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Authors: Lola Lebellier

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BOOK: Exile
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Chapter 3

 


A
ND
these are the chambers where the spirits dance and sing special songs at night to destroy statues,” Piers declared, motioning to the library and waiting a moment before turning and glaring at Aless. “You really haven’t been listening to a word we’ve been saying, have you?”

“What?” Aless asked, snapping out of his thoughts. He couldn’t help it, he kept thinking about that apprentice he had seen in the dining hall. How could someone have that much raw mana? Aless was ashamed to admit his didn’t even come close. It was ridiculous! It didn’t matter that Corin was Selena’s apprentice; Aless knew he would have to approach him.

The tour had been tolerable to begin with, but it became boring as time went on and Aless realized just how little about the monastery had changed. They had been accurate when they had rebuilt, a fact that, while Aless was grateful for it, made a tour virtually useless for him.

Kateline rolled her eyes, speaking in her smooth, sensual voice: “If he isn’t going to listen, I’m going to go off and assist the scribes. Contrary to what you might think, we actually do have research to do.”

“I’m sorry,” Aless replied. “I thought they had changed the layout of the place when they had rebuilt, honestly. Had I known it was this way, I would’ve refused the tour.”

Kateline huffed, flipping a lock of hair over her shoulder. “In that case, it was a pleasure to meet you, dear Aless.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. Piers gestured to his cheek, encouraging her to do the same, but she merely laughed. “Maybe when you’re older, sweetie,” she teased, opening the door to the library and sliding in.

“Now
that
hurts.” Piers laughed, leaning against the doorway. “I’m eight winters your senior and I don’t get a little bit of respect?”

“Act it and I’ll consider it!” she called back, barely audible over the noise of bustling scribes.

Piers smiled, turning to face Aless. “So, you’re back and ready for action now, eh?” he asked. “Any questions for me before we complete the official ‘tour’?”

Aless blushed, looking at the ground. “Well, yes, I do.”

“And this question is so scandalous it makes the great Serac Guardian blush!” he exclaimed, loud enough to draw the attention of some clan members in the hallway.

“Would you be quiet for just a second?” Aless asked, glaring. “By the spirits, I’m beginning to remember why I used to find you so damn annoying.”

“Oh, you’re so cruel!” Piers replied, giving a large smile and gripping Aless’s shoulder, tugging him into one of the small alcoves inside the hallway, “but listen, if it’s something that has
you
blushing I’m sure I can help a bit.” He lowered his voice and gave a lewd wink.

“It’s nothing like
that,
Piers,” he replied. “When I was in the dining hall I did a quick scan of everyone’s mana, you know, to see if I could get myself an apprentice. The student Selena pulled away, I have never felt that amount of mana radiating off
anyone,
let alone a student.”

Piers chuckled. “Ah, I should’ve figured you’d ask about Corin eventually. Everyone else has. He came here about five winters ago, when he was fourteen, and of course we all sensed his mana—how could you
not?
It’s overpowering in any room.”

“So where did he come from?” Aless asked. “And why does he have such a large amount of mana?”

Piers shrugged. “That’s the weird thing about it. He’s mixed from Central and Far East, but we don’t know where his mana came from. Honestly, it’s still something we’re trying to figure out.”

“So he’s next in line to take Zephyr?” Aless asked.

“Again, not quite. You’d have to see this one for yourself, but we haven’t actually been able to figure out what sort of element he’d suit best,” Piers replied. “Honestly, when he first arrived I trained him, but the kid had no aptitude for fire. Kateline tried him for a bit, and Corin couldn’t even perform a scribe’s duty.”

Aless cocked an eyebrow. “So why is he training with Selena? I’m assuming your and Kateline’s efforts didn’t span the majority of those five years.”

“Honestly? There’s not really a great answer for that one. It’s not as if he seems to have any talent for air, either, though we stuck him with Selena because she was originally trained to take over Alvah, so we figured she could test him with two elements, rather than one.”

“And did that work?” Aless asked.

“Not at all,” Piers replied, “but Selena’s been training him for over four years, and she has a lot of patience. Well, a lot of patience when it comes to training
him
. Definitely not for anything else.”

“So Selena’s always that crabby, then?” he asked. “It’s a shame. I was looking forward to meeting this mysterious pupil.”

“Oh, no, not at all,” Piers replied. “Selena’s fine; we all like her well enough. She’s just a lot younger than the rest of us—and she can get rather moody, but it’s not as if I blame her for that, don’t misunderstand. We were all young once, and I can’t even imagine having to house a spirit that didn’t suit me.”

“I couldn’t imagine housing anyone besides Serac,” Aless agreed. “It still seems obvious to simply switch spirits with Cyril. I doubt he fares well having to deal with Alvah.”

“Look, I know you’re not gonna like this,” Piers began, leaning against one of the walls in the alcove, “but you’ve gotta trust me when I say this—Selena and Cyril can’t switch spirits. Not right now, at least.”

“And why is this?” Aless asked.

“That’s the part you’re not gonna like.” Piers sighed. “Before you came we had a meeting—for what it’s worth I was in favor of telling you, but the other guardians agreed that you’re not really ready to know. So… yeah. You’re just going to have to take my word on this. Selena and Cyril can’t switch right now.”

Aless felt anger welling up within him. “
Excuse
me, Piers? You’re honestly standing here and telling me that you can’t tell me one of the secrets surrounding a clan I help lead?”

“Yeah, you’re angry.” Piers sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Calm your demon; he’s flashing in your eyes,” he commanded. “Honestly, I’m sure Cyril will let you in on it eventually, but for now Selena and he both agreed that they’d rather not share it. Think of it as a prohibition of sorts.”

“I served my time; I do
not
need another punishment,” Aless retorted. “I spent ten years with only my spirit as company! Ten winters! Do you think that was easy? I was living in complete seclusion! I think by now I have learned my lesson and repented for my crimes. Can’t you all see that?”

“It’s not my choice, Aless. Just behave well and I’m sure they’ll tell yousoon enough,” Piers stated. “Hey, at least I know something that can cheer you up. Want to go outside and meet the mysterious Corin? He might have some skills in Serac’s domain.”

“Do you really think that?” Aless asked.

“Nah, far as I can tell the kid is useless when it comes to using the elements. But hey, it’s always worth a shot, right? Anyways, they’re really just outside in one of our training quarries. Besides, I’ve wanted to spar with you for a while—I missed our training sessions.”

“As did I,” Aless said. “Now, did you finally learn how to block or are you still getting destroyed by even the slightest hit?” he asked, following Piers.

“Oh, why do you always try and wound me so?” Piers teased, laughing and leading Aless to the training grounds.

Chapter 4

 

C
ORIN
furrowed his brow, closing his eyes and trying to summon all of his mana to his fingertips, just as Master Selena had taught him. Sweat gathered at his temple as he began to shake. There—this time he was finally going to do it; he could feel it! After so many years of training, he was finally going to do it!

He opened his eyes, releasing a small gust of wind and knocking down a small, green, glass bottle.

Selena smiled at this, walking over and patting him on the shoulder. “I’m really proud of you. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? But I’m proud to say you’ve finally used your first wind spell.”

Corin’s expression fell as he stared at the bottle. It wasn’t Master Selena’s fault, though; she had been immensely helpful and patient. He couldn’t help but feel like a disappointment—she worked so hard every day to train him, even though it had taken him four years to even learn the most basic wind spell.

On top of it all, he felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. His body felt as if it would collapse at a moment’s notice. He didn’t understand why all the guardians bothered, sometimes. He was never going to reach their strength, as embarrassing at it was, and there were plenty of stronger students around the school. A girl in the air sector, his friend Adelle, had mastered a few of the
expert-
level wind spells with little effort, all by herself! And here Corin was, trained by one of the guardians, struggling with the basics.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, lowering his head and tugging on his sleeves. There were so many better people Master Selena could’ve been training, ones who might actually inherit Zephyr eventually.

Selena’s eyes widened. “Why are you sorry? You should be proud! We’ve been working at this for such a long time, too.”

“It’s taken me four years to learn how to make a simple gust…. I’ll never become Zephyr’s vessel. You shouldn’t bother with me.”

Selena’s expression fell. “Stop it. I’m training you for a reason. Some people aren’t great at chaotic magic. You could be better at healing.”

“Adelle has mastered expert spells, why isn’t she your pupil?” Corin asked.

“Because Adelle doesn’t have enough natural mana. She works really hard, so she’ll probably become a good scribe,” Selena explained.

“She’s stronger than me,” Corin rebutted, lowering his head again.

“You’re wrong. Really wrong, in fact. I want to show you something—put your hand on my chest,” she ordered, unbuttoning the top of her dress and displaying the clan’s mark.

Corin slowly splayed his hand over her chest, suddenly feeling an immense wave of strength come over him. His hand latched onto her chest. The sheer force radiating from her made him feel an immense warmth in his stomach, followed by dizziness.

Selena pulled back his hand. “Did you feel that?”

“Y-yeah….” He gasped, moving his hand once again to try and get a taste of her power. “What was that? I… I’ve never felt anything like it before.”

“Mana is what lets us cast spells. The more you have, the easier it is to do and the stronger you can become. I have more than everyone in the clan. Well, almost everyone, at least,” she explained, buttoning her dress back up. “If you train, it’s easy to feel it on someone else. There’sactually only one person in the entire clan who has more mana than me—do you know who that is?”

“Master Alvah?” he guessed, trying to recall the other guardians. “Master Corona? Master Petra?”

“Not at all,” she answered, poking his mark. “Your natural mana is more than anyone’s. I have about as much mana as every other guardian combined, and you’ve got a lot more than me.”

“That can’t be true,” he stated. “I can’t even master a simple wind spell. How can mine be stronger than yours, Master?”

“If I was lying, do you think I’d train you in the first place?” she asked.

Corin looked at Master Selena, trying to get any indication that she may have told him anything other than the absolute truth. “I just can’t believe it.”

“I’m not lying, so try cheering up,” she said, taking a few steps away from him and positioning herself closer to their punching bag. “I had another spell I wanted to show you. This one is based around the ex-ex.” She paused. “The extraction of Zephyr’s essence. Now, it can be—”

“Hey, Lena!” Piers called out.

Selena turned around, seeing a blur of red, trailed closely by a blur of blue and brown, dashing toward her and Corin. She covered her eyes with her hand. “Alvah be damned!” she cursed, turning to Corin. “Just… do what you were doing before. I’ll deal with this,” she ordered, releasing a fast gust of wind to position the bottle.

“Master Selena…?”

BOOK: Exile
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