(A Forever Free Novel)
By: Joel E. Eppes
Iyas had long since stopped paying attention to Keos's lecture, not caring about the politics and ancient traditions of the Dama Empire. Iyas wanted to be outside. Racing around the city of Vii, causing the usual mischief with his best friend, Ness. Nessyma was Iyas's tiesister, and had been for years. He glanced out the low window of the tower Ness and Iyas were studying with Keos. Beside Keos, standing before Ness and Iyas was Fien, Ness's own instructor. Keos was technically Iyas's own instructor, but Keos and Fien often worked together to teach Ness and Iyas, since the two were tiekin and also the same age. Both Iyas and Ness were seventeen long seasons old, though Ness was a few days older. Three more seasons, and they would turn twenty seasons old, finally reaching their adulthood. They would finally be free of all this miserable instruction. Ness and Iyas had already made plans. Plans to run away and live alone, away from civilization in the mountains where they would forever be free.
Ness was constantly living in fear. Fear that someone would discover her Witchery. Someone who was wicked and greedy, who would enslave her for her abilities. Iyas's own Witchery was a powerful and considerably rare one, but not near as rare or valuable as Ness's. His tiesister was a Aether Witch, able to control not just one, but all aspects of Aether Magic. A rare Witch indeed. There were seven elements that were possible to use. Witchery was a type of magic that some people are born with. Each born with some sort of connection to a specific element. Ness, for example, was born with a special and versatile connection to Aether. One of the most rare types of Witchery , even for the weaker aspects of Aether Witchery, it was rare. Once, the Cry Witch was the most common aspect. Now, they are rare.
Iyas was a Water Witch, with full and complete control over water. All aspects of it. He could freeze it, boil it, steal it from a person's body. While water in itself is not rare, a pure Water Witch like Iyas was. Usually they were mere Wave Witches or Ice Witches. The other five Elements were Fire, Earth, Air, Life, and Void. It was said that one's elemental Witchery was tied to their personality, the environment or situation of their birth, and from their horoscope. There was, of course, no evidence to support such ideologies, though some parts did make since, for example, the situation and place of one's birth. For instance, Iyas happened to born at sea. His parents were migrating to Kunna, the continent they now lived on, from the continent of Jediin. And now, Iyas was a Water Witch. So perhaps it was because he was birthed at sea that he now has one of the strongest ties with Water, or perhaps not. He would likely never find out.
"Iyas." Keos's voice suddenly broke into Iyas's wandering thoughts. "You're paying attention correct?" Keos demanded.
"Of course, Master Keos." Iyas answered immediately, snapping his gaze from the window to meet Keos's narrowed brown eyes.
"If you were indeed, then please explain the Izbira Ritual that takes place in the Dama Empire every twenty years." Keos commanded, gaze hard and unwavering.
Iyas sighed. They'd covered this subject a million times during study days. He knew it by heart. "The Izbira Ritual is sacred to the Dama. It is how the Emperor is chosen. The current Emperor must fight to the death in the arena against any who desire to become Emperor. If a competitor defeats the current Emperor, then he must fight the other competitors. The tradition lasts only for a day, so which ever competitor wins becomes the new Emperor until the next Izbira Ritual."
"Very good." Keos said, still glaring at Iyas. "I think that's good enough for today. Go home you two. And make sure you rest up. You have a big assessment tomorrow." Keos adds.
"What will the assessment be on?" Ness asks.
"You will each be tested on your mastery of your Witchery and your ability to use it in combat to the fullest extent. You will not be allowed to use any weapons. Only your elemental magic." Fien answers, meeting the gazes of both Ness and Iyas. "Now go on home you two." Fien commands.
Ness and Iyas both stand, quickly leaving the study tower. "I hate it when they do worthless lectures like that." Iyas muttered once they were out of earshot.
"Really?" Ness wondered, casting a sideways glance at Iyas. "I think they're pretty entertaining. I like learning about the cultures and histories of the other nations." Ness explained.
Iyas made a face. "I did the first three of four times, but when they force us to study the same things over and over, I can't stand it. It's too repetitive. Like they think were too dull to keep any sort of information in our minds." He complained.
"Well they just want us to understand the peoples of Kunna and beyond. So that way we may better understand or enemies in and outside of combat. If it comes to that." Ness says.
"I might. Have you heard the rumors of the growing dispute between the Dama and Fuori Empires?" Iyas considered. If a war broke out between the Dama and Fuori, all nations of Kunna would be affected in some way or other. Some would be brought into the fighting directly. Like the kingdom of Gora. It was a small landlocked state that sat right in between the Dama and Fuori Empires. No doubt their lands would quickly turn into a battleground in war broke out.
"I'm sure they're just rumors. It's not like anything bad will actually happen." Ness decided. "The Dama and Fuori are always arguing over something or other. No wars have broke out then."
"Yes, but I heard that this time, fighting is actually breaking out along their borders. Nothing too big though. Just petty skirmishes really." Iyas argued.
"Don't silly border skirmishes happen everywhere?" Ness asked.
"Fair point." Iyas said, relinquishing the argument. "But there's nothing wrong with paying attention and being prepared is there?" Iyas asked innocently.
Ness snorted. "I suppose not. But being paranoid and being prepared are two very different things."
"I'm not paranoid." Iyas mumbled under his breath.
"Of course not." Ness teases. "But it does sound like you are."
"What does your magic tell you?" Iyas retorts, effectively rebuking Ness's argument.
"Fine, fine." Ness concedes. "Let's talk about something else then. Do you feel ready for this assessment tomorrow?"
"I do." Iyas decides, forcing himself to be nothing but confident. He is, of course, terrified. And he knows Ness can tell that he is lying. But for Iyas's betterment, she doesn't say anything.
Iyas and Ness turn onto King Street. In the nation of Fesgar, every time a new king or queen is crowned, they partake in a long journey. This Journey begins here, in the city of Vii, then they follow King Street out of the city, where it becomes little more than a hunter's trail. The king or queen makes a pilgrimage to the Earth Oasis that rests in Fesgar. There they pray for one night, asking for a blessing from Fangar's patron element, Earth. There are Seven Beginning Oasis in Kunnya. One for each element. The Earth Oasis is just of the coast of the Jynia Sea, in Fesgar. All culture and rituals in Fesgar seem to circle around the Earth Oasis. Although Iyas thought that all the religious nonsense about the Oasis was a bunch of nonsense, he at least knew that the Earth Oasis was real, it was alive. All stories told about its beauty, purity, and benevolence seemed true to Iyas. He and Ness have visited the Earth Oasis more than a couple of times with Keos and Fien. Each time, Iyas could feel a serene sensation fill his mind, relax his body. If he could, he would stay by the Earth Oasis, live next to it. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to visit the Water Oasis. The Oasis of his own very element. He couldn't imagine the rush of power as the magic of the Water Oasis flowed through him.
"Soon we'll be done with all these ridiculous classes and our instructors and live the life we've always dreamed." Ness sighs.
Iyas snaps himself from his thoughts. "Only three more seasons." He sighed with her.
"See you tomorrow." Ness says, turning off of King Street and onto the road where her villa rests. Both Ness and Iyas live in the wealthier district of Vii. The city was circular, with rings. Each ring, the farther out you went until the end of the city was poorer and poorer. Iyas's own villa was a couple blocks farther in than Ness's, since his family was a little more wealthy than Ness's. In the very center of the city stood Suncrest Palace, where King Gildon De Vausche lived. Iyas had met him once, and as far as kings and other such rulers, Gildon was as good as they can get. Thanks to him and his programs, each street in this city is lit up at night by a string of Fire Witch enchanted lamps. They're not fancy, but they provide light in the dark. Even the poorest neighborhoods have lamps. But that's not the most significant feat. Now, every neighborhood, every block and square has clean, free water. Thanks to an effective system of Water Witches and many more Witches, each streets has a small but very effective well on it. Giving clean, safe water to all. In Iyas's mind, that's the most amazing achievement.