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Authors: Lola Lebellier

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BOOK: Exile
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“Point taken,” Piers replied, “but either way, that’s Master Petra. She’s pretty smart too—she actually was in training to become a scribe, so she’s been leading the research project.”

Aless raised an eyebrow. “Really now? What are we researching these days anyways? Just restoring old texts?”

“Ah, well, same stuff they’ve always done, I’m sure. To be honest I have no idea—I haven’t been in the library.” Piers answered.

Aless looked at Piers curiously, sighing. “Neither have I. Can you even read Common?”

“Kateline made me learn before I stopped sleeping with her,” Piers replied. “Anyways, I really should fill you in on the other guardian.”

“That’d be Alvah’s vessel, right?” Aless asked. “I can’t believe I killed Master Alvah. I can only imagine what sort of damage the spirit of chaos managed to do.”

“Cyril’s smart enough not to let that happen, so he let Zephyr out and trapped Alvah. We’re pretty lucky you didn’t decide to off both of them, because—”

“I didn’t want to kill anyone,” Aless interrupted.

“I didn’t say you
wanted
to,” Piers replied, “but either way, Cyril is housing Alvah, and Master Alvah’s apprentice managed to capture Zephyr before he could do much damage.”

“Ah… she was the child wasn’t she? Isn’t she a bit young to be a guardian? How did her body even accept Zephyr?”

“Yeah,” Piers confirmed, smiling. “Selena. She’s really strong; she’d been training since birth…. Honestly, we didn’t have many suitable candidates left, and she really is the best person for the job.”

“So she is Alvah’s guardian?” Aless asked.

“Uh… no. Not really,” he sighed. “This is where it gets complicated. She’s kept Zephyr and Cyril’s kept Alvah.”

“Why?”

“It’s really not as bad as you’d think,” Piers replied. “Well, no, that’s a lie. Lena is fine dealing with wind—as I said, she’s a
really
good spell caster—but Cyril’s completely useless at harnessing chaos.”

“So… why don’t they switch?”

Piers shrugged. “That’s between her and Cyril. I know Cyril’s offered, but Lena’s been refusing since the start,” he explained. “Okay, also, yeah, this is important enough to mention—Selena hates you. A lot.”

“What? I’ve never even met her!” he declared, eyes widening.

Piers sighed. “Look, I’m not even saying it’s your fault…. But she was only ten winters old when you went feral. She kinda thinks of you as this big bad demon. Can’t say I blame her, either—”

“You’re supposed to be my closest friend,” Aless interrupted, “and yet you’re defending her irrational hatred. This is great. Exactly what I wanted to return to.”

“You’ve been gone for ten winters,” Piers replied. “I
am
friends with the other guardians. Besides, you got off easy, considering the damage you did. I had to fight the others to get you such a short sentence.”

“Ten winters is a long time to spend alone,” Aless defended himself. “Especially for something that wasn’t my fault.”

Piers sighed, standing up. “Look, I’m not taking sides. Just keep this in mind, okay? I really wanted to tell you,” he explained. “Also—you’re not supposed to know any of this, so don’t tell anyone I said anything.”

Aless took a final look around his cabin. “Before we go,” he began, “I just want to know… how did my restraints fail?”

Piers walked toward the door. “They fell off. I doubt it’ll happen again, so don’t worry.”

“Never,” Aless assured him, grabbing a coat off his makeshift cot and walking toward the door. “And… I really am allowed back from exile now?”

“Hmm,” Piers began, leaning against the doorframe, “did you go out and slaughter any small villages during your time out here?”

“I’ve been good. I’m disappointed you have so little faith in me.”

“Well, you
are
the legendary exile,” Piers answered. “Seriously, if I hear one more student ask me for stories about you, I’m going to kill them.”

Aless blinked. “They’re really asking about me?”

“We did some recruiting while you were gone. Students of Serac have been creaming themselves thinking about your return,” he explained.

“Wow,” Aless answered.

Piers chuckled. “It’ll make taking advantage of the apprentices easy, at least,” he commented, grinning.

“It was difficult?” Aless asked, returning Piers’s grin.

“Well, when you’re as good looking as me, it isn’t,” Piers teased, “but I figured you’d want to know you’d have the extra help.”

Aless rolled his eyes, looking between Piers and his cabin. He almost couldn’t believe the significance in the moment. Finally, his crimes were forgiven. Finally, he would not be stuck inside this tiny cabin. Finally, he could return to the only place he had ever seen as home. He could return to his friends, to his duties, to his temple….

“So,” Piers began, “you have anything left to ask me before we go? We kinda wasted a lot of time, and I think Cyril will get suspicious if I take any longer to return.”

“I was ready before I left,” Aless said. “Please, if there’s nothing else, let us be off.”

Chapter 2

 

T
HE
walk back to the clan’s monastery was rather short, spanning only around fifteen minutes. It was amazing to Aless when he realized it—he had felt so disconnected from the clan during his time in exile, as was their intention, but he really was only separated by a small forest. He could’ve destroyed it years ago and forced himself back into the clan, a fact that Serac had never stopped saying.


You know, it wouldn’t really matter if you just destroyed a few trees,
”the spirit teased.


Would you shut up for just today? I have other things to bother myself with.

Piers stopped in his path, casting a worried glance at Aless. “Serac giving you trouble?” he asked, placing a hand on Aless’s shoulder.

Aless raised an eyebrow. “Yes, actually. How could you tell?”

“Your eyes flashed bright blue; didn’t you feel that?” Piers asked, staring.

“I guess not. Does that happen to you as well?”

“Sort of. They flash according to your spirit’s color, so mine flash red. It’s pretty creepy to watch—your pupils disappear altogether,” he answered, beginning to walk again. “It happens with any sort of
intense
emotion, if you know what I mean.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“I am,” he answered, not losing his grin, “but in all seriousness, if you get really angry, happy, upset,
anything,
really, your eyes flash. The same goes for when you talk to your spirit, or use its powers for a bit…. Old Master Serac never told you that?”

“No,” Aless replied. “So it means we’re communicating with our spirits?”

“Well, not really
that
either….” Piers said. “It’s a sign the restraints are failing, and your spirit is on the verge of breaking out.”

“That seems like something we should be looking into,” Aless pointed out. “I don’t recall that happening during my training at all.”

“Ah, well,” Piers replied, laughing nervously, much to Aless’s confusion, “it’s been happening since the beginning of time, really.”

“You’re not acting like yourself, Piers,” Aless mentioned. “It’s like you’re hiding something.”

“You haven’t seen me since I was twenty-three winters old. People change over time,” Piers said.

Aless sighed at this. Piers was hiding something, Aless was sure of it. It was just a matter of figuring out what it was. Finally, after a few more minutes, he was able to see the monastery between a few trees. He smiled slightly, remembering all of the times he had there before his restraints had broken.

The monastery itself was surrounded by a tall wooden fence, complete with a main gate with elemental seals on it, allowing only those trained in the elemental arts to be allowed in. It was mainly for the safety of the clan members, though once every few years someone would venture out, or in, to keep in touch with the citizens and gain access to some of the newer inventions. However, beyond those rare occasions, it was fairly uncommon for anyone who could to open the gate and venture out for any large amount of time. Even with their strength, it was dangerous to wander around the area—if a group of slave traders or militia discovered an unprotected mage, theywouldn’t rest until theyhad captured him or her or been killed themselves.

Piers immediately walked to the gate, placing his hand without a moment of hesitation and releasing some of his mana, causing the doors to immediately part in his favor. He gave Aless a small smile, walking in and approaching the main temple.

Aless followed, sparing small glances toward the Water and Fire Temples, both positioned close to the gate on opposite ends. There were five temples dedicated to the worship of the spirits, positioned in a pentagonal shape around the main building.

However, use of the individual temples was largely outdated at this point for anyone besides the guardians. Before the restraints had been created, the vessels were sealed under the podiums in deep, locked vaults, and many students would bring food or make prayers in their honor. While his punishment was still being decided, Aless himself had been sealed inside the Water Temple’s well, and he remembered it as an awful experience. The pits were deep, dank, and filled with nothing to stop the endless boredom the days brought.

In modern times all apprentices, scribes, and guardians would stay in the Main Hall. There were five different barracks in the basement—several to house the various groups of elemental trainees, as well as five separate, slightly larger rooms to satisfy the guardians’ needs and allow them to work closely with their apprentices before the spirit needed to be transferred.

On the main level there was a library, a room of several seamstresses, a small nursery for the children of scribes and abandoned orphans with a gift in the elemental arts, a large dining hall, a kitchen, and a private meeting chamber for the five guardians. Behind the meeting chamber there was a large stairway leading to their bell, used for calling in clan members for meals or when one of the spirits took control of its vessel.

Aless examined the new decors lining the walls of the main hall. He had to admit, he was incredibly impressed by the clan’s rebuilding efforts—the place managed to look considerably better than before. It had a nice combination of traditional and contemporary inventions and decorations. After the sheer destruction he had caused, Aless was surprised they’d managed to make the place look this incredible.

“We’re expected in the main meeting hall,” Piers explained, leading Aless through the dining hall. After living in the woods for such a long time, Aless had lost a lot of his sense of time and meal times. He’d eat when he got hungry, as opposed to when the bell sounded. It would be nice having someone else cook for him. He had spent more time than he liked eating small woodland animals.

All the trainees were eyeing him with interest, whispering amongst themselves. They were clothed in the specific robes of their element for the occasion, or so it appeared to Aless. Unless policies had changed, which they very well could have, all members of the clan were permitted to wear whatever clothing suited them unless told otherwise. The clan leader must’ve done this for his arrival.

Aless smiled, walking over to the students of Serac. He could remember being amongst them so many years ago. The bright-blue robes hadn’t changed since he had been training—and seeing all the members covered in them gave him a nostalgic feeling.

“Now, now, Master Serac, there’ll be plenty of time for that later,” Piers teased, grabbing Aless’s arm and pulling him away from his sector.

Aless rolled his eyes, allowing Piers to pull him into the meeting room and away from the clan’s prying eyes. He took a deep breath and examined the door. It was engraved with all the old traditional depictions of the spirits. Aless was surprised to see this had been rebuilt from the old design—during his feral rampage, one of the few things he remembered was destroying the door with a burst of water strong enough to cut through flesh. It had taken decades to chisel before, and that had been on a wooden canvas. The new door was metal decorated with jewels to match the demons’ colors. Aless idly wondered how much the clan had spent on it.

Piers reached forward, gripping the handle and prying the door open, inviting Aless in before slamming it shut.

Piers stepped forward and bowed, shutting his eyes. “Master Cyril,” he greeted, “I bring our dear Master Serac from his tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere and offer him back to you, to honor your side of the deal. His exile has been served.”

From the table a tanned girl with loose curly hair snorted. “How many of those words do you actually know the definition of?”

Piers laughed at this, raising his head and standing at full height. “It’s fun to pretend sometimes.”

Aless took a moment to examine the members of the table. Sitting at the head was Cyril, or so Aless assumed. He had aged, but still resembled the same man he was before Aless’s exile. Cyril was from an island on Far East, giving him dark hair, fair skin, pointed ears, and almond-shaped eyes. His hair was streaked with white strands, and his face was covered in deep wrinkles, but he looked virtually the same as he had ten winters back. His skin was littered with a crisscross of white and black marks, representing the spirits that had inhabited his skin.

BOOK: Exile
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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