THE SLATE OF VALE PART 17

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CHAPTER 17

The inquisitor

“Watch where you are going junk-a-s” Isaac bellowed.

“Am sorry” Matt apologized and walked to his seat without looking back at Isaac or his bunch of friends. He carried a tray, bearing his breakfast of bread and coffee. He was sure Isaac had bumped him on purpose but the thought of Jeff and Ema, and the occasional quake of the earth clouded his memory. Ever since they returned that night, things had been way far from normal. No one could explain what was going on; even the principal himself seemed confuse, and the always smiling Mrs. April, now wears uncertain looks and was always looking over her shoulders, as though she was haunted by Anubis himself.

It was four days now, yet Jeff and Ema had not returned. The school hadn’t noticed their absence but Matt wondered how long it would take for the authority to find out. Raz and Leonard, and a doctor Matt suspects might be working for Zone-3, had lied that Jeff and Ema were assigned special duty in the school clinic. It was not a huge lie and if not for the current state of things, the principal would have insisted on going to see them himself. But right now the principal seemed too distracted to pay attention to the students. He was always making calls, listening to the BCS – broadcasting system – or gazing at the television screen in his office, to make sure that the government had everything under control.

“What’s his problem” Pinna asked Matt who sat down on one of the chair of the round table, with a frown on his face.

“Nothing to worry about” He said and took a bite from the bread. The coffee was hot, so he didn’t touch it. Matt observed their table, Raz, Ham, Pinna and Leonard were there, but his blond hair stood on his head when his eyes rested on Sandra.

The cafeteria was nosy and the morning air was filled with the aroma of beef, baked bread, spiced vegetables and other things. It was filled with all the students in the academy, both the higher grades and the lower. The curious air was flaunting somewhere, but the student seemed to be having good time. Both the aroma and the noise seemed too faint, as Matt was lost in the difference he noticed in Sandra’s appearance.

Matt, sitting directly opposite to Sandra, inhaled the adorable vanilla fragrant she wore. Her dark hair was plaited to a braid and her training jumpsuit, streamlined her torso making her features ageless. Her face, fairly dark and lovely; revealed smooth skin like the fur of a day old chick. The girl wasn’t wearing any make-up; her beauty was natural, a gift from the creator himself.

Matt forced himself not to stare. Was this not the same girl he had reprimanded since time immemorial? She was so different now, neat and beautiful, nothing to show the toughness he was used to. Even looking at her now he could hardly believe who she was. Maybe because he hadn’t seen her this calm, without giving orders or living the life of Mrs. Jessica April.

Matt sipped from his cup. From the corner of his eyes he was looking at Sandra who was smiling to herself. Her brown eye was studying the crowd. Nobody in their table knew or they pretended not to know what she was looking at, but with close observations, it appeared as though she was observing something or someone. ‘Probably her boyfriend’ Matt thought with a little ping of jealousy.

“It’s a good thing to have you here Matt, because we have a big fish to fry” Raz said.

“Where is it” Matt jerked, leaping up from his seat, but relaxed with embarrassment when he understood what the older boy meant. Too late for him though, his stomach rumbled loudly and Pinna and Ham burst with laughter.

Matt sat down, and his gaze went back to the food he was eating. He was so embarrassed that he never touched the food or lifted his eyes to look at Sandra, afraid that she too might be laughing at him.

“General Zack storms the City Candanian” Leonard said frowning and leaning closer, with his arms folded and resting on the rim of the table. He was the only one who had finished his breakfast. The laughter ceased and Ham’s brow tightened with uncertainty when he heard the name of his home town.

“What does that mean, it’s not like he could mind-control everybody there” Ham said. His blue eyes flickered with the morning light as it passes from one person to the next and later rested on Leonard.

“Worse than that, he kills or imprison anyone who would not accept the Happy-Tech.” It was Raz who responded in a whispering tone.

Ham let out a heavy sigh like that of a craft man. The bread in his mouth suddenly turned sore with his melting appetite. He raked his dark hair with frustration, resisting the urge of slamming the table with his fist. He was more handsome when he is not wearing one of those dye.

“Your family is in Zapper city; all hope is not lost. At least they are safe” Pinna assuaged, with a soft pat on his muscular back.

“Is he some kind of God that everybody bows to?” Ham asked with anger “how could he be allowed to take the volition of people?”

“Keep your voice down, we are trying to oppose him Ham, to stop him. All this would have been meaningless if that was not the sole aim of Zone-3.” Raz whispered. The cafeteria was becoming nosier as the student were now chatting away their time. Initially, they were supposed to be in class by now, but nothing seems normal these days.

“In two weeks, he shall be in the city Ama, which is near to the heart of Anadan. And if his campaign ever gets to the Heroes city, then those opposing him are doomed.” Leonard said almost raising his voice.

Matt shivered when he heard the Heroes city. The thought of his mother and brothers pictured itself in his memory. He might not like them, but he wasn’t ready to see their free will ripped out from their humanity. And there was Annabel Peters, Jeff’s mother. What will become of her if King Zack ever gets to the Heroes city? And worst still, what will she do when she hears that Jeff is missing?

“What do you propose we do, sneak out from the school again?” Matt asked not lifting his gaze. Many possible events etched on his mind. With Jeff and Ema gone, and this dictator who called himself Zack closing in on the Heroes city, the thought of doing nothing angered him that his head nearly explodes.

“Nothing, until Jeff and Ema returns” Sandra said for the first time. Matt lifted his gaze to study her. Her features remained unchangeable and even now she was still staring at the crowd like a spy. Silence enveloped their little company for a while before Pinna broke it.

“What is the rhombus court saying about this.”

“Well, no one has heard from the court of five since this whole episode started. It’s obvious; they might be standing with general Zack just like Dr. Jakins” Sandra said absent-mindedly.

“Dr. Jakins?” Matt asked and lifted his gaze to Leonard in bewilderment.

“He was the one who built the happy tech. No one in Anadan is smart enough to build such device. If you ask me, the king should have treated him better. None of these mess would have happened if the king treated him at least fairly.” Raz said.

Matt looked at the boy with disgust. It took a great deal of effort to resist the urge of splattering the now lukewarm coffee on Raz. He knew what the older boy meant about the king not treating the doctor fairly. He was referring to the incident which occurred a year back, in that historic race Jeff won.

Matt shook his head with regret, he was about to say something when the whole room shook and took away whatever he was about to say. The clattering of tea cups and spoons came and died almost immediately with the noise from the crowd. Silence stretched out among the students as everybody stared with mixed expression. Nobody moved, everywhere was dead with silence.

Somebody coughed and as if that was a signal, the noise from the student resumed, more vigorous than before.

“It’s getting worse” Pinna complained “How long before the world crush down on our head” She picked up her spoon from the floor, stared at it for a while and dropped it on the table, as though it was already contaminated with communicable disease.

“What do you think is the cause of this abnormality? This godforsaken quake of the earth started immediately Jeff and Ema went through that door” Matt complained looking at no one in particular.

“Patience Matt, your friends are okay. And the quaking of the world has nothing to do with their departure through the tunnel.” Raz said with confidence in his usual quiet tone.

The attention of the students went to the door as it dropped opened, to reveal a man in black armor. Two gold rings with the symbol of an eagle clutching a snake, pinned itself on both side of his shoulders, holding a green cape that flutter slightly behind him and was almost touching the ground. His hair was dark with streaks of gray on its left side. Behind him stood the principal, and some of the staff of the academy.

“Eat up grade one; we’ve got some training to do. The rest of you should get back to class.” The man’s deep voice echoed even as he closed the door behind him and walked the way he had come.

“Who was that” Ham asked and stared at the metallic door, where the man had egress. The student, especially those in grade one wore confused looks, which made the noise in the cafeteria increase.

“That was Campter, the first inquisitor of the rhombus court.” Sandra said carefully. She was no longer studying the crowd and her calmness seemed to be ebbing with the sunlight that was just touching the far corner of the cafeteria hall. “Something must be off, the last time an inquisitor showed in this academy it led to the building of the third gate.”

“From the record, it means a meeting between the inquisitor and the staff would be held in the grand hall tonight. I suggest we spy on them to gather more information.” Raz said “Rub the bridge of your nose if you are in.” Raz’s calmness was now replaced with curiosity as his eyes flickered from one person to the next. None of his friends seemed to agree with him on this one.

“No way, we are not just going to spy on the school. They might be discussing classified information and would expel us, if they catch us eavesdropping. This is madness.” Matt panicked.

“That’s the word Matt, if they catch us.” Raz said stressing the last part. He wiped his mouth with a clean towel and stood up. “We meet at nine in Donald’s fountain, fifteen minutes before the meeting commerce. Anybody who is interested to know the cause of this quake should meet me there.” He finished and walked out of the hall. Leonard and Sandra followed him reluctantly; they wore unreadable looks on them.

“Guess we’ve fried the big fish” Ham chuckled “The grade one are meeting in the field, are you guys coming?” he dusted himself and looked out the window.

“Yea, not for the Grays I guess.” Matt said with a frown and gulped down the cold sugarless coffee. It tested bitter, the way he liked it.

“This Campter guy didn’t say the grays are exceptional in today’s training. Look, the whole students are heading there.” Pinna said

“No uprooting of weeds today Matty, get you junk-a** to the training ground or I would report you myself” Isaac and his friends laughed and pass by. They must have heard Pinna.

Matt shook his head and stood up. He stared at the now departing features of Isaac and frowned. The boy was almost the same height as him, but his rudeness seemed to be growing each day. Matt sighed, wondering the day he might snap and give it to Isaac in full dose.

*********

The training ground was filled with students in grade one. They were all in black jumpsuit, with streak of their extractor color running on each side. Any other day, the Grays would have been missing, but not today.

The first inquisitor of the rhombus court stood at the center of the semicircle with his hands folded behind him. He was in black jumpsuit now. Emblazoned on his muscular chest was Anadan’s coat of arm and running on each side of his diaphragm and cuff, was the trend of gold. The air around him was calm and his yellow lovely skin, seemed one with the morning sun.

The students were quiet and confuse. Most of them; if not all, have not seen an inquisitor before. Those who had the tiniest idea only saw them on television. To some, it was a life time achievement, something to tell their children when they grow old enough. They have seen an inquisitor, not just any inquisitor, but the first inquisitor of the rhombus court from the gold linage. It’s a topic that would remain evergreen in school.

“Most of you might be wondering who it is standing before you. Well, my name is Campter Tethat. I am the first inquisitor of the rhombus court and the right hand man to the king himself.” The pomposity in Campter’s eyes, erupted as the students clapped with respect and admiration. He adjusted his belt which needed no adjustment and cleared his throat for yet the third time. The deepness of his voice blended well with the hard cheek bones on his skull.

“I was appointed by the king himself to guide you on the art of extracting from the sun and glowing. We would continue this training exercise for the next two weeks, but if you impress me by learning fast, I might promote you to the next grade with a scholarship.” His statement brought some vibe on the face of the students, and someone like Isaac, who was the most brilliant in the class, smiled and nodded to his friends as though extracting and glowing depended on one’s IQ.

“Today we shall work on your endurance and after…” Campter cleared his throat but his searching eyes widen this time; he almost lost his teaching posture.

“Where is our famous Jeffred Peters” he asked surprising everybody.

“His’s working with Doctor Mike in the school clinic sir.” Pinna said

“And Mrs. Long?” Campter asked looking disappointed

Matt shared a quick uneasy look with Ham and Pinna “They are helping Doctor Mike together sir” he said quickly hoping his own lie were true.

“Okay, now stand in a singlefile we don’t have all day” Campter ordered and the students rushed to obey

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