Rale set her book on the table as the train passed over a bridge. She had gotten on the train an hour before and was still not sure how much longer the ride was. She’d gone looking for the captain with little success. Several of the other passengers had thought her kitten was cute, and she’d moved back into hiding after Tallon had eaten about a half dozen fog beans, and several chunks of jerky. She was worried he’d get sick and by the way he was acting her fears were right.
-I told you not to eat anything I didn’t give you. Spirit’s aren’t supposed to eat fog beans. - Then why didn’t they know that and stop feeding it to me? –Maybe because you were eating so much of it? He grumbled and settled into a more comfortable position on her shoulders. She pulled her book from her bag and it flipped open to the first page.
It wasn’t a normal book. She’d gotten it from her mother about a year before she’d died. Its contents weren’t permanent, tending to change every time she opened it. It was the book she’d originally started teaching herself magick from. Every time she’d needed to use or learn a specific spell it had appeared along with instructions on its uses, and how to do it.
At the moment it was showing an image of her foster parents driving back to their home, having dropped her off at the train station to head off to school. The image faded as she patted the book. It had shown her what she wanted to know. The moment the image faded a message appeared. Five minutes till arrival at Logsborrow. She patted it again, it had done the same thing to show her the message about her being invited to attend the magick school.
She reached up to pat Tallon on the head as he began a slight purr against her neck as he drifted off to sleep. Her thoughts wandered back to when she’d first met him.
Rale looked up as her mother and father swung her back and forth between them. They were camping, she was seven and that was all she cared about, she’d begged for weeks to come here. She didn’t even know why but the moment she’d seen the picture of this valley she had to come here. She’d found it in an old text and her father had spent a week just trying to locate it. From what her mother said when they finally did find it, it was in the middle of nowhere out in the mountains.
She heard something, apparently her parents did too because they stopped to listen. She released their hands and ran for the tree line. Her parents came running after her. She burst through the edge and out into a large bowl of the valley. She looked up to see huge wings across the sky. Her father wrapped his arms around her and her mother as a dragon set down in front of them. He was watching her.
“What is your name?” “Rale.” She said with a smile that only little kids have, the one that says nothing has ever touched them, and nothing ever will. The dragon, at least four stories tall, knelt down so that he could get a better look at her. “What are you doing in my valley Rale; I sense that it was you who came here.” “It was pretty.” His great dark eyes were locked on her. “Why do you not fear me while even your parents tremble?” She shrugged her little shoulders. A smaller dragon came out from behind the larger one, having landed while they were talking. He walked up to them. “Hello Rale. It’s nice to finally meet you.” She smiled.
She laughed as she recalled how her parents had reacted to that statement. Neither they nor the larger dragon, Falcon, had been happy when Tallon had declared that she was his Rider, and he was leaving with her. It had started an argument that her parents hadn’t been able to understand. Falcon had finally given in as Tallon explained to him that she had come because he’d sensed her and called out for her. She was his Rider and he didn’t care whether Falcon thought he was ready or not, he knew he was. Her parents had given in only because she’d started screaming and refused to stop until they let her new friend come with them. She was glad that Tallon had been there for her when her parents died.
–It’s all right. I’m just glad that are argument worked, they could have just knocked us out and not had to worry about it. - I think we would have gone looking for each other eventually if they had, it would only have changed the amount of time we had to bond. She smiled as she remembered some of the fights they’d gotten into when they’d first started sharing thoughts. She heard Tallon laugh in her head. Those were some weird fights, half thought, half spoken. She gave him another scratch behind his black and red ears and he settled back to sleep. –I won’t interrupt your sleep with thoughts again. - She heard a sleepy acceptance before he went quiet. She looked up at a knock on the door.
An elderly woman came in with her spirit dog. Unlike Tallon, he really was a dog. He spotted Tallon but had enough sense not to bark, so he was one of the more intelligent guardians. Her view of the woman raised several notches. The guard normally reflected the guarded. The elderly woman nodded to her. “What beautiful hair you have. My daughter had hair like that. I believed it’s called Sidhe Red, isn’t it?” She nodded, running a nervous hand through her red black hair. It was a sharp contrast to her fair skin tone and hazel-gray eyes.
The train came to a stop and she nodded to the woman before getting off. She looked back at the train with apprehension before turning around to face the town. She was 5’ 3” and a good head shorter than most of the people milling about on the platform. Spirits mingled freely with people, some with guarded, others without, searching still for theirs, for the most part they were puppies, for the older ones, they were looking for second guards, their first having died.
She walked towards the stables on the far side of town where she came across a Fae with hair the same color as her own. He smiled when he caught sight of her. She ran up to him and gave him a hug; he lifted her clear off the ground. “Long time no see little one.” “Nice to see you Uncle Jeraik; where is everyone else?” He nodded towards the stables. “They are caring for the horses. So, you are going to the school this year?” She nodded, suddenly nervous again. “It’ll be all right Rale. You’ll fit in just fine.” She ran a hand through her hair. He smiled. “At least with the rest of the students like us.”
She gave in and ran into the stable to check on the rest of the squad and the horses. She pulled up short to check her surroundings just inside the door. Ranke gave her a knowing look. She ducked her head before running up to him, Tallon flying alongside before rushing forward to land on his shoulder. She skidded to a halt in front of him as Ranke began to stroke Tallon’s crest feathers. “You almost forgot to check.” “I’ll remember next time.” He rolled his eyes in exasperation.
He carefully set Tallon, now a cat, back on her shoulders. He crooked his finger and she followed him to the back of the stables where several others of the squad were resting or grooming horses. She nodded to each in passing. Marek gave her a smile and she mouthed happy birthday to him.
Ranke came to a stop beside the stalls that held the squads horses. She was curious now as he opened one and led out a red and black stallion. “This is Black Rayne. He’s one of the horses from the Tri-Nix Sisters. They brought him in this morning and specifically had me set him out for you.” She walked up to him and the horse, stopping two feet from them. The horse, bridle and saddle-less, closed the last of the distance.
He lowered his head so that he could look her in the eye and tapped her shoulder. She reached up slowly and stroked his mane, much as Ranke had stroked Tallon’s feathers. The horses eyes were storm gray, and to a normal person would appear blind, but she recognized him for what he was. He was a shadow horse from the Nix’s herd. They were not leant out or bought, the horses were given to those that the Nix’s deemed worthy of them, and the horses would not accept anything less than what they deemed their worth in rider. She sent a silent thanks to the Nix Sisters and to the horse. He bobbed his head in acknowledgement.
Ranke leaned forward and whispered in her ear. “His phrase is ‘Talc suen vraine.’” She smiled. It could be translated in several ways, depending on the Nix dialect that was used: Vardain, Selfraim, or Noctraine; the first meaning, Horse of the Shadows, second meaning, Shadow Rider, and third meaning, Dragon-eye Horse Rider.
She stepped forward and whispered the phrase into the horse’s ear, followed by, Horse of the Shadows. The answering echo from the horse was Shadow Rider.
Rale watched as the school in the distance loomed closer. It was huge. The overall design reminded her of the mansions that her Fae cousins lived in, only larger. She supposed most others would call it a castle. Mark and his brothers, James and Jacob were riding with her. Mark beside and the other two behind. Mark interupted her thoughts on the school. "So, do you know what you plan to study yet?" She looked back at him. "Don't we chose that the year after next?" He nodded. "Yes, but the teachers like to get an idea of where your strengths lay in the first year. So try and take classes that you enjoy. That's why the school lends books out to students. The first week you basically wander around from class to class, choosing which you want to take. You do have to take rudementary potions and magic. But they'll be testing you first to see how far you are on that scale." She nodded.
"M'lady?" The smooth voice drew her attention to the young female who had road up beside them. The newcomer suddenly had the complete attention of the two boys following behind. Rale couldn't blame them, Nexus was a stunner. She had long black hair with silver highlights spaced just right to catch flashes of light, but stay hidden otherwise. The oddest thing was that like Rale's, her's was all-natural, dyes don't work in Fae hair.
"What is it Nexus? Nice to see you. How did the summer festival go, I'm sorry I missed it." Neus smiled. "Just saying hi, nice to see you too, and it went splendidly, I'm sorry you had to miss it too. Vlane hit his head on the balcony as he was passing under. Lantielle got his attention just in time for him to forget to duck, it was hillarious!" Rale couldn't help but smile too. "It's about time that pompous idiot got what was coming. How did you talk Lantielle into helping? He's almost always on Vlane's side." Nexus smiled. "I offered him a date." "You didn't!" "Did too, you know I think he's cute, and if you get him away from Vlane he's really nice too." They both looked up as someone yelled out to Nexus. "Later Rale!" "Later Nex!"
Mark lightly tapped her arm with a look af admiration. "Who is that?" Rale looked startled for a minute. "Oh, that's Nexus Ver'dail, she's a friend of mine. We've known each other since we were little. She's one of my cousin's age guardians." A look passed over his face that she didn't understand. "Cool..." He drifted off into thought and she left him alone.
Rale settled her horse in the stables, refusing to let any of the stable hands near the horse. He'd gotten agitated as they got closer to the school, as all Fae horses did. She had just finished brushing out Blood Rayne's coat when a teacher came into the stables. "Lady Rale?" She looked up. "It is time to head inside. I'm sure the stable hands can deal with your horse." She shook her head. "He's settled in now, he won't let anyone else brush or feed him. I can care for him, he'll only eat once or twice a week, and only what I feed him." The teacher nodded in understanding. "A Fae horse." He motioned for her to follow him. With a wave of her hand the clothes she was wearing became as clean as they had been when she'd put them on this morning.
She followed him into the building and into the hall where the rest of the new students were standing. The teacher up front gave her a look that spoke of strained patience. "Now that we are all assembled, I have a few announcements. Firstly, you will not start classes until the second week, you will spend the first week choosing the classes you wish to take. Secondly, the standard testing you will all undertake will begin after I finish speaking. Thirdly, the caverns in the mountains behind the school is off-limits to everyone but those specifically invited to go back there. Trespassing will result in immediate suspension if not expulsion from the school along with other consequences. Now, humans to the back, Vampires and Weres to the left, Fae to the right, all others to the front." One student stood out from the rest when he moved forward. He had dark crimson hair and his eyes were a strangely luminescent color. The teacher raised a hand to him. "You will move with the Fae." The groups seperated and he went t stand next to Rale.
She looked over at him and he did the same. "Hi." "Hi." She paused but curiosity got the better of her. "Are you a Shade?" He nodded with a wary expression. She smiled. "Cool." His face immediately brightened a little. "Really? Most people don't want anything to do with me. They hate the fact that Shadow animals will talk to me but not them. It gets annoying." "Oh, I don't mind. Shadow animals talk to me too. They talk to several of the Fae, but not many so don't tell anyone." He smiled. "Secrets safe with me. Name's Jarrek by the way." "Cool, I'm Rale." They settled more comfortably next to each other.
The teachers seperated the groups into different halls. Rale looked around as they entered a hall decorated with swirls in the walls that reminded her of lines of power in several of the Old Fae magic spells she'd learned, from before they had circles. Another teacher began taking the sudents out in sets of two. Her and Jarrek moved to the back of the group in unison. They both smiled as they realized what they'd both done. Eventually the teacher got to them, they were the last two and he seemed tired. "All right, you two with me." They followed him through a door and into another room.
It was a strange room. There were statues along the walls, and two intersecting circles on the floor. They were motioned to each take one. The moment they passed over the circles they both came to life. Their respective Spirit Guards both immediately moved to the ground in front of them, facing off. Rale's head tilted to the side as she got a look at Jarrek's Spirit, he had a similar expression when he glanced at Tallon.
-Tallon, is that another dragon? Yes, her name is Verdain. She found him like I found you.
They both looked up and nodded to each other. The teacher spoke, completely oblivious. "Now, I want you both to think of the elements, and place them on the circle." Wind whipped to their respective norths, combining, Fire on the east, Water on the west, and Earth on the south. Both of their Spirits immediately moved to them for the final element. "Good, now I want you both to attempt to breach the others circle." They both shrugged and sent power at the others walls. Rale felt a powerful shove at the wall to her circle, it immediately shoved her physically back several feet. The same thing appeared to happen to Jarrek. Rale's thoughts immediately wrapped around a spell she'd learned that was desgined specifically to break circles. She let it whisper through her thoughts and let it go. Apparently Jarrek had tried the same thing as both their circles shattered and they were thrown back into opposing walls.
They both looked up as the teacher picked himself up. "Well, that was interesting." The door opened and three other teachers spilled in. "What happened?" He waved them away as he dusted off his robes. "They simply broke each others circles the hard way." One of them gave him a concened look. "They wrung the bells on the tower roof." The teacher looked them back over as they stood. "Hmmmm.... Then perhaps an early induction to the Caverns is advisable, for more in depth studies. You two would understand that this must be kept quiet?" They both nodded. "Of course."