Episode 1: A Change of Pace

         The chill in the air that spread over the valley of Patnah was carried in on the back of a seemingly endless train of rain and wind. Vestria had lived in these parts long enough to know that this was an unusual weather pattern, and she saw concern from several of the younger citizens. The older villagers seemed unimpressed with the dark clouds that loomed overhead, so she decided to trust their wisdom for the time being. She used the time indoors to pour over the records of Sionis Sepher. Vestria had been living here, listening to the Flamecaller’s tale for literal years now, but the time had nearly come. At the close of his last meeting, he’d reached the part of the story where Keaira, a powerful Yunai, had formed an army that she called her Legion. The story of the Flamecaller during this time… was not as exciting as she hoped. It turned out, the Flamecaller had become a Headmaster…. during a war.

She knew there was a story behind this. She couldn’t wait to hear it out, but the storms were strong, and getting from town to Sepher’s farm wouldn’t be an easy trek. She’d put it off for weeks now. The days and nights had started to blend together in the monsoon. She had told herself it would break soon. It would be over eventually, but here they were, still raging. She finally decided she’d had enough.

The inn was packed with travelers, all of them stuck indoors while the storms loomed. Vestria marched past them, the bar, and whipped open the door with as much determination as she could muster. The cold raid blew right into her face, and she couldn’t help but wonder if this was the right call. Still, the other travelers were staring at her now, so she felt compelled.

         “You really going out?” someone asked her as she approached the door.

         “I am.”

         “You’ll want to steer clear of the mud,” the stranger said. “It’s slick, and much deeper than you might assume. Stay on rocky terrain out there.”

         She thanked the man for the unsolicited advice, then stepped out on the covered porch. She discovered, instantly, that the covering was of little use, as the water was swept up and under the roof thanks to the powerful winds.

         She looked out in the direction of Sionis’ farm, and wondered if she could even make it that far. She had made the trek dozens of times, many times in the dead of night, but it was different now. The trees swayed back and forth, the ground shifted as water swirled on the roads, and the sheets of rain made visibility a thing of the past.

         Still, she had a job to do, and if that meant braving a storm, so be it.

         She checked her waterproof satchel and then put her head down and rushed out into the storm, hoping that she wasn’t making a terrible mistake.

         Sionis Sepher sat at his quaint dinner table, taking a sip from one of his last batches of tea. He’d always kept a good surplus of dried leaves around, but the last of it had been used up days ago. He’d resorted to a few leftovers that had either been gifted to him, or purchased on a whim from a traveling salesman.

         None of them tasted any good, but it was all he had. He took another terrible sip, then nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a thundering noise at his door. He rushed over and swung it open to see Vestria standing there, completely soaked to the bone, pale as a ghost where mud didn’t cover her. She managed a feeble smile at the Flamecaller, then asked, “Might I come in?”

         Sionis pulled her inside and used a quick spell to remove the mud and dirt from her clothing. He boiled some water using a quick fire spell, then doused a few towels with the warm water before wrapping the young woman inside so that she could warm up for a few moments.

         “What in the world are you doing out here?” Sionis asked, setting Vestria at his table while the warm water did its work. “Surely you realize there’s a storm out there?”

         “Oh?” she asked, his face grumpy. “I didn’t realize…”

         He chuckled at the response, then pulled up a chair next to her. “You’re a brave soul. Tell me you didn’t charge all the way here through a monsoon just to hear another story?”

         “Bingo,” Vestria replied. “Even brought my scrolls, assuming the waterproof bag held up in that mess.”

         “I’m impressed.”

         “Good. Then tell me what happened next. Tell me what happened after you returned from Xernia.”

         Sionis smiled, then nodded. “Alright. I can do that, but this next adventure gets a little more complicated than the last. There are more characters, more scenes to describe… more pieces to the puzzle than simply one Flamecaller on an adventure.”

         “Does it have anything to do with a wand?” she asked.

         Sionis nodded. “Indeed. The wand is part of the tale, though not as early as you might hope. Before we can get there, we must first learn a little more about Iliera, Fynn, myself, and how we created the Academy of Hope.”

         Vestria pulled the warm towels off and looked at Sionis with eager eyes. “I need to change and get my scrolls, but I don’t want to hold you up. So, you go ahead and start at the beginning. Tell me everything about what came next.”

         Sionis contemplated this, looking outside his window to see the wind and rain. Then, he chuckled to himself and stood up. “Let me grab you a change of clothes, and then I’ll get started.”

         Vestria waited while Sepher fished out an older robe and belt to fasten it. Once that was finished, Vestria quickly shed her wet outfit and changed into the robe. She was happy to be rid of the wet garments, but she hung them up as directed by Sionis so that she would be able to change back before she left.

         “Okay,” Sionis said, reclaiming his seat at the dining table. “So, to explain the Academy, we need to go back a little bit. I’d say… ten thousand years, give or take a few centuries. It all started in the Besherman empire of old…”         

To be continued…

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