It all began when I was visited by my father. I was standing in a field dotted with purple flowers and butterflies, and he was awaiting me right in the center. With every step I took I knew that something was about to happen, something major and unexpected. Whatever it was, I knew that it would change me. I could only hope that change was for the better.
When I reached him, he extended a hand to me, and I took it because he was my father. He pulled me to him and hugged me closely. "I love you," he told me. And I knew that he did. And I loved him too, as best as I could. But it was so hard to love someone when they were gone. Perhaps even impossible to love someone when they were gone.
I awoke with a start. The room was cold, a combination of lack of insulation provided by the stone walls of the temple and the overall chill that never seemed to fade. I reveled in it then, all drenched in a cold sweat. I thought that maybe I could still feel his lingering touch. I knew that I could still hear his voice. I love you...I love you...Ophelia...wake up...
"Ophelia, wake up!" A shadow suddenly appeared over me as the curtains of my shared chamber were thrown back. I squinted, although in truth the light was fairly dim. Everything about our world was fairly dim since...No. We did not think about that day.
Pushing myself into a sitting postition, I looked over at Ashleigh. She was smiling, but there was a grim undertone. Her thick black hair was pulled back into a tangled mess of curls that cascaded down her back. Absently I reached up to finger-brush my own locks of platinum hair, twisting one of the ultra-violet strands around my index finger.
"Training today," Ashleigh told me. "Maybe we'll get into Lex's group."
At that I could not contain my smile. "Alright," I told her. "You've convinced me."
Training was a challenge I both loved and hated. There were fifteen in our group. Fifteen minors learning to master the ways of Spirit. We all had only one thing in mind: becoming the head Spirit Mage. That was a title more prestigious than any. Or almost, anyway.
Ashleigh and I strode into the Commons, a large grassy area in the courtyard of the temple. Across the way, Lex was talking with a few other minors. I swallowed hard as I glanced over at him, in all his dark splendor. The aura around him reflected his innermort being, the one that I knew would stop at nothing to become the head Spirit Mage. We approched him slowly, as casually as one might approch such a boy.
"Hey, Lex," Ashleigh greeted with ease, tossing him a smile. He returned it kindly before his eyes fell on me.
"Ready for a big day of training?" He asked me playfully. I wished that I could come up with something clever to say, but in the end I could only nod. Lex's smile was much too bright to be worn upon such a shadowed creature. Somewhere inside I was sure that I was Lex's biggest competition for the spot. I'd always been blessed in my gifts as a minor mage. Spirit had always sort of come naturally to me. Even if it came in the form of my dead father in my dreams.
Still, Lex was the type to eliminate anything in his way, and that was what scared me most of all.
Eventually the trainer came, an elder man by the name of Craton. He split us into three groups of five, and by some small miracle I did end up in Lex's group. I was insanely aware of his presence, and not just his spiritual one.
But something else caught my eye then, a mere glimmer on the far side of the Commons. I narrowed my eyes in hopes of bettering my view. What I saw there was the very visible outline of a girll screaming and crying. Blood dripped from her wrists, down her fingertips until it fell in ruby droplets to the earth. She lifted her head to look at me through strands of thick blonde hair and met my gaze.
I let out a shriek.
The figure there was me.