Chapter Twelve, Practice Problems

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Bennie's summer started passing too fast for her liking in a blur of visits to SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas with her friends, soccer practice, and summer reading during the day, followed by intense training at night, with a little sleep to keep her e...

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Bennie's summer started passing too fast for her liking in a blur of visits to SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas with her friends, soccer practice, and summer reading during the day, followed by intense training at night, with a little sleep to keep her energy up. She had little time to stop and think about the bigger problems going on, or how to broach the subject with her Mom. She could only prepare for whatever was coming, even though she wasn't sure what that was.

Perce's curriculum for Bennie and her peers did not include basic hand-to-hand combat or battle tactics, so he focused mainly on specific skills training, ethics, and pounding into their heads what measures could and could not be taken in hostile situations. Bennie went home every night with words milling in her head: "Don't accept a negotiation proposal that requires you to go somewhere alone and unarmed." "We don't leave people behind if there's a chance to get them to safety." "If you're responsible for a group of people it's always good to assign duties to others in the group with leadership skills. It saves your charge from mistakes you'd make by yourself and helps balance power, if not bring harmony. But be sure of who you pick to help."

Bennie's skills training kept her at a distance from Perce, Sean and Gem, just as Gem required a sound-proof bubble while she worked on what Bennie called "the Siren trick." Gem was composing the magical music made famous by her paternal enchanter ancestors. The music combined words and charms into spellbinding melodies Gemini weaved on her small, harp-like instrument, called a deron, which was an Elven instrument she learned to play from her mother. Even Gem's self-labeled "amateur racket" was strong enough to hypnotize Sean and Bennie without the barrier. Perce was the only one with resistance training to what Gem was learning, and since he heard her songs in development it would be hardest for her to make his guard drop. When she succeeded, Perce would remove the sound proof shield and teach Sean and Bennie how to resist her music at full power, as they might face something similar from an enemy.

"It's taking longer than I'd hoped," Gem said, looking grim, when Perce dropped the barrier to check up on her. "I just don't feel the sorrow I'm supposed to feel as I 'reach desperately into the void for a comforting hand.'"

"Maybe you should write lyrics that match something you have felt, or are feeling, instead, so you can pull them through with true emotion you've experienced," Perce told her, "The girl in your song lost her source of strength and is looking for someone else to help her along. As far as I know your source of strength is in yourself, not an external being, and you haven't lost that strength, so the girl in the song is an outsider to you, not you yourself."

The rest of their conversation was lost as Perce put the sound barrier back up around them and listened to her within the walls of silence. Bennie glanced at Sean and grinned when she noticed the way he was avidly watching Gemini sing through the barrier. It was plain on his face he wanted to hear, enchantment or otherwise.

Bennie's quiet laughter brought him to his senses and he tried his shape shifting practices again as Bennie, at her safe distance, tried to master the shotgun technique Esla had displayed that day in Pelanca, but the lightning still came pouring out of her hand in steady streams of electricity, pounding the wards Perce put up every night to keep them hidden from outsiders.

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