Ghia groaned as she landed harshly on the ground. She stayed on her back, trying to regain the wind that had been knocked out of her lungs.
Will you live? Rosa asked her wryly, and Ghia wanted to hit the Magi.
Nothing damaged, she replied, doing a quick scan of her body. I was shielding.
For Cora’s sake, I should hope so, girl — or you’d have learned nothing in these months. A branchy hand appeared above the healer, and Ghia accepted the help up.
She brushed herself off and sighed. I don’t understand why such intensive battle training is needed, Rosa. Anala, Miranda, you, and I are the only Magi around —
As far as we know —
Point gained. But who else will be able to toss around the attacks you’ve been hitting me with?
Rosa gave her a droll look before returning to her position across the room. They were on the third floor of the North Tower, which had been converted into a sparring room at some point — no doubt at Rosa’s request. It’s not like you to be so whiny, Ghia. You know full well it’s good to be prepared for every eventuality — what brings about this complaining?
Ghia sighed and shook out her sore muscles, taking up her place again. I don’t know. Just tired, I suppose.
Rosa rolled one shoulder, but Ghia was not fooled into taking it as a shrug. Fair enough, the Magea said, and sent a blast of Earth energy towards the healer.
Ghia leapt before the quake could hit her and expanded her air powers, staying afloat above the ground. She felt her etheric wings spring up from her back, and though she couldn’t see them with her naked eye she knew they were large, feathery, and colourful. Quite beautiful, really. She wished she could show them off to others.
Upon her return to Athering, she had cornered Rosa and demanded some explanations. She’d gotten them and more.
I’m tired of being kept in the dark, Rosa. You haven’t explained things to me fully, and I know you haven’t gone in depth with my training. What are you hiding?
Rosa had sighed and looked out the window, which she was wont to do when she didn’t want to elaborate on something. Before Ghia could yell at her teacher again, however, Rosa spoke.
I’ve hidden things because I’m not entirely sure of them myself, child. I’m a scientist. I like to be sure before publishing my findings.
The bird you saw in Anala was the manifestation of Anala’s magi heritage, which apparently blends Kernorian and Sarian powers to form a water Phoenix. The Phoenix are all long extinct now, but they used to live in peace with the Magi, sometimes deigning to work with Magi as…there is no Terran word for it, but the Ereneden way of saying it is ercoichmayaere nedaipriant tirth airetherened. Literally translated, it says “friend of Magi, they speak the sacred truth,” but that is not what the phrase actually means. Some things never translate from Ereneden to Atheē — this is one of them. The Phoenix would guide and aid us, as friends would. They rarely helped any but the Sarians, for they were a fire creature — but occasionally that rule would be bent, in the case of an especially talented Magi. When they worked in that capacity, their powers would combine with the powers of the Magi and the two would become symbiotic. In meditation and magek., that Magi would then appear on the other planes as a Phoenix.
Somehow, Anala has blended with the spirit of a Phoenix. I do not know how it happened or when or why — I do not even think it is possible. But I know what I saw, and that was the impossible. So it leaves me in a quandry.
There was a pause while Ghia absorbed this new information. And the water within the Phoenix, then? How does that work?
Rosa let out what passed for a bark of laughter from her, and the creaking of branches reverberated throughout the room. Don’t even get me started on that, child. I am as confused as you are. The only explanation is that the water heritage comes from her mother, who was definitely Kernornian — but that makes no sense at all, as all the Magi-Terrans should be Aiprorian. Suddenly Rosa stopped, and Ghia frowned at the cut-off.
No more secrets, Rosa, she said warningly.
Wind rattled the branches as Rosa sighed. The progenitor of your breed was Aiprorian — my wing-brother, to be precise.
What you would call a brother-in-law. I was engaged to marry Corinus’ brother Ather, but my fiancé died before our sealing could happen. Rosa’s voice shook like leaves in a storm and she stopped, trying to regain her composure. Corinus and I parted ways many, many, millennia ago, along with the other remaining members of our race. The other four died a long time ago, but I never felt Corinus’ death — he’s the only one who survived long enough to be the possible ‘father’ of the Magi-Terrans, and he should have begotten only other Aiprorians. So far, however, out of the Magi-Terrans I’ve encountered, you’re the only one who makes sense.
Rosa fell silent then. Ghia assumed the Magea didn’t know what else to say. The healer had figured out the rest already, but in the interest of conversation and clarity, she asked questions of her mentor. So that language I heard and spoke with Anala’s Magi-self was Ereneden, then.
Yes, said Rosa, coming out of her daze.
How would I know Ereneden, Rosa? I’ve never learned it.
You don’t need to. The Magi who were being born towards the end of our civilisation were born with the language fully known; it was a new twist in our evolution. Corinus was one of the first, so his ability would be passed on to his children. Also, the words that Terran tongues are able to replicate have bled into Atheē, so really — everyone in Athering knows a little Ereneden.
Talking to you is like reading an encyclopedia, Ghia said dryly, and was rewarded by a genuine laugh from her mentor. What about my Aiprorian heritage? What does that mean?
It means you are not a source of total frustration for me, Rosa replied instantly, and Ghia smirked. Not total frustration. It also explains your easy manipulation of air, and instant friendship with the sylphs. Rosa paused and turned to face Ghia thoughtfully. It may also mean you can fly.
Had she been drinking, Ghia would have spit her beverage out. Come again?
Aiprorians traditionally had the gift of flight — Corinus and Ather both had huge, feathered, multi-coloured wings. You obviously have no such wings on the physical plane, but you may have some on another plane — not yet awakened. No one would be able to see them, but if you have them, that combined with your ability to manipulate the air would give you the gift of flight.
How do we find out? How do we ‘awaken’ my wings?
Rosa smiled mercilessly. We fight.
And so had started their intensive sparring. During the first fight, Ghia’s wings had sprung forth from her back, much to her surprise. Despite Rosa’s words, she hadn’t truly believed it to be possible. Strange I would disbelieve that when so much else in my life is beyond natural.
The wings, while beautiful, were most useful against Earth attacks — the quakes Rosa sent no longer knocked Ghia off her feet, though they did make her body and bones shake and rattle. Nothing broke, however; so Ghia knew her shields were doing their job. She flapped her wings once and flew higher, away from the undulating Earth energy. Gathering storm energy to her, she sent a flash of lightning towards Rosa in retaliation.
Too late Rosa tried to drop her Water shield, and the lightning hit her at twice its normal strength. Rosa twitched and convulsed as the electricity coursed through her body, though the Water shield she’d tried to drop kept her branches and hair from bursting into flame.
Ghia set down on the ground and folded her wings back, waiting patiently as she monitored her teacher’s vitals carefully. It was only training — she had no wish to hurt Rosa.
A minute later Rosa recovered and smiled at Ghia. No hesitation, healer. You should have struck already.
I’m sure I will if I actually have to kill, Ghia replied, easily deflecting the blast of Air sent her way. But if you don’t mind, I’d rather not hurt you.
And the fight was on again.
Since the lessons in magekal combat had begun, Ghia had found herself frustrated. She was a healer, not a soldier! While some defense was admittedly needed, she didn’t really want to learn a thousand different ways to kill someone. Rosa had insisted, however, and when Ghia had questioned her teacher on it, she’d not got more than the “better to be prepared” speech, which she couldn’t argue with. So she submitted to the lessons more or less willingly.
At least it will give me added support for when I confront Miranda, she thought to herself as she sent a fireball at Rosa. She doubted the other part-Magi had any training in magekal combat, but she had no doubt the younger daughter of Lord Exsil Vis would be a formidable foe. She still couldn’t believe she’d been so blind to the truth about Miranda until she’d read Lares’ and Anala’s minds. Then all it had taken for the truth to click in her mind had been the memory of Lord Exsil Vis mentioning his younger daughter by name. No chance it was a different Miranda. She looked too much like her older sister and her mother for it to be someone else.
And she had Magi-powers. Which I should have seen earlier, Ghia thought, chastising herself. It was so obvious and yet I was so caught up in other things that I failed to see it. Now it may be too late — I don’t even know where she’s been reassigned, or if she’s even in Athering anymore.
She was so caught up in her thoughts that the Water blast Rosa sent her way went unnoticed until it was too late. An incredible, deep and dark sadness enveloped the healer and she felt fluid fill her lungs. Falling to her knees and coughing, she used healing Fire to respark her emotions and clear out the depression, and heated up her insides to evaporate most of the fluid. She coughed again, and blood and phlegm spilled out of her mouth.
Too slow — that shouldn’t have hit you, Rosa said, a gentle reprimand.
At least I’m still alive, Ghia shot back angrily. She renewed her shields and gathered her powers; closing her eyes she called darkness and the powers of the moons to her, letting the Lyran energy fill her before she sent it to Rosa. It stretched out in dark tendrils and wrapped Rosa in a tight embrace before the magea could deflect. Wounds opened all over her tree-like body and she started bleeding sap profusely.
Ghia released the Lyran power and it dropped from Rosa, allowing the magea to move again. Calmly Rosa healed her wounds and dropped her shields. Enough. Are you trying to kill me, child?
Ghia slumped further to the floor. Not in particular. She coughed up some more blood. Her lungs still held fluid. She closed her eyes and concentrated on removing said fluid, and felt Rosa lend her psychic hand to help. Ghia’s head snapped up in surprise as she felt Rosa’s changed psychic stamp. Did that attack cause more than bleeding, Rosa?
The magea shook her head and turned to face the window. You cannot cause lunacy in one who has already tasted dark madness, child. You can just cause her to remember what it felt like…and how welcoming it was.
Ghia felt a chill run through her at Rosa’s words, and suddenly wanted to leave. Her internal alarm went off then, and thankfully she realised she was due for her shift at the hospitalis. She stood slowly and turned to go, bidding Rosa farewell.
A brief, wordless affirmative was her only answer, and Ghia hurried off to her destination, trying to shake the chill that now gripped her. She knew it had nothing to do with that last Water attack.