Chapter 3: The First Aphesis

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Most of Katafigo Island was wilderness and wildlife, full of craggy cliffs and tiny rivulets. In fact, the only real building on the tiny island was the lighthouse itself, which had begun as a simple, beautiful tower and now also included a huge, two-story building complete with cafeteria, gym, classrooms, offices, ball rooms, music rooms, and anything else the builders had dreamed might one day be useful to its etheran people. 

Koda's cute black boots were loud on the tile floor as she walked through the hallways. It was cold, too, but it was the nerves that made her want to rub her hands. She held them by her side with a force of will and walked with determination. 

Finding the room she'd been summoned to was easy. She saw the soul-links everywhere, always, but focusing on them was rather like focusing on the end of your nose. Easy to see past, most of the time, but right there when you remember to look at it. With the ease of years of training and practice, and because this particular thread was familiar, she sorted the web of strings through which she walked. 

The thread she was looking for was old and grey, leading from her own chest to her father's. She couldn't see the other end from here, but she knew it by its feel. It was a tired thread, worn and weary, but homey like cinnamon and bonfires. It was frayed and knotted where they'd argued and, one way or another, forgiven each other. 

Koda's gaze was downcast, focused on the thread, and it took a couple of minutes to realize they were headed up to the top of the lighthouse. Her thoughts were distant. She didn't want to go.

This was her first aphesis. For the first time in her life, she would be invited into the secret procedure in which souls were fractured, torn away, and money was made. Not that anyone else would admit all that.

Climbing the tower's long spiral staircase wasn't difficult, but Koda still didn't like it. The railing was frail-looking, made of intricate detailed metalwork. From the top stair, one could look over the railing and see all the way down to the very bottom of the tower. The steps were also uneven, wider toward the wall and much thinner toward the railing and the inside of the spiral. Needless to say, Koda stuck close to the wall.

The number of threads in her mind's eye grew as she neared the top of the stairs, indicating people in the tower room. Koda paused when she was near to catch her breath. She wasn't breathing particularly hard-- she'd made this climb plenty in her years on the island-- but she wanted to walk in with complete control and right now she was wishing she'd remembered to go to the bathroom before climbing all those steps.

At the top of the steps, there was a small platform with a ladder and a trap door. The door led to the lantern room at the very top of the tower. That room was what made all these steps worth it. With one more deep inhale, Koda scaled the ladder quickly and found that, thankfully, the trap door was already open. 

Sticking her head through the hole made something inside her feel like a light switch had flipped on. The lighthouse and the attached building had been made by etheran builders. The walls themselves were made of a strange material called teichos. It had special properties that both dampened dangerous talents and amplified passive and benevolent talents. 

The builders' real masterpiece was the lantern room itself. Lighthouses are known for their spectacular views. Katafigo Lighthouse was no exception. Impossibly high windows lined the walls all the way around. The lantern, along with all its lenses, hung suspended somehow high overhead so that they wouldn't get in anyone's way. A tiny door led out to a thin, metal-lacework balcony. Koda had never actually been out there and wasn't sure she trusted it, but she'd seen other people go out often enough.

Through the windows, you could see miles and miles out to sea. When it was storming, clouds rolled in over deep green waters you could sit and watch the thunderclouds form from miles out. On a sunny day like today, waves crashed with the sunlight sparkling over their crests. 

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