It was like the whisper of the ocean caressing the shore.
Like a forest stream trickling along its lush bed.
Who was calling her? She looked up to the patches of light floating in the blue above, dancing, swirling. The fish weaving through her flowing hair. The wafts of seaweed tickling her arms like green, licking flames. Suddenly she felt something icy touch her shoulder.
She woke with a start and looked around in the dim twilight, disoriented. Shivering, she realized she was in her room, sticky with cold sweat as if she’d woken from a nightmare. Again. These last weeks, this kept happening, her waking up in cold sweat with this feeling of foreboding, of urgency. And never could she recall her dream. She only remembered blues and greens and the cold.
Suddenly the door banged open. “Kerrana, wake up, wake up!”
Jerra, her sister, stormed in, a blur of black locks. The little rascal had never stood on ceremony.
Slowly Kerrana extracted her cold, wet limbs from the covers. “I feel like a fish,” she murmured as Jerra tore open the shutters and the light came flooding in. “Morning has broken!! It’s coming-of-age day!!” her sister shrieked at the top of her lungs.
“I’m up, I’m up,” the older girl said, lifting up her slim hands to shield her eyes. For a moment she thought she saw some kind of threads glitter between her spidery fingers, but as she blinked, they were gone. A split second later she was caught in a tight embrace only to be released even more rapidly. “Brr! You’re cold!” her sister squeaked and let go. “Come! Breakfast is almost done!” she said over her shoulder as she bounced towards the door.
Giving the little bundle of energy a faint smile Kerrana said, “I’ll be right down.”
“Ah!” Jerra turned in her tracks. “I made this for you!” She threw a small red bag Kerrana's way and ran off. Still a little stiff, the older girl’s fingers pulled open the red bag and poured its contents into her palm. It was a beautiful, sand-woven pendant on a chain. A magical protective amulet. In a style typically worn by married ladies. Which meant that Kerrana would never wear it.
Sluggishly she crept out of her bed to the clothes she’d already laid out in a neat pile. Her coming-of-age robe. It was the customary red and a beautiful, rich fabric but otherwise plain. Her friends had already teased her it was becoming for a future old maid. Indeed, it seemed a sombre and proper choice for a future temple maiden. And yet Kerrana had felt a little sting in her heart at those words. She bit her lip and chastised herself. It was vain to think that way, certainly. But still she could not help but feel disheartened. Could not help thinking that plain gown an expression of her family’s disappointment in her. Her elder sister’s robe three years ago had been brimming with embroidered flame ornaments. Of course that had been appropriate for her choice to become a fire archer for the city guard, a highly prestigious post. And of course, she had passed her training with flying colours and was on the fast track to a high position these days. Kerrana sighed at the looking glass. She looked even paler and somehow drained, her hair lank from sweat. Compared to her highly talented and handsome siblings she really was inconspicuous. Even little Jerra had a promising knack for sand magic. It wasn’t enough that everyone except her was really good at magic while she couldn’t as much as lighten a fire – she hadn’t gotten any of the good looks either. Her two brothers and two sisters were ravishingly handsome and beautiful with their glossy locks and black eyes. Kerrana was the only one who had inherited her mother’s fair hair. But on her it looked like grass dried to death in the heat of the sun and not like the rich gold of ripe wheat fields. Making a face into her looking glass she splashed her face with some water from her washing bowl and felt instantly refreshed. Dragging in a deep breath, her mood lifted considerably. She didn’t care for good looks that much usually. It was feeling like a failure that she hated. Kerrana took the amulet and put it with the little book of spells – something her grandfather had given her when she was a little girl. Then, they’d still had some hopes for her. It was a good memory and one of the very few possessions she’d not given away in anticipation of going to the temple.
Maybe things would get better once she was in the company of equally plain and untalented girls. For while serving the Sun God was a blessing and she didn’t feel like she was ill-suited for the path, it was also the only prestigious choice open to utterly talent free youngsters like her. And since anything that was not prestigious would bring shame to her father, who was aiming to become the next High Chief of Lofang, it was her only choice, period.