The world had become desperate. People were everywhere begging for food, shelter, water, or warmth. They could be heard praying loudly to their individual gods for reprieve. Travelers and the fortunate ventured down the Walkway of Forgotten Souls. People that only needed a little help getting back on their feet. No one had anything more to give. Those with more looked down, away, anywhere there wasn’t a dirty face with sorrowful eyes staring back at him. For they feared they could too easily become one of them.
Nearly at the end of the Walkway, a woman knelt holding up a small child, barely into her toddler years. She lifted the babe at anyone who passed.
“Please!” She begged. “Take my baby! Please!” She sobbed tears rolling down her cheeks. Everyone that walked by pretended to be interested in something else. No one risked adding to their already tenuous hold on their own life. The woman bowed her head arm covering her eyes crying into the soot stained sleeve. Her arm held close the only thing left in the world that mattered to her. She had lost everything. There was so little food she had lost her milk leaving nothing left for her baby. She hoped, prayed, begged someone would take her. For her own sake. That maybe she might live a better life or she might actually live.
A soft hand touched her shoulder. Looking up with red, swollen eyes, she stared at a beautiful noblewoman. Her brown hair was pinned back with silver. The corner of her blue eyes dotted with gems, as per fashion. The woman didn’t know what she wanted. Rarely did anyone in the Walkway stop for anyone. No one had stopped for a child that she could ever remember.
The noblewoman didn’t say anything, not wanting to draw attention to what she was doing. Instead, she lifted the babe onto her hip. The little girl gazed wide eyed at the woman unsure what to make of everything. Smiling down at her, the noblewoman soothed her in a near whisper. “You will be alright, Little One.” Tiny fists clung to her dress desperate to hang on. The mother stared not wanting her baby to go, but also not able to keep her. Her sobbing started back up causing her breath to hitch.
“Take heart, Woman.” She spoke quickly, quietly. If the woman made too much noise, the guard could be alerted. They already watched her. Her jeweled eyes darted to the guard at the head of the Walkway monitoring all those who entered into the city. “Your babe will be well taken care of, well educated, and well loved. She will never know for want, but will appreciate all that she has. You have done well raising her.” She dropped to a knee turning back to the mother touching her shoulder once again. “You have done your best up to this point. It is hard knowing what is best for your children. Take comfort knowing your child will be far from the world of want, taken into a new and beautiful one.” The mother nodded. Her emotions which had been tremulous were calm, warm even.
Standing back up and straightening her clothes, the noblewoman turned once again as if she had never stopped, as if the babe on her hip belonged there. She promised herself, and the woman, silently. This would end. The need to beg when there was so much in the upper city. The forgotten Provinces and people therein. The frivolity of the nobles. All, by the babe on her hip.
Halle ran through the corridor darting around a guard to a hidden closet. Pushing inside, she crouched waiting. Her breath came in heavy pants. She hoped of all things her breathing wouldn’t be the thing to give her away. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. Her held her breath as footsteps drew near. Tightening her eyes shut, she wrapped her arms around her trying to use magick. IF she had just been able to understand her lessons this wouldn’t be happening.
The sound of a bell drew her head up. An intricate circle glowing turquoise blossomed in front of her. Her body froze going numb.
“Got you!” The little boy yelled pointing a pudgy finger at her. He laughed dropping his hand the circle disappearing. “You’re the easiest to find.” He taunted as he rushed off to get the others. Halle pulled herself up frowning. She had tried. The game needed her to use magick to conceal herself but she couldn’t ever do any. It was as if she didn’t belong in the world of magick. Sniffing, she wiped a tear from her cheek. A heavy hand dropped on her head.
She looked up with giant green eyes. The soldier pushed up the metal plate covering his face with his other hand.
“Don’t worry, Young Mistress Halle.” He whispered. He wasn’t supposed to move or speak, though they all did it. For Halle. “When your magick comes in, I’m sure it will be as beautiful as you are.” The little girl grinned at him nodding with a thank you before rushing off. The soldier smiled putting the metal plate back in place.
That evening the children stood in a line. The five of them grinned at each other. Only, Halle was nervous as she smiled back. They were all so happy For their Naming Ceremony. Of course, each of them had displayed magick at some point. Halle had yet to show any potential. Was this the day she was kicked out of the magicks Academy for Gifted, Ingenious Children and Kindred? Shaking her head to get the thoughts out, she looked up at the men and women striding into the room. They beamed proudly down at them as they walked by. Her mother looked back as kind as always though she hadn’t done any magick. How could she get her Name if she didn’t even know her magick?
The adults stood around a circular dias waiting like the children were. Another woman came in from the door behind everyone at the back of the room. The children watched the elderly lady make her way slowly towards everyone.
“Come on…” One of the boys groaned under his breath. “I want to get my Name!” He complained. Halle was tempted to say something, but she doubted she could with her nerves twisting around her throat. Her hands opened and closed as she tried to calm herself. Why were they so much sweatier than normal?
The elder looked their way smiling, except when she looked at the boy who spoke. She raised an eyebrow at him before continuing her long journey to the dais. The boy froze when she did causing a wave of quiet giggles in the children around him.
“You have come here.” The elder spoke loud and clear despite her age. “Expecting your Name. The Name defining who you are, what you will accomplish and…” She paused for effect looking around. “Most importantly giving your magick true breath.” The children shifted around eagerly. Except Halle. “This is a difficult process for many. Not everyone wishes to go through with it. Some find the ember of magick with them dies with the ceremony.” A few gulped. “But those special ones who have their magick grow, expand, and transform inside them.” She smiled at them. “They will be the true Heroes.”
Halle felt her stomach drop. She didn’t even have an ember of magick. There had been no gentle burning. No cooling. No…whatever words they used to describe it. Tears formed in her eyes as she tried to stay posture perfect in front of the others, especially her mother, preparing for when the elder told her she had no magick. That there had been a mistake.
“Trevor.” A little boy to the very left stepped up trembling. The elder set a hand on his head closing her eyes. “You have felt hardship in your life.” The boy tightened his eyes trying to keep them closed. “Your father died when you were young. You and your mother are still pained to this day.” Trevor frowned trying to hold still. “You will be a great blessing to her. Strive for excellence in this life. Strive to keep her safe. Be the joy that she has always had in you.” She paused for a moment. “Artaxiad.” Her hand pulled back letting the boy look up. He looked down at himself wide eyes.
Wind rushed from beneath him glowing white. His body shone brighter until it match the wind around him. Within the next second, it disappeared. Trevor Artaxiad stood breathing hard his eyes and mouth open wide. His previously dirty blonde hair had turned a translucent white blonde. He turned around to the other children and grinned. His hands constantly kept a white glow surrounding them. He lifted them as if to show everyone what had happened, even though it was clear.
Trevor’s mother stepped from around the dias calling to him. They walked off to the side where they could watch but be out of the way.
The elder once more turned to the group of now four children, now encouraged since Trevor had a good outcome. “Emilie.” A young girl skipped up smiling at her. Smiling down at her, the woman put a hand on her head. “Sweet Emilie.” She smiled wider. “You have always brought such laughter to your family. They rejoice in your spectacles of humor. Those around you have never felt alone. Yet…” She paused her eyebrows drawing together. “There is a darkness inside you. A seed of doubt.” The girl’s smile dwindled disappearing. “No…a memory. Why do you vie for attention so strongly? Why do you believe you are not worthy of the place you have discovered?” Emilie had tears dripping off her chin as the elder spoke. “Take heart, Young One. Your journey is not yet over. You will find a strength you never knew you had. Temujiin.” She removed her hand once more.
Emilie looked at her hands flexing them. Her magick wasn’t as dramatic as Trevor’s had been. Her magick played with her clothes like a gentle breeze twirling around her. The girl wiped her eyes running for her parents who drew her over to where Trevor was standing with his mother. The two held the girl soothing her.
Halle frowned staring and watching. Sadness overwhelmed her as she stood. She didn’t know it would be like this. She should have stayed hidden. Her eyes remained forward unseeing as each child was called forward and Named. Each of them had magick. Each of them had been given a Name. Her place was at the end. Probably because she hadn’t displayed magick. They didn’t want to ruin the Naming Ceremony for everyone else when she didn’t get her Name. Her mother even stood there watching her with sad eyes. She knew she wouldn’t get her Name.
“Halle?” She turned her head to the elder who was beckoning her over. Slowly with lead feet, she trod over. Her eyes didn’t close as she felt the weight of the woman’s hand on her head. She didn’t expect anything. This was the moment, after all, she had been dreading. They would tell her to leave. Her mother would be so disappointed. Her mother had some of the strongest magick in Ivesa. When the woman didn’t speak, she looked up. The woman was watching her. Slowly, Halle let her eyes close.
“Oh…Dear One.” The woman started sounding as if she herself were about to cry. Halle knew what she was about to say. She didn’t have magick. “Your life…had a tragic start. A father who abandoned you. A life of much want and need. A mother who gave you up for a better life. Yet…through that sacrifice…” She stopped as if she lost her train of thought. “You have been given something truly spectacular.” Halle wanted to look up. Within her mind, strange memories flit about. A man slamming the door. A woman sobbing. She didn’t stop sobbing. It seemed to grow louder in her ears. Halle put her hands to her ears, but it didn’t help. It seemed so loud that she didn’t hear what the woman was saying. There was a heavy weight on her back pushing her over, crushing her to the floor. Pain grew as the weight pressed her against the floor. It grew within her chest searing to her fingertip. Halle cried out for her mother but no sound came out. She wanted to run. Hide! Anything to stop the pain from consuming her.
Halle. Answer me.
She couldn’t open her eyes or hear where it was coming from.
Your mission has begun. Promise me. Halle.
Her body wouldn’t move any more. Everything felt so hot. Like the time she got sick with a fever. She tried listening to the voice as it called out to her. It faded and pulsed back like a heartbeat. The voice was changing. What had been neither male nor female was decidedly feminine.
She opened her eyes. Her mother was kneeling over her. She was crying like her birth mother had done. What was she? “Oh, thank the gods!” Her mother pulled her into a tight hug. “You scared me, My Dear One.” Halle blinked rubbing her eyes trying to make the blurriness go away.
“What..?” She pulled back looking around at the scorched room. “What happened?” She asked. Her mother smiled a wobbly smile.
“Your magick came to life.”