The Warmth of the Hearth

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She Who Fell

A young Claire scampers for cover as a couple of young Agni users throw spells at her direction. She hides behind a barrel as a barrage of firebolts is fired at her. “Yow Claire! Why don’t you show us that blue flame of yours?” The eldest bully climbs the barrel, overlooking Claire’s small stature. Claire was never one to back down from a fight, but three against one was far from being in her favor.

Her crimson eyes grow a bright blue as tiny blue sparks erupt from her arm. As a seven-year-old, she found it hard to control her powers as she’ll eventually fall from exhaustion if she strains herself too much. The eldest, which seemed to be the leader, pulled out his own flame. As he prepares to launch another bolt, Claire braces herself for impact. However, she opens her eyes when she feels none. Instead, she saw all three bullies on the ground, and another boy with a wooden plank in his hands standing between them.

“Hey Claire.” A young Luke Laisren smiles at her, panting heavily as he plops himself on the ground. “You alright?” His body was now full of bruises, and burns were evident on his skin. He sees Claire looking and he gives her a thumbs up, as if to tell her that everything’s okay.

Claire immediately turns around and ignores Luke completely. She does not want to involve herself with a Laisren, and she knows that she never will. Claire was nothing like her brother and that Fjord girl. She knows better than to taint her family’s name by associating with the lower houses. Luke lies still, watching her as she proceeds to go on her way home.

The scenery changes to Claire during her first year at the Academy. She was spectating her idiot brother’s sparring session with Laisren again, which she found to be unexpectedly interesting. The two decided to ban the use of magic, focusing solely on developing their hand-to-hand combat techniques. And to give Laisren a chance, Claire thought as she looks on. With each blow Carson attempts to give, Luke effortlessly finds a way out. He ducks, leans, and repels the strikes with ease, which is agitating Carson more with each passing moment. Claire notices this, and she knows that her brother has already lost. In a split second, Luke grapples Carson’s arm and twists his body, slamming all of his weight on the padded floor. Carson taps the ground, eventually giving up.

Luke pulls him up, which felt heavier than it seemed to be. He fixes his black hair, his pale skin and orange eyes glistening in the sunlight. Luke looks at Claire’s direction and waves at her, which she replies with the removal of her presence. Luke watches her go then looks at Carson, who just shrugs it off.

Claire finds herself in her room, trying to calm herself down. Her face feels hot as she tries to force the thought of Luke away. She looks at herself in the mirror, her face flushed red. “Listen Claire, you cannot do this to yourself.” She pauses before she continues. “Remember, he is a Laisren. He and his house do not come anywhere near you.” He also saved your life once, and he is so fine whenever he looks at you with those orange eyes. Claire shrieks as she silences these thoughts from her mind.

Carson suddenly barges in her room with his unkempt hair, which causes her to jump. “What’s wrong Claire?!” This gets him a hairbrush that barely misses his head.

“Get out of my room!” Claire lifts another comb, ready to throw it at Carson. This makes Carson leave the room immediately with his hands up and Claire shuts the door behind him.

The scenery changes to the day of the examinations, where she was talking to Carson about the exam methods in the Agni quarters.

“A free-for-all huh? How’s it set up?” Carson crosses his arms, looking stern and attentive.

Claire takes a deep breathe, before continuing the conversation. “By element, students grouped according to their manna trait. Most likely to ensure that they eliminate as much of the variables in a single sweep.” She notices Luke approaching and gives him a nod. “Laisren. For a goofball, you’re looking awfully quiet today.” She struggles to even utter the words out, as she feels her heartbeat grow louder. Luke simply smiles at her and she notices how pretty his eyes were.

“And for someone younger than me, you still act like an old lady. What are you guys all serious about?” He chuckles, attempting to get something out of Claire. With that, she feels her face go red, and she immediately turns around and walks away from the both of them. Before she leaves, she sees Carson’s eyebrows raised, a mischievous smile plastered on his idiotic face.

“She never did like me, did she?” Luke laughs, a nervousness in his tone.

Carson is baffled by how dense his friend was, but then realizes that it was just the way Luke functions. “She doesn’t like anyone, you know that.” Carson answers. He makes an excuse to catch up to his sister. He finds her and immediately puts an arm around her, whispering, “So, you gonna tell me what that was all about?” He wiggles his eyebrows at Claire which gets him a sharp elbow to the stomach. He watches Claire run off and he laughs, amused by how much his sister has grown up.

The room suddenly becomes dark, as Claire continues to run blind. She hears whispers, muffles that she doesn’t understand. She sees Luke in front of her, lying on the floor, motionless. His orange eyes were no longer bright and were instead lifeless, sending chills down her spine. She freezes, as she hears a loud laugh that seemed to resonate within her mind. Her head hurts and darkness completely surrounds her as she struggles to breathe.

Claire wakes up, sobbing. She was in her room, dark from the nighttime. The young Blaise clutches her blankets and she cries. Luke was gone, and from then on, that was her new reality.

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