Chapter Twenty six
"Good aftern- ahem... Is this thing on?"
Professor Jeffreys tapped the microphone impatiently causing a rapid succession of loud thumps to echo through the auditorium.
Of course, the sound could not compete with the loud thumping of Nate's heart, which was pounding in his chest like a jackhammer. He stood nervously, shifting the weight off one foot to the other, his hands creasing the corners of his hastily written speech.
The auditorium was stuffy and Nate knew that had little to do with the humidity outside. The air was thick with undeniable tension; Nate thought he could probably just about slice it with a knife. A set of heavily armed policemen armed with tranquilizer guns, (he had been assured) were watching his every move. Their eyes were narrow, darting back and forth in complete synchronisation.
Professor Jefferys had seemed keen for Nate to return to the University provided there was some sort of security present. Nate didn't quite expect to see so many guards and so many defenses set in place, but he was grateful none the less for the chance to prove himself.
Naturally, Nate had Elena to thank for today, the opportunity to finish the speech he started all those weeks ago. It seemed as though Elena's father, the renowned psychologist Dr Fischer, was more than happy to provide documented evidence explaining Nathan's behavior was no more than a minor psychotic episode brought on by stress and attributed with sleep deprivation. According to the forms, Nate had undergone 4 weeks stay at his psychiatric unit at Madeline State Psychiatric Hospital and was subsequently discharged, stating no further treatment was necessary.
Nate couldn't help but smile. He remembered looking at the forms from Dr Fisher and noticing distinct similarities between the handwriting of Dr Fisher and Elena. She remained coy about how she had gotten hold of the documents, fixing Nate with a sly smile and a "Don't ask" look.
He grinned wider as he spotted her in the front row. She gave him a quick wave and a smile of reassurance. Instantly, Nate's head felt clear and his nerves died down.
"It is my greatest pleasure" Professor Jefferys paused into the microphone. "To once again, invite Nathaniel Drake to the stage"
Nate took a deep breath, glancing around at the expectant students. He couldn't help but notice there were more than last time. Some held camera phones up, just waiting for Nate to flip out again and post it online. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
"The last time I was here, we spoke about love" Nate started, his voice strong and steady.
"Love was the main thing I urged you guys to take with you when you work in the field. I told you to step away from your textbooks and remember why you decided to study archaeology in the first place"
"I said that to love something or someone is to completely understand it.. But I was wrong"
A few people looked around confused. A couple started scribbling madly in their notebooks and even a few with cameras hesitated, lowering them slightly.
"I have realised something equally as important than love that you must all have at all times in order to completely understand and appreciate historic artifacts and temples you will discover and unearth"
A few eyebrows were raised. Nate spotted the chubby girl from his last visit eyeing him suspiciously. She curled her lower lip up and slightly rolled her eyes. Nate resisted the urge to grab the podium and throw it at her. .
"Fear is essential. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps what matters most in perspective" he glanced at Elena who blushed in return.
"Having fear and love is having a complete understanding of something. Knowing and understanding the risks, while appreciating the beauty. Love can cloud your judgment. Love can override rationality "
"So my advice is to be afraid. Let adrenaline overtake you, let it sharpen your senses let it excite you and let it terrify you"
Nate paused as the chubby girls hand suddenly sprung into the air. Once again, she held on to it with her other hand for support. Nate scowled slightly.
"I'm not taking questions"
"I'm not taking questions" he repeated firmly.
The large woman looked dejected, a blush of crimson filling her round pudgy face. Nate saw Elena raise her hand to her lips to stiffen a giggle.
He paused to take a sip of water, watching the students through the grainy glass as the liquid rose and engulfed their image. Something caught his eye at the back of the room, causing him to choke and splutter. Water dripped from his mouth as he started in utter shock .
It was Francis Drake.
He was unmistakably standing at the back of the auditorium.
Nate's face turned ashen, his mouth agape. A small squeak emitted from his throat as jolts of adrenaline danced down his legs.
The police men guarding the entrance suddenly sprung alert, glancing suspiciously at Nate, watching him for his next move. Students were looking around, slightly alarmed at the abrupt halt. Phones came up again, recording the situation. They squirmed in their set, murmurs of low concerned chatter dispersing like a small wave.
Nate's eyes were still fixated on Francis Drake, who simply stared back with an amused smile. He bowed his head slightly, and in a flash he was gone.
Nate felt his chest tingle slightly with a pleasant warmth. He glanced down the neck of his white shirt, pulling it aside with shaky fingers.
The burn was gone.
There was no trace of the scar that Nate had gotten on this very stage 6 weeks ago. The burn that had shaped itself in the form of Francis Drake's ring had completely erased from his skin. He looked down in amazement before realising where he was and how silly he must look on stage in front of 200 people. He hastily fixed his collar and wiped his brow.
"Love is a powerful voice in your heart that can pull you through anything-" Nate continued.
"-But fear is that voice in your head that forces you to think about consequences. That voice in your head that questions everything. Listen to it"
"That is what I leave you with today. You need to decide what path you will take as an explorer. The path of fear, or the path of love. If there is anything you take from my speech today, it is this. Take both. Thank you"
With a final nod to the audience, Nate stepped off the platform. A roar of applause followed him, some students standing in their seats, whistling. Nate couldn't help but beam at the response. Professor Jefferys eventually calmed the class down and dismissed them. He nodded to Nate, obviously impressed with his speech. Nate practically glowed with pride and nodded back.
He spied Elena lingering near the back exit. She was grinning enormously, her eyes flashing with excitement.
"You were amazing out there" Elena said, pulling him in for a quick embrace.
"Couldn't have done it without you" he kissed the tip of her nose.
The auditorium started to gradually empty as students left for the day. A few approached Nate for questions or just to shake his hand. One student asked for him to autograph his mother's textbook. He obliged with a surprised smile, skimming a quick signature on the contents page before hesitating and adding "Greatness from small beginnings" underneath.
"Drakes words?" queried Elena peering over his shoulder.
Nate looked thoughtfully at the spot where just a moment ago, Francis Drake had been standing, clear as day.
"They're my words now" he mused. He cleared his throat, looking embarrassed, and ran his hand through his dark hair.
"She would have been proud Nate" Elena said softly. She gestured towards the textbook in Nate's hand. He ran his fingers gently over the gold blazing letters that dominated the cover. By Sandra Drake
Nate nodded and gave an embarrassed smile. "Yeah, I think maybe she would" he said, handing the book back to the student.
He suddenly scooped her off her feet and she gave a squeal of protest. She playfully punched his arm but he held on tight.
"Now, where to next?" he asked, swinging her back and forth. "I was thinking maybe the Australian outback or there's a few temples in Egypt I've been dying to re visit..."
"Ahem" a voice behind them cleared its throat.
Professor Jefferys was watching their public display of affection with raised eyebrows.
"You're enrollment was issued through the system this morning Mr Drake. Will I see you at class Monday morning?" he asked.
Nate gave a sheepish smile. "Of course sir. Thank you sir. I'll be there. I'm finishing this degree even if I drop dead... again"
Professor Jefferys eyes widened slightly before giving Nate a confused look and walking off. Elena stifled a giggle as they watched the old man peer back cautiously at them over his shoulder.
Nate clapped his hands together. "Now... where were we?"
Thanks everyone for reading. I know it took a long time to finish, I had a brief 3 month hiatus where I went travelling to Europe, so I apologise. I do hope you enjoyed my story and I thank everyone for taking the time to read and especially to give feedback because it totally spurs me on and also gives me some great advice.
if you have any qs regarding the plot or anything like that, please don't hesitate to ask.