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 !)

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21. A Little Venture

The woman was running through the trees, screaming out curses as her heart pounded, silver hair like a waterfall about her shoulders. Golden leaves were littered on the forest floor, wet and slippery as she ran, hands shaking as she clung onto trees, trying to regain her balance and her breath. The footsteps were still pounding behind her and she started running again, tears stinging her eyes as she fought the harsh wind and the rain beginning to spit on her like the clouds thought her distasteful.

 

She was sick. Sick of all those people talking in the village, sick of all this noise that surrounded her like the black, cavernous sky. Tired of all the questions they're asking, of always, constantly, being bossed around. Now her mind was open wide, begging for someone to listen, to hear her, just waiting for someone to put a gag around it to try and shut her up.. She was already choking on the words that hadn't even yet spilled from her mouth like sugar. Yet she knew there was no use crying about this tragic demise that was as inevitable and mad as the stars and the moon above her in the inky darkness. 

 

They were catching up to her now - the palace guards - and one of them grabbed her by the wrist, tightening his grip until she thought her bones may shatter. "Where are you going?" he asked, and she was surprised by how young his voice sounded, like honey and lemon tea.

 

"I'm headed for the castle," she said, making certain to enunciate every word. "I believed I was being chased by one of those monsters I was warned of - the wolves in the trees."

 

It wasn't true, of course. She wasn't running from the monsters. On the contrary, she was running towards them, towards the demon that lay in wait at the palace, prepared to kill her at the first chance they got, like she was nothing more than an idle, boring life consumed by a madness that made her all the more disposable.

 

The guard didn't believe her. They pulled her by the wrist towards a tree, and she grabbed it  as her face smashed into the rough, coarse bark and all she could see was  darkness.

 

Rune awoke in a cold sweat. Her heart was pounding, forehead slick with sweat as her cheeks were wet. She hoped it wasn't with tears. Across the room, Suzanne sat hunched over her desk, a light shining on endless pages of sheet music. Rune wasn't sure if she was awake or not.

 

Her phone's lock screen was alight where it lay on the bedside table, illuminating the room in a blue light. She heaved herself over to it, reading the messages on the group chat she still hadn't left. Chantelle was saying something about a party; they all seemed to be pretty excited. With a huff, she opened up the chat, and left it. No one would miss her there anyway.

 

Though she lay her head back down on the pillow, she could not find herself able to fall back asleep. Lights danced before her closed eyes, and eventually she huffed, throwing off her covers. Suzanne didn't move an inch.

 

She tiptoed across the room and out the door. No lights shone on the floor, but after last time, Rune had no particular desire to let her fire guide her way. She'd learnt her lesson when she'd first met Avery and just about leapt out of her skin. Besides, she knew the way to the library well enough by now; and that was where she was headed.

 

She crept down the stairs, careful not to let any floorboards creak and give away her presence. In all technicalities, students weren't allowed down to the library in the middle of the night, but that had never seemed to stop any of them before, and Rune was not about to be the first to wimp out of going to the library. The library door was already a slight bitt ajar when she arrived, for which Rune was thankful. Less movement, less noise.

 

As she stole inside the gap between the door and the frame, she spied a shadow at the other wall of the library, hunched over a book in a manner that Rune couldn't define as asleep or awake. Maybe it was harder to do now that she feared both in equal measure. Though her head told her it was a bad idea, though protestations raged against her like an icy wind of shattered glass, she walked over to where the figure was sitting.

The figure looked up, and bright green eyes shone at her. "Hello?" he said, frowning as he stood up. "Are you alright?"

Rune's breath caught in her throat. Those eyes looked familiar, though she couldn't quite pinpoint where from. "Oh aye, ah'm fine, sorry. Ah, um, ah thought you were someyin else. Ah didnae mean the disturb ye."

He blinked. "What?"

Rune sighed. "Sorry. Ah - I - thought you were somebody else."

"Oh. Well, that's okay, I guess." Rune fidgeted with a fraying thread from her sleeve. "You're friends with that Laelia girl, aren't you? The ginger who does football?"

"Oh, aye. Ah - I am," Rune mumbled.

"Cool. I'm on the boys' team, or at least I was last year." His eyes glinted green. "Do you want to sit down? I can scoot up if you'd like?"

Despite having been told to always avoid sitting next to strangers if there was another seat free, Rune couldn't be bothered searching for somewhere else to sit. "Thanks," she said, sitting down close enough to him that if she were to move even a millimetre to the left they'd be touching. "I'm Rune, by the way."

"Blair," he replied. "Blair McCormack. I'm in fifth year."

"Fourth. Ah just started this term anno."

"Oh really? That's cool. You know, you're a bit late starting for a fourth year, are you no? I mean, most people are already settled by the time they get to this stage. Not that it's bad you're here, I don't mean that, it's just... I'm curious, I guess." Blair giggled as his face came into the light. Pale blond hair was swept over his green eyes, weather beaten tan running around his red lips and Blair's cutting jaw.

"Yeah, well, things happened at ma old school - ah dinnae really like talking about it - but ma parents and I decided it'd be better if ah just moved here instead. Fresh start and aw ae that, you ken?"

Blair nodded. "Look, Rune," he said with a gentle smile. "Do you want to stay down here for a while? I was going to go back up soon, but you look upset and if it'd make you feel more comfortable if you don't want to go back to your room, then I guess you can just stay here for a wee bit?"
 

 Rune blinked, "I - if you're sure. Sorry, I don't mean to be annoying, I just came down here to do some reading. I can't stay in my room right now. Everything's just too loud, you ken?"

"Yeah."

She tapped her fingers on the table, drumming her way up to a crescendo, before pushing the seat back with a clatter and going off in search of a book she'd spotted a couple of days before, something about a kind of game. Rhia had recommended it to her before the fire, and Rune figured now was as good a time as any to read it.

Returning to the table, Blair was grinning there, staring at her with what looked like a smirk. She noted that Blair had also brought another chair up to beside his. "I figured it'd be easier for you to sit. I - is that alright?"

"Yeah. No, sorry, ah should've gotten a chair in the first place. That wid rude ae me."

"No, no, it's fine, honest, Rune," Blair laughed. "Come on, just sit down. You look like you'll collapse in a minute if you don't."

"Ah - "

Before she could say anything more, Blair grabbed her hand and pulled her down onto the seat beside him, smirking as she grumbled. He was getting a little bit annoying, though Rune couldn't help but smile a little as his eyes softened into melting emeralds.

"Sorry," he laughed. "But you really did look as though you were going to faint."

Rune forced out what she hoped sounded like a light hearted giggle. "Don't worry about it. Now can I just read now, or is it too much to ask?"

"As you wish," Blair laughed, as he turned away from her and leant back over his work sprawled over the table.

Rune cracked open the book's spine, the jacket slipping under her fingers as they always did. She thrummed on the desk with an absent mind, eyes barely glazing over the words on the page, eyelids drooping with a tiredness she struggled against fruitlessly. She had to stay awake, she knew. Stay awake.

She continued reading. From what she gathered, the main character was quite a bitch, constantly attacking others with words that Rune could not quite make sense of for their complexities. The paper seemed worn and old, though Rune was sure it was supposed to be a newer publication. Perhaps it was just well loved.

A couple of chapters in, she began to grow restless, noting how Blair's breathing had grown heavy next to her. She snapped the book shut and he jumped from his seat, turning to her with startled eyes. "Sorry," she laughed. "Yi'd fallen asleep, ah hink."

"Oh. What time's it?"

She checked her phone. "Half two."

"Wonderful. Well, I'm going upstairs to bed now. Would you like to come?"

Rune snorted, mind jumping horribly to awful thoughts. "I have to politely decline, Blair, my dear. You're no really... My type."

"That's an awful shame, Rune. I'll have to change my ways then, I suppose." To Rune's horror, he winked at her and grabbed her hand. "Come on." He swiftly gathered his folders under his arm and before Rune could move away, he was dragging her up the stairs as she squealed.

They stopped at the fourth floor landing, Rune whipping her hand out of Blair's grasp. "Sorry, darling," she drawled, letting a breathless laugh out at his startled green eyes. "But you'll have to try harder than that to get me. Don't follow me to bed, please."

With exhaustion clouding her thoughts, she turned away, resisting the urge to look back at the astounded look on Blair McCormack's face. "Say hi to Laelia for me!" he said, and Rune could almost hear the mirthful smirk he no doubt wore upon his lips.

"Anything for you, sweetie," she laughed, returning to the room she shared with Suzanne, who sat upon her bed with an entirely irritated expression.

"You have got to stop disappearing in the middle of the night, Rune," she said. Though Rune tried to find traces of laughter in her voice, it became evident that there were none. "We were worried."

"We?"

"I texted Laelia." She patted the space beside her on the bed and Rune sat, trying to maintain her posture. "What's wrong, Rune?"

Her shoulders sagged. "Oh, ah dinna ken. It's just - this is all so weird and - God it's aenly been a couple of weeks since ah started here, it's crazy - everything's just moving so fast and I can barely keep up and ah miss ma friends back home and I just - I'm scared, I guess. And tired. And I don't fit in, I know I don't, and it's just so strange because you all speak so weirdly and it's strange and ah dinnae - I don't understand it."

She found her eyes were misting over, tears trickling down her cheeks. "Hey, it's okay, Rune. I know it's hard, but we're all here for you, okay? You're our friend."

Rune bit back a sob, as Suzanne pulled her in for a hug. "Thank you," she said through shaking sobs.

"Anytime."

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