Lost to the Flames

Meet Rune Oakes: notoriously badly behaved, too smart for her own good, and the new fourth year at prestigious Borthwick Academy Boarding School. But when you're told you're destined to be a murderer, how can you begin to fit in at a school for the best pupils in the country? And even worse, how can you stop yourself from getting close. As Rune tries to stop herself from getting too attached, she becomes caught up in a spiderweb of secrets, magic, and, perhaps most frighteningly of all, love.

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5. A Little Reading

Unfortunately, things didn't go quite as planned.

 

At dinner that evening, Giselle and Henry joined the four of them, Giselle next to Avery, and Henry directly across from a very uncomfortable Rune. "Avery," Giselle had said. "You said you'd come talk to me, but you didn't."

 

"I'm sorry," he admitted. "I just was busy. But we can talk now, can't we?"

 

Giselle rolled her eyes. "I meant, in private. Look, how about we have a date on Saturday, in this lovely little cafe in the town. Just the two of us."

 

"Uh, sure." Suzanne glared at him. "Um, I have to do some stuff earlier on, sort of, private stuff, you know, but I could meet you at about one o'clock?"

 

Giselle smiled and beamed as Rune rolled her eyes, huffing slightly as Avery's apparent incompetence.

 

But at least they were still going to read books for a little while alone in a library. What a consolation.

 

--

 

The town library was ancient. Gnarled wooden double doors stood at its entrance, with wrought iron handles. "So, this is the town library," Avery said, grinning. "The place where dreams come true."

 

"I'm sure Giselle would love to make her dreams come true with you in here." Rune strode past him, pushing open the doors to come face to face with one of the largest rooms she'd ever seen.

 

Bookshelves ran the length of the walls and more, dusty like they hadn't been taken from in years. Stained glass windows let in the light from outside, painted with fire and ice and a tantalising darkness. "This place has literally just about every book ever written, I swear. It's like the new Library of Alexandria. They've got history, foreign languages, fiction, just about everything."

 

Avery led her through the library, until he came to a door. "And this," he told Rune, with a silvery gleam in his eyes, "is the magic section."

 

She could practically feel the power in the room, pulsing inside of her, flooding with energy and fire and light. "Okay," was all she could think of to say. "So, what books am I to look for?"

 

"The books we all used," Avery said. "Through here, on the back shelf - magical energies. There's this really good one that helped me understand mine, 'The Elements in Magic, and how to Understand Them."

 

"I think that is quite possibly the longest title I've ever heard, do you know that?"

 

Avery chuckled, and ran around to fetch the book, before tossing it into Rune's arms. "I do now, yes. Now, it's easier to read in the main hall, come on."

 

Taking her hand, he led her out through the door and back in to the main, cavernous hall, plopping the book down on a mahogany desk, and drawing up two chairs for them. "You first, my lady," he chuckled.

 

"Why thank you, fine gentleman."

 

They sat down together, as Rune opened the book. "Fire," she read aloud from the contents page. "Page fifty seven."

 

Avery turned to the page, his hand brushing over Rune's bare arms as he did so. "Here's the list," he said, voice shaking a little bit, though Rune couldn't work out why. "I'm not sure if you'll necessarily have all of these powers, but you might." A grin spread over his face. "It's being added to all the time, like magic." He let out a laugh. "I need to check it for more discoveries for me, see if any stand out. That's how we know, by the way, what our powers are. We see them."

 

His arm touched Rune's, cold, and she shivered from it. She twirled her hair around her finger, absentmindedly, scanning the list.

 

"Manipulation of heat, fire and flames," she read. "Check - I've already tried that. Did you say I should just say the ones that stand out?"

 

"Yeah, that's a lot quicker." Avery looked nervous about something, wringing his wet palms together.

 

"I know you're nervous about meeting Giselle for you 'date'," Rune told him. "But seriously, don't stress it. She's not going to judge you for anything, and if she does, she's a bitch. Just be yourself and relax. If you want, I can get Suzanne and Laelia to help, but -"

 

"No. No, I'm fine just with you." He let the silver in his eyes grow stronger, as a darkness crossed his face. Running a hand through his hair, he shook his head. "Now, keep looking. What stands out?"

 

"Fire Breath," Rune said quickly, looking to him for judgement.

 

"Just keep going. Reel them off, I'll remember what they are for you."

 

"Geo-kinesis (volcanoes, wicked!) heliokinesis (isn't that, like, a Greek dude or something?) inflammation, self detonation (sorry, but that sounds fucking scary), pyrotechnics (isn't that, like, fireworks or something?)." She stopped abruptly, looking up to see Avery smiling absentmindedly, as though lost in his thoughts.

 

"That all?" Rune nodded. "Seven. I'm impressed, considering that's only one element. Were there any other sections that stuck out?"

 

"You sound like some sort of salesperson, Avery," she laughed, the sound echoing around the walls. "And, for the record, yeah - the light one."

 

"Light works." He nodded, cogs whirring. That would make sense - fire and light, the two things that went almost hand in hand against ice and darkness. But he didn't mention that, or the heavy weight pressing on his chest. "I think it's page one hundred and eighty or something."

 

As it happened, it was not page one hundred and eighty, but one hundred and eighty one, something that disappointed Avery greatly. "Light," he read. "These are the powers that are often found in light wielders." Rune gestured for him to continue - the way he spoke was, for some reason, fascinating to her.

 

"Hold up a finger when you hear one that stands out. Dark light manipulation. One finger up. "White light manipulation. Photokinesis." Another finger. "Force field generation." And another. After that, there was only one left - light absorption - that stood out to Rune. "Clearly, fire is your predominant element - you only got four here. But that's eleven powers in total - you did well."

 

Rune frowned for a moment, considering Avery. "How many do you have, then?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.

 

"Three elements," he told her, sounding rather boastful about it. "Ice, darkness, and water, though ice is my predominant element. I have six there, three in darkness, and one in water."

 

Something began to cloud Rune's head, like a fog settling over her mind, cool and calming. Her heart began beating faster. "Show me, then," she said shakily.

 

"Not here," Avery hissed.

 

"In there, then." She pointed to the magic room from which they'd gotten the books. "Please?"

 

He grinned reluctantly, and stood, book under one arm. "Come on then. If you really want to see some magic tricks."

 

The room was still deserted, and Rune leant against a stone wall, Avery facing her. Her heart hammered in her chest, but her thought were struggling to get through the mist around her. "Are you sure you want to see this? All of it, I mean - I don't want to scare you."

 

"You couldn't scare me if you tried, Ave," Rune laughed.

 

He raised an eyebrow. "Ave?"

 

"Just do it."

 

 

His breathing got shallow, as he spread his palms out to face Rune. "Before I do it, I just want to tell you what it is I'm going to do. I'm going to create some ice, and some snow, and then I'm going to play with it." He smirked. "I can freeze things in ice, I can move the ice and snow around as I please, make the snow fall on us. I'll make the temperature drop, and I'll move the temperature around like beams of ice. Make sure you're staying warm."

 

And indeed he did.

 

Beneath Rune's feet, ice and snow began to appear, sprouting like frozen plants from the earth, covering the room. Concentration was etched with a frozen pencil onto Avery's face, his silver eyes becoming paler, almost white. Snow began falling from the ceiling, landing on Rune's hair, her nose, and she shivered, for a moment, before she was smacked in the face by a snowball.

 

"Told you I'd have a little play with the snow," Avery smirked, as Rune opened her mouth in disbelief.

 

"You little -"

 

"Hey, missy, watch that language - ah."

 

Rune had scooped up as much snow as she could and launched it at Avery, who stumbled into a bookcase. "Hey! I was off guard!"

 

"So was I!"

 

Soon, the room descended into a flurry of snow, flying everywhere and sticking to clothes and books and the fragile strings of teenage bliss. And Rune collapsed to the floor in laughter at Avery, who'd just been caught by a snowball in the mouth, and he fell down right beside her, throwing around the snow, until she said, "It's cold," and the snow immediately vanished.

 

"Well, we can't have that, now, can we, missy?" Avery laughed, though it was cut short by a look at the clock. "Oh my god!" he said, as Rune turned to look at him. "I'm supposed to meet Giselle in, like, two minutes."

 

"Well, then you'd better get up then!" Rune laughed, hauling him to his feet. "Quick, I'll sort out the books in here - some are a bit squeiff - and you run to the cafe." He turned, but she stopped him, combing her hands through his hair. "You've got snow in your hair," she laughed, as she shoved him away, albeit gently. "Now, it's sorted. Hurry!"

 

"Thanks, Rune. Tell the other two I hope they had fun earlier!" He ran to the door, yanked it open, and dashed through the library, earning s few strange looks as Rune put the books back on the shelves.

 

The warm August weather was quite a contrast to the snow inside, but for once he was a little glad. When he'd flung that snow around, he hadn't actually meant to hit Rune, and his heart had skipped a beat thinking she'd scream at him for doing so. Even now, he sighed a breath of relief that she'd been so calm.

 

Somehow, his feet dragged him to the cafe where he was meeting Giselle. She was already there, and his heart sank into his stomach. "I'm sorry I'm late, Giselle," he pleaded. "I got caught up at the library, and - "

 

"It's fine," she said, placing a finger on his cool lips. "You're not that late, and besides, I know you need to study. God knows I do too. Maybe I could come to the library with you next week." She smiled daintily, like a great big bundle of sweetness and sugar wrapped up with a bow.

 

"Sure," Avery said, as she slipped her hand into his, intertwining their fingers. "I'd love that."

 

Smiling in an almost triumphant way, she placed a quick kiss on his lips, before leading him into the cafe. "Oh, don't look so confused, Avery," she giggled. "You can still kiss me again if you want to."

 

A slow, slightly uneasy smile glazed over his lips. "I'll be sure to take you up on that offer. But first, what do you want to drink?"

 

Another giggled escaped Giselle. "Whatever you're having, I guess," she said.

 

Avery's eyes scanned the chalky menu quickly, before settling on the standard hot chocolate. One pound fifty each. That was fine. "Hot chocolate?"

 

Giselle nodded, and he walked to the counter.

 

"Two hot chocolates," he said to the woman behind the counter.

 

"In this weather?" she laughed.

 

"Yup. Never too warm for a hot chocolate, I say."

 

The woman laughed again, as she set about making their drinks. Avery cast a look back at Giselle, who was tapping her fingers on the table, eyes darting to him every couple of seconds. "Would you like whipped cream with those, love?" she asked. "Or marshmallows?"

 

He looked at Giselle. She seemed like a marshmallows and whipped cream kind of person. But he still had to ask. "Giselle?" he called. "Marshmallows and whipped cream?" She nodded, smiling through her shining eyes. "Yeah," he said. "Marshmallows and whipped cream, and just marshmallows on one."

 

He carried the drinks back to the table, where Giselle patted the space next to her on the seat. "I'll squash up," she smiled.

 

Gladly, Avery accepted the offer, and put his arm around her, copying the guy at a table nearby in what he hoped was a subtle fashion. Giselle leaned her head onto his shoulder, as she took a sip of her drink, whipped cream covering her face. Looking at her, Avery burst out laughing.

 

"What?" she asked, eyes widening in hurt.

 

"You're covered in whipped cream, Giselle," he laughed, reaching his hand out to wipe some of it away from her cheeks.

 

She threw back her head and laughed. "Is that not normal for someone who's drinking hot chocolate?" Avery shrugged. "Come here," she said, pulling him closer to her, both of them beginning to smile slightly. "I'd rather you got the cream off with your lips than with your fingers."

 

Her lips met his, sweet, soft, whipped cream dancing its way into his upper lip. It tickled, but he didn't pull away, instead he held Giselle closer, as their tongues battled, whipped cream sweetening the kiss. But as he pulled away, he saw something flash in the corner of his eye that made his heart race just for a second.

 

Amber streaking across the street, like a fleeting fire burning itself to death.

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