(This book is continuously getting edits and re-adjustments. There is a lot of world-building ahead! For anyone curious: I have designed a map of Terralnyn, it just appears very small on my wall. I hope you enjoy this world I have created, and these characters that are very dear to my heart!)
Damn it all.
Skye pensively glanced around her luxurious suite and contemplated exactly what she was planning to do. No one in their right mind would do what she was thinking, and sometimes she wondered if she was actually in her right mind.
What in Terralnyn is wrong with me?
Her thoughts were distracted by the subtle movements in the bed. With a wave of her hand, the thick drapes that blocked the windows slid apart, allowing the blinding sunlight into her lavish bedroom. She squinted, and the creature beside her cringed when the light touched him.
“Please,” he begged, dragging the word into a dramatic whine, pulling the sheets to his face in the process. She ignored his request and waved her hand once more, opening the drapes at every window in the room, and there were many.
Scoffing, he opened his eyes. They were a divine, crepuscular green...but quickly glowed a light red at his “anger.”
“Time to greet another fantastic day,” Skye said, rather sarcastically.
“Gods, you’re so bitter.”
It wasn’t the first time someone had used that particular word to describe her. After everything she’d been through she was bitter.
“Aries, shut up,” she said, flicking the tip of one of his horns. They curled forward from his forehead like a ram and as she let her hand linger on his hair she felt a tug in her stomach. They were both aware of the consequences if the Archmage learned about their intimacy. The ragged old man would undoubtedly force them to sever their magical bond, and she would be stripped of her Astral magic. In the end, she would pay the price. She thought of the tattoo that decorated her arm, the magical piece of ink that connected them. Aries was one of the twelve Astral Beings of the Zodiac and had become one of the few people she’d ever cared for apart from herself. Though, she couldn’t call him a person. At least he wasn’t afraid of her.
Neither was Sicarius. She thought about betraying him and felt a tinge of guilt. But, as strong as she was, she could not endure another day in his presence. Skye recalled the burning look in his eyes when he spoke to her.
“Why did the gods give such power to you?” he’d asked, spitting to her feet. She laughed at his question with obnoxious pride.
“The gods? Don’t give them credit for my accomplishments. Are you jealous that your student is passing you in every subject, Archmage?” she challenged. Using the proper term Archmage to address him with such a contemptuous remark sent a thrill of fury through him and she smirked at the rage she’d instilled. They trained, and she blocked his attacks with such ferocious and speedy precision that it almost threw the man’s staff askew. That alone was a triumph. As usual, they’d trained for the majority of the afternoon, and within a few hours he’d exhausted himself, and his shield faltered The torches that lined the walls of the Ignis Arena flickered and highlighted the most insulting aspects of his face.
“That’s enough,” he said, an echo resonating from his voice. His shield pulsated around his body. It was a sign of weakness.
Skye bowed. “Thank you, as always for the lesson, Archmage. I have much to learn from you yet.” Though her tone sounded sincere, Sicarius knew that sarcasm was buried deep within. Skye Blossom never said anything without a sour, sarcastic undertone.
He scoffed. “I should hope not. Your initiation is in two days. Or have you forgotten? I trust that you have not.”
“How could I forget?” she asked. “It’s the only thing I’ve heard about and trained for since I was forced into this wretched place,” she said, dismissing her staff. It disappeared in a cloud of dust, and she saw the glare of incensed passion looking at her through his eyes. She hoped that she never looked as grotesque as him. His skin was old and wilted, resembling a corpse that had long been in the ground, and she swore the old man would fall dead within minutes based on his appearance alone. But for the first time in decades, there would be a new Archmage...
...and in one fleeting decision, she was going to throw it away. The power, and all of the money and opulence that came with it. But the honor that was so graciously bestowed upon her was nothing more than entrapment, a death sentence.
I must be stupid.
Aries droned as she raked her fingers through his ambrosial blonde hair. Though horns protruded from his forehead, his hair fell faultlessly to his shoulders. He was beautiful, and though he was an Astral Being to her, he was an immortal, living among the stars. Unattainable. And he was in her bed.
“If you keep touching me like that we’ll never make it out of this bed for your initiation,” he threatened playfully.
She scoffed in response. “My initiation is tomorrow,” she said, gently tugging at his hair.
He laughed and took her in his arms, entrapping her with his strength. His body engulfed hers. With a flicker of malice in her eyes, an ornate longbow materialized above them, angling a sharp, pointed arrow to his neck.
Frowning, he moved one of his arms and laid a tight grip on her bottom.
“If you want to keep it that way,” she indicated his hand, “I’d suggest that you release me.”
The longbow pulled the arrow tighter, threatening to spring at any moment. He loosened his grip and the arrow evaporated. She rolled over to her side, and they locked eyes.
“You can’t kill me with that,” he reminded her.
“No, but an arrow to the neck will still wound you. You’re not immune to pain.”
He winced. “Your words wound me enough.”
She shrugged. “Don’t hold me hostage and you won’t be threatened.”
Aries was used to her frigid demeanor. He’d never felt any desire for a mage before, but for reasons unknown to him, she was different. Mages, while mostly human, possessed a unique link with magicae. He could tell a mage apart from humans merely by the way they looked and carried themselves. The ability to manipulate magic was the only difference between normal humans and mages, but no one would ever refer to her as a mere human. Past Archmages over the centuries had not captivated him as she had.
Only a mage worthy of the title Archmage could summon and form a magical bond with an Astral Being. That is, after all, how he met the vivacious red-haired woman beside him. Though neither of them would’ve guessed that seven years after their armistice that they’d be sleeping together. It just didn’t happen. They didn’t feel emotions the same way. Astral Beings did not feel love, and he knew that Skye was not in love with him. But even he could admit to himself that he craved her company. It was...unusual. But neither of them cared.
Skye continued to run her fingers along his jawline before gently tugging his face closer to hers, engaging him in a light kiss. She felt his fangs brush against her lips. His stubble caressed her cheeks. He could almost be human. No, he could almost be a mage.
She rose from the bed, taking her robe from the floor and wrapping it around her body. Her hair was arranged in a mixture of loose strands and various messy braids and dropped long past her shoulders. It swung to her sides as she walked to the nearest window with regal grace. It was thick and voluptuous, with each braid adorned by a silver cuff at the end. Pushing one of the locks behind her ear, she took another glance around her suite. It was located atop The Spiral, the largest, central tower in the city. Creatively named after the tower, The Spiral City was home to all of the mages in Autumnus, the most powerful region on their continent, Terralnyn. Of course, Skye had no actual notion of the outside world because she’d never been allowed to leave The Spiral City. She longed more than anything to leave. Trapped, isolated, and despised by her peers, she wanted to run from it all. If Sicarius had been a decent mage and treated her with respect perhaps she’d feel guilty about her decision to run, but she didn’t. At least, not enough to stay.
She would surrender her sumptuous lifestyle and prestige for her freedom. Was it worth it? She’d sure find out. Her eyes scanned the abundance of books on her suite floor and the walls of filled bookshelves and prided herself on her intelligence. The more sagacious the mage, the better.
Her attention was drawn back to the window when Aries, fully clothed, arrived beside her.
“Nervous?” he asked, delicately nuzzling her neck.
There was no point in lying to him. “I’m not confident that I’m making the right decision,” she admitted.
His eyes met with hers. “You’re running out of time to decide. The moment you’re initiated, you’ll be bound to the magicae. How long has that old man been in charge? A million years?” She could tell that he was trying to lighten the suddenly damp mood with humor but it didn’t work. She didn’t answer.
“On the other hand,” Aries continued, “If you leave and you’re caught you’ll be branded as a decepto,” he reminded her. It sounded like he was reading from a sad, tragic novel. His words were nothing new, and his habit of repeating what she already knew was tiresome.
He pulled her closer. “You’ll have me of course.” Would she?
She fought his embrace and dug her fingernails against the battered cuff on her wrist as the truth and reality of his words set in. She had considered running away for a long time.
“I’m sorry. I just feel like this is goodbye,” she said, closing her eyes, finally giving in to his hug. “If I do this, I’ll be around humans for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I’ll be able to summon you again and it’s unnerving, Aries.”
She said the words with such honesty that Aries’s breath caught in his throat. She’d always been guarded in her emotions and it wasn’t like her to show them so blatantly. He gently turned her head so their gazes met.
Her eyes were blue like the sky, true to her name. He found himself staring at them with such eagerness that she slightly backed away. Astral Beings were always intense, even to mages.
“Will you tell him?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. She knew Aries was referring to her best friend Idris. She cringed at the thought of leaving him. Her stomach tightened at the thought of never hearing his voice again. As she silently scolded herself for being dramatic, a memory reminded her why she was.
“I bet you’re all just jealous of her,” Idris had defended her, years ago. Skye had looked at him, gaping as those words escaped his mouth. She’d faced the envious wrath of many pupils in their class but until that moment no one had ever defended her before. Not to her face, at least. Though they were the same tender age of eight, Skye had already been at The Spiral in training for several years before Idris was recruited. It was one of the many qualities that separated her from everyone else. She was discovered at only three years old, while most mages didn’t display any magical ability until they reached eight or nine.
“What is everyone’s problem with you?” he asked once the room cleared.
She scowled at his invasive question, though had a softness for his curiosity. She too was curious about everything.
“I don’t know,” the eight-year-old answered plainly. Even as a child, her voice and speech were melodic and regal, like royalty. But there was no royalty in Autumnus, only the Magi. Idris’s young eyes opened wide at her confidence.
“Can you teach me some of your skills?” he asked, with childlike innocence in his voice.
She eyed him. “Okay.”
And with that small gesture of kindness, their friendship grew.
Now, at the age of twenty-five, she considered him to be her most precious friend.
And I’m abandoning him.
But she knew if she said anything to him about it he would do everything in his power to stop her.
She sighed and traced Aries’s Zodiac symbol, imprinted near his left eye in small, diamond gemstones. “I should get dressed. And you should probably go,” she reluctantly said, dropping her hand. He caressed her cheek for a moment before speaking. “Do what you need to do, Skye. Call on me when you are ready.”
Kissing her forehead one last time, his physical form dissipated as he returned to his realm in the stars. She would miss his company, but she had to do this alone.
With a small gesture of her hand, the closet opened, revealing her uniforms and other clothing. Without much effort on her part, her hair lifted independently, arranging itself into an ornate, braided bun and small curled strands fell to frame her face. Choosing a light blue robe from the closet, Skye transformed herself from a delicate female in a bathrobe into a fierce mage within seconds. The cyan-hued robes stopped at her knees, giving full visibility to her black boots. They were covered in dried mud and specs of it broke off the heels as she stepped back into the room. Her apothecary bag was latched securely to her belt, jingling with each step. She took a stroll around the room that she’d long called home. The bookshelf was overflowing with magical texts and candles dripping with wax. Grazing a finger on the glass bottles that busied the workspace, she accidentally knocked around the dried herbs and alchemy supplies. A musky scent of incense and lavender filled the room. It was cozy and she loved it. She closed her eyes and took it in, picturing it in her mind exactly as it was now before she packed it all away.