As usual with Friday Fiction here on my blog, it’s not heavily edited. But the hope is that someday, I will edit these posts and publish them. Until then, enjoy. This story will be quite long, spanning several months, most likely. It’s a fantasy set in a fictional world called Wellston. I welcome constructive feedback.
“Suri, are you paying attention?” Jesin, a Jairi of seven years, towered over her. “You know I have more important matters to tend to than convincing you to focus. Do you want to become Jairi someday or not? You’ll never make it to the elites if you can’t at least pass your acolyte test first.”
“I’m sorry, Jesin, it’s just that lately…I’ve been having strange dreams and visions. I can’t stop thinking about them.” Suri shifted on her feet. Jesin’s self-assured stature always seemed to dwarf her confidence. Suri was more quiet around him than anyone else, including the High Priest.
He scoffed. “What visions? You’re just a novice, Suri, and you’re not supposed to delve into such magic now. You’re only going to confuse yourself. Now, take the water from the air.”
Suri nodded and closed her eyes and mouthed the words of the incantation. Moisture gathered into a small, fluffy cloud. She furrowed her brow and the cloud darkened as it stretched to the ceiling.
“Good, you can stop. No need to flood the room.”
Suri opened her eyes when Jesin spoke; the cloud lightened and dissipated, returning moisture to the rest of the room. “That was good?” The last time Jesin asked her to make a cloud, she accidentally set off a thunderstorm. Part of the wall still bore the scorch mark where unbridled lightning struck.
“You did well enough, though you were moving your lips. You can’t do that. You’ll broadcast your spell. Also, you must learn to make your incantations a part of yourself. Your spells are taking too long.” Jesin walked toward the door. “I have a mission to go on tomorrow. We’re going south so I won’t return for a fortnight. I expect, when I return, you’ll be able to make a cloud with your eyes open and your mouth shut.”
Suri didn’t move. “Jesin? I hoped we might talk about these visions, however useless you think my having them may be.”
“When I return. Focus on your studies and I assure you these daydreams of yours will leave you be.” He left the room.
“I doubt they’ll leave me be,” she muttered under her breath as she walked across the room, running her hand over the charred wall. I could go to the High Priest or the High Priestess. She knew their magic was strong enough to deal with unrelenting visions. Why was Jesin so eager to dismiss her concerns? She knew he had a mission, but if he instead told her that he needed to leave but that she ought to go immediately to the High Priest, his departure would be easier to bear. The dreams and visions started out simply enough as mere memories that cropped up in her mind from time to time. Recently they became more intrusive on her life, and frightening as well. She strode resolutely across the room, closing the door behind her.
Even below ground, the main hallways of the temple were arranged in perfect circles, with smaller hallways connecting them like the spokes of a wagon wheel. After living and studying at the Temple of Nangret for more than five years, Suri knew the corridors of much of the building by heart, though she never ventured to the lowest level—the dungeons.
While most of her fellow novices hurried down the stairs toward the dining hall for their midday meals, Suri moved against the crowd; the offices of the High Priest and High Priestess were on the ground floor, along with the temple and sleeping quarters of the novices, acolytes and Jairi. The spiral stairs led to another hallway that formed a perfect circle. Suri walked briskly against the wall, keeping silent amid the turning glances and other novices calling out to learn why she wasn’t going to eat.
The hallway emptied quickly. She stood alone before the tall oaken door to the High Priest’s office. Before she could knock, she heard the High Priest’s clear voice.
She opened the door. The High Priest was sitting at his desk, a highly polished relic that Suri always figured was older than the Order of Nangret itself. “Good afternoon, sir.” Novices always called him ‘sir’ and the High Priestess ‘mistress.’ She didn’t know either of their names.
The priest didn’t look up. “Good afternoon, Suri. Why are you not dining?” He turned a delicate page of a large tome that was spread before him. The massive pages contained innumerable lines of minute text.
“I wanted to speak with you, sir. It’s rather important to me.”
“Your visions.” The priest stood, closing the book after placing a blue satin ribbon in the pages to mark his place. “You must forgive Jesin for clueing me in. He was quite concerned about these dreams and visions.”
“Then why did he not stay and talk to me?” Suri couldn’t discount the pit that sank into her stomach. She met Jesin a year and a half ago, and trained with him for an hour every other day since. If he was truly concerned, why did he treat her visions as mere daydreams that she could easily banish?
“That,” the priest walked around his desk and leaned back against it, “Is something only he can answer. I want to assure you though, you are not the first novice to see troubling things less than a year before your exam, but you mustn’t allow your nerves to get the better of you.”
“Sir, with due respect, this hasn’t anything to do with the test! Most of my visions aren’t even about Nangret or any of the other Orders. They’re about my family.” She paused. Could she tell the priest about Hesarth, the Maelern who lived at her family’s home since she was a child? Suri knew that harboring any Maelern was against the law but perhaps the priest would understand, given the circumstances.
“You’re having visions of their deaths, are you not? Of your own death?”
She took a step back. How could the priest know this? Though she tried more than once to tell Jesin about her visions, he never permitted her to continue.
“Those are the dreams and visions of most novices in their sixth year. Trust me, it’s to do with the test. I know it’s easy to be frightened, but that is part of the test as well. How can we promote a novice to the level of acolyte if he or she will be too frightened to defend him or herself? It’s natural to feel apprehension, but you still have four more months before your test. Use that time to study, and to pray.” He looked over his shoulder, out of the window. “And,” he turned toward Suri again with a gentle smile, “Use this time to eat. Down to the dining hall with you, then.” He walked around the desk again and lowered himself into the leather arm chair behind it. “No need to run and ask the High Priestess either.” He smiled again and opened his book.
Suri frowned as she left the High Priest’s office, rather unsatisfied with his dismissive response to her visions. She also could not help but entertain the idea that he could read minds. There were other occasions in years past when she got the sensation he could hear her unspoken thoughts but Suri got the distinct impression that his mind-reading, just like her visions, was not a topic that he wanted to discuss.
However, instead of going downstairs again, she walked to her sleeping quarters. Her room was modest, like that of every other novice. A small bed was pushed into the far corner. A chest sat at the foot of the bed and beside the doorway she had a small desk with an old wooden stool before it. The stool was too low though, so Suri hardly ever wrote at her desk. At night, when they were ordered to extinguish their lamps, Suri liked to write on her bed. Consequently, she was often chided that her bed linens were stained with ink. Sometimes she preferred soft glow of the moon to a flickering flame. The small window above her bed looked out into one of the alleyways behind the temple, where the buildings were low enough to permit the celestial body to bathe her room in light.
She closed the door to her room gently. Novices were often discouraged from spending time alone in their rooms during the day. Much of their days were filled with classes and prayer time, and the High Priestess liked for them to socialize. She often told them that as Jairi, the friendships they formed now might one day save their lives. Suri had several friends, but lately she found solace in time spent alone in her quarters, writing.
The chest at the foot of her bed had two locks, though they were old and the keys were long lost. She only ever opened the chest in secret because she had to use magic in order to unlock it, and for novices, magic was forbidden except for during classes and tutoring sessions with a member of the Jairi.
She lifted the lid. Inside the chest lay books of various sizes, scrolls, a few items of clothing and a book of blank pages, where she wrote anything and everything she wanted kept secret. She retrieved this book, as well as a quill, and sat upon her bed. Suri stored her ink pot upon the window sill, within easy reach. A drop of ink fell from the quill onto her bed as she drew the tip to a blank page, and began to write.