|The next morning, Lani came to finally release her from her chamber. "It is time for your testing. Please follow me." Her eyes were reddened as though she had been crying. Her voice was hoarse.|
"So Aroostook's little lapdog has come to let me out? Lead on, little slavey." Misty sneered, setting down the the copy of 'Basic Magic' that she had been carefully studying. She felt a lump of ice where her heart had been. Her only wish now was to find a way to save Kris. It was too late for Kai and the Baron and all his fine men, but Kris still lived. She would pass their little tests, and take all she learned and use it to save her friend. Then she would return and all of them would pay for what they had done to Kai.
As they paced down the twisting halls, Lani spoke fiercely. "You are not the only one hurting here. We all loved Kai; he was our hope, our light, and he was my brother!"
Misty felt the ice on her heart crack. A tear trickled down her face. An echoing sob came from Lani. The two girls stood in the hallway clinging to each other, wracked with sorrow.
"I'm sorry, Lani. I just wanted to hate you all so much for they way I've been treated. But it is even worse for you." She gave Lani one more swift, fierce hug. "Aroostook and the fullbloods are the ones I should hate! We have to do something about them!"
"There is nothing we can do! Their powers are so vast, and ours are so small. We all serve them. And they will make you a slave as well."
"Oh, I will let them think that." Misty bared her teeth. "but only until I find what I need."
Lani looked at her, face solemn. "You will learn. All of us long to escape Aroostook. He uses and discards us. Halfies are nothing but playthings to him! We all hate him! But there is no escape."
They had stopped before a tiny chamber. Lani gripped Misty's arm and whispered, "This is the testing chamber. Remember, you don't want to appear too powerful. Not unless you want to warm Aroostook's bed. Good luck, my friend."
Misty entered the room. Two mages sat before a long table. She recognized one from the council room. She frowned at his thin, pinched face, trying to remember--Pelagius--that was his name. He had helped seal the portal against Kai. Her eyes narrowed as she glared sullenly at him. Here was a legitimate target for her fury. The other was a plump little female halfblood, who would have looked sweet and grandmotherly except for her tiny cold eyes and pursed lips.
Misty flinched as a narrow, graceful hand pinched her shoulder.
"Pelagius, Aeris, here is the newest member of our little family. One of our brethren must have stooped to fornicating with the animals while he was out tithing and left a little surprise behind." Aroostook voice drawled out lazily, oozing contempt, as Pelagius sniggered. "Now we must test her to see just how she will serve us." She shuddered as his fingers trailed down her back.
The hand on her back suddenly shoved her forward. "Well, get over there, girl. Do you expect him to come to you?"
She stumbled a little, and bit back her angry words. Control was the key now. Control and caution when dealing with them. "I'm sorry, sir, I am not sure what to do." She added a little appeasing note to her voice, but it was a lie. Her long night of studying had shown her exactly what was to occur, and she was ready for it.
Pelagius rose and beckoned her forward. As she stood close, he pulled her head against his until their foreheads touched. She smelled the too sweet scent of wine on his breath. She fought the urge to pull away.
Then came a stabbing pain, as he clumsily pawed through her mind, searching for her sources. He really was quite unskilled, she thought, remembering Kai's gentle insertion of her new reading skills. It made it easy for her to hide the true extent of her powers. Powers she had spent the entire night before studying and exploring.
The old man shook his head and withdrew, a look of disappointment on his face. "Yes, there is a bit of Air there, definitely some Water, and I think, some Earth. But it is so small. She'll barely be of any use to us at all. She'll be lucky if she can light a candle to find her way in the halls." He turned to Aroostook. "This is definitely not a bloodline you want to cultivate. She's fit for nothing but servant work."
"A pity. To find three elements in one mage is quite rare. And she's such a pretty little thing. She'd have made a fine breeder if only she were stronger. Ah, well. No matter, then. Dispose of her as you see fit, Aeris."
Aroostook stalked from the room.
Aeris rose and paced around Misty, eying her from all angles. "Would you like to check my teeth, Ma'am?" It just slipped out. Misty cursed her smart mouth as the old woman's face went sour.
"So we are a sharp-tongued little miss, are we?" Her tiny, cold eyes narrowed. "Well, I think I have the perfect place for you." She smiled sweetly. "Pelagius, didn't Draxus manage to drive mad that last little halfie girl we sent to work for him?"
The wine-addled old mage sat up, trying to focus. "Eh, Aeris, what's that about Draxus? No, no, remember he said he wanted a boy to help him. Said the girls cry and whine too much."
"The old Fire mage is so blind, he probably won't even notice we've sent him another girl. Besides, I simply can't spare the boys from the heavier labor. A girl can do just as well at carrying his silly books around. Can you read, girl?"
"Good! Then you will report to Draxus now for your duty assignments. In the mornings, you will need to attend classes until your rather pitiful powers have been developed and controlled. All the rest of your time now belongs to him." She turned to the door. "Lani, lead this smart young woman to the library."
Misty kept her face solemn and her head bowed, but she felt like dancing. For once, she blessed her temper. The library--she couldn't have asked for a more perfect assignment! If she was careful, she would be able to research ways to defeat the Scourge, as she worked for this Draxus. No matter how terrible he might be, she resolved that he would not drive her away.