Chapter Seven: Playing with Fire

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Peace extended unto all, no matter friend or foe.

A soft breeze plucked the scent from hillside wildflowers and wafted down the gentle slope into the trees. At the edge of a clearing, leaves rustled and long grass waved around Lyllithe's shins. Today she wore plain brown linen pants and a thin cotton shirt that left her arms exposed under a worn leather vest emblazoned front and back with the Sun emblem of Aulis, the Divine Aspect of Light.

You never know when you might be called upon as a Devoted, Marten often taught. Your powers are a gift. It would be shameful and selfish to hide them.

Lyllithe frowned at the mental lecture. Yes, Father, like how we cower in the Abbey's safety instead of facing evil in the real world.

Once again, she surveyed her surroundings, reveling in the beauty. Her father loved to warn against entering the forest and mountains beyond the Woodwall. Plagued by bandits, they say. But there are worse creatures than greedy Scarred men. Lyllithe could hear him scoff in her mind. You might find a pack of Shade-wrought to devour your soul in darkness. Or even some of the Kem, granted power through the curse of the Daemons.

Lyllithe glanced about the clearing. Butterflies flitted around a cluster of Elith-Eyes in bloom. That speech worked when I was five summers old.

No one had seen any Kem around Northridge in her lifetime. And although rumors from other parts of the Bordermarches spoke of increased Shade sightings, even old Stam admitted he'd never heard of one in the area.

No, Father, it's the Scarred men I worry about. Men who could have been noble, who bore Gracemarks once, but forsook their Aspects and the teachings of their faith. A Shade was a twisted creature, but that was its nature. A man with a Scar was corrupted by choice.

She glanced down at the glowing symbol on her right hand. Three months dabbling in the Arcane, and I still fear I might wake up Scarred one day. Surely it would have happened by now, if magic truly meant abandoning the Light.

The cool wind struck her pale glistening skin and tempered the strength of noon's sun. She took a deep breath, then sighed. This isn't why you're out here, fool girl.

The stump of a fallen tree stuck out of the ground a dozen paces away. She stared at it as if expecting it to spring to life.

"Do not see by the light," she recited, picturing the pages of the book Davon gave her three months ago. "See Light itself."

The air seemed to shimmer. Lyllithe saw rainbow strands pulsating, stretching down like an intricate web from the sky. She exerted her will on several near the stump, drawing the energy into herself. That side of the clearing dimmed for a moment. Refocus the energy. Take it, twist it, turn it, throw it.

Power coursed through Lyllithe's nerves. Her body trembled at first, then shook. Like fingers held too close to a flame, the initial comforting warmth shifted into pain which soon became unbearable.

She chose flagros—fire—and squinted at the stump. A jet of flame appeared in the air before her. It streaked across the path of her vision and struck the wood with a thunderclap, shattering the stump into splinters. The brightness returned, revealing a jagged crater of wood. Smoking fragments rained down around the clearing.

Lyllithe grinned and rocked on her heels. I can Bind an element, change it to another, and Loose it. She practiced thinking in proper terms the Arcanists used.

She watched the strands of fire vanish. Nice to get something good out of my elemental heritage for a change. Pureblood humans like Davon could not Bind without the use of an Ocular, but Lyllithe needed no aid to see the elemental energies available all around her.

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