Chapter four: Earning my wings
My first year there was somewhat pleasant, despite people like Ifrit. I was well-fed, I had plenty of books to read at the library, and I would generally hang out with Siren and Harsghalt, who were kind to me. Hars was sometimes a little rude and abrupt, but I got past that. He's still that way most of the time too.
Hey Hars....it's nice to see that you haven't changed over all these years. No, really.
The only problem was certain individuals like Ifrit. No, I'd say just Ifrit. He had his little flunkies that followed him around and leeched off of him, but he was the main source of trouble. Surprisingly, Goddess herself did nothing about his behavior, even though she obviously knew about it. At one point, Ifrit had me cornered in a hallway and was threatening to burn my feathers off (again), when Goddess came around. She calmly looked down at the two of us with a somewhat unreadable expression.
"Hello, my children." she said. "A disagreement?"
"I uh...." I looked at Ifrit. "Well, sort of. Ifrit's picking on me again, and I haven't even fully healed from the last time he beat me up."
Ifrit seemed to show no shame. "Yeah well, if you would only listen to my rules, then you wouldn't get thrashed on a regular basis. Now say it, Tri." He wrapped his clawlike hands around my neck. "Say that I'm the boss."
I looked up at Goddess for guidence, intervention, anything that would stop Ifrit from whipping my head back and forth like it was a feather duster. She continued to stand unconcerned. "Perhaps thou hast not yet learned, Tritoch." She sighed. "Pity, for I thought thou wert full of intelligence and zeal."
"What, you want me to actually bow down to this bully?" I got a rough squeeze around my neck for that sentence. "ggk.....please Ifrit, stop. Goddess, do something!"
"I will do nothing, Tritoch. You must learn the ways of life around here." She then turned and walked down the hallway. I watched her leave with tears standing in my eyes. I couldn't believe it! She was going to let this brute kick my tail all over the place again. The grip on my neck increased, and I was forced to look my assailant in the eyes.
"Real dumb, Tri. Even she knows the rules. I'm telling you....she won't save your ass for nothin'. Since you not only refused to submit to the Big Man's wishes but you also tried to weasel your way out of it, I'm gonna make you feel it. And you're gonna feel it for a looong time." He slammed me down on the floor then, and stepped on my back, digging his claws into my skin. He had learned how to avoid my razorlike wings ever since that first encounter, and now found ways to make me hurt that kept him out of wing range. He jumped on me, knocking the wind out of me. I coughed and accidentally bit my own tongue. He laughed and hauled my head up by one of my horns, which was just as painful. I turned to see a fireball balance on his hand, and a malicious grin fixed on his animalistic face. "Time to fry, crybaby." I was crying, more out of anger than anything else. I didn't want this to happen to me, yet again.
Then out of the corner of my vision I saw a blue-skinned fist slam into Ifrit's head. He stumbled back, falling off of me. I scrabbled away quickly and turned to see who my savior was.
It was a girl of about 12 or so. Her entire body consisted of blue....indigo hair, blue eyes, light blue skin, and a blue sundress. "Knock that off!" she said, clenching her fists. "Pick on somebody your own size!"
Ifrit stood up, rubbing the side of his head. "Oh, you're that new girl, huh? Got a lotta guts, hitting me like that. Maybe you oughta learn too." He formed a fireball on his hand.
The girl's ice-blue eyes narrowed angrily. "You'd hit a girl? No, you'd hit a girl with FIRE?" She raised a hand above her hand, blue-white energy forming on it. "You bastard!" She pointed her hand at Iffie, and the blue energy sailed from her fingers and hit him straight on. "Ice!"
Ifrit shivered and hugged himself tightly, the ice magic not only chilling him to the bone but also hurting him to some degree. His fur and mane of hair froze solid, and several icicles formed on his obsidian-colored horns. He made an almost whimpering sound and looked at the girl, who stood almost cockily between Ifrit and myself.
"Care to try it again, Iffie?" she asked coolly.
Ifrit opened his mouth as if to respond, then thought better of it and clomped it shut. He shivered and then ran off, teeth chattering. The girl raised a hand that was in the formation of a gun, and blew at the tip of her index finger, causing a cold mist to rise from it. I raised myself up on two arms and shook my wings a bit. "Thanks." I was a bit embarassed, and I could feel my face turn red under my feathers.
"Don't mention it. I hate bullies, but I sure love to put 'em in their place." She extended a hand to help me up. Her hand was ice-cold, but it didn't seem to bother me for some reason. "You must be Tritoch. Siren was telling me about you."
"And you must be Shiva." I said, shaking her hand. "Nice to meet you."
She smiled. "You're not cold from touching me?"
"Well, you feel cold, but it doesn't bother me at all."
"Oh...are you an ice elemental like me?" She sat down on the floor, leaning against the wall.
"Um, I don't really know any magic yet. Sorry."
"Hm. Well, everybody learns sooner or later. I was lucky enough to be born with the ability, even before I became an Esper." She jerked a thumb in the direction Ifrit had hurried off to. "Does he always pick on you like that?"
"Yes." I said miserably. "I'd fight back, but he's so much stronger than I am. The first time I fought back, he knocked a tooth out of my mouth. I've learned not to try to stop him...although I don't listen to him." I smiled. That is, the corners of my beak turned up. "When he says "do this 'cause I say so", I don't do it. I'm not gonna give him the satisfaction of making me his slave." I folded my wings. "Maybe that's the start of standing up to him...at least until I grow bigger than he is."
"Yeah, it's a start. You just have to learn to be intimidating." She smiled, showing dimples. "Like me. I'm nothing special....just a girl." She batted her indigo eyelashes. "See, aren't I adorable?"
I laughed. "You are pretty cute when you're nice....but when you first came along and iced Ifrit, I wouldn't of wanted to stand in your way."
"See, that's because if you act right, you can be as intimidating as you need to be. Ifrit is only intimidating when he can push people around. When he finds somebody he can't, he turns tail and run. Remember that next time."
"I think I will. Hey, I was going down to the library...do you want me to show you around?"
She smiled again, and those dimples popped up. "Certainly. It's good to see that somebody around here is a gentleman."
And thus started a good friendship. Shiva and I had a lot in common, as it turned out. We were both from the same mountain range that was the spine of the northern continent, although she lived some four hundred or so miles to the west of where Nartch was. Her ancestors were once some of the magic users that faced Zemus long ago. Appantly her great-grandmother had the same name and magic.
"My name, "Shiva", is inherited." she explained one day. "When a girl of my family shows certain characteristics of an ice elemental, her name is changed to Shiva, and she would travel to the land of the summoned monsters to train as one of them. She wouldn't necissarily be a monster, but a high-level mage that specilized in ice magic, and could be summoned by a summoner." She gave a wry smile. "I got off somehow easy....I'm not at the land of the Summoned Mosters, I'm at....Esperville, or whatever it's called. Goddess is a lot nicer than any summoner could be."
"Yeah, that's true. She seems really nice to me, but I'm starting to think..." I frowned at the train of thought that I had many times before. "I'm starting to wonder if she has a bigger plan for us."
Shiva didn't seem to get my drift. "What do you mean?"
"Well, the thing is, we're all children. Didn't you notice that? The only adults are staff members here...like people in the kitchen or people that work in the library. They're Espers too, but all the children outnumber them seriously."
"So? It's a sort of orphanage for Espers, no biggie."
"In that case, tell me what kind of orphanage teaches magic and fighting?" Harsghalt said from across the table. We were in the meeting room, and the three of us were discussing things in general, when Shiva started explaining her past.
"I haven't seen any fighting...the magic I know, but it's meant to be a gift....right?" It seemed more like I was trying to talk myself out of an idea that had already struck me. Obviously Hars had been hit with the same idea.
Harsghalt shook his head. "Wrong. She already started training me. I just turned sixteen, so I guess I'm ready. When I asked her why, she said not to worry, it's just another gift, courtesy of our favorite diety."
"That settles it, then." I said. "It seems like we're not here to live in bliss....we're here to learn how to fight."
Shiva didn't look happy about the discussion. "Maybe it's only for self-defense....I mean really: look at us. If we ever ran into some normal humans again, how do you think they'd react? We'd have to learn to protect ourselves."
"Yeah, maybe that's it." Hars said, although his expression said that he wasn't totally convinced.
Life continued on after that discussion, and Hars told us about his "training". He was being taught how to use a sword, but that was pretty much it. Siren didn't know why Goddess was training anybody, even though she tried to find out. What puzzled her even more is the strange training she recieved. She wouldn't tell us about it, but she did mention that it had something to do with singing.
I, on the other hand, didn't learn anything. I didn't even learn magic yet, and most of the Espers had learned at least first-level spells. It frustrated me, and I finally asked Goddess about it.
"It would be best if thou wouldst keep thine beak out of other's affairs, Tritoch." she said curtly. The longer I knew Goddess, the less kind she seemed to be. "It is a gift that is only given to those who deserve it."
That offended me. I didn't see how different I was from the others...although I was growing taller and longer and getting stronger by the day. But inside...inside I was just like them. I deserved magic just as much as the rest of them. I chewed on this several days after my fifteenth birthday as I sat in the atrium, watching Shiva play with ice crystals. I had been here almost three years, and yet I hadn't accomplished anything. Harsghalt was eighteen and barely around at this point, his training taking up most of his time. Siren had duties that were somewhat secretive, so I rarely saw her either. The only one of my friends that I could still hang around with was Shiva. Nothing against Shiva, but when you're an adolecent, you want to hang out with somebody other than the same person day after day. I had made attempts at peace with Ifrit, but he would laugh and beat the hell out of me afterwards. I was larger than him, but he was still stronger than me.
As I sat somewhat hidden in some bushes in the atrium, the subject of my thoughts came into the room and walked up to Shiva. Shiva was nearly fifteen, and a very attractive girl. Many of the guys noticed, but not too many dared to ask her out, since she would either laugh or beat the crap out of them. She delicately balanced a flower made out of ice on her hand, adding little details on the petals with an icy finger. Ifrit came up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her waist. She dropped the flower, and made an angry grunt.
"Iffie, if you know what's good for you, you'll let go of me."
From where I sat in my bushes, I watched with interest. Shiva was going to beat Ifrit up again, which was always fun to watch....especially since he was nearly twice her bulk.
Ifrit laughed. "Not this time, honey."
Shiva's blue eyes blazed. "Honey? HONEY??"
Ifrit shifted her in his arms, holding her tightly, perhaps a bit too tightly. "You heard me. You know, I've been thinking about you lately."
Shiva made a gagging sound. "Don't make me sick."
"Thinking a lot, Shiva. You know that you're damn hot, dontcha?"
She struggled. "Yeah, damn hot and not yours. Now let me go before you get a Ice2 crammed down your throat."
He laughed. "Not this time. Since we're alone, why don't we get some quality time in, hmm? This pathway's a little hidden...and nobody would hear us."
I didn't like where this was going. I quietly made my way out of the bushes.
Shiva struggled some more. "You...shit! Fine! Ice2!" The spell hit Ifrit with daggers of ice, but he didn't even blink an eyelash.
Ifrit grinned. "It doesn't hurt me sweetie. See the lovely blue feather I'm wearing?"
Shiva looked at it. "It looks like Tri's."
"It is Tri's. I learned that he absorbs ice, so I figured if I wore it, it would protect me. I thought right." He reached up with a hand and grabbed her in a place that he shouldn't. She yelped and struggled.
I didn't like this at all. I didn't know an overly large amount of information about sex, but I did now that there were some things you weren't supposed to do...like grab people's breasts when they didn't want you to. I came up behind Ifrit. "Knock it off, Ifrit!"
He stopped what he was doing. "You? Go away, Tri. I'm busy." He then turned his back to me and carried Shiva into some shrubbery growing next to the path. She squirmed and shrieked curses at Ifrit, but he held her tightly, and nobody but I heard, seeing that I was the only one there. I couldn't see what he was doing, but as he made his way over to those bushes with her held against him I heard a ripping sound, and I saw Shiva's dress fall to the grassy floor.
I heard her scream, and something in me snapped. I made my way over to Ifrit where he was struggling with Shiva and doing something I prefer not to repeat. I felt my body come alive with some sort of fire, ignited by undescribable anger. I flapped my wings, thrusting myself into the air above them. I could see Shiva's face, and it was filled with fear. That just made it worse. I heard myself give off a hissing roar, and saw Ifrit turn to face me. He gave a yell and cast Fire2 on me. I didn't even feel it....the spell actually seemed to make me stronger.
"BOLT3!" The words came to my mouth unasked. Jagged streaks of electrical energy shot out from all directions of the room, hitting Ifrit one after another. He howled in pain as the electricity jolted him, raised up into the air from the force of it. The spell stopped, and he fell to the ground, clutching at his side with tendrils of smoke rising from his fur. He raised his face to say something, but never got the opportunity to, since I swung my muscular tail to hit him upside his head, sending him flying. He slammed into a tree and fell to the ground, unconcious. I landed next to Shiva, still breathing a bit heavily with rage as I looked at the young man that had caused me trouble ever since I had come here. I don't know why, but it felt good, satisfying.
I turned to Shiva, who lay naked on the grass. "Are you all right?"
She shook her head, her entire body trembling with some emotion I couldn't label. I went over to her, and helped her up. "I'm sorry....I just couldn't let him do that to you."
She nodded and suddenly clung to me, crying. I let her cry for a few minutes, not objecting to the fact that a very pretty girl with no clothes on was hugging me tightly.
Yuri, please don't kill me. Shiva, please don't kill me either, and at the same time, don't let it go to your head.
I looked at her. "You'd better get your dress on. We're going to find Goddess and tell her about this...and only Goddess. I won't let anybody else know, okay?"
Shiva nodded, and picked up her torn sundress, putting it on. I helped her tie up the ripped straps, and then lead her out of the atrium.
When we found Goddess and told her about Shiva's attempted rape, she became enraged. "I did not think Ifrit would stoop as low." she snarled. "I hath left him unchecked for too long." She looked at the two of us, her eyes as hard as agates. "Come, we shall take care of this brute."
Even though we hurried back to the atrium, Ifrit was gone when we got there. Goddess shook her head. "He has left. I sense him leaving my realm as we do speak."
Shiva seemed just as angry as Goddess, and I can't say I blame her. "Let me go after him, Goddess. I want to make him hurt for this, since he hurt me."
Goddess shook her head. "Nay, Shiva...we shall let him go. He will find that running off doth pose more danger to him than remaining here. Besides, Tritoch gave him a certain taste of pain."
I hadn't even mentioned how I rescued Shiva. "How do you know about that?"
The diety sat down on a bench, the same one Shiva was seated on before the whole ordeal. "None of my Espers know third-level magic as of yet. The highest any of them have gotten is the second level. Ergo, when thou did cast Bolt3, I could sense the incredible amount of power it caused." She looked at me. "Finally, the promise I did see in thee hath shown itself, although it did take a dire situation to bring it through. Tell me, Tritoch....how didst thou feel before casting the spell? What didst thou do?"
I thought back to the experience, although I would of preferred not to. "I felt...angry. Shiva was just minding her business and didn't even provoke Ifrit. When he took her clothes off, I felt really angry, so I flew up in the air. I've never flew before, but suddenly I just knew how. Then he was touching her chest, and uh..." I coughed uncomfortably, blushing. "He was trying to force her legs apart with his own. Then she looked up at me, and she looked afraid. I've never seen Shiva that scared before, and something in me snapped. I had to stop what was happening, so I...I just felt the energy build up in me, and then I directed it at Ifrit, as lightning, since he would absorb Ice or Fire."
Shiva nodded. "That's right, Iffie was wearing one of Tritoch's feathers. I figured out that Tri was at least part ice elemental because he could touch me and not get could or hurt by it. Then Ifrit cast Fire2 on Tri, and he simply absorbed it. And then Tritoch cast Bolt3." She frowned and looked at Goddess. "Lightning, Fire and Ice elemental all in one....is that possible?"
"Rare, but definately possible." Goddess responded. "He doth command the three main elements, and also doth absorb them." She looked at me. "Dost thou know what this means, Tritoch?"
"It means that uh...I'm special?" I wasn't trying to be funny, but the two of them laughed anyway. It was good to see Shiva laugh, since she hadn't smiled since Ifrit attacked her.
Goddess smiled. "Definately. Thou art definately special, Tritoch. I believe it is finally time to start thy training. Prepare thyself, for thou shall begin tomorrow morning. Sleep well, for thou shalt need thy energy."
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