A Dance With Fire (Excerpt)

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Jessica Fulmore I

Although she had a full nights sleep she was far from relaxed, her dreams were getting more and more strange. She had dreamed of a man standing in a crowd of people looking at only her, no matter how the man was pushed by the ever moving crowd of people trying to get to where they were going, he never stopped looking, it was as if he was looking at something in her. They were not looks of lust or envy or even hate, they were a cold hard stare not even cold it was as if nothing was there. She had many dreams with the man looking at her, sometimes he was watching her through a window or from a long distance away like from the top of a hill or tower. She could handle those but the dream with the voice, a deep echoing voice that seemed to hold her, it surrounded her like a father hugging his daughter, it spoke in a tongue that she did not understand, it sounded angry as though it wanted her to do something to say something but Jessica never knew what the voice wanted, it spoke in a tongue she had never heard but in some strange way it sounded familiar like she should understand it, the voice never made a sound when the man was in her dreams, and the man never appeared when the voice spoke but both seemed to want her, for what purpose she may never know.

She awoke covered in sweat, her silk bed sheets sticking to her skin. As she sat there gathering her thoughts, she noticed the suns rays just showing. It can't have been any later than dawn she thought. She enjoyed waking at this time she could enjoy the day by practicing her magic or she could take her mind from the dream with some early training with a sword and bow, it was the only thing she truly enjoyed. Learning magic and how to handle a sword made her feel like a hero of legend, although only a girl of sixteen she was making great strides in her training she was good enough to keep up with the young men five years her senior, though she was not trained as hard as the boys her own age.

"Girls should not fight." Her father's words echoed though he never stopped her training, even though he was not over happy about it he did show interest and got a mage from the arcane collection to train her. Jessica aspired to be like her heroes, Alia the dread of the ghost sea stealing from trading ships to feed the poor of Pentia, she died attacking a kings ship who was attacking the Pentia port town of Tren to gain land, Gwendoline the bloodied princess that reclaimed the empire of Slence in the far west with thousands of mistreated slaves and her father's spear gods finger, she died at the late age of seventy four when her empire fell again to a mercenary band claiming their leaders right as the true ruler, and Lendia the huntress with her bow Swiftwind and her dire wolf Skoll she was the most fascinating, she is one of the rare people who still has the gift to tame wild beasts and train them fight with her, she was in the last great war against Klegain. It was said that she was so skilled that seasoned warriors fled at the sight of her, she was beautiful and skilled, and most importantly still alive she would be in her thirties now and a woman Jessica would love to meet.

She jumped from her bed to get washed and changed in to her training gear. Walking over to the bowl of fresh water that was placed there the evening before by her handmaiden, Jessica hated to be waited on hand and foot but she told herself it’s their job and they need to gold to feed their family. She wore her dark green vest with white undershirt she liked it because it made her dark red hair seem less out of place, and her black leggings with small black boots, after getting changed, she walked down the hallway it was oddly quiet at this time of morning servants were cleaning silver or dusting but not today. She did not think too hard on it because she did not mind the silence, she thought about getting some food before training but her stomach was in knots still after her dream food was the last thing she needed she would wait until dinner, the training yard was empty save her Father and his head of the guard Mathis, a man Jessica never liked, he was young for one with a rank of personal guard he was a womaniser and always gave her looks as though he were undressing her, but the man was good at his job he had stopped four assassins in the past, and no man got close to her father with sheathed weapon or drawn, that was at least one good thing about the man

“Come over here Jessica” her father shouted with his booming voice.

Jessica waved and made her way to him “Good morning father” she smiled.

“And what a morning!” he slapped his thigh and laughed.

Mathis gave her a quick look up and down “well if it is not rainbow eyes” he grinned referring to her differently coloured eyes, her right eye green and her left blue.

“Hello Mathis...morning” she managed to force a pleasant greeting.

“It is now” he replied with a grin.

unaware of the growing unpleasant tension, Fulmore took a swing at the training dummy with his long sword

“So father what makes today so special?” she asked.

Fulmore turned and through his sword to the floor “Oh my sweet child I would love to say but it is a surprise” he held her face. “Be ready for mid day my sweet child this day will be one to remember” he smiled.

“For me?” she wondered.

“For you, for me, for Highhaven a long lost son returns today!” he shouted almost singing.

“It must be someone important to make you happy like this”

“You have no idea” he started to walk away Mathis followed closely behind Fulmore turned “have you learned the fire spell yet?” he asked concerned

“No father its more difficult than I thought it would be, Miss Anne told me i am doing well though” she smiled.

“Well keep it up, i am not keen on you learning the sword, spells may be better that way you can keep safely out of the thick of combat.”

she was not training for war or battle but her father was always a warrior at heart, always thinking the worst “yes father i will do my best”

Fulmore turned with a grin and walked away Mathis gave her one last look and a wink sending shivers up her back, what she did not tell her father is that she hated fire spells, they were hard to control and unpredictable, Miss Anne told her that fire was a good starting point, learning how to control fire meant she had the stepping stones on all the arcane arts.

Casting fire at a wall over and over did not seem to help much her hands always seemed to get too hot to hold it for long making her stop, but this was all apart of it she was told.

“still struggling ?” jessica heard a soft pleasant voice.

“Yes miss Anne i can’t seem to make the fire cool enough to keep it up for long” she explained out of breath and sweaty her hands blistered from the heat.

“well of course not silly girl fire is hot and you should not touch it!” she grinned wide her face full of wrinkles, she was always smiling most likely why she had so many.

“But I see you cast streams of fire all the time, and you seem to have no problems”

"Well i am fifty years your senior girl, and i have spent many years honing my skills” she said while reaching in to the pocket of her robes, she pulled out a small box black in colour with a gold trim.

“What is that Miss? “ Jessica raised an eyebrow.

“This young one will help you learn, well not the box of course but what is inside” she chuckled.

“And that is ?”

“A powder that when rubbed on your hands will help with the burning from the fire” she smiled taking Jessica’s hands and rubbing powder on them.

“So this will help? I don’t see how.”

“Have I ever told you a miss truth? a few month ago you said casting fire from ones hands was a trick played by jesters but now here you are, producing flame and a lot of it, so cover your hand and start again” she was using her teaching voice now Jessica knew not to question her to much.

“Yes Miss” she turned to the wall and and raised her hands outstretched cupping the and then opening them but keeping her wrists touching, taking a deep breath she started to channel her energy to her hands and form fire, first a spark then a splutter of flame and finally a large flame that she seemed to push away towards the wall, the flame spread on the wall like pouring water on the floor from a height, the powder seem to work she could feel no heat on her hands, if not for the fire shooting from her hands she would think nothing were happening. RRRRR

“Now girl concentrate make the fire your own, twist it to your will, make it dance how you see fit, direct it up into the air without moving your hands to aim”

“I will try Miss” she said unconfident in her skill, she tried to make the flame twist up and into the air but all she could manage was up a small amount from where she was aiming, not what she was hoping for but enough to call it a victory.

“Yes girl, Like that. very good very good indeed, I know men and women full grown who can’t even do that much” she said proudly placing her hand on Jessica’s shoulder. “That's enough now, you have been here for hours now get some food and rest child your energy is not an endless pool, though you may think so.”

Jessica had always demonstrated a larger energy pool to pull from than most people her age, but even that could not produce flame for extended periods of time with our feeling tired, looking to the sky she seen the sun was overhead no clouds in the sky a beautiful day in Highhaven, she also seen a man looking at her from the balcony over looking the training yard, a sinking feeling came over her was this the man in her dreams? No he was thicker set and wore his hair short and neat, the man in her dreams was bald with a scar on his cheek, the man on the balcony smiled and walked away he could have been just a servant watching the knights train it was not uncommon though he looked like he was oddly dressed but the sun was too bright to get a good look.

After a her training with Miss Anne she made her way back to her room to get washed and changed, on the way she saw a young man hanging a new picture in the side room just off the front door that is used to receive guests, curiosity got the best of her and she made her way to the room, a young man was hanging a picture of a woman with red hair, it was Jessica’s mother her hair was the same a deep red as Jessica, her father missed her greatly the mere mention of her name Soulest was enough to take him into silence and deep thought, Jessica never knew her but she always pictured her to be kind and gentle, she was a healer who healed wounded soldiers and innocent people in the war, that's how she met her father, he was shunned by other great houses for many years for marrying a woman of low birth especially since he was expected to marry one of many of the daughter of the great houses, but he loved her and did it anyway, Jessica always found that a romantic sentiment that she respected her father for.

Walking back to her room she found a bath ready for use, her servants knew how she felt about being waited on hand and foot but her father would have to let them go unemployed if they did nothing so she allowed it, the bath smelled of a hint of lavender and had rose petals floating on the waters surface she may have not liked it but this was not going to go to waste, she undressed and dipped her toes in the water it was perfect a warm bath the kissed her skin and made her relax weather she wanted to or not, after an unnecessary amount of time soaking in the bath she dried herself off and got changed, her servants left a blue silk dress and finely made pointed leather shoes with a small blue velvet bow, she could dresses on all day but it was now midday and Jessica was curious about this long lost son her father was so excited to see, making her way down stairs to the grand hall were all geust spoke with her father, she followed the long red rugs to the doors a guard was standing there, which meant the guest was important enough to need guarding or dangerous enough to mean her father did, though they meant the same thing,

“Hello my lady, you look stunning as always." The guard bowed

Jessica gave a smile she was always made to feel uncomfortable by comments of affection “is my father in attendance ?” she asked

“Yes my lady though not with anyone yet he is expecting and important guest.”

“Do you know who?”

The guard gave a shake of his head “no my lady, all i know is to await Ser Torren and his two men with the guest”

She looked confused “well may I enter ?”

“Yes my lady in fact lord Fumore told me to let you in if you should arrivel.”

He gave a bow and opened the door for her, she entered to see her father sitting in his chair atop a small rise in the floor, the room was decorated with flower baskets and braziers along the sides of the long walk way and a wide red carpet with a gold trim ran the full length of the room.

“My sweet daughter please come sit next to me” Fulmore said in his usual excited voice.

She walked the hall trying to appear the proper lady and sat on the chair next to her father “so who is this son?”

Fulmore gave a smile “he is not my real son if thats what you think?”

She had thought that, although it was not unusual for a lord to have a bastard, her father did not seem the type her mother died in childbirth sixteen years ago, and he had not attempted to remarry even though his only hair was a woman and not a man, she smiled at her father “i don’t know what to think you don’t keep secrets from me most of the time”

“well all will become clear, they should be here momentarily.

Mathis entered from a side door that could only be seen from the chairs were Jessica and her father sat, he was wearing his show armor a solid steel breast plate and steel gauntlets leaving his upper arms unprotected, he was not a man to wear armor that was decorative it was well know that Mathis did not care for pruning and posturing even his hair was cut to a short length and clean shaven, he looked handsome Jessica thought it was a shame he made her skin crawl, he stood to the left of her father and whispered in his ear, after a moment the doors that Jessica entered through opened and two maids walked in and stood to the side of the room and fathers aid Herold entered with four men, it was Sir Torren and his two men that seemed to follow him everywhere and one man that Jessica did not know a scruffy looking man his hair short and jet black with a unshaven face not quite a beard just unshaven he wore even his clothing seem scruffy, though scruffy may have been harsh she was just expecting something more upper class being that he was being led in by knights and her father's aid.

“Sir Torren and his party my lord” Herold said with a bow and he walked out of the room with a haste as he always did

“Greetings my lord” sir Torren dropped to his knee, Jessica liked him he was a man of true honour

“Welcome home Torren, and thank you for this” father seemed happy “girls take Ser Torren and get him everything he needs” he gestured to two young maids.

Jessica wondered what that meant but he could just mean a hot bath and food. The man stood there with a wide grin looking around at the flowers and pictures that hung on the wall.

“And now for you!” shouted Fulmore as he walked down the steps leading to the man with open arms “ Magnes it has been too long!” he gave him a hug.

"Way too long, you have gotten old” Magnes replied with a laugh.

Was this the Magnes that her father had told her about, Magnes Orowin? it was said that when he entered the war against Kelgain he single handily won it, of course Jessica knew this to be an exaggeration but still he was a hero, no a legend, and he was said to have trained under the word famous master Rylus and even better he trained with Lendia, father sat back down to speak.

“I am overjoyed to see you again old friend I truly am” Fulmore proclaimed graining ear to ear

“Then you should have invited me sooner, you have done well for your self, Highhaven has never looked so nice” he looked around at the stain glass windows and ivory sculptures.

“All thanks to you old friend” Fulmore turned to Jessica “Jessica this is Magnes Orowin, an old friend from the war he saved my life more than once” he said with a boyish pride Jessica could not help but smile at her father’s joy.

“It is an honour Sir Magnes” she said with a smile and slight bow of her head.

“I am no knight my lady” he folded his arms and chuckled

“Oh? I just assumed” she said with a raise of her eye brow.

“Knights tend to sit in keeps shining their swords and talking about how honourable they are” he said with a grin.

“But Knights are skilled men who protect the realm” she protested almost standing up.

“well that's something of a gray area my young lady” he bowed still with his grin.

Jessica did not how to take this man he had the respect of a lord and the skill of any knight so why did he show so little respect?

“Please say you will join us for dinner Magnes” Fulmore still overjoyed by his old friends arrival.

“I can’t wait, I've not had a good meal in months” he patted his stomach “though i would not mind seeing the practice ring, I want to see if Highhaven is protected by these Knights of skill that the young lady says” he grinned and Fulmore laughed.

Was Jessica missing something it seemed like he was insulting her fathers men but he let it go, most other men would have stayed a night in the dungeon for showing a lack of respect but not him

“You can rest easy old friend Highhaven needs no finer men” he said happily.

"We shall see” Magnes said with a bow.

Was she wrong about this man? or is father so happy to see him that he does not hear the insult or maybe it was something she did not understand old warriors jibes or just plain friendship.

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