"The soul's true home is the fire that ignites within it." - source unknown
The hot summer sun bore down upon the arid, dusty lands of the Thedalean desert. Great dunes of reddish-tan sand gave the illusion of a sea of rust, the sirocco harsh and unforgiving. The air shimmered with the heat of the unrelenting rays, appearing almost liquid as distances seemed to warp and flicker, luring the unwary with mirages of water that never existed.
Yet even within this dry, unyielding land, life found its purchase, stubbornly establishing its existence with resolute zeal. Cacti and scrubs dotted the landscape, scattered but unbroken. Herds of camels followed their migratory paths between the scarce oases and lonesome rivers, while vultures and jackals searched for the dead and dying, the cycle of life unfaltering.
Surrounded by dunes and reliant on deep wells drilled into hard, baked earth, a small village eked out its existence. Descendants of those banished to the desert in exile long ago, the vayrons of Yamaistir were a hardy and semi-superstitious people, hunters, warriors, and medics. Yet, unlike many in Thedale, they were accepting of magecraft, for it was the descendants of outcast mages who were responsible for the village’s ultimate survival.
Between buildings made of hardened, baked mud and straw, along with the occasional building of red sandstone, lay streets of packed earth. Small dunes of sand lay scattered in alleys and corners, resting wherever the wind left them, occasionally to be swept away by the streetsweepers. Outdoor firepits used for cooking lay dim and smouldering, waiting for the night - for it was far too hot to cook during the day.
Within this haphazard, yet resilient scattering of buildings, lay a family that was soon to learn of the omens their child was born to. A small pup, his eyes closed, lay next to his mother within one of the central buildings. His fur was the colour of darkness, splashed with the brilliant colours of a midnight bonfire. The father of the family stood nearby, speaking softly to his mate of their hopes for the future, of ideas to give their son a good start in life.
Frightened yelps and hurried barks erupted within the village centre as flames leapt for the skies, caressing buildings and igniting the firepits. One of the local mages quickly put these flames out, unintentional as they had been from their creator, and it was not long before all learned who was responsible.
The youngest member of the village had opened his eyes for the first time, and though he lacked the obvious signs that those so gifted with magic often had - he bore no wings - he had sparked. His power awoke the very moment he saw the world, a gift and a curse.
“Have you chosen a name for your child?” the village healer asked, sometime after the initial village chaos had died down. “It is early days, and yet…”
The two uncertain parents looked at each other, then it was the mother who answered. “Sunder. We were debating since he was born, but this… It suits him. For good or ill, but I pray for good.”
“A divisive name…” the healer mused, looking over the pup as he attempted - unsuccessfully - to navigate his mother’s legs. “But a powerful one, in the right hands. Your son’s training will be difficult, at this young age, but I think he will learn quickly.”
A small puff of flame from the pup was soon put out with a chuckle by the healer. “Yes, quickly indeed.”
The roar of flames died down as quickly as they began, their creator commanding them to dissipate not long after he’d summoned them. Breathing a bit hard from the efforts of the day, the young pup bowed his head. Training focused on precise control of the flames that came so easily at the call of the flames within him, for safety and for preparation of other elements. Yet, the pup wasn’t sure he was any good, the only one within his village so gifted at this age, and one of few with the gift at all.
Let alone one this strong, and that frightened him.
“You’ve been doing well, Sunder,” the kind words of his tutor had Sunder lift his head, the same healer - he was told - who had put out his uncontrolled flames the day he had sparked. “With fire, that is. Now it is time to see how well you reach out to the other elements - and remember, calm patience does what hurried anxiety does not.”
Sunder had not yet tried reaching out to the other elements - they did not come to him as fire did, had not made his soul their home - but his tutor’s words reassured him. Quick success wasn’t needed, time was not a restriction.
It was the air around him that he felt first, the breeze drawing his attention outward - so accustomed was he to looking inward it had not occurred to him that other elements would be different. It was surprisingly easy to grasp, a small whirlwind forming in front of him, but Sunder soon found it was equally easy to lose his grip - the whirlwind spun into his face, then dissipated back to the breeze as his control faltered.
“Sorry,” the young pup said to his tutor, who merely chuckled and shook his head.
“No need,” the healer replied, smiling kindly. “That is normal, especially for the young. Fire is an extension of you, but air is not - it will take more practice before it heeds you entirely. Much more practice.”
Sunder bowed his head, then returned to his practice. So focused upon it, he did not notice the time pass, until his tutor spoke again, causing Sunder to realize that the sun was beginning its descent on the horizon.
“That is enough for today, Sunder. With your control where it is now, I feel it is safe for you to travel with your parents this upcoming autumn.”
That was a surprise - and a delight - to Sunder. “I’ll get to see Vitalus?”
The healer inclined his head. “Just so. Now head home, young one - I have some other duties to attend, and your training requires rest as much as it requires practice.”
Sunder gave a proper bow this time - as good of one as his still-slightly-clumsy legs would allow - and then took off for home. He was tired, and the fire within him was dim from the day, but he moved with a lightness in his step - a year seemed so long to him, much longer than the half-month that was the time of his parents’ trip. That he would get to see the land of magic so much sooner than he’d thought he would.
Maybe, just maybe, he’d find others like him.
Little did he know…
This has taken me since, like, May to actually fully type out. Despite it being only 1,143 words long (not counting the quote at the top).
Sparked piece for Sunder. I tried doing third-person omniscient for the first half or so of it, since Sunder's so young at that point, and it didn't feel right to use another perspective. If it reads weird, it's because third-person omniscient is hard to get right, and I'm not used to using it (so also a style exercise).
As you can see, it transitions to third-person limited from Sunder's PoV later on, once he's old enough to have proper thought processes.
Personal work + 3
Magic Awakening + 2
Land Bonus + 1
1,143 words + 11
Total: 17 CP
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