Pyrophoric

The Elementals have ruled over the land of Daevarith for all of kingdom's recorded history. The Fire Elementals hold strong to the top of the social hierarchy; followed by their counterparts, the Water Elementals; then the Earth; and finally, Air. Those deemed powerless by Placement, a team funded by the Daevarithian government to place each person in their proper class, fall to the very bottom of the chain and are called Blanks.

Fourteen year old Arcana Mason, a Firehead as they are not so endearingly called, was born to two of the highest regarded Fire Elementals in all of the land and has lived a life of ease and luxury. The best food, the best clothing, the best education- only the finest things in life, and they're simply handed to her on a shiny silver platter.

Yet when she and her private tutor, an Earth Elemental named Gilligan Troye, make a discovery while analyzing an old Blanks census run by Placement itself, privileged Arcana will stop at nothing to discover the meaning behind their findings, even if that makes her a target for those dedicated to keeping the secret hidden... Even if it means loosing the lavish lifestyle she's always known.

What if the whispers are all true? What if the old folk legends aren't as fantastical as they might have seemed? A power much greater than even that of those with Fire talents may be lurking in the shadows of the impoverished, the powerless, and Arcana is determined to find it regardless of the costs.

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3. Ch. 1 [ I ]

I flicked my wrist, drawing my fingers together as I leaned idly against the kitchen counter, a soft blue flame dancing around my fingertips. Four years ago, this very day, my examination placed me as a Fire Elemental, a fact that my parents often boasted to their friends and colleagues about, much to my dismay. Since that fateful day, my path had been altered. I was sent to train my abilities as a Fire user at the Academy and studied my other subjects with a private tutor. Hardly what I had imagined I'd be doing with my time, but alas it was necessary to succeed in Daevalith. As I waited for my parents, who'd rushed off to where I didn't know, the memory played on repeat in my mind, clear as the day it had happened.

"... Happy birthday, dear Arcana, happy birthday to you!" My head perked up at the sound of rather off-key singing, and I spotted my parents standing in front of me, smiling brightly. My mom held a heavily frosted caked with fourteen gleaming candles a glow, and she stretched it out toward me.

"Aren't you going to make a wish, my sweet," Mother cooed, and I cringed ever so slightly at the soft syrupy tone of her voice and the nauseating pet name. I swear there was probably more sugar in the few words she spoke that there was in all the frosting that she globbed on my cake.

"Wishes are for children," I mumbled, leaning forward and blowing out all the candles in one quick puff. "I'm not a child anymore," I added, slinging my school bag over my shoulder, and turning back to them.

Leaving so soon?" my father asked in confusion. "Your classes don't start for another hour."

"So?" I mumbled under my breath, earning me worried glances from both parents.

"What about opening your presents?" Mother pointed to a pile of gifts wrapped in luminescent gold and red paper. "And won't you at least stay for cake, my little flame?" My hands tighten at my side, and I did all I could not to show my growing irritation.

"I've asked you not to call me that, Mother," I said, biting my tongue. I was known to be a bit foul tempered, and my birthday always brought out the worst of it. Any other day of the year, my parents barely acknowledged my existence, yet when my birthday rolled around, it was as if I were their prized little doll, and it irked me to no end. "I'm not really hungry anyhow," I added, eying the plate of pure sugar, which now sat on the counter. "Plus I told Gilligan that I'd meet him early to review for an upcoming exam!"

"Arcana, please..." My dad's voice trailed off as my mother gathered up a sleek looking black bag from the pile of presents, offering it to me.

"Just one?" She pleaded, and I took the bag with a groan.

"Fine." I tugged down the zipper at the side of the garment bag and pulled out a black calf length dress with golden embroidery around the chest and waist. I looked it over, examining the handiwork.

"Beautiful isn't it?" Mother beamed, running her fingers over the sheer top piece that flowed over the skirt. "You father and I had it specifically made for you. I thought you could wear it today?" She may have worded it as an innocent question, but it wasn't a suggestion- I knew better than that- it was a demand.

I draped the dress over my arm, lifting my eyebrow at her. "I'll go change then," I muttered.

"Marvelous!" she cooed, "Oh, I'm sure it'll look divine, darling!"

"I'm sure it'll look divine, darling!" I mocked as soon as I was out of earshot. I walked into the bathroom feeling a bit dejected. I slipped into the dress as quickly as I could, my reflection catching my eye as I walked past the mirror. My hand was already laying against the door handle, but for some reason, I found myself turning back to the mirror. My dark curls twisted, framing my face. The black of both my hair and the dress countered my pale complexion, and my stormy gray eyes looked sharp a bright. It wasn't a terrible look, and the dress itself could be called artwork, but it wasn't me. It was them.

"Arcana, what's taking you so long, my-"

I cut her off before she had the chance to use another horrific term of endearment. "I'm coming!" I called out, taking one last glance in the mirror with a weak sigh before heading out to face my parents.

"Oh, wow, dear. Just wow," Mother raved as I turned the corner, appearing in her view. "You must get your good looks from me!"

"That must be it!" I agreed sarcastically, but as I had expected, that went right over her head.

She ruffled my hair, grinning ear to ear. "Just beautiful."

I cleared my throat, looking from parent to parent as I toyed with the strap of my shoulder bag. "Well, I should get going," I said, slowly backing up toward the door. My escape from the suffocating atmosphere in the house. My pathway to freedom, to my salvation. "Gilligan is expecting me soon." I glanced down at my wrist, regardless of the fact that I wasn't wearing a watch. "Actually, ah! Would you look at that? I'm late!" I nearly ran to the door, hollering over my shoulder as I stepped outside, "I'll be back tonight!" I slammed the door closed and started down the road that led to the Academy.

<*>^<*>^<*>

"The Princess is in the building, I repeat, The Princess is in the building." The tall lanky boy who had suddenly appeared beside me the moment I walked into the school. His fluffy brown hair hung in his face, and his clothing wasn't quite to the Academy's high standards, but I knew he only did it to spite them. After all, he like me and the rest of the students at the renowned school, was a fire user.

"Shut up, Evon." I rolled my eyes at the scruffy boy. "Or at least get it right! I'm a queen."

"That wounds me," he pouted playfully, grabbing to his 'aching' chest.

"I'm sure the heartbreak will heal, eventually. You have Temry to soften the blow." I smirked, nudging his shoulder and looking around. "Where is your partner in crime anyhow?" I asked curiously. The two boys were nearly inseparable. Where one was, the other was rarely far behind. They were the best of friends and often were the reason that I was able to maintain my sanity.

"Beats me." Evon shrugged, and I stared at him in disbelief, the accusation clear in my expression.

"Yeah... right." I rolled my eyes, adjusting the strap of my bag as we walked. "I swear to you if you two think you're going to pull a fast one over on me, you're sorely mistaken, my friend." I watched his face carefully, checking for any sign that he was faltering in his story, but much to my surprise, all signs pointed to him telling the truth.

As we walked down the hallway past an adjoining corridor, a strong pair of arms pulled me away, hands shrouding my view. "Give me the bag and no one gets hurt," the unusually deep voice demanded.

"You could've just went with guess who." I pulled the hands away easily, turning to face my 'attacker' with an expectant look.

"Who're you looking at?" The blonde boy asked, smiling at me innocently and looking around. "Me?" He feigned shock, his hands twined behind his back.

"Yes, you! Whatcha got there, Mr. Innocent?" I smirked, sneaking in close and wrapping my arm around his back to snatch away a medium sized black box. I lifted a brow at him, and he shrugged sheepishly.

"Happy birthday, Ana." I smiled slightly at the nickname only he called me and tore the paper off, a wide grin forming on my face.

"Firecrackers!" I squealed, tossing my arms up around his neck and squeezing him tightly. Firecrackers were a favorite candy of mine- milk chocolate with a little kick filled with crunchy little pieces of wafer and covered in a thin layer of glass-like sugar. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"You're welcome." Temry laughed, patting my head lightly as I pulled away. "Happy birthday... again."

Evon moved to stand between the both of us, draping one arm over each of our shoulders. "How'd you get away from the wardens so easily anyway?" he wondered, "On today of all days!"

"I told them I had a study session with Gil." I gazed between the boys with a grin. "Bow down to your Queen!" So maybe I wasn't cramming for a test with my tutor, but if your parents were as suffocating as mine, you'd do anything to escape for even the shortest amount of time. Trust me. "Plus, it's not like it's really a lie," I added. "I will be studying with him, just at my normal time. No harm in that!"

"Justifying already, Ana, not a good sign." Temry chuckled lightly and nudged my side.

I rolled my eyes and tucked his present away into my bag. "Enough of you and your voice of reason! Let's get to class like good little Fireheads."

"I hate it when you use that word." Evon sighed. "Makes me feel like a freak of nature..."

"Oh calm down, you big baby," I teased. "You're not a Blank. They're the real freaks of nature." Evon started to laugh, but his smile faded as Temry sighed and looked between the two of us scoldingly.

"Lighten up, Tem." Evon insisted as we stopped outside of the training hall. "We get to set things on fire!" He lifted his brows twice with a goofy grin. "C'mon," he added, poking the serious looking boy on the side. "Maybe I'll even set Leta's hair on fire today!"

"Oh please do!" I imagined the irritating brunette with a head of yellow orange flames. Oh how priceless it would be. "Speak of the devil," I muttered as a group of girls walked in our direction toward the entrance to the hall.

"Look who it is, girls!" Leta faked a look of surprise. "So Arcana, how much did your parents pay the Academy to get you preferential treatment with the teachers?" The girl surrounding her snickered lowly, but I simply rolled my eyes. There was a reason I hadn't befriended any of the girl at school.

"I'd tell you, Lettie, but I doubt you've ever seen that much money in your life." I countered.

"Whatever." She tossed her hair back, probably not able to come up with a decent response. "Have fun playing with your... pets." She gestured to the boys before heading inside, her posy following close behind her.

"Who does she think she is?" some of the girls muttered, glaring at me as they passed.

"I hate her." I huffed. "Actually I hate all of them, but I hate her most." Leta Perkins. My ex-best friend. My parents loved the girl, but I knew she was evil and couldn't be trusted. That was what broke our very short-lived friendship.

"Did she call me a pet?" Tem arched a brow, a scowl forming on his face.

I nodded, shrugging my shoulders quickly. "She did. I'm not sure hate is strong enough of a word..."

"I second that." Tem agreed.

"Does that mean I can set her hair on fire!?" Evon was practically begging us for permission, his eyes wide and hopeful.

"Go for it." Temry grinned, and I gave him a high five.

"There we go!" I announced dramatically. "He's back, my friends!"

"Shut up." The blonde laughed, shaking his head lightly. "Let's get inside before they mark us late. Again." I couldn't argue with such sound logic, and skipping class, regardless of the fact that it was my birthday, would be frowned upon by my professors.

"Make sure you get her good!" I whispered to Evon as we passed over the threshold into the vast training room, grinning widely and giving him a little wink. "Remember... it is my birthday."

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