This chapter kicks off the fourth Paragons episode: The Magic Emporium. Join Savannah and her team in their continuing journey to discover their magic.

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Paragons 1.4.1

Book 1  ♣  Episode 4  ♣  Chapter 1

Savannah and the other Knight Apprentices set out on a new Quest. Chapter 1 of the Paragons Episode The Magic Emporium.

Chapter 1: Competition

When I left my cottage in the morning, Mrs. Edwards was in the foyer of her house, gathering supplies for a day of gardening.

“Good morning, Savannah,” she said brightly. “I heard you had some trouble yesterday.”

Wow. My host really was well-connected.

“Yes, but it turned out all right, all things considered,” I replied. “I could tell the General really wanted to kick me out of the Apprentice Program.”

Mrs. Edwards followed me outside. The air was heavy and hot. And it smelled of sun-dried leaves—with a sweet, minty hint of eucalyptus.

“The Iron Wolf is such an unpleasant man.” Her lips pinched together when she used the General’s notorious nickname. “He never smiles.”

“Yeah, I think that’s on purpose,” I said. “If he let people see him smile, they might forget to be afraid of him.”

Her nose wrinkled. “Just promise me you’ll watch your back around him, Savannah.”

Mrs. Edwards seemed to genuinely care about me. She was kind of like the grandmother I’d never had.

“I promise,” I told her.

“Good girl.” Mrs. Edwards handed me a bag of tiny chocolate-chip cookies.

“Cookies?” I inhaled their sweet aroma, hoping they tasted as good as they smelled. My boring breakfast of bananas with plain yogurt hadn’t been nearly enough to fill my stomach. “What’s this for?”

“I’ve hosted many Apprentices over the years, Savannah. The Program puts you through a lot, and you need to keep your energy up.”

“Thanks!” I shot her a hasty smile. Then I hurried down the driveway, off to my next Quest, whatever it might be.

I’d find out when I got to the Castle.

“Cutting it pretty close there, Sav!” Dante greeted me when I found him on the Hex.

I threw my arms around my brother and gave him a big hug.

“Hey, what’s that for?” he asked me, chuckling.

“I’m just glad you’re here.”

I’d had a pretty freaky dream about Dante last night. He’d appeared in the form of a talking mushroom. No, I really didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t even want to think about it.

“Of course you’re glad I’m here. You gain at least ten cool points by just being near me,” Dante joked.

Laughing, I hugged him again.

“What are you doing!” someone shouted.

I turned around to find a girl marching toward us. Tall, strong, and beautiful, she looked like a warrior princess. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to offend her, but it must have been pretty bad. She was glaring at me like I was the source of all evil in the universe.

“Why are you hugging her?” the girl demanded.

Oh, I saw what was going on.

“New girlfriend, Dante?” I asked my brother with a casual smirk. “You sure work fast.”

“That’s Sara,” he told me. “She’s one of my teammates, not my girlfriend.”

Ok, so maybe I didn’t know what was going on.

Dante turned to Sara. “And Savannah’s my sister, so I can hug her if I want to, thank you very much.”

Sara’s stance didn’t relax. “She’s the enemy.”

“What are you talking about?” he laughed.

“Weren’t you listening at all to what Ms. Pirana told us our first day here? We will be scored both individually and as part of a team.” Sara pointed at the enormous Scoreboard planted in the middle of the lawn like a very large, very ugly garden decoration.

I had one hundred and eighty six points. After the General’s freak-out yesterday, I thought it would be way worse. Still, I had to find some way to earn a boatload of Merit points fast, or I’d be toast. There were only three more days to go until the General culled the underachievers from the Program.

Dante rolled his eyes at Sara. “Ok, so what’s your point?”

Sara growled with obvious frustration. “She is the competition.” She thrust a finger toward me. “You cannot fraternize with the enemy.”

This was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh.

And so did Dante. “We’re all on the same side, Sara. We all want to protect Gaia.”

Sara shook her head. “You don’t get it, Dante. They are assessing us. Our accomplishments are being compared to everyone else’s accomplishments. How well we do here will determine our entire future careers as Knights. The assignments we receive. The medals we’re awarded. How many kids from each town the Government will choose next year. This is a competition.”

“Well, I guess you’re my competition too then, huh?” he shot back.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” Sara declared, then stormed off.

I turned to my brother. “That girl is intense.”

“But she’s not alone in her opinion,” he replied. “There are others here who don’t see our new lives as freedom from the old competition to be Chosen. To them, it’s just a continuation of the same stupid thing.” Annoyance flashed in his eyes as they locked on to something behind me. “Speaking of stupid…”

I followed his gesture to the four Victory kids, lounging on a picnic blanket, basking in the summer sun.

“Well, apparently they don’t subscribe to Sara’s philosophy. They’re all on different teams, but they’re still hanging out together,” I noted.

“I think it’s less about hanging out than it is about colluding,” Dante muttered as the Victory kids jumped up and headed our way.

“Hey, teammate,” Rhett drawled, draping his arm over Dante’s shoulder. “What are you up to?”

Dante moved away from him. “Nothing that concerns you.”

“Now, I don’t really believe that. Do you guys?” Rhett looked at his friends.

“I think the Winters twins are up to no good. And I think it’s all Savannah’s fault. Again,” Zoe chimed in, giving me a withering look.

“She’s definitely a bad influence,” Rhett agreed. “Best not associate with her at all, Dante. She’ll only drag you down.”

“Leave her alone,” Bronte told him as she came to stand by my side.

“You and your negative energy aren’t wanted here,” Kylie added, waving her hand in front of her face, like something really stank.

Asher was there too. “So take a hike, dude.”

Rhett laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous. Just because the General let you get away with going along with her crazy shenanigans—”

“Don’t mess with Savannah,” Dutch said, to my great surprise.

Rhett looked surprised too. “Wait, so you’re with her now?”

Dutch shrugged. “It’s nothing personal, man. She’s my teammate. If she loses, I lose points too.”

“Right, I get it. Tough break there, bro.” Rhett patted Dutch on the back. “Meet up with you at the track later?”

“You bet,” Dutch replied as classical music began playing through the Hex’s speakers.

The two boys locked forearms for a firm handshake, then everyone dispersed to find their teammates.

But I didn’t have to go anywhere. My teammates were right here. “Thanks for having my back, guys,” I told them.

“Of course,” Kylie replied, her blue eyes twinkling. “Team Gold Getters has to stick together, right?”

“Team Gold Getters?” Dutch’s jaw tightened. “I thought we’d agreed our team name is ‘the Warriors’.”

“No, you wanted to be the Warriors, but you were outvoted,” said Bronte. “So now we’re Team Gold Getters.”

Dutch frowned. “This is what happens when we get stuck on a team with a bunch of girls.” He glanced at Asher. “Right?”

“Actually, dude, I like Team Gold Getters.” And with that said, Asher slipped on the sparkly gold friendship bracelet Bronte had just handed him.

Dutch’s frown deepened.

“Come on, you don’t want to be left out, do you?” Bronte waved a pretty bracelet in front of his face.

And, to my surprise, Dutch let her put it on him. Begrudgingly.

“So, when did you pick our team name?” I asked as I fastened my bracelet to my wrist.

“Oh, please don’t think we were trying to leave you out,” Kylie said, wincing. “It was yesterday after the General’s big, dramatic, post-Quest presentation. Which, by the way, whoa! What does he think he’s playing at, rewarding us but punishing you for the same thing? Way uncool!” Her hands balled into fists. “Anyways, after General Grumpy-pants dismissed us, we walked back to the Apprentice Village together. Along the way, we brainstormed team names. You know, to make this feel like more than a team and not just another stupid competition the Government forced on us and…” Kylie’s hands flew to her face. “Oh, dear, I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Talking too much. I told myself that I’d try to stop doing it because Knights are supposed to be so, well, dignified. But then once I start talking, I really can’t stop…oh, no! I’m doing it again!” she squeaked, then covered her mouth with both hands.

I touched her on the shoulder. “It’s ok. In fact, I like it.”

She spread her fingers just wide enough to say, “But will the Government?”

“Honestly, I don’t give a wet noodle what the Government wants,” I said, which elicited a gasp from Bronte. “What I meant was, you should be your charming self, Kylie. Because that’s what the people of Gaia need: Knights who feel real. They need kind, relatable Knights who will show them compassion, not hide behind a helmet like a faceless phantom.”

After the General’s lie of a Quest yesterday—and my adventure with Kato the day before—I was sure of this more than ever before.

“She’s right,” Asher agreed, fiddling with the bracelet on his wrist. He looked around uncomfortably, as though he were afraid the General was lurking nearby. “Just don’t say it too loudly.”

“Yeah, I should probably keep my head low, at least until the Program is complete,” I agreed. “It will be harder for the General to punish me once I’m an important Knight going off on important Quests.”

“Speaking of important Quests, I wonder what ours is today,” said Kylie.

“Today you’re going to the Magic Emporium,” our mentor Eris declared with a smile as she joined us. “Your Quest is to purchase the following: one everlasting flame, a vial of sand from the Crimson Coast, a pack of dandelion dust, and one unicorn hair. You will find all of these things at Miss Christie’s Magical Curiosities.”

“A shopping trip? That is our Quest?” Dutch’s eyebrows furrowed. “I am an Apprentice, not an errand boy.”

“These Discovery Quests are about coming to understand your magical strengths,” Eris told him calmly. She didn’t seem the least bit bothered by his response. “Not every Quest you take will be filled with fireworks and battering rams.”

My teammates all looked at me. I suppose their reaction was fair. My plan to win yesterday’s Quest had led to all the fireworks and battering rams.

“There are other, more subtle forms of magic,” Eris continued. “For example, understanding magical ingredients and how they are used. That’s the branch of magic you’ll be exploring today. And over the coming weeks, you’ll be exposed to many more kinds of magic. That’s the best way to discover your own personal kind of magic—and find your Tribe.”

“Will we be learning any actual magic?” Dutch asked her.

“Eventually, yes,” she told him. “But for right now, you need to be patient and trust the system.”

“No problem,” Bronte said immediately. “The task sounds easy enough.”

“Then let’s see what you can do.” Eris said it like this shopping trip was going to be difficult.

And that alone made me pretty sure it would be.

Copyright © Ella Summers

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