Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Niri’s Arrival in Solaire Part 2
read Part 1 here
“Here is a water girl for you.”
The woman Broona spoke to cast a lazy glance over Niri before turning back to the boy sniffing at her feet. “Will you fail again?”
“No, Priestess,” he replied, voice smaller than his balled frame.
“Good. Go back to the others. You, girl, join them.”
Niri jumped, realizing the Priestess was speaking to her. Scurrying to join the other eight children, Niri didn’t think about Broona until she turned and found the woman who’d brought her was gone. Panic lanced up Niri. Broona had been her only connection to home, someone who had at least explained a little of life in Solaire. But she’d left without a word, deserting Niri who didn’t know what to do. Or what not to do. Niri stared at the welt on the boy’s face. Despite the tears shimmering in his eyes, he glared at her and tilted his chin up.
“Misma, you next.”
A slight girl who looked to be a year or more older than Niri’s nine, danced anxiously forward, brushing long dark hair from her face. She glanced back at the other students before placing her hands on opposite sides of a stone bowl before staring into the watery depths. Nothing happened. An aching minute passed. Misma’s hands began to tremble, the shaking moving up her arms as the Priestess sighed.
“Such unskilled pupils,” the Priestess said, stepping forward.
The water in the bowl sloshed. Misma took a startled breath, caught herself, and focused again. Lazily, the water stirred, finally resolving into a small whirlpool that whipped around the bowl. Niri breathed in awe as well as relief.
“Good. Slow, but you managed something,” the Priestess said. “Kymrik, you are next.”
Kymrik marched forward like a young soldier, one that hated the order but would obey. He gave the Priestess a hooded glance from under his sandy blonde bangs, green eyes flashing, before he looked at the feather on the pedestal before him. It blew off the stone top. Kymrik stepped back with a pleased smile.
“Do it again,” the Priestess snapped, halting Kymrik before he’d walked two steps back to the class. “How do I know you didn’t blow on it?”
Anger swept across his face, but he toned the hot look to annoyance before he turned and bowed to the Priestess. As he stood, a whirlwind caught the feather, twirling it upwards from where it had fallen on the ground. Kymrik managed to lift the feather to the height of the pedestal, but there it stalled at an impasse. He tried shifting the small cyclone sideways, but the square stone top broke his whirlwind and sent the feather tumbling.
The Priestess laughed. “You wanted to show off. Put the feather on top of the pedestal and do not use your hands. We will wait.”
Kymrik took a deep breath and tried again. The next attempt, he danced the whirlwind adjacent to the pedestal and then sent a breeze to push the feather sideways. It was too strong and the feather fell off the other side. The Priestess smiled and lifted an eyebrow. He tried again.
By the fifth try, Kymrik managed to balance the upward whirlwind with a sideways along with a downward gust. The feather landed on the stone top and stayed there. Kymrik released a held breath, the haughty anger from earlier replaced with glazed exhaustion. He rubbed an eye as if he had a headache.
“Good. Next time do it correctly the first time. Rahnef, you are next.”
So it continued through the remaining four. The fire children lit a spark in a small pile of dried grass set on a pedestal matching the one holding the feather. An earth child rolled a round pebble an inch in an effort that collapsed her to her knees. At that the Priestess snorted.
“You will never progress to the maze, child. I don’t know why you were sent here, Pasir.”
Pasir walked back to the class with her head low and face concealed by red-blonde locks. Niri wanted to feel bad for Pasir, but the fear that had been growing as each student stepped forward pushed aside other concerns. All of the other children had taken their turn, all but her. And now the Priestess watched Niri.
“Your name, water girl?”
“Nirine,” she said on a shaky breath.
“Have you ever called power before?”
Niri shook her head, unable to speak. The Priestess glared at her. “No,” Niri spat. The Priestess looked angrier. “No, Priestess,” she squeaked.
“Well now is your chance.” The Priestess motioned Niri to the water bowl.
Niri inched forward, reaching the bowl feeling as if she carried double her weight in dread. She did as Misma had done, placing a hand on each side of the bowl, and looking down into the still puddle. A dark eyed, olive skinned, brown-haired and very frightened girl stared back from the surface.
“I don’t know what to do,” Niri admitted, glancing at the Priestess.
“Do you think I do? I’m an Air Priestess, not a water.”
The frustrating unfairness of it nearly sent Niri crying. She’d been taken from her family for this? To be given to a woman who didn’t care and couldn’t teach her? Niri swallowed her tears as the Priestess shifted her weight and sighed. On the same breath where Niri hoped Broona had been wrong and that she wasn’t really a water girl, Niri wished with all her might she could make the water move. A line rippled across the surface, breaking her reflection.
“Hunh,” the Priestess said, stepping forward. “Again.”
Niri hadn’t done anything. She would have sworn that. It had been the wind or a water bug, anything but her.
“I can’t. I want to go home!”
The Priestess slapped Niri so quickly that she didn’t see the hand coming. “Never speak to me like that, girl. I said do it again!”
Niri’s skin stung, the shock wearing off into a turbulent fury that felt like ice inside her. She returned to the bowl, staring at the water as if she stared into the soul of the girl whose reflection waited there. And she wished there was no water in her.
Water hitting her hands as it raced out of the bowl erased the clear anger in Niri’s mind. She stumbled back as the bowl emptied, a circular sheet of water sliding from the rim to the ground. Niri stared from the empty bowl to the Priestess.
The Priestess sighed. “All of my students try me. Enough for today. Report for your assigned chores. You, water girl, will refill the bowl you just emptied… with sea water. Using a spoon.”
read Part 3 here