…and in the Codex of Ages was it written that One shall arise from the oppressed Marain, and take for his wife a Marain not born of Marain, and all Sorcerers and Kingdoms of the East shalt bow before his might, and the Star's rebellion shalt die in the final reckoning in the blessèd place…

Yet was it also written in the sacred Codex that the One shalt fail and fall, the Marain shalt die and the Bright God's light would never again be felt on the harsh and blackened world of Septar.

The winter was cold, and snow fell in crackling sheets about the mountains which shone with coruscating fire, here on the Eaves of the World. Jagged peaks of green ice ripped and tore the skies, the searing cold battering the grim fortresses and howling through the mountain passes on breaths of wind, triggering avalanches and whirling blizzards in its wake. Storms were born in the high eyries cupped between majestic versants of the towering peaks, and then roared down onto the grey bastions, hammering them with rain that flashed into snow and glittering ice miles above the iron ground and gargantuan lightning bolts that struck with pale blue sparks as their thunder rocked the earth and the roiling clouds that had spawned them struggled for supremacy in the night-purple skies above.

The vast and forbidding forests that washed like a great dark sea against the forbidding northern escarpments never colonized the spires and razor-sharp arêtes that rose above their dark tide, and so the vast and grim fortresses of baleful stone and mordant embrasures stood proud and alone on the blasted sides of the Eaves.

Another storm blew down from the Moonlight Nursery, as the largest and highest breeding ground was rather whimsically named. Its thunder tore the skies asunder and the rain lashed the swaying treetops far below as gale-force winds rent whole swathes of trees in two and hurled its wild challenge at the strongholds on their fortified peaks.

The window was as cold as ice, and its fire ran up her fingers and quickly chilled her hand. She gasped and pulled her hand away. On the ornate window-glass, a faint rose of bright red-gold light blossomed, then died. She'd never felt cold before.

"Oh, child, come away from there," admonished a cracked, though not unkindly voice. She turned quickly, in a swirl of black robes, and hurried along the forbidding corridors back to a table laid for two. An old woman sat ramrod-straight in a high-backed chair, and smiled with dead eyes as she entered.

"You spend too much time at that window, Rakael," she said, as the girl took a seat.

"Rakael, Ce'dizi? Why is my name different to everyone else's?"

Ce'dizi smiled. "I have no idea, child. It may have been your mother simply liked the name. Now, I'm cold. Light a fire."

The girl stared at her mentor. "No fires allowed in Val Alora," she gently reminded the aged Ce'dizi.

"Nevertheless, I'm cold, Rakael. Set the wood on fire."

Reluctantly, Rakael reached out to the wood, and set it on fire. The will poured out of her in a river of songlike life, vibrant and chaotic, so unlike the studied ice-bright shock of normal sorcery that she gasped in astonishment. Hand swimming in red-gold fire, she opened her eyes to a brightly-burning length of wood and a slight smile on Ce'dizi's aged face. The door burst open and spoiled the moment. A Master Initiate, easily identified by his ice-blue robes, stepped through, his hand swimming in icy fire as he flicked his palm at Rakael and the fire. The flames blew out instantly, and a harsh line of burning cold drew itself sharply across her alabaster cheek, trailing a line of even brighter white that flared blindingly in the light from the Initiate's hand. He then directed his furious gaze at the indolently-rocking sorceress in the chair, but some glittering force-lines in the air forced him to look away as the normally affable Ce'dizi stared at the man. In a voice as cold as the slopes of Montanus Mons, she said, "Ce'kira, you may be Master Initiate, but in these rooms I dictate what happens, and Rakael is six."

He replied in a dead voice, "No fires allowed in Val Alora." He raised his power once more, yet an immense gaping maw of flames erupted from Ce'dizi's hands and sent him stumbling backwards into the icy corridor.

Rakael's cheek burned and blazed, the ice-white mark glowing. She nursed the weal in hurt astonishment. She'd never been wounded, either. "Come here, child. Do not listen to Ce'kira. Let's patch you up."

Light bloomed along the weal left by the ice-lash, then scattered, the long mark untouched. Ce'dizi frowned. "That should not be happening…Rakael, are you resisting me?"

A voice seemed to come from far away, interrupting Rakael's inward reflection.

"Oh…no, Ce'dizi, why?" she asked, gingerly touching the lash-mark. Her fingers were instantly chilled, the warmth sucked out of them, and soon a faint white vapour curled sullenly down from the wound, as the very air froze in the vicinity. Faint red-gold fire was lost amid the tumbling curtain as it danced and cavorted along the stark mark. The old sorceress looked shocked, as the tumbling river of freezing vapour fell from Rakael's cheek and writhed on the floor.

"Child, I must rest and think up a cure for your…injury, and you must sleep. Go, now. We shall talk more in the morning."

Loath to rise, she stood slowly, and the freezing trail wrapped itself amourously round her, before joining the crackling clouds that swirled on the iron-grey stone floors of cold Val Alora. With a strange expression, Ce'dizi watched her go, then scuttled to a cabinet and brought out a delicate bottle of ruby glass, which she opened and allowed the freezing air into. Immediately, ice crystals began to grow on the outside of the glass, and an hour later, after the frozen air had been dispelled, it stood in a sizeable heap of rose-gold ice. "Hmm…Very interesting…" she murmured, before hiding the bottle securely.

The years changed and seasons turned, and no more seemed to come from Rakael. She did not grow much, remaining tiny compared to the rest of her class, but she did begin to develop on the day she hit sixteen. That day, she felt restless, uneasy and out of sorts.

Rakael turned on her mattress in the dormitory. The nominally soft mattress suddenly became hard and cold beneath her, and she heard the distinctive bright note of ice-sorcery echoing from another pallet in the vaulted chamber. She tossed once more, and tried to get comfortable; there was no use complaining, she'd found. Her ostensible classmates always denied everything, and by the time the instructors inspected the bed, it was back to normal, too-thin feathers and gouging springs. The lashmark on her cheek tingled, and then the air began to freeze around it again as she fell asleep. The clouds settled on the floor, and began to rise inexolerably as more and more frigid air ran in a great river from the mark. The iron-grey stones were held in a merciless grip as frost flowered across them, and the doors were sealed behind great banks of rose-gold ice and glaciers built up behind each pallet.

One by one, each member of the dormitory woke up, chilled to the very bone. Crackling clouds of ice obscured the floor and vast red-gold icefalls blocked the only exit. As more and more woke up, a rising chorus of shrieks for help shook hoarfrost from the vaulted stones, and eventually called help. Rakael slept through it all, wrapped in a veiled nimbus, crepitative clouds flowing from her still form.

Outside the vast doors, the bad-tempered Ce'kira attempted to break through. A sharp sound echoed through the halls of Val Alora as he shattered the icefalls over the door. Smiling confidently, he stepped forward.

Five minutes later, he was found still smiling, buried under a mountain of solid oxygen with seven of the vast stone blocks that formed the walls of the fortress for company.

Eventually, seven Masters of the Art were needed to quell the ice that flowed from the room in a softly crackling, aggressive rush, and six more Master Initiates to evacuate all the students, yet none could approach the bed where the sleeping form of Rakael lay, wreathed in cold cloud that shattered metal and broke stone. Sparks crackled from the boiling interface between the ice and the citadel as Masters strove to keep the awful cold from breaking out into Val Alora. It was some time before anyone thought to send for Ce'dizi, but when she arrived, she stepped through the blazing interface as if it wasn't there and slapped Rakael's sleeping face, not hard, but hard enough. The interface vanished as the power that drove the ice onwards fell away into the lashmark and Rakael awoke. A red-gold dome of light flowered above her, growing from a single dim spark to a blazing cupola of fire. It expanded rapidly, vaporizing all the ice before popping out of existence as if it had never been as she sat up dazedly. The seven Masters sagged, the deadly power they had fought for hours having taken its toll, and they all tottered, then collapsed onto the floor, before being picked up by their aides and rushed to the infirmary deep in the bowels of the mountain. Ce'dizi grabbed Rakael's face, and looked into her eyes.

"How do you feel?"

"Fine, Ce'dizi, fine," she replied, puzzled, looking round blearily.

"You're certain of that?"

"The lashmark still hurts, Ce'dizi, and…I feel all warm for a change."

Ce'dizi smiled at her, worriedly, then said, "Don't go to lessons, Rakael. Visit the observation dome…I must see the Magistrice."

The Magistrice…thought Rakael, despairingly. What have I done? I wish…

Just then, Ce'dizi returned, with the Magistrice in tow. A tall, imposing woman, she was rarely seen around Val Alora, generally holed up in the Ice Room at the top of the tallest tower where he scryed for the future and present in immense sheets of green ice.

"Ce'dizi tells me you've caused a great disturbance in my stronghold, Rakael."

She nodded mutely. Ce'dizi interrupted. "Magistrice, Rakael is very strong in fire-casting, and weak at the ice."

"How can this be, Ce'dizi? The spirit of pure ice flows from her cheek!"

"Yet she cannot use it, at least consciously."

"Have you told her of her parentage?"

"No, Ce'tira, of course not!"

"Perhaps you should have told our princess, but. I have been instructed to send her to her father in Val Mordau, Citadel of Ice."

"Magistrice Ce'kara?"

"The very same. His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Ce'kara the First."

Only one person ever lived in Val Mordau at a time, the Emperor of Ice. The vast citadel stood atop Montanus Mons, the highest and coldest peak of them all. Built of adamant and shining metals, Val Mordau was the glittering jewel of the Eaves, so unlike the grim fortresses that surrounded the semi-mythical place. Winds slid off the diamond sheath of the great citadel, and snowstorms glided around the stronghold. From the highest tower of Val Mordau projected the arcane barriers that preserved the fabric of the Eaves and kept watchful and protective eyes on the vast domain of the Sorcerers. The Emperor of Ice was charged with protecting the lands of the Sorcerers and keeping the barriers alive. Many considered the legions of Val Legora the true power of the Sorcerers, yet all bowed before the Emperor on his high throne.

Only Ce'dizi and the Magistrice of Val Alora accompanied Rakael in the Imperial airliner. The days passed in silence, broken only by the monotonous hum of the aero-engines and the occasional snap of sorcery used to divine the way in the screeching storms, seeking the serpentine mountain passes that led ever upwards to Montanus Mons. The crackling sky, filled with bright blue discharges, grew more pronounced, and wavering lines of force crawled across the arcing barriers from a bright glow that shone from atop a clear tower of shimmering diamond, like a lighthouse visible even through the harshest storms.

The liner docked to the adamantine gantry, and came to a smooth stop against the far wall of the chamber. The Emperor of Ice was there to greet them. Short and dumpy, with ordinary brown hair and gleaming eyes, unmarred by the deadness that characterised many touched by the ice, he did not in himself seem powerful, or indeed an emperor, yet in power he filled the world. The chill and bright shock of ice radiated off his frame in waves, and tiny frost-flowers twinkled under his feet. Rakael's mark danced with ice-blue flame, and rivers of frozen vapour fell to the floor and coated the diamond in frost in answer to his presence. He knelt, and she ran towards him unconsciously. "Hello, Father," she said.