* Leviton *
Sharanel groaned sleepily as she rolled over on the large four poster bed. She and Henry had stayed up late last night studying and talking. He’d proven himself very adept at using the mentant realm by the time they finished. His growth was explosive considering he had only one day to learn. Both of them had ended their late-night session completely exhausted but also feeling particularly accomplished.
Feeling the sun on her face, Sharanel sat up slowly and stretched. It was already mid-morning. For the first time in months, she wasn’t up right at sunrise. She felt a bit guilty for sleeping in but knew that Isabelle was taking care of things in the mountain for her.
Sharanel looked down to see that she was still in the dark green dress she wore the previous day. Apparently, she’d fallen asleep without even changing; she wasn’t even under the covers. The bed was so comfortable that she sank into it the previous night and drifted off before she knew it, but as she realized this, it slowly began to dawn on her that she didn’t remember going to her room. The last thing she recalled was talking with Henry after they’d finished studying.
A sigh on her left alerted her to the fact that she was not alone. Henry, still in the same clothes he’d worn the previous day, was lying nearby, fast asleep and clutching a large textbook. They were in his room, on his bed, just as they had been the previous night while they were studying. Sharanel looked around and saw all of the scrolls, books, and tools still surrounding them on the massive bed. It seemed that they’d both just fallen asleep after their late-night study session. She was debating on how to wake him up when someone knocked on the door, causing her to jump.
“Henry are you up?” came Wendy’s voice from the other side of the door.
Henry grumbled unintelligibly as he started to rise. “Is it morning already? Yeah, yeah, I’m awake,” he called to Wendy, not realizing Sharanel was next to him.
The door was pushed open, and Wendy walked in holding a large tray laden with food. “I didn’t want you to miss breakfast, so I brought it to you this time. You can’t be late again. I think Chief Quicksilver already left to go to…”
Her voice trailed off as she saw both Sharanel and Henry sitting on the bed. It was only at this moment that Henry, still bleary-eyed, finally noticed Sharanel next to him.
“Uh, what’d I miss?” he said, confused.
“Sorry,” Wendy said sheepishly, not knowing what else to say.
Sharanel finally found her voice. “It’s okay.” She tried to hide her embarrassment and put on an air of maturity. Though they were all around the same age, she was the Fantasmal Quickener after all. “Henry and I both passed out after studying last night,” she explained calmly.
“Oh yeah.” Henry seemed to catch up. “It was an accident; nothing happened.”
Sharanel rolled her eyes at this as she slid out of the four-poster bed. “We do need to hurry and get to the school though. It looks like we overslept.”
Wendy seemed to come to herself and carried the tray over to the small table by the window. “Well, I brought plenty of food,” she offered. “There’s more than enough for both of you.”
Sharanel walked over to the table. The tray had dishes laden with sausages and hot pastries, a large bowl of oatmeal, and a pitcher of cold fruit tea. There were also two empty plates and cups.
Realizing what Wendy’s original intention was, Sharanel frowned. “Are you sure? I don’t want to—”
“No, it’s perfectly fine,” Wendy said quickly, giving a small bow. “You guys have got to get to the school as fast as possible.”
Henry walked over as Wendy left the room. “Wow, this all looks really good. Wendy really outdid herself.” He sat down and started to fill his plate.
“You’re such a rube,” Sharanel muttered with a smirk as she sat across from him and did the same.
It only took Henry an hour to eat, shower, and change into a pair of brown shorts and a white tunic shirt. As he headed down the stairs, Lawrence called out to him from his study on the first floor, having detected him in the mentant realm.
“Henry, just in time, I need to make sure your core is functioning.”
“Sure thing; what do you need me to do?” Henry said as he stepped up to the desk where Lawrence was examining a small rock that seemed to be an amalgamation of several types of quartz fused together.
“Just pour a little mentus energy into it,” Lawrence said, indicating the stone.
Henry, who was now reasonable skilled with mentus, needed no further explanation. He placed a finger on the rock and began to focus. Within seconds, he felt a familiar sensation. It was the same one he felt when he first held his staff, except more potent. It was as if the entire mentant realm had opened up to him and he could see the world around him in a completely different way. There was also another less definable sensation that reverberated through his body. He smiled without meaning to.
“Whoa,” was all he could say. Before he could take his hand off the stone that was the core of his staff, Henry felt something against his back.
He turned to see Sharanel, once again clad in her blue robe, leaning against him.
“Whoa,” she echoed his sentiment, her breathing a bit labored as if she was winded.
“Sharanel? When did you get here?” Henry asked.
Sharanel looked around, clearly confused. “I don’t know what happened. I was headed downstairs when suddenly it was like…I felt you? Then my staff activated on its own and I was here.”
“It appears the bond between the two staffs was triggered when Henry activated his staff’s core,” Lawrence explained, though he also seemed intrigued. “This definitely proves that the core is fully restored and recognizes its master.”
“It’s stronger than I remember,” Henry said as he removed his finger from the stone. “Is that normal?”
“Yes,” Lawrence confirmed. “Not only is this the raw core, without the buffer of the staff, but I’ve also retuned it since it’s been over four hundred years since it’s had maintenance. You’ll definitely feel a difference once I finish restoring the staff. I suspected it before, but now I’m positive that Justina Stokenshire made this staff. She was a quaver alive during the time of your ancestor. I can tell that this core was created using methods passed down through my family for generations.”
“Well, I’m glad we brought it to you,” Henry said. “So, how much longer before it’s ready?”
“About four or five more hours and I should be done. I’m going to make some adjustments to your core. It wasn’t designed to be used by someone with dimensional sense. I have some tweaks to make so it’ll be easier to use with your skills, and there’s something special I want to try too.” Lawrence had the air of a scientist trying a new experiment. “Sharanel, I’d like to borrow your staff too,” he added.
“My staff? But why?”
“There are a few things I’d like to verify and compare against Henry’s,” Lawrence said vaguely. “Don’t worry, I’ll have it ready for you at the same time as his.”
“That’s fine, I guess,” Sharanel said, now fully recovered from the unexpected transport. She handed her staff to the quaver before turning to her companion. “Anyway, if we only have four hours we should get going. We need as much time as possible to practice with Professor Landerpool.”
Henry seemed a little reluctant to leave, still staring at the quartz rock on the desk.
Lawrence seemed to understand Henry’s reticence. “Don’t worry Henry; I promise I’ll take good care of your staff. I have my pride as a Stokenshire at stake here. I won’t let my ancestor’s work be sullied.”
Henry smiled at this. “Of course, thanks.”
“It’s very weird being without my staff,” Sharanel admitted as the two of them left the Stokenshire manor and walked down the crowded streets of Leviton.
Henry nodded. “I know what you mean. From the moment I picked it up in my dad’s basement, I felt this connection to my staff. Is that normal?”
“Well, they say the longer a person has had their staff, the deeper the bond. I guess the fact that your staff has been passed down through several generations of your family makes the bond especially strong. Quickener staffs are very unique tools; it’s almost like they’re alive.”
Henry nodded fervently at this. “Yes! That’s exactly what it feels like. You know, when I touched the core just now, I felt something. It was like happiness, but it wasn’t from me. It was like it felt happy that we were linked again.”
“Yeah, for me it was…I just felt this pull, like I needed to go to you. I’ve never felt anything like it before.”
“You said you bonded staffs with Thomas, right?” Henry asked tentatively. He didn’t know how she’d feel about bringing up her deceased friend.
“Yeah,” Sharanel was quiet for a moment before continuing. “He mostly did it to help with my experiment, but a bond is so personal. I was shocked that he’d go that far just to help me, but he really did trust me.”
“I guess it’s a bit different. We only bonded staffs to make the transport work since I didn’t know how to quicken. I had no idea what it meant when you did it, but now I kind of understand why it’s so personal. It was only for a brief moment, but I could definitely feel the link between us.”
“Yeah, it’s like always having the person right at the back of your mind,” Sharanel agreed.
“We can undo it once I get my staff back though. I’m sure the last thing you want is our minds connected.” he chuckled. “We could do a regular peer link instead.”
Quickeners could create multiple types of links with their staffs. A peer link allowed two quickeners to communicate with each other and share connections to people and places. Unlike the act of bonding staffs, which was a far deeper connection that could only be done with one other person, a quickener could have multiple peer links.
Sharanel frowned slightly at the suggestion, but Henry didn’t see. “Actually, I can’t. I already have the maximum number of peers my staff can support. It’s because I’m linked to several other mountain quickeners for my job.”
“Oh, that makes sense.” Henry nodded.
“I don’t mind if we stay bonded,” Sharanel blurted after a few seconds.
Henry looked uncertain. “Well, I know that’s a lot more personal…”
“It is, but…we’re friends, right?” Sharanel smiled softly. “Besides, it might come in handy, especially if we’re going to be tackling a rift. I mean, as long as you don’t mind staying bonded…”
“No, I don’t mind,” Henry agreed quickly. “It’ll be nice to know I have someone I can rely on.”
“Also, I was hoping that I’d be able to test something with you,” Sharanel added.
“Well, you know the experiment that I mentioned—”
“Is this the same one that blew up Landerpool’s lab?” Henry smirked. “You’re always talking about it, but I have no idea what it is.”
Sharanel blushed a bit. “Yes, that one. Well, it’s something I invented; it’s called the quickener gate.”
“Quickener gate. How does that work?”
“You know how with quickening you’re limited to how many people you can transport at once?”
Henry had to chuckle at this. It was only two days ago that he would’ve scoffed at this statement before reminding her to stop assuming he knew anything about ‘this mumbo jumbo,’ but now after a crash course in mentus and quickening, he was far more knowledgeable.
“Yeah, usually between five and ten for most people, but for more skilled quickeners with stronger staffs, the upper limit is around twenty,” he answered knowledgably.
“Well, I developed a theory where instead of transporting people instantaneously, you create a physical gate that people pass through from one point to the other. As long as the gate remains open, you can send as many people as possible. Based on the concept I developed, two quickeners can do it but only if they’re linked and in perfect sync. I’ve been able to make it work a couple of times, but that was with Tommy and only because our staffs were bonded. We were able to keep the gate open for ten seconds.”
“That’s pretty impressive,” Henry said as he nodded along to the explanation.
“Yeah, I was able to show it off to a bunch of quickener researchers,” Sharanel said proudly. “People have spent the last couple of years trying to improve on the gate concept. It could revolutionize quickening. Unfortunately, Tommy went off to do his own research on rifts and then I became Fantasmal Quickener, so I haven’t been able to work on it. It would be really great if you could help me with the gate project once you’re able to get your friends back home safely.”
Henry thought about this. Sharanel mentioned the previous night that once they were able to harness the rift, theoretically he’d be able to use it to go back and forth to Mendala as much as he liked. It really felt like she believed this was a given. The fact that she seemed to have that much faith in his prowess as a quickener made him smile.
“Yeah, I guess I could do that,” he agreed. “Besides, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do after this is all over and my friends are safe. I think I really do want to stay here and become a fully qualified quickener.”
“Great, I bet between the two of us, we can perfect the gate,” Sharanel said excitedly. “I’m sure Professor Landerpool would help too.”
Henry thought about this. “You know, if I’m going to stay on Mendala, I’ll have to figure out a bunch of stuff, like where to live and how to get money.”
“Well, you’d make money as a quickener,” Sharanel said matter-of-factly.
“I guess, and maybe Lawrence would let me stay with him for a while until I got settled.” Henry added, hardly believing he was planning for his future like this.
“Hmm, well I guess I could see why you’d want to do that,” Sharanel said with a sly smile. “That way you could be close to your little girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend!” Henry sputtered.
Sharanel rolled her eyes. “I’m going to spell this out for you since you’re too much of a dudder to realize it on your own: Wendy likes you.”
Henry turned slightly red at this. “How do you know that? Did she say something to you?”
“She didn’t have to. It’s so obvious.”
“Wow, boys really are dumb,” Sharanel muttered, though still loud enough for him to hear.
“Hey, I’m not an idiot; I’ve had a lot on my mind, that’s all.” Henry thought for a moment. “It’s almost over though,” he said with a smile. “I felt them earlier.”
“What do you mean?” Sharanel asked.
“It was just for a brief second, but when I touched the core, I think I could sense some of my friends out there,” Henry revealed. “At least, that’s what it felt like. This could actually work. I might really be able to get them back.”
“You will,” Sharanel said confidently.
Henry beamed at this. His heart felt light. All the pieces seemed to be falling into place. Even though he didn’t know it, across Mendala his friends were nearing the end of their own adventures. Only time would tell how things would be when he was finally able to bring them back together.