Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Niri’s Arrival in Solaire Part 4
read Part 3 here
Niri and her classmates had been sneaking away to practice elemental skills for two weeks. All in the class were improving except Soukat, who didn’t join them, and, hopefully, didn’t know what the rest of his classmates did on the breaks where they mysteriously disappeared. Even Pasir, who had once struggled to move a stone an inch, could control a round pebble enough to guide it through the scratched maze they made in the dirt of the garden where they hid their secret self-guided lessons.
Besides improvement and some new challenges from Priestess Calysthia, little changed in the afternoon classes. Until an afternoon when they arrived and a tall Priest stood beside Calysthia. He watched the children gather without saying a word.
With the silent Priest present, Calysthia refrained from her usual caustic comments. Nor did she threaten to hit anyone, though with each student’s improvement over the prior days, that had been diminishing anyway. Instead, the class was silent, but for Calysthia speaking the name of the next to stand in front of her or his pedestal under the gaze of a Priestess and Priest.
Nervously, each child called forth skills. Soukat trembled as he stepped forward, being only the second to be called that day. The spark he could sometimes conjure brightened once and then refused to reappear. Minutes inched by with an increasingly frustrated Soukat.
Next to Niri, Bissyl and Rahnef glanced at each other. Both were fire children who could not only dance flames, but could throw a spark. Niri bumped them both. The Priest’s amused gaze lay on them instead of Soukat.
“Enough,” the Priest said, the word not unpleasant in its tone. But Soukat flinched nonetheless. He slunk back to the class, rubbing a wrist across his eye.
“Nirine,” Calysthia called.
“She is the new water girl?” the Priest asked her. Calysthia nodded once.
Niri kept the Priest in the corner of her eye as she walked to the stone bowl. It had only been the second time the Priest had spoken, and that he knew of her made her nervous. She placed trembling hands on either side of the bowl, uncertain what to do. She could make the water spin. She did that every day. But it didn’t feel enough. Though it was the easiest thing to start with.
The water turned, the lazy motion quickly become a whirlpool. Normally, Niri would have released the hold on her element with that. Normally she would have taken longer too, just so as not to stand out. But what Kymrik said came back to her. If she wanted to do well in Solaire, standing out by being good at what she controlled was important.
With a thought, Niri split the spinning water into bands so that a watery spiral spun in the bowl like a writhing snake. The Priest stepped forward. Suddenly nervous, Niri released her hold and the tight bands merged into a puddle as still as if she had never called it to move.
“Wait,” the Priest said as Niri stumbled back a step. He pulled a ribbon from a pocket of blue robe and dipped it in the water. “Dry it.”
Niri froze. She didn’t control air to summon a breeze. Confused, she met the Priests eyes. “I…”
“Pull the water from it,” he said, voice more kind than impatient.
Calysthia had never given a hint like that. She had never really helped teach them to do anything. The difference between the Priest and Calysthia pricked a desire in Niri. She didn’t want to be Calysthia’s student. She wanted to be his.
But Niri had never tried to pull water from something before. She tried pushing it from the cloth, but only sped up the drips. Instead she tried to pull it to join the water in the bowl, but that created a finger of water reaching up to the ribbon. That was almost right though. She let the thread of water touch the cloth and then reversed the flow, telling the drops to slide down, not up.
It wasn’t perfect and the cloth was still damp when the trickle of water stopped. Niri knew that because she felt it. So connected with her element, she could have pointed to every damp leaf and puddle nearby. But the effort had given her a headache too. She walked back to her classmates disappointed for the first time in days with herself and her gift.
The Priest returned to Calysthia’s side, waiting until the remaining students had their turn. He paid attention to Misma as well, but did not give her a similar challenge. When all were done, the students and two teachers stood awkwardly gazing at each other.
“I will take both water girls,” the Priest said at last. “Send them to me from now on in the afternoon. I will tell others that most of the children here have progressed and are ready for more advanced tutelage.” His gaze fell on Soukat when he said “most.”
Soukat looked away, hands curling into fists.
“But the younger one hasn’t been in Solaire a month,” Calysthia hissed. “And the other isn’t very skilled.”
“The one has worked hard, which shows dedication and promise. And the other, as you accidentally pointed out, is very skilled. Send them both,” he said again. “After all, what more do you think you could teach them?”
With that he turned and left. Calysthia’s anger after his departure wasn’t enough to diminish the happiness of the students. They met at dinner, laughing to think of the forthcoming freedom from their teacher. Soukat arrived late, sneaking into the hall and casting his classmates a sidelong glance.
“We could help him,” Niri began.
Rahnef shook her head. “I don’t think even practice would help him. There is barely a spark of red or gold in his aura.”
Niri didn’t understand what the dark girl who hailed from the southern shore meant. So much of being an Elemental and living at Solaire was assumed that Niri had trouble absorbing what she didn’t know. She went to ask, but a Priestess in glistening lavender robes stormed into the meal hall. A Priest trotted behind, his yellow robes no less fine.
Niri didn’t need the halt in conversation or students frozen halfway between tables to know the pair were important. The Priestess cast a feeling of power through the room. The man standing behind her held the same sway, though his felt brighter. More yellow. Like his robes. Rahnef’s statement about auras sorted itself in Niri’s head.
“Which of you burnt my rare snowflower bush? I know it was a student. High Priest Nezerreth saw a child running from my garden as the flames took the sole memento of my home. Who would dare do this?”
Not a breath broke the silence in the hall.
“Line up the fire children. Obviously it was one of them, High Priestess Lyannder,” High Priest Nezerreth said.
“It was me,” Soukat said, rising to his feet.
A surprised sigh rippled around the hall. The High Priestess raised an eyebrow. Even she knew of the lack of Soukat’s power. Niri winced.
Soukat tilted his chin up at the doubt infusing the air. “I can prove it.” He pulled a crumpled blossom from the inside of his tunic. The room chilled with sudden dampness as the High Priestess glared at Soukat standing defiantly before her.
“Impossible. He never could have,” Bissyl whispered.
“Why?” Lyannder hissed. “You of all here know how much I loved that plant. Why would you do this?”
Soukat threw the flower to the stones at her feet. “Because you are a Water Elemental – a weak element! You do not deserve to be on the High Council of Solaire. Only Fire should rule.”
Lyannder’s anger was so complete that snowflakes fell from the cold abyss suffusing the room. “Bring him,” she hissed to Nezerreth. “If I touch him I’ll drown him.”
Read part 5 here!