The Darkness Within
In a time of great darkness, when evil sweeps the land, a prophecy foretells the coming of a savior, a child that will defeat the forces of evil and save the world. She is Kyria, the Chosen One.
In the aftermath of the recent tragic events that befell all students of the Academy, the new school year comes with a loss of innocence, and a pressing need for children to grow up and learn of the unforgiving nature of the world around them. The normal course curriculum is altered to bring a higher emphasis on defending oneself, not only through physical means, but now with magical ones as well!
With the unprecedented event of learning magic for the first time prior to the Apprentice years, student are exposed to a wide array of magical acts and try to master their art. Through spells, enchantments, and magical items, every day becomes an adventure in discovery.
In the midst of it all, Kyria feels a darkness growing within her, consuming her, and slowly turning her into something that she dreads becoming. Unless she can find a way to control the evil festering within her veins, she fears that she may become as bad as Zoldex himself, and the fate of the realm would be lost.
The hospital wing was a place that no Mage wanted to visit, especially not during the Founding Celebration, though Kyria found herself there just the same. Of course, a boy she had a crush on, and who she thought liked her in return, was trying to kill her; but still, the sooner she was able to leave, the happier she would be.
The Healers were seriously concerned with her injuries this time. When she had fought Kruskall, he wielded some kind of enchanted sword that crackled with dark energy. That dark energy, when it entered her bloodstream, had turned the white of her eyes black, and—she learned after reaching the hospital wing—her blood as well.
They seemed to be at a loss for what to do. They did not understand the nature of the dark magic, so finding a way to overcome it was a challenge. Kyria was growing weary of the constant tests that the Healers were conducting, and even more so on the numerous failed attempts to heal her.
Whatever was wrong with her, Kyria felt fine. The wound to her shoulder—which Tyrene had healed—had hurt until Tyrene helped her, but now she did not feel any differently than usual. That is, unless she looked into a mirror.
She was more concerned about Sartir, who had injured his spine and was paralyzed. He was in the bed next to her, and Kyria could see that he was still stationary. The Healers had used their magic to repair his spine, but also created an immobilization shield around him and told him that he should not move for at least twenty-four hours. After that, he would be—according to the Healers—the same as always.
Mica and Tyrene were both fine. Mica managed to escape virtually unscathed, and Tyrene only had a few bumps and bruises where Kruskall had kicked her. They were both in the hospital wing, but only as visitors.
Masters Lystra and Korgoth remained at the entrance acting as guards. Kyria didn’t expect any more trouble now that Kruskall had fled the Council, but she was appreciative that the two were not taking any chances. Tarwas, the Gatherer, was also there, but he respected Kyria’s wishes and guarded the outer entrance to the hospital wing.
Those doors swung open, and Kyria saw three familiar faces walking in to see how everyone was doing—Council of Elders members Cala, Ilfanti, and Herg. Ilfanti sat down on the edge of her bed right away and asked Kyria to tell them everything that she could remember, from the beginning.
The tale was not a short one. Kyria tried to remember everything, starting with their initial suspicions of Jialie, Tyron, and Tyrene as they came out of the kitchen—something Tyrene quickly explained when it was mentioned. She said that she caught Jialie and Tyron trying to steal food, and Tyron threatened to tell people that she had the ability to heal if she didn’t let them get away with it. Tyrene did not want them to steal, especially her brother, but she also did not want to be separated and be forced to become a Healer. Ilfanti assured her that she would not be separated unless she chose that as her path, a huge relief to Tyrene. Kyria went on, all the way to actually confronting Kruskall in the tunnels of the Gatherers.
Ilfanti was quite interested in the details of the first conversation Kyria and Sartir overheard of Zoldex and Kruskall, and the fact that they told Master Jeffa. He assured everyone that Master Jeffa was doing things in his own way, and that he promised them that the Council of Elders member did not neglect their information, but Ilfanti’s words lacked his normal conviction and animation.
After the discussion was done, Ilfanti stood back up and nodded his thanks for the tale. He then paused, and looked at each of the students in turn. “Have you all signed up for classes yet?”
“No,” groaned Kyria.
“We’re kind of last minute,” Mica agreed.
“I have,” Sartir said.
Tyrene nodded that she had as well.
“Well you’re both going to have to sign up again,” Ilfanti informed them. “In light of what has happened here this morning, we have spoken with the Academy’s Review Board, and it has been decided that thirteenth-years will be eligible to take the Advanced Studies class of Mystical Defenses.”
“I thought we were already getting that with Master Korgoth’s Advanced Self-Defense class,” Kyria said.
“Not quite,” replied Ilfanti. “Master Korgoth will be teaching you how to defend against mystical weapons.” He paused and looked at the black orbs of Kyria’s eyes. “Something some of you might have had some use for. The Mystical Defenses class will actually introduce defensive magic and teach you defensive techniques.”
Kyria glanced at her friends. She still could not see the distinction between the two. Both were using magic to learn how to defend oneself. What was the difference? But, she did not want to appear ignorant, so she just nodded as if she knew exactly what Ilfanti was talking about.
“Master Sagan is currently the only professor for Mystical Defenses,” Ilfanti said. “Since there will be more classes than usual, Master Aravinda has graciously volunteered to teach as well.”
“Aravinda,” whistled Sartir in awe. “Healer! I need to get up! I need to redo my schedule! Master Aravinda’s class will fill up quickly!”
Ilfanti chuckled at Sartir’s protests. “The announcement isn’t being made until tonight. Everyone will select courses tomorrow. You can stay and recuperate like you’re supposed to.”
“How do we add an extra class?” Kyria asked, not happy with having yet another class, even if it would help her.
“The thirteenth-years will be following the Advanced Studies modified schedule,” said Ilfanti.
“What does that mean?” asked Kyria.
Cala sat down on the other side of Kyria’s bed and took over for Ilfanti. “Since Advanced Studies has more classes, they take five classes a day, but instead of each class being three hours, it’s only two and a quarter.”
Kyria quickly calculated, and was happy to hear that that meant she would be in school a little less than she was last year, even with her two extra classes a week and an extra meeting time a day.
“To make up the difference in session times, all thirteenth-years will take an Independent Study—approved by the Review Board and with a faculty advisor, of course.”
“An Independent Study?” Kyria asked. “Anything I want?”
“Not you,” Ilfanti said. “Don’t forget, you’re already taking another Advanced Studies class with Master Cali. That will be in lieu of your Independent Study.”
Kyria felt her spirits sagging. It would have been nice to have a few classes where she could just have the time to research whatever she wanted. Perhaps she would have chosen Renegade Mages, or Mages that have turned evil in general. At least that might have been insightful.
“Ilfanti, Cala, we should let them rest,” suggested Herg softly.
Ilfanti patted Kyria on the shoulder. “Have faith in the Healers. They’ll get you back to the way you’re supposed to be.”
“He’s right,” Cala said as she stood up. “I have the utmost faith that the Healers will find a solution.”
“Eventually,” Ilfanti mumbled under his breath as he stood.
The trio of Council of Elders members made their way to the door, spoke briefly with Masters Lystra and Korgoth, and then was on their way. There were a lot of changes already beginning to take place because of what had happened with Kruskall. Kyria may not be happy about being in the hospital wing, and seeing Sartir hurt, but at least the Mage’s Council was taking steps to help prepare for the return of Zoldex—finally. Kyria only hoped that this change in philosophy was not coming too late.
Later that evening, Mica, Tyrene, and Traina all returned to the hospital wing—a pair of revised course selection packets with them. At dinner, Headmistress Auria announced to the students that there was to be a change that would impact all thirteenth-year students and above, and that they should all pick up new packets.
Kyria surprised herself at her willingness to go through the course packets and begin selecting her classes. Lying in a bed in the hospital wing when she felt fine was enough to make her go stir-crazy, and she welcomed any excuse to occupy her mind.
The Healers still appeared no closer to a solution to the spreading darkness within Kyria’s body. They refused to let her leave the hospital wing because they were afraid that it was somehow consuming her. Kyria did not feel hindered or sick at all. Whatever was happening to her, she felt fine. That reassurance was not enough for the Healers, though.
Through the extensive efforts of the Healers, Sartir would make a complete recovery and be released the following morning. Until then, he was still immobilized because of the spell they placed on him. Kyria could see and hear just how frustrated he was, especially now that the course packets were available. He asked Traina to read and re-read course descriptions, session times, class locations, and professors. Kyria had to hand it to Traina—she was very patient and accommodating to his every request. There may be hope for her yet.
As Kyria went over the course listings again and again, she jotted down notes and alternatives, and soon realized that—to her dismay—to get the classes and professors she wanted, the only Trivium class that was available to her, was that of Master Critchley. She wanted so much to be free of the troll, but unless another class she wanted was full, it looked painfully apparent that she would have to suffer through his class for at least another year.
Reluctantly, Kyria scribbled Master Critchley’s name, course, and time down on the parchment she was taking notes on, and dropped the page and her quill on the bed. “I think that does it,” said Kyria with a sigh. “There was just no way to get rid of Critchley!”
“Master Critchley is a great instructor,” Sartir said. “Taking him shouldn’t be frowned upon.”
“Are you taking him on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:00 in the morning?” asked Kyria.
“No, I’m looking at Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:00 AM,” Sartir said.
“I’m taking it the same time as you,” said Tyrene.
“Me too,” added Mica. “Ooh, and you’ll never guess what else I’m taking?”
“What?” asked Kyria.
“You’re not even going to try to guess?” frowned Mica. “Oh well. Master Korgoth pulled me aside at dinner. He said that with Kruskall gone, there is an opening in his Advanced Self-Defense class, and he said I could fill it if I wanted!”
“That’s wonderful,” Kyria said. “When are you going to take it?”
“Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:30,” said Mica.
“Of course you are,” growled Sartir. “He’s only offering one session. We all have it then.”
“Oh,” Kyria shrugged. “I didn’t know that.” She quickly fumbled through the course packet again and saw that Sartir was right.
“Now that we can take Mystical Defenses, we also have to approach a Master to work with us for a private session,” Sartir explained. “I plan on asking Master Korgoth. I’m hoping that since he already accepted me for his class, and we’re both sabrenoh, he’ll consider it.”
“What is the private session for?” asked Kyria.
“Mystical Defenses will teach the entire group, but they also require you to study with an individual instructor so that you can refine and master what you are learning. You should find someone quickly, because you need to make sure that they aren’t approached by anyone else, and that they have the one free-period in your schedule open to work with you,” recommended Sartir. “I need to get out of this infernal bed so I can go and finalize these little details!”
“I’ll talk to Master Korgoth for you,” Traina promised. “Maybe he’ll come talk to you here, too.”
“I also need to get approval and select a Master for my Independent Study,” Sartir said. “The Master I want might be a bit difficult to get in touch with.”
“Why?” Traina asked.
“He’s not a professor,” Sartir said.
“What do you plan on studying?” asked Traina.
“I want to learn about alternative methods of magic, not just the magic of the Mages. I basically want to study and become familiar with the magic of Terra, in general,” Sartir explained.
“Figures you would choose that,” snickered Mica.
“Sartir, you’re obsessed,” added Kyria.
“I don’t get it,” Tyrene shrugged, looking back and forth between the three.
“Let’s just say, Sartir found evidence that there were other forms of magic before the time of Mages. He is determined to learn about it, and to find out why it’s not included in the books on the history of the Seven Kingdoms,” said Kyria.
“I’ll find it,” vowed Sartir.
“Who is it you want to supervise you?” Traina asked.
“He’s a Master named Olenjo,” Sartir said. “In my research, I read an article that he wrote about a similar search that he made, sending him on a quest beyond the Seven Kingdoms where he found a powerful wizard and learned a bit about alternative magic.”
“Is there really magic different from ours?” asked Tyrene dubiously.
“Apparently,” Traina shrugged. “I’ll make sure to contact Master Olenjo for you as well.”
“Yes!” Sartir cheered. “What would I do without you?”
“You just remember that,” Traina replied with a wink.
“What is everyone else proposing for their Independent Study?” asked Kyria.
“Creatures of Yore,” Mica said. “I want to learn about... you know who... and find out what he is.”
“Who is ‘you know who’?” Tyrene asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Mica shrugged, trying her best to act innocently, and failing miserably.
“What about you Tyrene?” asked Kyria, changing the focus on the conversation.
“That should be obvious,” Sistriyi, one of the Healers, a fairy, said as she flew over and examined Sartir to make sure the immobilization spell was still in place.
“What is obvious?” said Kyria.
“I’m going to be studying the Art of Healing,” explained Tyrene.
“And I will be supervising,” added Sistriyi as she left Sartir and flew over to look at Kyria. “Eyes are still black, I see.”
Kyria held up her hands and winced a bit. “My nails are turning black too.”
Sistriyi frowned and growled a bit. She was clearly frustrated. “We’ve asked some of the most renowned Healers in the Council to come and examine you. We’re bound to get to the bottom of this particularly nasty little malady.”
“I feel fine,” shrugged Kyria. “I just don’t want to look in a mirror and see how I look.”
“That’s because you look positively dreadful,” said Sistriyi. “Dreadful,” she repeated as she flew away to check on other patients.
“She’s encouraging,” sneered Mica.
“She’s just worried,” Tyrene explained. “With good reason. Kyria, who knows what Kruskall did to you. If the Healers can’t reverse it, then you could be in real trouble. Maybe you feel fine now, but something horrid may happen.”
Kyria remained quiet. Tyrene was right of course. Something was definitely wrong with her, and she did not like it one bit. She felt the same, but it was obvious that she was not the same. Only time would tell exactly what it was that Kruskall had done to her, but remaining in the hospital wing waiting for that time to come was maddening. Of course, she also figured that the past year could be construed as horrid, so how was this any different? It was just a new chapter in the daily struggles she had to learn how to master.
Trying to push aside her own thoughts and fears, Kyria turned to Traina. “How about you?”
“I’ve already received permission from Master Frilora to supervise my study of dragons,” Traina replied.
“Dragons?” asked Kyria. “What are you going to learn about them?”
“Everything I can,” clarified Traina. “From the hatching of a dragon to full-maturation. I want to learn every detail I can, including research on some of the most notable dragons of the Age of the Dragon.”
“I can probably help you with some of that,” offered Sartir. “I did some extensive research while we were studying the Age of the Dragon.”
“Sartir, In-de-pen-dent Stu-dy,” reminded Mica. “She’ll do it on her own.”
“Maybe,” said Sartir, but everyone could tell that he still intended to offer his assistance to Traina.
“How about you tell me what you want to write in your letters, and I’ll go deliver them?” suggested Traina.
“Okay,” Sartir replied. “First, Master Korgoth.”
As Sartir began dictating the letters, Kyria, Mica, and Tyrene tried to ignore the couple and talk about other things. They discussed the Founding Ball, speculated on the whereabouts of Kruskall, and went over a breakdown of players that may make the Dragon’s Breath Lumnia team. Their discussions came to an end when the doors swung open, and a very displeased Master Cali stormed in.
The elf was both commanding and demanding, refusing to leave until she had the opportunity to speak with a Healer that could take responsibility and discharge Kyria. Master Cali made it clear that it was Saturday night, and that meant that Kyria’s time belonged to her.
The Healers were quite adamant in their protests, but Master Cali scoffed at their objections. The argument raged on, and Kyria found the sternness and assertiveness of her tutor to be quite impressive.
“Do you plan on keeping her here forever?” growled Master Cali.
“Of course not!” the Healer, a simian, said. “We must keep her under observation, though. Something is happening to her.”
“Are you able to stop it?” Master Cali asked.
“Not yet,” the Healer admitted. “We are trying everything, though.”
“I’m sure,” Master Cali said dismissively. “Since you are trying everything, is there more that you have failed to do?”
“Well, nothing that we can think of at the moment,” the Healer admitted. “We summoned other Master Healers to come and take a look.”
“When the Master Healers arrive, then you may send a summons for Kyria. In the meantime, tonight she has a session with me, and in the morning she is scheduled to select her courses for next year. She needs time to do these things. I trust you had been planning on letting her go to schedule her courses?”
“Well, to be honest, we did not consider it,” the simian shrugged. “We just want to keep her here until we figure out what is wrong with her. She is a very sick little girl.”
“Kyria, do you feel sick?” Master Cali asked, her gaze still sternly set on the eyes of the simian.
“No,” Kyria was quick to answer.
“She doesn’t feel sick,” Master Cali said, making sure that the Healer had heard her correctly. “You cannot stop the changes that she is going through, and she feels fine. Then I would suggest releasing her while you research and study what is wrong, and then ask her to return when you have some ideas worth pursuing. In the meantime, she must continue with her daily routine, or else she will find herself in a situation most unbearable for an entire year. You wouldn’t want her to suffer for an entire year, would you?”
“Well, no, no, of course not,” the Healer said. “But I am still uncomfortable about releasing her like this. What if she were to get worse?”
“Mica, Sartir, if either of you see signs that Kyria is getting worse, would you promise to bring her back here, or at least report it to a Healer?” Master Cali asked, her gaze still on the Healer.
“Of course,” Sartir said.
“I’ll keep an eye on her,” promised Mica.
“See—if she gets worse, her friends will see to it that she returns,” Master Cali said. “Now, could you please release my student?”
The simian scratched his head, glanced at the bed Kyria was in, tensed a bit as if fighting with himself, and then nodded. “The girl may go.”
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