The Warmth of the Hearth

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The Storm has its Claws

“Fjord.” Ethan Skye walks up to a seated Elizabeth Fjord, his piercing blue eyes fixated on her. “I see that you are alone. The absence of Blaise and Laisren must have hit you the hardest, considering you were inseparable.” He nudges his head towards the vacant space of the bench, waiting for her response. “May I?”

Elizabeth nods, continuing to drown herself in the book in her hand. She never liked Ethan, but she couldn’t bring to hate him as well. Mr. Goody two shoes. “What brings you here, Skye?” Her head doesn’t turn to face him, her eyes mindlessly reading the words tapered on the white pages, struggling to understand anything.

Ethan smiles, his cleanly cut hair flowing in the soft breeze. “I was just thinking…” He pauses, now looking at Elizabeth. “The welcoming ball is coming up soon. I was thinking that maybe, you and I could go together?”

“Me? What made Mr. Skye, the current number one mage of the Academy, want to ask little old me?” Elizabeth puts the book down, grinning at the ridiculous proposal. “Who put you up to this?” She looks at him dead in the eye. There was no reason for him to ask her, unless there was some underlying motive.

“My father, Fjord. I have no interest in partaking in this pointless ball as well, with all of the fuss its creating. However, I believe I may be of help to you.” Ethan sees Elizabeth’s eyebrows furrow in confusion. “I overheard a conversation last night, when Varsha decided to stop by the manor.”

Elizabeth crosses her arms, still unsure as to where this was going. “And what does this have to do with me?”

Ethan smiles, biding his time. “Your house chooses to support this era of equality, promises of a world where injustice does not exist.” He looks ahead of him, taking in the scenery as people pass by, often turning their heads towards them. “My father wishes to grant Ezicion power, and considers mercy as weakness. There will be another war soon, and you may be in danger Fjord.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Elizabeth asks, her head filled with dozens of questions that have no answers. “Your father must have asked you to take me for a reason.”

“Your trust. He wants me to lure you into a false sense of security.” Ethan stands up, looking down on Elizabeth with a smile. “Then again, the choice is yours Fjord.” He walks away, one hand waving at Elizabeth. “I’ll see you soon.”

The putrid smell of sewage water hits Luke hard as he falls with a splash, the darkness threatening to consume him. He hears a second thud behind him, followed by a loud groan. “We’re almost there.”

“How many times has that been? I bet it’s midday already.” Carson responds, his anxiety getting the best of him.

“Up there.” Luke points to a small metal plate on the ceiling, light seeping through the tiny holes burrowed on it. It rustles every now and then, as if being trampled upon. “That should take us directly to the central street. We’ll go once we’re certain it’s dark.”

Carson nods, fiddling with his cloak. He pulls out an old map of the city, placing it on the wall as he conjures a flame with his right hand. “Right now, we’re located around here.” He points to a spot on the far west of the map, tracing his fingers. “This path should lead us straight to Noah while minimizing any chance of encountering trouble.”

“We’re not going to confront Noah.” Luke says, leaning on the wall. “There’s just no point in doing so. We don’t stand a chance against him, and it’s highly unlikely that Claire is being kept there.”

“What do you suggest we do then? We don’t have any leads as to where she could be.” Carson puts the map down, now facing Luke.

“I know where she is Carson, I can see her manna.” Luke pushes himself off and checks to see his supplies. “She’s nowhere near Noah.” His eyes fall onto the faint trail of bright blue, tucked away somewhere in the city.

Carson looks at Luke with wide eyes, astonished by what he just heard. “You’re a Seer?”

Luke nods, slinging his leather bag around his shoulder again. “Yes, was told to keep it hidden so I couldn’t tell you.”

“With all the muck the black market has going, that’s a wise decision.” The young Blaise hears a splashing of water behind them, footsteps. He tucks his flame away and ducks into the shadows, Luke following suite. Who could it be?

“There is no point in hiding.” The voice of Noah Skye echoes throughout the dark tunnels of the sewers. “I believe you have come to answer my proposal?” He steps into the low light of the tunnels, coming into full view,

Carson lunges at Noah, a fiery trail of crimson illuminating the dark. He throws a punch, arm engulfed in a crimson blaze.

Noah holds out a palm towards the young Blaise, overpowering him completely as Carson gets blown away by his wind. Carson doesn’t stop, continuing to strike as Noah sky simultaneously fends off one punch after the other.

Luke dashes in, trying his best not to bring out his flames. He supports Carson, filling in the gaps of his strikes the same way they have been trained to do by Olin. They move in sync, knowing what to do to make up for each other’s flaws. Luke jumps, leg raised high, he drops down a devastating axe kick, hitting the top of Noah’s head. A cool breeze hits his heel, a small patch of visible wind between his foot and Noah. He blocked it?!

“That’s enough!” Noah extends both arms and drops them in one fluid motion. Carson gets slammed to the ground by an enormous amount of pressure as Luke is swatted away.

Luke’s eyes grow a violent white as he launches an endless barrage of flames towards Noah. He sees Noah’s surprised face as he puts up a thick wall of swirling wind in front of him, causing the flames to dissipate. The wall shifts into a huge claw of air as Luke fails to dodge its grasp, causing him to scream in pain as it grabs him tight.

Noah doesn’t put down his arms, walking with minimal effort towards the two of them. “Ready to listen?”

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