The Light Prince: Grail – Tyler’s Journey
by J.C. Alexandre
Tyler doesn’t have an easy life living in a family of success stories. His mother is a doctor. His father is a lawyer. His older brother went to college on an athletic scholarship. And his younger brother always makes the honor roll. Yet the only success Tyler ever had was with video games.
With the start of a new school year, Tyler hopes to turn his luck around. He aspires to make the team and make the grade. He even made friends with the new girl in town, Amber. Will she be able to help him achieve the same success as the rest of his family? He’ll need to overcome temptations from some real losers at school to do so.
Recap: Tyler wants to make a good first impression his sophomore year of high school. While his old friends couldn’t care less, his new friend, Amber, the new girl in town, might prove to be better assistance. Upon learning of baseball tryouts, Tyler decides to try out for the team. He attempts to practice at the baseball cages, but his swing could use improvement. His old friend, T-Man, proposes giving him a “offer” to up his game. Realizing that offer is ilicit, Tyler refuses. Did he make the right decision? Will he make the team?
Chapter 5 – Approach the Innermost Cave
“So, if X equals 9 and Y equals 7, then the square root of x to the power of y is, um—”
Tyler mulled over his algebra homework in the school library. He tapped his pencil against his textbook. Despite the day’s lecture in math class, he remained clueless about the material. His exponents proved unexpected, his radicals were still a radical notion to him, and he failed to rationalize his rational expressions while quadratic expressions proved a real quandary.
Fortunately for him, he shared the same study hall period with his new friend, Amber. She sat across from him at the table and she understood math well.
“Look.” She seized his worksheet and scribbled away at the equation. “It’s really easy once you know your order of operations. You know: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. You just figure them all out one by one and then—” She turned the sheet toward him, using the tip of her pencil to show her work. “Voila!”
“You make it look so easy,” he said. “I wish it was that simple for me.”
“You’re lucky I took pre-algebra in my old school,” Amber said. “We may not be in the same class, but I know enough about the material to at least help show you the ropes.”
“I could use all the help I can get.” Tyler flipped through his textbook. “The first big test of the semester is next week. I need to pass it and get good grades. It’s the only way I can take pre-calculus, and after that, trigonometry.”
Amber whistled. “Those are real heavy subjects. You want to take them that bad?”
Tyler shrugged. “Well, I don’t want to take them, but I have to take them if I want to get a scholarship into a good school.”
“Your parents seem to be putting a lot of pressure on you,” Amber said with a click of her tongue. “My dad’s just glad I’m mostly getting Bs.”
“Well—” Tyler sighed “—my parents aren’t really the ones pressuring me to do all this. They’re rarely even around for dinner, what with their busy work schedules and all. But when you grow up in a family like mine, existing alongside success stories really puts the pressure on you to succeed.”
“Ooh, hold that thought,” Amber told him as she rose from her seat. “I, uh, need to excuse myself for a second.”
Tyler understood and waved to her as she left.
“So, I see you actually study in study hall,” a familiar creaky voice asked.
Hannah sat at the next table over. Her face was hidden behind a dusty tome of Poe’s poetry. Tyler could already guess it was her from the sad, grungy music blaring from her headphones and the pile of Lovecraft novels sitting next to her.
“Oh, hey, Hannah.” Tyler waved as she approached him. “Of course you study in study hall. That’s why they call it that.”
Hannah sat in Amber’s seat and pulled back her headphones.
“I like to do better things with my free time than worry about our stupid assignments,” she told him. “Don’t you?”
“Of course I do.” Tyler slicked back his messy brown hair. “But I want to take every chance I have at school to do my schoolwork. Saves time when I get home. Besides, I need to study. The SATs are only a year or so away.”
Hannah blew her bubblegum into a sticky balloon and drew it back into her mouth after it exploded with a loud pop!
“Standardized testing is pedagogically classist and sexist,” she replied. “They only exist to benefit politicians who want an excuse to defund public schools over low scores.”
Tyler shrugged. “Even then, I have a big test coming up and I really want to make a good step forward this school year.”
“If you really want to pass,” Hannah said, “I can help.”
“But you don’t take the same math class as me,” Tyler replied.
“No.” Hannah shook her head, peered over her shoulder, and leaned in closer to him. “But I have a friend, Agatha—”
“That vile girl?” Tyler asked.
“She’s in your class,” Hannah replied. “And she knows someone who supplied her with the test answers.”
“What?” Tyler asked, half-stunned, half-confused.
“She sits right behind T-Man, and he sits right behind you,” Hannah explained. “I can ask her to pass you those answers on the day of the test, if you want.”
Tyler shook his head. “No way! That would be cheating.”
“So?” Hannah asserted with a cocky voice and cocked head.
“So, cheating is wrong.”
“And why is it wrong?”
“I-I don’t know,” Tyler replied. “It just is. I’m sure it’s against one of the Ten Commandments.”
Hannah scoffed. “You still believe all that crud they taught us in Sunday School?”
“Well—” Tyler started before Hannah cut him off.
“Listen,” she held up her hand, “I was forced to go to church every Sunday morning, too. Trust me, there’s nothing more liberating that realizing all of it was made up. God’s just an imaginary Sky Daddy, and the Bible’s just a book of Bronze Age fairy tales. There’s no magic man in the sky judging us. No Santa Claus putting us on his naughty or nice list. No Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, either. And morality? It’s all made up. Once you realize that, you don’t have to worry about anything. You’re free to live life your own life.”
Hannah sat up and returned to her table. She passed by Amber, who sat back in her seat.
“Who’s Wednesday Adams?” She thumbed back at Hannah.
Tyler shook his head. “Just some girl I know.”
The hero raced up the stairs leading to the dark castle. Its architecture created a black silhouette against the backdrop of the full moon. He reached the top step, his fairy friend flittering next to him, and passed under the rusty portcullis of the arched entryway.
Catching his breath, he paced toward two tall wooden doors. Both had slots carved into them, and each slot contained a column of five stone tiles. Each tile was of equal height and width, being the size of an open hand, and each bore a symbol of a different painted hue.
His fairy friend hovered over each tile, inspecting them one by one.
“Ancient runes,” she exclaimed.
The hero pushed against a door. Neither a slight heave nor a heavy shove could budge it.
“This door is sealed with an enchantment,” his fairy companion explained. “I can feel the magic emanating from these runes. They look familiar, do they not?”
The hero touched a tile and shifted it upward. He discovered it could easily move vertically and horizontally. When he moved the tile up, a tile above it appeared underneath; and when he moved it to the side, a tile next to it appeared in its place.
“I see,” his fairy chimed. “It is a combination lock. Perhaps if we place these titles in the correct order, the door will unlock. Question is, what is the correct order to set them in?”
Tyler pondered several minutes over the pattern of the tile puzzle in his video game. The runes looked familiar, yet thinking as hard as he could, he was unable to solve the puzzle.
He saved his game and turned it off. He rotated his desk chair to face his computer. The internet browser was open to a video game forum. The cursor hovered over a highlighted link that read: “Final Dungeon Puzzle Solution.”
His hand hovered over his mouse, and his finger nearly double-clicked, yet his fingertip paused over the left mouse button. In half a second, his finger hovered over the escape key, and the window closed. He shut his computer monitor off, pushed aside his keyboard, and pulled his math textbook out of his backpack and opened it on his desk. He would decipher the puzzle to his video game eventually, just as he would decipher his algebra homework in time for tomorrow’s test. He had studying to do, and his game could wait.
When morning came, Tyler felt no more prepared for his math test than when he first started the class weeks ago. Amber had been tutoring him in study hall, and he had dedicated most of his free time at home studying, though he managed to sneak in enough time before bed to playing his video game.
He sat at his desk, chewing on a wad of gum, and tapping his textbook as he poured over its formulas and equations one last time. The bell rang, and the teacher instructed everyone to clear their desks of everything except for a pencil and eraser. Tyler obeyed, shoving his book into his backpack.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and heard a “Psst!” in his ear as someone handed him a folded slip of paper. He lurched over his desk to study it without catching the teacher’s attention. “From Agatha” was written in black ink. He opened it, only to avert his gaze as he recognized a column of quiz answers.
He craned his neck. Sitting several seats back, T-Man gestured a thumbs up and beamed a sheepish grin. Tyler shook his head, spit his gum into the paper, and crumpled it up—an action which elicited a scoff from T-Man.
Tyler glanced up at his math teacher, who stood over him, handed him his test, and held out her hand, motioning for him to hand over his discarded gum and paper.
“No gum or snacks in class, please,” she informed him.
Slightly perturbed that she might have seen him with the answers, but relieved that she only cared about his gum and not what it was wrapped in, he handed her the wad of paper with gum inside and accepted the test.
“You will all have the entire hour to work on the test, and you may begin once I tell you.”
Tyler kept his eye on her. His heart thumped in his chest, worried she would unwrap the paper, find the answers, and assume he was cheating. His heart slowed to normal and he breathed a sigh of relief once she tossed the gummed-up paper into the wastebin.
“You may begin.”
The hero pondered silently over the puzzle. He shifted tiles left and right, up and down, hoping to decipher their meaning when the symbol on one of the tiles began to glow. When he shifted back to its previous position, it stopped glowing; and when he shifted it back to where he had moved it, it glowed again.
The light glowing from that title set a light glowing inside his head as a realization occurred to him. He soon remembered where he had seen these runes before. In each of the shrines he visited to obtain the three stones and legendary sword, these runes appeared etched over their entrances. As he recalled the ancient words, he frantically assembled the tiles so that the runes inscribed upon them spelled out those same words; and as he arranged those words on the door, their runes glowed with the same ethereal light. Soon each row spelled out a different word, each glowed with a different colored light.
Once the hero solved the puzzle, the gap between the two wooden doors glowed with a white light, and both doors opened. The hero leapt back from the doorway, elated for having solved the door’s riddle.
“Well done, brave and wise hero,” his fairy friend chirped. “You have decrypted the symbols and unlocked the door. But take heed: the Dark Lord Bannon awaits within, and you will need all of your strength and courage to overtake him. Come! Take courage and fly!”
Without hesitation, the hero rushed through the open doorway, with his fairy companion following him as the doors closed behind them.
“Tyler’s Journey” is a side-story to the fantasy novel, “The Light Prince: Grail.” The story follows Tyler’s life before he and Amber ventured into the fantastical world of Arden. It details his many personal struggles and how they influenced his decisions in the novel. His story will help readers learn more about themselves as they do about him.
“The Light Prince: Grail” and “Tyler’s Journey” are available in paperback and e-book on Amazon. For more information, visit the author’s website at: jcalexandre.com
J.C. Alexandre will also be one of the many guest authors appearing at the Writer’s Block Party & Street Fair. The inagural event will be hosted on Sat. May 20, 2023 in Bartow, FL from 10 AM to 6 PM. To learn more, visit their website at: https://bartowcon.com/