I walked down the corridor. I didn’t need to use magic to guide me around the Academy. Not any more. I listened for other students, keeping out of their way. Two more steps and the door was on my right. I turned and knocked.
“Come in.” My mother’s voice was inviting, even though she didn’t know it was me. That’s why she was such a good headmistress for the Academy. She was always there for any student.
I grasped the latch and opened the door.
“Illyana!” Mother’s voice was happy. “What can I do for you?”
“Pardon my intrusion, Headmistress Elivy,” I said. “But I was hoping you could tell me more of the draconians.”
“Honestly,” Mother sounded ever so slightly annoyed. “What is your morbid fascination with that extinct species?”
“Well, since they’re extinct I believe that it’s important to remember them. I’m sorry if I’m asking for too much.” I hoped my answer didn’t sound too rehearsed.
I heard the slight squeal of mother’s chair and the soft movement of air indicating that she was getting up. Her footsteps were very slight as she moved over to me. Her hand gently brushed some loose strands of hair from my forehead to the side.
“Very well. Let’s talk about the draconians. Come, sit with me.”
In my slumber, I saw it all happen again. The memories of my people’s final moments were reconstructed with extreme clarity. I felt their wounds, heard the crack of thunder, felt the heat of the flames. Sadow’s hollow laughter surrounded me all the while.
I was awakened by the sound of my own screams. I sat upright in my bed. I was hyperventilating and both of my hearts were beating abnormally quickly.
I reached up with my hands and wiped the heavy perspiration from my brow. At this point, moving around my horns had become natural.
I rose from bed and examined myself in the heavy oaken mirror. My hair was dishevelled. My pupils were dilated and bloodshot. The contrast of red against my own natural violet was somewhat disconcerting.
I calmed myself with the monotony of brushing my hair. when the task was thoroughly completed, I took out a strong black cord and tied it into a ponytail.
The ponytail went down to my eighth vertebrae, right betwixt my wings. I wondered if it might not be prudent to cut it off before it grew much longer. However, I hesitated to take that step for purely sentimental reasons. After all, my hair was the same shimmering silver colour as my mother’s had been.
I put on proper attire, packed my hair brush, and tucked my coin pouch into my belt. I did not put on my cloak. I pondered why I had tarried so long as I secured my blade. I had finished mastering the spells I needed to know ninety two days ago and yet, I had encountered considerable difficulty in deciding to leave.
Had I become complacent and overly attached to the Academy? Was I frightened of facing Sadow? Perhaps I had simply desired some respite in my quest for vengeance. Or…
A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. I hurriedly grasped my cloak “Who is it?”
I allowed my grip to relax. “Are you alone?”
I released the cloak and moved to unlatch and open the door. “You may enter.”
Illyana strode in, concealing something beneath a cloth. I closed the door behind her.
Her hands moved the cloth aside to reveal a frosted confectionery. “Happy sixteenth birthday!”
“I had forgotten,” I stated.
“Liar!” Illyana declared, sitting on my bed. “You never forget anything.”
“Well, you are somewhat correct,” I conceded. “I had not forgotten the anniversary of my birth. I simply had not attached any importance to it.”
“Have some,” she held out her confectionery. “Mother helped me make it.”
I acquiesced to her request and consumed a small amount.
“Can you believe that next year we’ll have gotten far enough to have our own familiars and everything?” Illyana asked. “So, what are you going to pick?”
I refrained from shrugging since she would not notice any way. “That is not important. What about you?”
Illyana rose and elbowed me in the ribs. “You should be able to answer a simple question. I’m going to get a bat.”
“That seems like an unusual choice.” I scratched my head, right behind my horns. “May I ask why?”
Illyana crossed her arms over her chest. “If you can’t answer a simple question then don’t expect me to.”
“I apologise for my rudeness,” I said.
Illyana lay back on the bed. “That’s fine, I can tell you. I like bats because they sense things in a completely different way. Just like I do. And they have the freedom of the sky.”
“I understand,” I stated. I briefly considered whether or not I should tell her the truth. It would hurt her to discover it after the fact. I steadied myself and spoke. “Illyana, I am done.”
Illyana sat straight up. “What do you mean?”
“I have learned all the magic that I need. It is time for me to learn the ways of the sword.”
“I see.” Illyana stood. After a minute of silence she spoke up. “Does this have to do with what happened to your people?”
My voice was unsteady. “I…I do not know what you mean.”
“But, you’re a draconian, right?” I froze, incapable of speaking. She knew! I had been so cautious but it had availed me naught. “Don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone.”
“How did you find out?”
Illyana chuckled. There was sorrow in her voice. “Just because I can’t see doesn’t mean that I’m completely senseless. Your footsteps have always been unusually light, and when we’re alone I can hear the light slither of something… your tail, I think, moving around and the light flap of your wings.”
Of course! I had been complacent believing that she would not notice.
Illyana sighed. “I didn’t mention it before because I had always hoped that you would tell me on your own. Tell me, what really happened to the other draconians?”
“Perhaps the story that you have heard is accurate.”
Illyana walked over and lightly punched my back, directly under the left wing. “The Far Darter wouldn’t have missed you. You can’t tell me?”
I turned away from her. Telling her would be a risk, but she had kept my confidence when I was unaware that she even had it. “It was the lich, Sadow. He wiped the rest of the draconians out. Only I survived his assault.”
Illyana stepped back. “Why would he? How could he?”
“I do not know why. None of us did, but I have sworn to make him answer for that crime.”
Illyana wrung her hands together. “It won’t be easy to defeat one of the Magi.”
“I am aware of the difficulties, but I must fight nevertheless.”
“Do you need help?”
I allowed myself a slight smile, realising why it had been difficult to leave. “I thank you for the offer, but I must do this on my own.”
“Will you ever come back?”
“If I survive, I will return. Farewell Illyana Fensen. May you find your place in this world.”
“Hold on a moment!”
“I can not tarry any longer.” I opened the window and spread my wings.
Illyana grabbed my arm, pulling me slightly back. “I just have one last request.”
I sighed and stepped away from the window. “I will listen, but I will make no guarantees.”
Illyana moved her arms away from me and pressed her hands together. “Can I—touch your face?”
I looked up at her. “If you truly wish, I will comply with that request.”