"Wind is the Gods' way of giving direction, dear, but there can't be wind without a little heat."

— Thonia de Atrio, High Priestess

⥽ 00 ⥼

Seven Years Ago

I'm eyeing the door to the Atrium, watching it like it'll tell me what's going on.

I've never been called by the Synod before. Because I haven't reached the "technical" Age of Kindling yet, I'm not allowed to know what's going on outside of the Cove.

Which is stupid! The Age of Kindling is supposed to be when a practitioner finally connects with an element, not a specific age, but even though I've been connected with fire since I was three, they said I wasn't ready. Even when I got a fire Spirit — a dragon fire Spirit, thank you very much — they still wouldn't tell me anything!

You were six when we entered into the Covenant, Ignis, said fire Spirit, points out, a small smile on his furry muzzle. At the moment, he's curled inside my chest, wings wrapping around himself as he lays down next to my heart. Why would anyone tell a six-year-old anything?

Well, why would any Spirit pick a six-year-old? I throw back.

He chuckles. I've asked myself that for the last seven years.

I pout. Rude.

We've been over the reason I picked you several times, Toren, he says gently, and your Grandmother has explained why the Synod believed you weren't ready quite a few times as well, so what is really bothering you?

I make a face and look down, kicking the wooden floor as I silently curse Ignis for being able to read me so well. The Synod's never called us to the Atrium before.

True, Ignis agrees. Perhaps they have decided to Crest us.

I snort. Crest you maybe.

Us. Ignis is firm about this. We're a team, Toren.

I know, I mutter. I just don't think the Synod knows that.

Still stalling, he says, smiling. What's ailing you?

Just... Why are they summoning us now? You know how the Synod is about traditions being followed and everyone staying where they should be and blah blah blah, but, like, we were summoned in front of the entire Circle — had one of the Keepers come to the dining hall and everything! I say, remembering the towering man of a warrior, dressed in robes of reds and golds. His face, of course, had been completely blank and emotionless, making me super uncomfortable. If Grandma or Father had just told me, I wouldn't be so nervous, but this is, like, official, Ignis.

I can feel him nod. Yes. I noticed that as well. He thinks about it for a second. Perhaps they have decided it's time to put you through the Touchstone.

How're they gonna put me through that stupid test if the only one who even admits I have a Spirit is Grandma? I say. The others still pretend you're not real!

Yes, but things could be different after the attack yesterday, he tries again.

It's not the first time we've managed to take out a vampire, though, so why would they be impressed now?

Because it keeps happening, and we keep going above their expectations despite how young we are. I can practically see him make a face as he ruffles his white fur. Well, how young you are, he amends.

So proud of your age, I grumble.

Just go, Toren, Ignis encourages. I'll stay awake until they're done talking to you.

You don't have to, I say, voice softening. Ignis is usually only awake during the day. As a fire Spirit, he gets his energy from the sun, so as soon as it's gone, he's ready for bed. Even now, with the sun just starting to set, I can feel him yawn, purple eyes getting heavy. I'll be okay. I'm just being a baby.

He shakes his head. You are not being a baby you are just worried about what they have to say. It's entirely reasonable.

Is it? I ask before I can stop myself. Shaking my head, I say, Never mind. You don't have to answer that.

Go, is all he responds.

I nod once and put my hand on the door. Unlike the other doors in the Cove, this door isn't wooden and it doesn't have a handle. Instead, it's completely made out of garnet. The color is usually a pretty, deep wine, but as soon as a fire witch uses her magick, it turns into a forest green.

Taking a breath, I focus as much fire as I can into my palm. Flames immediately engulf the entire wall, making me cringe a little as the Cove shifts unhappily.

Too much force, Toren. Next time, try to visualize the door as an extension of yourself, Ignis instructs.

My bad, I mutter.

It works, though. Even with the Cove rumbling while it fixes the burnt wood, the garnet changes colors, glowing green before it falls away.

With one more deep breath, I walk into the room.

The Atrium is big — almost a third of the Cove by itself — with tall, stone walls and a stone floor to match, and it's absolutely intimidating. There's a pentagram on the wall in front of me that's literally made of fire, a long sword with a black hilt pointing to the lower right of the star.

It's the symbol of the elements, Ignis comments, interested in the pentagram. Of course they have the athame indicating the Fire point of the star.

We're a fire Circle, I say. Where else would it point?

To the top point, he says easily. The Spirit.

Oh. I guess that would make sense. I pause. If the Synod actually believed Spirit was the most important element.

He snorts. Humans are too sanctimonious.

What's "sanctimonious" mean? I wonder.

Self-righteous, he explains. The idea that one is superior without any real evidence.

That does describe the Synod perfectly, I say, nodding as I look at the rest of the room.

Other than the one with the pentagram on it, the walls are filled from floor to ceiling with shelves that are completely covered with incense, oils, and old, worn books. In the middle, there's a wooden round table that takes up nearly the whole room. An incense burner is on it, surrounded by crystals — mountains of amethyst, hematite, and moonstone glittering in the low light of the candles around them.

Around the table are matching, dark oak chairs. One chair, though — the one directly under the burning pentagram — is different. Instead of the plain oak, this one has deep red accents that almost match my hair. It kind of looks like the color is pulsing, like the chair is alive.

It probably is alive, Ignis says. It was forged with Earth magick.

Really? I wonder, wanting to touch it. That's so cool~

I'm so distracted by it, I barely hear the whoosh — like a fire starting —as all of the Synod members suddenly appear, sitting in their respected chairs.

My grandmother appears in the head chair, making me jump away from it as she clears her throat, smiling questioningly at me.

Once upon a time, way before I was born, she had the same red hair as me. Now, her hair is more like the color of stars — a beautiful, bright grey with natural silver highlights — nearly blending in with her pale skin, and her eyes are evergreen, much darker than the light green of my own. Apparently, all the girls in our family have different shades of red hair and green, upturned eyes, as well as straight noses and what Grandma calls a "bow-shaped" mouth — even my mom and her mom and her mom's mom.

"Grandma!" I say, straightening up. "I didn't — uh — see you there."

"I noticed," she says, but she's smiling.

"Why're you sitting in the head chair, though?" I wonder.

"Because I'm the High Priestess, sweetie," she says. "Never mind that, though. Don't you think you should bow to the members of the Synod?"

I blink, looking around. When I catch my father's signature glare, I tense and quickly do as she says, bowing lowly. "Please forgive my..." I stop, not sure of what to say.

Inconsideration? Ignis offers.

Right. Thanks.

"Please forgive my inconsideration," I say out loud. "I was distracted by the, um, beauty of the room."

"Yes, it is quite enchanting, isn't it?" Grandma says, chuckling. "I still remember my first time being allowed in. One of the best memories."

I look up at her. "When you were allowed in?"

She nods. "Oh, yes. I was two years older than you are now and had just formed a Covenant with my Spirit, Kore. As a phoenix Spirit, the Synod was very interested in her abilities. It was all so nerve-wrecking, but, despite that, this room took my breath away. Why, to think I —"

My father, from Grandma's right, clears his throat, interrupting her. "Forgive me, High Priestess, but I believe you're getting off track."

She lets out a girlish laugh before patting Father's hands, which are tented in front of him on the table. "You're far too formal, Adaric. I'm your mother-in-law before your Priestess. Besides, you're my High Priest — there's no need to be so distant."

"I understand," he says, bowing.

Shaking her head, she looks at me. "However, your father is correct — I'm afraid the story will have to wait until after we're done here, Toren."

I nod, still not sure what's going on.

"The time has come for you to compete in the Balefire," Grandma says softly. "It's time to see if you and Ignis can draw down the sun."

My eyes widen as my mouth practically drops to the ground.

Panic, Ignis! Time to panic!

Why panic? Ignis wonders, yawning widely. I agree with Thonia.

Agree... You can't agree with her, Ignis! I'm barely twelve, and she wants to see if we can win over Deus, the Solstice Sword! That's... You know the rumors about it, right? That it was forged by Ahi herself? How are we supposed to wield a sword forged by the sun?

Ignis snorts, puffs of fire coming out of his snout. A few minutes ago, you were pointing out how advance you are. Now, you are playing the age card? He shakes his head. Well, I believe we can, Toren.

I stand there, shell-shocked, unable to believe that Ignis of all people is on Grandma's side!

"Toren?" Grandma tries.

I shake my head. "Grandma, you can't expect me to... Ignis and I haven't had enough practice to... to..."

Grandma takes my hands in hers. Despite all the wrinkles, her grip is more solid than mine. "Listen to me, Toren. The fact that you have been bound to Ignis since you were five is enough reason for me to believe in you. That hasn't happened since before the Common Era, sweetie. The two of you are going to do magnificent things — I can feel it — and the Balefire is just the first step. A step, I'm sure, Ignis wants to take."

I do, he says despite the fact she can't hear him. Let us try, Toren. It's not as if anyone will be able to hurt you with me around.

Unless you're the one trying to hurt me, I shoot back without thinking. Immediately, I regret it, especially with the way Ignis retreats further inside me, only his burning, violet eyes visible now.

I would never, he says softly, hurt.

I know, Ignis, I say, hanging my head. Grandma pats my hand, but I barely feel it as I mentally sigh. I didn't mean it that way. I'm just freaking out a little. I mean, this is a big step! If we win, we're gonna wield Deus!

Yes, he says sagely, still curled deep inside my soul. And, while Deus himself wasn't created by the sun herself, the sword he resides in was.

That has me stopping. Wait. Deus is... Deus is alive? And he isn't... he isn't just a sword?

I feel him shake his head more than I see him do it. No. He is not. He is, however, one of the oldest Spirits in existence.

Like, older than you? I wonder.

By an eon or so.

But you're over 10,000 years old! I say.

Ignis clears his throat. Yes, well, anyway, if we win him in the Balefire, he'll be more inclined to help you than if we simply took him from an opponent, Ignis says. For some reason, I think I see him roll his eyes as he says, He lives by the code of a warrior, so he prefers those who are honorable.

That stops me. I purse my lips as I think about it a little more carefully. I do like meeting new Spirits, and a Spirit as old as Deus... well...

I cave. "Alright," I decide, saying it out loud so Grandma can hear too. "I'll compete in the Balefire."

⥽ xxx ⥼

Hi there, cupcakes! I'm back with a new story! Originally, it was for a contest (something to keep me on track, you know?), but the word limit was 20,000-40,000 (novella length), and I realized that this story was gonna be a beast, not a light novel lol

At any rate, I hope you like the first chapter of Taming the Wind!

Happy reading~(: