Chapter 10:

Short Rest


October 3, 2022 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

Cam was awakened by a pounding on his dorm’s door. At first, he thought this was a terrible dream. What kind of monster would disturb a sleeper early on a Monday morning? Not even Sin-Dee the Queen of Goblins and Villainy could be so cruel. He moaned, stuffing his head under the bedsheets in a vain attempt to block out the infernal noise.

Even Jordan, who usually awoke early, had been asleep when the knocking began. However, he was apparently more willing to confront the Early Morning Monster than Cam. Jordan shambled across the room to open the door. “This better be good” he said in a tone that implied a painful death if it was not good.

The early morning sunlight streaming into the room through the now-open door revealed Ella, dressed in the running gear she had worn two days previously. “Yo, Cam,” she called out through the door. “Ready to go on our run?”

Jordan slowly turned around with a murderous expression. “Ah. My good roommate. You are to blame for this then?” It was too late for Cam to feign sleep, so he pulled down the covers to look at the two figures.

Ella said “don’t tell me you forgot. You seemed so pumped about getting shape the other day. C’mon, time’s a wasting. I have an 8am class so we need to hurry.”

Sitting up, Cam said “nope, definitely did not forget. Definitely not. Give me a few minutes to change.” Ella nodded and closed the door. As Cam very reluctantly exchanged his pajamas for athletic wear, Jordan marched back to bed. He didn’t say anything, but his displeasure was clearly apparent.

After a few minutes, Cam stepped out into the early morning chill. Ella was standing outside, bouncing on her feet impatiently. When she saw him, she said “I’ve been looking forward to this. Nothing beats an early morning 3-mile run to get you pumped for the day!”

Cam nearly turned back. “We’re going to run three miles?

Ella laughed. “No, of course not. I’ll take you as far as you can go, but I know your stamina isn’t built yet. We’ll stop whenever you collapse. Sound fun?”

“Yes. Fun. The word fun is definitely what I would have used here.”

Either she missed his sarcasm, or she deliberately chose to ignore it. “Great, let’s go.”

The run wasn’t as bad as Cam expected. Instead of constant agony, he fell into a sort of numb trance after the first quarter mile of trying to keep up with Ella’s ridiculously long stride. By the time his legs totally gave out, he could no longer feel the pain, since he could no longer feel anything. His vision blurry, he could vaguely feel Ella picking him up and walking him to a nearby bench. He gratefully leaned on her until they reached the seat. He collapsed into it. Mustering all the energy he could hold, he wheezed “I’m—done.”

Ella wiped the sweat from her forehead. “I’ll leave you here, then. See you tomorrow morning.”

“Tomorrow?” A chill of fear swept through Cam’s heart.

“Of course. We’ll just be running every morning six days a week for now. We won’t start you on strength training until next week. Oh, but don’t worry if you sleep in. Every morning I’ll come by and wake you up, just like I did today. Bye!” Before Cam could wheeze a protest, she was gone, running her elegant stride through the morning light.

October 19, 2022 AD. Sunview University, California, USA, Earth

A month had passed since Cam first began the game of D&M. True to her word, Ella had forced him to run every morning. I’m getting better, he assured himself. I don’t even collapse any more. She had also started him working out with weights. At first, this had been predictably humiliating, but he had also strengthened in this field, too. He happily remembered their training session the previous day. With a herculean effort, doing a bench press, he had finally lifted the bar for the first time, to applause from Ella and a few gym regulars who trained at the same times as Cam and Ella.

“Um, so how do you solve this problem?” Dinah’s voice yanked him back to the present. He was helping her study in the library. He had started tutoring her regularly now in Calculus.

Cam explained the answer. “But you really should have known this,” he said. “You solve it the exact same way as the previous problem, see?”

Dinah whispered “sorry” before solving the problem. Cam peaked over her shoulder. She had done it totally wrong.

“No, did you listen to anything I said? I said you have to take the second derivative, then solve.” He showed her how to solve the problem. Again.

Dinah stared at the page for a moment. Suddenly, she shouted “I HATE THIS DAMN STUPID FREAKING MATH CLASS! ALL CALCULUS SHOULD JUST DIE IN A FIRE! DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!” As she yelled, she violently stabbed the math textbook with her pencil until it snapped. Breathing heavily, she stood up. Cam watched in a daze as the normally meek and quiet girl stomped out of the library.

A nearby student leaned over to him. “What was that?” he asked. Cam could only shake his head wordlessly. The fearsome librarian began telling him off, but in his daze he didn’t hear a word.

Harvest Moon 19, AS 632. The Endless Wood, Kingdom of Farrus, The Sundered World.

The Sunviewers and Cyton trudged through the dense forest. This deep in the foliage, the sun barely reached the forest floor. The air was filled with the sounds of wildlife. Rachel was explaining something magical to Cyton, who was nodding intently. The rest of the group walked in disinterest or boredom.

“This sucks!” whined Appraiser. “We’ve been walking forever. Why do we have to cut through the middle of a forest? If both the Kingdom of Farrus and the Sulmon Magocracy are major nations, surely they have a road or something.” She kicked a branch out of her way.

Rachel said “well, we are wanted criminals for killing the king.”

“That’s right!” Cyton chimed in. “Traveling the main highway is dangerous. Remember how they had our faces plastered on wanted posters in the last town?”

Appraiser sighed before stiffening. She pointed into the woods with an annoyed expression. “Heads up, we’re under attack.” Three enormous, mutated wolf-shaped monsters burst from the trees. Without hesitation, they attacked the party.

After a brief but intense battle, the Sunviewers had a collection of three wolf-monster corpses. As Rachel patched up their wounds with her healing magic, Appraiser said “third time today. These random encounters are really getting under my skin.” She now looked at Cyton, who was cleaning off his shortsword. “Didn’t you say this was the safe route?”

Before Cyton could answer, Descartes quietly asked him “how did you get to Farrus safely by yourself the first time without encountering all these monsters?”

Cyton seemed more eager to answer the second question. “The Archmage of Sulmon used a powerful magic to teleport me.”

The Sunviewers looked at him for a moment. Appraiser said “Then why didn’t he send you straight to the city? How did you end up captured by the goblins?”


“Actually, come to think of it,” Appraiser continued, “if the Archmage guy can teleport people, why wouldn’t he just come visit the kingdom himself? Why send a messenger?”

“Because, uh, he, um…oh no, look out!” said Cyton, pointing into the trees. “More of the wolf monsters!” Almost as if his words had summoned them, two more wolves appeared out of the trees.

With a groan, the four prepared for another battle. As the monsters leaped into battle, Appraiser said “fourth time.”