Blowing Embers

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             Her breath burning in her lungs, Kallai swung around the stone corner of the school, speeding up as she flew down the little rise the building perched on top of. Sweat left her back slick beneath the light grey of her robes, the dark blue of her sash fluttering behind her as she continued her charge through the darkness.

             The cool night air brought with her the sound of approaching laughter and panting voices. Kallai could feel her already speeding heart lurch, but didn’t look behind her. She already knew what she’d see. Instead, she raced up the hill, ignoring her burning thigh muscle, hoping to find refuge in the woods on the other side of it.

             A shout and a hoot from her pursuers told Kallai she’d been spotted.  She switched to climbing the hill in a zigzag pattern, hoping to throw their aim off. Too many of her attackers were good at outer spells for her to risk running in a straight line. She’d been to see the physiker only a few weeks earlier…

             Breaking out onto the top of Statue Hill, her eyes slid right past the shadowed stone form of the Smiling Man that gave the place its name, Kallai’s attention was drawn to the entwined figures of the two other people on the rise. Their heads popped up at the sound of her running footsteps, faces flushed and eyes wide. She dodged to the side of them, seeing only too much flesh, crumpled grey uniforms, and eyes that were rapidly narrowing into glares as she rushed past them.

             Continuing her headlong dash down the other side of the hill, Kallai heard words shouted in a breathless female voice. The words were familiar, ones that would combine with the sharp clap and flick of the hands to create a spell that would cause those caught in its effect range to have their feet stuck to the ground momentarily. Beneath that chant she heard a lower voice, the words hard to hear, though she suspected the spell was one for causing itching hives to break out all over the victim’s body. It certainly sounded right.

             The startled cries of her pursuers had her heart surging upwards. If the couple she’d interrupted were focusing their revenge on her tormentors… Kallai swerved away through the edge of the trees, aiming not towards the heart of them but back to the school’s buildings.

             Even with her pursuers occupied, Kallai didn’t dare slow. Not when she could run into another group. She pounded through one of the small courtyards paved in cobblestones, past the range used for practicing distance spells, until she finally reached the door that led to the Indigo girls’ dormitory.

             From there it was only a few last running steps to the safest place she had. Shutting the thick wood door of her room closed and turning the lock, Kallai let out her breath in a sigh, slowly sliding down the stout barrier, her breath still coming hard. She brought her knees up and leaned her forehead against them, her frizzy hair itching her where it was pressed against her skin. She brushed the chin-length strands out of her face until they provided golden brown screen between her and the rest of the world.

             Bad enough to have been found by other students on her way to the library, but for it to have been Azaz and his friends was just the worst kind of luck. Where others tormented her for their own, different, reasons, Azaz was one of the few who actually enjoyed the pain he inflicted on her.

             Kallai shuddered. He wasn’t going to be happy that she’d escaped. She could only hope for something to distract him before he came to exact his revenge. And when he came, there wouldn’t be anything she could do to stop him other than run. She, alone out of all students who’d made it out of white, who were older than eight, still couldn’t perform a single spell properly.

             She felt tears prick her eyes and swiped them away. Giving in to despair, to hopelessness, was, as Sevilen always told her, letting the bullies truly win. Taking a few deep breaths, she clambered to her feet.

             Dusting her robes of, Kallai swept her room with her glance. Her bookshelf, desk, bed, and bedside table looked fine, the same yellow wood they’d always been. She eyed her bookshelf for a moment, making sure all her books were there and that none of the few trinkets she kept at school were where she’d left. She didn’t think even any of her tormentors were willing to risk the wrath of the teachers after the last time they’d gotten into her room, but the check was second nature to her at this point.

             Only when she was sure no one had been in her room did she fully relax. Approaching her desk she checked the small case that had pride of place in the centre, feeling only a fleeting feeling of disappointment when she found it empty.

         Kallai shook her head at her own greedy nature and sat down, flipping her rough-bound notebook open to where she’d left off in her spatial homework. Raising her quill, she winced as she realized she’d been forced to flee the others before she’d gotten to the library. She didn’t have a personal symbol dictionary and she wasn’t about to risk another trip through the halls to borrow one, not when Azaz and his group could be out looking for her right that minute.

         She sighed, running the end of her quill along her cheek. There was no help for it. She was just going to have to make do with the symbols she’d already memorized. At least she knew more of them than her classmates. Then again, they had their magic and actual spells to focus on, where the best she could hope to do was memorize everything that could be memorized.

        Seeing her view of her desk go wavy, Kallai shook her head and bit her lip. There was no point in wishing for something that she didn’t, and couldn’t, have. She’d just focus on what she could do, and at the moment, that was get her homework done. Rubbing her eyes, Kallai threw herself back into the world of magic theory.

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