The Spread of Darkness
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.
Home after a perilous journey into the past, Kyria and her best friends, Mica and Sartir, have to return to the life they had left behind months before, but thanks to the Shard of Time, the mystical artifact that swept them away on their journey, they look as if they did not age a single day.
The demands of the Mage’s Council are not easy ones, and though school is far less harsh than the unforgiving elements of the Mourning Mountains, Kyria will quickly learn that she has concerns of her own: the school year is almost over, and that brings far more challenges than she had ever imagined.
While growing accustomed to life at the Academy once more, Kyria can not help but feel as if the influence of Zoldex has somehow spread into her home. With her prophesied nemesis closing in, Kyria, Mica, and Sartir will soon realize that the ordeals they just faced are nothing compared to what is to come.
Kyria could feel the sweat dripping down from her forehead, hitting her eyes, obscuring her vision. Her breathing was erratic, her heart pounding in her chest. Her arms and legs ached, as if she had been engaged in several hours of intense physical training for several days straight. Through all of this, Kyria refused to allow her concentration to waiver.
She was sitting in a room, completely dark, with only a small glass globe that could be seen. The globe was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand, and as Kyria continued to concentrate upon it, forcing currents of mystical energy through her veins, the globe glowed as brightly as the midday sun.
The aura of the globe intensified so brightly that the shroud of darkness was lifted, and Kyria could begin to see the desks and chairs of her History classroom. Even the cloaked-form of Master Balfour was soon revealed as the globe continued to shine.
“That’s it,” said Master Balfour calmly.
Kyria felt her eyesight beginning to lose focus, and the room suddenly began swirling, feeling as if she were trapped in a whirlpool and being dragged down. She heard the globe shatter, and the room plunged into darkness once more as she toppled to the ground.
Bent-over on her hands and knees, panting, Kyria felt as if her dinner would refuse to stay in her stomach. She tried to close her mouth, but could not stop herself from vomiting. In the darkness of the room, she couldn’t even tell what she had just vomited on, but the nausea that had been growing in her stomach seemed to subside slightly, so she felt at least some relief at that.
“Lights,” Master Balfour said. With the command, the room completely illuminated around them, even though there were no torches lit nearby. He walked over and crouched down next to Kyria, patting her on the back and holding a glass half-full of a red liquid in his other hand. “Here, drink this.”
Kyria reached out for the glass—her hand trembling no matter how hard she tried to make it stop—and took it from Master Balfour.
“Drink it all,” he said.
Kyria didn’t need him to tell her what it would do. She had been drinking it several times a week now for almost a month. It tasted a bit like cranberry juice, but left a bitter aftertaste behind in her mouth. Every time she drank it, her queasiness would diminish, and her hands would stop trembling. She still felt fatigued, but she knew that she could live with that.
“Better,” Master Balfour said. “Much better.”
Kyria looked up, her vision still slightly blurred, and did her best to give the celestial History Professor a skeptical look. She wasn’t sure how successful her attempt actually was.
“H-how can you s-say that?” she wheezed.
“You haven’t lost consciousness in over a week,” said Master Balfour. “Progress indeed.”
Kyria couldn’t argue with that. She had not lost consciousness in the past twelve days—during which she’d had four private lessons. Perhaps she was making strides and improving, but she didn’t feel like she was, lying here on the floor, her own vomit inches from her head.
It had only been a month ago when Kyria, Mica, and Sartir, along with Pookie, returned to the Mage’s Council by means of the Shard of Time. Master Balfour had surprised her as she was attempting to return the Shard to his room, when he told her that he had been following them and knew of their adventure.
He did not tell anyone else though; a huge relief, since Kyria was certain she and her friends would be in for some severe punishments if what they had done was ever revealed. It was hard at first, keeping their adventure quiet.
First, they had brought Pookie back with them. How would they ever be able to explain a monkey-like creature with the blending abilities of a chameleon that had a tendency to excitedly scream “Pookie?” During their travels, Pookie had grown a close attachment to Sartir—which Kyria and Mica both found humorous since Sartir was the one that said that they shouldn’t keep him—but, Sartir roomed with Kruskall, and surely Pookie couldn’t stay in a room and remain hidden from a roommate! So, they decided that Pookie would stay with Kyria and Mica, something that Pookie, at first, seemed very dejected about.
Second—and this was particularly difficult for Kyria—their adventure had taken them many months, traveling over a vast distance, and experiencing a great many things. For the rest of her peers and instructors though, only a matter of minutes had passed. When her chronometer began screeching at 3:45 AM for her to wake up—or she would be late for her lesson with Master Lystra—Kyria found that she could barely function. The normal routine she had struggled so hard to get into had been completely lost to her.
To make matters worse, she couldn’t remember a single thing from the lessons of her classes. She neither remembered what had been covered in the prior session, nor what assignments she was supposed to be working on. For the first fortnight since their return, Kyria felt almost as overwhelmed as when she had first arrived at the Mage’s Council.
After a few days without having anyone else accuse them of violating Academy rules by stealing the Shard of Time, Kyria, Mica, and Sartir began to feel slightly relieved. Only Master Balfour knew, and he wasn’t talking. Sartir had then suggested going to Master Balfour for help.
While trapped in the past, Kyria had had several incidents where she had to use her powers beyond anything she had ever attempted. The effort was taxing and draining, leaving her unconscious for extended periods of time—and even upon reviving, she was weak and groggy. Sartir believed that Kyria’s magic was just like everything else: you need to practice and work your way up. He constantly referred to physical training as his analogy: you don’t run ten miles on your first attempt; you gradually build up to it.
His theory seemed plausible, but Academy students were not supposed to learn and use magic until they had the guidance and supervision of a Mage Master during their Apprentice years. In advanced studies, a student began to learn certain magical things, but they still weren’t learning the proper use of magic until they became an Apprentice.
Of course, with the Madrew prophecy, Kyria felt a sense of urgency about learning to master her own mystical talents. She was destined to face Zoldex, a Mage that was gradually corrupting and seizing control of the realm. Kyria knew what was happening—and knew that it was up to her to do something about it—but she could not see how that would be possible unless she could master her skills.
Having the Council of Elders actually believe that Zoldex was back would help, too, she thought to herself. Since arriving at the Mage’s Council, Kyria counted Masters Cala, Ilfanti, and Hergzenbarung amongst her friends—all members of the Council of Elders. She knew that none of them would ever divulge Council of Elders secrets to her, but she could guess that they shared similar concerns based on their reactions. Apparently, Master Pierce—the leader of the Council of Elders—felt that the return of Zoldex was ludicrous, and that Kyria had been making it all up to try and explain why she had so much power at such a young age.
Kyria didn’t like Master Pierce very much. She didn’t like him the day she had met him, and she still didn’t like him now. In her opinion, he was being shortsighted and foolish for not looking into the claim that Zoldex had really returned. It was as if he was stubbornly clinging to the fact that Zoldex was banished, and that if Zoldex returned, he would somehow be the first to know about it.
Regardless of the beliefs of the Mage’s Council and the accepted practice that only an Apprentice could learn magic, Kyria was determined to try and understand her powers—and then learn to control them. Naturally, she also wanted to increase her resistance and stamina so that she wouldn’t fall unconscious whenever she extended herself a bit further than normal.
Master Balfour was the perfect solution. Sartir had pointed this out and told Kyria that he would take care of everything. Later that day, he returned and said that Master Balfour agreed. Although Kyria felt closer to Master Lystra, she could not reveal the fact that she had blacked-out using her powers, since Master Lystra couldn’t know about her journey. Therefore, since Master Balfour had already known, he was the only real option.
Three times a week, after her last class, Kyria returned to her History classroom where Master Balfour was waiting for her. Their sessions were intense and draining, and Kyria didn’t know how she could ever learn to master her powers; but as the days went on, she stopped blacking out. One day—she was confident—she would not feel so weak after using advanced spells, either.
Master Balfour had taught her, early in their sessions, that the hardest part of using the magic she had under her command was controlling it. Kyria had tried to force her way from a magical prison cell, burned a path through a blizzard, and mystically fought all number of foes; but in each and every incident, her powers were instinctual and uncontrolled. Therefore, he introduced the small globes, forcing her to not just unleash her power, but to focus it and try to control it. Hundreds of globes broke before she had the first hint of success.
“I think that will be all for tonight,” Master Balfour said as he helped Kyria to her feet. “It’s getting rather late.”
Kyria tried to smile politely, but as weak as she felt, her lips only slightly curled.
“Do you think you could handle two nights in a row?” Master Balfour asked.
Kyria’s shoulders drooped a little with the question. She wondered if he was planning on increasing their sessions from three times a week to four. Having twelve hours of classes a day, an hour of extra training with Master Lystra, and now nighttime sessions with Master Balfour, Kyria wondered if she would ever be able to sleep again.
“It’s Friday tomorrow,” Master Balfour said. “History is your last class. You can just stay here afterwards. If you think you can handle it without a rest?”
Kyria tried to speak, but found that she didn’t have the energy at the moment. She nodded briefly that she could, but deep down, she wondered how she would be able to make it through another day like this.
“After tomorrow night, you can have Saturday and Sunday off, will that work?”
Kyria tried to smile again to show that she appreciated it. Not so long ago, weekends off meant no school at all. Now, it meant only sitting through twelve hours of classes. Its funny, she thought, how quickly things can change.
Even with her desire to reduce her workload and to return to a life she once thrived in, Kyria knew that things had changed for the better. She knew that she had to fight to fulfill the Madrew prophecy—and that meant extra sessions to learn to control her powers and to increase her stamina.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Kyria said, her voice a little stronger as her breathing began to steady a bit.
“Until tomorrow then,” Master Balfour said as Kyria walked from the room.
Every step felt like agony. Kyria wondered what any of the other students would say if they saw her shuffling around right now, looking like a feather could knock her to the ground. Jialie and Shelby would find Kyria’s condition particularly entertaining.
Thankfully, she returned to the room that she and Mica shared without coming across anyone else. Stepping inside, she saw that Mica was already asleep, snuggling into Pookie as if he were a pillow.
Kyria took extra care to walk more carefully so that she wouldn’t wake them, and made her way over to her own room. She toppled into bed, and consciousness faded away. The last thing she thought she heard was her chronometer speaking to her in her own voice: “Not again—I’ll never be able to wake you up on time!”
“Get up. Come on. Get up. GET UP!”
“I’m up, I’m up,” Kyria protested as she fell from her bed and landed on the ground with a thud. Her bed, like all beds at the Mage’s Council, was magical in nature, floating in the air and conforming to the shape and size of the sleeper, making it a perfect fit for each individual. Standing up, Kyria rubbed her backside and glared at her chronometer.
“You did that on purpose,” she growled.
Kyria saw her own image standing above the chronometer. It folded its arms defiantly and glared at her. “Of course I did that on purpose!” the image of her shouted. “I’ve been trying to wake you up for half an hour!”
“Half an hour?” gasped Kyria. “I’m late for Master Lystra!”
“Now she gets it,” the chronometer sarcastically sneered. “You’ll be pleased to know that I have already been contacted by half a dozen other chronometers. While you slept, my attempts to awaken you have woken up many of your neighbors. I’m sure that none of them will be too pleased with you today since you get up earlier than they do.”
Kyria furrowed her brow and glared at the image on the chronometer. “Let them be upset,” she sneered. “If they go through what I go through, they would have a hard time waking up, too.”
“I’m sure,” the chronometer said, disinterestedly, averting its gaze from Kyria, and then fading out until it vanished.
Kyria lifted the fabric that wound around her and formed her robes. She quickly laced up her sandals and grabbed her Trivium and Art books so that she would not have to come back to her room until after lunch. She was too late to properly get ready, pausing briefly to look at the room where she should have bathed, and wondered how badly she smelt after not only sweating the prior night, but also vomiting. With a frustrated growl, she left the room, seeing Mica and Pookie watching her go, wisely refraining from saying anything.
She ran through the halls and skidded to a stop outside of the arena where Master Lystra hosted her classes. Kyria entered slowly, peeking her head in to see if Master Lystra was angry with her. Kyria saw her sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room, her back to the doorway, and meditating.
Master Lystra was one of Kyria’s favorite teachers at the Academy. Ever since her first meeting with the mystral Self Defense professor, she had taken a liking to her. Master Lystra was bold and daring, but also caring and compassionate. She also was understanding and always was ready to tell Kyria exactly what she thought, and didn’t try to hide the truth from her as certain others had.
“You’re late,” Master Lystra said, not turning around.
“I’m sorry,” Kyria replied, sorrowfully.
“Overslept again,” Master Lystra said. “I thought you had broken that habit.”
“I thought so too,” Kyria said.
“Is there anything you would like to tell me?” Master Lystra asked, standing up and turning to face Kyria for the first time, looking straight into her eyes.
Kyria wasn’t sure how to answer. She felt that she could trust Master Lystra with the truth, but what if she was wrong? “No, nothing,” Kyria said.
“I see,” Master Lystra said, seemingly accepting the answer. “Your reflexes have slowed, you are constantly fatigued, your efforts have diminished, and, I hear, your performance in other classes has likewise deteriorated.”
Kyria did not like being challenged, especially by someone she considered herself close to. “I’m doing some extra tutoring at night,” she said, defiantly.
“Extra tutoring,” Master Lystra nodded. “Mornings and nights.”
“Yes,” Kyria said. “That’s why I’m tired.”
“What is the extra tutoring for?” Master Lystra asked, still making eye contact with Kyria.
“History,” Kyria said. “With Master Balfour.”
Lystra actually chuckled at the response, and then turned away. “History?” she said with another snicker. “If you still had Master Forales, I would actually believe you, but you don’t.”
“That’s where I am,” Kyria said, defiantly.
Lystra spun around quickly and glared at Kyria again. “You’re begging for a fight this morning, aren’t you?”
Kyria lowered her gaze to her sandals. She was upset. Very upset. The constant lack of sleep seemed to make her far more irritable than she could ever remember being. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful.”
Master Lystra waited for a minute, not saying anything. Then, finally, she kneeled down in front of Kyria. “You do not have to hide things from me. You can confide in me. Are you sure there is nothing that you want to talk about?”
“I’m sure,” Kyria quickly replied.
Master Lystra looked hurt by the quick reply, and stood back up, walking away from Kyria. “There’s no time for a lesson this morning. Go, before you become late for your first class.”
“Go,” Master Lystra said more forcefully. “I’ll see you tomorrow night for class.”
The last comment stung. Kyria could tell that Master Lystra was really upset. She had her regular class Saturday night at 6:00, but that meant that Master Lystra did not want her to come for her hour session in the morning. Silently berating herself for potentially alienating the professor she liked the most, Kyria exited the arena and slowly made her way to Trivium.
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