Chapter 9 P. 2

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Arna awoke, feeling as if she were frozen from the neck down. Sleeping by the hearth in Fanndis’ cottage had not provided the warmth she’d hoped. The fire had died out long ago and the windows were not well shielded against drafts. She shivered and tried her best to cover every inch of her body in order to slink back into sleep. No sunshine peeped through the shutters and no sounds crept through the house. Morning had not yet come. For all the girl knew, it was closer to midnight than the dawn. She wished she had decided to stay in the castle for the night instead of coming right back after she had gathered her things the day before.

When she could not fall asleep after several minutes of trying, she rolled over and looked at the grey ashes of the dead fire. She did not know if Fanndis would object to her building a new one. Arna was certain that she would be frostbitten in the morning if she did not find some way to warm herself.  A sudden spark danced across her mind. She wanted to try lighting the fire with the Seidh. Ever since she had made fire in Fanndis’ test, she was dying to try it again. “This is my chance”, she said to herself.

Arna sat up, tugging her covers tightly about her, and looked at the blackened hearth. She closed her eyes and concentrated, regulating her breathing and focusing her mind on one thought only: fire. She imagined a fire that would burn brightly and hot through the night without need of wood or kindling. She focused for several minutes until she felt sweat running down her temples. When she opened her eyes, she was overjoyed to see a silent, beautiful fire burning before her. She extended her hands to warm them and relished the glorious heat that thawed her frigid frame.

Fanndis watched from the entrance to her bedroom. She had wondered when the girl would try to make fire again. The results were impressive. There was great potential in her apprentice. The old woman had been startled when Arna returned to the cottage after dark and was excited by the girl’s eagerness to begin learning immediately. Fanndis had shuffled the girl off to bed by the hearth so that she would be rested and ready for the day when morning came. Fanndis was satisfied with the fire the girl had created—thankful, too, for it would heat the cottage through the night. Fanndis returned to bed.

Arna stared at the fire and found she was no longer sleepy. She thought of many things while she hugged her knees close to her chest and watched the enchanted flames. Would she ever command other elements? Perhaps she could try summoning water or wind with magic. A yawn escaped her lips and Arna decided she was too tired. After her mind drifted from thoughts of the Seidh, her thoughts settled on Lord Maslyn. She blushed at the image of his happy face. She had been fond of him for many years, and truly hoped that she would get to see him the next afternoon after his lessons were done for the day. A chill came over her and she scooted closer to the fire, letting the heat course over and through her.

An hour passed and countless thoughts bounded through her brain. Arna felt her eyelids drift closed. She scooted her sleeping pallet closer to the hearth so the fire’s warmth would be with her through the rest of the night. A deep sleep overcame her and, though she dreamed, she did not remember the dreams upon waking.

Fanndis woke the girl when the suns had begun to break the horizon in the eastern woods. Stigg had already been up for an hour or two and took his breakfast silently in the kitchen. Fanndis smiled, remembering the conversation with her son that morning. He was restless when he came in from the barn and Fanndis wondered at his behavior.

She had asked him earlier, “Whatever is the matter with you?”

“The barn was drafty,” he grumbled. “I know we couldn’t very well let the girl sleep in there, but I suppose I’ll just have to make a fire pit or something for the foreseeable future.”

Fanndis proclaimed, “Stuff and nonsense! You and Lord Maslyn will be building an addition onto the cottage for the girl. She’ll need a workspace and a place to sleep as well as a fireplace. Work on the project should begin as soon as possible, don’t you think? You don’t want to spend your entire life in that barn, do you?” Fanndis scolded.

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