The morning light pierced through the dark gray drapes, the rays of sunlight highlighting dust particles as they danced through the air. Beams of light lowered across the room as the sun continued its rise, stirring a girl from her dreams as the light fell upon her pale eyelids. A long slender hand came up shielding her eyes as she sat up blinking away the drowsiness. The sun reflected off the mirror drawing her attention to it and the markings upon her forehead. Disappointment crept into the girl for nothing had changed, although she was unsure what she had expected to find. Today she turned sixteen and for a normal girl it seemed to excite frivolous thoughts, but she was not normal. It seemed a rather silly idea that a single year could bring about some monumental change, but she found a small part of herself hoping for something.
“That is the last time I let Jane get to me with her idiotic rambling,” Arianna scoffed.
Sliding her feet into sandals, Arianna crossed the room to her window for one thing; a small and well-worn praying altar. She succumbed to a sense of serenity, and a peaceful smile crossed her lips as she placed her knees into the kneeler that was molded to her form as a result from years of use. Slender fingers grasped the carafe and began distributing water into a small glass before replacing it and with a practiced hand retrieved and struck a fire stick to light a candle then disposed it into a metal cylinder on her right. Bringing her hands together, she began her prayers with her left hand open as she pressed its palm against her clenched right fist. She held this pose for a minute in silence before moving on to her mantra and offerings.
“Praise Nualia mother of all, thanks be to you for granting this life and the responsibility is mine in caring for it,” she said bringing the glass to her lips and emptying the contents before returning it.
“Praise Nualia keeper of all, thanks be to you for granting my soul one more day. Never shall I fear my death but instead consider it your will,” she said unfurling her clenched fist and hovering it above the flame which gently lapped at her palm as she extinguished it and then brought her hands back to starting pose
“Now to join the masses, joy.”
Merely two steps from the altar, her door burst open and a blur of auburn curls darted straight at her, her body felt constricted as a curtain of red covered her face and threatened to be inhaled with every breath. Arianna’s face and ears burned as she untangled herself and stared at her invader, a young woman stood before her with wildfire hair arrayed all around her.
“Happy birthday Arianna! I have so much planned today, and I hear talk the cook is making you dessert,” the young woman said excitedly.
Her eyes darted around the room until they fell on the drapes which were drawn together, with determined strides she walked across the room and threw them open. Turning on her heels she looked back at Arianna all the while still smiling, only as usual Arianna looked, bored? Annoyed? Angry? She found it hard to tell because she always wore the same expression.
“Well, aren’t you excited?” she asked earnestly.
Arianna’s eyes narrowed if only for a second.
“What are you doing in my room, Lindy?"
“I have been telling you for three years, it's Jane. We are friends and as your friend, I’m here to help get you ready. So, let’s start with that hair.”
Jane crossed the room and placed her hands on Arianna’s shoulders and steered her to the chair at the small desk. With a resigned sigh, Arianna allowed herself to be seated knowing it was faster to let this woman do as she pleased rather than to argue. With quick and steady hands, Jane began running her fingers through Arianna’s spider silk hair twisting and pulling it into a braid and then wrapping it around the girls crown and back behind, pinning it at the nape of her neck.
“Now, close your eyes…”
Arianna closed her eyes; small warm hands touched her face and then a cool stroke glided across both her eye lids. With a satisfied smile, Jane removed a small hand mirror and held it before the girl’s face.
“You can open your eyes now.”
Arianna opened her eyes and gazed at the image before her, and she found herself at a loss for words as she looked between her reflection and up at Jane, her cheeks deepening in shade.
“I…I… What…” Arianna stumbled trying to find the right words for her thought. Then with a whisper she added “Thank you”.
Jane tucked the mirror away and leveled her face just inches from Arianna’s. Her smile looked as if it may consume her entire face.
“You're welcome, today is a big day after all!”
Jane reached down grasped Arianna’s hands and pulled the girl to her feet, then darted off to the door pulling a parcel from the corner and placing it in Arianna’s hands.
“Your gift, let's try it on,” she said as she turned to shut the door.
Arianna’s hand caressed the course hemp material and her fingers wrapped around the string keeping it closed. With a small smile she pulled the cord loose and lifted away the material to reveal more inside. As the hemp folded away, Arianna’s eyes noticed a soft, blue cotton gown with a small golden rope belt and beneath it a cloak of deep gold. Her fingers grazed the material and her eyes met Jane's, and Arianna knew Jane was waiting for something, but she was unsure of what. Arianna saw Jane's face soften, her eyes seemed to fill up with moisture as she reached into her bag and handed Arianna a handkerchief. This action caused confusion to wrinkle the girl’s brow until she felt an odd sensation run down her left cheek. Arianna's fingers felt cool as they ran up her warm cheek and when she pulled them back they were wet.
"What is this? What is wrong with me?” Arianna asked in a nervous ramble.
“I think, you are happy,” she said as she took the clothes from the girl and laid them across the bed.
“Let’s see how this fits,” Jane said, clearing the emotion from her throat.
The gown fit her frame differently than her old gray one, for one it wasn't two sizes too large. The golden belt was tied at the small of her waist and when she shrugged the cloak on, it felt as if it had been made just for her. The rich cloak brought out the gold in her hair while the soft blue of the dress brought a glow to her skin and a brightness to her eyes.
“I look so…different...”
“You look beautiful, you need to stop hiding, come it's time for breakfast.”
Jane headed for the door and with a look back saw Arianna was going to need a few minutes and went ahead without her.
Arianna nodded in reply to Jane, but felt herself transfixed in front of her mirror for the first time. Looking around, she realized Jane had left without her. Normally, this would have pleased her, but this time she felt an odd pang that confused her, she shook it off as hunger and darted off to the cafeteria.
Her feet carried her down a long cooridor with dark stained floors and gray walls, portraits of the heads of the monastery past and present lined the walls as well as several murals of Nualia. Arianna reached the end of the hall, made a right and then the third left which opened up into a large room lined with three by six tables and matching benches. The cafeteria was nearing empty as Arianna walked in, but with every step she felt the eyes of those that remained following her and whispers too soft to hear. She had been used to attention as far back as she could remember, but this was different and made her feel uncomfortable.
Her eyes found Jane who was waving her over, two servings of oatmeal and fruit already on the table. Arianna hurried her step just below a run nearly diving onto the bench and burying her face in her food. Jane looked over Arianna’s bent head to the onlookers and felt a protective pride as she took in the sea of faces, all coming in closer. When she had finished her oatmeal, Arianna found herself surrounded by several of her peers, all of which she recognized as second years.
“Eish! Arianna, is that really you?” a young man with eyes of caramel asked, his accent still heavy with his island dialect.
A delicate hand ran fingers through Arianna's hair, as she followed it up she found it belonged to a girl with had strawberry blonde waves, Clare.
“I never noticed how pretty your hair is. You should let me play with it sometime,” her tone cold as her eyes met Arianna's.
Arianna's eyes narrowed like arrow slits as she deftly pushed Clare's hand away.
"I'll consider it, thank you.” Arianna’s every word rigid and sharp as she stood and abandoned the group while Jane smirked and followed behind.
An odd sound caught Arianna's attention and when she glanced back, she saw Jane's face red and a trembling hand covering her mouth.
Before she could finish, Jane had burst into laughter, not the normal quiet and polite laughter but the kind of laughter that left a person breathless, ribs aching, eyes watering to the point that the laugh is just a series of odd sounds.
“What in Taerha is wrong with you?”
Jane took a few unsteady breaths trying to calm herself, and a full minute passed before she was able to speak.
“Not, a, single, thing. Better hurry to the hall before we miss the good seats,” Jane said, trying to keep her laughter from rising again
When they finally made it into the Assembly Hall, an eerie hush fell over the students as they turned to gape at Arianna, this many whispers together made for a loud buzzing sound that was quickly quieted by the thumping of a staff. Arianna had a seat reserved courtesy of Father Zebadiah, he had thought it important she be in view of both new comers as well as those leaving and with heavy reluctance from the Father, Jane had a seat as well. Once seated Father Zebadiah nodded to a robed man and woman, they opened the double doors to let in the group of people who had been waiting just on the other side, and one by one people filed in, both young and old. The Entrance Ceremony was held every year to both introduce the new students as well as to celebrate the ones who were leaving and entering society. Arianna’s eyes followed each person as they went to the podium, shook the Father's hand and gave a brief introduction of themselves.
Jenny was first, a young woman with light brown hair cut off above the shoulders, the edges jagged and uneven, next was an older man with sharp eyes who introduced himself as Saris, his hope was that he could be of help to his local clergy. Arianna felt boredom set in as each new face came up, it always seemed like the same people somehow, their similar stories and reasons for turning to Nualia, mostly they were accepting that she was the one whom decided a person’s time.
Arianna felt an odd sensation like a deer being preyed upon, her eyes fell onto a young man no older than twenty with messy black hair, his eyes like molten gold. Her eyes obstinate as they followed him to the podium where he shook the Father's hand, but when he turned to introduce himself, his eyes locked with hers as he flashed a wolfish smile. Arianna's breath caught in her chest and her body broke into a sweat.
"Killian Plights the name, but you may call me what you like, Princess."
A hand reached over and grabbed her’s issuing a squeeze. She looked over to see Jane looking at her with piqued interest, Arianna pulled her hand back and looked away trying to focus on anything except whatever was happening to her, she looked up at the Father and tried to relay that she wasn't feeling well. Father Zebadiah’s eyes met hers and he nodded his approval, Arianna quickly retreated but glanced back at Killian Plight who grinned once more. Her body seemed to be in flight mode as her lithe form sped out of the Assembly hall, her heart pounded against her chest until she was safely on the other side of her door with her back against the cold wood, she headed to her bed and collapsed into the unmade sheets.
I forgot to make my bed, I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten to make it. Her mind and thoughts grasping at something anything, and in a matter a minutes she was asleep.
Arianna woke late evening to a knock at the door.
That’s not Jane, I doubt she even knows how to knock.
She crossed the room, opened the door and was met with tall and stern-faced Sister Vieira who gave a slight bow.
“Sorry to wake you, but Father Zebadiah was concerned, and he asked that I look in on you,” Sister Vieira’s said, her eyes looking from Arianna’s face to her hair.
“I am sorry to have concerned you Sister. I am feeling better now so I will get cleaned up and be down for dinner.”
Arianna and Sister Vieira exchanged another set of bows before the door was shut, leaving Arianna sapped.
"What in the name of the goddess is going on with me today? Forgetting to make the bed, falling ill, have I ever been ill?"
Arianna mumbled as she headed back to her bed and began smoothing it until it had even lines and a flat surface, and when she turned to the dresser to change her reflection startled her. She looked like a mad witch with wild knotted hair and coal smudged eyes. She allowed herself a quick amusement at the absurdness of it before she began the process of civilizing her appearance; her new blue dress was traded in for a black one which left her feeling like herself, but she found she missed the feel of the soft cotton on her skin.
Arianna's feet moved of their volition as she left her room and headed down the hall to the cafeteria, she scanned the sea of faces searching for Jane’s plume of curls and spotted her across the way
“Lindy, sorry about earlier. I’m unsure what came over me,” Arianna said.
Jane shook her head slowly causing her auburn waves to toss side to side.
“Don’t be silly. Although you did put a slight hiccup in my plans, but fear not for I have recruited help,” Jane said turning her eyes back to in front of her.
Arianna turned to the table in an attempt to understand what she meant. Killian was sitting at the table flashing his best smile, her heart clenched in her chest as he stood and circled the table. Killian stopped a mere foot from Arianna, his hand came up and brushed the hair from her forehead as he leaned his face in closer. His fingers were warm, so warm they almost burned.
“So it is the little princess. You look, different.”
Killian was close enough that Arianna smelled a faint cinnamon aroma as he spoke, his fingers moved from forehead to chin lifting her small face up to look into his, her face grew hot as she looked up into his eyes of smelted gold.
“I hear it’s your birthday, Princess,” he said as he leaned in close and whispered “happy birthday.”
Arianna took a step back and met his smoldering eyes with a frigid glare.
“Stop calling me princess, my name is Arianna Wolfe, and you may call me Lady Wolfe. Jane, why is he here?”
Arianna’s voice wavered. In sixteen years she’d never fallen to so many emotions, but today they were unyielding. Jane looked up at Arianna and smiled apologetically.
“He approached me about you, when he learned it was your birthday he insisted on being included. How could I say no, the more the merrier right? Besides, Chef Desden learned you’d fallen ill and after getting permission from Father Zebadiah they made you this.”
Jane's hand gestured to a large chocolate cake with Arianna’s name scrolled across the top.
“What am I supposed to do with that?” Arianna asked, her brows shooting up in surprise.
“Why share it my dear girl, after all sixteen is big year," came a chalky soft voice from behind.
Arianna turned to face Father Zebadiah who was flanked by the brothers and sisters of the monastery as well as the students, from the new to the old.
“Today is the Lady Arianna’s birthday and to commemorate such a milestone we've got a gift,” Father Zebadiah said, his weathered hands extended to reveal a small package.
“You didn’t need to do this,” Arianna said, a smile tugging at her lips.
“You are like a daughter to many of us. We have watched you grow from babe, to a beautiful young woman. You wouldn’t deny an old man the pleasure of giving a gift to his only child would you?” he asked, his usual sharp eyes, soft and glinting.
“Of course not Father, thank you.”
Arianna took the small box and opened it. Inside was a bundled cloth with something hard wrapped within, but she couldn’t decipher what it was by feel alone. When she unwrapped it, her eyes grew large with shock as she peered down upon a pendant of silver encasing a two inch gem shaped like an over- sized tear and the same blue as her eyes.
“Is this…you can’t mean to give this to me.”
“It is only fitting that a young woman should have a necklace befitting of her beauty. I would clasp it upon your neck myself, but my fingers are not what they used to be. Brother Willum, if you’d be so kind.”
“Of course Father. Lady Wolfe, if you’d turn around,” said Brother Willum taking the necklace and clasping the chain around her ivory skin.
“My, isn’t that fancy.” said Killian.
“Now I believe it is time for cake, Father," chimed in Sister Vieira.
“Yes, we shall start with our birthday girl," said Father Zebadiah.
Sister Vieira moved to the cake as the kitchen staff emerged with stakes of plates, Chef Desden led the charge with his large knife and made quick work of the cake. Sister Vieira smiled at Arianna as she handed her the first plate, the womans sharp features only looked more wicked with a smile, she nodded and took her piece before stepping out of the way. The piece of cake was large and the frosting thick, she was surprised how easily her fork glided through the dense cake, she held the chocolatey bite before her and assessed it before slowly popping it into her mouth. It was moist, rich an nearly melted in her mouth, her eyes closed as she savored the sweet flavor.
"You act as if it's your first time eating things like this," came a silky voice behind her, the spiced scent of cinnamon filling her nostrils.
Startled, Arianna began coughing on the cake she was chewing, bits of chocolate sprayed across the room which sent a small nearby group into a fit of laughter. Heat rose in the girls face as she spun around to glare at the young man behind her, Killian was grinning from ear to ear, icing was smeared at the corner of his mouth and chocolate decorated every space of his teeth. Swallowing hard, she forced the smile down that was creeping upon her. Killian grunted as the point of an elbow dug into his back, Jane was beaming over at Arianna as she pressed down on his back which sent the boy into an awkward boy.
"It is her first time you dolt, you think cake is a common thing here?"
"I just assumed that there was a cake every year, come on Princess, it's not really your first time....is it?"
"So what if it is, what's so great about it anyway? It's to sweet, I'd be fine if I never had the stuff again."
Jane and Killian glanced at eachother, Arianna's bluff easily seen through as she hesitantly place the near whole piece of cake on the table. Jane released her hold on Killian and took a seat beside her and held up her fork, as she moved it closer to the slab on the table it was quickly snatched away, Arianna pulled the plate protectively to the opposite side of her.
"Well...that doesn't mean I shouldn't eat this piece, I mean after all, the chef did make it for me. It's the least I can do, right?"
The two burst into laughter and nodded as the young girl hastily consumed what remained of her dessert, her eyes grew larger with every bite. The cake seemed to go too fast and left her wanting more, her tongue glided across her lips as she licked the chocolate that coated them, but as the taste disappeared she found herself feeling empty and out of place. Arianna looked around at the crowd surrounding her and felt claustrophobic, she envied Jane whose smile and laughter was infectious. She slipped her way through the crowd believing she went unseen until she felt eyes on her. Looking up her made contact with a pair of molten gold following her, an amused smile playing at his chocolate stained lips.
This guy is going to be worse than Jane, she thought as she continued out into the hall and in the direction of the assembly hall. This was the only thing about her birthday that she looked forward to; cleaning the hall on her own
Arianna found herself trying not to quicken her step as she reached the storage closet. Inside was a small sink that was filled daily, a variety of buckets, rags, brushes, cleaners and along the walls were brooms, tools, mops, and a variety of other items she had yet to figure out. Arianna gathered a mop, broom, and bucket which she filled before turning to leave. Her feet picked up pace once they were pointed in the direction of the assembly hall again and moving quickly enough that the bucket began sloshing and threatening to spill its contents over the edge. Her footsteps slowed as she reached the vast double doors; two golden semicircles met in the center of the door to form a golden circle and two silver crescents sat on either side facing in opposing directions.
Arianna’s hand reached to her forehead touching the familiar shape. It had been sixteen years since the goddess marked her. Legend says that Lady Nualia only marks a favored soul when a great need arises, but there hadn’t been any extreme chaos since the last champion a thousand years ago when the Dark Magi had twisted magic to his own agenda.
Taking a deep breath, Arianna shook her thoughts away and reached for the golden handles; they were cold and smooth against her skin as her fingers closed around the metal and swung the doors wide. Inside, the room seemed to be transformed from the cramped room it had been a few hours ago into a black, glossy sea. The floor seemed an eerie abyss that would consume you if you walked upon its surface. With a slow and confident stride, Arianna stepped to the center of the room; the moon was on the rise outside the opened windows, and its pale light poured into the room catching small gold etchings in the black floor. Looking around, Arianna found her breath caught in her throat just as it had done the first time she witnessed this view; the black sea had been transformed into the night sky, it was like walking among the stars, the closest any person would ever come to it. Arianna was lost to this midnight sea, her body so relaxed and her eyes transfixed, that she didn’t notice someone slip in.
A sound rang out from behind startling her as it echoed out across the empty room. Looking for the source of the sound, she spotted her bucket on the floor and a figure standing just beside it. Her eyes followed up to a set of eyes that reflected the moonlight back like a nighttime beast on the hunt. Killian's wolfish smile grew as he closed the gap between them causing her heart to beat so hard it resounded in her ears.
“So this is where the Princess has run off to. Quite the view you here all to yourself,” Killian said with his arms outstretched.
“No one is permitted in here today except me…AND STOP CALLING ME PRINCESS.”
Arianna felt out of breath; her chest was rising and falling heavily as her face grew hot. Her body betraying her as her strength drained away, and her heart felt as if it would leap from it's cage.
Arianna felt as if the floor suddenly gave beneath her and her body began trembling under some unseen weight. Her eyes went wide as she looked up at Killian; surprise written on his face as he stepped forward catching her slight frame. Arianna felt something strong and hot coil around her as her body went cold, and her vision grew black before she faded into nothingness and all the while Killian stood there, transfixed on this girl who was so vulnerable. She looked fragile with her pale skin that looked as if it had never felt the suns warmth. Arianna's body began to shudder and perspire, and then her eyes flashed open and looked straight at Killian.
"It can't be true..." Arianna whispered before passing out again.
Killian held her tightly and carried her back to her room, he cursed beneath his breath as he scarcely avoided the occasional adult roaming the halls. Not only was it against the rules to be seen in the girls dorm, but he knew carrying the Monastery’s precious daughter surely would get him in trouble. Carefully, Killian managed to make it to what he could only guess was her room; a small plaque beside a door held the Initials A.W., he quietly slipped through the door and placed her in her bed. As Killian started to leave, he glanced back at the small girl asleep, the pale moonlight basking on her skin and making her almost glow. He bit his lip as he slipped back the way he had come.
Arianna found herself outside a large door. She had been in the monastery her entire life, but had never seen this door before; embossed on the outside of it was the double Kusarigama of Viscious. The handles were circled in Runes, the beautiful strokes perfectly etched in and glowing and her eyes followed each curve and line of the locking runes. She felt herself reaching against her own volition, her hand passing right through the handle.
"How is this possible? Where am I?"
Arianna felt a pull from the other side of the door, and her body was pulled through the space leaving a feeling of soaked clothing weighing her down. Inside was even more confusing as Father Zebadiah stood with Sister Vieira and Brother Willum flanking him and unconscious on the floor were faces she recognized, but before she could focus enough to remember a name, one face changed to another. Each sleeping form was being held down as the Father leaned in close and etched into their flesh with a rune rod, the crystal glowing white hot from the Ka being poured into it.
Arianna was surprised and she went unseen as her body continued to be pulled closer, her ears picking up the words being spoken with each stroke
"Scanatariale Leeikaeh Beriaieina Ehnaehrijuya"
Arianna finally remembered a name as the face of a young man in his early twenties appeared. He had soft golden eyes and dark curls, Tomas. Her mind reeled as a name began matching to every face; these were the graduates. Arianna found herself staring up into Father Zebadiah’s eyes, but they looked different. Black and bottomless as they stared through her, then a voice began beckoning her.
"See the unseen, and remove the untruths. You are my vessel and together we shall seek justice against those that misuse their power, and we shall strike out against those claiming false hoods."
The voice was as soft as a gentle breeze, yet firm like stone as it pulled her towards a bright light, the words echoed softly until she was overcome with brightness and no sound remained.
Arianna awoke to the sun blaring in and her head pounding, she found it hard to focus. Slick with sweat, her dress and hair clung to her face and neck. She brought her arm down over her eyes to shield them from the bright light that was making her nauseous, and as she closed her eyes, flashes of her vision came slamming back against her fragile head. Was it a dream? Nightmare? It had felt so real to her; from the faces she knew to the voice that somehow seemed more familiar then her own.
Wait. How am I even in my room? Last thing I remember was... Killian.
Arianna started to stand but the weight somehow seemed too much, her legs threatened to give out beneath her. She took a deep breath and focused on steading herself. Slowly, she turned to the wash basin and undressed, she scrubbed away the sweat that clung upon her skin until it was red and stung, when she was done she dressed and took to her prayers. Pouring the water, lighting the candle, taking offering from left and then right, as Arianna leaned in to extinguish the candle, she felt a prickle on the back of her neck and a soft whisper in her head.
"You are my vessel and together we shall seek justice against those that misuse their power."
Arianna rubbed the goosed flesh on her arms, and for just a second the air felt chilled around her, but now seemed normal. She drew her hair up into a ponytail and tied it with a strip of leather as she slid her feet into her slippers. She left her room and ran off to the cafeteria hoping to catch Killian before morning lessons. As she rounded the corner, she nearly ran into Killian who was standing outside the cafeteria entrance, an impish grin splayed across his face as she stopped just inches from him.
“Good morning Princess, feeling better?” his words sounded mocking, but there was a hint of sincerity in his gaze.
“What happened?” she asked stonily.
Killian’s hand moved down to grasp hers as he urged her to follow with a tug.
“Follow me and I will tell you a secret,” he said, while another voice echoed in her mind.
"See the unseen, and remove the untruths."
Arianna nodded, closing her hand around his she followed him to an empty storage room. She didn’t know why she went, but the voice in her mind seemed to urge her. Killian closed the door when they were both in, his voice whispering in runic “Leeijuhata” creating soft white light that filled the darkness, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“There was this young boy who was brave and smart, his dream was to become a healer in his village. Years passed and the boy became a man, bright eyed and full of passion. On his eighteenth birthday he was accepted into the Monastery of Balance. The young man’s family was proud as was his village, but none as proud as his little brother. Five years passed and the older brother returned home and all seemed well,” said Killian, his voice seeming far away.
“The older brother's healing was second to none in the surrounding villages, but at the end of the first year, the younger brother noticed a change in the older brothers eyes, the soft gold in his eyes now a dull brown. During the following summer the older brother collapsed and refused to wake up. It’s been almost two years and he still lays in bed wasting away, all except the glowing Runics on his back," his voice trembled at the end, and his eyes rimmed with tears.
Arianna closed her eyes flashing through her vision from the night before, so many figures being etched with Scanatariale Leeikaeh, Beriaieina Ehnaehrijuya; Control Life, Drain Energy. Her mind raced through the faces until she found a young man of twenty-three with eyes of warm gold, soft dark curls and gentle smile. Arianna’s eyes shot open and locked with Killian’s
“Tomas...” her voice broken and barely a whisper. Her head was shaking as her eyes grew wide in disbelief.
“No, it can’t be true. It was just a dream, a nightmare.”
Her voice unconvincing even to herself, Killian grabbed her shoulders and lowered his eyes to meet hers.
“He spoke about you once, he said to me; ‘Killi, there is a girl there who is a bit of an odd duck. When I walked in the first time, she was standing there staring blankly at me with her large bright eyes and the most beautiful markings on her forehead. She reminded me of a princess locked away in some tower,” said Killian.
She knew his words were true because as he spoke, Tomas’ face came to mind as he called out ‘little princess’. Arianna looked at Killian, his usual fierce facade temporally crumbled away.
“I had a dream last night; at least I think it was a dream. A vision maybe? Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been real, Father Zebadiah and the others would never hurt anyone. They are strict but kind, they are my family.” Arianna’s voice was soft and breaking, she felt like a small child trying to convince herself.
Killian's eyes were cold, and she could see he was hurting from opening up a still healing wound.
"I'll talk to him, it has to be a mistake," Arianna said.
Just then the door opened. Arianna and Killian looked up into the stern face of Sister Vieira, her dark eyes menacing in the pale magic light.
"What is going on here, Miss Wolfe? You will head to your lesson and I do not want to see anything like this again. Mister Plight. Report to Father Zebadiah's study," Sister Vieira's voice harsh and sharp.
Vieira stepped aside as a wide eyed Arianna bowed and darted off toward her runic lesson. Arianna glanced back to see the two walking in the direction of Father Zebadiah's office, Killian flashed a quick smile over his shoulder, it's half-heartedness striking the girl odd as she rounded the corner.
Arianna was still befuddled when she arrived at the study hall but an aroma of aged paper, dust and cedar assaulted her and she felt herself relaxing in the familiar comfort. Walls lined from floor to cathedral ceiling of bookshelves made this her second favorite place in the monastery, each shelf stuffed with tomes, scrolls or pamphlets and their content varied from the gods to the different regions and their people, in the last ten years she had eagerly read nearly everything.
Arianna peeled her eyes from the comfort of the books to realize there were whispers surrounding her, two dozen eyes on her some more familiar than others. The heat in her face returned as she made her way to her seat, a dark stained cedar desk unmarred by time except for the four runes etched in each corner, she sat and traced her fingers over the intricate marks whispering thier meaning 'resistance, erase, heal, and mend'. Each rune artfully traced into the soft grain, each corner flowing together in harmony. A loud crack brought Arianna's attention back to the present and she turned to find Master Amist was the source of the sound, he stood behing his desk with an impressive stack of books sitting in front of him. Master Amist nodded at the silence and moved to the board to scrawl his name across the center, as high up as his small stature afforded.
"Good morning students, I am Master Amist. When I call your name please stand and tell us a bit about yourself," Master Amist said.
His voice was rough and rich, Arianna liked it best when he spoke in runic. His voice she imagined, is what a dragon would sound like and often entertained the idea of him breathing fire. Caught in her own thoughts Arianna was startled when a loud crack emanated from her desk, Master Amist glowering at her.
"I understand you are gifted and possibly bored, but when in the room Miss Wolfe you will humor me with your attention. Now if you would be so kind." His voice firm and soft at the same time.
Arianna smiled weakly as she stood and bowed
"I apologize Master, I have not been sleeping well. I am Arianna Wolfe, I enjoy reading as well as sparring. Welcome and may the goddess bless you."
She bowed again before returning to her seat, Master Amist nodded his approval as he continued addressing the students. Arianna looked over the remaining faces as they stood committing them to memory, her eyes met Clare's and noticed a narrowing in the girls green eyes, her lips drawn taut before turning her attention back to Master Amist.
Arianna turned back to the front to find the lesson starting and as he had every year he started with the basics to refresh everyone on the foundation of Runic, because Master Amist believed that a strong foundation and grasp of basics could lead people on to be stronger in application. Arianna agreed but she had mastered the Runic before her tenth birthday which was unheard of before then, but then most were not allowed to even begin until puberty. Her first runic lesson was her third birthday, Master Amist stacked her chair with tomes and had chosen the seat closest to his own so that he may help, but also affording her a better view.
Arianna felt her heart tighten as she looked up into the face of her Master, he was old but no one knew how old exactly, she asked once when she was younger and he laughed, his stormy grey eyes sparkled as he replied;"Age is just a number dear girl and we are only as young or old as we dare to be. I declare I am still learning and thus still young, and that is the key. Always thrive for more knowledge because that will keep your mind young."
"Miss Wolfe, daydreaming is quite unlike you." Said Master Amist.
Arianna's eyes widened as she hastily bowed her head several times, “I am ashamed Master, please forgive me."
His eyes narrowed as he smiled impishly, strangely Arianna thought he suddenly looked rather young.
"I have a better idea, you have been my student for 14 years and your runic is always perfection. Would you care to be my assistant?”
“No Master I couldn't, what if I disappoint you." Her voice shaky as Master Amist offered his hand, she curled her thin fingers over his rough palm.
"Why don't you go take your place by the board and we will see what happens, you never know unless you take that risk."
The lesson blurred past as Arianna held the undiminishing piece of chalk, her hand moved across the board in graceful arcs and strokes and when the bell chimed the hours end she felt a pang of disappoint as she placed the chalk into its holder. When she turned back around she found herself swarmed by her peers, their faces awestruck, even Clare stood behind the group the hostility remained but a sense of recognition dancing behind it.
"That, was, amazing! You are amazing, I never found it so easy to follow as I did today. Your Runic really is perfect." A boy a few years older than her said.
Taking a step back Arianna scanned for Master Amist and found him waving from her desk, an amused smile spread across his face.
"I should go, our next lesson will be starting soon." Arianna said her voice colder then intended.
"You heard Miss Perfect, save your fawning for your personal time," sniped Clare who was already storming out of the room.
The group bowed to Arianna and then to Master Amist before rushing out of the room, groups of two and three huddled together in hushed whispers.
Master Amist's face was pulled tight in a grin as he walked over, placing his hand on her Cheek. Arianna noticed Master Amist's hand was rough, years of chalk and parchment had sapped away all moisture.
"Well I have to say that was a brilliant lesson, just brilliant my girl. You are a gifted and it is time you allow yourself to shine and not be left to sit gathering dust."
"Thank you Master, it is odd to have so many people surround me, more so listen to me. It is equally exhilarating and terrifying."
A second bell chimed it's warning call to wanderers that classroom doors would be closing soon Arianna quickly bowed as she back stepped towards the exit.
"I really must go, I will see you tomorrow Master."
Arianna raced off to her next lesson which was her Religion and History, her least favorite. She found the entire hour dull as she listened to Mistress Niahm drone on about past wars, and the Gods. In the last fourteen years she had learned all about the Great War a thousand years ago as well as the great Champions who ended the reign of the Dark Magi, his real name had long been erased from all records. She knew only from maps what the outside world looked like, mostly each regions size and locations of important places but it had been years since she had learned of anything new. Her mind seemed to flash at that point to an odd memory but it couldn’t be a memory though, she had never been outside these walls but vividly she saw a wooded area next to a chestnut tree.
The hours end bell chimed snapping her attention back to the classroom, Arianna looked around unsure how time had passed her and also how she recognized that chestnut tree, she was certain she had never seen one before. She quickly gathered her things and headed to her next lesson, her mind still reeling from the odd vision.
The Application hall was large and open except for the stands which ran in rows, each one holding a different item from; Wilted plants to containers of water, one held a small ball of fur. Arianna took her place in the lineup as Brother Willum paced the line his eyes running over every face and then stopped in front of someone, his eyes evaluating intensely. Arianna had never seen him do that before and her curiosity though scraping at the rim of her being, was pushed down as she stood there, she did not want his ire on her as well. Brother Willium circled around the class and once again stopped behind that same person and with his rune-rod he prodded the back of a boy.
"Mister Plight I presume, do stand up tall and straight, if posture is too hard for you to manage, than you will never succeed here."
Master Willum was always stern but there was a coldness to his voice that surprised Arianna. A loud crack echoed through the hall as Master Willum slapped his rune-rod into his open palm, as he made his way back to the front.
"Welcome to Application., for those whom are new here I am Brother Willum. In this room you will take what you have learned in Master Amist class and apply it. The lessons will increase in difficulty as you master each schools basics, you will then move on to a specialty course of your choosing but only if you succeed on the exam. Any questions? No? Then we shall begin. First lesson; Ka points and control. If you cannot master this there is no need for a rune-rod, nor is there a point for continuing on at this institution." Brother Willum said eyeing each student.
"Okay, who can tell me the Ka points and their school?"
Hands shot up throughout the circle but Brother Willum only had eyes on one.
Everyone turned to the boy awaiting his response and Arianna bit her lip as her eyes fell on the boy as Killian stepped forward and bowed, he held up his pointer and middle finger locked together his others folded in. His two fingers moving along his body as he called out the each location and its purpose, starting at his forehead.
"Mind Point, Minte-Ka. Minte-Ka is used in the school of Will, allowing a person to control the life force around them as well as influence another person." His voice was uneven as his two fingers moved to above his heart.
"Heart Point, Inima-Ka. Inima-Ka is used in the School of Life, allowing a person to give life energy to heal as well as take life." His voice was catching at the end as he moved his fingers to navel.
“Core Point, Ruina-Ka. Ruina-Ka is used in the school of Destruction, it is the ability to gather the forces of the elements and use them for destructive purposes." His voice found its footing again as he bent over, his two fingers on his feet.
"Root Point, Natura-Ka. Natura-Ka is the school of nature, allowing a person to commune with plants and animal and if a person is strong enough even the earth and rushing waters." When he finished Killian bowed and returned to his place in line.
Arianna turned to look at brother Willum, it was rare that newcomers knew the answer and she could see the hostility draining from his face.
"Very good Mister Plight, very good indeed. Well there you have it, our first lesson is to focus on these points and master drawing energy into them. We will start with our root point and work our way up, for that is working from simplest to more complicated. New students will pair up with their seniors, I will be walking among you and helping when needed. Seniors draw your lot from the left and newcomers from the right, then find your partner." He said.
The students divided, drew their numbers and began pairing off, some seeming pleased while others looked longingly at better possible partners. Arianna stepped up and placed her hand in the glass bowl, her fingers searching until they felt the rough leafy texture of the final parchment piece. Opening up her lot she found seven scrawled across it, looking she found only one person unpaired.
"I have seven."
Killian grinned impishly as he revealed his piece of parchment with the number seven scrawled in black ink across it.
"Today must be my luck day!"
His hand brushed his hair from his eyes, the gold looked super-heated as he continued to smile at her.
Arianna gave a quick prayer to Nualia before taking her root stance, feet place shoulder length apart and knees slightly bent. She took a deep breath she and focused on her feet, imagining the energy until she felt the familiar warmth in the soles of her feet. She maintained it for a full minute before she exhaled and gently released the Ka, Brother Willum nodded as he walked past as he headed to a small boy whose face was near as red as his hair.
Killian clapped and stepped up to follow suite, his body taking the same position but lacking the solid body frame. He took a deep breath as he began gathering energy into his root point, or at least he was trying to, Arianna could see his body was not in proper alignment.
"Your form isn't right, you need to straighten up your back."
She circled around him and placed one hand on the small of his back and her other on his shoulder physically aligning him appropriately. As soon as his posture improved the kink disappeared and a rush of energy raced from his root point, his body rocked by the sudden surge.
Killian exhaled and released the energy, but his control was lacking and he released a bit too quickly causing him to nearly fall over, he laughed as he scratched the back of his head. A large hand reached out and patted him on the back as it helped him up.
"Very well done, you have a large Ka pool already but you need to work on your release. This is why we exhale on release, the slower the release of breath, the more control over the released flow of Ka, " Brother Willum said turning his attention to the class.
"Now some of you are doing quite well, but as seniors I expect nothing less. As for the newcomers, with practice it will come easier. If you have questions turn to your seniors or myself, please continue to practice until the bell chimes."
The remainder of the class went uneventful and the hour bell chimed calling the end of morning lessons and the start of lunch hour. Arianna bowed to Brother Willum before heading out but her elbow was caught, stopping her in her tracks.
"Running away so fast are we," came Killian's velvety voice.
"We only have an hour to eat and prepare for afternoon lessons, if you will excuse me.” Arianna said pulling her elbow free, the area he touched was radiating warmth and making her heart race.
"Let’s eat together."
Arianna felt herself pretending everything was okay, that everything that had happened since the opening ceremony would end and she could return to normal but seeing him only helped to negate the idea of normality again. As they made it to the lunchroom Arianna spotted a sea of red curls waving them over, a smile pulling at Jane's face at the sight of Killian.
"So, your classes going well?" Jane asked, her voice a higher register than normal.
"Out with it, what is going on Lindy?" Arianna said, Jane narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips teasingly.
"So snappy for someone who should be bouncing across the halls, I simply heard the news in Master Amist’s lessons today. He seemed quite pleased with himself, although he then realized that he only had you for a quarter of his actual lessons. The whole place has been abuzz, never has a teacher taken a student as an assistant."
Jane had reached across the table and grasped Arianna's hand in her excitement, embarrassment crept into Arianna as she looked at her friend.
"It will be a nice change of pace, we should eat, we still need to get ready for afternoon lessons."
Upon her fifth bite she glanced up and found not only Jane looking at her, but Killian as well as occasional glances from others in the room. Arianna stuffed another spoonful of food into her already gorged mouth before standing up and racing out of the room, she could feel like eyes still on her when a pale and freckled arm looped through hers.
"Let’s head to the common room and then go to sparring together?" Jane's tone making it a clear plan instead of an actual question.
"Great idea Miss Jane, see you ladies soon. " Killian bowed and quit the room in the direction of the boy’s dorm.
A tight squeeze on Arianna arm brought her attention to Jane whose eyes were exuding curiosity.
"I also hear you were caught alone with Killian Plight in a closet?"
"He was telling me about his brother, listen we need to get ready okay? I will meet you in the common room."
Arianna quickly made for her room and shut the door behind her, if they allowed locks in the dorms she would have slammed the bolt home, instead Arianna kept her back pressed against the door until she thought she could feel the ridges of the wood through her thick robes. A deep controlled breath steadied her and brought all her thoughts and emotions into focus. She released the door and swapped her thick robe and gown for her black training breeches and a white tunic that had slits up both sides allowing more maneuverability. She grasped her quarter staff that she kept hanging on the wall near the door and headed off to the common room where Killian and Jane were both already waiting when Arianna rounded the corner, Jane rushed to her side and the three of them headed in the direction of the courtyard where their physical training would take place.
The double doors were already open and the fresh air washed over Arianna, she could smell the flowers, the sticky sap on the surrounding trees, and the freshly cut grass. The red dirt was firm beneath her soles, but by the days end it would be stirred and in need of packing again. Jane took Killian's arm and led him to the weapons rack, students picked their weapons from the collection provided and curiosity drew Arianna behind them, wanting to see what he would choose. Killian's hands ran over the different weapons, all of them only wooden training replicas until their third year. Killian picked up a short sword and tossed it around judging the weight and feel of it he nodded and then picked up a second, Arianna tilted her head slightly as she flexed her hands subconsciously, as if remembering something that she had long forgotten.
“Alright, line it up boys and girls. I want two-handed, one-handed and ranged in single file lines,” called a deep voice from behind the weapons.
The students lined up and bowed as Arms Master and two young men walked out into the courtyard, the twin boys looked like younger clones of the Arms Master with matching dusty blonde hair. Arianna glanced over at the lone figure of Killian standing alone, he caught her eye and offered up a grin as he shrugged his shoulders, she rolled her eyes and looked away as she tried to keep from smiling.
“I am Master Arden and these two are Raiken and Jaeger Arden,” said Master Arden as the three of them divided amongst the groups, one of the twins headed over to Killian and brought him to Arianna and Jane’s group.
"Hey there, I am Raiken Arden but you can call Rai. I will start by showing you one of the most basic attacks, it is called feinting fang, it is simple and if mastered can be hard to block,” Said Rai, his voice was clear and confident as he paced in front of the group.
Rai griped his weapon loosely and swung his blade up into a wide left arc, then tightened his grip as he reversed the arc to a right down-ward cleave. He repeated the move twice more, slowing it down first and then speeding it back up. He moved amongst the group and helping adjust where needed, Arianna smiled as Rai came behind Jane and adjusted her already perfect stance, Jane's face turned bright red as she shyly avoided eye contact.
“Can I help you with your stance?” Came a voice behind Arianna, startling her.
Arianna whirled her quarterstaff around making solid contact with the face that was near hers, she narrowed her eyes at Killian who was rubbing his cheek laughing.
“Ahhh, ouch. Next time, not so close.”
“Serves you right, sneaking up on someone like that.,” Arianna said, her neck and ear still burning with the warmth of his breath.
“Alright, let’s get back to practice shall we. It was Plight right? How about you practice with me,” Rai said gesturing a finger at Killian, his voice sterner then before.
Rai circled around Killian reading himself, Killian bowed and as he raised himself back up he had to jump to avoid Rai. Killian took another step back and threw his left sword into the path of the incoming blade, he barely got the right up to help stave off the force. The group was silent as they watched Killian on the defense, the usual calm and easy going Rai was going all out against the new guy.
By the end of the class Killian and Rai were slick with sweat and their breathing heavy. The class was on hold as everyone watched Killian and Rai go at it, Killian somehow had kept going. Killian and Rai burst into laughter as they both collapsed to the ground.
“All…right. Class…dis-missed.” Said Rai breathily.
“I think tomorrow I have to join the third years, it won’t be any fun without you.”
Arianna turned and looked at her friend, whose face was completely serious if not a little childish.
“I train with the third to fifth years as well, Master Arden just affords me time to drink water and see to other things if needed.”
“Wait, I thought you had study hall like the rest of the first and second years at this time,” Said Jane.
“Don’t be ridiculous, I study on my own time”
Jane looked at Arianna as if she were ridiculous causing Killian to laugh beside them, which made Jane laugh.
“So how many years have you been training with the older students?” Jane asked.
“This will be my fourth year.”
It was Killian’s turn to be amazed as he stopped walking to simply gape at her.
“Twelve? You were training with the adults at twelve, were they using real weapons?”
Arianna nodded in reply.
“Yes. The older students were hesitant to face me seriously at first with their blades, but when I knocked Luke Bransen down on his rump with my ‘Sweeping Tail’ their hesitation dispersed,” She said causing Killian to laugh again. Jane and Killian bid their farewells as they headed into the direction of the dorms and Arianna returned to the courtyard.
The courtyard showed little disturbance as Arianna walked back out into it, the dirt only slightly stirred from an hour of basic drills, her heart picked up and thrummed in her ears with excitement as she took her place in the lineup, the bodies next to her sturdier then the ones prior. She felt eyes on her and looked into the faces of her peers, each one was sparked with anticipation for their turn to spar with her, she gripped her staff as she tried and failed to push down the grin creeping into her face.
Master Arden stepped forward with Rai and Jaeger flanking him, the customary bows took place and this time Arianna was not separated into a group but instead stepped up and stood next to the three men. Her peers lining up to spar against one of the masters, though many of the now third years took their place before Arianna. She bowed to the first in line, a young woman with sharp angular features and pointed ears, the elf bowed back before taking position.
Arianna held her staff before her, examining Laurel’s form to help indicate her first move, then the woman’s hand grip her blade tight, she planted her left foot firmly and sprung forward. Arianna prepared for a low left strike, coiling her own body tight and focusing her weight into the balls of her feet, as she felt the warmth in the soles of her feet, the Minte Ka trickling down and collecting. She pushed off and dove to the right bringing her quarterstaff in hard and to the left, a thud confirming a connection as it struck Laurel in her right rib.
The woman fell and clutched her side, Laurel would have an ugly bruise but luckily, nothing broken. She grimaced as she stood back up, running the back of her hand across her mouth to wipe away the saliva that had spilled out upon contact. She griped her blade tightly, her fingers dancing across the handle, before she lept forward. Arianna smiled as she took a step back, her quarter staff humming with Ka as she blocked Laurels strike, her face gently kissed by the force expelled between the two Ka’s.
“I see you are getting better at controlling your Ka while in combat.” Arianna said, her hands fluttering upon the wood of her weapon, she allowed the Ka to thrum through her and into the quarterstaff as she took a step back and ducked down, she pulled her staff in against her and jabbed it straight out. Laurel’s eyes went wide as she made to parry the attack, her swing lacked enough force and she stumbled back from the expelled Ka that struck her chest.
“Well I still have a ways to go.” Said Laurel as she regained her footing and went back in for the attack.
The two girls continue to spar, Laurel trying to stay on the offense, knowing she couldn’t keep up on defense against Arianna. After a half hour, the girls were slick with sweat, the group broke into a cheer as the two girls’ bows to each other. Arianna hastily took the water-skin Rai offered her, the cool water easing the burn in her throat and chest, she poured some on her hand and wiped her face free of sweat.
“Ahhh, thank you Rai.” Arianna said, her breath coming easier now.
“Only going to get through one today are we? You feeling alright Miss Wolfe, normally you would have handled Laurel in a timelier manner” Said Rai, his eyes scrutinizing her.
“Oh are you saying I’m getting soft Arden?” Said Arianna, handing his water-skin back.
“If I were? What are you going to do about it?” Said Rai, his eyes sparkling as he tapped his fingers upon his broad sword, his smile wide and youthful.
“Well…as punishment, let me think.” Said Arianna smirking, her eyes looking past Rai to Jaeger, who was looking over with interest. “Jaeger, this brother of yours said he kicked your tail in a match the other day. Is that true?”
Rai’s eyes went wide as he stared at Arianna, he turned back in time to see the figure colliding against him. Arianna took a five foot step back as the two men rolled around, Jaeger’s leaner muscles winding around Rai, she smiled and fluttered her hand in his direction.
“Alright you two, knock it off.” Came the booming voice of Arms Master Arden. “Miss Wolfe, you know better.”
“I suppose I do, but it really is fun to watch.” Said Arianna smiling up at the towering blonde man, his blue-green eyes bright against his sun tanned skin.
“Fair enough little Miss, how about you run on ahead and get some more practice in and see if you can’t help out if anyone needs it.” Said Master Arden laughing, his big hand nearly enveloping Arianna’s head as he ruffed up her hair.
Arianna smiled up at him and then bowed, before heading in the direction of the other students. “So what can I do to help?”
A fifth year stepped forward, he was Arianna’s favorite of the fifth years and with his lean muscles he was able to match her speed. “What can I help with Jamenson?” she asked.
He bowed and held out his long thin rapier, Arianna remembered him being teased when he selected the weapon but with his speed and precision it proved to be a perfect match.
“I still cannot get my Minte-Ka to curve like you, I was to bend my Ka to pinpoint the weak spots but it just refuses.” He said.
Arianna hand reached out for the rapier and Jamenson allowed her to take it from his open palms. She held the blade in her hand, opening and closing her hand around the handle until she found the right placement. “Can you hold this?” She asked as she held out her quarterstaff, Jamenson took it and held it as if it would shatter.
Arianna took a few steps back away from the group, they made a wide arc and allowing her space to move without out giving up their view. Arianna closed her eyes as she inhaled through her nose and out through her mouth, feeling her Ka drip down through her fingers to the tip of the blade. She noticed the Ka flowed differently in and over the steel then it did with her wood of her staff, it felt stiff. She loosed her grip slightly and felt her Ka waver, then she whipped her wrist right and then left allowing her Ka to flow freely, she could feel it want to curve. This time she tried exhaling as she flicked her wrist to the left and felt the Ka flow and firm in a left arc, she repeated to the right and got the same result. Arianna returned to the group and traded weapons with Jamenson, the feel of the wood in her fingers a comfort.
“I do hope you were using your minds-eye.” She said.
Jamenson stood slightly opened mouthed, and then nodded. “Yeah, yeah I was. That was great, I saw it but still not fully sure how you did it.” Said Jamenson.
“Simple, just exhale when you flick your wrist, to allow freer flow of your Ka. Steel is worked metal, so the pores aren’t as open as with wood so it requires more Ka as well as control.” Arianna said, her breath catching slightly. “I think I will go sit down, but please everyone continue to practice I will watch and give you pointers” Arianna said as she crossed the field and sat under the shade of a nearby tree.
Training continued on as the students practiced, sparring against each other as well as the Masters until the bell chimed the hours end. Arianna had dozed off, with the remainder of the afternoon free she was left to sleep.
She found herself lost in a dream, a beautiful woman stood before her. Arianna stared wide eyes as the woman floated towards her, a glowing and somewhat transparent hand reaching out towards her. Arianna’s hand mirrored the woman’s, their fingers intertwining with perfect symmetry.
“Hello Arianna. You have grown into a strong and beautiful young woman.” She said, her voice sounded like light itself.
“Who are you? How do you know me?” Asked Arianna.
“I have always known you, but it is time you know me. My true name I cannot speak in your language, but I have been called Eri for many years.” She said.
“Eri…what a beautiful name.” Said Arianna.
“It is time to wake up little one and not just from this dream, it is time you wake up your true potential as Nualia’s Champion.” Said Eri.
“Who are you?” Asked Arianna.
“I am you of course, or a part of you. My soul was fused with yours upon birth, so we are one. I will be your guide and connection to the past as well as the goddess’ powers.” Said Eri.
“What does that mean?” Asked Arianna.
“So many questions. I will answer them all in time, until then, it’s time to wake up.” Said Eri.
Arianna bolted upright, her hair sticking to her neck from the sweat. As she looked around, she noticed the courtyard was empty and the sun was beginning to set, she nearly jumped as she felt something warm close around her shoulder. She looked back to find the Arden twins grinning at her, the red dust still clinging in their dusty blonde hair.
“See that Jaeger, your face does scare the ladies.” Said Rai, his grin spreading.
“We have the same face you dolt.” Said Jaeger, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, but I pull it off better.” Said Rai, punching his brother in the shoulder.
“What time is it?” Asked Arianna, her hand smoothing down her hair as she prepared to stand.
“The dinner bell just rang out.” Said Jaeger.
“Oh by the Goddess.” Said Arianna quickly standing and heading towards the main building, she looked back and smiled as she offered a wave.
“Is it just me or does that girl seem odd lately?” Asked Rai, his eyes following Arianna’s disappearing figure.
“You mean odder then usual I take it?” Replied Jaeger, his eyes brow raised.
“Yeah, odder than usual.” Said Rai, his voice trailing away as she faded from his sight.
Arianna’s body felt heavy as she made her way to her room to change for dinner, even her mind seemed foggy. She felt like she was forgetting something important, something someone told her, or had shown her. Why couldn’t she remember and why had she fallen asleep during training, she had never done that before. Her body seemed to adjust and become lighter as she approached her dorm, a cool sensation spread throughout her body for a second and then disappeared. Her hand reached up and touched the pendant that was tucked away just beneath her clothing, the metal felt cold against her warm fingers.
“Where have you been? I’ve been sitting in the cafeteria for nearly half an hour and when I asked around, no one could recall seeing you since training.” Said Jane.
“I am late for one meal and you’re mad at me?” Said Arianna, her brows knitted together.
“Who says I’m mad and even if I was, why shouldn’t I be? Something is clearly off with you, but you won’t talk to me.” Said Jane, her arms crossed against her chest.
“Jane, I really need to get changed for dinner.” Said Arianna, her fingers rubbing the bridge of her nose.
“Then go change, but I am not done with this conversation.” Said Jane, opening Arianna’s door and holding it open for her.
“I didn’t expect you were.” Said Arianna leading the way into her room. She began disrobing and washing up using the water basin, her fingers were sticky with sap that had turned red from the dirt. As she began scrubbing at her hands, the familiar feeling of forgetting something crept into her, but she couldn’t put a finger on it.
“Did you hear me?” Asked Jane, her face only inches from Arianna’s.
“What? Sorry I wasn’t listening” Said Arianna, reaching for a towel to dry her hand.
“Just, please tell me if anything wrong okay.” Said Jane, a half-hearted smile playing on her lips.
“I promise, now can we go. If we are any later then..” Arianna was saying, but was cut off by knocking at her door. She looked at Jane apologetically as she crossed the room and opened the door, her face free of surprise as she looked up into the dark eyes of Sister Vieira.
“Good evening Miss Wolfe. Are you unwell again?” She asked, her eyes looking Arianna over and then narrowing as they looked past her to Jane.
“It took longer than usual to get cleaned up is all, I touched one of the trees in the courtyard and the sap was resistant to gentle washing. Thankfully Jane was able to assist in removing it, right Jane.” Said Arianna, her face plastered in a smile.
“Terrible stuff that sap.” Said Jane, her eyes cast anywhere but at Sister Vieira.
“Well if you are done then hurry along to dinner, afterwards the Father would like to talk with you.” She said as she bowed and hastened back down the hall.
Arianna shut the door, her hand was slick with sweat when she released the handle and her heart was pounding in her chest.
“You told a lie. You lied and not only that but to her.” Said Jane, her face screwed up in disbelief.
“I did not lie, I only altered the truth.” Said Arianna, her hand outstretch with palms up.
“LIE. It was a lie and you had me help you. What is going on?” Said Jane, her warm hand gently reaching out, only to retract quickly. “You’re freezing.”
“I feel a little cold, but I am sure it is from sleeping outside and as for this lie, let’s just move on okay. I don’t know why I did it, I just did.” Said Arianna reaching for the door once more and heading towards the cafeteria.
“If you say so…” said Jane, her words mostly mumbled, as she closed the door behind them and followed close behind.
“Well if it isn’t my two favorite ladies, what took you so long, I thought I’d waste away if I waited much longer.” Said Killian, his smiling perfectly in place.
“Oh was that an option? We can come back later to remedy that.” Said Jane, her smile reflecting Killian’s.
“Joy. Will there be name calling as well?” Said Arianna, her voice more severe then she intended.
“Wow, aren’t you just oozing cheer.” Said Killian, his eyes looking questionably at Jane, who simply shrugged.
The three of them got their meals and sat down, the usual dinner of fish, rice and wild mushroom fell like iron in Arianna’s stomach as she ate. She felt slightly nauseous as the first few bites made their way down, but as she slowly made her way through the meal, she felt her energy returning and her body growing warm again. She had never felt so strange, forgetting things and her body acting unusually. She would bring it up with Father Zebadiah this evening, he would know what to do.
No, you mustn’t tell him.
Arianna nearly choked as she was mid-chew, bits of mushroom flew out of her mouth and sprayed across the table and landing on Killian. His eyes grew wide as he looked up at her, but narrowed as they looked over at a trembling Jane.
“Jane Lindy, I swear to the goddess…” Began Killian, but was cut short as Jane burst into laughter.
“Oh…oh..it hurts.” Said Jane, wiping a tear from her eye and holding her side.
Killian scooped up a mixture of rice and mushrooms, then catapulted them in Janes direction. The white grains rained down and stuck into her hair, the stark white against the bright red got the attention of Arianna who’s faced loosened up and spread into a smile. Jane retaliated with a handful of rice tossed back at Killian, but by then the remainder of the cafeteria had joined in. Food soared across the room, at one point someone decided to toss the whole rice bowl which shattered upon landing, which seemed to calm the room.
“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?” Came the stern voice of Sister Vieira, her dark eyes darting around the room and falling up the trio. “You three, let’s go.”
Arianna, Jane and Killian shared a look as they stood up and followed behind the fast moving sister, she always amazed Arianna with her speed and stealth, she could be anywhere at any moment, but that was what was scariest about her.
“I cannot believe the three of you. Never and I mean never in the history of this academy has such a thing happened. Wasting food and disrespecting the halls of the Goddess, you should be ashamed and you Miss Wolfe. I had thought we raised you better…” Said sister Vieira as she opened the door to the Fathers study and marched in.
“I requested only Miss Wolfe sister, what is the meaning of this.” Said Father Zebadiah, as he adjusted a small pair of glasses on his nose. “Is that rice Miss Lindy?”
“These three thought it was a good idea to start a food fight.” Said Sister Vieira, her eyes alight with anger.
“Wolfe had nothing to do with it. Ugh Sir.” Said Killian, his hand shoved into his pockets.
“Is that that the truth Miss Wolfe, or are we telling a lie? We know the Goddess dislikes liars.” Said Father Zebadiah, a smile appeared and then quickly disappeared.
“I didn’t lie.” Said Arianna, her tone hasty and defensive.
“I didn’t say you did, I was only asking if Mr. Plight was.” Said Father Zebadiah, his hands clasped together as he leaned forward on his desk.
“I didn’t throw any food.” Said Arianna, her hands slightly trembling.
“I believe you, besides, you are the only one without food on you.” Said Father Zebadiah, a smile spreading across his face.
“So what should we do with these two Father?” Asked Sister Vieira.
“They can clean up the mess as well as do kitchen duty this evening, you two will tell the staff that you will be helping them, cleaning as well as prepping for tomorrow’s meals. I do not expect to see either of you in my office again and Mr. Plight, if I do see you in here again, you will be removed from my Island, do I make myself clear young man?” Said Father Zebadiah, his eyes cold as he looked at Killian.
“Crystal clear sir.” Said Killian, his defiant stare cast down to the floor.
“Good.” He said, clapping his hands. “Well then Sister, if you would escort these two back to the dining room, I would like to have a chat with Miss Wolfe.”
“As you like Father.” Said Sister Vieira as she bowed and headed back towards the door. “You two lets go.”
Jane and Killian bowed and then flashed their eyes to Arianna as they left the room, the door loudly clicking in to place. The thud of wood on wood final and echoing through the small study as Arianna looked up into Father Zebadiah’s eyes, she noted a slight change in them as the door closed, the coldness masked over by a warmth as he gestured to a chair.
“Please sit.” He said smiling.