This chapter kicks off War Games, the third episode of Paragons.

Explore more of the area around the Apprentice Village with Savannah!

Paragons 1.3.1

Book 1  ♣  Episode 3  ♣  Chapter 1

It’s a race against time (and Mother Nature) for Savannah. Chapter 1 of the Paragons Episode War Games.

Chapter 1

Last night, I dreamt I fought a legion of Cursed Ones. I had magic—actual real, powerful magic that included hurling balls of fire, summoning crackling forcefields, and shapeshifting into a pretty terrifying dragon.

The invisible stranger was there too, fighting the Cursed Ones right beside me. And when we were finally victorious, he shrugged off his invisibility, peeled back his helmet, and…

My own face stared back at me. I was the invisible stranger.

I jolted awake, getting tangled in my blanket as I tried to jump out of bed—and tumbled out of bed instead.

“What are you laughing at?” I growled at the grinning sun painting on the wall.

The sun was one of many that Mrs. Edwards had collected over the years. The walls of my cottage were completely covered in these paintings, floor to ceiling, like a very thick wallpaper.

Each Apprentice had been assigned a host for the duration of this year’s Apprentice Program, and Mrs. Edwards was mine. I was staying in a small cottage at the back of her property.

My cottage had two rooms. The largest was a combined kitchen, dining room, and living room. It’s where I’d cooked and eaten my dinner yesterday. It’s also where I’d slept last night on a pull-out sofa covered in bright and hideous orange-and-purple fabric.

The smaller room had once been a closet, back in the cottage’s former life as a garden shed. But Mrs. Edwards’s handy husband had transformed it into a bathroom. I even had a private shower in there, which was pretty cool. Back in Bayshore, I’d had to share a shower with a dozen other girls.

After eating my prescribed breakfast—a sweet-potato-and-egg salad—I left the cottage. Mrs. Edwards was in the foyer when I entered the main house.

“Good morning, Mrs. Edwards.”

She turned away from the closet she’d just opened. “Good morning, Savannah!” A smile lit up her whole face when she saw me. “Michelle Park was just telling me that four Cursed Ones attacked the Garden yesterday.”

I cringed. That memory was not a pleasant one.

“I’m glad to see you’re all right. It sounds like it was such a horrible ordeal!” exclaimed Mrs. Edwards, clutching the bucket in her hands like it was a life vest in a turbulent ocean.

“I’m ok,” I assured her. “A Knight rushed in to save us.”

Her smile returned, even brighter than before. “Those brave Knights. Such heroes,” she said fondly, setting the bucket on the floor.

“Right,” I agreed.

Her gaze flickered to the window. “This Knight…he wouldn’t happen to be the one who escorted you home yesterday?”

She must have been watching me and Kato through the window. I made a mental note to find Mrs. Edwards a new hobby. Like playing solitaire.

Note to self: stop by the Magic Emporium and buy Mrs. Edwards a deck of playing cards.

“Savannah?”

My gaze snapped back to her. “Oh, right. Yes, that was the Knight.” I could tell from her expression that the evasive answer wasn’t going to be enough for her, so I added, “I distracted the Cursed Ones in the Garden while he took care of them.”

“That was very brave of you, Savannah.” Mrs. Edwards clasped my hands. “I know you will make an excellent Knight.”

“Thanks.” I grinned at her. “Well, see you later.”

I made my way through the dense forest that blanketed this secluded neighborhood, the so-called Apprentice Village. Layers of trees—feathered ferns and split-bark eucalyptuses—swallowed my view of the house.

My watch beeped at me, reminding me that it was already 7:45. I had to hurry, or I’d be late. The General would really love that. I bet he docked Apprentices lots of Merit points for tardiness.

Twigs clawed at my legs and arms as I trudged up the forest trail as fast as the underbrush allowed. It was rough going. The path was almost completely overgrown with weeds and tree branches. The Cutters didn’t stand a chance against a wild, wayward Mother Nature.

My watch beeped again. 7:50. All Apprentices were supposed to arrive at the Castle by 8:00 at the latest. Because at 8:00, the gates to the Castle would close, locking out any Apprentice unfortunate enough to be on the wrong side of them.

I emerged from the forest. The trail poured me out onto a sidewalk at the corner of an intersection. Dead streetlights dangled from wires high above us, like giant skeletons from the World That Was.

I followed the road toward the Castle. Now that I was clear of the overgrown trees, I could run faster, and it wasn’t long before sweat dripped down my neck and chest, pasting my shirt to my skin. Today the sun was hot, the sky clear, and the air sticky with the kind of super-thick humidity that made me long for the cool, rainy days of winter in Bayshore.

The gates of the Castle came into view. They were still open!

I sped past the two Watchers standing on either side of the opening. They must have been absolutely miserable in that thick black armor, but they didn’t show it. They remained as still as ice, like they were posing for a painting.

As the gates whispered shut behind me, I cast a final glance back where I’d come from. A white cockatoo was perched on a road sign that read ‘Form 1 Lane’. That’s how my life had felt for so long: like a narrowing road with no freedom or choice.

But things were different now. I was going to be a Knight. And then I was going to save this world.

Copyright © Ella Summers

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