he’s not that clever.”
Layla didn’t look relieved, however. “You said that he was watching you from the window?”
I looked back to her. “Yeah. He was just outside, and then I felt like I had the worst fever headache of my life…” I slowed down as I said the last part. “Do you think he was trying to learn where we are?”
Layla shook her head. “I can’t say for certain, as I don’t know firsthand how Vis works. But the pain and burning in your head suggests that he was tipping the scale a bit too far. I think if this is him, which seems more likely than ever, he has become interested in you.”
I lowered my face into my palms and closed my eyes.
“Not the secret admirer you were hoping for?” Pete suggested playfully. I groaned.