“Eliza had her whole life planned out. She wanted to finish school, go to college then medical school, become a doctor, get married, then have three kids named Delia, Celia, and Ophelia.”
Eliza had her whole life planned out. She wanted to finish school, go to college then medical school, become a doctor, get married, then have three kids named Delia, Celia, and Ophelia. She should have seen this coming. She had always noticed the weary looks her parents gave her when she talked about how Delia would wear pink, Celia would wear blue, and Ophelia would wear green, as if they knew something she didn’t. She noticed the way they exchanged glances when she talked about applying for college (even though she was only twelve), but she figured it was because they thought she was too young to think about it. She never thought twice about it. She had always envisioned a relatively normal life, the way she liked it. She hated spontaneous spur of the moment actions, but just her luck, her life was about to become one big spontaneous spur of the moment action. The warm summer day Eliza’s parents sat her down and told her what she was, it had not been a normal day from the beginning.
Eliza opened her eyes. Sunlight was streaming through the window. Eliza checked her clock.
“Eight-freaking-thirty?” Why hadn’t her alarm gone off? In all the eight (give or take) years she had used an alarm clock, it never just stopped working. It only got weirder from there.
It was breakfast. Eliza was having what she always had, cereal and a banana. She was in the middle of chewing a bite when an odd feeling came over her. She kept on chewing, but there was something off. Her food seemed to be gathering in her mouth instead of getting chewed. All of a sudden, the piece of banana she had been chewing, now whole, flew out of her mouth as if pulled by a magnetic force and reattached itself back onto her banana.
“Uhhhhh… ” Eliza spluttered. Was this normal? Had it been in that book about body changes her mom had gotten her? Was she just crazy? She decided finally that she should call the doctor. But what the heck would I say? ‘Oh, hey, I regurgitated my banana and then it flew back onto the rest of my banana. Have any meds for that?’ No, she would sound crazy. Then she noticed the note on the counter from her parents. Out shopping! Be back at 9:30! She hadn’t even realized her parents weren’t home. She looked at the kitchen clock.
“How is that even possible!?” Eliza found herself saying. It read 7:32. Eliza made a mad dash for her alarm clock. When she was back in the kitchen, alarm clock in hand, she compared the two. They both read 7:32. Just then, then the door opened and Eliza’s parents walked in. They weren’t supposed to come back until 9:30! She held up the clocks.
“Explain. Now,” she said, her voice unnervingly calm. Her parents’ facial expressions were grim, but not surprised. Her dad took her by the shoulders and steered her to a chair. She sat down.
“You’re an Arbitrium. A Controller,” her mom said.
“And that means?” Eliza said wearily.
“Exactly what it sounds like. You can control something. Time in your case,” her dad said, his voice expressionless.
“Sooo… I still don’t get it. Do I just go on with my life?”
“Should I tell her?” Eliza’s mom asked. Her dad nodded. “When you were very young, we were told that you were chosen to be part of the arbitrium team. They gave us this.” She went to the drawer and took out a battered card, the size of a credit card. She handed it to Eliza. Eliza read it.
International Institute of the Arbitrium
Eliza Breanna Frederick King
Controller of Time
Room #42 Floor #4
“I still don’t get it,” Eliza said. “How does this affect me, besides the whole superpower thingy, I mean.”
“Well,” said her mom. “Your life isn’t necessarily going to be normal from now on.”
“You’re going to go to a special training school for kids like you,” said her dad. “And once you’ve gotten the training you need, you and your team will be sent on missions.”
By now, Eliza was practically in tears. Her life wasn’t going to be normal? That meant no medical school, no getting married, and no Delia, Celia or Ophelia.
“When do I have to go?” she managed to say.
“Don’t be mad at us, Eliza,” her dad said, “This is the only way you’re safe. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t send you away. If you don’t go, they will hunt you down and take you by force.”
“But who is they? And who is the person that came to tell you who I was in the first place?”
“You’ll learn when you get there,” said her mom. “For now, you should go upstairs and pack your bags. We’ll leave now.”
Eliza went to her room and got together some clothes, a toiletry, and other necessities (such as her secret stash of candy and her rock collection). She went back to the kitchen.
Her mom said, “Come outside with us.”
Eliza went outside and spotted her parents standing next to the fenced off area of the backyard that she had been instructed to never go near. The one time she had dared try and pry open the fence had been when she was only about four years old, which had landed her in time-out. That traumatizing experience made her reluctant to go near the fence again, but her parents were there, so she decided it was okay.
“Why are we in this part of the backyard?” Eliza asked.
“Let us show you,” said her dad. He opened the gate using a key, which revealed a large hole with what looked like galaxy colored corn syrup in it.
“They had this installed after they told us what you were. It’s a portal right into the school,” her mom said.
Again with the they, Eliza thought, Why can’t they be more specific?
“Are you ready?” asked her dad.
Eliza wanted to scream, No, I’ll never be ready! Or, Why me, universe? But, against all her better judgement, she said, “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
She hugged her parents, made them promise to visit, (it was allowed, according to her parents), consoled her mom (and her dad) who were practically in tears, and jumped into the portal.
She thought her day couldn’t get weirder, but jumping into a galaxy colored corn syrup hole might have been the peak point of the weirdness. The sensation was kind of like jumping into a swimming pool, but ten times stickier, and she felt like she was moving in slow motion through the gunk. I really hope that this comes off! Eliza thought. After what seemed like forever (at this point, it really could have been forever) Eliza emerged from the other side into a dimly lit room that looked like some sort of a communal living room, thankfully not covered in goop. A lady with a huge updo spotted her from the other side of the room and hurried over.
“Oh, you must be the new arrival!” she cried. “I’m Patty. I’ll be one of your trainers here. I’ll take you to the orientation desk.” She led Eliza through several rooms, a couple similar living rooms, a couple small kitchens, and a very large dining room, until they got to a big desk with a man behind it.
“Hi! I’m Harold. You must be the new arrival we heard about.”
“How did you know I was coming?” Eliza asked.
“As soon as you jumped into the portal, we got a message about your arrival. We have expected you for a few hours. We’ll check you in, and you can get settled in your room and meet your roomates. What’s your name?”
“Eliza,” she replied.
“Full name,” Harold replied.
“Eliza Breanna Frederick King. It’s long, I know.”
“Okay. Card please.” Eliza dug out the info card she had stuck in her pocket after reading it, what felt like so long ago. She handed it to Harold. He looked over it, then typed some things into his computer. When he handed it back, the Level 0 was replaced with Level 1.
“Patty will show you to your room,” Harold said.
Patty ushered Eliza away and led her to a fancy elevator which took them to the fourth floor. As soon as Eliza got off the elevator, she decided this whole arbitrium thing wouldn’t be so bad after all. No one would have guessed that a bunch of kids lived there. It was spotless. She followed Patty to an also immaculately spotless door. She knocked, and a boy about Eliza’s age with light brown hair and dark green eyes answered.
“Hey, Cody! I have a new roommate for you. This is Eliza,” Patty said. “Cody, will you introduce Eliza to your other roommates?” The boy nodded. Eliza went inside, dragging her bags behind her.
“Hi,” she said shyly. “My name’s Eliza. Eliza Breanna Frederick King.”
“I’m Cody Levine,” the boy said. “Hey guys, we have a new roommate!” he called out.
Two girls and two boys emerged from the rooms along the hallway. They took turns introducing themselves. There was black-haired, blue-eyed Bailey Copeland, tan skinned curly-haired Nicolas Rodriguez, blonde and green-eyed Jonathan Riley, and brown-haired hazel-eyed Brooke Holmes. Eliza introduced herself to everyone, and everyone greeted her warmly.
“So, like, what can you do?” asked Brooke.
“What do mean?” Eliza replied.
“She means what are your powers,” Cody explained.
“Oh… I can control time.”
“Coooool!” everyone said in unison.
“I can control fire!” said Nicolas.
“I can control the dead!” Bailey chimed in cheerily.
“I can manipulate people’s emotions. It’s lame, I know,” Brooke said disappointedly.
“It’s not,” said Nicolas. “It’s so cool. You might have the best powers of all of us.” This made Brooke blush.
“Anyway, I can control anything living,” Cody said. “So I’m like a plant and animal magnet. Oh, by the way, Eliza, do you want me to show you to your room?”
Eliza gratefully agreed. She felt like she could use a shower! She followed Cody past a bunch of rooms that looked identical besides the decorations. Cody pointed out his room, which had the most color and was definitely also the messiest. Eliza noticed him watching her cringe.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Do you ever clean up in there?” Eliza asked, appalled.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no,” he replied. Cody led Eliza the rest of the way to her room and bathroom.
“Great. I’ll leave you alone now, but we’re going to have dinner with everyone else at six o’clock, okay?”
Eliza nodded. Cody left the room and Eliza looked in the mirror. Okay, just-traveled-in-a-galaxy-colored-corn-syrup-portal was not a good look on her. Her normally wavy auburn hair was sticking out in all directions. She might have been allergic to the goop, because her violet blue eyes were red and puffy. There was also a layer of the slimy stuff all over her fair skin. She showered and brushed out her hair and chose out a sky blue dress to wear. When she got out of the bathroom, all of her roommates were sitting on the couch in the living room.
Everyone smiled at her, but Cody just goggled.
“You look nice.” Cody said.
Everyone made their way to the large dining room Eliza had seen on her way to her room, but now it was filled with kids and food. The ages of the kids seemed to range from eight to sixteen, and it looked like they were sitting with other kids their age, probably roommates. Eliza sat with her roommates at a table in the far corner, and they started eating the feast of roast chicken, potatoes, salad, and like twenty other things she couldn’t remember. After a little while of eating, a tall dark-haired man at the front of the room rang a gong to get everyone’s attention. Once everyone was looking at him, he smiled.
“Hi, everyone! Tonight we have a few new arbitriums among us, so for those who don’t know me, my name is Gideon Sullivan, and I run the Institute of the Arbitrium, the IA. I will call the new children up one by one, and test them for their weapon.”
Brooke leaned over and whispered, “He’s the one who chose us all to be controllers, Eliza.”
He then called up a bunch of kids and made a show of looking them over, measuring them, then having light emit from his hands, that, Eliza realized, must be magic. He would then conjure a weapon such as a sword, spear, or a bow and arrow. When it was Eliza’s turn, she walked to the front of the room, feeling everyone’s eyes searing into her. When she got to the front of the room, Gideon did what he done with everyone else. But when it came time for him to conjure a weapon, instead of conjuring a plain steel sword or a wooden bow and arrow, he conjured a bronze sword with a sapphire studded handle that matched Eliza’s eyes with intricate designs on the hilt.
“Well, I never,” muttered Gideon. “It looks like the rightful wielder of Soulblade is standing right in front of us!” Everyone stared at him. “Oh, I forgot I never explained that story. A thousand years ago, a special sword was forged, named Soulblade. It was the most desirable blade to wield, so people would steal it from each other. Then, there was a prophecy that said that only the person who the blade appeared for, the rightful wielder, could hold it. Anyone else would die instantly. The blade appeared for you, making you the rightful wielder.”
Eliza trudged back to her seat. She never wanted this! She sat down, frowning.
“You okay?” asked Cody.
“I hate it here!” Eliza said angrily. “I never planned any of this for myself! Nothing is normal here!”
“Sometimes,” Cody said quietly, “the best things in life are the ones we never planned.”
Right then, there was a big banging noise. Everyone looked up from their food in time to see three giants come lumbering into the dining room. Everyone whipped out their weapons. The biggest one, who Eliza thought looked like a hairy ball of fat and muscle, lumbered to the front of the room.
“We want the Soulblade!” it shouted in a deep, growling voice. “Give it to us now and no one dies!”
Gideon went right up to the giant even though the height difference was at least ten feet.
“You see, Mr. Giant,” he said, not even minding there was a large giant in grabbing distance from him, “you know about that prophecy? Back in the day, the one about the rightful wielder, any other wielder dies instantly, blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. You know the one?”
“Prophecy schmophecy. I am claiming the Soulblade!”
“You can’t really do that… ” Gideon said, but the giant was already scanning the room for the sword.
Eliza didn’t know what to do, but she impulsively willed it to turn into something else, and to her surprise, she found herself holding a stone. She pocketed her new stone-sword and went to Gideon.
“Why can’t those giants have my sword? Won’t that be better than people dying?” she asked him.
“You see, Eliza, this blade is as well as being the most desirable, is also the most destructive and formidable. And if you freely give it away you would not be the rightful wielder anymore, and it would have more of a chance of falling into the wrong hands,” Gideon explained. “In the past, this blade has been bestowed upon bad people, starting conflict, like the War of Ivory, The Battle of Occults, or the Siege of Burning Fields. We have been hoping the rightful wielder would be among us so that we could ensure it wouldn’t get into bad people’s hands. Okay?”
“Okay. But shouldn’t we be focusing on the giants?” Eliza and Gideon looked around, but the giants were still looking for Soulblade.
“Eliza… where’s the sword?” Gideon asked, looking agitatedly at the giants rummaging around. Eliza took out the rock. Gideon smiled. “Good. We have to kill these giants before they find the sword. You can use this so that they don’t find Soulblade.”
He took out a plain steel sword and handed it to Eliza. Eliza thanked him and ran off to the rest of the students. They were all standing with their weapons drawn, waiting for an order.
Someone yelled, “CHARGE!”
And after that it was a blur in Eliza’s memory. Students left and right were running to the giants, who had been in the middle of looking under tables and weren’t physically fit, so they couldn’t stand up fast enough to avoid a bunch of pre-teens and teenagers running at them with swords and spears. Everyone started slashing the giants with swords, driving their spears into them, and shooting their arrows at them. The giants were fighting back also by swinging their clubs and punching in random directions. Every now and then, a student would fly out from the crowd from a club blow or a giant punch. Eliza decided she would attack from the top. She look at the ceiling and noticed what looked like repair on a ledge, with a ladder leading up to a ledge. Eliza ran to the ladder and quickly climbed up. Eliza looked down from the ledge. She saw the battle playing out below her, the two smaller giants dead now, the larger one occasionally swatting a kid out of the way.
Eliza waited until the largest giant was under the ledge. The steel sword won’t do the job, Eliza thought. She pulled out the rock and willed it back to a sword. She jumped from the ledge and onto the giant’s head, and drove her sword right into its skull. The giant shouted, a horrible, ear splitting, sound, and dropped to the ground, dead. Unfortunately, that meant Eliza went down with him. When she hit the ground, she was knocked out, and her mind went completely blank.
Eliza woke up a day later in what she guessed was an infirmary. She took in her surroundings, stark white walls, stiff bed sheets, and wooden shelves with medicines and bandages and such lining the walls. She looked next to her where she saw Cody dozing in a chair. She tried to sit up and all of a sudden Cody’s eyes snapped open.
“Eliza! Thank goodness you’re awake! We were starting to get worried,” Cody said, relief evident in his voice.
“What happened?” Eliza asked.
“You killed the big giant! Even if everyone was working together, we wouldn’t have managed that!”
“Is everyone okay?”
“Yeah. A couple broken bones here and there, but you probably got the worst of it.” Cody gave Eliza a hug. “I have to go now. Things to do. Training and stuff.”
Eliza realized she had learned a few things from this weird and not planned experience. First, she learned that good things in life are not always planned. On a related note, she learned that life often strays from the plan, sometimes for the better. Eliza looked down at the stone-sword she just realized she was still holding. Third, she decided that some things were just fated.