Chapter 4: Evie
Evie sat, criss-cross, on the ground floor of her tiny temple school in Xastuvaria, a paper book in her hand. The book had a thick, expensive-looking worn leather cover that fit snugly in Evie’s cupped hand. A golden aura surrounded the book and its reader, whose eyes darted across the pages, soaking in every detail and every direction that the book pointed her in.
Makani, Evie’s best friend at the temple school, sat besides her with her own fine leather book. Hers was a deep navy blue, while Evie’s was plain brown. But Makani didn’t glow, and neither did her book.
That was for temple masters only. Well, and Evie.
Some people in the temple school saw Evie as exceptionally gifted in the Cloud-arts. A child prodigy, if you will. Others feared her as a witch, so good at Cloud-arts and philosophy that she posed a danger. Still others believed her to be just a girl, her obsession with gaining knowledge just a phase. Evie didn’t know what to believe about herself.
Evie closed her eyes and reentered the Cloud.
The Cloud was a vast space that existed between every atom, every inch of space in the Realms. As far as the temple masters knew, it had existed for eternity - just like the Six Realms of Nydillan, Xastuvaria, Aepiwaemore, Gaeyihan, Slogokar, and Avracaea. Some people, when referring to the Cloud, pointed upwards at the actual clouds. Totally regular, non-capitalized clouds.
Evie knew that the Cloud was actually in the ground, in the air, in every flower and every tree. In fact, the only masses of matter the Cloud’s existence didn’t mess with were intelligent creatures, for the space between the atoms making up those that think was Cloudless.
Evie fingered her jinx ring gently, letting power be drawn from it into her fingertips. Years of practice in the temple, her home, had led to almost effortless rituals that highly learned masters could not perform. There was one major difference between Evie and every other wizard in the school. Evie had lived in the temple school for her entire life, whereas it was just a boarding school to the rest.
Well, not the rest.
There was a boy in the temple school that was like Evie. He, too, had lived his life in the temple program - and he shared Evie’s talent for the Cloud-arts. His name was Ayden Holt, but besides that, Evie knew nothing about him. From rumors Evie had learned that Ayden was the adopted son of the high master at the temple, that he had ’striking white hair!’ and ’frosty blue eyes that a girl would just die for!’, and that he was Aisiia.
Of course, those rumors had been planted by the girls in Evie’s dormitory.
Most of the population of female students at the temple school were head-over-heels for Ayden Holt. From what Evie heard, he was the ‘ultimate bad-boy’. Evie herself could not comprehend how the trait of ‘never talking to anyone and never cracking a smile’ could translate to ‘bad boy that girls want to date and boys want to be’.
Taking her mind off Ayden, Evie stepped into the Cloud realm, her body transforming into her Cloud-form. Everyone looked differently in the Cloud, each person’s shape morphing into whatever they want it to be. In the Cloud, Evie’s highlighted chocolate-brown hair ran down to her waist. Her skin was tan, and wispy freckles dotted a small, slightly upturned nose. She stood a bit taller than her body outside the Cloud. Evie was dressed in a mage’s costume - a blouse, pants, and the signature long, flowing robes of silk and velvet. A blue choker rested comfortably in Evie’s hand.
Remembering a charm from her book, Evie started mouthing words, running her undecorated hand over the choker. The girl had done this many times before, but no matter. Evie was always obsessed that she had done the spell wrong, that there was still some magic stitched into the choker that she had yet to reveal.
When Evie uttered the location charm, like she had done so many times before, power within her flowed to her outstretched hand and into the choker. It searched valiantly, but once again, nothing within the choker lit up. There was no magic inside. The young mage grunted in frustration.
“Balikem jadimala,” she muttered. Instantly her physical body in the Cloud was returned to dust as Evie faded back into the natural realm.
“Evie!” Makani cried. Outside, where the girls sat, the sky was dark and dotted with tiny stars. “You were gone all day!”
“I know it’s charmed...” Evie said under her breath, not acknowledging what Makani had told her. “It has to be. I can just feel it.”
Makani gripped Evie by the shoulders, tearing her friend’s gaze off the choker. “Evie.”
“You’re obsessing over that choker! It isn’t healthy, no offense.”
“But-” Evie tried to say. Makani shushed her.
“I know. I understand,” she said softly.
“I’m sorry.” She jerked herself away from Makani. “You don’t know what it’s like to feel - to know - that something may be your only connection to another life that you didn’t get a chance to live. It’s just -” Evie’s voice broke - “hard, you know?”
“Okay,” Makani said finally. “I’ll go back to my dorm, then.”
“Okay, see you tomorrow,” Evie said. “Good talk.”
And then Evie was alone.
Then Evie saw her.
She was sitting on one of the temple benches, messily braiding her thick black hair. Her intense emerald eyes caught the pale moonlight just so, and they sparkled brightly. And those eyes were on Evie herself. The girl stared at Evie fiercely, but no emotion was written on her almost-symmetrical features. Then she stood, flipping her half-styled hair over one shoulder as if she didn’t really care about how it looked. She walked in lengthened paces towards Evie, whose extreme discomfort was heightening. The strange girl almost seemed familiar to Evie, but that may have been just because she looked so much like Evie herself. She was fairly sure that the girl didn’t attend the temple school, so…
“Hi,” the girl stated, very matter-of-factly. “I’m Ariana. My friends call me Ari.”
“Who are you?” Evie asked, quite a bit confused with the debacle.
“Really?” Ari asked, her voice tinged with annoyance. “I just told you th-”
“No, I mean who are you. Do you go here? I don’t think I know you.”
“Nah,” Ari said. “I don’t. You don’t. What’s your name?”
“You don’t know me. Well, let’s fix that.”
“Okay…” Evie said. Something compelled her to take her hood off – the air was rapidly warming. It was almost as if heat was radiating off the girl – Ari. “I’m Evie. Nice to meet you, Ari.”
“Hmph,” Ari said. “My friends call me Ari. You,” she poked Evie’s nose, “are not my friend.” Her face relaxed. “Not yet, at least.”
Evie didn’t know how to react. Was Ari – Ariana – joking? Should she laugh? Ariana’s face was the mirror of seriousness, though, so she chuckled slightly and nodded.
Evie was lost in thought when a blinding heat startled her. She jumped. “What was that?” she gasped, putting a shaky hand to her cheek, which was no longer on fire. It couldn’t be... she thought. I thought...
“Evie.” Ariana said, exasperated, interrupting Evie’s thoughts. “Come on. We’re running out of time.”
“Running out of time for what?” Evie asked, her mind racing with questions that piled up like snowflakes on a drift.
“Talking!” Ariana exclaimed. “Talking, Evie. What do you think?”
“About what? You do recall, we just met!”
“Your choker,” Ariana stated. “What is it?”
“This?” Evie’s hand went self-consciously to where the stretchy material met her skin. “I don’t know, I was born with it?” She paused. “Look, this has been a really long day for me-”
Ariana reached into her mane of hair, still semi-braided, and pulled out what she was using as a ponytail holder. It was, in fact, a emerald ring of satin with a jade pendant in the shape of a leaf hanging off it. Engraved in the leaf was Z F.
“Then why do I have one too?”