Chapter Three

Inferno

It was early evening when Evelyn and April-Fay finally walked home, and April-Fay heaved a sigh of relief. She wasn't an active person, instead preferring to curl up with a book or watch a movie compared to Evelyn's love of movement, and they had done a lot of walking around town during the course of the day.

She flicked through one of the pamphlets Professor Althrop had kindly given her as she followed her sister into their house, reading about the large campus Montaña Azul offered to students and studying the various pictures of the grounds and facilities provided.

"Hey Evelyn, listen to this." She said, reaching out to tap her sister on the shoulder. "'Every Magician has a primary element, which they are strongest in. Most people have a secondary element, which is covered in the second year at Montaña Azul. A Magician rarely has a third element. Students are sorted into different colegios based on their primary element, and will dorm in buildings designed for any magical outbursts that may occur.'"

April-Fay glanced up at the taller girl to see what she thought of the idea, only to be met by a stiff back, tension running through the lines of Evelyn's body. Evelyn was staring at something ahead of her, her tall figure blocking April-Fay's view down the hallway, and the shorter girl peeked out from behind her sister in confusion.

The thin figure of their father was standing in the darkened hallway, his icy eyes peering out at them from beneath a mop of curly black hair, outlined by the thick blue frames he wore. He stared at the duo impassively, before asking in a frosty voice, "Montaña Azul?"

"That's right." Evelyn replied in clipped tones. "We're Magicians."

Nicholas Brown merely stared at the pair for a moment more before speaking in a hushed tone. "I already knew that, Evelyn. After all, it was why I adopted the two of you."

April-Fay's breath caught in her chest at the word 'adopted', and she choked, even as Evelyn's shoulders straightened and her chin rose, her hazel eyes hardening. She took a step forward, leaving April-Fay behind as she confronted their father.

"I thought so." She stated, and he smirked in amusement.

"Is that so? Interesting." He murmured, before cutting a glance to April-Fay. "However, it appears that she didn't."

Evelyn glanced over her shoulder to April-Fay's pale face before speaking again. "She should have. It was glaringly obvious as neither of us shares your facial features, and we are both too different to have taken after our mother. Though why anyone would want to look similar to you is beyond my comprehension; you are simply much too hideous."

"Be careful, Evelyn. You are treading on thin ice here… and the ice is my domain." He warned. "What makes you think that I'll simply allow the both of you to attend this magic school?"

"We are both eighteen now; legally you have no control over us." Evelyn challenged, and Nicholas smirked viciously.

April-Fay looked between the two, her presence all but forgotten as tension grew in the air, pressing harshly upon her chest. Her father's – no, not her father anymore. Her adoptive father's smirk dropped as he continued to glare at Evelyn, who refused to back down from her position in the argument. Evelyn matched the older male's glare with one of her own, and April-Fay felt the temperature fluctuate between freezing cold and boiling hot as the challenge stretched out.

"S-Stop…" She muttered weakly, stammering slightly from the pressure, which was thick enough to cut with a knife. "Stop!"

Evelyn glanced back at her at her outburst, and April-Fay almost stepped back in fear at her sister's eyes. They had darkened, gaining a slight orange tint as they flickered and danced like flames. A slight breeze was brushing around Evelyn, gently moving her clothing and hair as she scowled. Nicholas took that moment as an opportunity to whip out his own wand, jabbing the light blue tip towards Evelyn.

"Atar Con Una Cuerda!" He snarled as blue energy sprung forth, quickly transforming into a set of ropes that flew down the hallway and fastened themselves around Evelyn tightly. She stumbled back a few steps in shock and fell to one knee at the sudden imbalance, growling lowly as she struggled against the ropes.

Nicholas smirked viciously again, confident in his victory over the defiant young adult and walked towards the struggling girl. "As you can see, I don't need the law to control you, Evelyn. I have more experience with magic, and even your vast reserves will hold no challenge for me."

April-Fay stared in shock at the form of her sister struggling to get out of the ropes, and back up at Nicholas when he spoke. Evelyn was right, she thought to herself. He really isn't to be trusted. She panicked slightly as he advanced on the two girls and pulled out her wand, pointing it at him in fright.

"Stay away!" She yelled, and jumped back in surprise when a thick wall of red earth sprung up from the ground, breaking the floorboards and part of the roof as it leapt to defend them. Evelyn stopped her struggling to stare in astonishment at the wall which had magically appeared between the advancing form of their adoptive father and the pair, before looking at April-Fay.

"Don't just stand there; get me out of these things!" She snapped, and April-Fay jerked before nodding, quickly kneeling down beside her. She tugged fruitlessly at the ropes, searching for a knot but not finding one.

Dirt and stones showered the two girls suddenly, and they stared at the spear of ice that pierced through the earthen wall, mere centimetres above their heads. The spear retreated, and the face of Nicholas appeared in the hole as the wall shuddered and started to fall apart. He smirked at the two of them again, his eyes glittering darkly with amusement.

"It's fruitless, April-Fay. Those ropes will not come off unless I tell them to, so I'm afraid that you won't be going anywhere tonight. Or anytime soon for that matter. And you definitely will not be going to that school." He stated coolly, and Evelyn growled again.

"Why then? Why did you adopt us, why did you bring us up knowing that we were Magicians, if you didn't plan on letting us attend Montaña Azul?" She asked. "Why did you incessantly drain my energy each night?"

"Because I have plans for you. It is only through my constant draining of your power that you even have the reserves that you have now! If it weren't for me, you would only have slightly above average reserves, like your sister!" He declared. "It is thanks to my intervention that you are now the most powerful Magician of your age group! You shall be the next Arch Mage!"

"I don't want any part of your twisted plans!" Evelyn screamed at him. From her position on the ground beside Evelyn, April-Fay could feel the temperature rising again, and a glance at Evelyn revealed that she was growing angrier. "Let. Us. Go!"

April-Fay scrambled with a yelp back as flames licked her sister's hair and skin, slowly surrounding her. Strange blue arcane symbols slowly emerged on Evelyn's skin, glowing softly as her hair started lifting and turned to flames, hovering above her head. Her eyes were gradually consumed by the flames, turning into glowing orbs of fire that glared at Nicholas.

Nicholas took a step back, fear slowly settling on his face as he pointed his wand at Evelyn, desperately trying to spray a sort of blue mist on her heating body. "No! You can't do that! If you keep going – you'll become the flames!"

April-Fay's shirt clung to her body with sweat as she pressed herself against the wall, watching her sister in terror. Evelyn's clothing and the ropes binding her in places combusted suddenly, and the flames spiralled around her in an inferno that burst out through the roof of the house. The walls nearest her caught flames, and April-Fay yelped again as flames licked at her arms. The inferno spread outwards, engulfing the area and the neighbouring houses within seconds, and April-Fay threw an arm up to protect her eyes. The last she saw of Nicholas before the fire engulfed him was a hasty attempt to summon a wall of ice.

The fires engulfed her senses then, the roaring of the flames deafening as she stood in their midst. They licked at her, burning her and her clothing, and yet she felt a sort of recognition that protected her from death, instead keeping the heat to just below unbearable. She screwed her eyes shut against the golden orange, looking so much like the sun on the kitchen walls had that morning. She found herself wondering if, perhaps, the sun had been warning them of what would happen.

Her mouth filled with ashes and she coughed, spitting them out and covering her face with her hands in an attempt to stop any more from entering her lungs. The fire glowed brightly against her eyelids, even through her fingers, and she screamed as the noise level grew louder. She was certain that she was going to die here, in this fiery inferno created by her sister.

It felt like it had been hours when the fires finally died down enough for her to remove her fingers from her eyes, and she opened them with trepidation. The surrounding area was a wasteland, flames quickly devouring what was left of the surrounding neighbourhood. Blackened, charcoal structures were all that remained of the houses that had surrounded her home for one hundred and fifty metres, and her stomach lurched at the thought of all the lives lost to the inferno.

She looked to where her sister had been standing, and gasped at the figure.

Cracks marred Evelyn's fair skin, shining with a golden light. The blue arcane symbols on her legs, arms and stomach were untouched, glowing in a soft blue that strangely offset the radiant orange fissures in her skin. Her hair was a column of fire that waved and flickered above her head, and her eyes were merely orbs of fire that seemed to gaze around the destroyed area with an unreadable emotion. She was completely naked, but seemed not to notice in her survey.

"Evelyn?" April-Fay whispered softly, her voice cracking in fear and dehydration. The figure flicked her eyes towards April-Fay, a single spot of glowing white in each eye indicating where her iris would be. It turned towards April-Fay slightly, and spoke using Evelyn's mouth

"In part." She stated. Her voice had a soft echo to it, as though a thousand people were speaking at once. "She will need help."

"What?" April-Fay asked, only to be answered when the cracks snapped shut suddenly, the flames leaving Evelyn's body in a rush of heated air. Evelyn's eyes drooped and she swayed before collapsing to the ground in a heap, ashes rising in a cloud as she hit the ground. "Evelyn!"

April-Fay scrambled over to her sister, collapsing to her knees beside her and pulling her into a sitting position. "Evelyn, wake up!"

She shook the unconscious girl, barely aware of the dull throb as the many burns littering her body decided to make themselves known. Tears slipped from her eyes and down her cheeks, leaving dirty trails in the ashes that covered her body, providing a small touch of modesty for her naked form. She cried bitterly into her sister's hair, her shoulders shuddering as sobs wracked her frame. Everything had gone wrong today.

The sound of footsteps alerted her a few minutes later, and she looked up in fear at the figure approaching through the clouds of ash and smoke. Her eyes widened when a blond man with glowing, electric blue eyes stepped through the smog, ash clinging to his bare chest and loose pants. He stared impassively at the two girls for a moment, taking in the ash covering them and their various burns before speaking.

"I shall provide a safe haven for you until it is time to start at the school. Come, April-Fay. And bring your sister." She was surprised to hear a cultured English accent, but pursed her lips, holding back any more tears for the moment.

"Who are you? How do I know I can trust you?" She asked.

"A cat asked me to help." He stated before turning on his heel and walking back the way he had come. April-Fay stared after him for a moment. Spencer had gotten him? She thought to herself.

He stopped just inside her range of view and looked over his shoulder at the kneeling woman. "Are you coming?"

April-Fay blushed slightly in discomfiture before stumbling to her feet and attempting to lift Evelyn, only to gasp in pain when her burns stretched. Tears pricked at her eyes as she realised that even if she hadn't been hurt she wouldn't have been able to carry Evelyn – the girl was simply too heavy for her.

"I-I can't." She stuttered, looking up at the tall man with pleading eyes. Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks as she realised how helpless she was. "I can't."

The man gazed at her for a moment more, and she wished he would show some kind of emotion instead of staring blankly at her. He walked over to the unconscious girl and carefully picked her up, taking her weight from April-Fay. April-Fay's eyes were drawn to a simple necklace made of silver that looked like a stylised bell with two circles underneath each side which thudded against his collarbone when he bent over, and she looked up into the apathetic eyes of her rescuer.

"Th-thank you." She murmured. He merely turned on his heel again, leading the way through blackened streets and burning homes, away from the sounds of approaching fire trucks and police cars and into the night.

He surveyed the area with a keen eye, discreetly focusing a small portion of magic in his eyes and picking up the leftover residue of magic from such a large spell. He frowned as his scans indicated that she had gone into her second elemental stage, and internally cursed Nicholas Brown's inability to install loyalty to their cause in her.

The girl was definitely powerful, though. She had entirely demolished three blocks of houses and almost completely destroyed another two. Judging by the ruins of the neighbourhood, the fires which still burned merrily here and there and the amount of pure destruction she had caused with only one spell, she was very close to the required magical reserves needed to use the Crystal.

He stepped up to one of the many ambulances and stopped beside the gurney, which held a charred body. The body was somehow still breathing, barely clinging to life. It had come from the centre of the blast radius, which meant it had been standing almost next to the girl.

The officers in charge of the ambulance looked at him in confusion for a moment as they hurried to stabilise the body, but he held the tip of his wand, which was still tucked up inside his sleeve, and gestured at them. Their eyes glazed over even as their bodies kept working, and he stepped up beside the gurney properly.

Ice blue eyes opened and stared into his brown ones, narrowing.

"Fool." Nicholas coughed as a breather was strapped to his face, wincing as it pressed against the burns covering his body. "You ruined…. Everything."

"No, you ruined everything. She was not loyal to us, and way too wilful to be manipulated effectively." He retorted angrily.

"The plan wasn't… to invite… her… to Montaña Azul. She was… supposed to… stay isolated." Nicholas coughed harshly, wheezing with the effort to continue speaking. "I was…going to… break her. She would have… been ours."

"Plans change. It matters not now. What's done is done. And besides, I gave her and the other girl something to make them more susceptible to our manipulations." He gloated, only for the injured man to give out a wheezing laugh that quickly turned into a hacking cough.

"Idiot. They burned along… with everything… else. You're back… to square one. She won't…trust easily. And she can't…control her power."

"She doesn't need to. We will control it for her."

Nicholas laughed again, coughing heavily into the breather as he closed his eyes wearily. The ambulance officers started closing the doors, and he quickly released the spell on their minds. Just before the doors closed, Nicholas lifted his head and squinted at the unidentified man, speaking loudly.

"You will… fail. And when you do… I'll laugh."

With that, the doors shut with a soft thud, and the ambulance sped away, sirens blaring, flashing red and blue against the soft orange light of the few remaining fires left. He looked around the ash-filled area with a scowl before summoning his magic and disappearing. Wind whipped the flames for a moment, but no one was there to witness his disappearance.