1/Dec/2012 PLEASE NOTE: This is the REWRITE! Some of it is similar and some of it is copy-pasted from the original and some scenes are completely new, so please read it from the beginning!
"I remember this," Artemis mused, staring out at the mid-afternoon horizon. "My father used to bring me out here to teach me magic."
Ike nodded, following her gaze. "I know. And that's exactly why I brought you here. He never taught you combat magic, did he?"
Artemis shook her head, smiling at him. "Only the basics."
The city gates of Pythius were far behind them. It was a familiar place to her, from the days when her mother thought they were just camping out in the wilderness of Aequor, the grassy plains between the east mountain ranges and the western forest. The scent of midsummer filled the air. She found the endless plains of grass to harbour a feeling of comfort, a reminder of the good old days. Here, she was happy and free.
"Thank you," she breathed, barely audible.
He stepped to her side, leaning over slightly to look her in the eyes, and replied, "For what?"
Many weeks had passed since Artemis had made her decision. The winter harvesting season was over, and now the crops were to be planted once again. It was within these months that Artemis felt lost, her everyday routine completely up rooted. Since the harvesting season had begun in May, there was something more for her to hold on to.
The previous year, Artemis had turned seventeen. It was to be her last year of school. From that November onwards, she spent her days sewing. Her mother had tried to teach her once. Back then she'd never really paid attention.
Five years of living on her own forced her to figure it out. She practiced often, listened when they were trained in school. As soon as she was skilled enough, she began selling clothes. By now, it was like a second language.
Artemis noticed the stitches at the bottom of her tunic had become loose. Perhaps something had snapped. Ike had been coaching her since the harvesting season concluded, her skills in sword fighting. He'd taken to weekend trips out of the city, and since their first outing in the beginning of August, she had learned much.
By now the smell of summer was fading. New crops were still being planted, busying most of the village's residents. Even the students had the month off in order for extra hands.
Since Ike's first mention of combat magic in her first lessons, Artemis was eager to learn. He constantly delayed, warning her that she must first take control of her sword before she attempt to dominate the art of magic. Fortunately her skills were beyond average by now. It was time for the next step.
Their race, dragon-kind, had learnt a good deal of their nature from the ways of the dragons. In exchange for knowledge of the new and constantly changing world: the command of sorcery. Perhaps once they had been human. Nobody had ever been entirely sure of the origins of dragon-kind, though many theorized their people descended from both human and elfish clans.
Now, the witchcraft was utilized in wars, giving advantage over average humans. Artemis thought it could be put to better use, but then, what position was she in to alter one's state of mind?
The emerald-eyed girl had always had a knack for simple tricks. With a snap of her fingers, she could produce a small flame. Ike had been surprised at first.
"You're good," he uttered, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, hey, I do this when I'm bored." After all, it was Artemis he was talking to. He narrowed his eyes, leaning away slightly.
"I should be worried."
Throwing flames, on the other hand, proved more difficult. The fire refused to leave her fingertips. For the time being Ike had instructed her to set alight several sticks he'd laid on the ground from where she was sitting. Artemis had promptly grown frustrated and Ike decided to teach her something else.
After the sun fell, he led her away from the campfire and sat down in the grass. When she joined him, he held out a hand. Artemis stared in wonder when light shone from his palm.
"How are you doing that?" she asked, disbelieving.
He grinned. "It's similar to your little flames," he offered, chuckling when she frowned at 'little'. "Only you take away the blaze and let only the light escape."
She snapped her fingers, a small flame appearing above them. Her eyes met with his for a moment, and then she turned her concentration to the light. For a long time nothing happened, but she did not allow herself to grow angry. Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath. She imagined the glamour she was pulling from the air, like oxygen to the fire. She felt the magic flowing through her veins, a steady rhythm throbbing with power. Heat and light seeped from her fingers and into flame. Artemis shut out all distractions, ignoring the whisper of grass in the wind, the hair that tickled her face. She took the heat back into her body, releasing the light around her. And when she finally opened her eyes, there was no flame. Only a flickering light remained.
Ike was beaming at her. "See, I told you. You can control the size of it too. It's all a matter of deciding the glamour you let free."
Artemis soon found that she could generate anything from the light of a wooden match to the brightness of the afternoon sun. However, learning new magic was always tiring, and before long she had fallen asleep next to the warmth of the fire. By the time Ike noticed, there was no chance that anything could wake her up, and so he covered her in a blanket before laying down by her side.
When morning came Artemis awoke first, to find that she'd rolled over and was mere inches from Ike's face. With a start she jumped, and edged slowly away. Her cheeks had flared up, and she turned around to look towards the west.
It was another few minutes before Ike stirred, and when he came to sit next to her, she hid her face.
"What's wrong?" He asked, cautiously.
"I'm just…" she paused for a few seconds, "I'm tired."
He nodded, slowly, and stood again. In another few minutes he came back, and Artemis looked at him this time. All traces of her burning cheeks had disappeared. Ike offered her a hand, and when she took it gratefully, pulled her to his side in order to show her what he had been setting up.
In a large space out to the side of their camp, Ike had set up a number of targets. She grinned at him for a moment, and then strode forwards into the midst of them, her hands twining together behind her back.
"Aim," Ike began, "is extremely important, but you probably knew that already."
Artemis laughed in joy, and replied simply, "I assumed so."
"I know yesterday you didn't manage to throw the flames… but you should practice anyway."
For hours she made no progress, the spark remaining at the end of her fingertips and refusing to go any further. It didn't take her very long to grow frustrated, and if she'd had the ability to, she would have burned the targets down. She did, however, manage to get the still-burning campfire leaping tall out of her anger. That was when Ike decided it was time to move her away.
The solution to her problem was not clear to him, and so for the rest of the afternoon the two battled with wooden swords. She was improving day-by-day.
That night, they returned to the city. A small number of suspicious glances were sent in their direction by the guards, but nothing more. She spent her nights practicing what Ike had taught her about light magic and her days sewing dresses for Cara's young granddaughter.
By the time Friday came, Artemis could effectively brighten her room as effectively as her usual candles. It was becoming easier to do so. Her flames, on the other hand, refused to fly. That night, she met Ike outside the city gates, and off again they went.
"Wind magic," Ike decided finally, speaking his thoughts out loud, "perhaps it will help." Artemis was still glaring at the fire, but looked up when he didn't continue speaking. He shook his head quickly, snapping out of the trance he'd fallen into and realized he'd said those words, not thought them. He glanced at her, green eyes bright with curiosity and almost lost his next sentence in her beauty.
"I— uh— it— no, sorry," Ike shut his eyes a took in a deep breath, "what I meant to say was: fire needs the air to burn, and so I believe, if you are able to control the wind, you should be able to control the fire more willingly."
Artemis blinked, and soon enough her eager expression turned into an understanding smile. She jumped up from where she had been sitting, filled with a new motivation.
"Pretend it's like sword fighting without the sword. You have to have that grace, that flow… and since you already do that so well this should be easier for you." He walked away from her, moving to stand in the tall grass, and began to demonstrate.
Artemis was mesmerized. He was exactly right; it looked just like sword fighting. He was light on his toes, moving like a leaf in the wind. With each swing of his arm a powerful gust of air flew off in that direction. His eyes were closed, she saw, and she imagined he was picturing a scenario behind the closed lids. Every now and then he would pause as if he was listening for the next attacker, and then he would spin on his heels and strike.
"Like you had with your sword," he informed, "think of it like an extension of your arm. Reach out and take hold of the element, and let it fly when you must. Think of it like this: an invisible blade; take it by the hilt and let the wind follow its movement."
Artemis moved to stand where he had been and shut her eyes. She envisioned a white sword by her side, the colour in it swirling like dye in water. The handgrip was solid white gold, something she had to keep hold of throughout her practice. It floated by her side, waiting to be grasped. As she wrapped her fingers around the wind-blade's hilt, she noticed a strange feeling. She could feel it in her fingers, but it almost wasn't there. She lifted it to find it light as a feather. Artemis twirled the thing in front of her. This blade was of her creation, perfectly fitting in every way, and as she spun it she found that it moved exactly as she wanted it to.
She opened her eyes, grinning at Ike, and thrust out her arm. To her pleasure, the grass bent with the breeze. She had succeeded. With another swing in the opposite direction the grass flew again. She continued, feeling the power build up from her imaginary sword. Artemis closed her eyes again, striking at her nonexistent enemies just as she had watched Ike do. She kept on her toes, twisting and turning at any moment's notice.
Suddenly, an idea popped into her head. As Ike had told her, fire needs air to burn. She paused for a short time, drawing out all the warmth from within herself that she could safely get her hands on and pushed it from her fingertips into the white bladed sword. Eyes remaining closed, she watched as the white colour turned orange, and smirked.
This time Artemis opened her eyes, staring out at the space in front of her. The grass blew with a slight breeze, and she brought her arm down to her side, readying her next attack. She took in a deep breath, adjusting her grip. With one powerful swing and a hearty roar, she brought the sword across her front and unleashed its power.
A huge rush of wind flew out in front of her, and the fire she had pushed into it quickly followed the same path, exploding from the end of her arm and into a gigantic blaze that shone bright and disappeared after what seemed a lot longer than a few seconds.
Ike, undoubtedly, was impressed. More than impressed, in fact. He was absolutely bewildered by the sight that had just come to pass before him.
Artemis let go of the sword, letting it fade into her mind, and turned to look at Ike. His eyes were wide, and for a moment he simply gaped at her. Finally, with a gulp, he stood and uttered the words, "Well, you certainly mastered that."
She grinned, "The sword metaphor unquestionably helps. I have my trusty white blade to call upon now. How about those targets?"
Thinking of her wind weapon, Artemis stood in the center of the mass of targets. She raised a hand to her jaw, thinking, how can I do this the same way I used my blade? For several minutes she remained there, one hand on her hip, the other on her chin, and could not visualize any way to use the fire in the same way she had the wind. And then she remembered the weapon she and Ike had spent a few afternoons learning about: throwing knives.
Once again Artemis closed her eyes, picturing a set of knives in her belt. She reached for one, and found that it was almost exactly like her imaginary sword, but the handle bronze and the blade swirling in pale orange. She held if for a few moments, weighing it up, and then opened her eyes and tossed it at a random target. A small burst of fire propelled from her hand, hitting almost the centre of the target. It burned in place for a second or two and disappeared.
Ike cheered. She had finally managed to do what she had been trying at all day. "I am awestruck with you, Artemis," he breathed, "You may have thought you weren't doing well, but honestly, most knights in training take months to even conjure a flame in the first place! It took me that long, and you – under two weeks!"
Artemis, overjoyed by this news, ran over instantly and pounced, wrapping her arms around him in a warm hug.