Chapter One-Part One
A sharp, yet wavering cry, so similar to her own crow's cry drew the young teenager's focus to the window as her train began to slow into its station. Head nuzzling the limp form of a small fox kit was a young mother crying out as it attempted to wake the dead baby. Specks of fresh crimson dotted the brick cobblestone underneath the small family under a discarded bench and it wasn't until she saw the mother's eyes, that Ariana stopped her frantic tapping on the window pane as her nerves slid away like the rain pouring down the glass.
Vivid pale blue and rich amber eyes nailed her to her seat as a spike of fear and uncertainty pierced her heart. The shade of blue that reflected her intense love for winter sharply brought to the forefront the image of a young boy and a veil of black and warm laughter that chased away her own terrors. Ariana felt ice slip down her spine as the eyes continued to stare her down, as if demanding why she wasn't there by his side.
The jarring lunge of the train as it stopped tugged Ariana's attention away from the dread rushing through her mind. Instead, that dread switched focus and she fervently thanked her gymnastics instructor for shrinking her trunk as she bypassed the crowd of anxious students surrounding the professors on the train. She glanced back to wave quietly to quite a few of her friends as they too fled the train and disappeared to the other side.
Gently combing a hand through her hair, Ariana hailed an oncoming taxi as she remains solely on the non-magical side. As the bright yellow cab pulls to a stop, she carefully slides in and snaps the door closed just as one of the teachers steps out of the train and glanced around, eyes intently staring where she used to be.
"Where to, young miss?" The cab driver asks as she shields her face from the view of her teachers.
"The Oriental and Used Bookstore on Fifth Drive downtown, please." She rushed out as her healing teacher closes in on her direction.
Just as the cab speed off, Ariana sneaked a look back before allowing some of the tension coiling in her stomach to slip away as her instructors turn to leave. Save, for now. Settling back into the comfortable leather seats of the cab, she watches the scenery speed by and wonders briefly if her friends were as successful running as she had been. There was so much to come and she knew that not all of it would be easy.
“So why such a dusty old bookstore? You just got out of school, based on your uniform.” The kindly, elderly driver asks as he makes a soft turn left while watching her from the corner of his eyes, a concerned frown dipping his face.
Smiling faintly, Ariana explains with a reassuring smile, “My friend’s birthday is coming up. He likes the legends of the tribes to the east and so I always stop by to see if they have some new ones after school gets out.”
“I hope you find something for him then. It can be hard picking gifts when you’re not positive how they’ll enjoy them.” The man smiles gently as he stops in front of the bookstore, run down and almost abandoned this time of the year.
Handing over the last of her money, Ariana thanks the man with a grin before slipping out back into the light rain that fell. Pulling her waterproof jacket tightly around her against the chill, Ariana slips inside the store and waves to the old woman manning the register in familiar greeting. Ducking into the Eastern section, she browsed the shelves for a possible gift.
“That time of the year again, Ms. Ravenswood?” The elderly woman asked, a neatly printed name tag declared her as Roberta.
“Ah yes, I wanted to see if there was something for Aydan.” Ariana couldn’t stop the light blush that flickers across her face as Roberta smiles with a knowing glilnt.
“Still writing your weekly letters then?” Roberta laughs as she watches the fifteen year old flush darker, amber eyes flickering lightly with soft fondness at the mention of his letters.
“Ah, I think he may like this one.” Ariana picks through the books to find an ancient looking tomb, the cover nearly faded, but showed vibrantly in its deep reds and golds.
“Ah, old stories about the war between the tribes and the reconciliation afterwards. It has many of the old customs and religious aspects for each tribe. He would surely enjoy learning some of them if he doesn’t already know them. It’s a very solid read, even if the language is a bit old now.” Roberta smiles as she accepts the beautiful silvers coins from the Ariana in payment.
“It’s not often that a Northern Academy of Magicals comes by anymore. They mostly take the newer entryways. I’m glad you still remember little ol’ me.” Roberta gives a faint smile as Ariana carefully slips the book into her backpack.
“Please be careful, Ms. Trion. I may not be back for awhile.” Ariana softly reveals, brown eyes dimming faintly as she watches the grandmotherly woman nod, face turning serious.
“War is on the horizon. I’m glad you’re getting out while you still can, little Raven. Do be sure to take care of your friends. I know how much you care for all of us. I know telling you not to come back is a foolish pipe dream, so please just get stronger. I know you wish to end it.” Roberta sternly focused on her as she takes in Ariana’s oriental hair ornaments and the two sticks that glistened only faintly to the most discerning, of poison sheathed in the metal pin’s center.
“Don’t worry, Ryma, “ Ariana uses the ancient word for grandmother as she feels her eyes burn, “I’ll be going to get strong. I won’t let you all face this without me.”
As they near the back of the shop, a faint, shimmering flickers of silver reveals itself. Wrapping her frail arms around the young teenager, she had helped raise for almost ten years now, Roberta softly whispers, “It’s not your fault that they’re after you. Just keep yourself safe and come back to visit this old lady when you have the chance.”
Nodding in agreement, Ariana hugs back fiercely. Reluctant to let go, she allows her shields to fall and buries her face briefly into the old lady’s neck and inhaled the the sweet smell of lavender and jasmine, a scent she would never forget. The scent that reminded her solely of home and this kind woman who helped to shield her once frail heart from those who sought to break it.
Gently pushing Ariana through the doorway into the magical shopping district that lay behind her shop, Roberta chuckles at the slight scowl that fills Ariana’s face. Such a typical teenage expression she wouldn’t have shown anyone else except her friends and she knew that her adopted granddaughter would be perfectly alright. Waving her off as she finally disappears, Roberta closed her eyes and flips the nearby sign on the old window to “Closed,” it was time to prepare for the war that was all but started.