The Warmth of the Hearth

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A Better Ezicion

Claire stands with Carson inside the northern wall of the Academy, the vast structure of the training center right in front of them. She looks at Carson, bewildered by their luck. “What are the chances? Being teleported right in front of the place where we exactly need to be.” She sees Carson scan the area, and she proceeds to do the same. The environment was eerily silent, nothing but darkness and the occasional chirping of crickets that can be heard around them were present.

Carson tenses as he hears a rustling from the bush behind them. He gets himself ready to fight or flee as Claire does the same. A squirrel comes dashing from the thicket, making Carson jump. He turns to look at Claire, who was now giggling, her eyes tearing up. Carson exclaims, his face now flushed red. “Shut up! It could’ve killed me you know?!”

Claire doesn’t stop laughing, now no longer muffling herself. “With what?! A nut?!” She bursts with laughter as she sees Carson fuming from the ears. She takes a moment to gather herself and takes a long deep breathe before calming down.

“You good?” Carson asks, furiously. He receives a nod from Claire, still grinning. “Let’s go, I’ll take the lead.” Carson walks off, his hood still over his head with Claire following swiftly behind him.

They check to see whether the back door was open and to their surprise, it was. Carson turns the knob and pushes the door slowly, a low creak accompanying his entry. He signals for Claire to go first and follows her. He shuts the door and turns around to face the room. They find themselves inside the vast empty space of the training center, the walls that once divided the place into four different arenas no longer around. Instead, what lies in front of them was nothing but the bare metal floor, glistening from the faint light.

Carson breaks their silence, after making sure that there was nobody else with them. “I don’t know what we’re expecting to find here, honestly. I’m pretty sure that the place is cleaned.” He walks towards the center of the floor and proceeds to scour for answers.

“There’s got to be something, anything. A clue, or any piece of information that might help us find out what’s going on.” Claire proceeds to the opposite side of the room, her eyes focused in searching despite the darkness. “Make sure you push through the dark without your flame, the center’s alarm would get us screwed if we’re not careful.” She gets a nod from him as a reply.

Claire drops down on one knee as she spots a shine on the floor. She takes a closer look and spots a silver pin, reflecting the shine of the moon. A sense of familiarity comes to Claire as she picks it up. She flips the small object and she finds the crest of House Fjord. She looks at it, confused. After a moment, the pin glows a bright blue, blinding Claire as she throws it away. An explosion is then heard from the direction she threw the pin, a sense of relief washing over her. The bright lights of the facility suddenly come to life, accompanied by the loud whirring of the different mechanisms that run it. The school alarm immediately comes alive, a loud blare alerting the entire vicinity of the Academy.

Carson snaps his head towards Claire, ready to tell her to scram. He then spots a dark smoke forming behind Claire, a hand suddenly visible from it. A sense of danger overruns his mind and he immediately knew that they were in trouble. “Claire! Behind you!” He shouts, running towards her.

Claire immediately turns around and brings out her flame. She ducks to dodge the misty hand that swiped at her, a dark trail of mist now at the place where her head was. The body now materializes from the smoke, instilling fear within Claire as she realizes who it was. A blonde male appears in the place of the dark smoke, black patches all over his skin. He speaks to Claire, his voice terribly scratched, as if it weren’t his. “I spy with my little eye, rats who The Ripper will slaughter tonight!” Claire throws a kick, blue flames engulfing her strike. Her leg hits the student’s head, exploding upon contact. A sudden cold hits Claire, and she attempts to jump backwards. As she tries to do so, a hand emerges from the smoke of her attack, clutching her by the throat.

Carson rushes towards Claire but is suddenly slammed to the ground by an unseen force. He attempts to get up but is unable to as he is pinned to the ground. Wind? On the platform overlooking the facility, Principal Loft stands above them, expressionless as she watches. Her eyes glow a bright white, as she extends her arm and slams it in the air. Carson then feels the weight grow heavier, as cuts start to bury themselves underneath his skin. He screams in torment, an agony that felt as if a thousand daggers were piercing his back.

Claire struggles against the blonde student’s grip, trying to break free. The student starts to speak, a wide grin visible on his face. “Oooh feisty, I like you. I’ll make sure I break you slowly.” He grabs Claire’s arm, and in a single swoop, tears her arm off cleanly, her blood splattering all over the floor. She lets out a deafening scream, as an excruciating pain floods her entire body. Her vision blurs as she struggles to remain conscious, sobbing.

Something snaps inside of Carson; his senses go numb as he sees Claire suffer. His eyes glow a bright crimson and huge flames erupt from his entire body, now allowing him to move freely. He launches himself towards Claire’s captor, saving her despite missing.

The Ripper lets go of Claire, sending her tumbling. He smiles at Carson, amused by his rage induced behavior. “Ahhh come on, it was only an arm!” A manic laugh follows, filling the entire stadium. “What do you say? Wanna lend her a hand?” This gets a fireball launched at him, a crimson projectile of pure heat. He swiftly dodges, laughing nonstop as Carson continues to attack. The ground beneath him grows a bright crimson, melting from the heat. “Uh-oh.” He mutters, as a huge flame pillar consumes him from the ground up. He dissipates into smoke, as he teleports himself onto the platform. “Well, as fun as it was playing with you guys, it seems that I have used more than this puny human vessel can handle!” As he finishes speaking, smokes are seen seeping through his skin.

Carson’s manna fades, as he glares towards the platform. His wounds were hindering him, he needed to buy time for Claire to escape. “Why are you doing this?! What do you hope to achieve?!” As he finishes, Loft does not answer. Instead, a familiar voice is heard from behind her. “A better Ezicion, Carson Blaise. One without boundaries between the powerless and the powerful.” Eleanor Fjord steps forward, allowing Carson to see her. Adrenaline escapes Carson’s body, and the severity of his injuries hits him. He starts to lose his consciousness, his body swaying. Not now! His body betrays him, as he falls on the ground, unable to hear Claire’s desperate screams. “I’m sorry.” He whispers, a surge of guilt overwhelms him for being unable to protect his sister. Carson sees nothing but darkness, as the rest of his manna finally leaves his body.

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