Soul of Flames

On the edge of the reality we know, there exists a pathway that conceals a realm far more extraordinary than any have dared to imagine. In this realm, a war is raging. And one girl is at the centre of it all. Yet, to fight the suffering, she must learn to accept a heritage that could send the life she knows up in flames. One way or another, she is about to discover that, sometimes, giving yourself to the flames can unlock your soul...

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2. Chapter 1-Robyn

I breathe deeply, inhaling the sweet scents that drift on the breeze around me. My hair flutters behind, the wind gently tugging it, teasing it. Clouds caress my body as I float lazily by, lost in my own world, in the peace that cradles my body.

Fluffy feathers brush my lower back and I rise, balancing on the balls of my feet. I stretch out every part of my body-from the ends of my toes to the very tip of my outspread wings. Revelling in the peace of the moment, I slowly lean forward until I am perched on the edge of a cloud, teetering on the horizon of reality. Then, taking one last, deep breath in, I dive.

I plummet through layers of cloud, free falling, somersaulting through the air. The ground rushes up to meet me and, at the last possible moment, I snap open my wings an-

'Robyn! Will you answer the question!' A loud angry voice breaks through my dream world. I feel a pang of disappointment, longing for the joy that comes with soaring through the skies, without a care in the world...

'Robyn Oakbow, stop daydreaming for long enough to pay attention and answer one little question!' Now the voice has risen to a shriek that could rival a tortured owl.

I prise my eyes open and peel my face off the cold, hard desk in front of me. Glancing up, I see the faces of my classmates staring back at me, amused smirks covering their faces. Great. I sit up fully, letting out a big sigh. Miss Canelly glares at me, cold eyes piercing through my flesh to gain access to the deepest reaches of my ever-turning mind.

'Sorry Miss Canelly, but I’m afraid I didn't quite catch the question as I was contemplating the vast mysteries of the universe. Would you please repeat it for me?' I asked in a sweet, high voice, tipping my head slightly to one side as I did.

Honestly, I don't know why I said it. It was so unlike me to speak back to a teacher, to anyone, that there was complete and utter silence for a full minute. And, in a classroom of unruly fifteen year olds, that was quite a miracle.

Then again, it was also very rare to see Miss Canelly give me a disapproving look, let alone shriek at me like an agitated cat that had just had its tail stepped on.

Eventually she recovered, still staring at me with disbelief in her clear grey eyes, but able to send me out to the headmaster's office, demanding as I left that I 'report to her at lunch for a little chat about my actions'. I nodded my head and tried to look like I was sorry, but underneath I was still in shock.

This wasn't the first thing I had done today that was completely different to my usual action. This morning, I had slept late, only waking up when my ginger cat, Kitti (Kit for short), jumped on my soft, warm bed and dug her claws into my arm, yowling all the while, dragging me from my peaceful dreams.

Okay, that might not be unusual for most teenagers, but I was usually up as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon, spreading its soft, warm glow across the lush countryside over which it watches.

I savour the moments when the rest of the world slumbers on, unaware of the magic that seeps through unseen boundaries in these mysterious seconds, where time itself seems to cease and anything can happen. They make me think that my dreams, however farfetched or unreachable, may come true.

But of course, that's utter nonsense. Just a young girl's imaginings, wishing for a world that can never be real, dreaming her life away. Which is what I seem to be doing more and more at the minute. I need to focus and bring myself back down to Earth, even if it is a turbulent tumble, just like that dive in my dream...

I'm drifting again. I shake my head to try and clear my thoughts, making my long, slightly wavy hair swish around me. The sun streaming through the dusty windows that line the school corridors catches it, highlights appearing before my eyes. I sigh and tuck it back behind my ear, as I do every day.

One bronze strand escapes my nimble fingers. I watch it flutter in front of me, sparkling in the light. For some reason, it stirs a deep anger in the pit of my stomach, narrowing my vision until all I can see is that incriminating thread hanging in front of me, taunting me.

I snatch it from the air, the vicious movement causing more of my thick hair to tumble forward into my eyes. I study it, all the different shades; burnished copper, liquid gold, pale honey, glowing amber, deep scarlet red. I know other girls envy my hair, long for it even. Many come up to me just to twirl it around their fingers, staring in astonishment as a kaleidoscope of colours passes through their retinas.

I have never understood their strange, almost animal like need to touch my hair. To me, it is just another symbol of how different I am from everyone else, just another way that I stand out.

Pushing it back behind my ears and sealing away my angry thoughts for later inspection, I realise that I have stopped dead in the middle of the corridor. I glance around nervously, hoping that no one saw my strange moment.

I'm in luck. The passage is as silent as a ghost, not even the creaking sound of doors opening, though there is a strong wind outside. More of a gale actually. The fierce gusts are ripping leaves and branches away from the trees and dragging them along the ground, leaving jagged rents across the newly laid turf.

Strange. I listen for the howls of the brewing storm, yet hear none. The passage remains as quiet as before. Fear begins to creep through me and, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the storm, I edge slowly backwards towards the headmaster's office.

I am almost at my goal when something dark flits across my vision. I take a peek at it out of the corner of my eye while pressing myself flat against the wall. All I can see are shadows of the lockers that line the corridor. I let out a huff of breath at my own stupidity when one of the shadows moves.

There. Just discernible at the edge of the locker shadows, is another patch of black. A figure. I gasp and the shadow vanishes around the corner. I am about to chase after it when the headmaster opens the door behind me, making me jump.

'Ah, Robyn. I was just coming to look for you. Miss Canelly sent me a message saying to expect you.'

I stutter for a moment, still trying to untangle the spider web of thoughts in my head; what was that shadow? Was it a student? A teacher? Where they spying on me? Why couldn't I hear anything? I am so caught up in my thoughts that the headmaster frowns and places his hand on my shoulder, shaking me slightly.

'Miss Oakbow? Are you alright, Robyn?

I blink, coming out of my daze. 'Sorry, erm, Sir I’m fine, just away in my head.' What was his name again?

He gives me a disapproving look. 'Well, can you please come out of your head while we talk. I hear Miss Canelly has been having trouble retaining your attention. It's most unlike you.'

Damn, I still can't remember his name. 'I know Sir, I don't know what's wrong with me today.' What in hell is his name?

'Well, if you'd like to step into my office, we can have a little chat about exactly what's wrong with you. If we concentrate hard enough, I’m sure we can find a cure.' He gives me a sly smile, then turns and walks back into his office, gesturing for me to follow him. I do, sneaking one last look back at the hall. Nothing. No strange shadows. No brewing gale outside. And no eerie silence.

Mr. Brickdon. That's his name. Why did I forget that? Shrugging, I follow Mr. Brickdon through his plain office door, shutting it softly behind me, already mentally preparing myself for the lecture on finding a 'cure' that was bound to be thrust upon me.

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