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Prologue

It was the beginning of the era of the mage when this story takes place and the now great and powerful Order of Pheonician Mages was in it's fledgling years. The order that could eventually became able to control all things and did so in the name of common good. Even if in a land where people respected the laws of ancient magic, there would always be those who would seek to wield it for their own will. Mages, wizards, warlocks and all other beings of magical origin and power (other than the evil ones) wish to remain on the neutral path so as not to destroy the universal balance. As they know how the world works and its history since the dawn of time, they know how to use their powers without disrupting the balance of the universe, which would be disrupted where it left to any persons who had not studied the ancient lore of the world.

Before those glorious years came to pass however there were times of great turbulence. When beings of such great and magical power were shaped to the will of men in order to rule. It was in a like this time that the story begins.

Chapter 1

Kya stood upon the ornate fortifications of the Imperial Palace looking down over the ancient and magical capital of the Drake. The ancient land was situated in the heart of the Drake Islands, which were believed to be home of the most ancient and powerful energies of the world. It was believed by many that the original inhabitants of the islands were the descendants of the Great Dragon Rainur, one of several ancient creatures who were said to be witness to the birth of the universe itself. These ancient powers worked in harmony with each other to maintain a balance in the world; Rainur, the great protector and guardian of the world; Kayotor, a Phoenix, the wisest and most magical of the ancient spirits; a Wolf by the name of Haruya, who's skills lay in the art of survival, balance and strength, and Lapadel, the restorer of peace and keeper of the waters. The Great Dragon, as the most ancient and powerful of the four spirits, was granted the right to rule the entire world, keeping it in balance and harmony. It was now believed that the Great Dragon was the Guardian of the Afterlife, protecting the lost souls and helping them to find their way onto the path of enlightenment. Few people in the world remained who could harness the energy and power of any of these great beings, and Kya, being a direct descendant of the Great Dragon, was a pure blood Temrain. The Temrain’s had the same blood as that which ran through Rainur’s veins, and were therefore blessed with his protection, longevity and wisdom. She had the sharply pointed ear tips and lobes that were unique to those of Rainur’s bloodline, and long, luxurious hair that reached down to her waist and shone golden in the sun. As it fluttered in the breeze, different tones of deep red and rich purple shone into a million different colours in the haze of the rising sun.

She wore delicate robes of golden silk that flowed behind her in the breeze, hugging every inch of her perfect curves. Kya found that she was often the subject of unwanted stares from many of the men within the Imperial City, and as a result there were few within the city that had not been on the receiving end of a jet of water – or in the case of some of the repeat gazers, much worse. These were skills that Kya had learnt during her time studying as a mage in the Phoenician Order. The Phoenician Order was one of four, created in remembrance of the Great Spirits and designed to keep order in the city. As the most magical of the Spirits, the Phoenix was honoured through all magical happenings. The ??? was honoured through the many advisors and peacekeepers in the city that paid homage the being. The Great Dragon was represented through the guardsmen and officers who kept the lands safe, and the Wolf Spirit symbolised through the aristocracy and royalty of the Drake.

Kya gazed absentmindedly down over the majestic city, and across her line of vision marched several lines of soldiers, rehearsing their drills. Kya was from a noble family, and had such great power and high status that she was one of few who could do anything she wished with her life. Though still respecting ancient laws and rituals, many traditions, such as having to partake in an arranged marriage into a noble family to uphold family honour, had not been practiced for many generations, and the people were free to marry as they choose. Kya’s world had almost no restraints for her; she was free to choose her friends, her home, her lifestyle…she could even choose to leave the ???, and knew that she would be welcome in any of the islands of the Drake. As part of her unrestrained life, she was, of course, free to choose what way to spend her days. She could join the ranks of the Imperial Guard and defend the city should it come under attack. Or she could become an advisor, and guide people on how to best execute their affairs. She could even become one of the ???, who interpreted the ways of the world and the wills of the Spirits. Though Kya had some skill in each of these areas, she was most intrigued by the many wizards and warlocks who had often crossed her path on their way to the Imperial Palace for the blessings of the Emperor, before beginning on some perilous quest. Kya had always been fascinated by the rogue powers of the universe, so she decided to devote her life to learning the mystical ways of the world. She had spent the last two years studying as a mage, and today would mark her completion of these years, and she would soon be celebrating her graduation with the other students. Of course, not just anybody could be a mage. Magical ability cannot be taught, it can only be harnessed. Even those few born with the ability cannot necessarily control it, and some even in certain ways. Some people born with a strong magical ability can only harness one kind of power, and therefore, through no choice, must become a mage with the relevant power to what they can control. Some born with very little magical power can control all phases of magery. Even when magical power flows through your veins, it is still a great challenge to become a mage – no matter how strong the ability or how simple the spell. Kya was extremely lucky – she had a strong natural ability to harness magical energies, and she could also control every aspect of magery, often with little effort; she had a strong command over the elements, had skills in battle, was a capable healer and she also had basic control of summoning and of the spirits. As she could control every aspect of magery, she decided to become what is known as a Master Mage. It seemed foolish to have access to all this power and not use it, and she knew that mages who could channel every phase of the Ancient Powers were extremely rare – so rare in fact that there had only been 6 Master Mages in the entire world in the past 100 years.

Unfortunately for Kya, she was behind her fellow trainees in every class, as almost all of her classmates were only focused on learning one kind of magic, healing or elemental for example, whereas she was learning every kind of magic at the same time. Nobody could deny it was a lot for her to take in, but she had always had a passion for new information and although behind the others because of the sheer number of hours she spent training in each field, she excelled at everything she did.

Kya turned, the sun now having fully risen, and walked down the marble staircase into the courtyard below. The courtyard, though small, was one of many and beautifully decorated. Four high pillars stood in the four corners of the courtyard, level with the roof and supporting nothing. Each pillar stood proud and though they were well maintained, time was beginning to take its toll on the majestic stone columns, and deep cracks were beginning to form. Each was covered in varying amounts of ivy, and had many different kinds of wildflowers growing at the base, though weather natural or magical nobody knew. For once, Kya did not stop to bask in the beauty of her favourite part of the entire palace. She was headed for the largest of the celebration halls, situated at the back of the palace and overlooking the majestic landscape. This was where the graduation ceremony was to take place, and where she, among the other graduates, would receive the emperors blessing, as was customary at the end of each year of training.

Kya walked unhurriedly past a contingent of soldiers marching towards her through the flowered, stone archway she was exiting the courtyard from, her golden robes flowing around her as she went. Lost in her own thoughts, she did not notice she had particularly attracted the attention of one of the men, who was entranced by everything about her from the glittering tones of her hair to the delicate, shimmering fabric that danced around her ankles. General Ryshan Syranova was leading his elite company of 25 archers and 25 spearmen into the Imperial Palace. He was of the famous High Flame Guards regiment, all of whom were highly skilled archers armed with only the finest weapons; the magical Deep Heart wood bows, unbreakable as diamonds and as light as a feather, and the remarkable Fire Bow strings, that made their arrows explode into flame on impact, sending a surge of fire through whatever it came into contact with. The High Flame Guards had stood vigil over the Imperial Palace for over 5000 years, from the day of it's construction, along with their sister regiment the Dark Talon Guards, who fought with the infamous Death Bringer Lance; a weapon made of the same magical Deep Heart wood and enchanted so that every strike of the lace had the force of 100 men behind it. Ryshan's company was one of the few that held a mix of the two elite regiment's of the Empire. They were specialists in rapid deployment and were usually the first called upon when danger was great enough to warrant the use of the elites. Ryshan lead his company to the barracks where he had his trusty sergeant Lyang Qwan dismiss his men, with orders to prepare ceremonial dress for 2 hours time. Ryshan took his unstrung bow and wandered alone through the palace. He was to be the Commanding Guardsman at the graduation ceremony that evening, which was one of the greatest honours for any High Flame guard.

Ryshan was seeking his immediate superior, and rounded the corner to his quarters at the precise moment his commander, who was coming from the opposite direction. The two men collided, their armour clattering as their shoulders crashed together. Ryshan instinctively reached for his bow string while his commander drew back into a position ready for hand to hand combat. The two men took a moment to relax after the impact – the discipline they required for their profession had trained them to respond to any possible threat with what anybody outside the regiment would consider paranoia. As the men realised they were under no threat, they slowly relaxed their postures and Ryshan threw up a salute to show respect to his commanding officer. “Any last orders before I begin the final preparations for the ceremony, sir?” There was silence for a moment as the commander imitated contemplation of an instruction he knew wasn’t there. Both men played this game often, knowing they were equally matched in intellect and ability, but knowing they needed to play their roles accordingly, to maintain the chain of command. Cheng Sai Fong was many years older than Ryshan, but he being the younger and lower ranking of the two, fell into submission and mimicked Fong, pretending to await orders from the commander. “Nothing more, General. Good luck with the ceremony’’ the older man replied courteously. The two men saluted each other once more maintaining the order of their status, and smiled at each other before parting. Fong had taken Ryshan under his wing when his father had died, and had always guided and mentored him since long before he had been recruited into the Order.

He and Ryshan’s father had been friends for many years, so it was only natural that he should help to raise the boy who was already as good as a son to him after his fathers passing, as he would want done for his children after his own death. Fong saw many resemblances between the way Ryshan was now, and the way his father had been at the same age. He was extremely handsome, taller than many and slimmer than most. His vivid green eyes were as bright as jade and glittered when he smiled, and he had neck length, mousey brown hair that refused to lie flat. These features were all inherited form his ancient heritage – he was a Haruyan by birth, his mother having come from the continent. She was from the Deep Forest wolf tribe, whose people were protected by the Great Spirit Haruya. Although Ryshan was unsure of his exact heritage, he knew that his family must have been one of great importance and power in ancient times, as the birthmark he carried as a symbol of Hayura’s protection spanned across his entire back and shoulders. Although all those who live in the Deep Forest are protected by the Great Spirit, there are few with large, obvious signs of protection, usually belonging to families of high status. The birth mark was said to be a marker to his guardian spirit, guiding his moral values and protecting him from danger. The birthmark altered as he had grown up, changing shape according to his moods, changing in size and definition as he had grown stronger as a warrior…The marks that spanned his back were a true reflection of his soul, and an image of a beautiful creature. The swirls, patterns and shapes were beautiful on their own, but when the image was viewed as a whole they blended into one to create the form of Haruya.

As Ryshan walked alone through the ornately decorated corridor once more, he was highly aware of his own footsteps. He made a conscious effort to silence his steps as he went, knowing he may disturb the delicate workings of the mysterious crafts that were carried out daily within the palace. He passed few people on the corridors, and was rather surprised when he came across a group of mages hovering in a corner in the courtyard. They were huddled together in a circle and whispering hurriedly over some topic they obviously did not want to be heard discussing. This immediately struck Ryshan as strange, as such secrecy was highly unusual, except among the palace guards over some security matter and even that was only common occurrence when a major event was to be taking place. He decided to leave the mages to their devices – he recognised them as experienced mages – not students – and knew that they had proven themselves to both the emperor and the Empire on many occasions. He moved on, and he felt the tail of the wolf on his back quiver, instinctively knowing something wasn’t right but not having any evidence to suggest otherwise.

Kya was in a quiet room preparing for the night ahead. She had brought several changes of robes with her and was sifting through them, attempting to decide weather a change of outfit was required. This was her big night to shine. It had been a long, hard year and she had learned so many new skills. After a few minutes deliberating, Kya decided to stick with the robes she was already wearing – they were her favourite & perfectly complimented everything about her, showing off her figure without being too revealing. She was immediately grateful for making this decision as one of her mentors walked in the room at that precise moment. His name was Mage Darin, he was an extremely wizened and very powerful spirit mage; he had taught Kya much this year.

‘’Kyasarin! All prepared for the ceremony I take it?’’ She nodded at her teacher and remained silent. ‘’I have a request for you. After the ceremony I will be performing a ritual – just a simple summoning. We require the assistance of a younger mage as it will require a lot of energy that unfortunately I am somewhat lacking in these days. Ability is not the most important of factors with this particular summoning, so you need not worry about that. I believe it would be a valuable experience for you, you are more reliable and somewhat more promising than some of our other students.’’ Kya was slightly confused – none of the summoning rituals she had heard of required youth over ability to increase their effectiveness. She was too overwhelmed by the thought of being part of an official summoning to take much notice of this slight niggling voice in the back of her mind. She agreed, feeling honoured that Mage Darin had specifically request her help, and relished the thought of how envious her classmates would be when they found out what she had been a part of. The moment Mage Darin left the room, Kya began practicing basic spirit spells. She moved her hands through the air, feeling the magic flow out of her fingertips, and traced a glowing shape into the air in front of her. Kya drew the pattern perfectly, with ease and skill. The spell was one of her favourites, and she had practiced this many times. The pattern that hovered there was not particularly complex, and after hovering for a moment, the image disappeared in a flash of light. In its place, a small beautiful blue bird, about the size of a clenched fist appeared. It twittered around the room before coming to rest on Kya’s shoulder. Kya reached her hand and stroked its elegant body with her forefinger. The bird chirped and sang for a moment, then disappeared in another flash of light. Kya sighed. Although the creature she had summoned was beautiful, most of her classmates were able to summon great bears by now. She knew they had so little to learn in comparison, and that she was doing exceptionally well to be able to summon a bird without causing the spirit any discomfort, but nonetheless, she couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Kya busied herself with preparing for the evening, applying her makeup with the practiced ease of the aristocracy. As a child, she had resented having to learn what powders and such to use for which occasion, and the correct technique for applying them. It was events like this that made her grateful for enduring such lessons. She painted her lips a delicate shade of pink – the tone was strong enough to accentuate her features but subtle enough to give her barely a hint of colour that glittered in the light. Her long, luscious hair was set in loose curls and pinned back off her face, save for one delicately thin curl on each side, with a beautiful golden clasp shaped like a butterfly, which she had inherited from her mother. She had always worn it for special occasions, and her mother had worn it herself for the day of her wedding.

Upon deciding there was not much else she could do about her appearance, Kya sauntered elegantly out of the room and directed her feet down the hall that would lead her to a large courtyard outside the ceremonial hall. There were many students in the courtyard, all huddled in groups, the odd person occasionally drifting from one circle to the other. Each was wearing different robes, and all had taken great care in their appearance for the coming celebrations of their graduation. The air was filled with anticipation as the sounds of excited chatter reached Kya’s ears. Kya stepped silently sideways towards the group nearest to her, which was one of the few that was consisted of mages of all different skills and abilities.

The discussion she joined was rapidly turning into a heated debate, each group insisting that their own area of expertise was the most distinguished. The battle mages, who wore blunted swords and patches of shining enchanted armour on delicate robes to mark their class, were arrogant and adamant that they were obviously powerful; they had sheer force on their side. This argument was countered by the elemental mages saying that they were in possession of the most admirable skill as they could control the powers of nature. The spirit mages argued that the ability to communicate with and harness the power from worlds other than their own is obviously the most dominant of powers; their skill required a unique subtlety and level of control that was redundant in every other field of the craft. It was the healer mages who defended their talents next, stating that true power was in the goodness of one's actions, and that as their skill was the only one which could not be manipulated to work in opposition of the greater good, theirs must obviously be the greatest ability.

Kya knew better than to venture into such discussions. She was fully aware that each division of magery had its pros and cons, but that none could claim to be a stronger form of magic than the others. She knew that the only true power came from those who could channel each of these skills, so technically she was the most powerful person there, through she dared not voice these claims. She had never been one to boast and even a hint of a suggestion that she was more powerful than everybody else would be met with instant disapproval and an explosion of challenges from some of the more enthusiastic students. As the debate grew more heated, a dull thud of boots could be heard approaching, and as the High Flame and Dark Talon Guards approached the courtyard in ceremonial dress, the bickering quickly faded and gave way to an anticipated silence. The ceremony was about to begin. Ryshan led his men to the courtyard; each mans foot pounding the floor in exact timing with the next mans.

Each man except Ryshan that was. Ryshan had never truly been able to master the art of drill like his men had. It was almost as if his body rebelled against it; like it was some unnatural action that every instinct in his body fought, no matter how hard he pushed himself. Ryshan was fortunate that his remarkable skill in other fields had excelled him into such an accomplished leader that he could march in any way he felt appropriate, though he did try to keep in time with his men. Ryshan’s men split off behind him to form a tunnel leading to the great oaken doors of the vast hall on the other side of the courtyard and, as one; the guards came to a halt and turned to face inwards. Ryshan felt incredibly proud at that moment. He was dressed in his red and silver tunic and trousers, beneath immaculate armour patterned with red and black swirls, with a full length blood red cloak with a silver trim that marked him as the leading officer. Ryshan slammed his bow down at the same moment his men struck their bows and lances into the ground. He knew they would not let him down.

There was not a sound from the courtyard, all stood watching and waiting. Beyond the guards, the Emperor walked slowly and gracefully into the square. He wore robes of glittering gold and deep crimson. He was followed by his closest personal advisors; five men each wearing sky blue robes to signify their station. The group gradually wound their way across the courtyard, tracing the shape of Rainur’s great body that was engraved on the ground before them. This was an age old tradition that had been followed since the dawn of time, and at that moment, Kya felt particularly proud that she could call herself a direct descendant of the Great Dragon.

The Emperor approached the young general who led the troops. He said a few quiet words unheard by any other, then walked back through the soldiers to face his audience, who were all gathered behind the soldiers at the end of this ‘tunnel’. ‘’Welcome, graduates, to the end of another year!” he made the announcement in a strong, clear voice. He was speaking no louder than usual, yet nobody struggled to hear his words. The mages dared not make a sound, mostly out of respect but partly because they had seen how damaging their slight grasp of magic could be, and they were slightly afraid of what the Emperor would be able to do to them with the great amount of power he held.

“You have all trained hard to reach this point – rest assured you would not have been invited to this ceremony if you had not made sufficient progress throughout your training. You have all taken sufficient steps towards becoming a part of the Order of Phoenician Mages. The Order has always been a fundamental element of the Empire. It has guided and protected us in times of suffering and hardship, never submitting to the powers of evil and corruption, and never bowing to defeat. As a new generation of mages, the time will come when you must do the same, and serve the Empire with honour.” The Emperor then fell silent for a moment. He turned to face the General, behind whom stood the great oaken doors of the hall, and gave Ryshan the briefest of nods.

“Guardsmen!” he yelled on cue. “Present arms!”

Immediately, 25 lances and 25 bows were all struck against the floor and tilted forward in unison. Ryshan raised his own bow to his side and bowed to the Emperor before standing aside. The great doors slowly swung open with a slight creak, and the Emperor made his way through the tunnel of guards and through the vast wooden doors into the tremendous ceremonial hall beyond them. His advisors came next, followed by the mages and finally Ryshan and his men. The great wooden doors were pulled shut and the mages took their seats, filling up from the front. The guards remained at the back of the hall.

As the ceremony began, the mages were called from their seats one by one according to their chosen area of skill. Kya, not belonging to any one group, was not named as any and was the only one to be called in her category.

“Last but certainly not least,” the Emperor called, “we have Kyasarin Temrain – Master Mage trainee”

As with all the other students, there was polite applause from the others, and a few pockets of enthusiastic applause from some. Upon hearing her name, Kya, who had managed to find a seat among the front row rose gracefully and walked to the steps at the side of the stage. She ascended the four stairs to the stage and practically danced across the floor to the Emperor. The beautiful heeled sandals she wore gave her an added five inches of height, and made her hips sway rhythmically with each step. As her shoes glittered and clicked distinctly on the beautiful wood of the stage, her robes flicked out around her ankles creating incredible patterns of colour as the light caught the delicate material. She knew everyone’s eyes were on her, but one of the things she did not realise was that the general of the High Flame and Dark Talon guards was utterly captivated by her. Ryshan found himself unable to look away, and was almost hypnotised by her movements. Every inch in his body seemed to be drawn towards her, her smile beckoning him and her perfect hourglass figure refusing to let his gaze rest anywhere else. He was astounded by how beautiful this young girl was, only a few years younger than himself.

He had great difficulty controlling the urge to run up to the stage and take this astoundingly beautiful woman in his arms, his hands longed to caress every inch of her beautiful silken covered body and he yearned to feel her luscious lips pressed against his. He wanted to hold her perfect curves and pull her close to him, their bodies pressing together and their arms entangled in a passionate embrace. As Ryshan became lost in these thoughts, he actually caught himself take half a step forward, completely mesmerised by the beauty before him, but knowing that as an on duty officer at the ceremony, he could do nothing without being instantly stripped of his rank and probably exiled from the Empire for an act of such gross misconduct. He simply stared at the vision before him, watching her every move as she and the Emperor exchanged bows and he placed a delicate golden bracelet on her wrist. It was engraved with a dragon, to represent the protection of Rainur as a citizen of the Drake Empire and flames surrounding the band, to represent that they were to be part of the Phoenician Order. She gracefully exited the stage and slowly descended the steps on the other side, being careful to not catch the hem of her robes as she did so.

“The bracelets you have been presented with,” the Emperor called out to his audience, “are a gift from the Empire and the entire Drake Nation to you, the latest disciples of the Phoenician Mages. Wear them as a symbol of the enchanters you will become, and keep them as a symbol of Kayotor’s protection. The immortal bird favours the Order, and will keep watch over all who bear her symbol for eternity. Go well, graduates”

As the Emperor bowed to the new mages, the guards opened the doors and re-formed their passageway through the courtyard. After everyone had vacated the hall, Ryshan took his men aside to congratulate their efforts. As he spoke, there was a small half-hearted cheer from his men.

“Anyway,” he said, “now onto the better news – you all now have the night off to do as you please!” There was a more enthusiastic cheer from the troops at these words. “Usual rules apply men: all gear must be prepared in case of need for rapid deployment, all weapons to be left in the barracks upon departure from the palace, no excessive drinking in uniform, no fighting without extreme provocation…the usual” Ryshan said these words in a very bored tone – he knew that none of his men needed to be told this, but he always said it routinely anyway. “Other than that lads, enjoy your night off!” The men cheered once more and stomped off to the barracks.

With his men gone, Ryshan relaxed a little. He found he could never completely unwind, even when off duty he felt he had a duty to guide his men and set an example for them. They trusted him unquestioningly and they knew he would never intentionally put them in harm’s way. As the commanding officer, Ryshan was openly armed at the ceremony, but all archers, including himself, routinely carried at least twenty arrows, hidden amongst their armour. He felt them tap lightly beneath his cloak as he walked through the elegant corridors towards the centre of the Imperial Palace.

The Palace had so many corridors, to some it seemed that the entire building was consisted of nothing else. Ryshan passed a hall where he noticed some mages making strange markings on the floor. Something about the scene before him seemed wrong, so Ryshan slipped into a gap behind a small column. The five distracted mages seemed to be completely oblivious to his presence. He noticed they were the one's he'd seen in the courtyard earlier sharing rushed words of secrecy. Ryshan had intentionally come to a quiet part of the palace to get some peace. Little went on in these halls, even at the time of special occasions, so these mages being here was an activity he regarded as highly suspicious, especially considering the secrecy he had witnessed earlier in the courtyard. The mages began to draw more and more complex patterns on the floor, each one concentrating on a different section, almost burning the shapes into the ground with their energy.

Ryshan suddenly heard a series of fast-paced footsteps coming from behind him. He whirled round to see a figure approaching from the end of the corridor. He knew he would be discovered and the mages would not complete whatever unknown task they were about to perform. He sprinted out of the gap behind the column, using all his skill to keep his foot falls as silent as possible as he passed the open door where the five mages stood working their acts of secrecy. Nobody noticed his passing. Ryshan decided that he would return shortly to see how the mages preparations were progressing.

Kya walked down the corridor in a part of the imperial palace she had never been before. Mage Darin had approached her after the ceremony and given her directions to where the ritual was to take place. There were no sounds but the click of her golden sandals on the solid floors and faint hum of old magic in the background as if from somewhere far away. This part of the palace was clearly disused, though still well maintained. Kya looked around and saw the only open door was the one nearest to her on the left. She cautiously stepped into the door way to see a wonderfully complex design drawn upon the floor. Kya marvelled at how much effort must have gone into preparations for this summoning, and was in awe of the complex patterns and designs that flowed around her feet. Maybe this would be more difficult than she thought; whatever was being summoned it was the most powerful summoning she had ever seen. It had to be with such a large and complex spell form. She recognised part of the pattern as that of a bird, but not bird she knew of. Mage Darin looked up from his work and noticed Kya. He waved her to come in and hurried forward to greet her, winding his way around the outside of the spell form. "Welcome Kyasarin. Splendid timing!" Kya slowly walked across to the man carefully avoiding the pattern that they had drawn out with their magic. She bowed her head as she approached her mentor, showing him the proper respect.

"There is no time to waste on formalities, my child. Around the other side of the spell form, there is a gap through which you can enter the spell. Walk through it, tracing the shapes and shadows and be careful not to break the lines or the spell shall be undone. When you reach the circle at the heart of the spell form, turn to face it but do not pass through it. It is crucial that no lines are crossed that do not need to be."

Kya followed Mage Darin’s instructions and moved about the markings on the floor with extreme care – she did not want to be responsible for a spell this important going wrong. As soon as she stepped into the gap, it sealed behind her. There was no turning back now; she had to get this right. Kya reached the centre and turned inwards to face the circle, slowly exhaling the breath she had been subconsciously holding as she did so.

‘'Now,’’ Mage Darin announced, ‘’we will begin the ritual. Kayotor, the wise and magical Phoenix spirit, guardian of the underworld, shall be summoned into our plane of existence!’’ He cried, with no attempt to hide the glee from his voice or his face. Kya stared at the patterns that surrounded her. It all made sense. This was the real reason Mage Darin had requested her presence; she was the last piece of the puzzle. The blood of Rainur ran through her veins, and since Rainur and Kayotor were two halves of a whole, they could harness Kayotor’s power through her. ‘'Let the summoning begin.’’

Kya was practically shaking with anticipation and excitement. She felt the adrenaline of what they were about to do flowing through her veins, making her heart beat so furiously she felt as though it would burst out of her chest. She became very aware of her pulse hammering around her veins, and the world seemed to slow as she struggled to focus or understand the words of the mages surrounding her. The markings on the floor gradually began to glow brighter and brighter, enveloping her in a soft silvery light. Her vision became hazy, and the mages seemed to disappear from view, though she knew they were still there.

The soft silver glow suddenly changed to a bright, harsh blue and Kya felt a sharp and powerful burning pain in her chest. She felt as though she had been stabbed with a dagger that had been set ablaze, and all feelings of euphoria and excitement at being involved in something as magnificent as the summoning as one of the great, ancient beings immediately evaporated. She was overcome by pure terror and panic. Something must be going wrong she thought. But the best thing she could do would be to wait it out – the mages would realise something wasn’t right and they would either stop or correct their error; they would have no reason to intentionally hurt her. She needed to fight the overwhelming urge of every bone in her body to run and hold on until the end. Kya tried to move, but found her entire body was stiff, she couldn’t move a single muscle. Her arms and legs were locked into place, and the pain and fear became so intense she could hardly breathe. Kya screamed, but no sound escaped her lips; the scream held itself in her chest, growing tighter with every passing second as her panic grew.

Kya’s mind was darkening, the shadows creeping over her in spite of the eerie bright light before her eyes. She could no longer see, but for the blinding light and the sinister darkness that threatened to envelop her. At that moment, she heard a ear splitting screech. Kya could tell it was some sort of bird, but she had never heard a sound like it in all her life. The sound was followed by a rush of power and the feeling of suffocation disappeared and she gasped, the intake of breath seeming to bring new life to her and chase away the darkness.

She then felt an enormous thud to the chest, but the blow was internal. She felt as though something was trying to break out of her. A few jolts later, and an ethereal wing appeared from the centre of her chest, glowing red and gold. Kya, still frozen by the spell, stared in wonder at the feathered form protruding from her breast. A deafening roar followed that seemed to shake the very earth she stood upon, and panic ensued once more.

“Now,” she heard a distant voice yell, “Before he follows her!” The light disappeared and she saw a mage she did not recognise leaping towards the centre of the circle. She could tell by his clothes that he was a distinguished battle mage, and in his hand he firmly gripped a curved dagger that glowed red and was forged in the molten fires of a volcano. The feathered wing retracted back inside Kya’s chest as the mage lunged forwards towards her, and she was flung backwards across the room as though she had been thrown. The glowing blade struck the centre of the circle and with a huge amount of force; the mage wrenched the dagger from the floor. He threw himself high into the air and targeted Kya again, aiming for her heart. The blow that forced her backwards seemed to have snapped her body out of its paralysis, and she launched herself away from the mage and rolled as far as she could. He turned to face her as he collided with the floor once more, murder in his eyes. She immediately threw the first spell that came into her head in his direction – a simple repulsion spell. The mage stood up, but before he had time to lunge again, the spell hit him, throwing him upwards into the air. His skull collided with the ceiling with a disconcerting crunch, and his body dropped limply to the floor, its occupant groaning in pain. The spell, which would have normally only shunned its recipient backwards a few feet, was enormously amplified by her distress, causing a reaction much stronger than she expected. She was stunned by the power she had just used, and was revolted by the damage she had done to the mage. His skull was dented, and there was a slow trickle of blood flowing freely from some unseen wound. Kya pushed herself onto her feet, which trembled violently and buckled beneath her. She looked around to see the shadowy forms of some monstrous beast beginning to form. She knew that they were summoning the creature to try to kill her.

Full of guilt and sympathy for the man on the floor, she longed to help him, but every instinct in her body told her to run before the beast was fully formed. She bolted for the door, reaching it just in time; a flash of light behind her told her the thing the mages had summoned was now in their plane of existence, and would be hot on her tail. Her heels were slowing her down, but she ran as fast as she could regardless, knowing her life was at stake and hardly caring what damage she did to her shoes.

The door flung open behind her. “We will hunt you down dragon scum! Kayotor cannot protect you! We will find you and destroy you both! There is no escape now that she is trapped within you!” The voice was strained and maniacal sounding. “Even Kayotor herself cannot escape us! The Children of Molatag will have their revenge!” The voice reached into Kya’s soul and she felt her heart tighten with horror as she started to realise what had happened.

Molatag was the fabled demon lord who was said to have driven the souls of Rainur and Kayotor apart and banished them to opposite sides of the celestial world. He was the inventor of all hatred and the creator of war. His descendants were supposed to have battled with the ancient Drakes for control of the islands which stood in the heart of the world and were all magical and supernatural energies were at their strongest. According to legend, the Children of Molatag had been wiped out by the Drakes and their allies: the Fengrag, descendants of Haruya, and the Waynai, descendants of Lapadel. The descendants of Molatag were supposedly all killed in battle hundreds of years ago, refusing to surrender in a war that spanned the decades. How could the mages she had trusted for two years be Children of Molatag? Molatag had fought the four ancient beings for centuries, there was no reason his descendants would stop until the one they had summoned was dead. Kya knew she could not stay anywhere for long. She sprinted home, deciding that she would grab what she could and run. She fled into the bright daylight and out of the palace.

Ryshan was making his way through the winding corridors of the palace, working his way back to where he had been a short while before. He silently rounded a corner and was met with a terrific roar. A huge four legged beast rounded a corner ahead of him and skidded, its magnificent body being hurled into the wall, causing parts of the plaster to crack and come loose. The beast charged down the corridor towards Ryshan, its shoulders almost level with his and its fangs glistening threateningly. Ryshan immediately dived back around the corner and pulled an arrow from his pouch. He heard the demon’s feet thundering ever closer towards him. Ryshan drew back his arrow and waited for the beast to draw nearer – he knew he would only have one chance to save himself from the monster. He knew his aim could not fail him. Ryshan rounded the corner once more to find the beast barely three feet away. He released the arrow, hitting the creature square between the eyes before it had moved a hair’s breadth closer. The power of Ryshan’s bow was shown, the arrow had passed through to the centre of the beasts body before it’s magic came into effect. A wave of fire was suddenly emitted from the beast’s body, blasting it apart and throwing Ryshan and his fire proof armour backwards along the passageway where he landed in a heap against the wall.

‘'High Flame’', Ryshan heard a voice cry out. ‘'Dispel the magic!’'

Ryshan quickly hauled himself to his feet, drawing another arrow as he did so. He ran forwards, drawing the arrow backwards and pointing it at the mages who faced him as he reached the room. They all immediately threw down their staffs, knowing that in a close range fight they would have no chance against a highly skilled, high ranking officer of the High Flame. Before they had even uttered a syllable of incantation they would be struck down.

‘'Our apologies, General. We did not mean for our enchantment to strike you. A young mage just attacked us in the middle of a complex summoning.’’

Ryshan slowly relaxed the string of his bow as the mage spoke, but did not lower the weapon.

“We were attempting to summon one of the Ancient Spirits – Kayotor to be precise. We sought her council and advice. We wished to learn from her wisdom. We had almost completed the ritual when the woman attacked us, no doubt trying to kill Kayotor while she was between our world and her own. When we realised what she was doing we tried to stop her,” he indicated the unconscious mage on the floor, ‘'this battle mage stepped between the two, attempting to fight the woman off. She managed to escape, but we did obtain the weapon we believe she was going to use to try to kill Kayotor. He picked up a rusty looking blade that had a faint orange glow about it. ‘'She almost killed this mage, then fled. Her name is Kyasarin Temrain. She cannot be allowed to live for this crime! The Ancient Law clearly states that any person of any creed, profession or rank who attempts to harm one of the Great Spirits must suffer immediate execution”

Temrain. Ryshan knew the name well – the family was of extremely noble heritage and was said to have descended from Rainur himself. He knew where his duty lay – he could not ignore one of the most ancient laws of the Empire, but he could hardly believe this was true. He knew that Lord Temrain had only one child – and the girl was no older than him. He struggled to believe that she could have the knowledge or the power to attempt what the mages were accusing her of.

‘'Your oath,’' Ryshan mumbled. ‘‘Give me your Mages Oath this is what happened’' he said more certainly.

The mage before him raised his right hand and turned his palm to face Ryshan.

“I, ?? Darin, Mage of the Phoenician Order, give my oath that Kyasarin Temrain is guilty of the previously mentioned crimes – the attack of a Mage of the Phoenician Order and the attempted murder of the Great Phoenix, Kayotor.”

Green sparks appeared from the mages palm, and Ryshan knew that he had no time to waste. The magic had clearly shown itself, and he was bound by his duty to hunt the girl down and destroy her. He nodded to Mage Darin, and turned on his heels and walked hurriedly back down the corridor. The hackles of the wolf etched onto his back seemed to burn, and he had the distinct feeling that something was wrong. He could not ignore his duty however, and he quickened his pace, shouting for his men as he went, his cloak swishing menacingly behind him.

Mage Darin smiled to himself as the soldier left. He had mastered that trick many, many years ago, creating sparks that looked almost identical to those created by a mages oath. He knew he could fool all but an expert mage with the skill.

“The girl will not last long” he thought to himself, knowing the terrifying reputations of the High flame and Dark Talon guards would not let them fail in their task.

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