Lost to the Flames (On Hold)

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. (Amazing cover is by @Infinite_Exho !)


20. A Little Story

By Saturday, Suzanne was ready to pass out from stress. Over the course of the past week, Rune had been unconscious because of her godforsaken clumsiness, Laelia had broken down into tears over their maths homework they'd been given and Avery had freaked out completely over the possibility that he had hurt the mother of all evil, Giselle Maxine Baker. Adding to that the unprecedented amount of homework they had been assigned, by the time Saturday came around, she was prepared to just fall asleep on Laelia's shoulder and never wake up.


It seemed, as she let her eyes open in a café on the high street, that this was exactly the case, and that Laelia found it 'super cute' which wasn't quite her intention, but she couldn't complain about a compliment from her. "You seem a bit tired," Laelia giggled, brushing hair out of her girlfriend's face. Laelia herself had decided to get her hair cut earlier that day, and it was now cropped even shorter than Avery's. Suzanne had to admit, it looked amazing on her. "Are you sure you don't just want to go back up to school instead of meeting the others in the library later?"


"No, I'm fine, Laelia, really. Are you going to finish that?" She pointed to Laelia's coffee, which was only half drank. With a sigh, Laelia slid it over to Suzanne;s side of the table.


"You can have the rest. Looks like you need it." With a weak smile, Suzanne took the cup to her lips and swallowed almost it all down in one gulp, sighing with content when she finished.


"Thank you," she whispered to Laelia, slipping her hand into hers. "Now, come on, or we'll be late meeting the others."


Despite Laelia's apparent worries over being late, the two of them took their time walking down the street to the library, fingers entwined with one another as they smiled into the slowly dying sun and danced over the ancient cobbles. The library doors had been flung open to account for the unexpected late summer sun, though Suzanne was thankful for the cool of the shade as they entered, immediately spying Rune and Avery in a far corner, sitting at a table. Crossing over to where their friends were sitting, the two girls drew up two chairs, and an extra one for Jesse who was meeting them outside for the first time in many months.


"Hey, you two," Laelia said, which seemed to startle Rune somewhat. "Jesse not here yet?"


Rune frowned. "No. We assumed he'd be with you two."


"Oh. Well, I'm sure he'll get here in a minute."

"Yeah." Suzanne watched as Rune thrummed her fingers on the table, each nail like a stark red claw as it danced across the wood. She tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, and Suzanne frowned as she saw her edging ever so slightly closer to the desk, hunching her shoulders, as Jesse strode towards them. 


"Hello, you four," Jesse said, as he scraped an old chair across the ground, earning a glare from the librarian. "We are all feeling better, I presume?" He looked pointedly at Rune, who ducked her head in embarrassment, pursing her lips.


"Yup," she murmured, then turned to Jesse with a beaming smile plastered on her face like bright red paint. "Ahm feeling much better now, Jesse. You?"


Jesse smiled a crooked smile, and Suzanne shivered. "I'm wonderful, thank you for asking. Now, why is it that we're all here again, Avery?"


"Rune and I - well, we discovered something in a book she borrowed. It's - well, I'll let her show you."


Rune pulled an ancient book from her bag, one of those ones that looks as though it could be from ancient Greek times if they had books like this back then, its fine and yellowing pages bound in a cracking, flaking leather cover, an illegible title engraved in shimmering golden ink that had dried into the cover long ago. "Right. Well, ye have tae be careful wi this book - ah think it could honestly fall apart in a second - but it kindae wis in this yin chapter that... Well, it's a bit like a fairytale, I guess, but, like... not. Look, ah'll just read it."


She took a deep breath, as though readying herself for a storm, a hurricane tat threatened to obliterate her entire existence. And then, she spoke and it was more like a song than a story and Suzanne could hear the fire crackling in Rune's voice.


"Once upon a time," she began to read, with a grimace, "there wis - was, sorry, was - a fair young maiden with eyes as grey as the stormy sea and hair as dark as the clouds. She was envied by all who knew of her, loved by all who knew her, but for one solitary woman. This woman was known to be the town's witch, a madwoman who liked to lock herself away in an old stone tower and listen to the fierce winds rattling her ancient bones. However, unbeknownst to the townspeople, this woman was a banshee, meant to try to save them all from an inevitable, terrible fate they were all doomed to if they did not believe in her words. Though she was met with much aversion, she would continue to insist that the young maiden was not all she seemed, that she was a devil in disguise waiting for her chance to wipe out the town and destroy them all.


"The woman, who was by that point known as the mad old witch in the tower, took it upon herself to travel to the local king's castle and demand that he listen to her warnings, but as she arrived she was met with hatred from the guards and an army of townspeople at her heels, ready to kill her for her unkind words against the town's only jewel. However, the king let the witch through his gates, on the condition that she allow one of the villagers to come with her to tell him their - "


"Rune, does this story have any point at all to it?" Laelia asked, as Suzanne nodded with an exasperated sigh. "I mean, I don't mean to be rude, but I think we're all about to fall asleep."


"Aye sorry, it does. Eh, if yi just let me go on... Right.


"However, the kind let the witch through the gates, on the condition that she allow one of the villagers to come with her to tell him their thoughts about the old witch and the young maiden. To his surprise, it was the young maiden whom the banshee allowed to accompany her into the king's castle. When they finally arrived in the king's throne room, he saw straight away what the two of them were, for he too had been gifted with such powers as they, though his were of nature; fire, earth, ice and air and everything in between. Once the king realised that the young maiden was in fact a selkie, and the old witch a banshee, he was confused, for although his instinct told him to trust the beautiful young maiden, his head told him to see clearly and to believe the banshee. Eventually, the shouts from the villagers overwhelmed him and he succumbed to the selkie's charms, and asked her to marry him."


God this king is an idiot, Suzanne thought to herself.


"The banshee was cast away into the castle's dungeons, though the king instructed his guards carefully not to cause her any harm, and to obey all her wishes which did not compromise her captivity. Not long after this all occurred, other the women were with child, and though for the maiden it was clear that the king was the father, there was much debate over  the father of the banshee's child. When the two children were born, both came into the world with light in them, though while the maiden's child was doted upon by her parents and her kingdom, the banshee's son was met with nothing but disgust as the court began to speculate on how she cursed the king into giving her a child to destroy him and his kingdom.


"Once the young maiden - the selkie - got wind of these rumours, she flew into a rage, angered by her husband's distrust and the witch's deceit. Wild with anger, she stormed to the dungeons, and held a knife to the banshee's throat, though for some reason she could not harm the child. Hatred in her bones, she took the banshee up to the highest tower of the castle and told her to leap from it, holding a torch in her hands. Though the banshee struggled and fought, eventually she fell, screaming all the way to the ground, where she died immediately. No one mourned for her, and her child was hidden away by the king, in an effort to protect this young boy from a death like his mother's.


"Once both the children had grown up and come of age, it was discovered that they too possessed strong powers like their parents before them. While the daughter of the king and queen blossomed and demonstrated her powers as she wished, much to the adoration of her people, the banshee's son was met with hatred, for his powers were not a blessing but a curse, and he left the castle one day, never to be seen again. Over the years, the king's daughter had become great friends with the son of the banshee, and when he left she was heartbroken, and in despair went up to the highest tower of the castle, to look down on the village before her and watch over where she was sure her friend would be. That day rolled into that night, and she was soon met by a strange woman, a ghost of silver and grey in the air.


"But the princess was not afraid. This woman told her that if she used her powers against her mother, she would be able to find her friend again, and finally confide in him the secrets she'd been holding in about the true extent of her powers. The princess agreed, for although she cared for her mother, she had seen her abuse of the king and of the servants in their castle, and knew that her mother was not as good a person as she had once pretended to be.


"A short while later, the princess stole into her mother's chambers while the king was away on official business, and awoke her with the light from her fire, setting the room ablaze and running away to find the ghost on the tower, who held her oldest friend in her arms, singing him a lullaby. The princess smiled as she saw them, and took her friend by the hand. She told him of how she had frightened her mother, and of the fire below them, and the young man was shocked, running away to try and fix this.


"The princess asked the banshee's ghost why he had reacted so, and told her that he knew of the queen's darkness, and believed it now lay within the princess herself. Though the two eventually saved the staff of the castle,. the queen was dead and the king died soon after, leaving the crown to the princess alone, as she became queen. She was a kind and benevolent ruler, but even though the banshee's son left the castle to marry a young woman from a few villages away from the castle, he never forgot the night that he found his mother on the castle tower, singing to him as the queen he once loved like a sister let her own mother burn. He knew that had it not been for his forewarnings and his own powers, many more would have died.


"Many years passed and so did the princess and the banshee's son, though as they lived on as ghosts they each spread their magic around the village, where many villagers left and took the magic with them on their travels, spreading it to all corners of the Earth. Though the village was eventually destroyed by invaders from the South, and large parts of the castle obliterated, the name of the town lived on an rebuilt itself upon the foundations of catacombs of those who died from their magic, with only the banshee's ghost left to see them safe in the little town of Borthwick."


Rune's eyes were smothered by smoke. Suzanne tried to catch her eye, tried to frown, but Rune's eyes were fixed only on Jesse.  "Have ye ever heard of this legend, Jesse? The book's ancient, so we thought maybe yi'd ken aboot it, and it just ... It feels familiar, like we ken it, and ah suppose we do and I mean, ah can guess at kindae what it means but... How much ae it's true?"


A deep frown was etched onto Jesse's forehead. He tilted his head as a lazy smile danced over his lips. "Very little is true, Rune, I'm sure. It sounds just like a fairytale, as you said, though perhaps there is some elements of truth in it - we know this village was destroyed, and the castle harmed, as well as the catacombs and powers of natures from the king. But as far as anyone knows, the banshee and the selkie never existed, nor did their powers. You've heard of them before, haven't you, in fairy stories? Well, that's just what they are. Now, is there anything else you need to say?" Rune cast her eyes down. "Look, I know you were just trying to help, and I appreciate that. But I'm afraid it's not true. If you see anything else strange like that again, you don't have to wait for everyone - you can come down to see me at any time. That goes for all of you. Now, I must leave now - I've left the tunnels for too long. I'll see you on Tuesday night, if that is possible for you all?"


They nodded as Jesse smiled and left them, his long coat billowing out behind him. It left a draught hanging in the air, as Suzanne cleared her throat. To her annoyance, her hands were shaking, and she hid them beneath the table. "Well, is there anything else you guys have found?" Avery and Rune shook their heads. "Okay, then. Look, what do you say we all go back up to school? I think we're all tired, and I could really use a nap right now."


She took their silent, dreary nods as a yes, and stood up. The other three followed suit, grabbing their bags and following Suzanne back up the winding path to the school. She felt a shiver as she cast her eyes over to where the castle stood on its perch, and she could have sworn she heard a scream.


Then again, maybe it was just the wind.

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