❅ Chapter 6 ❅

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I slept restlessly that night, my dreams plagued with sickly children and bloody battles. It was mainly just snippets of gruesome battles and small children begging for food with frail hands and huge, empty eyes. Though the more I stared into the eyes of the hungry, I realized they weren't so empty after all... It was like they were full of some terrible, negative emotion that I couldn't put my finger on. And they were pinning it on me.

I woke with a start, my body shivering despite the warmth of the room. The Rising Bell hadn't rung yet, so I knew it was early in the day. I threw the covers over my legs and looked down. I was still in my black leather pants and high-necked shirt. Even my boots still clung to my feet.

Everything came back with a roar of of confusion and fear. The Water Sage, Akan, knew about my secret. Not just my magically ability, but my name. I'm not sure why him knowing my name sent shivers down my spine, but it did. And to make things worse, he wanted me to stay here. To become a witch.

I didn't want to become a witch. Yes, the idea of magic sent my blood singing, and yes, I wanted to join the Order's forces, but not as a witch! I wanted to fight honorably. I wanted a sword, a bow, something. Something physical. Magic was just... scary to village people. It was something not everyone had a liking for. Yes, we could all learn it, but not everyone was good at it.

But magic wasn't just easy for me. It was unnaturally simple. I didn't struggle to pull the water's power from the currents below us; it was as easy as breathing. Many people struggled at first, to find their element that sung to them as water sung to me. And after that, it was difficult for them to harness the elements power. Yes, I still needed to shout my spell like any other witch. I had a lot of power, or at least I could access it, but that didn't mean I knew how to control it.

Sometimes, in the underground duels, I felt like I had a raging tidal wave in my chest, the power from the water pulling at my insides, demanding, just like an undercurrent. And as terrifying as it was, I always found myself wanting to obey, to release the water from its tomb below and set it free.

I thought of all the water under us, the underground river that stretched for miles and that nobody seemed to realize, and shivered.

With a groan, I stretched my arms high over my head, pausing to let my shoulders and spine pop. I jabbed the heel of my palm into my eyes, rubbing the sleep away and headed towards the bathroom.

The first two nights when I arrived, I hadn't even realized the bathroom was there. But on the third night, the night before Sebastian came and got me, I realized there was a raised area of stone by the chair in the corner of my room. At first I convinced myself that I didn't care about it. This was a witch's room, and I was no witch. But sooner rather than later, curiosity got the best of me. I rolled out of bed and padded my way over to the wall. I fingered the area for a while, surprised when one of the rocks pushed inward, making me jump a little. There was a click, and the raised area of stone sunk backwards into the wall, then moved to the right and disappeared all together.

I gasped. Behind the raised area of stone lay a bathroom, or at least what I perceived to be a bathroom. I'd never seen one. Never had one, but I heard stories of rooms in the Bairfell Palace that were dedicated just to bathing and beauty. I guess the dorms had them too.

The floors were stone, of course, but shimmered as if tiny flecks of gold were embedded deep into the rock. The walls matched the floor, though I was surprised to see a huge part cut out for a smaller square room. This one had a nozzle that sat close to the ceiling and a drain on the floor. And a large mirror hung over a sink in the front of the room. (Yes, I knew what a sink was. Kevin had one in the Strip.)

Puzzled, I asked the maid that came to my room that night. She said that what I'd found was indeed a bathroom, and the small room in the corner was something called a shower, and that water cascades down from the spout like rain. It was apparently meant for bathing.
So there I was, in a bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror, hating what I saw staring back at me.

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