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Lux Academy



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Fri Jul 01, 2022 9:20 am
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Born with the ability to use magic, you had your eyes set on one Academy ever since you were a child. It would not be an easy task, getting into this prestigious institution. After all, not everyone is born magical, and out of those, only a fraction make it through the rigorous training and education required to even apply. Still, you were able to apply yourself and get through the training, the learning, the battling, and now you find yourself with an acceptance letter in your hands.

And you, like any mage worth their salt, are going to this Academy for one reason and one reason only: The God Crystals: shards of the Aethyr Crystal at the center of the Academy. Every year, one crystal shard is broken off to be bonded with what is deemed the best and the brightest of the Academy: the winner of its annual competition. Only last years are able to compete.

That is, until this year. This year, during Orientation, the Aethyr Crystal at the peak of the Academy fractures off five God Crystals, and goes dormant. Some view this as dark signs to come, but the Academy views this as an opportunity: with more God Crystals in the running this year, all four years of the Academy are able to compete. Which means you are able to compete.

Not only this, though. There have been riots in the street, rumors in the wind about prophecies, monsters appearing at the Fracture, and much much more. The world is about to crumble by many means.

But, that doesn't involve you. Your worries, as a first year, are typical school problems: classes, homework, making friends, making enemies, friendship, romance, acne. Magic. Battles. Building alliances. Typical school things.

Welcome to Lux Academy.
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Mon Jul 04, 2022 3:11 am
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TW: Parental Emotional Abuse

It took Railyn Yora a good two weeks to get up the courage to tell his dad that he applied to Lux Academy, and it took even longer to admit to him that he had gotten an acceptance letter to Lux Academy. The conversation went something like this.

Railyn: "Hey, dad?"

Railyn's dad, aka affectionately known by Railyn as "Dad": "What's up?"

Railyn should note here that his dad did not look up from the book he was reading. Which, for Railyn, was actually a good thing so he couldn't see the absolute terror Railyn was in at the moment. Anyway, back to the conversation.

Railyn: "So, you know I've been applying to academies for the past few months."

Dad: "I sure do. First time you asked for money in a long time."

Railyn: "Yeah, well. I didn't tell you before because I didn't want you to freak out, but I, uh. I applied to Lux Academy."

Dad (who was still unphased by this): "Oh, really? Who would've thought you would apply to the academy in the same town we live in."

This, well, deflated Railyn more than anything. Now he didn't know what to think. Was applying to Lux Academy a big deal, like Railyn had hyped himself up to think, or was it just something expected of him? And if he hadn't gotten in? Well, at least he didn't have to think about that scenario.

Railyn: Well, dad. I got in. To Lux Academy."

Dad: "Mhmm." Railyn had to note that he wasn't particularly sure exactly what his dad muttered at this moment, but it was something of a sign of disinterest. Perhaps he hadn't heard what Railyn said.

Railyn: "Dad. I got into Lux Academy. I'm leaving tomorrow."

Dad: "Well, that's nice, son. Do you need the car?"

And, well, that was that conversation. Railyn didn't really know what he expected going into that talk, but he knew he should have expected nothing more than what happened. It was easy to get things through to him, but expecting any kind of reaction was pointless; Railyn could get more of a reaction talking to his front door.

As he got back to his room, he had to move some clothes over to plop onto his bed. He looked over to the letter that was hiding under some pajamas. He could still see the "WELCOME TO LUX ACADEMY" blazened on the top of the acceptance letter.

Welcome to Lux Academy. How many times will Railyn have to say that before it becomes real for him.

At least he was able to say it aloud to his dad.

He heard a knock on his door, which caused him to jump. A moment later, his dad opened the door. "Hey, Ry."

"Hey."

"You know that you'll always be welcome back here if the whole Lux Academy thing doesn't work out, right?"

"Yeah dad, I know."

"Good. I know you're getting older but I don't want you to think that just because you're going to study doesn't mean this closes as a door for you."

Railyn didn't really know what to make of the implications of that, or where this conversation was coming form. All he could manage without some form of a breakdown was, "I know, Dad."

"Good, good." With that, his dad turned to leave, but before he closed the door completely, he poked his head back in. "Oh, did you tell your mother yet?"

Oh, Gods, why did he have to remind him of that hurdle? Cringing on the inside, he said, "No, not yet." Seeing as he didn't completely believe it himself just a few moments ago, he had not even begun to fathom how he would approach Mom about it.

"You know you're gonna need to, and sooner rather than later."

Railyn sighed heavily. "Yeah."

His dad nodded and rapped on his door twice. "I'll leave you to the packing." He left, closing the door but not shutting it completely. Ugh, that was something Railyn wouldn't miss. The casual and daily invasion of privacy would slowly drive any sane person not sane, and Railyn was no exception.

Railyn groaned and fell to his clothes and bedclothes combination. He knew his dad was right. His dad wasn't usually right about much, but when it came to his mom, he knew everything there was to know about avoiding her wrath.

He shoved his clothes --and the acceptance letter-- into a nearby suitcase. That would be tomorrow's Railyn's problem. For now, he needed to figure out what all he was taking with him, and actually pack.

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At some point during packing, Railyn passed out. He didn't even remember what he was doing when he fell asleep, but he woke up with a fumbled, half folded, pair of briefs next to his face. He squinted at the morning light shining and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

Man, he must have slept well, judging by the pool of drool on his pillow. Gross. His stomach figured out he was awake and took that time to start complaining loudly that he forgot to eat dinner the night before. What with his nerves about having to tell his father that he got into a prestigious academy, hell, the prestigious academy, he wanted to tell his stomach that he had a good excuse.

Apparently he wasn't the only one who remembered he didn't eat last night, because he heard a slight knock on the door. As his door opened, his mom stepped in backwards, carrying a tray of food. "Hey, Ry. I tried to get you to eat last night, but you were already fast out by then. So, I figured I'd surprise you with some food--" She turned around to see the complete disarray that was the state of his room at the moment. It took her less than an actual moment to connect the dots of the random suitcases and bags littering the room. She set the tray down at the edge of his bed gently. Railyn could tell she was holding back rage.

"Railyn Sage Yora--" Yikes, not the full name, "--what is this?"

"Mom--"

"Are you moving out?" Her voice was raising. Well, there goes Railyn telling her on his own terms. "Why? W-why? Does--does your father know about this?"

Okay, there was a potential possibility there to divert her inevitable rage to his dad, but he didn't have time to think about it, let alone consider it. His mouth just opened and words just spilled out. "Yes, but mom--"

"Oh, so this is about me, then? When were you going to tell me that you were dropping everything and leaving this house, leaving me all alone? Just like your brothers did, dropping out of our lives with nothing so much as a note, and not keeping in touch, not letting us visit our grandchildren, nothing." She started picking up the clothes on his bed as she ranted. "Out of all my children, I thought you would be the one who would actually make the right decisions, and perhaps you would even help when things got harder around the house for me and your dad. You know we can't keep supporting you forever and your dad has done a lot to support your little hobbies. I thought you wouldn't end up like your brothers, but I guess I was wrong. You were such a good kid, what happened?"

And just like that, something inside Railyn snapped, something he doubted would ever fully repair. You were such a good kid. When did he stop being a good kid? Or, good in general. He had spent the better half of his life trying everything he could to not be like his brothers, because he saw firsthand what their actions did to his family. For the longest time, he couldn't comprehend how they could do that to Railyn and their parents, who loved them unconditionally. It was, until that rhetoric was being spat in his face, that he realized he was lied to his entire life. His brothers may not be good people, but neither was his mom.

Gods, it hurt hearing that in his mind. But, at least he finally realized what broke in him: his childish unconditional love for his mother. He wasn't their good kid anymore. He was an adult now, and she made him that way.

Without a word, he got up and grabbed his personal belongings, just what he could carry.

"What are you doing?" His mother asked, but the words rung hollow in his head, nothing more than an echo of what he once looked up to. "Where are you going? Railyn, you better get your ass back here--" and he couldn't hear anymore as he closed their front door behind him.

As he looked up, the world outside of that house felt different to him. It was as if he was viewing the world in a completely different way, and the world viewed him differently now.

He didn't have time to soak that in, though. He put his head down and forced his feet to move. He didn't know where, but he just knew he had to get away. Besides making sure he didn't get run over, he cared not where he was going. He wouldn't get lost, as he lived in Glinthaven basically his whole life, but he just needed to get out.

Despite not really planning on walking anywhere, his mind must have subconsciously led his body to the creek by his house, a childhood favorite of his. He used to go there all the time to just sit in the large oak tree and listen to the babbling of the creek. His brothers always thought him weird that he didn't really go and play with the other kids his age and preferred to stick to himself, but Railyn just guessed he didn't really know who he was yet. Coming out of his shell was always a bit difficult.

Now, as he leaned against the railing and looked up at the Zenith Tower of the very academy he was set to attend today. Lux Academy. That was who he was: a battle mage of the highest accord. That was his future.

That "home." That was his past. And Railyn was not one to dwell on things.

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After Railyn had been able to cool off, he took one last look at the shining beacon of Zenith Tower before heading back to pack. He knew he had to get his stuff to Lux Academy, or at least his person, onto campus "before night falls." Which, what a great way to describe time. It reminds Railyn of the time before this, something he read in the history books when he was a kid, before structured time was a thing.

Before he got to his front door, he sighed, letting the key settle into the lock for a moment. He laid his head on the wood, desparately wanting to do anything besides walking into that house and facing his mother again. Hell, he didn't want to talk to either of his parents right now. He knew he would get rebuked like a toddler and he would be told he was in the wrong and that he should apologize for not escalating the situation. His mom wanted a fight. His dad wanted nothing to do with the entire situation. So either way, he was screwed.

But, things were different. He was a different person. As his mother told him, he wasn't a kid anymore. In fact, this wasn't going to be his house by this time tomorrow. All he had to do was weather the storm, then he could truly live his life at Lux Academy. Even though it was just across town, it felt like an entirely different world. And he was going to that world, soon. Just, get through it.

So, holding his breath (although unsure why), Railyn turned the knob and marched through the door. He noticed his dad in the corner of his eye working on some kind of paperwork. Thankfully, neither of them paid each other any heed. He did not see his mom, and he didn't bother trying to go out and look for her, either. He beelined straight to his room and shut the door, locking it. Finally, he felt like he could breathe, and he looked at the state of his room. Thankfully, it looked like his mom decided the mess wasn't worth it and she left everything as it was, including the bit of now stale food left on his bed. Honestly, Railyn was surprised because that definitely wasn't like her, and some part of him got more scared than anything. It seemed like she was incredibly upset. Railyn wanted to say that the time away from the situation calmed her mind as wel, but he knew that was wishful thinking. She was probably stewing the entirely time.

But, that was no longer his problem. He focused on the task at hand, packing his necessities. He turned on some music in the background while he worked. Flash, by Archihex. It was some flashy new summer song that has a nice, catchy tune to keep in the background. He didn't even really hear the lyrics, he just heard the beat, and the beat was awesome. He had packed most of his clothes the night before, so it didn't take long to finish getting the rest of them in a bag.

Next, he took off the posters from his walls. Some of them had been there for over a decade. He had to decide what to take with him, and what was likely too embarassing for him to have around peers. Some posters, like that boy band one, were definite keepers. Yes, he like 7 Seconds to Stay. Who wouldn't? His eyes linger on the lead singer, Kiyoon, for a second before he stashed it into a parcel. After that. there were toiletries, bed clothes, and then the categories vanished into odds and ends that seemingly never stopped.

But, finally, packing was over. It felt like it took forever, but, looking at the clock it had only taken less than an hour. Railyn didn't know how to feel about that. It was and odd feeling to grasp that almost his entire life could get packed up into a handful of suitcases and bags in just a couple of hours. It wasn't everything of us, but, then again, he didn't really want to bring everything. He wanted to make room for new memories and mementos.

Well, at least it wouldn't take him more than one trip to get everything into his dorm. Speaking of, he really didn't know how that would go. The acceptance letter just gave him the bare minimum of instructions, telling him where he could park and where the Orientation was going to take place at. No instruction on, like, where to take his bags, what to do if he got lost outside the Academy (which woulldn't be an issue for him, but probably others. Glinthaven was a windy place.) or lost inside the Academy. Railyn could usually go without instructions, but this was kinda a big moment. You don't just wing it for something like this.

He placed all the bags together on top of his bed. They made a mighty little mountain of stuff. With luck, Railyn could get this stuff into the car with two or three trips. Letting out a sigh, he realized there weren't many things left on his to-do list before he took off to Lux. Get the stuff in the car, and try to work things out with Mom. While the former would certainly be the easier task, he didn't want it to seem like he was leaving without talking to her. No matter who had the moral high ground here, he did not want to leave without talking about it. That would sink into his gut and stay there.

So, with a burst of feigning courage, he stepped out of his bunker to deal with his mother. As he approached the living area, his dad glanced up and gave him the worst of knowing looks, like good luck, don't get devoured. I have to deal with whatever happens next. His dad then nodded over to the kitchen. Mom did always like to clean when she was angry, and got even angrier when no one else was cleaning with her.

He saw her at the sink, scrubbing on a pot. Rather than directly approach her, Railyn decided to grab a drink first. He opened the fridge, letting her know that he was there. He knew how this dance was played; he was just tired of having to play it every time there was a minor problem.

He shut the fridge door and popped open the bottle. Leaning back on the counter opposite his mom, he stared holes into the back of her neck to see if she woould make the first move. Of course, she wasn't.

Eventually, he sighed. "Mom."

"Hmm?" She didn't stop scrubbing the pan.

"Can we talk?"

"What is there to talk about?" Ugh, of course she was pulling that card. He had kinda hoped she would meet him half way on this reaching out, but that obviously wasn't going to be the case. So, he delved right into it.

"Mom, I was planning on--"

She slammed the pot and scrub brush down and turned around, fury and sadness in her eyes. "I knew."

"What? That I was going to tell you?"

"No. I knew you got accepted into Lux Academy." He wanted to ask how, if she had guessed it or something, but he couldn't open his mouth to say anything; his throat had gone dry. "I knew before you did. Who do you think put the letter in your room to see when you got home the other day?"

That was true. He didn't even think to ask why his mail was on his bed that day. She must have wanted him to see the letter and not brush it off and forget about it like he did the rest of his mail. But to open it...

"I gave you weeks to tell me. I didn't tell your father, gave you the opportunity to tell us both and have some genuine excitement, and to have us share in that excitement. I wanted to be excited for you, with you, and I was. For the first week, I was. I was planning this huge party and everything. But, days went by. And then I realized, man, it was too late to plan this party. But, that's okay! Because I can just grab a quick cake and some candles and we'll celebrate it that way. Nothing too large, extravagant. After all, we had to help you pack. And I waited. And I waited. But, you didn't tell me. Why?"

Railyn felt anger bubbling within him. He couldn't even hear the words she was saying. He blurted out, "Why did you open the letter?"

"Because I am your mother, Ri. Why did you disappoint me? This was supposed to be our moment. What did I do to deserve your disrespect like this?"

All he could see was the moment he realized he got accepted into Lux Academy being tarnished in his mind, ruined, fading like a poor memory. All he could feel from that moment was a sickness. It was a simple thing, getting to be the first one to know that he got in, and he hadn't really considered how much that meant to him until the moment it was ripped out of his hands. He would have to live with that knowledge forever.

He looked at her through new eyes. This morning, even after her rant, he truly believed it was a temporary thing, able to be fixed and repaired and forgotten like nothing had happened. But, now, he knew that this happened all the time, and he kept forgiving and forgetting, and that was all he was to her. He wanted to yell at her, push her, tell her "fuck you", but he said nothing, but turned away with a tear in his eye and walked to his room.

He saw his dad standing next to his bed, with his pile of bags gone. Wordlessly, his father gave him the key to the car that was on his nightstand and quickly hugged him. I think Railyn knew that they both realized that he couldn't get a word out right now without many more, much worse, ones following. And that was his goodbye to his parents. Not a perfect goodbye, but, he gave it his best. As he got into the car, all he could think about was...

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Lux Academy. There it was, in all of its glory, right in front of him. He had parked outside of the Academy's main walls, but he could still see some buildings poking out above it. Of course, Zenith Tower was high in the sky, but he could make out other towers, and even a larger building or two, presumably full of classrooms. As he stepped out of his car, someone walked up to him, an older woman with smile lines who wore a "Welcome to Lux Academy!" shirt.

"Welcome, welcome! Your name?"

Railyn took a moment to realize she was speaking to him. "Oh, uh, Railyn, Railyn Yora. Yeah, Y-o-r-a."

"All right, Mr. Yora," she scanned a digital tablet that she was holding. Railyn wanted to get a closer look at it, because it wasn't really a thing he had seen before, but she held it up to her chest as she looked up. "Gotcha in our system. You know where to go?"

"No, not really," he laughed awkwardly. "Should I?"

"Well, if you took our tours then perhaps, but you look local, so I'll give you a pass." Ahh, so he was already failing his first test at Lux Academy. Awesome.

"So, you'll just grab a trolley back there for your belongings. Once you get to the crosswalk, you'll some official looking people. They'll take your stuff to your dorm and you go to the Hallstowers. Got it?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Awesome. Welcome to Lux, Railyn." With that, she stepped away to another car that has just arrived. Well, at least he wasn't late. He quickly got everything out of his dinky little car and started rolling the trolley up the seemingly never ending hill that this path was put upon. As he got past the walls, the Academy opened up to him, with buildings popping up all over the place as they crawled over the horizion. To his left was the two massive sparring arenas that were almost the first thing that any new student saw, after Zenith Tower. It certainly set a precedent.

His onlooking was interrupted with a large Crash! as he rammed into something, no, someone. They both toppled over. Thankfully, his trolley didn't follow suit. He was the first to get up, and he nervously brushed the dirt off of his shorts. "Ahh, sorry about that!" he said equally cheery and nervously. He held out a hand to help the person up.

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Cyra never got close enough to the lake to touch the sand, but it was the only quiet part of town. Distant birdsongs trickled through the trees, and small critters chattered in the brush. It was all soft, gentle noise, making it the perfect place to escape in small douses.

Desdemona wasn't quiet; it was painfully silent. The type of silence that deafens you more than any scream could. It felt like everyone was holding their breath and tensing.

Like everyone was waiting for a trap to spring.

And to say Cyra was fucking sick of that, of walking around a town of tiptoeing people, was a gross understatement. The birds didn't care what happened to Desdemona. The squirrels didn't know the pain that festered in the walls of their homes, their stores, and their hearts. They sang and chattered without worrying they would die.

They weren't suffocating to be around.

Cyra looked down at her acceptance letter, decorated with WELCOME TO LUX ACADEMY in fancy penmanship. Xe tried their best not to crease it, but there was the slightest crumple where xer fingers held it in a death grip. This was the last time xe would visit this lake. This was the last time xe'd stand at the end of the dirt path that led from the lake back to the city. This was the last time xe would know xe had to turn around, but curse the world for forcing xem.

And honestly, with that knowledge, xe felt some of the suffocation ease from their lungs. Today was their last day.

"I'm leaving today." Cyra didn't smile; they didn't jump or shout with joy. Instead, they just stood there, repeatedly repeating the phrase last day, last day, last day in their heart like a sacred prayer.

Cyra turned around and walked back to the city. They kept their gaze forward as the birds slowly went silent until only the quiet breeze remained. They would swear they didn't tense once that disappeared too.

Cyra's father's home (because it wasn't theirs, it hadn't been for a long time) wasn't too far of a walk into town. When they entered, the house was dim, the only light source barely squeezing between the blinds to cast muddled shadows on the filthy floor.

"Dad?" Cyra closed the door behind him. "I'm coming to say goodbye."

The house remained silent. They sighed and walked to their father's room. Their father was still in bed, curled pathetically in his sheets. "Dad? Did you hear me?"

He didn't say anything. But, of course, he wouldn't; they might as well have tried to get the walls to speak to them.

"Mrs Thorn is going to look after you now. She'll come three times a day. More if you ask her to, she's a pushover." They waited as if a petty insult would make this husk of a man suddenly spark back to life. "I don't think I'm ever coming back. You can visit, though."

They both knew he wasn't going to.

"Alright. Well, goodbye."

Her father didn't even look at them. They might as well not even come back; they should've just bought some food and left. He wouldn't have cared.

And Cyra wanted to scream at him for that. They wanted to shout loud enough for Alenda to hear them. Stop acting like you've lost your entire world when you still have family right here! Family you're going to lose because you refuse to acknowledge them.

But they didn't. Because if they started, they wouldn't stop. And Cyra wasn't going to waste that much time on this man. Not anymore.

"Good talk, Dad. I appreciate it."

They marched out of the house before they broke something.

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Cyra readjusted her battle axe one more time before entering the general store, shoving their hands deep in their pockets. There were about six people in there, including the one behind the counter. The one at that counter looked up and gave them a tense nod.

Cyra rolled her eyes and walked to the drink refrigerators in the back, ignoring the occasional whisper they'd hear. She just wanted a water bottle and maybe a bag of chips for the trolley ride, not to worry about what the residents were saying about her this time.

"So is it true, Cyra? Are you leaving?"

Cyra sighed and grabbed a bottle of water. "What do you want, Luis?"

Luis flinched, and everyone else in the store glared at her. Even now, after everything, Cyra was loud. She didn't hunch her shoulders and whisper. If everyone else wanted to mutter like cowards, that was their problem.

"Everyone said you were leaving. Is it true?" Luis bit his lip, eyes cast to the floor.

"Yes, I am. I was accepted into Lux Academy." Everyone gasped like they were in a cheap telenovela. Cyra clenched his fists and grabbed a bag of chips, and made his way to the counter.

"You can't do that!"

"You know how this is going to end."

"Stay here, where we've appeased then."

Cyra slammed his fist on the counter and whirled around. "Shut the fuck up! They've been gone for two years now. And they didn't leave because we were good little sheep; someone scared them off. So, yeah, I made it into Lux Academy. I'm going to attend Lux Academy, and I'm going to become a mage while the rest of you rot here, teaching your kids to whisper in case the big bad anti-mages find you." Cyra threw his items on the counter.

The woman running the counter stared at him with mounting horror before quickly scanning his items. "Uh, that'll be-"

Cyra threw down his money. "Keep the change. It's the last you're getting from me." He turned back to glare at the cluster of patrons. "I'm never coming back."

He picked up his items and stormed off, mumbling a flurry of curse words under his breath. He had a train to catch, and there was no time to worry about dense cowards like them.

Would Lux Academy be there same? A stuffy institution with dull people that speak in mumbles or whispers? People afraid of the way their shouts thunder from their throats? Cyra didn't know if he could handle another nightmarish Hell like that, but he'd stick it out. If only to fuck with everyone who said he shouldn't.

1,067 Words
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SilverNight says...



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There was only one ticket for the train to Glinthaven, of course. Kynina had no one to go with her, not when she didn't know anyone who was going there or who was willing to accompany her. Still, the slip of paper in her coat pocket, tucked next to her admission letter, seemed to carry the weight of a dozen others.

The train was supposed to be at the Arelinor station on the hour— her eyes flicked up to the grand clock in the station hall— in four minutes. Kynina had been sure to get here on time for it. It was simple when all she had to do was get herself and her two bags out the door, without any real goodbyes to make or anyone to wait on. The only farewell she'd gotten was a toast from the staff at home the night before, and her goodbye to her mother had consisted of a notice of her departure passed along by her secretary.

Kynina hadn't seen Mother— who she was starting to call by her first name, Isrith— since the argument about whether or not she'd be allowed to leave that had ended in Isrith being forced to give in after backlash. It was better that way.

She heard the whistle of a train coming and tracks rumbling under wheels. She watched it pass her on the platform before it braked with a high-pitched squeak. Kynina picked up her luggage and made her way towards the door as it opened, feeling glad she'd revisited her packed items. Her bags had been packed the day she found out, but she'd realized a lot of the things she'd decided to bring were tainted with bad associations. She'd cut down since then, and not only did she have less to haul around, but she was leaving some of the bad behind. It was surprisingly freeing.

As she boarded, Kynina briefly wondered if anyone else getting on this train shared the same journey as her. Arelinor to Lux Academy. What a glow-up.

She went straight to her train compartment, pushing one bag under a bench and leaving the other by her side. Kynina would have it all to herself. It was quite fancy, and spacious for one person—and lonely, she thought with an ache.

She'd have to get better luck with people at Lux Academy.

Kynina reached into the bag by her side, taking out three items: a book, a pen, and a notebook. She ran a finger over the title, A Mage's History of Rupturia. She'd focused on studies in the weeks since her admission, and it had helped her feel more prepared for it. She'd already filled up a lot of her notebook by reading various books on the subject of magic, most of them on sigilweaving.

It would at least help her pass the time while she was on her own.

She hardly noticed the train moving as she went between reading a passage and taking notes on it. She hardly noticed that she'd been at it for an hour, until her hand started to cramp up. Kynina set her pen down and decided to look out the window for a while.

She was starting to lose track of anything other than the passing landscape until she heard the click of a door handle. Kynina turned her head to see something flashing silver in her direction. She'd thrown enough knives to know what that was.

Kynina rolled off the bench, keeping her head low. She heard the knife sink into the wood paneling, and spared the quickest of glances to see that it was stuck where her head had been a second before. But most of her attention was on the person who had thrown it.

The man standing in the doorway of her compartment was the type of person she would have avoided on the street. He had a few facial scars, spiky rings on his fingers that looked more like brass knuckles, and a tattoo by his wrist that looked like some gang symbol. Most disturbingly, he had more knives, and was already reaching for another.

Kynina wasn't going to give him that chance. She flung her hand out, towards those rings. Her aura shot out and the metal glowed teal for a second, then seemed to absorb it. The man glanced confusedly down as his hand before the rings exploded, bursting into sharp pieces. She swung her arm out to redirect the ones heading her way back at him. Her attacked howled in surprise and pain, clutching a cut hand to his chest and dropping the knife he'd been holding.

She charged the fallen knife with her Affinity too, sending it flying towards his face. The man ducked, barely dodging each time as it bounced around the space. He growled and dove at her, bloody hands reached out in an attempt to grab her neck. She jumped away, landing on one of the benches.

This was a train compartment, not an arena, and this was a small space to be fighting in. It was more of a tussle than combat.

The flying knife exploded, pelting her attacker with more sharp metal. Kynina stood on the bench with raised fists, ready for him to swing back at her, but he stumbled back against the window with a dazed expression. Her aura was flying off of her in sparkling waves of teal and gray, making everything it touched rattle. The light overhead was swaying, flickering on and off as it released sparks. Even the train seemed to hum.

The man staggered to his feet, only for her to flick her Caldera out at her history book, and the heavy volume hit him in the back of the head. He collapsed on the floor beneath the benches.

Kynina slowly relaxed, her fists unclenching and lowering as everything in the compartment became still again. The glow of her aura faded. She looked down at the man, heart racing as she saw all the shrapnel cuts. Not dead, likely not even too seriously hurt, but her chest filled with panic for a moment.

All the faces with gouges on them were starting to look like a particular one.

She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down as she stepped off the bench, kneeling on the floor to examine him.

"That's really not nice of you," she murmured, snatching the knives off his belt. They'd make good spares. "Not the type of thing to do on a whim. So, why did you do that?"

Kynina pulled off his coat, searching in all the pockets. Spare change, a handgun, a pen— and a piece of paper. She pulled it out as soon as her hand closed around it, unfolding it and pulling it close to her face.

Seeing the handwriting nearly made her heart stop.

Kynina Fallon: ARE to GLI train, 11:00 departure from Platform 9. Sole passenger in compartment 1C (1st carriage from the locomotive, compartment marked C). Long black hair, dark eyes, tall in height. Specific instructions: kill target, before train arrives at destination. Payment to be discussed after completion.

IF


Kynina's fingers trembled slightly as she folded the paper back up, then unfolded it again. She knew exactly how Isrith wrote their shared last name, with each of the double Ls slanted in opposite directions and a square O. The initials only confirmed her belief. Isrith had planned and written this.

The woman who was supposed to be her mother had planned this.

Kynina was about to rip the paper to shreds when she noticed a thin glimmer shining through the paper. She flipped it over. This side appeared blank, but a small strip in the middle seemed to sparkle slightly. She recognized it just as surely as she'd recognized the handwriting, and her breath caught a little.

It meant it wasn't blank.

"Didn't think you'd be here," she said quietly.

Kynina reached up to her face and rubbed her eyes. They were only the slightest bit wet, with her not being the type to cry— definitely not over Isrith— but it was enough. She rubbed what could have been a tear, if she'd let it fall, onto the glimmery part of the paper.

She watched, as the tear dried into the paper and darkened into ink, just like she'd expected. The ink turned into letters that turned into words that turned into a short message. The handwriting was not the same as Isrith's, but just as recognizable to her.

If you're reading this, Firework, you're a tough one.

Kynina's stomach flopped. Her grip tightened around the paper until she found herself crumpling it into a messy fold and shoving it in the depths of her coat pocket. She got to her feet, pulled the window open, and leaned out of it for several minutes until the sick feeling in her belly was weak enough to ignore.

Image


Handing Kynina's would-be assassin over to the train staff and security was no police case, but it still took some work. They agreed that she had obviously been the one attacked, as he had entered, and she'd been right to use self-defense, so she wasn't in trouble. But there were a lot of questions, some frustration about the damages, and the issue of what to do with the man, which they eventually decided could be solved by locking him up in another compartment until they got to Glinthaven and could turn him over. If there were any connections or motives discovered, they told her, she'd be informed of them.

Kynina knew they wouldn't find any. The only evidence of it was in her pocket, and a pair of initials with her word against Isrith wouldn't prove anything. She'd be laughed away if she tried to convince anyone that her mother, a city leader in good standing among other rulers, had sent someone to kill her.

It was another thing Isrith would get away with, but Kynina knew it was far from the worst. She would pick her battles and make her pay for other things.

She was moved into another vacant compartment. It was partly for her safety, the crew informed her, but also because it had been rather damaged in the fight. It seemed there was some passive-aggressiveness on their part about that, which she understood. It had been a nice compartment, and it was in a rather worse state now.

Kynina now sat flipping the pages of her book without being able to read a word. Eventually she pushed it away and kept her eyes on the door. Soon, she wasn't able to look away. She pulled her legs up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them, and watched, letting the hours and miles pass as she got closer to her destination. At least it kept her attention away from the note in her pocket.

It was only when the train entered the city and the tower became visible through the window that she felt able to turn and watch the view instead. Kynina had been to Glinthaven for a couple political visits before, but going to the city this time felt different. This wasn't a visit, it was the start of something new. A phase of her life that would make her stronger for her return.

Assuming she didn't bring the danger with her to Lux Academy and endanger them all.

Kynina was standing and holding her bags before the train even came to a full stop. Taking a deep breath, she stepped out onto the platform, raising her head to examine the shape of the Zenith Tower. The crowd seemed to fade from her attention as she wandered towards the grounds of the academy, feeling like she was lost in a dream. The ticket no longer felt like a heavy weight, but the slip of paper had replaced it.

Kynina wasn't going to let it drag her down.

Smiling faintly, she picked up her pace, staring down her destination like she was afraid to lose sight of it.

2015 words
Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum, "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47.


okay but does this mean I have a melting point of 1763.2 °F



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Spearmint says...



Image


"I still can't believe Pel got into that hotshot magic academy," Paige commented as she shoved a forkful of potatoes into her mouth.

Trevil giggled and kicked Aapeli under the table. "Make sure you don't get into any skateboard accidents while you're there!"

Pel groaned as he nudged his little brother and said, "I told you I never wanted to talk about that again!" But he couldn't help but smile as Trevil rolled his eyes and returned to inhaling his dinner.

Across the small wooden table, Pel's parents smiled proudly at him, their crease-lined faces brighter for a moment. Pel smiled back, savoring the everyday scene with his family. He suspected it'd be his last quiet evening for a while.

"Don't worry, I'll write every week," Pel promised. "I'll tell you guys all about Glinthaven, and I'll put even more details in my letters than Aunt Sharyl does in hers! Though I can't promise I'll send gifts like she does... But yeah... try not to miss me too much, Trev and Paige."

"Who said anything about missing you?" Paige stuck her tongue out at Pel.

"Yeah, with you gone, I can climb as many trees as I want! And stay up past midnight, and eat junk food, and sneak out..."

"Hey, we're still here, you know," their father protested jokingly.

Paige giggled. "We all know Pel does most of the rule-keeping because you guys are too busy with work. It's okay though, we still love you, mom and dad."

"Aww, thanks honey." Their mother smiled as she cleared the plates from the table.

Pel got up to help and complained, "Wait, is no one actually going to miss me?"

"Of course we--"

"Nope!" Trevil announced loudly. "Now hurry and go pack, Pel." He exchanged a glance with Paige and their parents and said, "We non-mages need to have a secret talk here, and you're not invited! We'll tell you tomorrow." He smirked.

Pel's father tried to explain. "It's actually--"

"Shhhhhh!"

Pel raised an eyebrow, then laughed and put his hands up. "Okay, okay! I'll go pack."

Image


Aapeli surveyed his and Trevil's room, which consisted of a neatly-made bed and a sloppy one, a small set of drawers, and a rickety desk with papers and books arranged on top. He straightened a stack of old school papers, then bent down and dragged a duffel bag out from under his bed. Phew! I haven't used this in so long... probably not since that field trip in fifth grade. Man, that was a disaster. Pel winced. Hopefully I'll have a better time at Lux Academy...

For the next hour, Pel selected clothes, rolled them up, and arranged them in the duffel bag to take up the least space possible. He suspected he still might have to bring a backpack as well, but he didn't want to take more than he could carry. Plus, who knew how big the dorms would be? Pel figured they'd be pretty nice, considering the status of Lux Academy, but he couldn't imagine a dorm room being any bigger than his shared room at home. So it was probably better to bring fewer things, then collect more decorations at Glinthaven if necessary.

After the essentials had been packed, leaving his side of the drawers looking pretty empty (Pel wished he could've packed earlier, but most of the clothes he was bringing were clothes he wore regularly), Pel looked over the room one more time and considered bringing some personal mementos. I already packed a family photo, but should I take that cheesy hat with the alien antennae? Paige and Trev made it for me, and I really did appreciate it, even if they coated the inside with a hair dye potion... Or should I take that green and gold bookmark Aunt Sharyl sent me last year? Eventually Pel decided on a few small items and carefully placed them into his duffel bag. He chose a book from the desk (A History of Potions, Elixirs, and Other Assorted Concoctions) and put it into his backpack, then put both the duffel bag and the backpack next to the door so they'd be ready for the morning.

Annd I think that's about it for packing. All that's left to do is to visualize the train ride and my first day and hope everything goes well. Pel took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then opened his door a crack and called out a quick goodnight to his family. There was a chorus of good-nights in response, then the whispered discussion in the kitchen/dining room area continued. Pel briefly wondered what they could be talking about (what to do with his empty half of the room, maybe?), but then he shrugged and figured he'd find out the next day.

Image


Pel woke up to sunlight streaming through the blinds. He blinked once, twice, then bolted upright. I'm going to Lux Academy today! The thought shocked him into action, and he dressed and prepared to say a final goodbye to the town of Kalda. Not that there was much to say goodbye to; Kalda was a dying town and everyone knew it. All the young people moved out as soon as they could, either trying to find work in Glinthaven or moving to one of the central settlements like Valatar. Pretty much all that was left in Kalda was a rundown wharf, dilapidated houses, and frogs. True, the frogs sometimes shimmered in the sun, in a way that almost seemed magical, but still. They were frogs.

Pel sighed and grabbed a jacket on his way out of the room. He paused a moment by the door and noted that Trev's bed was empty, though the blanket was all rumpled like usual. Did he get up early for a going-away prank? Guess I better be extra careful today. Pel half-smiled, then left the room, closing the door behind him.

"I'm going out!" he called as he walked the couple of paces between his room and the front door.

"Perfect! Take your time, okay?" said Paige from the other bedroom.

"Wow, way to make me feel unwanted," Pel said laughingly. He heard Paige blow a raspberry at him as he opened the front door and stepped outside.

It was a nice day, and 7 Seconds to Stay's newest release played in Pel's head as he strolled towards the wharf. Man, that grocery store... always getting songs stuck in my head. I've gotta appreciate the owner's optimism, though-- they play all the newest songs and try so hard, despite the fact that the store will likely close in a few years. Pel frowned slightly as he turned down a side street. Not many businesses stick around here for long. Not many people, either... in fact, seems like it only takes 7 seconds to figure out that Kalda's not a place worth staying in. Pel huffed a half-laugh, half-sigh, then decided to move on to happier thoughts.

He soon arrived at an overgrown park and immediately relaxed. Aapeli beelined for the wooden bench he'd spent so much time reading on over the years. He settled into a cross-legged position and took a moment to look around at the scraggly trees, grass, and weeds. It's not much to look at... but I'll miss the quiet moments here.

Pel leaned back against the bench and settled into a half-sleep, half-meditation state for a while. When he opened his eyes again, the sun was slightly lower in the sky, and Pel felt like he'd had enough of saying goodbye to inanimate objects and places for the day. Alright... time to head home and see what my family's been being so sneaky about.

Pel opened the door and promptly stepped on a cupcake. "Oh..." He looked at his foot in dismay. "Trevil!"

"Why does everyone always blame me for everything? That was Paige, actually," Trev huffed. "But never mind that! We have some presents for you."

"Presents? But we can't aff..." Pel looked at Trev's proud grin. "I mean, what are they?" Pel smiled at his brother and looked around the kitchen/dining room. His parents were sitting at the table, where there were a few small parcels, along with a platter of cupcakes. "I... Wha... You guys really didn't have to!"

"Nonsense!" Paige dragged him over to the table and said, "Open mine first!"

Pel obliged and unwrapped a small blue parcel to reveal a drawing of five stick figures, as well as a pen and a couple sheets of blank paper. "Is this us?"

Paige nodded. "Use the other papers to draw the school!"

"Aww, thank you! I'll put your drawing right next to our other family photo, and I'll send drawings with my letters every week."

Pel reached over to give Paige a hug, but she squirmed away and exclaimed, "Open the other presents!"

Aapeli laughed and opened the other two on the table, which were homemade muffins (for the train ride, his father said) and a hat. He hugged his parents, who were much more willing than Paige to reciprocate.

Trev waited for Pel to finish, then said dramatically, "And now for the best gift!" He opened his hands slowly to reveal one of Kalda's own glimmering frogs. "His name is Rando," Trev announced. "Because I found him randomly fifteen minutes ago, and I thought he'd be the perfect gift for you. To remind you of home!"

Pel wasn't sure whether to laugh or to cry happy and homesick-before-leaving-home tears. Maybe both. He was saved from having to decide, however, by a final package that his parents pulled out from under the table.

"This is from your aunt Sharyl," Pel's mother said. "She said to use the bookmark she gave you last year to unlock it."

As Paige and Trev watched with wide eyes, Pel examined the package curiously. He unwrapped it to reveal a book that shifted between shades of green and gold. Aapeli quickly grabbed the bookmark from his room, and as soon as it touched the cover of the book, the book sprang open with a faint rustle.

"Woahh..."

The book's pages were filled with dense text and sketches of various herbs and ingredients. Some pages shone with gold ink, though the majority were written in plain black handwriting. Aapeli's eyes widened, and he immediately started flipping through the book. Potion of healing, pretty standard... Elixir of old age... Poisons... Calming brews... Ooh, energizing tonics! And... calamitous concoctions? Ahh, this book has so many recipes!

Pel looked up excitedly and said, "Thank you so much! And thank you to Aunt Sharyl too!"

"You can thank her yourself when you see her." Pel's mother laughed.

"Oh, I definitely will!" Pel carefully put the potions book into his backpack, then joined his family at the table to enjoy the cupcakes.

Image


Aapeli's family saw him off at the train station. They waited together by the platform until the train rolled in with a tired squeak of the brakes, at which point Pel said a final goodbye to his family and boarded with his duffel bag and backpack. He waved out the window at them until they disappeared into the distance, then turned to look more closely at his train compartment.

The compartment was small and a little rundown. A mother and her two small children were seated in front of Pel, and an old man was sleeping next to him. Pel spent a few moments wondering where they could have come from and where they were going, then looked out the window and observed the endless plains passing by.

It looks like I'm really going to Lux Academy... He already felt a little homesick for his family, but he was looking forward to learning at Lux Academy. I bet they have a ton of Symbology and Potions books there! Speaking of potions... Pel pulled out the potions book that Aunt Sharyl had given him. He read through it for a while, trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible, but eventually he caught one of the children eyeing it and realized it might not be the best idea to be showing off such a fancy, magical-looking book in public. He slipped it into his backpack again and pulled out A History of Potions, Elixirs, and Other Assorted Concoctions, which was bound in a simple red cover.

For the next few hours, Pel alternated between reading and sleeping. Rando the frog seemed content to rest on Pel's shoulder, though Pel figured he should get a tank and some instruction manuals for taking care of Kaldan frogs once he got to Glinthaven.

One time, Pel awoke to the oohs and ahhs of the children, who were clustered at the window. He peeked over their heads and saw a majestic mountain range rising up to the clouds, and he couldn't help oohing and ahhing a bit too. I've only been traveling for a few hours, but it feels like I'm in a completely different world already. Pel wasn't sure how to feel about that.

The next time he woke up, the train was crossing a bridge, and Pel caught a glimpse of the buildings of Glinthaven in front of them. He caught his breath at the sight of the Zenith Tower and spent the rest of the train ride glued to the window, absorbing all the details of Glinthaven, from the boats to the houses to the people.

And there were a lot of people. In fact, when Pel stepped off at Glinthaven station, he worried that he wouldn't be able to find Aunt Sharyl, who was supposed to be waiting for him. He scanned the crowd, hoping to catch sight of someone who looked a bit like his mother (he couldn't remember the last time his family had visited Glinthaven, as it had been years ago). Pel needn't have worried about finding her, though, because he soon caught sight of a poster with bright green letters saying, "Welcome to Glinthaven, Aapeli!" It was decorated with sparkly drawings of potions and books and stars.

Pel huffed a laugh and hurried over to the sign. Once he was a couple steps away, he called out, "Hi, Aunt Sharyl!"

A head immediately poked out from behind the sign and, upon seeing Pel, Aunt Sharyl broke into a large grin. The short woman rolled up the sign and wrapped Pel in a hug that smelled like wind and slightly burnt sugar.

"Pel! It's so good to see you!" Aunt Sharyl messed up his hair and said, "You look just like your mother."

Pel smiled and patted down his hair again, but before he was able to get a word in, Sharyl started walking and motioned for Pel to follow. "Gosh, you must be tired from that train ride! Come on, I've got some snacks in the car. I'll drive you to Lux Academy-- congrats on getting in, by the way!-- and you can tell me all about the train ride, and what you think about Glinthaven, and how your family is doing..." She continued chattering as they walked towards the parking garage. Pel was a bit taken aback by the near-constant stream of words, but it was nice not to have to think about conversation right then, so he just went along with it and nodded at the appropriate places.

Aunt Sharyl continued talking during the drive, though she did pause occasionally for Pel to respond. When they arrived at Glinthaven, Pel got out of the car, and Sharyl rolled down the window to give him one last piece of advice. "Lux Academy can be intense, so try to make a few friends along the way. And if you find a special someone, or someones, feel free to hit me up for a potion, ya know what I mean?" She winked.

Pel groaned goodnaturedly. "I'm pretty sure I don't do romance. And aren't love potions considered unethical nowadays?"

"Who said anything about love potions? I just meant something to help you be your best self, or talk a little more eloquently. But anyways!" Sharyl turned serious for a moment. "Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you need anything. I know the academy can be tough, but believe me, if you're anything like your mother, you're stronger and smarter than you think. So get out there and do all the things!" She grinned at Pel, then waved goodbye and zoomed away.

Pel stood there for a moment, a bit disoriented by the sudden silence. Eventually, though, he shouldered his backpack, clutched his duffel bag, and thought back to what the acceptance letter had said. It'd been frustratingly vague on what to do once he arrived. So far, he'd taken it step-by-step, solving the problems of getting to Glinthaven and then to Lux Academy, but now he was stuck.

Taking a deep breath, Pel looked around in search of instructions, or maybe helpful signs with arrows. Instead, he saw a woman with a "Welcome to Lux Academy!" shirt walking towards him.

When the woman reached Pel, she welcomed him, checked some tablet thing, then told him to bring his belongings to some people at the crosswalk. After that, he was supposed to go to the Hallstowers. Pel thanked her and, relieved with the new directions, he hoisted his backpack higher on his shoulders and headed up the hill.

There were quite a few impressive buildings that could be seen from the hill, but Pel only paused when he saw the arenas. Their presence was solid and intimidating, and Pel was suddenly struck by a feeling of the realness of it all. He was here, at Lux Academy, and he'd no doubt be fighting inside those arenas sometime. What would it be like? Would he freeze up like he always did for speeches, or would he be able to learn enough to be able to improvise? How skilled would the other students be?

Aapeli didn't know how long he stood staring at the arenas, but he snapped out of it when he noticed that the shoulder that Rando had been sitting on felt suddenly lighter. Pel started to look around for the frog, but instead, he had just enough time to notice a person and a trolley before they crashed into him and he went sprawling.

"Ahh, sorry about that!" A hand was stretched out towards Pel, who hesitantly used it to pull himself up. Pel dusted himself off, then glanced up at an auburn-haired guy and a trolley with suitcases and bags, upon which his pet frog was currently sitting.

"Oh, um. Thanks... sorry I was in the way." Pel scooped up Rando and gave the other person an awkward smile.

(3120 words)
mint, she/her =D
  





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Teddybear says...



Image


Ezra sat across from their mother at the dinner table, half a dozen acceptance letters laid out between them. Their mother sorted through them, reading each in turn and setting it aside for Ezra to review. They did this in relative silence, punctuated with the occasional shake of mother's head and the accompanying disapproving sigh until every one had been read.

"Lux is the only option for your talents, dear," their mother said finally, pushing the acceptance letter over the white marble to Ezra's waiting hands, "You'll be simply squandered anywhere else."

Ezra nodded in agreement, though they weren't fully aware of why. Lyndira would have been just as acceptable, they'd have thought, and that acceptance letter was amongst the pile as well. But perhaps mother wanted to make a warrior of them. Perhaps that was the best for the family image.

"Your magical talents are simply too great to go to a non-magical university," she went on, meaning, of course, that Ezra's magical abilities were too normal and unfrightening not to hone into something pretty and shiny to show off, "I'll have the maids pack your things this evening. Did you want to bring the bow or the longsword dear?"

"The bow," Ezra said decisively. They were a better shot then they were a fighter, and if the idea was to impress they'd best play to their strengths.

Their mother nodded approvingly and stood, Ezra following suit. "I'm just so proud of you, dear," she said as she rounded the table, reaching out to offer Ezra a hug. "And soon the whole family will be just as proud."

Ezra returned the hug, "Thank you mom." The whole family was watching them, as always. They best not misstep.

Their mother pulled away, smiling softly before releasing Ezra and stepping back, clasping her hands together. "Now! I must make your travel arrangements, nothing too showy-" something incredibly showy, "-first impressions and all. There will be lots of very powerful magic users there, and you never know who will be a useful connection in a few years. I'd like you to stand out. Oh yes, and your uniform..." she had begun to pace while Ezra gather's up the letters. "You'll need one custom fitted, we can't have you looking disheveled..."

Ezra nodded along to her planning, busying themself fidgeting with the letters. Mother had handled the initial applications despite Ezra's insistence that they could handle it. Every university with any amount of prestige on the continent was amongst those applied to, and amongst those who received donations from the family. Most of the weighty names were in the pile, even some non-magical universities, which she must have put in applications to just to show that Ezra could be accepted. They couldn't see their mother ever allowing them to go to such a place, not with the reputation. She had to disprove any rumor that Ezra was like their cousins.

She had moved on to instructing Ezra on what their social life was to look like. "-a consistent study group of the top members of your class, I don't imagine you'll learn much, or even get on with, anyone who doesn't share your same level of mastery-"

"Mother," Ezra interrupted as politely as possible, "I really should get down to the tailor to have that uniform rushed, do you mind if I take one of the cars?"

"Oh, yes, of course," she shook her head, as though clearing the thoughts from her head, "Please be home for dinner."

"Yes mother," Ezra dipped their head and turned to the door. They grabbed their coat and messenger bag on the way out, tucking the letters away. They'd dispose of the ones they didn't need later.

Image


It was the next day, and Ezra hadn't disposed of the letters. Instead, they'd received another. Not an acceptance letter, but a personal letter from their best friend 'Mortimer'. 'Mortimer' had written out a scheme, sprinkled in some begging and a little bit of threatening, and one request. A request that could get Ezra in an awful lot of trouble.

I'm serious, I'll show up to your graduation if you don't do this. I deserve to be taught as much as you do, you know that.

Ezra put pen to paper and composed a response, tucking the acceptance letters into the envelope before sealing it.

I'll accuse you of digging in my trash if you say a single word.

All of their things had already been packed up and moved outside to the waiting limo. As Ezra made their way outside, they sighed. A pure while, freshly cleaned limo sat waiting at the end of the private drive. One of the maids was placing a suitcase in the trunk of the limo, and the driver was opening the door as Ezra got closer. They passed the letter to a passing maid, asking him to mail it before approaching the vehicle.

"Thank you," they said as they ducked inside.

They'd been expecting an empty interior, but found instead their mother fixing her makeup in a hand mirror.

"Hi mom," they said as though they weren't surprised.

"Hello dear," she folded the mirror and tucked it away, "how are you feeling? It's such a big day for all of us, I imagine your nerves are shot."

"I'm alright," Ezra said. They'd been hoping to spend this ride in silence, but as the limo pulled through the front gates, all hope of that vanished.

It was many hours before they would arrive at the college, and Ezra's mother babbled anxiously the whole way. Every detail she knew about the campus and the faculty she repeated over and over, receiving nods from a mostly-silent Ezra.

Finally, they arrived.

"Thank you mom," Ezra said before scooting over to the door and climbing out.

Their mother followed. She brushed herself off and opened her arms for a hug. Ezra resisted the urge to cringe at the curious glances of other arriving students as they obliged, stiffly hugging their mother back.

She pulled away slightly and cupped Ezra's face, giving that same soft smile. "Oh my dear, you're going to do great things."

Ezra just nodded.

Once their mother had finally let them go, they got their luggage from the driver and turned to face their new home.

1061 words
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Thu Jul 07, 2022 5:47 am
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HarryHardy says...



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Safiana took a moment at the top of the stairs. Her parents had been almost unusually vague about how tonight was going to go. They liked to keep some details a surprise sometimes, but this time it almost seemed like they were actively trying to hide everything from here. That was new. Not for the first time that day she wondered if her parents had finally realized she was useless and were going to kick her out now. It wasn't really the most logical though, she knew that. They'd been over the moon when she'd been accepted, well sort of. They'd been the ones who'd expected her to be accepted even when she'd doubted herself. Before she could freeze up on the top of the stairs and spend the next hafla an hour sorting through these thoughts, she took the step downwards, headed into the massive dining area they had.

As she wandered down, her internal panic was only starting to increase. None of the usual decorations that would fit in this room when there was some sort of party looked to be up, or even looked like they'd be going up anytime soon. It looked just like a regular night, or did it look worse than normal. No, that had to be just her mind right. There was nothing making it look worse. Everything was in the same place it always was on a normal day.

She could see everyone seated in their normal places. It didn't look any quieter or any different from a normal day. That was extra strange. Surely her parents wouldn't have told her not to miss what was going to be a normal dinner. Did they think she wasn't going to come down? A whole new angle of panic was starting to form in the back of her mind and she knew this wasn't headed anywhere particularly good. She had to go sit down at that dinner table now or she wasn't going to be eating anytime soon.

"Glad you could join us Safi," called out her brother almost as soon as she was in view. "I thought you were going to spend all night panicking about packing and forget the food."

"Umm..whaa." began Safi, trying to decide if that was passive aggressive or genuine concern.

"You have to stop putting your sister in those situations Lyn," said her mother, speaking up quickly. "He's just pulling your leg dear, come sit down."

"I umm..." began Safi.

"Your probably wondering why there's no actual celebration going on?" asked her father, directing a knowing look her way, "and you're possibly freaking out."

"I am..."

"Not you too," cut in Lilian," what your brother and your father have tried but failed to say so far is that we thought you'd appreciate a quite family dear more than one of those big celebrations everyone was having across the last month."

"But," began Safi, now concerned.

"Yes I know it breaks tradition," cut in Fionel," the Guthors, the Hunthers and the blah blahs are all going to act like someone just publicly spat on them. Big deal. None of them can hold a candle to us anyway. Even I find those celebrations...exhausting. I'd much rather my only daughter be comfortable on the night before her life takes one of its biggest turns."

Safiana gulped. Her father was through and through one for maintaining tradition at all times and for him to not just change that but also call them exhausting. Fionel calling something exhausting was as good as a normal person throwing things around, screaming and then storming out.

"Well, I think this would be more comfortable for you if you sat down Safi," said her mother gesturing to her seat.

"I'm sorry...I just," stammered Safi, now going bright red as she took her seat next to Lyn and opposite her mother. Her father as usual was at the head of the table. She'd come in her expecting the worst and now she was trying very hard to decide between excited squealing and crying or possibly both. She got the feeling no one would judge her either way.

"Thank you," she managed after she'd taken a second to gather herself, finding a blinding smile breaking out across her face. "Sorry I ever doubted anything else would happen."

"Safi, you can't possibly be apologizing for that," said her father, reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder. "Its only natural. Besides." He added in a wink for good measure. "We did our best to make this a surprise. It wouldn't do if we didn't succeed in that." Even though he said the last part in a mock serious tone, Safi knew he was only trying to lighten the mood.

"Okay, we'll save the sappy things for next morning, can we not let the food go cold," cut in Lyn, smirk firmly in place.

"Oh please, you were the one who was headlining the sappiness this evening when we planned out the menu with the chef," shot back her mother.

"That was told to you in confidence, " grumbled Lyn, but Safi could clearly see he didn't mean it.

They tucked into their dinner.

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After dinner was over, her parents had asked for probably the six hundredth time if she needed help packing and once she'd pointed out for the six hundredth time she'd already done it and if she forgot something she'd only have to cross town, she retired back to her room to try and figure out how she was going to sleep this particular night away.

Before she needed to think for too long however, she noticed a couple of letters waiting for her at her desk. She remembered her mother mentioning something about having a few of those in the mail that day but her mother hadn't remembered who it was actually from. Now curious at who'd possibly send her a message in the mail of all things she grabbed the two letters from her desk. The emptiness of it was currently reminding her too much of how she wasn't going to be back for some time she she grabbed the letters and flopped onto her bed.

Checking the first one, she saw it was from Monal. She internally grimaced. Now there was one idiot who did not know how to take a hint. Even if she'd been straight she'd probably have been repulsed by him. The Mathews' were one of the few families she could reasonably tolerate at those big celebrations. She had no idea how Monal had turned out to be the way he did.

She briefly contemplated just throwing the letter in the fire like she'd always wanted to do with the boy himself, but decided she didn't want to accidentally miss anything important. After she did have to be cordial with him. All the insults she wanted to yell at him had so far only been received by her trusty pillow and Lyn on very rare occasions. How Lyn had actually been attracted to the idiot she would never ever know or want to know if she was being honest with herself. Although she might have to endure it one day given what she'd put Lyn through that one time she'd visited Monal's cousin Kiera.

Trying not to get distracted by that particular image, Safi proceeded to rip open the little with strictly more force than was necessary and toss the envelope into the fire. She'd just aimed for the dustbin and missed. There was nothing suspicious about that. Not like she was a master of throwing things accurately or anything. Paper was hard to predict the flight pattern of.

Deciding she'd put off opening this letter just about long enough, she opened it.

Dear Fia,

She let out a sigh at the nickname. The number of times she'd politely pointed out she hated that nickname, well she hadn't used that strong a word, but it was implied, She had no idea how the idiot entertained dreams of dating her without respecting her even that much, but she wasn't going to bother being surprised about it anymore.

The first couple of lines to follow didn't do much to improve her impression of the letter. "I heard you were going to Lux Academy, well I almost didn't but I have my sources." She knew exactly what he was trying to imply there and suddenly she just didn't want to deal with whatever passive aggressive nonsense was sure to be included in the rest of the letter. The idiot had probably ended it off with another offer of a date.

She put the letter away, the good mood the dinner had put here in thoroughly spoiled. Deciding she may as well glance at the letter when her mood couldn't possibly get any worse, she took a peek at that letter too. One glance at the name told her it probably wasn't really worth it. It was from one Siobhan Hunther. Given what even her father had told her at dinner, this was only going to be slightly more bearable to read that Monal's only because it wouldn't end in an offer for a date. She couldn't believe she'd had a crush on Siobhan when she'd first met her. The girl was... She decided not to voice that thought in an effort to not accidentally blurt it out when she eventually ran into her again.

She was broken out of her thoughts by a soft knock at the door. She'd recognize that particular pattern anywhere. It was Lyn.

"Come in," she said, keeping her voice soft to avoid betraying the frustration she currently had.

Her brother poked his head in, cracking the door open before doing some sort of cursory glance and then stepping in fully.

"All packed and ready to go?" he asked.

"Yeah, everything is great," she said, plastering a smile on her face as she chucked the unopened letter from Siobhan and Monal's letter onto her nightstand. "I need to thank mom and dad again at some point. Ten times was not nearly enough."

"Oh and I'm chopped liver?" asked Lyn, hurt expression already in place.

She threw a pillow at him.

"I surrender," he cried, as usual making everything a little more dramatic than it had to be as he proceeded to clutch where the pillow had hit him squarely in the chest and fall to the floor.

"Hah hah," manged Safiana, trying to sound like she was laughing but the fact that she actually said the word hah instead of laughing sounded hollow even to her own ears.

Lyn seemed to notice almost immediately. He might not be the sharpest when it came to mastering hundreds of random magic facts, but he was very observant. He clearly saw the letters sitting on her desk and smouldering ashes from a envelope in the fireplace.

"Let me guess, Monal wanted to say goodbye?" he asked, voice a lot softer.

"Yeah," she said, "I mean it wasn't half bad. He didn't insult my sexuality. I think he forgot while thinking out the insult about me leaving without a party. He has only so much brain capacity."

Lyn gave a sort of half laugh as he sat down next to Safiana. "I can't believe I was once attracted to him."

"Hey, I thought Siobhan was nice the first time I met her," pointed out Safi.

"We are both disasters," he summed up. Safi couldn't do much other than nod at the one. It was a bit too true.

"So how are you holding up?" he asked after a moment, turning to her. "And not the rehearsed one you've been giving everyone since you got accepted, but actually, how do you feel?"

"Well...its....I don't really know," said Safi after giving it a second.

"That seems reasonable," said Lyn, gesturing for her to continue.

"I'm...excited, of course...I know, yes I've said that a lot and I mean it. I am genuinely excited. This is an amazing opportunity."

"I'm sensing a but," said Lyn.

"But I'm also terrified, sad and a few things I can't even really sort out right now."

Lyn patted her back gently once again. "The surprising thing would be if you weren't all of these things. I know I don't really get it. I haven't had to do something that big just yet, but yeah."

"Yeah," said Safi, moving into pull him into a one armed hug. She was not for the first time really glad she'd gotten such an amazing family. That spurred her on to spill a bit more than she'd been intending to when she'd started on this particular confession.

"You know the thing I'm most terrified of?" she asked.

Her brother made a "uh hmm" gesture.

"Its not that its a lot of new people, or this big academy or any of that...its..."

Lyn's hands slipped ever so slowly into hers and gave it a squeeze.

"Its that somehow I'll fail, I won't get a god crystal, I'll just be yet another student that passes through those halls. That i'll..." She trailed off. She wasn't ready to voice the rest of that sentence just quite yet. Not even to Lyn.

"Okay, first of all, you are like the actual smartest person I have ever met," began Lyn," there's no way you're not succeeding at that, and even if you didn't well...you know that nothing would change."

"I know...I just...."

"Its okay," said Lyn," I won't claim to understand how that feels, but its okay you feel that way. Hopefully you can come around eventually."

"Yeah," said Safi. And she did mean it. Alone she might feel different, but now sitting next to Lyn, and knowing she could come home with this crystal and prove her worth to herself, maybe she could bring herself to believe all this eventually."

"Well, I'll leave you to try and catch some sleep now. But if I know anything about going away to a new school its that you rarely sleep the day before, so if you want to come chuck a pillow at my face, feel free to do so."

"Thank you," said Safi. Her brother gave her hand one last squeeze before he quietly walked out, leaving her once again in the silence of her room.

Looking around, she tried to think of something she might have forgotten, but there really wasn't anything left anymore...and even though she was in bed, she didn't feel the least bit sleepy. Staying here wasn't going to do anything. Grabbing a blanket and her cloak, she tiptoed out the door. There was maybe one place she could try and spend the rest of the night in.

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Safi looked out on a very familiar view as she packed away her blanket. She'd spent the last three hours staring at the stars up on the tiny corner of the roof she'd made for herself. A tiny spot just for her to stare out at the sky. It was high enough that no sound at all made it up here and besides the chilly breeze, it was a comfortable place to think or just sit and think of nothing at all.

It was a ridiculous but sometimes she'd even stand there and talk to the stars, tell them things she'd never dare to tell a living soul, even talk to her mother sometimes. It was the sort of thing she'd never even tell Lyn, at least not yet. It felt too private somehow. And now as she got up, she was about to leave this behind for probably a fairly long time, go off into the unknown with no safe haven. She didn't quite know what to think, but the words from her family came back to haunt her, the peaceful air of the night helping push away the darker feelings that stirred deeper down.

She walked down to her room, trying to freeze one last image of this sky into her head before she had to switch into morning mode and figure out how not to be late to her first day at Lux Academy and how no to fall asleep standing. As she did one last thought passed through her. A warm smile of a face she couldn't remember anymore. A voice. She hoped that wherever her birth mother was, she'd be proud of where her daughter was now headed.

2734 words
Stay Safe
The Prince of Darkness

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HarryHardy says...



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Safi stirred awake with a quick yawn. Well it was more like, she stopped pretending to try and sleep as she dragged herself out of bed, still in last night's clothes and with eyes that apparently were only now deciding that closing would be a great idea. She meandered down to the kitchen arms already outstretched like some form of coffee drinking zombie.

Halfway down she ran into her mother who did a slight double take at her current look. Safiana normally didn't let herself look this horrifying even if it was early in the morning but last night had been a special case.

"You look...tired," her mother said tentatively.

She grimaced. That translated roughly to train wreck. "I couldn't sleep."

"Coffee's already ready," supplied her mother," I predicted there'd be some level of sleeplessness. This is a big day after all."

"Thank you, you're the best," said Safi, giving her mother a quick hug as she quickened her zombified waddling towards the kitchen. Ten minutes later, with a steaming mug of coffee, well who was she kidding, she'd grabbed two mugs and would probably return later for more, she was marching back towards her room. It wouldn't do to be late on the first day, or fall asleep on said first day.

Charging back into her room with two coffee mugs in hand she almost bowled straight into Lyn. He didn't look nearly as dishevelled as she felt but it didn't look like he'd had the most sleep either.

"Morning sis," he muttered, "I can't believe mom made me wake up this early."

"Huh?" asked Safi," now that I think about it, what are you doing up this early?"

"Coming to drop you off," he said, like that was the most obvious thing in the world.

"What?" she asked, louder than she intended.

"Lower your volume, its too early for this. Shoo," he said, making a motion with his hands before he thundered in the direction of the kitchen, most likely with the same goal she'd had not too long ago.

Trying not to think too much on the one brain cell that was active at this hour, Safi proceeded to run back up to her room, already draining one mug on the way. Setting both of them down on her now empty table, she turned to the pile of luggage she was going to carry.

She might have gone a tiny bit overboard on her collection of sweaters and some of the teddy bears that she'd packed, but five suitcases was surely not that much. She'd seen some of the other kids go off to the academy with a lot more than that, although they usually had three suitcases for just combat magic stuff. Her bow was stuffed in amongst a few too many shoes.

She quickly set about lugging her suitcases into a neat pile, silently thanking her brother for the artificed suitcases that would weigh basically nothing despite being stuffed way too full of clothes and other knickknacks. Once they'd been lined up just near her door, she turned to get ready before realizing she'd essentially just barricaded the door to her room. Taking a few more seconds to open said door and chuck the suitcases outside, she turned back to get ready.

Practice from years of getting ready for all sorts of functions in a hurry meant she needed only about hour to get herself sorted (okay so maybe that wasn't a hurry, but it was somewhat fast by her standards so she gave herself the credit) and then proceed down to the kitchen for two more helpings of caffeine.

Now finally awake and with entirely too much energy she finally ran up to her room to lug the suitcases down only to find they were missing. Cursing Lyn for his thoughtfulness she ran down to find her brother, as she'd predicted lugging the last two down to deposit on the doorstep where her father, dressed for work was already gobbling down a sandwich that her mother was handing out.

"Good Morning Safi, I am so sorry, but I have to be at work a bit earlier than I expected. I suspect this is backlash for not throwing that party last night, but don't you worry about that. Have fun on your first day," said her father, talking a bit faster than he normally did as he pulled her into a quick hug. "Do send me a letter if you want me to come visit or just ask for a day and come home okay? If they make a stink about it, I can handle that."

Nodding vigorously while also vowing never to put her father in such a spot, Safi gave a little wave as her father marched off towards work, probably already thinking of exactly who to yell at for making him come to work this early. She felt a pang of guilt run through her at the realization she was responsible for that but tried to push it down for now. This was a moment to be happy, wasn't it?

"Safiana, I know you can't really eat this early in the morning so I packed some sandwiches for you, it's in the kitchen grab it quickly. The litre of coffee you consumed should keep you upright until you're hungry enough to eat," said her mother, "now run along and grab them, we have some distance to cover here. I've decided against a carriage for this morning."

"You're coming too?" asked Safi, eyes now properly wide.

Lilian proceeded to give her one of those "How could you possibly think otherwise" looks and Safiana turned to charge into the kitchen. She was in and out with her breakfast in two minutes flat. Her brother had already commandeered three of them while her mother had grabbed the other two.

"Can I at least carry one?" she pleaded knowing that arguing for anything more would be a losing cause.

Her brother proceeded to hand her the tiniest one. With them being already weightless, this one might as well have been a piece of paper, but she took it. At least she knew Lyn and her mother didn't have a lot to carry either.

The made for quite the procession along the road and they turned a few heads, but beyond that, it was almost an odd silence as the three of them made their way towards the familiar gates of Lux Academy. Safi recognized most of the towers that were immediately visible as they got closer and closer, the sounds of a lot more students coming in getting louder and louder. There was laughter and screaming mixed in with the occasional sound of a teary goodbye.

It was a sound Safi had heard many times before, on the few times in the past couple of years her father had taken her past this area while showing her Lux Academy and what it was all about. All those times they'd remained firmly outside the gates and the few times they'd gone in she'd known they were coming out quite quickly. Now she'd be going in not to come out for quite a long time.

Trying not to think too hard on that particular note, Safiana allowed herself to be led all the way to the gates, where their little procession came to a halt, Lyn vanishing somewhere and returning two minutes later with a trolley. How he'd managed to procure one without going in here more than once was a mystery she'd likely never solve and she didn't want to think too far on that just now. There was a lot of other things to be dealing with.

Once the suitcases had been loaded on and every possible bit of delaying had been performed, Safiana stood on the inside of the gates, clutching her trolley maybe a bit more tightly than was strictly necessary. Her mother and Lyn stood on the other side. It was almost symbolic.

Lyn was smirking at her. From years of practice Safi knew he was just overcompensation to avoid looking sad. Her mother on the other hand was dabbing her eyes and making a big show of something having gone in her eyes, although Safi was pretty sure that was definitely not the case.

"Try not to get into too much trouble," she said finally. "But have fun."

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," said Lyn, proceeding to do an actual wink. before wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

"Ewww," she said, making a gagging sound while blushing bright red. She wished she had something to throw at him but she settled for rushing over and giving them both a quick hug.

After one last goodbye, she turned to leave. As she glanced back every five seconds, it was quite clear that both her brother and mother had no intention of leaving until she got out of eyesight and so she made her towards the academy. Having toured the place a couple of times before, her eidetic memory immediately brought up a mini map of the area she's looked at once.

Identifying the general direction she needed to be going in and spotting one of the people she knew she was supposed to be talking to. She knew they were supposed to greet everyone at the gate although somehow they'd skipped past her. Deciding she may as well check anyway, she walked over.

"Welcome to Lux Academy Ms. Vialena. I trust you probably remember the way around here," said the woman.

"Yes, thank you, Ms.? she began, immediately erasing any indication of sadness still left on her face.

"Zara," completed the woman. "You're definitely in our system, so if you know the way just, head in. I see you've already acquired a trolley. I think you know what to do then?"

"I do indeed. Just hand my luggage over the people near the crosswalk and then run along the Hallstowers right?"

"That sounds perfect."

"Great, thank you. It was nice meeting you. Have a Nice Day."

"Have a nice day yourself Ms. Vialena," said the woman, flashing her a smile in return. Safi did an internal fist pump. That's one good interaction down. Now to try and do that with people closer to her age.

Giving the woman a little wave, Safiana, began pushing her trolley forward. Seeing a dark haired girl walking in front of her, she didn't stop to think before she was practically skipping forward as much as her trolley would allow as she said a quick "Hiiii".

1757 words
Stay Safe
The Prince of Darkness

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Thane stood still, hair sticky with sweat and matted to her face, breaths fast and panting but mind calm and collected. The crowd outside the cage screamed and raged, banging against the metal, drinking and hollering. Liquid splashed across Thane's face as someone threw their drink towards her, angry at whatever gambling money was going down the drain. She ignored it all. The chaos was familiar, and the people were mere blips in the background. She focused on the opponent in front of her-- a tall boy with pale skin, light hair and scars scattered across his face. He would be leaving the child rings soon from the looks of him, just like her. But unlike Thane, he wasn't leaving. He would just be moving up to the adult matches, gathering more scars, less money.

She could feel him tugging at her aura, trying to draw it towards him, to manipulate it, but she tightened her grip in her mind and fought back. Her eyes stayed focused on the sizzling smoke rising around him, crackling and ready to leap to his knife and onto her the moment she was close enough, brought to life by the words he continued to speak under his breath. She'd been stung and burned enough in the other matches of the night to know she didn't want to get hit again, and she watched with her eyes narrowed, catching her breath and watching him do the same. They'd gone at each other over and over, and it was clear neither was budging. She waited for them to call all-in, to move into the second half of the match. It was clear neither of them was going to back down, not now, and they could trade miniscule blows all day, try to manipulate each others' auras with magic or use spells or sigilweaving, but the real fight wouldn't start until they were allowed to use their affinities-- the powers specific to them, ones they'd been born with, not learned. She waited for the announcement, using the time to catch her breath and keep a firm grip on her aura as he tried to pull some of her energy to him.

Boos rose from the onlookers, banging against the metal fence surrounding the cage, angry cries at their inaction. And finally, it came from the speakers: "Affinities allowed. All-in!" The crowd cheered and screamed at the announcement, ready for the real fight to begin.

And instantly Thane covered the world in darkness. Her aura branched out, fog expanding and rolling across the arena, black and green waves and density thick enough to make you think you'd gone blind. Her brown eyes narrowed, glowing with the use of her aura, allowing her vision to cut through the fog like it was never there. She could see the boy stumbling, now unsure of his footing. If they'd had a bigger fighting arena, he would've had an easy time stumbling into an area of light even for a moment, but in the confined space of the cage, he was completely trapped by the fog, no chance of seeing anything unless Thane wanted him to. She moved quickly, pulling in the fog enough so those behind her could see as she walked forward towards him. The crowd went wild, and Thane knew she'd be getting some hefty tips-- she just had to put on a good show. The boy gripped his knife tighter, slashing it blindly at the space in front of him. It was terrifying to hear the crowd suddenly explode in cheers when you couldn't see what they were cheering at, and Thane had been in that position enough to know. When she got within five feet of him, she could tell he could finally see her-- or at least, some outline of her. Her fog could block out all sight, but it got misty when you got close. He moved purposely, his eyebrows pulled down in concentration, and that's when she felt his affinity.

The nausea hit her like a punch to the gut, overwhelming and strong. Everything inside her wanted out, even though she had nothing in there right now. She doubled over briefly, and heard the crowd roar with excitement, some cheering for her, some for him. When she glanced up at him again, the world was upside-down. She moved right, but everything in her vision told her she'd moved left. She moved left, but she saw herself moving right. He hung upside-down, his frown of concentration turned into a menacing grin as she narrowed her eyes. Without hesitation, he moved towards her, the knife arcing through the air. The change in directions disoriented Thane's senses and threw her off-guard, but she wasn't about to let go of this match that easily.

Moving to the side, she slipped her fingers into the two knuckle knives on her belt and pulled them out-- knuckle dusters attached to knives. A weapon of choice that many of the uppers in Arelinor would surely look down on, and one she wished so badly she could shove into all of their guts. With a grunt of concentration, she yanked at his aura, pulling some of it towards her and reducing some of the inflicted rolling nausea in her stomach. She pushed it out forcefully into her own fog, taking the energy as her own completely, and her vision flickered back to normal for a second as the boy stumbled in his concentration, trying to regain his hold over his aura after the sudden drain. Too much of your aura being drained could make you pass out or worse. Some mages became incredibly sick for weeks trying to rebuild their auras. Some never woke up. But that wouldn't make for a fair fight at all, and nobody liked watching someone pass out because of that. Besides, Thane wasn't cruel enough to do that to a boy who was already going to lose.

Thane used his temporary stumble to move forward, landing a hard punch to his stomach with her right knuckle knife. He doubled over, groaning in pain. Without hesitation, Thane shoved the boy's body down while lifting her knee, slamming him down onto it and letting him roll off onto the ground. He groaned slightly but tried to push himself up off the ground, and Thane yanked her arm backwards across his body, slicing through his shirt with the blade on her right hand and causing a thin line of blood to sprout across his chest.

"Yield," she said quietly, voice low and calm.

The boy slashed out at her with his knife, and Thane's vision flipped upside-down over itself several times as he tried aggressively to take control of the match again. She planted her knees on either side of him, shoving the knife of her right knuckle duster under his chin as her left held down his wrist that held the knife. "Yield," she repeated, her teeth grit as she pulled all her fog towards her suddenly and viciously before letting go of control and allowing her aura to return to normal. The racket from the crowd echoed in the tight space, people banging on the fence and screaming as the dense black fog dissipated, making it possible for them to see everything.

The boy stared at her with hatred, then finally forced his physical aura, crackling with his anger, in a straight thin line above him-- yield. Curses from those who had bet on him and cheers from those who had bet on Thane arose from the crowd as she pulled off him and slipped her knuckle knives back into her belt, turning away from him. She had lost enough to know the bitter taste that accompanied it, and she wasn't going to prolong that for him by offering to help him up. He was capable of standing on his own.

The buzzer sounded and the doors to the cage opened as she walked towards hers and back into the hallway under the audience seating, moving back towards the locker room to grab her things and wash the blood off her arms. He'd gotten a few good nicks and cuts in before they'd announced all-in, and she stayed for a minute, using a towel to wipe the sweat off her face and get the blood off. She grimaced at the burns that lined her left arm, a token from the first match of the evening with a younger child who was gifted in primal sense and had decided to play with fire. She'd need to ask around for any burn treatment to try to prevent any infection.

Someone knocked on the locker door, and Thane turned around, pushing her black hair up and away from her face, swooping back over her ear as she freed it from the sticky sweat that had glued it to her skin.

"Thane," a man's voice rang out, and she opened the door to see her brother Kamau leaning against the doorway, his tawny beige skin shining in the flickering hallway light even though he hadn't had a match tonight.

"Kamau," Thane noted quietly, moving back inside as he walked in. He was short for a fighter, like her-- like their whole family-- but he made up for it with brutal strength and a viciously precise control of his affinity. His black hair was shaved close to his head, and he watched her with his arms crossed as she gathered all her things, fastening her dark green cloak around her neck.

"Moran is waiting near the cash-out," he said calmly, referring to his twin and Thane's older sister. "You know how she is about superstition. Refuses to enter from the left side of the arena or even step foot near it."

Thane nodded slightly, looking at herself in the mirror and checking to make sure she'd wiped away all the blood.

"You did good," Kamau said, and Thane's deep brown eyes met his through the mirror. A compliment from him was rare-- from anyone in their family, really. Oya and Slone had been the ones who encouraged everybody and tried to keep their spirits high, even as they spent night after night in the rings racking up injuries to get the money they needed. Now though, Oya and Slone weren't here. Thane wondered if Kamau was feeling sentimental, or nervous about her leaving. None of them had ever left home, not on their own like this. Especially not after Oya and Slone. They hadn't even gone to the rings alone after Oya and Slone.

"I was alright," Thane said.

"You put on a good show," Kamau said. "You could've blown him out of the water in the first five minutes, but you waited for the money to build up. Nobody likes a short match."

Thane tilted her head in acknowledgement. It was true. The longer she stayed in the ring, the more money piled up, and the weaker she made herself seem, the more bets they'd win when she won.

"Come here," Kamau said, pushing himself off the door and walking inside as it shut behind him. She looked up at him silently as he moved her cloak around, his face a neutral frown. When he was satisfied, he pulled the hood up over her head, then did the same for his own. People, especially non-mages, got really angry when they lost money on matches, and it was safer to avoid getting recognized all-together. They walked together out of the hallway and into the crowded open area, the place that connected all the arena fights and the place where most people placed their bets or went to get a drink. It was noisy and loud, people cursing and laughing and swapping stories of matches. Someone shoved into Thane hard with their shoulder as they walked by, but she just rolled it off and ignored it, following Kamau as he wove through the crowd towards the cash-out.

There was a long line of betters waiting to get their money, arguing about the amounts and yelling at the bulky tan man behind the counter. Just off to the side, a short figure with their hood drawn up stood waiting, the bottom half of her face just barely visible, the rest shadowed by her hood. Moran. She seemed to have spotted them too because she uncrossed her arms and let them fall to her sides as they neared. Thane noted her long leather gloves, laced up to her elbows to hide all the injuries from the fights she'd had yesterday evening.

"Good fight," Moran noted once they'd reached her. They must really be feeling emotional, thought Thane with a hint of confusion as Moran pulled Thane's left arm out into the light. "That kid was a beast," she noted as she took in all the burns.

"I'll be fine," Thane said, "just needs ointment."

Moran nodded. "Well, let's get the money and go."

Thane moved to the front of the counter, pushing her way past all the figures in line even though she was significantly smaller. Outrage broke out behind her, but the man behind the counter smirked slightly and shook his head. "You got the crowds on your side, but you still got the crowds against you."

"Isn't that how it always is?" Thane noted softly as he turned around to retrieve her money.

"Boss says you're leaving. He's pissed you know-- you draw in a lot of crowds." The man looked down at his betting charts and began to add up how much she'd be getting.

"It's temporary," Thane said. "I'll be back."

"I'm sure you will kid," he grunted. "They all come back again, don't they?" He laid down the amount they'd won in bets, along with the pay for each match she'd fought that evening, then slid it across to her. "All yours," he said. "Oh, by the way-- boss has you scheduled for two matches tomorrow morning-- private event, some of the rich crowd that wanna watch kids beat the shit out of each other. No affinities, no magic, just physical. You interested?"

Thane thought about it for several seconds. She hated the upper-class in Arelinor, keeping the lower-class so starved and poor that many had no chance to survive but by throwing themselves into the ring. That was what had happened to her family, all of her siblings. Oya's aura was drained completely in a match and she had died immediately, Slone had never come home from a match. They didn't know if he'd died or been killed by some radical anti-mage group or been kidnapped and sold into the slave trade of mages that thrived in the city. The very thought of fighting for them to watch her and other kids beat each other up infuriated her-- and yet even as she thought it, the money crossed her mind. They paid well, way better than even a night's worth of multiple matches here could. Too good to turn down. "I'll squeeze them in," she said finally, voice soft yet sharp.

"You got it," he said. "I'll let him know."

Thane nodded, picking up the money and slipping it under her cloak before moving back to Moran and Kamau.

"Another match?" Kamau asked as they began walking to the exit. "They can't get enough of you."

"You leave tomorrow afternoon," Moran reminded her. "You turned it down, right?"

Thane shook her head. "Two fights in the morning. Uppers."

Kamau made a face of slight disgust and said, "Well, at least it pays well."

Moran shook her head. "You shouldn't be fighting in the morning. It's bad luck."

"Like taking the left room is for an arena?" Kamau asked, beginning to walk up a flight of stairs as they followed.

"It's unnatural," Moran said, her voice low. "The sun sets in the west, it never rises there. Coming in from the left is wrong. It brings bad luck."

"The left entrance isn't actually facing west. It faces north," Kamau pointed out, and Moran shot him an annoyed look.

"It doesn't matter if it's actually the west, it's the principle. If you stand in the entrance door to the audience and it looks like west, then you should enter from the other side. All you have to do is make sure the boss knows. He may think it's stupid at first, but after I turned down three matches because he'd put me in the left room and entrance, you bet your ass he changed me to the right."

"Because you make him money," Thane said quietly.

"Exactly. Because I make him money," Moran said, a hint of pride in her voice. "The bastards don't care what you do or what your principles are, so long as you make them money. So why not fight on your own terms?"

"You don't win your matches because you enter from the right," Kamau said stonily. "You got that dumbass superstition from Slone-- and look where he is now."

The mood dropped quick and fierce, and Moran sucked in a sharp breath. They continued to move in silence for a few seconds, reaching the top of the staircase and exiting into one of the abandoned underground subway stations.

"We don't know what happened to Slone," Moran said, her voice tight with anger and hurt.

"And we never will," Kamau said, his tone bordering aggressiveness. "You need to get over your superstitions. They'll only control your life."

"Maybe they're my way of controlling my own life," Moran countered, her voice cutting.

Thane stayed quiet. The twins were close, near inseparable, but when they disagreed, it was like their very own fracture was expanding between them. When Thane was ten, just after Oya had died at the age of twenty and Slone had disappeared at the age of seventeen, the two fifteen-year-olds had practically raised her. Their father worked a modest job, a janitor for some rich company, but it wasn't nearly enough to cover food for all of them, and the twins had thrown themselves into the rings immediately. Oya and Slone hadn't let them before then, insisting that they be the ones who did the fighting. And the twins had taught Thane how to do it too. How to play to the crowd, how to wrack up the most money, how to hide your tears when a hit hurt so bad you thought you might die. She had distant memories of the twins when they were more joyful, teaching themselves their magic in abandoned parking lots near their apartment and playing with other kids outside. The rings had warped them, hardened and cut into them in the same way it did to everyone. Now, they could hardly have a disagreement without Oya or Slone making their way into it. For two names they almost never dared to speak, they weighed on all of their minds a lot.

"Fine," Kamau said, "control your life. Control your life by being stuck in the same cycle all of us are-- fight, sleep, rinse, repeat."

"If I'm going to be stuck in the cycle, I'm going to do it my way," Moran said angrily. Their footsteps echoed in the subway station as they made their way quickly to the exit, walking up the stairs and onto street level. All three of them finally pulled down their hoods, even though it was dark outside and the streetlamps on this street had been broken for years.

"Can you two stop fighting?" Thane asked calmly. "It's exhausting. Nobody cares that you don't want to enter from the left-- nobody's going to judge you for it. But people also aren't going to bend over backwards to agree with you. I'm fighting in the morning regardless of if it's unnatural," she said, addressing her comments to Moran before turning to Kamau. "And everyone processes grief in their own way. Who cares if she wants to keep the same superstitions as Slone? It doesn't matter in the end. We all know it won't bring him back. So stop being an ass about it." Thane fell silent for a moment, then said, "When I'm gone, you can't be at each other's throats all the time. Dad couldn't handle it."

Both Kamau and Moran fell silent at the reminder of their father. Finally, Kamau sighed and said, "You know, I think you're gonna be fine Thane."

"I'll give you my next match earnings if you talk to a teacher like that," Moran said.

"My next two match earnings," Kamau added. And the tension was lifted.

3,429 words
And when the day shifts to night,
The wild wolf calls to me,
And I am not afraid.
I fear the darkness far more than I fear his claws


~~~GENDERFLUID, ASEXUAL, OMNIROMANTIC~~~

Pronouns are oVeRrAtEd (they/he/she)
  





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Fri Jul 08, 2022 4:18 am
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winterwolf0100 says...



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The three siblings arrived home just past one am, Thane feeling exhausted from the fights. Even if she'd kept a tight enough hold on her aura so that nobody could drain her-- something she and the twins had worked on extensively after Oya-- the constant use of her energy and affinity left her feeling completely worn out in a way that symbology never did. Moran unlocked the door and pulled her cloak off immediately, throwing it onto their worn-down couch. A rat scurried across the floor at the sudden noise and Moran nonchalantly squeezed her hand into a fist, her aura lashing out and entrapping the rat, wrapping around it tightly as it squealed. Its skin began to bubble as the poisonous gas sank further and further into it. Within a minute, the rat went limp, unable to get any oxygen through the gas. Its skin continued to bubble.

"Great," Moran muttered sarcastically, disgust shining through her voice. She stopped squeezing her fist, letting her hand return to normal, and the rat fell to the ground, dead. "The rats are back."

Kamau reached out, his aura hardening into chains of metal as he grabbed the rat with one and opened the door with his hand. The chains threw the rat out the door and he shut it again, the metal melting away and rising towards Kamau's hands. The liquid wound around his wrists like a snake before slowly sinking in, leaving only swirls of gray up his arms to show there'd been anything there in the first place. Moran walked to the small kitchen area, pulling out two pieces of bread and beginning to eat the two like a sandwich, even though they had nothing in-between. "So," she said, "you've got your train ticket for tomorrow?"

Thane nodded, moving to the couch and laying down across it.

"And you're sure you want to go?" Moran asked carefully.

"A God crystal could raise this place from hell. At the very least, it'll get us out of it."

Kamau moved Thane's legs off the couch to sit down next to her. "Maybe," he said. "Or it'll just make the kidnappers and anti-mages move to the next town over."

Thane shrugged nonchalantly, her face neutral. "Then I'll track them down and find out who hired them. Pull the weeds out at the roots."

"The entire slave trade of mages is funded by all the uppers," Moran pointed out. "They're scared of the fracture but too cowardly to do anything about it themselves. So, they say, 'let's get a mage! It'll be fun, like a pet!'" She shook her head in disgust, the anger in her eyes sharp and cutting. She pulled at the tie holding her braided hair together, then wove her fingers through her hair to unweave it.

The anger in the room was palpable, all three of them feeling the cold hard emotion solidified in their chests. The uppers pushed people down, stealing and kidnapping, and then turned around and acted like it was their mission to save them all from their own filth. It was infuriating. Finally, Thane said, "That's why I'm getting a God crystal. To kill every single person who thinks they can enslave someone and get away with it. And I'll kill every single upper that gets in my way."

They didn't argue. They didn't point out that there was only one God crystal given each school year, that the odds were stacked against her, that she'd be competing with some of the best mages in the world. They didn't doubt her. Kamau said, "Yeah," and Moran said, "Damn right."

They sat in silence, the tiredness truly beginning to sink in to Thane. After several minutes of silence, Moran finished her empty sandwich and said, "Well, I was gonna wait for dad but I need to sleep."

Kamau muttered something in agreement just as the front door knob began to move. Their father walked in, looking like he was about to pass out standing. Kamau and Thane both immediately stood, clearing the couch for him as he walked in.

"Long night?" Thane asked quietly, and her father shot her a weary smile.

"A bit," he agreed, laying down slowly on the couch. His eyes fluttered closed as he murmured, "How was the ring?" He'd long since given up arguing about them participating in the underground fighting, knowing his words were useless even if he didn't like them doing it.

"Fine," Thane answered.

"She did good," Moran piped up.

"That's good," their father mumbled. "That's good. Not hurt?"

"Only a little," Thane said softly.

"Dad, Moran and I were just about to go to bed," Kamau said, and their father made a noise of tired agreement.

"Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Alright."

Kamau bent over to hug him, then left the room, Moran following suit. Thane stood still for a while, watching her father, his slow, steady breaths. He came home exhausted every night, just like they did. She thought he may have fallen asleep when he mumbled, "Thane."

She watched him. "Yes?"

"I am glad," he mumbled. "I am glad you are going to live a lawful life. I am glad you will not be hurt anymore." His eyes were still closed, and she wondered how coherent he was being. She knew he didn't mean it as an insult to her siblings. He did not judge them for doing what they felt they had to do, and while she knew he regretted how fast they had grown up, she also knew that he knew he couldn't do anything about it.

"I'm not leaving forever," she said quietly. "I'm leaving to get a God crystal and then I'll be back." Back to the fighting, the matches. It was all she'd ever known. She wanted to stop young people from feeling forced into competing as their only way to survive, but she wasn't sure she could actually stop herself from continuing. She wasn't sure Kamau or Moran would be able to either. After all, what had any of them ever known but this? What had they ever known but spending all their hours training and fighting? She'd dropped out of normal school at the age of ten, they'd dropped out at fifteen. What future did they have outside of this? And that was why she was doing this-- to stop this from happening to others. But she wasn't doing it so she would live a lawful life. She was doing it so others had the choice to.

Her father stayed quiet for a while, before he finally said again, "Well. I am glad you will not be hurt anymore-- at least for a while." He opened his eyes slowly, pushing himself up off the couch with difficulty. Thane moved forward and helped him up, guiding him to his bed in the next room. She barely convinced him to take off his shoes before he collapsed into it. "You going to bed?" He murmured.

"I need to wash my knuckle knives," she said softly. A ghost of a smile crossed his lips, sleepy and tired.

"That's not an answer."

Thane stayed silent, not elaborating. Finally, her father mumbled, "Goodnight Thane."

"Goodnight," she said quietly, inching her way out of the room and closing the door behind her.

She took in a deep breath, then walked over to the sink in the kitchen. It was leaking, and when she turned it on, the water spurted out randomly and slightly brown. That didn't matter though-- she only needed it to clean off her knuckle knives. She'd had three fights that night, and while she hadn't landed many blows in the last one before all-in had been called, she'd finished the second without the announcement ever happening, which meant there was a lot of dried blood on it. She tried not to hurt anyone too badly, and she always attempted to avoid any scars, but in the end, it was her against them. It didn't matter if it was a twelve-year-old who was in their first fight, because they'd be just as determined to win-- and besides, they couldn't learn to win if they didn't lose a little first.

She cleaned off the blades slowly, spaced out as her mind thought over everything that was about to happen. She'd be leaving Arelinor-- a dump, but one she wanted to be able to clean up, not just abandon. It was only this way because the uppers threw all their trash on the lowers and watched them suffocate beneath the weight, searching and fighting for scraps. She'd be leaving to go to a fancy private school, one she never could've afforded if they'd charge even half the amount most others did. She'd be rooming with strangers, people she'd never met, going to class daily with uppers who thought they were better than everyone around them.

And even still, on the flip side she'd be fighting with people on her level, growing her own potential, fighting her way towards a God crystal and coming back. That was one thing she felt sure of-- all these rich pricks had never been hurt in matches, not the way she had. They'd never pushed away the pain, never struggled with all their might to not pass out and sink to the floor. They'd certainly never learned aura enhancement and how to use every last ounce of energy they had in them to win a match, even if it meant a brush against death. That was why she would win. Because she'd worked too hard not to.

Caught up in her thoughts, she was pulled back into her body with a grimace, realizing she'd cleaned all the blood off her knives multiple times and had cut herself all over her hands. Her fresh blood trickled down her hands and onto the blades, getting them dirty all over again. She sighed and put the blades down in the sink, aiming the water at them before moving away to grab a towel. She didn't dare rinse her hands off with the tap water-- no chance was she getting infected in her hands of all places right before she left-- so instead she grabbed a water bottle and opened it, carefully pouring a small amount onto each palm to rinse away the blood before putting the mostly-full bottle down and grabbing a towel. She pressed it into each hand hard for several seconds before throwing it down on the counter, turning off the sink, and going to grab bandages. She wound them delicately around her hands, keeping her fingers and thumbs free to move before finishing both wrappings off and putting the bandages back.

Wordlessly, she picked up her knuckle knives carefully from the sink, now clean, and dried them on the same towel she'd used for her hands before carrying them into the room she shared with her father. She placed them down on the ground near her mat, then undid her belt and placed it there too. Finally, she removed her boots and laid down on the floor, looking up at the low ceiling. She wasn't sure how she'd fall asleep. The burns trailing up her left arm itched, and her palms beat dully with her heart. It was slightly annoying that she'd managed to do three fights without a scratch on her hands to prove it, and yet the moment she got home, she managed to cut herself multiple times. It would make her look careless, unexperienced, especially with tomorrow being her first day. Oh well-- as much as it angered her, she'd prove herself in other ways, and perhaps it was for the best. People underestimating her would only give her a chance to prove them wrong. She couldn't waste time worrying over something as inconsequential as cuts on her hands.

Her knuckles felt tender from using the knuckle knives for several hours, even though the weapons were artifaced to protect her from constant bruised and bloody knuckles. That happened sometimes. She'd push it too hard and, well-- the protection spells could only do so much. And even as her exhaustion weighed her down, she found she couldn't sleep. There wasn't much to pack or take-- all her clothes and belongings could easily fit inside one bag. Her family didn't have actual suitcases-- she'd looked at the price of one just to see only a week ago, and had left the store so angry she'd practically swallowed her own tongue in her silence. It was outrageous. Just another way to keep the poor trapped, in the end. So she'd carry her things in a duffle-bag and wear an extra pair of clothes to save room in the bag for everything she needed.

Her mind drifted to Lux Academy. Known throughout the country for its brilliant students, prestigious, selective, rich... her bottom lip curled in slight disgust. She'd be surrounded by idiots. However brilliant their magic, they would be stupid and well-fed and raised to rule a world they knew nothing about. She would not be competing against them. She would be competing against their money. She would be competing against how much their parents could pay to sweep her under the rug. But she wasn't going to let that happen. She would study and train and stay a stranger in the shadows, someone no one would fear until it was too late to turn back. And then she'd be back.

Her eyes swept around the room, but it was too dark to see much. She took in a deep slow breath, trying to will herself to sleep. Her body needed a chance to heal and her mind needed a chance to prepare. It was going to be a long day tomorrow.

Image


The two matches in the morning passed quickly and painfully, and before Thane knew it, she was back at home stuffing everything she could into her duffle-bag and pulling on all the clothes she could. Moran watched her from the doorway. Kamau had gone to compete in a match and had promised that he'd be back in time to see her off, though Thane wasn't sure she took his word for it. Their father had left early in the morning, telling her goodbye then since he'd be at work when she had to leave. For now, it was just Thane and Moran.

"So..." Moran said carefully from the doorway, "you're sure you want to do this?"

Thane paused her wrestling match with a particularly annoying red cloak that refused to fit inside the bag. "Yes," she said shortly.

"Alright," Moran said uneasily. "And you're sure you won the fights this morning?"

Thane glanced at her over her shoulder with a particularly exasperated expression. It sent the message well enough.

"You just seem extremely hurt," Moran said uncomfortably. "Everywhere."

Thane shrugged. "They didn't want us using magic."

"Mmm..." Moran managed. "They just wanted to watch underage mages beat each other up the old-fashioned way?"

"Pretty much," Thane muttered. She'd been glad to see that at least her two opponents had both been around her age, about to graduate out of the child rings into the adult ones. She wasn't sure she would've been able to stomach beating up a twelve-year-old for a snotty group of uppers.

"Did you find out what the occasion was?" Moran asked. "Not like the uppers need an excuse, they're just pitiful like that."

"Bachelorette party," Thane said quietly under her breath, anger cutting underneath her tone as she finally managed to get the duffle bag to zip up with the cloak inside it.

"A girl's getting married and she wants to watch kids go at each other?" Moran asked, disgusted.

"And then try to beat up the winner," Thane added, "while drunk."

Moran sighed. "I wish you could've beat the shit out of her." She already knew Thane hadn't. Nobody in Thane's situation would've dared-- beat up the person who hired you? And get kidnapped off the streets and killed? No thanks.

"Maid of honor slipped me a two hundred for letting her give me a black eye," Thane mumbled, "or try to."

"Were you allowed to use weapons?"

"No," Thane said. "But I'm pretty sure I broke someone's nose."

"Well, I guess in comparison you're looking pretty good then," Moran said. Thane tilted her head in acknowledgement. A black eye, a lot of bruises to her torso-- some of which had already begun to show--, bandaged hands from last night, and burns covering her left arm. She burned with anger and embarrassment remembering how a group of the uppers had giggled when they'd seen that, shouting "she's so hideous!" and shushing each other with wine-tainted breath. Thane didn't care about being pretty. But hearing it from them pissed her off.

"You might want to hurry. Train leaves in an hour. Don't want to miss it," Moran pointed out, and Thane slung her bag over her shoulder, turning back. Moran sucked in sharp breath through her teeth, making a whistling noise. "Looks like she got you good," she said, referring to the black eye. Thane shook her head.

"The kid before her actually landed a decent blow to my forehead, right above my eye. She barely touched it."

"But you told her it was her, right?"

Thane gave a small smile. "Obviously."

"Good," Moran said. "Now come on, we gotta go. Kamau's gonna meet us there, or try to anyway."

"It's not that big a deal. I'll be back soon," Thane said quietly, following her out the door and onto the street, locking the door behind her.

"Yeah, yeah," Moran said, "whatever. So you know how to use the train?"

"Pretty sure I just hand them my ticket," she muttered, pulling her hood up over her head so it shadowed her face. Moran held her hands up defensively.

"Just checking. It would suck if you ended up somewhere other than Glinthaven."

"I've got the money from the fights this morning, I should be alright. Did you know they provide meals at Lux?"

Moran frowned. "All of them?"

"Three a day," Thane said. "Oh, I left the money from last night's fights on the counter."

Moran nodded. "Sure you don't need it?"

"What am I gonna spend that much money on when I don't even pay for my own food?" Thane asked softly.

"I don't know. Uppers usually just buy a ton of horses and cars I think."

By the time they reached the station, there were fifteen minutes until the train was supposed to depart. Kamau was nowhere in sight, but Thane was alright with that. The fights were more important, they'd be what got them the money to survive, not giving her a hug goodbye. He'd given her one this morning anyway.

"If they provide your meals, I bet they pay for doctor's visits too. Squeeze as many of those in as you can," Moran said, and Thane nodded. She knew she was only half-joking. "I'm sure Kamau will be here in a minute," Moran said, and Thane shook her head.

"It's alright. The ring is more important."

Moran frowned. "The ring was never supposed to be more important than our family."

Thane tilted her head a little. "Sometimes the ring is the only way to keep your family. I'm fine with that."

Moran sighed. "Do you want to wait for him, or go find your seat?"

"I'll go figure out where to go," Thane said. Moran nodded.

"Alright... well..." she looked around awkwardly, then drew Thane in for a quick hug. "Stay sharp," she warned. "You know those uppers will be out to get you the moment they catch your scent."

"Stay sharp," Thane replied.

"And ice that eye when you get the chance! And all the body bruises, it'll bring down the swelling."

"I know," Thane said softly. She'd taken care of her own wounds many times. It seemed like Moran was getting sentimental after all.

"Alright," Moran nodded. "I'll see you when you get back."

"Winter break at the latest," Thane returned. And then she walked away.

3,351 words
And when the day shifts to night,
The wild wolf calls to me,
And I am not afraid.
I fear the darkness far more than I fear his claws


~~~GENDERFLUID, ASEXUAL, OMNIROMANTIC~~~

Pronouns are oVeRrAtEd (they/he/she)
  





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Gender: Genderfluid
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Fri Jul 08, 2022 4:19 am
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winterwolf0100 says...



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Thane ignored the security guard's suspicious stare at her duffle-bag as she climbed onboard, as well as the completely offensive literal head-to-toe eye sweep as he looked her up and down. He didn't stop her-- she'd clearly already gotten through the original security-- but the sentiment was clear enough. That alone set her off.

The next thing that pissed her off was having to walk by all the fancy compartments, the lounging area for the rich people, the food car-- an entire car for food? How much did these people eat?!-- before finally reaching the passenger car for people like her, the people who didn't pay to sit in a compartment, just a seat. She didn't understand why anyone felt the need to spend extra money just to get an individual area. Some people even paid extra to sit with other people in an individual area. She wanted to punch all of them.

She found her seat easily enough, pressed against a window with another seat beside her. She wasn't sure who was going to sit there, but she pulled her hood up further forward, as if that might possibly deter them from attempting to start a conversation. She turned to look out the window, her duffle bag pressed against her chest as she frowned slightly, looking out the window and waiting for the train to start. Moran and Kamau had warned her that she might feel slightly sick during the trip, and all she could think of was the last boy she'd fought last night, the sudden overwhelming nausea and watching her vision flip over and over like a windmill spinning. She hoped it wouldn't be like that.

"Oh, excuse me," someone said, "I think I'm in the seat next to you?" Thane ignored them. Maybe they'd think she hadn't heard them and leave her alone. "I'm sorry, I think this is my seat?" They tried again. Thane stayed silent. She heard them sit down next to her, but she didn't engage with them, and after a minute, the train started moving. They didn't try to talk to her again.

The car was crowded, smelled strongly of sweat and crowded people and dirt. Thane wondered what the uppers would've thought of it if they'd been in here. She didn't enjoy the smell or how close she was to everybody, but she was used to it. How big a meltdown would an upper have in here? The image gave her a slight smile that she hid as she looked out the window, watching trees and clouds fly by. Children screamed and cried, and an argument broke out towards the front of the car, but she ignored them still. And after a few hours, they'd come to terms with each other and the children had fallen asleep or tired themselves out. Quiet fell over the car, and Thane drank it in, instilling the calmness inside her. You couldn't get angry at uppers, not to their faces. You could get angry behind their backs, you could scream and rage about them, but you could not be angry to their faces. Because if you did that, they would say you had hurt them out of anger-- that it was irrational. But if you hurt them, if you hurt them after keeping cool and collected and level-headed, they would have no choice but to listen. They would have no choice but to know you were serious, you were angry, you were furious-- and you were coming for them all.

The thought stayed on her mind until the train began to pull to a stop. She realized she'd zoned out, not really taking in anything out the window until she felt the lurch and tightened her hold on her bag.

"Glinthaven! Last stop!" Someone yelled over the speakers, and Thane finally turned her face away from the window. She stood and pushed her way past the person sitting next to her, who let out an indignant cry that she ignored, keeping a tight hold on her bag as she pushed her way into the crowd exiting the car. She walked back through the food car, past the lounging area with fancy chairs and tables, past the private compartments, and finally out into the sunlight. The platform was, if possible, even more crowded. She fought against the urge to slip a knuckle knife on and punch an upper in the face as he made a clearly disgusted face when he caught sight of her.

Everyone else exiting the train seemed to be looking for someone who was waiting to pick them up-- or she would assume so, with the crazy amount of people holding signs and waiting for people to get off. She pushed past all of them, out into the station, through the crowds of people and out the front doors, and finally onto the streets. She pulled out the crumbled up acceptance letter from her bag, squinting down at the tiny map of the city drawn on it. Next to the map, a picture of a tall tower was printed, along with the words "Zenith tower" in an overdramatic font beneath it that made it hard to read.

Thane glanced up at the streets, trying to figure out where she was, and paused momentarily, taken aback. Everything was clean. There wasn't a single piece of trash in the streets, everyone walked around in new clothes that didn't have a single rip or tear-- even the people asking for money didn't have any dirt on their faces or hands. People dropped whole bills into their cups without even glancing at them as they passed. Boutiques advertised flowers and fancy paper to write letters on and the latest gardening books. What in the hell...

She walked towards the nearest street sign, frowning at how clean it looked. They cleaned their street signs? It was completely legible, no smudges of dirt or stickers put over it. This was beyond odd, it was creepy. Was this how the uppers lived? It felt like the life and soul had been drained out of everything and replaced with a sign for overpriced cupcakes.

She tried to find the street name on the map, narrowing her eyes and frowning. The words were slightly blurry in such a small font, and she couldn't make it out. When she was about to shove the map back in her bag in frustration, she looked up and noticed, in the distance, the tip of something that looked very tall and very very similar to the Zenith tower picture showcased on the map. She looked down at the map again, this time looking at the picture. She looked back up again. That was definitely the same tower. Letting out a small breath, she shoved the acceptance letter/map combo back into her bag and started making her way towards the top of the tower, trying to ignore all the looks and stares she drew as she walked by. Everyone here had their face out in the open, no hoods, nothing hiding them. Not that she would've drawn any less attention showing off her black eye. Then again, the black eye really wasn't as much of an eye catcher as the permanent ever-shifting foggy tattoos that drifted around her eyes in circles, a sign of her particular affinity that the gods had decided to bless her with.

After thirty minutes of walking towards the tower, she finally reached the entrance. A woman stood at the entrance, a bright shirt with "Welcome to Lux Academy!" written across it as she smiled cheerfully at families entering the grounds. She did a double-take at Thane as she walked forward, though whether it was from her appearance or the fact that she was alone, Thane couldn't tell.

"Hi!" She said, "Can I help you?"

Thane pushed down her annoyance. She'd just watched this woman be open and helpful to everyone else, and now she was going to act weirded out to see Thane there? What did she mean, could she help her? Wasn't that her entire job?

"I'm a student," Thane said softly.

"Ah," the woman said, giving a bright and clearly fake smile. "Do you have your entrance letter?"

Thane pulled it out of her bag, sighing slightly. She hadn't seen anyone else have to present their letter to get inside. After several seconds of the woman staring at it, like she was trying to make sure it wasn't fake, she said, "Alright! There are a set of volunteers who can take your luggage to your room for you, you'll give them your name so they can find where you'll be living of course, and-- oh, is your weapon in your bag?"

Thane looked at her suspiciously from beneath the hood. "No."

"Oh!" The woman said with a note of surprise. "Well good! Keep it on you for orientation, it'll come in handy. Uh, what type of weapon do you use?"

"Knuckle knives," Thane said calmly. The woman seemed at a loss for words at that, and Thane sighed and began to walk away, going in search of the volunteers she was supposed to give her stuff-- mainly so she could figure out where to go and put her bag there herself.

"Wait, do you know where you're going?" The woman asked.

"I think I'll manage," Thane muttered, pulling her acceptance letter back and putting it in her bag again as she began to walk past the woman.

"Alright!" She called after her. "If you'll just take that right pathway there you should see some volunteers pretty soon. They'll take your things and tell you how to get to orientation! Have a good day!" Surprisingly, the remark sounded genuine, but Thane didn't reply all the same as she started down the right pathway. She avoided going near enough to any other students to elicit conversation, and soon enough she was stopping in front of a volunteer with a tablet.

"Name?" They asked, not looking up from what they were typing. Another volunteer came over and took her bag before Thane had a chance to say she wanted to take it herself. She took in a deep breath, looking around the campus. It looked more down-to-earth than the city just beyond its walls, clean but bearably so, realistic and alive. A cupcake maybe, but one she could afford to take a bite of. Yes, she thought. She could make this work.

"Thane," she replied as the volunteer glanced up at her with a welcoming smile. "Thane Matthai."

1,766 words
And when the day shifts to night,
The wild wolf calls to me,
And I am not afraid.
I fear the darkness far more than I fear his claws


~~~GENDERFLUID, ASEXUAL, OMNIROMANTIC~~~

Pronouns are oVeRrAtEd (they/he/she)
  





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SilverNight says...



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written with @HarryHardy


Kynina wasn't sure she remembered the Zenith Tower being that large. The last time she'd been in Glinthaven, she was just barely fourteen, being dragged along to some diplomatic meeting or important person's party. She'd been so distracted back then, lost in comparing it to Arelinor that she didn't have many specific memories of Lux Academy itself. The vision of a mage-filled city that wasn't falling apart on itself had entralled her, given her some hope. Glinthaven wasn't perfect, but it was a starting point, and Arelinor was nowhere even close. She'd hardly spared any thought to an academy that she wouldn't have seen herself applying to, let alone attending.

Her gaze flickered over the classroom buildings. She had to admit, she was excited to see what they were like on the inside. Kynina had never attended a proper mage school. Her homeschooling had taught her about magic, but the curriculum was carefully controlled to stay away from harder topics at best, and the boarding school (Aredis Heights) she'd gone to the last two years had only had those as electives. These buildings held a lot of firsts— collaborating with someone on a sigilweaving project, walking between classes in hallways where auras shone bright, lectures on the history of magic that weren't biased or sugarcoated.

The training grounds looked more familiar to her. Aredis Heights had held a battle magic class, that while still an elective, had actually had rather good attendance for a student body with only a small number of mages. That would be less new.

Kynina found herself wishing it would be more different.

The layout between Lux Academy and Aredis Heights was even rather close. Lux was definitely more grand, but they were architecturally alike. Just over there, that cluster of trees adjacent to the lawn looked like the spot at the boarding school where—

She broke her gaze away from the academy as the same sick feeling returned. Clearly she wasn't ready to go straight there.

Instead, she wandered along one of the large streets bordering the campus, trying to focus on what was around her instead of— whatever was happening in her head. Kynina liked how the paved cobblestones under her feet were so much cleaner than what she was used to, and how the sound of the chatter around her seemed more cheerful than what she would overhear in Arelinor. It wasn't a bad city to be in for four years.

Kynina's stomach grumbled. She'd missed lunch because she'd completely forgotten to stop by the food cart after the attack. There should be time to get a bite to eat.

She ended up buying a bowl of hot noodle soup to go from a food court and eating it in the shade of a tree. Mostly broth, not much substance, but she didn't need much. She took her time with it, watching the crowd pass by without a glance in her direction, and it was as if she were witnessing a world without her in it. It felt relieving to not be seen, strangely.

Eventually, she got up, threw the plastic takeout bowl in the trash, briefly marveled at the lack of litter around the can, and then made her way back to Lux Academy. There seemed to be a short line for getting checked in at a table run by people in T-shirts, which Kynina got into. The sun was bright overhead, and she was wishing she'd gone for ice cream instead of hot food. But she realized that was hardly important, and she probably wouldn't have gone for it anyway.

Once she was at the front of the line, the volunteer gave her a smile with tired cheekbones. Clearly, she'd been doing it for hours already. "Hello! Welcome to Lux Academy."

Kynina returned the smile, but it probably wasn't a very good one, and she didn't even have the excuse of doing it all day. She pulled out her admission letter. "Thank you."

"What's your name?" The volunteer took out her clipboard.

"My name's Kynina."

"Kynina...?" The volunteer raised her eyebrows, leaning forward a little.

Great, she's going to recognize it. She swallowed. "Kynina Fallon," she said offhandedly, as if it were just any other last name. It was too much to hope for that just a first name would do.

The woman's eyes widened, and she knew she was out of luck. "Oh!" she said, hitting the table with her hand. "You're the activist!"

"I guess so," Kynina said, trying to smile despite her guilt. I haven't been able to do anything in two years. I'm not sure it counts anymore.

"I heard you were enrolling! I didn't recognize you at all, though, you don't look anything like your pictures," the volunteer gushed. Kynina forced herself to keep grinning. She knew most of those photos were older, from when the movement in Arelinor had the most attention. Of course she wasn't the same. "Is it the hair? I thought it'd be shorter. No, wait, you must have lost weight—"

Kynina suddenly felt very nauseous as she thought of the ice cream she'd skipped. "You must've seen me when I was sixteen," she said calmly, although what she really wanted to say was Really?

"Oh, of course! You were so cute back then." Another thing Kynina would prefer not to hear and had heard many, many times already, but she hid her grimace. Every muscle in her body was in fight or flight mode. The volunteer glanced down at her clipboard, widened her eyes as if she'd forgotten her entire job, then made a checkmark on the list by the name she'd made such a big deal about. "Can I get a picture with you? My sister would just die of jealousy." She was already swiping on her phone, presumably looking for the photos app.

She laughed, hoping it didn't sound nervous. "I'd love to, but I really should get my bags to—"

"Oh, please! Just a second." The volunteer turned around, holding the phone overhead selfie-style, her face a wide grin that showed all her teeth. Kynina acted quickly to plaster a cheerful smile on her face to cover up how uncomfortable she was.

"There!" the volunteer said, with a satisfied that wasn't so hard tone. "My sister will lose her mind when I show her this."

Kynina nodded, ready to get this over with. "Anything I need to do before orientation?"

"Let's see," the woman said, before pausing. Even though she must have done this a hundred times already, this was enough of a distraction to briefly make her forget the routine. "Oh, have you got your weapons on you?"

Kynina opened her coat to reveal the usual set of knives, plus the extra ones she'd taken off her attacker. "I do."

The volunteer looked surprised at the ordinary weapons. Even the artificed pair were standard knives, with just a slightly fancier hilt to tell them apart. She must've expected her to have something more unique. "Just those?" Her voice was almost disappointed.

"I'd demonstrate how I use them, but it's not very safe to here." Just please leave me alone.

The volunteer leaned back a little. "That works. Do you want a trolley for your bags?"

Kynina shook her head. "I can carry them."

"Suit yourself." The volunteer shrugged, then looked over at the line behind her. Something told her the people waiting were a little unhappy at how long this was taking. The woman cleared her throat, grinning radiantly again. "Well, it is so great to have you here! I bet you'll be getting tons of welcomes soon—"

I bet I will, she thought.

"—so you should fit in right away. Thank you!"

Kynina was already moving before the volunteer had even waved the next person forward. She took a deep breath, rolling her shoulders back and relaxing her posture so that she didn't look like someone who had just recovered from paralysis. Her brief moment of not being seen had slipped away, and she was already missing it.

She wasn't sure why she'd thought this would be easier. It wasn't supposed to be a repeat of Aredis.

There was a sharp squeak of wheels, and Kynina glanced over to see a short girl with blonde hair pushing a trolley nearby. She looked like a new student too. "Hiiiii," the girl said, stretching out the word.

The student was definitely excited, but it didn't look like she'd recognized her. It just seemed like she was happy to see someone new. The relief was overwhelming.

Kynina found herself responding to the girl by instinct. "Hi!" she said cheerfully, matching her pace so that they could walk together. "Wow, that's a lot of luggage you've got there. Was it heavy?" Oh, gosh, I hope that's not a weird way to open in conversation.

The girl proceeded to do some sort of double take before she mumbled out something that sounded vaguely like."Umm... yes." There was a pause followed by "Noo... I mean its kind of a lot but its not heavy. The bags are..." There was a lot of confusing hand movements. "Artificed." A brilliant smile followed the last word.

"Oh, that's really cool!" Kynina smiled back. "Artificing seems really neat, but I've never really done it."

"Thanks," said the girl. "It was my mother's idea. She took one look at the list of things I wanted to bring and she just produced these five seconds later."

Kynina wasn't sure if her smile had flickered slightly or not, but her voice sounded the same to her. "She sounds like a fun mom."

"Yeah," said the girl. nodding rather enthusiastically. "She's—" Whatever the girl was going to say was suddenly cut off as she proceeded to slap a hand against her forehead and go red. "Oh My Goodness, I'm horrible at this. I just realized I didn't even introduce myself before babbling on about my luggage. I am so sorry. I'm Safi... I mean Vialena. Safiana Vialena, but people call me Safi, not that you have to anything. I just umm..." Safiana trailed off, going even redder somehow.

"Oh, please don't worry!" Kynina laughed lightly. She really hoped this wasn't as stressful as it looked for Safi. "That's a great name. I'm Kynina. I don't have any fun nicknames, sadly, but I like yours."

"Thank you," said Safi, "you're beautiful too...I mean your name is beautiful, I mean they both are." The girl continued doing her best to turn into an overripe tomato.

It was Kynina's turn to flush— probably not as red as her, because she wasn't even sure how it was possible for someone's face to be that shade, but she had no doubt her own cheeks were at least a visible pink. "Oh," she stuttered, laughing nervously as she smiled. "I-- Thank you, you look very nice too." It was true. Safiana was definitely pretty and it was almost distracting.

"Th..thanks," said the girl. It almost sounded like an actual stutter. "So... umm... its a nice day for an orientation isn't it? Great weather and all."

This was a much easier thing to talk about, but she felt bad for all the awkwardness. "It is," she said, agreeing wholeheartedly and glancing up at the sky. "Are you excited to see what happens?"

"Oh yeah. Its just all so new and mysterious," said Safiana, almost jumping up and down at the last word.

Kynina grinned. "I know, right? It feels so strange that I got here. Just a couple days ago, it was looking like I wouldn't be able to go, and now I've made it. And I have no idea what to expect from here. No one wants to say what happens in it."

"Yeah," said Safi," its driving me crazy at the same time as its making this more fun." She almost seemed to want to ask something more before thinking better of it.

"Do you suppose there's a reason they want us to have our weapons for it?"

"They do," said Safi, eyes going ever so slightly wide. "I mean yup, I knew that, not like my bow's buried under one too many shoes but um... I kind of feel like they do but also they are the sort of place to give a rule like that just to intimidate the newcomers."

"Trying to scare us into being hypervigilant on our first day so that we don't miss a thing," Kynina said in a dramatic and conspiratorial voice. "Little do they know that each one of these new students already has anxiety, and even if they don't look like it they're probably pretending."

"Indeed, one must never underestimate the anxiety inducing power of the first day in a new school," said Safi, copying the voice, although a giggle at the end dampened the effect a bit.

Kynina found herself giggling too. "I thought this place was for magic, not mental breakdowns."

"Every place is for mental breakdowns," said Safiana, now doing what sounded like an attempt at an old wise man voice.

She nodded wisely. "I had better find myself a panic room."

"Top of my to do list," said Safi, nodding along.

Before this conversation, Kynina had been pretty sure she'd be able to turn any room here into a panic room, with how she'd gotten an anxiety attack before even setting foot on the grounds. It was looking better now. They'd both reached the Hallstowers, and passed over their luggage and Safi's trolley before continuing.

This felt so much more authentic than the conversation with the volunteer.

"Well, we'll have eight classes, there's probably one that won't be so fun. That classroom would probably be it. What are you here to learn?" she asked.

"That seems like a good plan," said Safi, "oh umm... a few things, but I'm most excited about Potioncrafting cause that's the one I know like the least about."

"I don't think I signed up for that one, but it sounded fun," Kynina said thoughtfully. "Well, there might be others we have in common. I'm probably going to focus on Sigilweaving, but there were a lot of classes."

"Ohh, that's cool. I'm going down the spellcrafting route, because memorizing words is like uhh... my thing I guess," said Safi, "but yeah there's a whole bunch of classes."

Kynina realized they'd made it almost all the way to Zenith Tower. Whatever this orientation was, they were both close to finding out. "I hope we end up seeing each other somehow," she said with a laugh. "It's a big place, but it might work out."

"Yeah me too," said Safi, her face back in a brilliant smile. "It was nice meeting you."

"Do you want to watch the orientation together? It might be fun." Please don't let this be too forward.

"Yeah sure, I don't see any reason not to."

Kynina grinned, feeling like she could collapse with relief and excitement. It would be great to have someone there. "Great! Then let's see what they have in store for us."

With that, they joined the students crowding around the tower.

2532 words
Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (from the Latin argentum, "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47.


okay but does this mean I have a melting point of 1763.2 °F



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atlast says...



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To truly hone in on your gift using the Primal Sense, you must think of your Aura as an extension of yourself. Your skin. Your sweat. Your blood. When you move, so does your Aura, like a shadow full of life, not unlike you…

A shiver ran down Edalyn Ralia's spine as her eyes skimmed across the page. She had read Primal Sense for the Modern Mage too many times to count, but she was enthralled every time she opened the worn volume's pages. Its detailed illustrations and captivating tales of mages whose auras danced alongside them drew Eda to the affinity.

Her eyes drifted to the bottom of the page, gripping the corner in preparation to turn to the next, when a crisp knock sounded at her door, five beats in quick succession.

"Edalyn!" The door opened a crack, and Lily, Eda's older, more successful sister, jutted her head in. She was visiting Eda and her mother for a few days, her partner, Ilse, taking care of their shop, The Purple Potion, while she was gone. "You're late for dinner!"

Eda's face soured slightly. Slamming her book closed (she would have to find the page she left off on later), she stood and straightened her shirt. It was, of course, too plain for Mother's liking, but it would have to do. A few crumpled slips of paper, several colorful flower petals and a small mouse-shaped trinket dropped from her pocket, clattering softly. Lily made a sound that was halfway between a scoff and a chuckle. "C'mon, kiddo! You know Mother doesn't like to be kept waiting."

Following her sister down the stairs, Eda braced herself for another tense meal. Despite their obvious estrangements, Mother insisted on setting aside time to eat meals "as a family." Those were her words, not Eda's. If Eda had her way, she'd be eating her meals in the privacy of her room or outside, nestled in the arm-like branches of the massive tree that served as the centerpiece of the backyard.

The smell of tomatoes, spices, and warm bread floated through the air as the sisters approached the dining room. The space was a healthy size, allowing for a grand mahogany dining set complete with 8 matching chairs. The floors were a muted, agreeable gray, and the walls were a rich dark cyan that could make a peacock jealous. A sparkling chandelier adorned the ceiling, lighting the room with soft warmth.

Eda couldn't suppress a blissful sigh as she sat down before a steaming plate of spaghetti, fresh-baked bread, and a tall glass of freshly squeezed berry cocktail. Mother may be cold, uninviting, and generally unlikable, but she was the best cook in the neighborhood (maybe even in all of Glinthaven), and she knew it.

Taking a bite, Edalyn tried to focus on her food rather than the growing silence. The flavors of tomato and savory spices mingled with sweet butter and fluffy bread. The only sound in the room was the soft ringing of forks against plates. As awkward as it was, Eda was used to the quiet. Her mother didn't share the intricate details of her itineraries with her; she simply wasn't worth the extra breath.

Lily, however, had made her best to cut through the tension. "So, Mother," she began, daintily lifting her napkin to her mouth. "How was your meeting at Zenith today?" The elder Ralia daughter was no match for their mother's determined silence. Her question fell from her lips and died just as quickly. Eda let out a sigh and braced herself. If Mother wasn't going to even pretend to entertain some smalltalk, she was just going to have to get straight to the difficult part.

"Mother." Eda let her fork drop with a light clink against the side of her plate, finally drawing her mother's attention. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Lily give the tiniest shake of her head. Tread carefully, Edalyn...

"Mother, I was accepted to Lux Academy. I'll be leaving tomorrow."

There. She finally said it, and it suddenly felt much more real. She, Edalyn Ralia, was leaving, tomorrow, for one of the most prestigious magical academy in the world.

"You absolutely will not, Edalyn." Mother's retort fell upon her ears like boulders. Her voice was short and full of sharp edges. She was pissed.

Eda stood from her chair, nearly knocking it to the ground. "I was already accepted, Mother. This isn't a negotiation. I'm leaving tomorrow." She glanced at her sister, whose eyes were wide, mouth slightly agape.

"I will have none of your party tricks, Edalyn! Now sit down and eat your dinner! I will not ask again."

Pushing her chair out of her path, Eda exclaimed in frustration. "Why can't you be proud of me for once? You seriously think that I would joke about this?" Tears began to flood Edalyn's vision, blurring the scene before her. She knew her mother wasn't going to take the news well, but she didn't think she would stoop so low as to accuse Eda of playing a prank about it. As her emotions grew, Eda's aura began to float through the air, a dusty blue shadow that seemed to mirror how she felt.

With that, Eda flew up the stairs and crashed into her room. The door slammed shut, a tangle of greenish-blue vines wrapping tightly around the doorjamb. Eda's face was tear-stained and her fingernails dug crescent moons into the flesh of her palm.

For as long as Eda could remember, her biggest motivator was to was to make her mother proud. One of the top innovators in Zenith Tower, she made strides in the magical community that were rivaled far and few between. Before he died, Eda's father was a weaponsmith, charged with making magical weapons for use in Lux's training programs. Lily was a successful business woman with her partner, and she graduated top of her affinity in Potions. Edalyn was the metaphorical runt of the family, and she was never able to make up for it. No matter what she did, she was never able to meet the impossible expectations set out for her. Not even her acceptance to a top magical institute would do it. Eda curled up in her bed, shoulders shaking as she suppressed her sobs. The last thing she wanted was for Mother to hear.

Almost on cue, a crisp knock sounded. Eda froze, holding her breath.

"Eda. Can I come in?" Lily only ever called Eda by her nickname when she knew she was upset. Her voice was soft, almost pensive. With a shaky sigh, Eda waved her hand, the vines holding the door shut releasing the jamb. Lily sat gingerly next to Eda.

"Mother is extremely hard on you," Lily said, her voice a near whisper.

"No kidding," Eda barked, her tone harsher than she intended. She softened, continuing. "I just wish that she would treat us the same. You're so successful, Lil, and I'm trying to achieve the same, but I can't pretend to be someone I'm not. I'm not you, Lily. She's never gotten that."

"I know. I can see how she treats you and how different she treats me, and I'm sorry. I wish there was more I could do. I know I don't fully understand how it feels, but I'm here for you, okay?"

Eda nodded. The silence grew, not unlike it did at dinner, but it was comfortable. Eda and Lily leaned into each other, a silent promise to stick together, no matter what was thrown at them.

"I'm so proud of you," Lily mumbled, a soft smile breaking through her typically solemn features. "Ever since Dad died, and it was just you and Mom, it's felt like there was something in the air, something weighing the whole place down, but you've pushed through it. I never could've done that."

Eda's gaze shifted. Perfect Lily really thought that much of her? Eda's smile grew, breaking through her forlorn expression.

"Thanks," Eda whispered, knowing if she said anything else she'd start crying again. She hugged Lily, squeezing her a little too tight. It was a silent "I love you," and Lily knew it too, hugging Eda so hard she almost couldn't breath.

A moment passed, and Lily stood. The air between them had changed, the sisters sharing a new bond. "I should probably go talk to Mother and get packed for tomorrow."

Eda nodded, knowing Mother wouldn't be happy to hear that Lily knew of Eda's acceptance to Lux Academy for more than 30 minutes. She expected that there would be a late night argument composed of whispers and wild hand gestures while she slept.

Oh well. Eda didn't like that Mother and Lily were likely going to spend the night bickering, but she needed to get as much sleep as she could.

Tomorrow started the next chapter of her life, and she was going to do everything she could to start it off right.

Image


Eda shot out of bed, her aura briefly flashing as she startled awake to a sharp, rapid knock on her door.

"Eda, c'mon! We're going to be late!" Lily urged before her footsteps echoed away from the doorway.

Eda tumbled out of bed, her long blue hair tangled and matted against her head. She ran her hands through the thick strands a few times before haphazardly gathering them into a ponytail and throwing on the nearest clean clothes she could find. She had thrown some clothes and a few books in a tattered duffle bag before she finally made any attempts to sleep the night before, but she wasn't anywhere near fully packed. Running around her room in a fury, she gathered and packed her remaining belongings. She grabbed her staff on the way out of her room, dragging her bags behind her.

"Lily, I'm ready!"

No response. She must have gone to the car already.

Eda bounded down the stairs, her feet and bags thumping as she went. Despite the little packing debacle, she had hope the rest of the morning would pass without any major blunders.

Pausing to regather her bags at the foot of the stairs, Eda stopped in her tracks. Mother was standing in the foyer, watching through the doorway as Lily packed her own belongings in the trunk of her khaki green four-door.

"Goodbye, Mother." As much as Eda wanted to hold a grudge, she knew she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she did and something happened. She couldn't have a repeat of what had happened with her father. Her mother, however, didn't seem to think the same way. Eda's farewell was met with cold silence, Mother making no acknowledgement of her youngest daughter except to move out of the doorway.

With a shake of her head and an even shakier breath, Edalyn stepped across the threshold and over to Lily's car. She shoved her belongings in the back seat, rolling down the rear passenger side window to allow for the tail-end of her staff to fit.

"You ready?" Her sister asked, more of a rhetorical question than an actual one. Could anyone ever be fully ready for such a big change?

"As ready as I'll get," she remarked, her speech punctuated with an abriviated laugh. The two piled into the car. Lily turned the key in the ignition.

"How did she react?" Eda couldn't help herself from asking. It took longer to fall asleep than she was willing to admit because she knew Lily and Mother were arguing in the room below hers.

"It wasn't great," Lily admitted, her shoulders sinking slightly, but only for a moment. "Let's focus on you, though! How are you feeling? It's finally the big day!"

Eda shrugged off Lily's lame attempt at a subject change. She'd tease Lily for it another day. "I'm excited, it'll be nice to get away from things, and to get real lessons. You can only learn so much from books."

Lily let out a bright, airy laugh. "I totally get what you mean, Eda. It's a whole other wheelhouse, using your magic in the real world."

Eda nodded, her thoughts wandering as the scenery sped by. She was more than ready to leave home and finally learn firsthand beyond what her books taught her. She had gotten a private education, but it taught nothing beyond parlor tricks, much to teenaged Eda's disappointment.

After what seemed like both seconds and a lifetime at once, Eda and Lily had entered the Academy, unloaded her things, and exchanged goodbyes. Staff in hand and bags strapped to her shoulders, Eda wandered down the pristine sidewalk.

"Ms. Ralia!" A young woman holding a tablet and wearing the cheesiest "Welcome to Lux Academy" t-shirt beckoned her over, "Welcome to Lux Academy!"

Eda suppressed an eye-roll. She knew she'd be recognized here because of her mother, but she was hoping it wouldn't draw much attention.

"That's me," she answered, trying her best to match the woman's enthusiasm.

"Go ahead and drop off your belongings and head to the Hallstowers," the woman explained, then nodded at Eda's staff. "Keep your weapon with you!"

Eda nodded, almost in a haze, as the woman walked away to tend to another student. She quickly dropped off her luggage and crossed to the front entrance of the Zenith Tower. Looking up at the impressive building, she took a deep breath, finally feeling ready for the first day of the rest of her life.

2249 words
atlast

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Tue Jul 12, 2022 3:12 am
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Collaborated with @winterwolf0100, @Spearmint, @atlast


"Oh, um. Thanks... sorry I was in the way." A meek boy smiled awkwardly and accepted Railyn's hand.

"No worries! I should have been looking where I was going instead of sightseeing." Railyn pointed to the croaking toad in the other one's hand. "Is that your frog?"

"Yeah, he's my brother's. His name's Rando." The boy shifted, clearly uncomfortable at this conversation.

"Heh, cute name!" Railyn flashed him a reassuring smile. "Looks like he took the opportunity to sightsee as well!"

He saw it work at least somewhat, and the boy visibly raised his stance, looking a bit more confident. "So... what's your name?"

"I'm Railyn," he said with a loose smile, "but, you can call me Ri, if you'd like." He held out a hand, but chuckled after thinking for literally one more moment. "I guess we already shook hands technically."

"Well, it wasn't a proper handshake." He shook Ri's hand, then said, "I'm Aapeli, or Pel for short."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Pel. Sorry for, you know, running into you. You a first year, too?"

"Yeah! I guess it's easy to tell, huh, by the way I'm gawking at everything." Railyn was [i]also gawking at everything, hence him running into Pel. "Also, don't apologize, I shouldn't have been standing and staring at the arenas like that." He shifted. "We should probably make way for other students."

"Right, right!" Ri laughed and clapped Pel on the back. "Well, hopefully I'll see you around, Pel!" Railyn tugged at his trolley again to get it going on the slight incline. He chugged along to the volunteers where he would stash his belongings, when he saw Pel walking alongside him. "Oh, hey, long time no see," Railyn said.

They chatted a bit until they got to the volunteers. Railyn said he'd meet Pel later, and he wondered when they would meet each other again. Hopefully they'd meet back up at orientation; it would be nice to see a familiar face. Lux Academy wasn't exactly the largest school there was, and they were all there for the same reason; there were only so many classes.

"Oh, Mr. Yora, do you have your weapon on you?" the volunteer asked as she grabbed the rail of his trolley.

"Oh, uhh." Railyn had to check his back instinctively. "I don't really keep it on me at all times." He grinned awkwardly. "Oh, wait. Should I? I mean, this is a battle academy, but I didn't know I would, like, just get right into it, y'know?"

The volunteer laughed hollowly, like she was half obligated to. "Yeah, well, from now on, it's like keeping a pen in your pocket."

Pel caught his attention and waved. Railyn flashed him an encouraging smile and waved him off. He looked back at his stuff. "Oh-kay." The chakrams had to be in like one of three bags. He knew he packed it, at the very least, but for the life of him, he didn't remember where exactly they were. He fished through a small rucksack first, the one on top. Nope, not there, just jumbled clothes. Welp. Now his horrible organization has come back to bite him.

He leaned down next to a larger suitcase and flipped it open. "Aha!" His dual chakrams, neatly clasped in a circle. He gingerly picked it up from the center handle and the holster next to it. He zipped up the suitcase and stuffed it back onto the trolley. "Got it, thanks for being patient with me." The volunteer nodded and walked off with his stuff. He did not trust this place to keep up with all of his stuff. Too bad he didn't make a list with everything he packed. Oh well, time will tell.

He struggled with the harness, wrapping it behind his shoulders. Ever since he almost used up his aura a week ago, he was having trouble stretching his shoulders all the way. He hooked one arm in and tried to grasp the other arm, trying to move in hopes that he'll be able to grab it and pull his other arm through. No luck.

Seeing the small line that was forming behind him, he grabbed his chakrams, thanked the volunteer again awkwardly, and skipped up to the stairs to the Zenith Tower. He passed some other students, weaving his way to the grounds of the Hallstowers. Looking up, the Zenith Tower itself was so impressively tall that it looked as if it stretched all the way to the sky. What he would do to get to the top. Could he see all of Glinthaven from up there? Could he see all of Rupturia? He was going to get up to the top of that tower before he graduated, that was for sure.

The doors of Zenith Tower were open, and students trickled in. A lot of them looked pretty young. Were they all first years? Railyn wondered where the other students were. Maybe they were there early for orientation. Makes sense, have the staff available for just the first years to attend to their needs. If anyone were like Railyn (and judging by Pel, at least some were) they would definitely get lost multiple times on campus for a bit for sure.

Once he was in Zenith Tower, he followed the crowd and the few signs to a large auditorium with a half circle stage in the middle. He was finally able to get his holster on, just in time for him to blend into the crowd. There were no seats. Did they expect all of them to stand? Hopefully it was a short orientation so they could get to their dorms. Oh, Railyn couldn't wait to decorate his room. He was absolutely horrible at decorating, but those posters needed a new home.

A few people trickled into the room, and then the doors closed. It got suddenly extremely dark in the room, and a few chuckles erupted from the crowd. At least some people got to making friends already.

A spotlight turned on, drawing all attention to the stage. There was a microphone on there, and someone stepped up to it, tapping it lightly. She cleared her throat and smiled down at the crowd she probably couldn't really see. The spotlight drained her skin of most of its color, but Railyn could tell she had at least a slight tan to her skin, maybe even darker. She had dark blue hair pinned up to a tight bun with gold chains connecting the base of the bun to her ears like some kind of extravagant earrings. She had half-rimmed glasses on the bridge of her nose, which looked like she was constantly looking down at someone --in this case, it worked, since she was above the crowd. She wore a tight blue and white dress that curled out around her ankles, and it was split at one of her thighs, probably to help her move. Railyn raised his eyebrows at that.

"Welcome, first years, to Lux Academy. I am Headmistress Fea. Before you begin your journey here, I must go through some pleasantries."

Professor Fea started going through thanking donors and the government and other things, and Railyn's mind immediately wandered. Was this going to be the entire orientation? He was already getting sleepy just from hearing her nonsense. He stifled a yawn and looked around the crowd. All of these people were here for the same reason he was: getting that God Crystal. Wow, there were so many there, dozens. He tried to look above the crowd to try and count but gave up within seconds. There might have been upwards of a hundred first years there. Counting was not his strong suit. Nor was paying attention to something so utterly boring.

Railyn took noticed of a hooded figure in the midst of the crowd. He couldn't see their face, but their crossed arms told him enough of how they felt with the speech. They kind of looked like an assassin from one of Railyn's comic books, which made him smile, and made them instantly more interesting in his eyes. He approached them and got up next to them, crossing his arms as well. He didn't know why, but maybe it showed he was trying to open up to them.

He cleared his throat. "Tired of this already, too?"

The figure made a vaguely agreeable noise from under their hood, sounding slightly dissatisfied.

"I have to be honest, I stopped paying attention the moment she started talking about donors."

"Perks of an elite school," the figure said softly, a hint of annoyance in their voice. "The donations are never really free."

"Yeah, like I get that these are formalities and whatever, but I'd really like to get to what Lux is known for, y'know." He glanced back at his chakrams. "There's gotta be a reason they told us to hold onto our weapons, right?"

The figure glanced at him slightly, and he could barely make out the face under the hood. The figure paused and pursed her lips, silently judging him somehow, even though he couldn't tell what she was thinking. "You weren't holding onto your weapons?"

"No, not really, didn't think we needed it." Railyn shrugged. "But, they made sure to let me know I needed them, so that's for a reason." He glanced at her face. "Oh, cool markings."

Her eyes narrowed and she looked at him oddly-- was her lip curling slightly? No, it couldn't be-- and said, "Thanks?"

Railyn pointed to his eye, indicating what looked like a black eye on her's. "Can I ask?"

"You can ask," she said coolly, which clearly indicated that she likely wouldn't answer.

"Got it." He smiled faintly. "I'm Railyn." He held out his hand in a greeting.

She watched him for a second, then said, "Thane." She didn't hold her hand out.

Railyn nodded. He would take what he could. Thane. He would remember her name; she seemed like someone to keep an eye on. "I'll see you around, Thane."

She tilted her head slightly, and he got the feeling that was about as good a response as he was going to get. He focused his attention back on Headmistress Fea.

"Well, those are my words out of the way. Formalities are done." She waved at something off stage, and the lights all around the auditorium turned on dimly. Well, the speech was a lot more bearable when he didn't pay attention to it.

"We are still preparing your dorms for you, so, for tonight, you shall sleep here. Think of it as a large sleepover. There are cots, sleeping bags, pillows. You have an early morning tomorrow." With that, she stepped off the stage unceremoniously.

Railyn blinked twice. That was it? He glanced around, and it seemed like the other students were just as confused as he was. He laughed nervously. This had to be some kind of joke, but any good joke had some kind of ending to it, so he stepped towards a volunteer who was handing out bedrolls and pillows. Railyn accepted one and thanked the person, who nodded in his direction and moved past him, handing out more blankets.

Railyn glanced past them and saw Pel, who was kind of just standing there, obviously unsure of where he should be. Railyn looked back at the volunteer. "Hey, uh, can I get another set... for my friend."

"Sure, here you go."

"Ah, thanks so much." Railyn dodged his way around the other meandering students as he made his way to Pel. He could overhear some other students complaining about the lack of lodging for their first night. He couldn't say he blamed them, but he thought of it more like that sleepover Headmistress Fea mentioned. After all, it was only for the night... hopefully.

Pel saw Railyn as he got closer, and his eyes lit up, like, hey, a face I know and someone to guide me in a direction! Railyn couldn't help but chuckle. He raised the bedrolls and shook them. "Hey! Got stuff to sleep." He tossed one to Pel, who caught it (well, mostly, he almost dropped it).

"Are we actually going to sleep here?" Pel asked incredulously.

"Seems like it. Hey, it might be fun."

"Ugh, I can't believe we're stuck here," a willowy girl with long blue hair announced, haphazardly setting up a small space to sleep, bundling up the provided blankets. She turned to Railyn, jutting her right hand out in his direction. The left was gripping her staff. "I'm Eda. Eda Ralia. It seems we'll be sleepover pals tonight."

"Sleepover pals, nice! I'm Railyn. Oh, and this is Aapeli." He shook Eda's hand. "I don't know about you two, but I think this is fun. Definitely more interesting than the Headmistress' speech."

Eda glanced at the other boy. He looked bewildered, not unlike a lost puppy. "I don't know if we have the same definition of fun, but anything's better than listening to her drone on about donors and whatever else."

"I have to be honest, I wasn't paying attention whatsoever. She could have said the world was ending and I wouldn't have caught it." Railyn chuckled.

"I wasn't either. I like to think that if the world was ending we would've found out in a more entertaining fashion, anyway." Eda replied, taking a seat on her makeshift bed, ready to try to get settled in for the night.

Railyn glanced at Pel, who wasn't looking the happiest. He smacked him with a pillow, which got a "Hey!" from Pel. "What was that for?"

"Brighten up, you got this. Who's in one of the best Academies in the land? You are!" Railyn cheered him on. He didn't know if it helped or made things worse, but he had to try at least. He rolled out the bedroll and stepped into it. "I really would have liked to grab some pajamas if I knew this was what we were doing." Despite the strange circumstances of his sleeping situation, he yawned.

Railyn chuckled as he settled into the bedroll, one hand on his chakrams. The bedroll was thin, but it was kind of comfy. He leaned down, staring at the ceiling. Now that the lights were turned off, it looked like there were twinkling stars in the darkness of the ceiling. Perhaps there were actually stars up there. Who knew what the people of Lux Academy were capable of. Railyn couldn't wait to be one of them. He would be one of them.

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"Hey, Railyn, hey." Railyn forced his eyes open, blinking rapidly at the sudden onslaught of light. He squinted up, trying to get a grasp on reality. Pel was knelt next to him. "Hey, they're getting people up. Said the Headmistress is giving another one of her speeches on the lawn behind the towers. Oh-- um."

"Mhmm," Railyn said. He yawned and got himself up on one elbow. Looking down, he took a moment to realize he had taken his shirt off sometime in his sleep. "Thanks for getting me up." He grabbed his shirt and yanked it on. "What's going on, again?" Before waiting for an answer, Railyn scrambled out of the bedroll and got his shoes on. He then stumbled to his feet.

"Boy, I am not one for mornings." He said, stifling another yawn. He walked over to a table that was set up with some small bits of food, light things that didn't take too long to eat. Railyn grabbed some pieces of bacon and shoved them into his mouth. "Sho, we haff a speech?"

"Yeah." Pel had followed him over to the table and grabbed some slices of fruit to eat himself. "We should probably head over."

"Mm, right." Railyn shoveled another piece of food into his mouth and followed Pel to the back of the auditorium, where there were large doors open to the outside. Railyn, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, walked outside and covered his eyes to the bright morning light. Luckily he was not the only one still half asleep. He stepped onto the trimmed grass of a field that overlooked the sea that Lux Academy bordered. It was beautiful... if he could see it, because the sun was making the waves blindingly bright.

"Good morning, first years!" Headmistress Fea shouted from her microphone, and speakers around them echoed her words. Railyn blinked at the sudden loudness of her voice. Her smile glinted from the light. "I hope you are all well rested. Apologies about the sleeping situation of last night, it's just, well, we've been lying to you."

Everyone kind of looked at each other. Railyn furrowed his brows. What did she even mean by that? "You see, you aren't first years. You're not even students at Lux Academy." The crowd started muttering amongst each other. "Not. Yet." Headmistress Fea gestured to the sides, and staff started moving within the crowd.

One walked up to Railyn and handed him a small backpack. "Oh, thanks." Railyn said, more than a little bewildered. What was this, a goodie bag for his wasted time here?

Headmistress Fea smiled at the schadenfreude she caused with her words. "Listen, listen to me, students. We lied about your dorms not being ready, and we've been lying to you since you received our acceptance letters. You are not students at Lux Academy yet, and for some of you, this will be the last time you step on our campus grounds as a prospective student. You see, this is not an orientation. This is an initiation."

Railyn glanced at Pel, who was looking very stressed out. Poor guy was probably doubting his entire life choices at that moment. Railyn wanted to encourage him, but he was so far out of his depth here that he didn't even know where to begin.

Headmistress Fea raised one gloved hand and snapped her fingers. Blazing neon blue light sparked from her fingers. Man, Railyn thought the morning sun was bright, but it had nothing on her hand. The entire ground started to shake, and a tremendous groaning trembled from above. Some students begin to look up, and Railyn followed suit. He could barely make it out, but it seemed like the Aethyr Crystal was rotating. It roared to life, shining a beam of iridescent light onto the water beyond the outcrop they were all on. It seemed to be burning the water, judging from the stream rising from it.

Then, the ocean split apart in a straight line to the horizon. The gaping void spread, and some kind of land mass rose to take its place, a half circle to complete Lux Academy's other half. It raised up above the ocean, seemingly going on forever, almost reaching the height of some of the Hallstowers. Railyn couldn't see through to what was inside this enormous cage. Was this an arena?

Fea dropped her hand and the light, the movement, the sound, halted instantly. She stepped back to the microphone. "Oh, don't give me those sad faces. Did you really think you could get into The Battle Academy in Rupturia, known for molding the greatest warriors, mages, and scholars of their generations, by just filling out a simple essay?"

Railyn glanced inside his small backpack. It had rope, water bottles, a flint and steel. Survival gear.

Headmistress Fea gestured to the magnificent and foreboding structure behind her. "Inside are monsters from The Fracture's first moments, captured by the founders of this school to make the best warriors this land has ever seen. Look amongst yourselves. There are many of you here, but not all of you are Lux Academy material." Railyn glanced to Pel, who was all but shaking at this point. Was he thinking he was one of those people? No, if anyone deserved to stay there, Pel was one of them. Railyn would damn well make sure of that, at the very least.

Headmistress Fea inhaled, seemingly breathing in the chaos around her. "Prospective students. Your goal is to obtain one of the thirty six relics hidden deep within this structure." She flicked her fingers and a jewel appeared in her hand, floating above it. It looked kind of like a miniature Aethyr Crystal. "Find one of these and escape with it, and your place is solidified at Lux Academy. Fail to do that, and you are gone. Oh, and, students? Try to survive."

She snapped her fingers and the floor below then opened up. Railyn fell into the void.

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It's unsettling to know how little separates each of us from another life altogether.
— Wes Moore, The Other Wes Moore