Little Boys Who Play With Fire...

Chapter one: The Beginning

Kassia Leroux

I would say this isn't a story about love everlasting or good conquering evil but in the most bizarre way it is. I always thought I didn't deserve love ,that demons as a race, don't deserve something as good and pure as love… but I guess I proved myself wrong. I never meant for anyone to get hurt but I regret nothing, things always happen for a reason even the unexplainable is backed in a complicated web of fate and karma. Sometimes things that were never meant to be fall into place.

What you need to remember when hearing what I have to say and perhaps to justify the actions of others, is that we were living in a time of fear. In a place so encased in magic not everything can be in black and white, people change. In our time it was The Shadow we all feared. The Shadow is not a person it is a force, a person can be weak and mortal. A force is untouchable. Folks tales of our time said that in places of death and destruction The Shadow hung over like a tangible cloud. Now you must understand is that The Shadow could kill as easily as anything, it started on your inside slowly removing any happiness or sense from your mind. Then, while feeding of your misery, it would begin to take your soul. And then you die. The death is not quick, it's slow and drawn out, as if the controlled got a sort of sadistic pleasure from it. You see, certain people are controlled by The Shadow. They are called Prophets and they order who to recruit or kill on The Shadows behalf. We were all living in fear, not only fear of death but the fear that if your power is strong enough you will be recruited. I know that fear is not an excuse for some things but please, do not forget that fear, and love, make us act in ways we cannot define.

My story begins when I was 16; it was the start of a glowing autumn when my mother, Circe sat me down at our shabby kitchen table in our home we shared with my aunt Maya. My mother and her sister both resemble mermaids, and funnily enough that's because they're Water Demons, they spend most of their lives in water, they case fish and occasionally lure stray boaters into the murky depths. There have always been small differences that set me apart from my family; I don't have their azure blue eyes, their fair hair and more importantly I'm terrified of water. I'd always ignored the signs and stored them in my sub-conscious, unwilling to accept a new fate.

Anyway, when I turned 16 my mother and aunt sat me down and attempted to explain

"Kassia, you know us, -"she gestured at her sister "- demons of the water, kappa, kelpies, siren… there are hundreds of names for what we are but you, you are something else Kassia" she smiled her ghost of a smile before Maya cut in.

"What my sister is trying to say is you are a Fire Demon, honey and that means one-day you'll have more power than all of us… Unfortunately that'll make you an easy target for the Shadow" This summed up Aunt Maya, to the point, no bull-shit with a few pet nicknames thrown in. At this she paused and gave me time to register this, to take in what it meant to be what I am. You see, Fire Demons are much darker than Water Demons, we have to take lives to continue our immortal life span, and we blend easily into shadows and darkness and have the ability to sprout flames on our palms. We are the Demons of horror stories. It takes some time to settle in your brain that one day you'll have to kill people to survive but my aunt didn't give me the time I needed until she sprang the next bombshell.

"K, listen being a Red means you are a recognized magical creature now, and that means you'll have to go to Exousía for a mandatory year of magical education until you get your powers at 17 … Your leaving tomorrow" I wanted to scream, protest, try and make them see reason. I was so angry, how could they make a decision like that without telling me! My palms began to tingle…

"Circe look! Look at her hands!" Maya screamed, pointing at me in horror. Seeing my own mother looking so afraid of me was enough to quell my sudden anger. I burst into tears

"Mama, I'm so sorry, I- I didn't mean-"I stuttered through my sobs

"Your power must be very strong if it's beginning to show now, my darling" I shuddered to hear this; these were the words that made me see the reality of what was happening to me. "K, go pack" Maya usually used that tone when she wanted to speak to Mama alone so I had good reason to eavesdrop. In their hushed conversation I only heard a few snatches.

"– listen to yourself, sister! You can't shield her from the world forever!" Maya's tone was indignant.

"She's my daughter! The power in her is unnatural and I will not let down the barriers if-."

"Don't be a fool Circe! Let her make the wrong decisions and she can learn from them!" Aunt Maya's tone was harsh now; I wondered. "Sister, she will go to Exousía until she is ready and then we will tell-"to my annoyance the rest of the sentence was cut

"Maya, the subject is closed!" shouted my mother with 'older sister' finality. My mind raced with new questions as I headed up a polished oak staircase to my attic room to pack. I understand now the extra-ordinary lengths my mother must have gone to, both magically and physically, to build the fragile walls around my mind, my powers. I didn't know back then that if Fire Demons are exposed to their own minds for too long it can slowly drive them insane with power. If I had known, perhaps fooling me wouldn't have been so simple.

That night the strange conversation replayed itself in my dreams.

It was 5 o'clock in the morning when I was awakened by siren-like singing. Aunty Maya.

"Morning Red!" she smiled warmly at me.

"What's going on?"

"You're getting a make-over!" Instinctively I put my hand to my face and gave her a quizzical look. I knew I wasn't beautiful; I was too short, my skin was too pale and my hair was a disconcerting shade of blood red but I didn't see a reason to change what I looked like.

"Exousía doesn't usually accept Demons but you have 'special permission'" I wondered if Maya had had too much fresh kill in the morning and that was making her act like a 5 year old. "But they're scared you'll frighten everyone else so we're going to dye your hair brown-"at this I moaned, I loved my fire red hair, looking back it was probably trying to tell me something. "And we're going to make your eyes permanently grey…" To this I had no objection, my eyes were usually dark grey but when I was feeling a particularly strong emotion they turned black and recently within the black red specks had been appearing.

"But-"I wasn't really in the mood to argue so I sighed, acting like she'd won me over, and let Maya play with me like her own over-grown Barbie.

Exousía is a school, a huge school for Witches, Wizards, Lye, Nymphs, Shape-Shifters, an occasional Vampire and a now Demon, one lonely Demon. Exousía is situated in a small country called The Weigh. In times of old, when the Shadow wasn't an ever present danger, The Weigh was a peaceful farming land with many inns for it was where travellers stopped on their journey from Ezkala to Knox. The Weigh is surrounded by the bare landscape of The Waste, like many places The Weigh is like an island with only a few roads connecting it to bigger neighbouring cities. Times haven't changed much, except now The Weigh is home to Exousía. It may not be the biggest or the best school for Magical education but it certainly has the most variety. There is a lot of speculation about how the school came to be, according to most popular theories the land and building (a crumbling ruin) had been bought by a rich old Wizard hundreds of years ago in the hope of turning it into a recruitment centre for Magical beings so he could create an all-powerful army to destroy and conquer Knox, Ezkala and the capital, Knightheld. After his plan failed he sold the property to a distant cousin and she created a space for learning the crafts of Nymphs and Lye, wear they too could study and earn their stars. Over the years it was sold and re-sold until it became what it is now.

I'm not scared of much; I'm a Fire Demon for crying out loud! But being showed around a school where you just know you won't fit in is truly terrifying, especially if the school is about the size of 6 Italian mansions. The entire place was practically falling apart at the seams not only that but the corridors seemed to be an interlocking maze with dead-ends which might lead to class-rooms or you could just as easily end up in the boys' dorms (A mistake I wouldn't be making twice). Also I was certain everything moved! One minute you would sit on a bench to finish your homework and look up to find you were sat five meters away from where you started! I kept my expression blank around the guide, a pompous 6th year with a bad case of acne, but secretly I was thrilled; I had one whole year to discover every short-cut, trick staircase, passage and hidden door! I swore an oath to myself that by the end I would know every one…Things seemed to turn ugly quick though. I had to have a room-mate. I wonder now if anyone saw the implications of this since the second I turned 18 I could raze the place to ash. At the time I hoped it would be a girl could ignore easily.

Instead I got a bored looking boy.

"Hi." I answered with the same amount of enthusiasm as his face was displaying.

"My name is Luca Viander. But it's just Viander to you. I'm one of the most dangerous wizards here." He paused and gave me proud look. "What are you called?"

I kept quiet and tried to make my face look hostile. He looked at me as if he was the better one of us. I did honestly want to laugh; I could probably burn him to cinder using one of my hands. He was the type of guy arrogance rolled of in waves but really had no more power than his best cronies. The tour of Exousía had taken almost all day and all I really wanted to do was settle into my room and go to sleep. By the way, room-mate means the person I shared the small dorm/apartment with not the actual room. My dorm was ridiculously spacious. The room itself was huge, a giant window looking over endless fields with a seat for reading. There were two bathrooms and a 'work lounge', but I missed home. I missed my mother (though it seems childish to admit); I even missed the lake surrounding our home. As soon as my head hit the lavender-scented feather pillow, I fell asleep.

When I woke I missed the presence of ethereal singing. If I listened closely I heard nothing except the silence of the countryside. Oh, and some annoying voices talking far too loud. I did what I do best, apart from disappearing easily in crowds, I eavesdropped on my new 'dangerous' room-mate, Luca, hoping to find some black-mail material.

"News? No, nothing… Well, there's a new girl -" a muffled voice seemed to reply "No nothing special…" Stupidly my eyes started to sting. Luca lowered his voice and said something I couldn't hear. Another reply.

"-everyone knows I'm just about the best apprentice here!"

Then I heard the stranger in my dorm laugh without humour. I felt the need to interrupt the display of self-importance by sidling in unnoticed and quietly saying "Ego much?" He turned around slowly revealing his sculptured face with spiked up shock blond hair and assed me with cool blue eyes. There was no-one else in the room. I considered that maybe my new surroundings were making me lose my mind.

"I'm sorry, I didn't ask for your opinion," my room-mate said in voice that was sure to be a side effect of walking around like he owned the place for far too long. He looked bored, liked he faced people like me every day. Then I remember that since my make-over I had no extra-ordinary qualities anymore. But that didn't put me off the scent of a secret.

"Who was in here?" I asked

"What on earth are you talking about, mousy? Am I really dazzling enough to make you start losing your eyesight?" His quip about my hair had started the familiar tingle in my palm, he was lying and I could tell but at that moment decided to excuse myself from the conversation (before I actually started spouting flames) by mirroring his haughty look and walking out the door, sashaying ever-so-slightly. Exousía is a school with boring regulation uniform, navy blazers, grey and lavender striped shirts, grey knee-high skirts and silver ties to match our silver logo of a sliver sword, a grey wand and a background of purple fire with the word Exousía written in Greek, so there was no chance of me standing out. Ever. I sighed, knowing it was time for me to start the 'schooling' I was sent here for and I had definitely got out the wrong side of bed that morning. I would say I enjoyed lessons of being stared in the back by my class-mates while learning all about the fascinating habits and home-life of the non-magic community or listening to a holier-than-thou lye (a wiser version of a nymph) tell me all about how to spot a werewolf, but I honestly didn't.

As I sat at one of massive tables determinedly ignoring everyone around me, I wondered if I carried on being this cold I would never have make any friends. My room-mate came and sat next to me. I didn't even face him, hoping he was there to talk to the girl next to me but no, he turned to me and said:

"You don't let on much do you?" I kept silent, willing to show him how little I care. "What are you?" I blanched. No-one had asked me the question before, not even my teachers. I knew what to say though,

"I'm a nymph with vampire blood." I smiled, it's the most laughable thing I've heard but people buy it.

"Yeah, right" he snorted.

"It's true!" I blurted far too quickly, I had wanted to say something smart or witty but now I was stuck sounding like a child. He raised his eyebrow and lowered his voice hissing

"You're hiding something…" Well, yeah! I'm a Fire Demon!

"No!"

"Yes" I guessed it was about time to resolve to my favourite pass-time, being a bitch.

"I'm sorry… I said no. You should have heard me, if your brain is proportioned to the size of your swollen head." At this his eyes flashed, I'm pretty sure people were beginning to stare as I had said that a little loudly.

"Soon you're going to find out those no-one talks to me like that. I don't even know your name yet but I'm going to find your secret and then I'm going to destroy you…" Luca's voice was low, dangerous; I know I should have been un-nerved but if he did find my secret all bets were on him running to his mummy like a scared little girl. So I guessed some good can come of being a Fire Demon. I let a cold smile play around my lips as he stormed off. Opposite me, a boy with soft brown hair swishing lightly over his jade green eyes smiled.

"I've been waiting for a suitable insult to throw at him for ages" His boyish grin was sort of infectious and his voice lilted slightly. He has that kind of charisma that invites you to talk to him.

"Who does he think he is to boss me about like a king? Why does everyone accept him like that?" I fumed, ready to let out my pent up frustration at the first person who could resemble a friend. I've always been a lone person, I preferred my own company to that of the giggling nymphs of my neighbourhood.

"Well I hate to speak ill of your room-mate," his green eyes sparkled "but he has a- a connection to the uh, shadow messengers." The boy looked like he expected me to bolt at the mention of the 'dark side' but since I was neither light nor dark I let my nonchalant mask slip into place.

"The shadow messengers huh? Aren't they the ones who do all the shadows dirty work?" I asked off-handily with the air of someone discussing a new professor or something equally mundane.

"Yeah, I'm James by the way and I'm a shape shifter." I was shocked, true shape-shifters are pretty rare. As rare as a true Demon

"I'm Kassia Leroux."

"And I'm going to respect your privacy by not asking what you are and pretending to swallow that stupid story about you being a nymph with vampire blood… Also I need to warn you Kassia, when Luca says that he will destroy you he isn't kidding around." James added with upmost seriousness.

"My life is path bent on self-destruction; nothing he can do will come close to affecting me." I said cryptically.

"You're an odd bird, you know that?"

"'Odd' doesn't even come close." I use my mother's ghost smile. James and I sit for a while in comfortable silence.

"Hey, Jam," I say using my new-found nickname for him "What's your next lesson?"

"Jam?" he asks, wiggling his eyebrows.

"What? It's sweet."

"Yeah, I suppose… What do I call you?" I was taken aback, first by the normality of the conversation and then by the question. I decided to adopt Maya's easy nickname.

"Red, you can call me Red…"

"Alrighty, Red" I giggled, yes actually giggled. "Sorry Red, dahling I have to go get my books for the next lesson. I'll see you there, right?" I smiled at the sweet desperation in his voice. After he left, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, I felt like someone was watching me. I got up, wanting to start my exploring early. As soon as I left the dining hall someone grabbed my arm. Irrational fear coursed through me.

"Hi!" I stared uncertainly at the smirking chestnut haired girl in front of me. "I saw you talking to my future husband and I had to say 'hi'" Future husband? I raised both my eyebrows at her. Her ebony eyes sparkled with glee.

"Don't you know? James and I are going to get married, have a big white wedding with horses and roses, and have four children called Liza, John, Matthew and Sarah and live in a huge country house with white picket fences and a chocolate-box garden and lived happily ever after!" She said this all very quickly. "I'm Sophie, by the way."

"I'm Kassia."

"Hi Kass!"

"So you're marrying James?" I grinned. The awkwardness of the situation quickly melted away, leaving only the laughed etched into the darker girl's face. I tried in vain to supress my smirk, the corners of my lips turning up characteristically.

"Most definitely. What's your next lesson Kass?" I racked my brains.

"Ummm, Alchemy?" I hazarded a guess. Sophie's smile dropped slightly but remained cheery.

"I've got Magical History… I guess I'll just see you at dinner." As Sophie waltzed away, humming slightly, I stood there blinking, wondering if I'd just made a friend. Footsteps echoed down the hall way, pulling me out of my reverie.

"Red? Alchemy's that way" Jam shouted at me from afar. I fixed a smile and let James's talking lull me into happiness.

James and I sat next to each other in Alchemy; for those who don't know, even in non-magical terms Alchemy is a complicated mix of chemistry and philosophy, combine that with what some would know as 'Potions' and BOOM you've got Magical Alchemy. It differs from equations to explosions. Some love it (My mother was a fanatic, she had a private study hidden in the dungeons and she used take me for private lessons so I've grown to love it too) some hate it (James because in his own words 'there isn't enough bang with the smoke' hates it even more than Aunt Maya). We smiled and made small talk before the lesson and for the first time I felt as if I found some-one who I connected with. Professor Moralis, a man who in my opinion resembled a withered old tree; all gnarled and with an 'old man' outlook on life separated us immediately

"Now that you two have quite finished, I suggest that you find some other place to sit, Miss… ?"

"Leroux, Kassia Leroux." I sighed.

"Right then Miss Leroux, I can sense trouble between the two you. So my only option is to move you. Take a seat next to Miss Jay. Now." Moralis' tone was clipped. I pretty sure I hated him from that moment on. I went to take my seat next to the platinum blonde at the back of the class. She contorted her perfectly formed features into a smile as flat as her eyes. She spoke in a throaty posh voice that carried across the room

"I'm Cynthia, I've railly been dying my boyfriend's new room-mate!" Cynthia emphasized the word boyfriend. She lowered her voice to a dangerous tone her 'boyfriend' would have been proud of.

"Stay away from my Luca. Clear?" Then she let out a stream of loud tinkling laughs as if she'd made a great joke. I thought that perhaps I should go after 'her' Luca, just to spite her. After momentarily gagging at the thought I decided to use my maliciousness in a more suitable way. We had just begun creating a Sleeping Draught and with my Alchemic knowledge I knew the perfect sabotage. Yes it was childish but at least it wasn't violent, that aspect of my life was still missing. Along with the boy who inspired it.