Bernard stowed away the papers inside the suitcase and taking away the pen excitedly exclaimed, “Mr. Arslan, it’ll be a pleasure to have you work with us at Northberry!”
“Uh, yeah,” Arslan nodded.
Bernard also looked at the female behind him and gave her a slight nod and bow. “ We will finalize the processing of these papers and send transportation for you after a few days, we, after all, must prepare for your arrival.” With a final head bow to Arslan, he flew off in his airship to the skies.
Arslan turned back to Amandalyn, or at least he would have if she was still there. Arslan let out a deep, exasperated sigh before yelling, “Amandalyn!” She did not return his call, meaning one of two things: She was ignoring him or no longer in hearing range. Luckily, she wasn’t trying to hide from him, and she left tracks for him in the form of flattened grass.
Arslan followed the path that Amandalyn took. His feet stepped in the same spots that hers went. She had been going West. Eventually, he came across an in-mountain water source that sprouted into a rather wide river that divided the path in two directions. The right going more downhill, and the left continuing on the somewhat flat plains, diverging into many hills and different elevations.
He looked in the sky and saw he had maybe a good, hour and a half of sunlight left.
“Why do you girls have to make this so difficult?” He complained taking no time to think about the direction he took. The river was only about ankle high, and thankfully, he was wearing boots to combat such environmental hazards.
He trudged past the water to the leftmost path, up ahead, there was a loud caw that vibrated even the ground around Arslan. “Oh boy,” he worried. Cautiously quickening his pace he came to a clearing and saw a massive winged creature, the body was that of a dragon and had a head reminiscent of a rooster. Its body was covered in blackened feathers.
“Damnit,” Arslan cursed as he ran behind a few rocks to hide. While approaching, he noticed several creatures with claw slashes across them, every single one petrified in stone. “I thought cockatrices were all gone from this mountain.” He pulled out a knife and a vial. He stopped when he saw the creature screech in pain.
Amandalyn had slipped underneath it, grabbed its tail, and promptly ripped the appendage at the midsection with no trouble. Judging by the laughter coming from the girl, she was greatly enjoying the pain being caused.
The cockatrice flapped its wings uselessly as its blood waterfalled from its missing limb. In retaliation, the bird attacked wildly with its talons, one of the claws had made contact with Amandlyn. Arslan continued to curse under his breath. The nail had broken off inside of her scaled skin. Amandalyn looked at her arm, and the color began to pale and lose its functionality. Rather than being upset, it seemed to overjoyed her.
“Now this is interesting!” she exclaimed. She dropped the tail on the ground before it became an extension of her body. The cockatrice got up from its position and faced her; however, just like any animal in a disadvantage, it started to slowly back away from the fight until it ultimately tried to run away.
But, she wouldn’t allow it to go away, she jumped, and with Mandilyn’s agility, she was able to land on top of the creature, slamming it to the ground. With her only good hand, she grabbed the top beak and stepped on the bottom. Her chest inflated and deflated as she spewed fire into the creature’s mouth.
Arslan put a hand over his mouth in concern. The two abilities the girls had working together possibly raised them dangerously by a tier. If Avelyn was a tier ‘E’ and Mandilyn was a tier ‘C’ Amandlyn was somewhere between a high ‘B’ and an ‘A.’
Arslan came out from his hiding place and approached the girl; She started to rip pieces off of the cooked bird and began eating it.
“Amandlyn,” he said. “What the hell were you doing out here fighting a cockatrice?”
She gulped down a large part of cockatrice meat. “I got hungry.” She offered off a piece that was still in her good hand. “Want some?”
“No thanks, I like my food a little more cooked,” he rejected. He pointed to her petrified arm. “Would you like that fixed?”
She raised her arm, and her arm looked almost like stone at this point. “Not yet, I’m still hungry.”
Arslan shrugged and noticed the tattoo on her stomach had highlighted the last symbol. The glow had faded, and the two girls have forcefully split apart from each other. Mandilyn and Avelyn were both lying on the ground. Immediately Mandilyn started to throw up whatever was in her stomach, which just happened to be the cockatrice meat. Avelyn was having multiple problems just standing up.
On the ground was the stone, the color it had was now gone, and it was no different than any plain old rock, other than the writing. Arslan picked it up and looked at the two girls feeling the detrimental drawbacks, he wrapped the stone up and put it in his belt fastened pouch. Walking home was going to take a whole lot of effort, at least he now had cockatrice samples.
It took all of three days for the girls to recover from the whole ordeal. On the fourth day, Bernard had sent them transportation for them to reach Northberry, a city that was a little over two days worth of travel, even by land vehicle.
After they landed at the airship yard, they were brought by a prestigious looking school. Students walked in and out of the campus.
Mandilyn looked around in amazement and commented, “This place is massive! Much bigger than the one in Winterwell. It also doesn’t smell like fish!”
Avelyn barely looked at the building; there was a constant look of disinterest. Bernard shouted at the group the moment they appeared. “Over here!” he called out. When the trio came, he smiled and greeted them, “Welcome to Northberry’s College of Alchemy! Follow me I’ll give you a tour.”
Bernard walked backward, facing the group through the hall as he gave the three a tour of the prestigious alchemic college. He pointed left and right to “As you can see here, at the Alchemic College of Northberry, we hold no bars against what we wish to learn!” Bernard explained, “like here.” He stopped in front of the door to a lab. “I bet they didn’t let you do this in Winterwell.” He opened the door, numerous amounts of students of all ages surrounded tables cluttered with scrolls.
Arslan poked his head through the door and gasped, “Is this what I think they’re doing?”
“Yes! Forbidden text translations!” Bernard exclaimed. “Here at Northberry, we don’t believe in stopping any kind of research. Even ‘unethical’ ones.” Bernard looked made direct eye contact with both the two girls, ignoring Arslan. “Anyway,” he said closing the door, “Everything you see is your resource, this also includes the staff here.”
“This all sounds great, but I can’t help but feel a little…” Arslan trailed off looking for a word to use.
However, Mandilyn was there to provide her input. “Suspicious, wary, doubtful?”
Arslan snapped and nodded. “That, all of the above.”
“As transparent as I’m trying to be, I lack any means to answer that,” Bernard admitted, “However, searching for you was the dean’s idea, and fortunately he’s in today. He’d be delighted to speak with you.”