They each stare at me with their grey eyes, waiting, wanting. There is hunger in their eyes, hunger concealed by thin lips and bony fingers. Concealed only to those who do not look, however. I am not fooled.
My knees give way beneath me and my neck is lowered as they force me to bow down. I spit at the ground. Control is returned to my neck but I’m forced to stay kneeling, pathetically.
They float, menacingly encircling me.
There are three of them.
The first is the shortest, the youngest. She floats higher than the rest. Her eyes, grey, of course, are framed with thick lashes. The markings on her face shine the brightest. Her nose is twisted in disgust as she stares down at me.
The second is the oldest. She is the speaker. Her hair flows down in smooth golden waves and her grey eyes are dull with boredom. She taps her finger against her robe, impatient.
The third is beautiful, in a twisted way. Her marking crosses her eyes and the majority of her face, leaving little room for skin. The shadow of a smile lingers on her lips. Her robes are ill-fitted, hiding her hands. She whispers something to herself as they circle me, slowly.
I refuse to show fear, clenching my fists by my side. My knuckles grow white with the effort, but I ignore the pain, ignore any feelings.
“Desmond?” The third one purrs, and they stop. Sweat drips down my forehead and I ignore it.
Of course they know my name. There is little they do not know.
They stop moving, and the eldest lowers herself to the ground. I stare down where her robe ends and my feet tingle with anticipation and dread.
“He’s barely a child…” The youngest scowls and I grimace.
“Desmond. You are aware why we’ve asked you to join us?” I resist the urge to snort.
They do not ask. They do not need to ask. They simply order.
But I nod.
“I’ve been chosen.” Even with my silent pleas, my voice shakes. It’s quiet, insignificant compared to theirs.
The third one lowers herself to ground level and stalks closer to me. I keep my eyes trained on the ground, willing my breaths to calm down. Part of me is afraid to look up.
Everyone says no one can stand looking up at them, at their white markings, their glow, and their grey eyes.
I stiffen as the third strokes my cheek with her finger, almost lovingly.
“Fine. He’ll do.” The eldest declares, scrutinizing me. The way they stare makes me want to rip their grey eyes straight out of their sockets, but my hands are still glued to my sides.
My arm twitches as they all float up again.
The room slowly brightens until everything is white. I force my eyes shut, nearly blinded.
When I open them again, they are gone.
Painfully, control is returned to my legs and arms, and I stumble, standing.
Finally, I register my surroundings.
I’m surrounded by shelves and shelves of books.
A library of some sort.
I cautiously walk to the nearest shelf and finger the worn bindings. I take out a book at random and start flipping through the page.
It’s written in the ancient language…
“I see you’ve arrived.” A voice startles me and I drop the book.
Slowly, I turn to see someone my age leaning against the shelves.
“Who are you?” My voice no longer shakes, thankfully. It’s dry and void of emotion.
He has dark black hair with on white streak in the front. His eyes are framed with thick lashes, and they’re silvery grey, but they aren’t like them. He’s skinny, but he looks strong.
“Andre. And you are?”
“You just come?”
“What gave it away?”
“Your delighted expression. Nice streak.” He motions with his head to my hair and I frown.
“Is there a mirror in this place?”
“Oh, you didn’t know yet? Sure, we are roommates after all, better get acquainted quick, come on.”
I shrug his arm off my shoulder and hesitantly follow as he leads me out of the library and into some sort of hallway. He opens one of the doors and leads me in.
“Welcome to your new home.”
I scowl, scanning the room.
The wallpaper is a faded beige, and the shag rug on the floor looks like it’s made of dog fur. There is nothing but two beds lining the wall, and a small mirror in the corner. I walk up to it, stiffening at my reflection. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a mirror.
My eyes are sunken, and my face skinny. What catches my eye though is the blue streak running through my hair, almost in the same place as my ‘roommates’. I finger the strand tentatively, and I can feel energy buzzing along it.
“What’s that mean?”
I turn to Andre, who’s standing in the doorway. He taps his foot twice and clicks his tongue.
“You’ll find out soon enough. Come on.” He’s already walking away before I can process anything. My feet move mechanically towards the door and I shut the door behind me, following the sound of Andre’s footsteps. He stands in front of another door, and motions for me to follow as he opens it. I do, and the door clicks shut behind us.
It’s slightly dimmer in here, and my eyes slowly adjust to the darkness. The room is mostly filled with chairs.
Seven of them are occupied.
Andre sits farthest to the left, fidgeting with his fingers. In the middle of the rows sits a girl with white-blonde hair. She fiddles with a stick in her hands. Farthest right sits two boys. With a start, I realize they look exactly the same. Twins, both of them with identical brown curls and freckles, only one of them has a light grey streak and the other’s is dark grey. And the dark grey one sports glasses. Sitting far in the back is another girl, and she looks like she’s chewing something. Her hair is black, but it’s obvious it isn’t natural, and her bright pink streak stands out obnoxiously. And in the front, sits two older people who look like they’re authority.
One of them is old, with greying hair and a cane leaning against his chair.
The other, a woman, is younger, with a tight bun and green eyes. They stare at me, waiting for me to sit.
I force my legs to move and sit one seat away from Andre. The woman clears her throat, nodding at the man.
She stands and turns to face us.
“Oh, this should be good…” I hear someone behind me whisper, likely the pink-streaked girl.
The woman clears her throat and I shift in my seat.
“Welcome. I’m sure you all have questions. I assure you they will all be answered in due time. For now, you are to leave with your instructor and start with the beginning stages. You are dismissed.”
Beginning stages of what?
The woman disappears in a flash of light, and I blink twice. Andre gets up and so do the others. The twins walk up to me.
“So what can you do?” Glasses says, crossing his arms.
“What’s your element?” His twin is right up at his heels.
What can I do?
“No clue.” Andre pulls me out of the room and I pull my arm away from him.
“What was that for?”
He rolls his eyes.
That’s going to get annoying.
“Your instructor is Monsieur Nile. I’ll see you after. Don’t do anything stupid.” He pushes me towards another door and I turn around to ask him questions, but he’s already gone, his robes disappearing behind another corner.
I groan frustratedly and run a hand through my hair. It tingles when I touch the blue parts. I stare at the door and consider knocking.
I hate them. I hate everyone here, I hate everything they stand for. I swallow the spit roughly in my mouth and raise my knuckles to knock.
Right before my fist hits the door, it’s opened, and it’s left midair.
Standing in front of me is a tall man with defined cheekbones and slicked-back hair. He scrutinizes me and holds the door open.
“Well? Are you going to bless me with your presence? I haven’t got all day boy.”
“Sorry...sir.” I walk inside, keeping my eyes trained on the ground. The man, presumably Monsieur Nile, walks back in and sits on one of the seats I see laid out. I sit on the other, licking my dry lips.
“How much do you know?” His voice is bored, and it’s laced with a thick french accent underneath.
“Not much.” My voice cracks and I inwardly curse.
I nod. It seems I’m the only one who doesn’t know myself, because everyone else seems to know me just fine.
“You are the sea spirit.”
I raise my eyebrows and shift in my seat.
He holds his hands out, and a cup of water materializes in it. I blink away the nausea I get whenever presented with this sort of magic.
“Put your finger in the cup.”
I softly shake my head.
“Come on, it won’t bite.”
When I still don't move, he reaches over and grabs my hand. I gasp as he drags it into the cold water. A tingle runs up and down my whole body and I pant as searing hot pain runs through my head. The water in the cup seems to float up and out. A shot of pain runs up my spine and I pull my hand away from the cup, out of Monsieur Nile’s grip. The cup shatters to the floor and the water falls, spilling everywhere.
The pain slowly subsides and I stare at my hands.
“What have you done to me?”
He pushes his chair back and gets up.
“We are done for today.”
He snaps his fingers, and I wince as my location changes. I’m back in the room Andre took me to.
For a moment, it’s just black dots everywhere, but my eyes adjust and I can see Andre sitting on one of the beds, flipping through the books.
He puts it down and looks me up and down.
“Not a good first day, I presume?”
I ignore him and sit on the other bed.
“You’re not very talkative, are you? Loosen up, not everyone in the world wants to kill you.”
“I can’t say the feeling is mutual.”
“So he speaks! What’s your element?”
The cup shattering replays again and again in my mind and I blink.
“Makes sense,” he shrugs.
“What about you?” He glares at me with those eyes, those deep grey eyes, and I can’t help but be reminded of them. I shift my gaze to the floor.
“Snow. That’s why we’re roommates.”
“What are we doing here?”
I lean back on the bed, and it provides no comfort.
He sighs. “Who knows?”
Monsieur Nile stares at me with cold eyes. No emotion, no feeling, no heart.
I wipe the sweat from my forehead and focus on the cup on the patterned rug. The ringing in my ear grows louder and louder and I gasp as the water moves up. Slowly, slowly, it reaches the ceiling. I concentrate at the tip and twirl it, separating small droplets and letting them drop to the floor slowly. The cup slowly rises too, and I let the water swirl around it in a tornado. Faster and faster….A shock runs through my spine and I cry out in pain, letting the cup fall down. Glass flies everywhere and I shut my eyes tight.
“Why do you do that?”
“Do what?” My voice shakes, but I don’t even care.
“Stop. Abruptly. Let it fall.”
I shake my head.
“The pain gets to be too much, and I just…”
“Yeah, in my head, in my spine, everywhere.” I shudder and press my knuckles close to my body.
I’m used to him kicking me out like this by now, and I stumble out the door, barely reaching my room, and just barely making it to the bed. Tears roll down my cheek and I wipe them away angrily.
“Hey.” Andre sets his book down to face me.
“Hi,” I mumble into the pillow.
“How was today?”
“I made it rain. A little.”
I hear him open his book again.
The page turns.
“How does it work for you?”
“How do you...do stuff? With snow.”
He sighs and puts the book back down.
“I mean I guess I just concentrate...Just...Think? Why?”
I touch my hair, at the blue streak, and feel the familiar flow of magic between my fingertips.
I can’t live like this. I have to get out somehow.
“Where are we going?” I ask for the fifth time. Still, Monsieur Nile remains silent as he leads me through multiple hallways. We finally stop at a door and he opens it. Cold air rushes through and he ushers me outside.
It’s been ages, and I let the wind blow my hair over my face.
“Why…” I trail off as I stare ahead, at a lake. “N-no I-” I stumble backwards, bumping into him. He holds my shoulders.
“Walk.” I obey, my throat dry and my limbs stiff. I walk up to the lake. Monsieur Nile takes his shoes off and rolls his pant leg up. I mimic him and stand right at the edge of the water. It runs over my toes and I wince, familiar tingles engulfing me. “Splash me with water, Desmond. Do it.”
I inhale sharply, focusing my energy on the very edge of the lake. Slowly, my mind is dulled by headache and my feet sog deeper into the sand. The water rises at my will, small droplets only at first, until I get a good part of the water to rise. Monsieur Nile nods his approval, staring at the water.
“Good. Splash it on my legs. Control.”
But I don’t stop. I let more and more water into the small wave I have forming. Sweat rolls down my back. A jolt runs through my back and I gasp, but otherwise, ignore the pain.
The lake is small, and I mostly run it dry. The water rises...higher and higher.
Finally, I can’t take it any longer, and I let it drop, but not before focusing all my energy on Monsieur Nile.
Drown him. I think to the water, and let my power fall.
His screams are silenced in milliseconds, and as my pain subsides, I see the water falling back to shore, and Monsieur Nile in front of me, unbreathing on the sand.
I turn, not planning to look back. I walk back through the twists and turns of the hall, nearly falling when I pass a mirror.
My hair, all of it, is blue. I run a hand through it, my fingers tingling with power.
“Magic,” I whisper to myself.
I’ve become the very thing I swore to hate.
Tears fall down my face, but I ignore them. I ignore my heart, beating right out my chest. I ignore Andre when he yells after me, tripping on his robes. I ignore the blonde girl’s questions as I see energy sparking from her fingertips.
I walk faster and faster, trembling.
Trembling with fear and uncertainty.
My legs move by themselves, corner after corner, door after door, until I’m back to the small room with the small beds and beige walls and stupid dog fur rug. I shut the door behind me and slide down it, holding my head in my hands.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
I gasp, staring up.
The woman with the tight bun and green eyes stares at me with a cold expression.
“No…” I whisper, scrambling to get up. I’m about to focus my energy on the small cup of water on the small table on the side when I’m no longer in control of my limbs. “No! Please no…” I sob, trying to move. I focus on my hands, my fingers. I get my pinky to twitch, and the woman scowls.
Soon, they’re here.
My hands move themselves behind my back and my legs remain stiff.
The middle one floats to me, her grey eyes unblinking and unkind.
“Where did we go wrong?” She moves to touch me, but I get my face out of her reach, gasping with the pain of resistance.
They circle me and the eldest stares right at my eyes. Her white marking grows brighter and brighter, and I can’t look away.
Slowly, slowly, as the world goes black, I realize that I am no longer the hero.
I have turned into the villain of my story.
The world fades and the last thing I see is their grey eyes, waiting, wanting….