Chapter One

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My name is Hazel Michelli and on days like today, I don't want to adult anymore.

Alis, my magical mentor and surrogate grandmother when I reside in Darag-Realm, touched my forehead with cool fingertips. She came to Rosen Manor twice a week to teach me how to wield the Earthforce magical ability I'd inherited from my mother. Her grey-blue eyes bore into me, as if trying to read my mind. "Are you accessing the fire energy, Hazel?"

"I'm trying. I keep listening for Garron and Meara, though. It's about time for them to wake up."

"Then you are having a good test of how well you can calm your mind under stress." What she didn't say, but her expression made clear, was that today's lessons weren't going so well.

We each sat on a wooden stool, the only furniture left in the drawing room of my recently acquired three-story, gray brick manor home. At the start of our lesson, she had insisted we remove everything that could catch fire. Out went the rough cut wooden table and chairs, the oil lanterns and candles, rich woven tapestries and the heavy woolen curtains that shut out the drafts in the winter and the hot sun in the summer. Without the fabric to run interference, afternoon sunlight dazzled along the bare white walls and warmed the hard wood floors in front of the windows.

I was a transplant from Adven-Realm, or what I called the "real" world, which includes Colorado, my adoptive parents, electricity, and technology. None of those things were available here, as the magic of this world renders any technology ineffective, and to see my parents in Colorado I must travel through a portal leading from this world to theirs. I've lived here almost a year, with my ten-month-old son and five-year-old half-sister. The learning curve has been steep, and there were many times I'd considered giving up and going home to Colorado.

Before I'd been kidnapped and dragged into the Realm I was the go-to fun person on a Friday night, knew exactly who I was and where I was going in life. Now I went to bed early, measured a good day by how long of a nap Garron and Meara took, and felt like my glitter had gone. I was ashamed of my whiny inner voice that often asked "Is this it?"

I shook my head and attempted to refocus. Such thoughts only hindered my magical abilities and Alis was waiting. Squinching my eyes shut, I searched my awareness for the heat of fire magic.

"Relax, you look like you're in pain."

I made a conscious effort to unclench the muscles in my neck and jaw. The moment they softened the fire energy I'd located surged past, a toasty current down my spine."Okay, it's moving."

"Use an image to block the energy from going places in your body you don't want it to."

I erected an image of the Hoover Dam from my left shoulder to my right armpit. The energy tumbled along the dam before flowing down my arm into my upturned hand. "My fingers feel prickly, almost feverish. Is that normal?"

"Yes, but you need to release the energy soon. Once the energy is outside of your body, it can't harm you. But trapped inside, it could burn you from the inside-out."

"What?" My eyes jerked open and I shoved the energy out from my palm. A spray of golden flames sizzled upward several feet into the air.

Alis flinched and threw a hand up to protect her face, then felt across her sharp cheekbones and nose for any damage. Finding none, she gently said, "With control, dear."

"Shoot! I'm so sorry." I searched the ceiling for any scorch marks, but the flames hadn't reached that high. "Good call on stripping the room. Maybe we should have started with water energy."

"Water is harder to will into shape. Fire, while it can be more dangerous if you aren't careful,"—she gave me a pointed look—"is easier to control."

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