Lyssana 4

Chapter 4: The Inner Workings of Winter

Though Neal had not left them waiting long, the time spent passed in near silence. Abby picked at her food while Lyssana sat reading her book about the Corpegara. The more she learned about them, the more of an enigma they seemed to be. Though their origins were still a topic of debate, the book seemed to be spot on for the remainder of the information. The Corpegara could be found in the wild at the highest peaks of the Eastern Angwynn mountain range. All lived in a single colony with as many as fifty individuals. She would have to make a future trip to visit them for study. 

She lost herself in the pages and aside from a few glances, Abby left her alone. Lyssana allowed herself to focus on the other woman only in her peripheral for the simple fact that the energy radiating from the water mage was calm and soothing – very much the feeling of standing on the beach as the tide ebbed and flowed, perfect ambiance for Lyssana to ignore the room around them.

A young man walked in then that shook the energy of the room to its core. His elemental reservoir matched Lyssana’s perfectly, and the room fell still as she looked up to find his gaze already on her. He gave a single nod of respect and she returned it with an equally respectful bend of her neck. Only then did the room seem to release a breath as people continued with their conversations, though the vibrating hum of energy now seemed to consolidate on either side of the two mages, no person wanting to be stuck in the middle of that torrent. Even Abby moved from the right side to Lyssana’s left, clearing her throat with an excuse of wanting to eat some of the roasted potatoes on that side of the table. 

It was easy to be drawn into another energy, especially if said energy was as powerful or more than your own, and so Lyssana could feel the resonance that charged like a raging storm, waves crashing violently against anything that dare stand in their way. It would be easy to find herself getting lost in that storm, but she did not let herself get close, instead pushing her thoughts to another subject. It was a subconscious ritual she had learned as a child, to avoid being pulled in and instead close your field of focus so the invading energy could not get in. She could still feel him, but it now was a haze of recollection, like looking at something in the strained fog at the edge of your vision. 

“Can you feel it too?” Lyssana looked over to Abby who was now openly staring at the young mage dressed in dark blue silk seated at the other end of their now empty table. “Of course you can, he’s as strong a you. I just don’t understand how you aren’t bothered by it.” Rose colored Abby’s pale cheeks as she spoke and her eyes dropped to avoid the fiery gaze of the other woman. 

“What does it feel like to you?” The question was arbitrary and could have been taken as rhetorical, but Abby answered anyway. 

“Well… it’s like – okay, so your energy is like-” She squinted at Lyssana, as though trying to find the right words. “-a volcano about to erupt. Like magma bubbling right underneath my feet. It’s quite overwhelming and chaotic, actually.” She moved her gaze to the man, looking away quickly as he raised his head in their direction. “His is harder to avoid, probably because he shares my element, but it’s just strong like a river barreling through a gorge.” 

Lyssana knew there was nothing that could be done and so she nodded before closing her book and sliding it back into the leather satchel she carried. The energy of the room had finally settled into pockets of like elementals and she smirked at the noticeable difference from before he had entered. People gravitated into groups that synchronized with their own energies, creating pockets that flowed around the room in varying intensities until the only open space was that at her table. 

Neal chose that moment to make the most obnoxious entrance, whistling a merry tune that fell flat in the high ceilinged room. “What’s got everyone so weird today?” He asked loudly, throwing himself into the seat opposite her and grinning at the state of the room. “You’d think they’ve never seen a little friendly competition. Though it looks like his resting face isn’t as mean as yours, so he’s got my vote.” 

She ignored the jest as she pulled out their class notes, scanning the pages as she tried to take over the conversation. “What do we want to compete for our tas-”

“We should do something over the top and make everyone else jealous!” He interrupted, that mischievous glint in his eye. She cringed at the thought of drawing even more attention and shook her head. “We have three of the four main elements, so our task options are many. It needs to be something that obviously uses all three elements without too much explanation when we turn it in tomorrow. I think we should look into metal work.” 

Neal seemed to contemplate a snide remark before he shrugged and looked between Abby and herself. “You the boss, fire babe.” 

“Call me that again and I’ll stab your face.” 

His hands went up defensively as he choked on a laugh and glanced at the forks gathered at the center of the table. “Too far, got it.”

Abby’s face broke into a grin and Neal threw a wink in her direction. An eruption of crimson covered her face and she stared at her lap as Neal turned back to Lyssana. “Working metal is good and all, but what are we going to make?”

“We can make a blacksmith puzzle!” Her face had lightened a few shades but it still held the reddened embarrassment that was becoming a staple of her personality. “I used to play with them when I was a child and it shouldn’t be too difficult to make one.” 

Neal agreed immediately, but waited for Lyssana’s approving nod before speaking. “I was going to keep this a secret for myself, but since we are a team, I guess I can share it with you lovely ladies.” Another blush from Abby and a narrowed gaze from Lyssana ensued before he continued. “It’s a cavern I read about in the library. I’ve only been once, but there’s a large iron ore deposit and a pool that gathers water at the center. It’s plenty big for all of us to work and I think it’s perfect.” 

Another nod from Lyssana and an excited smile from Abby was all he needed to jump out of his seat. “Well then what are we waiting for? Daylight is wasting, you know!” Both women stood more gracefully and gathered their things before heading toward the door. Neal paused only long enough to grab a roll of bread before taking the lead of the group with a smirk in her direction. 

The entrance to the cavern rested on a jagged edge on the abandoned north sector of the Claral Court. The sun here cast eerie shadows and seemed just bright enough to cause them to squint at the staircase leading down into the storm sea that surrounded the island. 

“This looks…safe.” The hydromancer’s voice wavered and her face seemed paler than usual as she peeked over the edge to oblivion. 

“Without risk, there is no reward!” Neal’s voice took on a lecturing tone as he strode toward the first step. “These steps are sturdy, I can personally attest to their structural integrity.” 

“Don’t strain yourself with a heightened vernacular.” Lyssana muttered as she motioned Abby behind him. If the woman was going to pass out, Lyssana wanted to be there to catch her. 

“I heard that!” Neal growled, upset that his professor voice had been broken. “See, I bet that other guy is a lot nicer than you. I’m going to be his partner next time.”

“He doesn’t even go to our class!” Abby snapped out of her panicked trance, though her hands pressed against the rock like a lifeline. “Are we almost there?” 

“Just a little further. I told you these stairs are sturdy, you aren’t going to fall.” 

Lyssana let the conversation fade from her focus as she felt the deep vibrations from the storm clouds they walked through. The energy beckoned to her, just waiting to be mixed with hers again. The temptation was strong, but she ignored it, focusing only on the way the air made the hair on her arm rise. It was exhilarating and a twinge of disappointment filled her as they slipped below the cloud line and onto a shadowed ledge. 

“This is it, just at the end of the tunnel. Lyssa, can I have some fire to light the path?” 

“Only if you use my name.”

“Please, Lyssana.” 

Abby rolled her eyes as a flame sprung to life in Lyssana’s outstretched palm and they followed Neal into the damp darkness. The tunnel was not long, but it seemed to oppress the light of her fire, making their shadows dance menacingly along the walls. There was also a noticeable lack of sound. No wind or echo of their footsteps, just complete silence. It was suffocating. The others noticed as well, but no one spoke, they only hurried through the tunnel until a large gash in the rock opened to a dark cavern. 

The sound of dripping water and cave crickets delighted their senses along with the smell of dampness and moss. The light of her flame reflected off the waters surface and threw patterns all over the cavern, giving enough light to see clearly. The pool at the center of the cave was crystal clear and seemed to be deceptively deep at the center where water trickled down from low hanging stalactites covered in green lichens. It was the most serene place she had been since her arrival at Istima and a feeling of peace washed over her. 

“Pretty impressive, huh?” Pride filled his voice, as though he had been the creator of this retreat. 

Abby could only nod as she looked around, her periwinkle skirts swirling as she turned. “It’s beautiful,” she choked, tears welling in her eyes. “Why do I feel like I could stay here forever with no worries?” 

“It’s most likely the result of an ancient enchantment, set here by whoever found this place first.” Her voice was steady and Neal watched her with a questioning look. “There is no telling what magics lie dormant here. I think we should be cautious while we work.” 

Neal ignored her and walked to the waters edge, holding his palm toward the ground. As his hand rose, so to did a pedestal of earth about 2 paces across with an indent in the middle; where Lyssana placed the flame. Abby took position closest to the water and she gathered streams around her from the pool. The water was even more crystalline up close and it seemed to refract the firelight into tiny rainbows across their faces. “We should get started if we want to finish by dinner.” His voice was clear as red-brown chunks of iron began to pull from the walls of the cave to converge in the upper flames of her fire. “Lyssana, I need the top portion of the fire hot enough to melt this, but try not to melt the stone beneath.”

She scoffed at the word try, though she did as he asked. The metal turned orange, then a straw yellow as Neal began to shape it into nine individual sections. Each piece was a thin rod the length of her pointer finger with varying sizes of hooks and loops on either end. Abby then started to direct the proportions and angles of each piece, submerging them with tendrils of water as they were complete and letting them cool at her feet. The sizzle of water hitting the metal echoed around the cave as they worked, and Lyssana saw the signs of strain on her companions as they continued the tedious work. Neal’s face was coated in a thin layer of sweat and Abby looked pale and exhausted in the flickering light and though Lyssana felt her energy dropping, she expressed no outward repercussions of the task. 

There was no way to tell how much time passed while they worked the strenuous details, but she estimated it couldn’t have been more than a few hours at the most. Her energy reserves had just barely drained when the final piece landed at Abby’s feet and she let the fire dim to a cooler flame. Abby sank to her knees and began assembling the pieces with deft fingers. 

“Wow, this is perfect! Great job Neal!” She looked up at him with a wide grin before hastily adding “and you Lyssana. Thanks for the fire.” 

Lyssana rolled her eyes and reached for the puzzle, giving it a once over before stuffing it into her satchel. “I’ll hang onto this until class tomorrow.” 

Abby looked about to object, but a glance of amber eyes shut her down quickly. “We should get a pretty good grade for this, being able to use three elements and all.” Her voice trailed off as she looked back down to the ground and Neal offered her a hand to help her up. 

“We don’t know the skill levels of the other students in our class, but I’m hopeful for the best.” He gave Abby a quick grin as she heaved to her feet and offered a small smile in return. “It was your idea after all, so I’m sure the professor will be impressed.”

Lyssana knew if Abby’s face wasn’t so pale from exhaustion that it would be flushed at the compliment, so she walked away, tired of their back and forth. “I have other things to do tonight, but I’ll see you both tomorrow. Sleep well.” She allowed a hint of sarcasm to touch her voice as she looked over her shoulder and saw both faces go scarlet at the insinuation. She took their silence as her leave and transferred the remaining fire from the pedestal to her hand before exiting into the dark tunnel. 

“You’re a jerk and I’m not going to feel any sympathy when she burns your eyebrows off one day.” 

“Me? I didn’t do anything to Lady Fire…besides, my face wouldn’t be perfectly symmetrical with no eyebro-” 

Giggles faded behind her as she made her way home. Her day was far from over as she had another class before dinner. Her steps slowed as she made her way up the spiral staircase separating the market level from the upper class residency buildings and a shadow caught her eye. Unnatural shadows swirled in the alley below her and as she watched, a figure seemed to move around the corner, taking the shadow with it. Her pace quickened as she made her way deeper into the Winter Court, satchel jingling with every step. These people following her would not get the opportunity to see her unhinged. With a set jaw she pushed it to the back of her mind. 

She doubted their grade would be as remarkable as Neal and Abby seemed to think, but it was a solid project for the provided parameters of a first level class. Her next class, however, was a level two class that she had placed into from her orientation performance. It was specific to fire elementals and she found herself the second strongest in the class as she took her seat in the back. 

She learned about the different frequencies in which the elemental energies rang, and why some mages were prone to one over the other. Fire, due to its natural state as high energy, was very volatile and moved faster than the other elemental resonances. Her notes were diligent as she listened to the experienced professor go through each element and describe its state and natural movement. Earth was solid and would not move unless energy was applied, making it the lowest elemental frequency.

 She hung on every word, happy to finally have a subject she knew little about. She understood the second level elemental classification as the lecture took a challenging turn with the numerical assignments to each frequency and the equations used to estimate each mage’s ability with a certain frequency. 

She was pleased when the lecture ended late and the class introductions were skipped. As she was about to slip from the class when her name was called by the professor to come to the front of the class. The other students glanced at her as they filed out of the room, leaving only her and the blond woman who taught the class. 

“I  am sorry we missed your introduction, I was very much looking forward to it.” Her voice matched the kindness that shone in her green eyes and Lyssana was  impressed to find that their energy levels were nearly equal in strength. “I wanted to take a moment to personally introduce myself and offer any assistance during my office hours should you need them. You are only the third student I’ve ever known to be allowed an advanced skip to a higher class, and I imagine such a jump can be difficult, so please don’t hesitate to see me if you have any questions about the lectures.”

“Thank you professor. I wish to succeed here at Istima and I am honored to be allowed a seat in your class.” She bowed her head in respect before being dismissed.

Such hospitality was uncommon in her experience at the school and she allowed herself a small smile in relief, though it quickly vanished in place of suspicion. She would have to keep a close eye on the professor until she discovered the ulterior motive to her introduction. 

With the collaborative assignment complete, Lyssana needed only to write a report for her second class using the equations taught to estimate her adjusted frequency to the fire elemental forms. Then the rest of her evening would be free to spend with the Corpegara and let them fly around after being cooped up all day. 

They were happy to do just that, cooing excitedly as she entered the apartment and she could not help but smile at their greeting. She opened the balcony doors and they took off over the Court, staying in sight of her rooms as she settled to write her report. Their loops and spins grew more intricate as the evening progressed and she chuckled once at a failed landing that had Sarpia rolling across the room, wings sprawled. She perked up at the laughter from Lyssana and immediately launched herself back at Halvard with a playful growl. 

Lyssana only stopped to eat when they both landed, seemingly content with their hours of play and watching her intently as she cooked three large fillets of the rainbow scaled fish. They consumed the fish in under a minute and settled for a night of sleep. She sat on the deck long into the night, reading by the light of the moon until the final page of her book closed. She knew now the Corpegara needed a balanced diet of both meat and bones to help regulate their density when flying and swimming, so as not to sink or crash.. Though not omnivorous in the wild, hers seemed to particularly enjoy these sour orange berries that she had no name for. Tomorrow night would be their time to fly around as she stocked up more food for the hungry beasts. The events that had transpired in the dining hall made her even more hesitant to return regularly. 

She changed from her silk dress before falling face first into the crimson sheets of her bed. Despite her hatred of the extravagant  cushions, she did admit the silk was much to be desired. Not even two weeks in and this school was already making her soft. With a grunt she pushed herself up and threw the sheets and cushions to the floor, opting to sleep on the mattress alone. She could not afford to be soft. She would not let this place break her. 

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Lyssana 1

The sun had just begun its rise as she stepped up to the ferry, gold in hand for her fare. The price was steep, but that was to be expected on the first day of orientation. She held her head high and shoulders back as every step was taken as one who had lived a life of privilege. The image had not been difficult to duplicate, for she simply mimicked the way other girls carried themselves through the town. She took calming breaths as she claimed her spot at the boat’s rail. Storm clouds brewed beneath the hull and stretched all the way to the floating island ahead, like a protective moat that hid unknown monstrosities in the valley below it all.

She tuned out the hushed conversations around her, instead choosing to focus on the energies she felt from everyone. A young man buried in the cowl of his hood was a hydromancer, the energy in his body moving fluidly and in complete synchronization with all his organs. It was easy for her to spot other elementalists, for they were all that inhabited the Islands in which she was raised, though pyromancers as herself were the least common of the Saakarans. Another deep breath was sucked in as the boat lurched forward. She watched the mountain peak slowly grow smaller. This was it, there was no going back now.

The ride was painless and smooth, the boat gliding over boiling clouds at the experienced hands of the ferrymen. They would be doing this all week, day and night until all students had either been accepted or dismissed. Already she had her orientation talent planned, for all students wanting acceptance had to prove their worth. Her orientation envelope had given her specific instructions as she was hoping to gain admittance to The Winter Court. Evidently, the elementalists had a different orientation schedule from all other students so as not to take time away from all other Mages that would be deciding the fate of each initiate. She would be taken to a room to display her level of skill. She would then be judged and either immediately be accepted, declined, or asked to wait until all other candidates had been seen for the day. Then, upon acceptance, all students of The Winter Court would be ranked and assigned lodging from there. Or so her uncle spoke. How he knew so much of the inner workings of a private academy was beyond her, but she had no reason to doubt  him so far.

The boat rocking into it’s dock brought her from her thoughts and she straightened her shoulders once more. It was going to be difficult keeping up an image she was so unused to. She made a final glance over the other passengers before stepping off and shuddered, for it seemed the cloaked hydromancer had been turned toward her, watching. Perhaps evaluating competition? Had that not been her immediate thought when she saw him, was the judgment of her power in comparison to hers? It was impossible to equally compare two elementalists of different class to each other, but she did not believe he would hold the upper hand in a battle. Her skills had been fine tuned since childhood. Once her family realized she did not have an affinity for Alchemy like them, they had shipped her off to the Islands of Hrovati to live with the native tribes. The Saakarans were the majority of inhabitants, and they were neither human nor particularly partial to the arrival of her and her caretaker. The islands were, however, well known for their elementalists. Not only did they hold each elemental ability, but the Saakarans were master elementals, and they had taught her everything she knew. 

It had not been until her name day that she gained absolute acceptance into the Tribe. The day of testing it was called, when children believed they were ready to ride and take on their roles in the tribe. There were only two other pyromancers her age that chose to test when she had stubbornly stepped forward. It had been a brutal day, storm clouds brewing angrily above the active mountain that was the main island of their cluster. To pass her testing and move forward, she would be required to pass through the heart of the volcano and return unscathed. The first to enter had not made it out, and the second returned with a burn across his cheek which would earn another year of trial and study before he would be allowed to try again. She, however, had simply regulated the fire and lava to burn away from her skin, using the energy of the flames to her advantage as she sat in the heart, meditating and learning to understand the mountain. She was the first human to pass and gain acceptance into the Saakaran tribe.

Regardless, none here could know her true heritage, for it was vital to the image of her family that she not exist; much like her uncle though she knew his story not. Instead, she would forever be known only by the name in which she had earned that day at the volcano: The fury of the sun. Rage she always felt toward the world and her family, though hidden beneath layers of meditation and self discipline. It had been little protection from what she discovered in the fiery mountain’s heart.

The crowd gathering ahead was being filed into lines at the base of a huge tower in the middle of the island; the center of learning for the Academy. This is where the administration would spend the majority of their time, governing the Courts and keeping the school in check. It was also where the Academy’s policing force resided. The mages that went out into the world to keep others in check from using magic illegally. Even from her remote island she could recite horror stories about the people who found themselves in the hands of those Mages.

She showed her orientation card to one of the men at the front gate to the tower and was given directions to The Winter Court where her trial would take place. The path was clear and she followed a few other newcomers with the same nervous energy that she carried within herself, though the previous hydromancer was now nowhere to be seen. It was possible he had a ticket for a later day and chose to arrive at the school early. The path led her to a courtyard that diverged into five towers. The largest directly before her had a crest displayed proudly, each quadrant of the crest corresponding to the banners displayed upon the other towers; one for each of the four elements. She did not allow her feet to stop and take in the scenery, instead she kept her gaze forward, determination marking her features as she entered the main tower of the court. There were only three others ahead of her, standing in a line waiting for their orientation trials to begin. The school wasted no time in this matter as there would be many students in the days to come.

Now she could only wait until it was her turn to perform. This first impression would be the only opportunity she had to set herself apart from all the other students wanting to study at The Academy. In front of her was a petite woman with blond hair in delicate curls to her waist and eyes as blue as the clearest waters of Hrovati. The woman turned to her with a judgmental once over head to toe and then sniffed indignantly, throwing her nose in the air and turning forward once more. An obvious aeromancer, though the energy levels she held in her body were minimal at best. The tiny woman’s power was minute compared to the Aeromancer at the front of the line. He stood at least a head taller than any others in line, eyes dark and brooding as he leaned against the wall. He too eyed her up and down before fixing his gaze back to the empty hallway, obviously evaluating her power level with not a hint of emotion. She simply turned her attention to the lanky boy standing between the two Aeromancers. He was skinny and not particularly tall, though of the four of them his clothes had the most embroidery and lace. Did that mean his family was wealthier even than hers? It was difficult to compare her wealth to that of others since she had no point of reference. The Saakarans shared all resources among the tribe, only delegating objects of ceremonial value to the leaders of the tribes and then filtering down to those who stood worthy. She owned only a few gold beads and ornamental pins that held her fiery red hair from her face. She had no need of anything else the Saakarans wore as ornamental. They stood much taller than humanity, their body proportions unequal in every way. They were slender, tall and had eyes much larger that filled their round faces. Two horns protruded and rested atop their heads, curving down to the base of the neck and often decorated or carved with runes. The leaders would often wear gold bands around their horns to display their station among the tribe. She had always thought it beautiful how they each decorated their bodies so differently with paint and the different elemental qualities attributed to their skills. The northern hydromancers often had ice crystals protruding from their skin and hanging delicately from their hair. It was a sign of their control of the elements, and she hoped to one day be as skilled in pyromancy as many were in their own elements. She would have to be.

A figure clothed in brown robes came forward to collect the tall aeromancer at the front of the line and they disappeared from sight around a bend in the hall. Now only two stood between her and the trial ahead. She settled against the wall, eyes watching the hallway for any signs of movement. Her nerves were beginning to show as her fingers tapped rhythmically against the marble wall. She had an advantage over most of these people, this she knew, but the thought was not as comforting as when her uncle had said it. She worried for the man. What had he done to be cast out from the family? He was not an elementalist as she, in fact, she had not been able to figure out his affinity. It was as though he had shielded his energy from being read. The thought mulled in her mind as she watched the lanky boy saunter down the hall. She hoped his confidence was not short lived, but she did not give him any hope of succeeding. His energy was so minuscule that she could not even tell his element.

Soon after the petite woman left and a line had begun to form behind them. She could feel the different energies around her, but her focus was not on the crowd gathering. It was on the hallway ahead. Toward her future. Minutes felt like hours as she waited, going over her routine again and again in her head until… finally! The same brown robed man motioned her forward and she pushed off the wall to follow.

Down the marble hall did she follow him, their footsteps echoing quietly along the polished floors. Tapestries lined both sides of the hall, each alternating various scenes from the different seasons. Their colors were so vivid that it almost seemed to be snowing in one tapestry. She couldn’t tell the material, but found herself transfixed by each one they passed. The hallway abruptly ended in double wooden doors that were as tall as the ceiling. The same crest displayed on the outside of the tower was carved into the wood with such craftsmanship. She could only imagine the cost of having such a door made.

The double doors swung inward and the man motioned her forward silently before turning his back to the door and staring at the empty hall behind her. She took one last breath before stepping forward into a large chamber. A long table sat at the far end of the room filled with mages. These had to be administrators of The Winter Court. Her breaths were even as she walked toward them, stopping at the empty table centered in the room. A battery rested atop the table in the right corner, but she ignored it, instead focusing her attention on the people before her.

A man in orange robes sat at the center of the table and spoke loudly, quieting all soft conversation happening between the scholars. “You come before The Winter Court to display your skill and power in the hopes of admittance to this school. What happens next is entirely up to you. Impress us.”

He was direct in his motioning toward her, not in the mood to waste any time. She contemplated a moment before climbing to stand on the table, earning some incredulous looks from a few of the mages at the table before her, but she ignored them. Her focus was only on the energy she felt beneath her skin, and the energy in the air around her. She cast away all else, for what she had planned would take all her focus unless she wished to burn down the tower. Her arms went out from her sides as flames began to dance across the sleeves of her dress. She had assumed the gold thread had been embroidered with the intent to be used as a source of energy, but she simply used it as an anchor for the flames, letting them follow the stitches along the hem of her gown. Soon the flames danced across her dress, the fabric showing no signs of heat as she made the flames begin to dance. Now the fun part. She could control the heat of the flames and focused the fire in her hands to heat as the fire closest to the wood beneath her cooled. Then, a single quartz crystal was taken from her pocket and held out for the mages to see. Beginning with the tip of the crystal she allowed the flames to envelope it entirely until it was included in the mirage of fire surrounding her. The heat could be felt across the room and she smiled at the sweat that began to form on a few faces.

The flames around her body began to die down as she focused her energy on the crystal resting in her hand. It was nearly as tall as her hand standing up and a few gasps echoed as the crystal began to change colors. She knew the reactions were not from the people she needed to impress. No, the pyromancers all watched with no visible emotion, judging her control of the fire and her own skill in handling the heat of the flames. The battery lie forgotten, for she did not need it and hoped that would add to her impression. A few minutes passed as the colors along the crystal grew brighter and more vivid. Clear to white to yellow to purple to green as the quartz grew hotter and hotter. Eventually the base of the crystal became black and she eased the heat into a gradient. The flames around her died down as she began to cool the crystal. It’s final result was a gradient within the crystal. The point was still clear, but the color moved into yellow then to purple and green, ending in the black base. She saw a single eyebrow raise as she stepped off the table and moved toward the mages. With a small bow she placed the crystal before the pyromancer who had spoken to her before and turned to leave.

“What is your name, child?” He asked. The inflection in his voice has risen since his first words and he passed the crystal down the table to the other mages. A few were astonished by the transformation while others remained unimpressed. She could only hope it was enough.

Turning back to the table she nodded her head and spoke for the first time since her arrival at the school, voice ringing clearly in the marble chamber. “I am Lyssana Terasu.”

“So it would seem,” he grunted in acknowledgement, turning a final time to the other mages and receiving unanimous nods from each in turn. “Welcome to The Winter Court.”

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Lyssana 0.5

Prologue

She tugged at the hem of her silk dress, unused to the delicate, clinging fabric. It was uncomfortable to wear while riding along mountainous paths; and she feared to get it soiled in any way. It had cost more money than she’d seen collectively on the islands, though the letters in her pocket promised enough for a large estate and a wardrobe finer than what she currently wore. A sigh caved stiff shoulders when her companion finally slowed, and she eagerly jumped from her horse, tripping ungracefully on her skirts as she landed. “Must I wear this ridiculous clothing?” She huffed in irritation, picking her skirts from touching the ground as she stomped toward her uncle. She had not known of his existence until three days prior and had since found out that was his preferred method of habitation.

His reply was grunted, mustache twitching as he spoke. “I know you’ve been out of touch with society for a while, but you need to learn the hierarchy pretty quickly. Silk is a sign of wealth, and you are fortunate enough to be a member of the upper class.” His tone nearly matched her irritation, though a level of patience was displayed that she could only hope to ever achieve. “I wish it didn’t have to be this way, kid, but unfortunately that’s the way this family works. We all have to pay our dues.” He turned his back to her then as he removed the saddlebags from his horse, clearly done with conversation until they settled for her lessons later that night. It had been much the same their previous days on the road, for her uncle was a man of few words until it was time to teach.

“I did not realize the price was so high,” she whispered, muttering to herself as she handed the reins to a stable hand.They were staying at The Mountain Pass, a two story inn that displayed a painted bird between two mountain peaks. She would need much rest in preparation for tomorrow, for it had been planned since the day she was born. 

She stifled the gasp at the price for their two rooms – she would have to get used to such money after all – and followed the innkeeper up the narrow stairs to a tidy room. It was quite spacious with a bed against the wall, a wardrobe and a washstand. A window opened to a beautiful view of the Storm Sea. How it raged in the distance, thunder rumbling the window panes while flashes of lighting cast eerie shadows over the trees below. She could see figures moving in the clouds, shapes that no creature she had ever seen fit. What was she getting herself into? 

Their meal was served in a private dining chamber, in which her uncle drilled her for hours on etiquette, how she was expected to behave, and what she should be prepared for as soon as she stepped foot on the campus. Already people were watching the travelers that filtered into the town. The inn was full of arduous nobles preparing for the early day, but she had been fortunate enough to avoid socializing with anyone. Their clothing hosted finer embroidery than many of the other patrons, and it had not even been asked if they wanted their meal in private; it had been assumed. It would take much for her to get used to this life, but she was determined. 

Late into the night did they bid farewell, for once the morning came, they would go their separate ways and likely never see each other again. It was bitter in a way, for he had been the only contact she had on the mainland. All interactions now would be blind. Her heart beat anxiously and once she was finally able to sleep, her dreams were filled with apprehension and her ferry falling from the Storm Sea into a den of vipers.

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