Chapter One

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The setting sun cast the sandstone buildings of the city beyond in shades of gold. The gulls overhead cawing, meaning the fishing boats had returned for the day. My footfalls were heavy on the cobblestone streets as I headed for my apartment on the other side of the marketplace. I'd left the Healers Citadel moments before, practically shoved out the door by the Matron after I insisted on helping fold the fresh linens for the following day.

"You have been her since yesterday morning, Seraphine! Go home, rest. There will be plenty for you to do in the morning."

And so, I had. I'd wandered from the large towering building with its winding staircases and red slatted rooftops to find the sun working its magic on the surrounding buildings and the deep blue of the ocean beyond. The citadel was situated on one of the highest plateaus of Garen City and overlooked the Sellers Quarter, along with a few small residential streets beside it. The army barracks and training yards further down blocking the view of the docks and providing an untainted view of the city. It was easy to believe up here, in the fresh sea air and sunlight, that there was nothing unsavoury about Garen City. Making my way through the Sellers Quarters toward my apartment, I stopped at a stall and purchased a sticky sweet roll, still warm from the oven. I'd taken a bite into the delicate flaky pastry when a group of laughing children rushed by, despite my exhaustion I found myself smiling after them. I could have lived within the citadel; every healer was given the choice to stay once their training had been completed. Instead, I opted for a small apartment within the Sellers Quarter and not far from the army barracks where my sister, the Captain in the Legions Army, had been stationed when we arrived some years before.

We had arrived in this city as girls on the cusp of womanhood. Myself on the back of a horse I had fondly named Carley, our adoptive father riding two astride with me, while Arina was given her own horse, one I had not so affectionately named Beast. A beautiful horse, but somewhat of a bitch, she'd bitten me more than once on the journey from our hometown in the Highlands.

So different we were, that our parents once mused that on the day we were born, the earth cleaved in two. My sister emerging from our birth mother, all dark hair and eyes the colour of the night sky, the earth shuddering apart in her wake. Moments later I emerged, the opposite in nearly every way save our sharp features. My hair a light golden brown and eyes of cerulean, the ground erupting with vines, leaves and blossoms. One of us taking, the other giving. Unfortunately, neither of us could save our mother from the blood loss she experienced from childbirth... We were adopted by the only parents we ever truly knew shortly after.

As we grew older we found our magic tended to complement each other. Arina's power, Wraith Magic, was brute force and stealth beyond human comprehension, and the ability to Shift through space as if she were nothing but smoke. Mine was more subtle, I could sense the tug of Pulse Magic inside me the day Arina walked through the carved wooden door of our family's estate, her nose a bloody mess after fighting with a group of boys. I could feel it even before I came down the carpeted staircase. I could sense the break, my magic snaring and tugging for it, my hands itching to touch, to tend, to heal. And so, I had. Something that was considered remarkable at such a young age and with no training.

We were summoned by the High Commander not long after to take a place within the ranks of Garen City's forces. How he knew of the talents we both possessed was beyond my comprehension at that stage. It wasn't until later that I learned it was our parents who, wanting to nurture the potential in us both, had sent word of what they had seen; Arina sitting at the table, eye sockets already beginning to grow purple, when I walked right up to her and, despite her protests, grabbed either side of her face and willed the bones and capillaries to knit themselves anew.

Having my own apartment wasn't so much a choice as it was a necessity. After graduating from the Healers Citadel, top of my classes and considered one of the most gifted healers in Garen City, I had been assigned to the Legion as a Field Medic. The war was a bloody one and as hard as I had tried not to let it consume me, even now, I occasionally woke in a cold sweat, a scream escaping my lips as I recalled the ones I couldn't save. That was some years ago now, I had been fresh out of the Citadel, barely into my nineteenth year.

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