Barrett was glad that Clara and Jack had been left somewhere safe, because they wouldn’t have been able to keep up with their current pace… and it would have been very uncomfortable for them to be carried while running at breakneck speeds.
“Is it following us?” Barrett looked over his shoulder and asked.
Master Hykel scratched his chin. “Well, that brings up all sorts of questions. Can a giant tornado discern individuals? Does it have a will? And if so… why would it choose to follow someone?”
“That’s not… what I meant!” Barrett shouted at the same time as he struggled for breath, “I meant… is it heading… directly towards us?”
“Oh. Yeah, looks like it’s doing that.” Master Hykel nodded, “At least, close enough.”
Alnherr laughed, “Oh, this is exciting! Does this usually happen?” For an old man, Alnherr was very quick on his feet. Actually, it could be said that he was very quick for pretty much anybody… and especially people who had been locked up in a dungeon for years.
“Oh, not usually.” Master Hykel shrugged, “Not that it matters too much. It’s not very fast.”
Barrett barely managed to retort through his breaths, “Isn’t it… getting… closer? That seems… pretty fast!”
“Not really. You’re just slow.” Master Hykel responded.
“Normal people… can’t run this fast… even without armor on!” Barrett managed to squeeze out.
Alnherr laughed, “Oh, you’ve given up being a normal person some time ago. Speaking of which, now’s a good time for practical training! Remember everything I taught you? Try to gather all your stamina to your heart, lungs, and your legs!”
Barrett would have mentioned that he hadn’t actually succeeded at any of that yet, but he was too out of breath. He did need to run faster, unless he fancied being in a tornado. He didn’t like the idea of being hit by boulders… or the many smaller pieces of debris that were caused by such boulders colliding with each other and that would turn him into a fine paste.
Controlling his breathing was easy. In, out, deep, shallow. He could hold his breath even until he passed out, which wasn’t actually useful. However, making his lungs work outside of their normal capacity wasn’t on that list. What did he need to do? They were starting to burn. They needed more muscular stamina, and they also probably needed to absorb air faster. How would that work?
Barrett concentrated, thinking about what he had learned… and trying not to think about the tornado behind them. He went over each point that needed to happen, trying to perform the process as it had been described to him. Did his lungs hurt slightly less? Was his breathing easier, or was it his imagination? Maybe he had just slowed down his running.
Now his heart. He could actually make it pump faster, but faster wasn’t good enough. It needed to pump harder. For that, it needed strength from elsewhere. He could feel his heartbeat pulsing in his ears. After some effort, he knew it was faster… and maybe stronger. Maybe not.
His legs needed more strength. All he had to do was draw the strength and stamina from his other muscles. Easy, right? Well, all the other muscles but his lungs and heart. Was he faster? He glanced back at the tornado, and found it closer. Master Hykel and Alnherr were still running next to him.
Maybe it wasn’t good enough. He went through the entire process again, drawing power from everywhere that wasn’t necessary. The only exception to ‘everywhere’ was the brain. Alnherr had told him to never draw anything away from the brain. Not that there were muscles to use there, but that wasn’t the only thing that could be drawn from.
Barrett’s lungs burned, but he kept a steady pace as he breathed in and out. His heart ached, his legs were on fire. Everything else felt tired too, but that didn’t mean he had succeeded. Either way, he had to keep going as much as he could.
He had to outrun the tornado.
He had to keep running.
He had to.
Then Barrett found himself crumpled in a heap. He tried to stand up, but that was too much effort. He tried to groan… but that was almost too much effort. Finally, he managed to open his eyelids, though that took some strain. His ears… just barely picked up the sound of voices.
“Ah… rest anyway…”
Barrett wanted to ask about the tornado, but he couldn’t even think of the word, let alone voice it.
Barrett found himself on a bedroll in a set up camp. It was dark out. This time he could groan.
“Ah, awake now, are you?” Alnherr’s voice spoke, and then his wrinkled face and toothless smile came into vision, with a bowl next to it. “Have some gruel!”
Barrett couldn’t actually do anything about that situation, but was glad to find some of it spooned into his mouth. Then he ran out of energy again.
When he woke up for the second time it was morning, and he could move. Enough to sit up anyway.
“Finally up?” Master Hykel asked.
“Umm… yeah.” Barrett looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings. It was still pretty flat, but he didn’t see the looming tornado in the background. “Did you carry me?”
Master Hykel nodded.
“Ah… sorry about that.” Barrett hung his head.
Master Hykel laughed, “What a great student. Actually, I did carry you… but only from over there-” Master Hykel pointed to a point of dirt and grass that looked much the same as all the others, “To over there.” Master Hykel pointed to Barrett’s current location. “You ran the rest yourself.”
“Uhh…” Barrett held his head in his hands. “I don’t… remember that.”
Alnherr came over with another bowl of gruel. “I told you not to draw anything from the brain. Well, it’s hard to have that precise of control the first time.” He handed the bowl to Barrett, who started eating… slowly. Alnherr sighed, “Should have started with some other training. More specifically… we should have started with recovery. You’re too tired to try it now. Otherwise, I’d have you up and running in an hour.”
“Ugh. Don’t mention running.”