Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Niri’s Arrival in Solaire Part 5
read part 4 here
“Many of the Priests here feel that way,” Kymrik said. “It isn’t just Soukat who thinks Fire should rule.”
“It is considered the strongest of the elements. You’ve heard Priest Guranse at lecture this morning,” Haetrhi said, crossing his arms as he slouched in his chair.
Niri could understand Haetrhi’s annoyance. Priest Guranse had also said that air, Haetrhi’s element, was the weakest. Water, Niri’s element, was the second weakest. Supposedly. After seeing High Priestess’ Lyannder’s power, Niri doubted that.
Rahnef kept her gaze on the table while Bissyl pushed food around his plate. Both were fire children.
“Do you think one element is stronger than other’s?” Niri asked Rahnef.
Rahnef glanced up through her long lashes. Slight red burnished her dark skin. With a sigh, she relaxed her straight back and leaned into her chair. “I don’t know about that. But… the first time I saw Solaire, I thought the golden towers lit by the sun looked like flames.”
“Fire rules the Temple,” Bissyl agreed. “We are told that every day in our afternoon training. Most of the High Priests and Priestesses are Fire Elementals. Only two of the twelve are water, one air, and two earth.”
All the students Niri had started her training with had progressed from Priestess Calysthia’s brutal class to individual tutoring with a Priestess or Priest of their Element. Possibly including Soukat, who they hadn’t seen in a week, not since he’d confessed to burning High Priestess Lyannder’s favorite shrub.
Misma glanced at Niri. “Priest Bai never mentions strong or weak elements,” she said. “He just teaches us how to control water.”
“Probably the best use of your time,” Theyoef teased, jostling Misma. The small group of friends giggled.
They split up after that, hurrying from the lunch hall for their afternoon classes. No longer taught by Calysthia, each looked forward now to learning to hone elemental control. Niri relished her time under Priest Bai’s gaze as he patiently challenged Niri to push her abilities. Most evenings she was exhausted, but happy. Water did not feel like an unimportant element to her at all.
As she ate dinner with her friends that night, the room fell silent as the door to the hall creaked open. Soukat limped across the floor, a smirk on his lips despite a fading bruise across his cheek. All Niri could think was that if fire ruled the Temple of Solaire, it wasn’t kind – not even to one of its own.
It took two days, but Rahnef managed to learn what had happened to Soukat.
“Not even his parents could save him. High Priestess Lyannder demanded Soukat be punished,” she told them.
Soukat’s parents were both powerful Elementals. His mother was a High Priestess of Fire and his father too wielded great authority, though was not on the High Council. He was an Earth Elemental and kept the records for Solaire. And it was said he obeyed everything his wife asked.
“I’m surprised,” Pasir said quietly. “They must know that Soukat doesn’t have the ability to create a spark. From High Priestess Lyannder’s expression when Soukat confessed, even she knows he has little power.”
“With Soukat’s confession and High Priest Nezerreth having seen a child running, what choice would they have had?” Theyoef asked. “He wanted to be punished.”
“No, he wanted everyone to know he had the power to do it,” Kymrik said with distaste.
“What if he did?” Niri asked. “He can hold a spark… sometimes. If he prepared the shrub by pouring something highly flammable over it?”
Rahnef sighed. “That is disturbing… but possible. Maybe he hoped to light it and then save it?”
“And panicked so he couldn’t find the power to put out the fire,” Bissyl added.
“I think you are both being too kind,” Kymrik said. “I think he meant to burn it. I bet his parents are proud.”
If his parents weren’t, Soukat was. And among some of the Elemental children, he was considered a hero. At least for a few days. By the end of the week as word raced through the students that Soukat remained with the beginning teacher and most days couldn’t conjure a spark into existence, Soukat received snickers instead of welcomes. Soon he ate alone again, avoiding the food hall.
It was easy to forget about him and avoid the areas he lurked. Niri might not have remembered Soukat at all, finding so much joy in her training that she occasionally forgot how much she missed her family far away in Tiero. But ignoring Soukat turned out to be worse than feeling sorry for him.
When Niri and Misma arrived for their afternoon training, they found Priest Bai standing over broken stone and wooden bowls. The spilled water dribbled across the classroom floor, leaking under a doorway as if searching to escape. Niri’s surprise froze her in the center of the room, water dampening her shoes. Though she could have prevented it. Misma raced forward, picking up broken bits of cups and bowls, including an ornamental fountain that had taken days for Misma to master.
“It is all right, child,” Bai said, taking the jumble from Misma’s hands. “All can be repaired. It will give the earth children many good lessons.” Bai spoke calmly and soothingly, but there were tears in his eyes.
“Here too?” Priest Guranse asked from the doorway.
That got a reaction from Bai. “Other classrooms were damaged as well?” Bai asked.
Guranse frowned. “All but fire.”
“Soukat,” Misma hissed. “Who else could it have been?” she asked when everyone remained silent.
“It is a lot for one child to accomplish alone,” Guranse said. But he didn’t sound convinced.
“Then he had others help him,” Misma argued.
“We could ask,” Niri agreed. The destruction did remind her of Soukat. As much as she wished it didn’t. “He should be with Priestess Calysthia now.”
“I will get a High Priest,” Guranse said. “Go and ask the child if he knows anything.”
Bai followed Niri and Misma to where Calysthia stood berating a new group of young elemental children. Soukat was not among them.
“He said he’d been selected for individual training days ago,” Calysthia told them.
“You didn’t check?” Bai asked.
Calysthia waved a hand. “What do I care? Nothing would help that boy.” Bai stared at her.
“What do you think Soukat has been doing?” Misma whispered to Niri.
“Destroying classrooms?” Niri guessed.
Bai turned from Calysthia, looking at his two students. “Did you see Bai at the morning lecture? Breakfast? Dinner last night?” he asked as Niri and Misma shook their heads. The irritation Calysthia had caused fell from Bai’s face, fading to worry. “I hope Guranse brings his mother.”
Bai shepherded them back in the direction of the long hall holding the training rooms. Halfway back, they smelled smoke. Bai ran, leaving Niri and Misma to decide if they wanted to follow. The sight of other Priests and Priestess hurrying towards the dormitories and not the training rooms finally spurred them to chase after.
Smoke and flames twisted from broken windows in the boys wing of the building, the sight skidding Niri to a halt. From the midst of it, came a high pitched scream that wailed on and on. Niri and Misma clutched each other, watching Fire Priests and Priestess smother the flames in agonizing slowness. Then in an instant, the fire died.
A tall woman in deep red robes stood staring at the building with a waxen face framed by brown hair the same color as Soukat’s. Her hand remained held out with fist closed from when she’d snuffed the flames. Next to her, Guranse waited in pale fear.
“Where is my son?”
Those near the building stepped back as a Fire Priest with charred robes walked out carrying a small charred bundle. Niri turned from the sight and smell of burnt skin, and gagged.
“I was practicing,” Soukat said, voice trembling and raspy. “But I couldn’t make it stop.”
Soukat’s mother looked at her son dying in another’s arms. Her eyes were distant. With a wince, she turned and walked away.
Guranse grabbed her arm. “I doubt the healers can help him. He will die.”
“Do not dare touch me, Earth Priest,” she hissed, rounding on Guranse. “No true son of mine would be injured by fire.”
This time no one stopped her as she walked away. Only one sound broke the silence as Soukat sobbed, “mother.”
Read the final part here!