Chapter 2: Trapped in a tower... gotta love it.
"Magic is unnatural and must be treated as such, magic is dangerous and unpredictable, and magic is a curse and not a blessing in the celestial's eyes unless these celestials are unworthy to the temple, which are of course known as demons, which should never be worshipped, lest they strike you down for the practise of necromancy and dark occult magic!"
Alyria rolled her eyes straight up to the ceiling, her and Nelarosan's instructor recited this code every morning her rasped voice breaking any hope to wander off into a different thought, the class chorusing along in time, making sure not to slip up or else be caned or even worse shocked by the menacing baton that all of the important humans in the tower such as the guard commanders and instructors held at all times by their sides in an dreary looking brown leather strap belt.
Alyria felt bored with this reciting and had developed a way to make it fun over the years, she would add "unless you're a human" at the end of every sentence, muttering it so only her classmates could hear. Most of the younger Nymphs and Sylphs that probably hadn't heard it before as they were new or simply found it funny again giggled quietly, while others who had heard it for years and were now sick of it would simply shake their heads in despair. The instructor, an aged woman with greying black hair wisped into a smart stiff bun was a firm and strict woman like all of the other instructors.
Her ears pricked up like sonar and they detected smart mouth and she knew exactly who it was. "Miss BrimeStone!" Her rasped voice was like a whip, cracking the now still air. "Yes miss?" Alyria asked innocently, her eyes purposely made larger, head cocked to the side as though she had no idea what the Instructor could possibly want with her. Nelarosan shook his head nervously at the instructor silently pleading with her not to punish Alyria again. "What did you say? Repeat it now and you shant be punished" The instructor used a finger to prop up her gold rimmed spectacles, eyes still fixed in a strict glare towards a sly mouthed Alyria.
'The instructor just gave her a loop hole, come on take it...' Nelarosan begged to himself, hoping that Alyria would swallow her pride and just repeat it. Wait did he really just hope for Alyria to do that? Nelarosan gave out a more audible sigh than he had intended to. "But miss I didn't say anything, well ok I did say that your hair is becoming a nice grey real good look for you" The Instructor furrowed her brow into a crinkled mass of rage at this insensitive comment towards her greying hair, which she was keeping in as good condition as one her age could and wordlessly whacked Alyria on the knee with her cane. Alyria sprawled on the ground screaming and rolling about as though the instructor had used a sword.
Nelarosan had to admit she was a good actor and it was slightly amusing, but still a childish thing to do. But her stubbornness was also one of the reasons why he liked her and they had remained friends for so many years.
He couldn't contain his laughter, trying to keep a stern disapproving face he failed letting out a few sniggers along with the rest of the restless class. The instructor had had enough with the disruptions Alyria had caused and grabbed Alyria by her the ear twisting it bluntly and dragging her out of the class for a lecture, not to mention beat her once more with the cane for that hair comment.
Class was now almost over so Alyria just stood outside slumped against one of the dreary walls waiting for Nelarosan.
She could see him easily through the crowd of students, he was about a head taller than all of them; he was still shaking his head in disbelief, clutching a heavy looking set of books. "Well today was good huh?" Alyria met Nelarosan's serious demeanour with a wide cat like smile. In fact it had actually been one of the best days Alyria had had in the last eight years spent in the tower, which in retrospect was kind of sad.
Even though she had Nelarosan, he wasn't exactly the best to have conversations about personal things- like women's issues- she wished she could talk to someone but all the girls in the tower avoided her.
Mainly because when she was younger she would toss food across the courtyard and most girls hate having to fling mashed potatoes out of their hair.
They had a sexual education class, but it raised more questions for her than it answered, and putting your hand up meant to endure all the other girls intense staring and giggling. The teacher was stern and withered, and even though the subject was tender spoke of it like it was text book theory.
If she tried to strike up a conversation involving the classes to Nelarosan, he would give her a harrowed glance eyes widening and plant his crisp crimson cheeks into a book of which it took him hours to read the one page.
She still missed her elder sister Atheniny and her father Orlin back in Stonehaven, their faces seemed distant in her thoughts their voices hollow words mixed and distorted.
Her thoughts would cry out in pain if she attempted to claw at her memories and drag them back into the light, receding into the depths of her mind.
Only years before so warm and close easily dipped into when upset or uncertain now lost. "Alyria why?!" Nelarosan coldly snapped, Alyria waking to her surroundings, her expression blank as though she were trying to catalogue everything around her.
"Why what?" Alyria asked trying again to look innocent, not to mention she actually hadn't been paying attention. He didn't buy it and was now giving her a strict frown. Damn, her sister Atheniny was always the pathetic looking one.
"You now not everything is a joke you know?" Nelarosan's patience was thinning. Alyria clenched her jaw as she realised that Nelarosan had been speaking for several minutes, his rant trying to be a lecture. She had enough of his lectures. They were boring and countless. "Oh yes I agree completely- but that was a joke!" Alyria retorted brushing past a stern Nelarosan, who could not follow her as his arms were filled to the brim with scripture and several peeling leather bound books. Alyria clambered up the flight of stairs after giving Nelarosan a last glance and a poke of her tongue, that lead to the apprentice's quarter's hall. The hall always made Alyria feel awkward, it was a slim slither of hollow wood that squeaked and made you have to pin yourself to a nearby concrete wall if someone was trying to enter or leave at the same time. The doors began to line all along the walls one after another in the same spaces leaving a small slab of concrete between each one. They would leave the doors unlocked in the day and lock them in night, which meant that a lot of things went missing from one another's rooms from guards or even other students. A few years back Alyria had stolen a key from one of the guards, and found out from 'accidently' jamming the key into another classmates door knob, that the guards used the same key for each door.
The door only locked from the outside, so locking and unlocking the door was a struggle and if you weren't careful you could lock yourself out, or in.
To get in however was an easy task, and while eyeing around her to make sure that the other students wouldn't find out that she had a key twisted the door open.
Alyria dumped her book bag onto the floor, ignoring the homework she had to hand in tomorrow wandering to the velvet seated window box. The window box was a tiny one seat drafted frame, the windows looked as though they hadn't been cleaned in centuries thick bands of dust caked around the edges of the glass. Finger prints and scratches had enveloped from Alyria pawing at the glass to try and make it visible to look out She sat there sighing. It was snowing; the worst thing about the tower was never being able to go outside. Not even on the grounds, they used to apparently let everyone out- or so the senior children liked to say constantly in the mess hall.
One of the more widely spread and believed stories was that they were all allowed outside because of the massive now non-existent barred gates all along the tower.
As the story went on it spoke of how one of the more powerful elder children who would now be an adult at this all had supposedly happened when the senior students were all their age, the boy's name was changed again and again the most common name given was Art. Art was very powerful and with his magic, mainly it was said to be fire- melted the iron gates and fled along with a few other students.
Instead of rebuilding the gates the Head mistress and the dreaded board of Head masters had decided to make the ground banned and now everyone was sheltered inside indefinitely. She had used to believe the story when the elder children would cause a crowd of younger students around and re-tell it over and over again at the dinner tables. But now she had finally realised that such stories had just been told to raise the younger children's hopes, or lie to them about how their own childhoods were a whole lot better.
Alyria had slid into the window boxes seat elbow on the small panel of the window pane jaw slumped on her palm. She could faintly remember what the snow felt like; the actual snow not some blizzard she had created by magic. Natural snow. It felt much more different, soft and fluffy.
The magical snow she created was coarse and primal, never feeling powdery only ever making her want more, like an addictive drug, but instead of taking it in she was letting it out.
While caught in the wish to go into the snow once more, Soris had made her way into her room of which she had carelessly left the door open. He could feel his heart beating rapidly as he drew closer to her. Oh how she made him wild. "Dreaming about me are we?" Soris crept up to Alyria, taunting her. Just one of his favourite hobbies. With a long pause He smelt her silky silvery blonde hair.
Why did she keep it in that stupid plait? He wondered bitterly, he tugged at it.
He wanted to see it down. "Don't touch me!" Alyria snapped, clenching her teeth hitting him hard in the ribs with a fist. He yearned for her touch to be soft, but knew that would never happen. He would have to settle for rough.
"You're still feisty I see mmm..." He closed in on Alyria gazing at her amorously.
"You and I are going to have a little party in here" He grabbed her around the waist dragging her off the window box, drawing her closer. He leaned in to kiss her but Alyria had other plans. She kicked him hard under the belt. She looked disgusted, probably was. Why did she always have to fight him? "You get out now or I'll..." Alyria started to snap, but trailed off. Damn it she had no threats and even if she did, she would not be able to use them after all she was a nymph and he was a tower guard.
He could easily tell on Seth and she would get in huge trouble, even so he wasn't going to get away with anything sinister on her watch. "Or you'll what call for more guards?" Soris cocked his head to the side condescendingly looking around him as though searching for a response. "They'll just walk off or even offer to join in" Oh this was rich; she was so cute when she tried to act tough and threaten him. "Or you could use magic to kill me, oh but wait you'd get executed for that" Soris gleefully continued to mock Alyria, beginning to once again invade her personal space. This was fun.
He got up and grinned at Alyria. "Face it you and me are gonna have some fun" He regained his balance and saw the cold dark look in her eyes, but wait what was it masking? Could it be fear perhaps? No, no that made no sense... Unless uhuh of course she now realised that she was cornered, she had nowhere else to turn. Maybe she was frightened.
Alyria was as angry as hell, her very being was livid any fear that she had felt of getting punished by Seth or the Head mistress had all but been eradicated from thought. She felt like all the magic was building up, her veins were on fire. She clenched her jaw tightly and balled up her fists eyes clamped shut in an effort to silence the spinning voices in her head. No way was she going to let this bastard have his way with her.
"Get out" She muttered lowly but coldly, eyes glued to the floor. Fight it. It doesn't have to control you. She thought this to herself over and over again, trying to calm herself down an attempt to regain some sort of grip on anything in her mind that would shackle the thoughts of her doing something that she would later regret.
Oh no she wasn't getting off the hook this easy.
"Aw but we still haven't had our party yet, come on let me pleasure you I know you want to..." Soris grasped both her wrists that were shaking violently and let her soft skin tantalise his finger tips for a moment more only to grip them tightly and moved himself down kissing her neck passionately.
Alyria shuddered at his touch, her neck felt like someone was pouring chorused acid on it she wanted to scratch his eyes out make him bleed. But the ice clinged to her like a terrible reminder, if she let herself become like that it would envelop her and then there would be a Soris ice sculpture on the floor to deal with.
He could feel her heartbeat through her neck, she felt unnaturally cold to the touch- but that did not stop him. He began to try and undress her, fingers rummaging down her back in a clambering frenzy. Alyria kneed him in the stomach, winding him regaining her hands as he lurched backwards. With a moan he struggled again off the floor. He wanted to make her his. Grasping the back of her neck, he drew her in to kiss her. "Come on Alyria be a good girl don't fight..." Soris was almost pleading at this point, eyes clawing at her image voice breaking. Alyria spat her utter revulsion at Soris. "You shut your mouth!" She would have added more to that thought, but she was interrupted by an excruciatingly long whine as the door swang open, in came a tall build of a man- eyes wavering over the image before him. "What do you think you are doing lieutenant?!"
Seth was standing in the door way and as his jaw looked as though it were about to unhinge, glowered at Soris, his booming voice bounding off the walls of the cramped room. "This Nymph belongs to me!" Seth turned his attention to Alyria, facing her with a thin smile. "Hi sweetness" Alyria scrunched her nose up in disgust, Ugh how Alyria hated that pet name'. "Hold your tongue or I'm cutting it off!" Alyria snapped bitterly, knowing full well Seth would take it as a joke. He didn't own her. No one did.
"Tsk tsk fiery little wench aren't we?" Seth as she expected raised the corners of his mouth lips forming into something that one might mistake for a smile. "You've been saving that insult haven't you?" Alyria shot Seth a glare of daggers in response, none of them sticking in far enough to make him give any notice.
"Soris get back to your post and if I ever see you in her room again I'll make you regret even hearing her name!" Seth paused as he towered over his second in command, any other man would have been smashed across the head by now- but he saw something in Soris that reminded him of himself. "Got it?!" Seth barked gruffly, startling the both of them. Soris gave Seth a stiff salute and when he was sure that Seth's back was turned flipped him off and winked at Alyria, walking out of the dingy room.
"So sweetness watcha been up to?" Seth took a swig of wine from his flask, stroking Alyria's hair. Alyria shifted away, grimacing. She hated it when he did that. "Oh nothing just making poisons and putting them into the drinks of unsuspecting arrogant bastards." Alyria pushed his hand away bitterly. Seth at first looked worried, then caught on and laughed. "Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?"
His tone was indirect, and could have been aimed at anything in the room as his vacant expression seemed to be off elsewhere. "Such a well formed little thing so innocent and helpless against me..." Seth suddenly returned to reality, his demeanour back to normal laughing that cruel little laugh of his, looking Alyria up and down with those hungry eyes. Alyria hated that laugh, it had been following her through the years in the tower every time she thought she had gotten away from it tracked her down- the hollow sound broke her each time.
Alyria had taken a whiff of the flask that Seth was drinking from and the raw smell of alcohol made her face pulse and her eyes water. He was even worse when he was drunk, that was when he got violent. Still she wouldn't let him talk to her like this, otherwise what dignity would she have to pick up off the floor when he left? "I'll gut you one day you pig!" Alyria backed away, her voice soft and croaky as she attempted to make the tear welling in her eyes to leave her alone and make her strong. "I swear it!" Alyria screamed louder than she had expected and using this outburst began flailing her fists onto his newly polished iron armour, her blows simply bouncing off.
"Aw did I push the wrong buttons?" Seth could hear the ringing of her blows from his hollow armour; her knuckles were now red and bruised. "I still remember your mother, sure she was dead but still... you look a lot like her you know?" Seth watched to his pure amusement as Alyria fists became still, Alyria's eyes wide staring into nothing. As much as he wanted to stay and watch the reaction for longer, this game was growing tiresome, besides Alyria had that glint in her eye and knew that he should get out of there before she did something she regretted. Alyria couldn't believe what he had just said.
How dare he mention her mother to her that way?! She felt like ripping him limb from limb, her swollen fists did not matter to her anymore.
She wanted to use them to smack him in the jaw, suddenly she looked down to realise that she had been clawing her nails into one of her palms blood spilling and to her shock become frozen little lines of red encased in a watery ice.
"Well time to go now sweetness catch you round" Seth sang out as he strolled out of Alyria's room laughing cruelly once more.
Alyria barely heard the door close behind him as she flopped onto the bottom bunk, curling up she clutched loose bits of her hair in her hands and wept.
She had been getting the wrong attention for men lately, no longer were they serious towards her like everyone else. It was mainly the pigheaded guards, all of them non caring abusive men who deserved to burn in hell.
Many other girls around her age that she had grown up with, Alyria had been noticing were dealing with the same problem. Once cheerful girls wandered into classrooms and the mess hall like a ghost their eyes pinned to something distant, lips pursed white. It was like they wore a skin mask of themselves all the emotion erased from their faces, all up their legs large patches of purple yellow bruises lined black.
A few years ago, an older group of girls were all comforting another young girl that was hunched over cheeks streamed with faded tears.
Alyria curious had walked up to one of the girls standing around her asked her what was wrong. The girl searched around herself before responding with;
'Last night, one of the guards touched her'. All the girls acted as though they had been reminded as to why they were standing around the tear ridden girl and began to attempt to comfort her once again. But the girl just continued to stare somewhere else, lost from the sympathetic words around her, face blank.
Back then Alyria had thought that the girl had simply been beaten by a guard so it didn't faze her, everyone was being beaten. Still she had felt sorry for her and left with a line of 'that's sad' then left. Now that she was a lot wiser she looked back on the memory with dread wishing it would leave, sinking further into her pillow she tugged tightly at her elbow to make her mind realise that she was safe.
Lost in her thoughts she didn't hear Nelarosan enter, only noticing him when he plopped his leather bag on the ground next to hers. He wordlessly walked to the book case and grabbed out a book and begun to read without a single glance in her direction.
Alyria tried to cover the fact that she had been crying and wiped her face with her sheet, she got all the tears from her face and rubbed her nose raw before lifting her face from the covers. Her face was throbbing and she could tell that her skin would be bright pink but since Nelarosan wasn't looking; his face thrown into a book, it didn't matter. Her nose felt itchy and she accidently broke apart her plan with a large sniff that lifted the silence and to Alyria's bitter disappointment made Nelarosan look up from his book. His face at first looked curious as though he was wondering if he should say bless you, but then he saw her frazzled hair and pink cheeks along with puffed eye lids and his expression became severe.
"Alyria" He mouthed to himself, forgetting that he had been holding a book he snapped it closed and tossed it on the flimsy desk. As he drew closer, Alyria saw no reason to hide from the fact that she was upset any longer and hung her head in her palms.
"What's wrong Alyria?" Nelarosan's eyes were wide as he examined her, as though she were a medical patient. Alyria didn't respond, simply shaking her head vigorously her face still in her palms. "Alyria, what's wrong?" Nelarosan tried once more, this time restructuring his sentence as if it would make some sort of difference.
Alyria once again shook her head violently, faint sobs echoing from her fingers as she backed away from Nelarosan. If she told him, then the words that Seth and Soris had told her would have won and all those sinister movements would have happened in Nelarosan's eyes. "Alyria, look at me" Nelarosan tried to catch her eye from underneath her hands, but she shifted stubbornly away, shaking her head once again- this time collapsing onto her bed sitting upright. Nelarosan joined her, placing a hand on her shoulder momentarily only to realise that she was shaking. "Please" His voice was strained and choked, as Alyria looked up from the gaps in her fingers she saw that his face was narrow, eyes blinking heavily. He was resisting the urge to cry himself, biting his lip he leaned in towards her concern written on every line of his face. "It's nothing" Alyria ashamed of herself turned away, wiping the tears away with her fingers she muttered lowly.
"Right of course, that makes sense sorry to bother you" Nelarosan stood up from the bed, expression half serious. Alyria gave out a stout giggle but then slung her head down onto her knees. "Seth…" Alyria stopped herself and began to shake her head again.
"What? Did he hit you?" Nelarosan began to start scan Alyria again, who simply shook her head once more. "No- he said things…" Alyria trailed off, realising just how childish she was sounding blinked away her tears and began staring up at the ceiling. "What things?" Nelarosan raised an eyebrow and his face cringed slightly as thoughts provoked inside him. "Nothing- it's stupid" Alyria took her gaze off the ceiling and looked back to Nelarosan giving him a weak smile. "I over reacted, sorry to make you worry" Alyria didn't realise that she was still wearing her fragile smile and tried to improve it, only to have her lips droop to one side giving her a lopsided grin.
Nelarosan let a small sigh of relief escape him and sat back down on the beds covers, his posture awkward as he glanced over towards the book he had left on the table fidgeting for a while with his shirt tail. "Go and read you dork" Alyria had spun herself around, her legs raised in a manner to make it look as though she wanted to lie down, but Nelarosan was in the way. Nelarosan gave Alyria a small grin, slightly embarrassed by the fact that she had seen him glancing at the book and hopped off the bed.
However as he made his away across the room, the leather bound book in his hand, chair basically screaming his name for him to sit down; he noticed the detached look that Alyria was giving to the ceiling and instead tucked the chair into the desk.
Flinging himself onto the floor before Alyria's bed, Nelarosan left the book in between his hand to keep the page. "So how do you want to get him?" Nelarosan gave Alyria a sly grin, expecting her to spring back into the old Alyria and start thinking up ways of how to prank Seth. "What are you talking about?" Alyria half glanced over in Nelarosan's direction- as though she hadn't been listening. Nelarosan, slightly disheartened of his idea to cheer Alyria up continued on slowly.
"Well… we can't just let him get away with saying that stuff right?" This seemed to have caught her attention as she was now staring directly at him, eyebrows lifted.
"We should do something like- err…" Nelarosan sat there for a moment, stumped while Alyria silently watched on losing interest every second. Damn, he was never good at coming up with these things- he just always did whatever Alyria had planned.
"Put a toad in his sandwich?" Nelarosan questioned his own answer, it sounded so idiotic- where the hell would they even get a toad from? However it seemed to make Alyria cheer up, as she began to giggle hysterically- rolling around on her covers.
Even though he knew that she was probably laughing at what him, and not the idea- at least she was herself again.
"That's a great idea- but what if instead of a toad it's a frog?" Alyria was now sitting upright on the bed, as though inviting him to sit up. Nelarosan obeyed, and simply flashed Alyria with a sullen look at her insult- which made her laugh even more.
"Oi lovebirds, dinners almost ready" The voice came into the room with a flash of wind, as one of their neighbours- Lasius had arrived at their arch way eyes sceptical as he saw both Alyria and Nelarosan so close to one another on the same bed.
Lasius was a tall and to Nelarosan's utter dislike psychically built boy around two years older than himself and Alyria. His hair was slanted and a deep chestnut and his eyes were a sombre blue, he was quite good looking as well- square jaw high cheek bones; your classic swooner. Nelarosan shifted awkwardly at Lasius's comment of 'lovebirds' springing from the bed and running a hand through his hair- trying not to face the elder boy.
However Alyria shrugged her shoulders, apparently uninterested by the remark and stretched her arms across her back before placing one tightly on her stomach.
"Good, I'm starved" Alyria replied with a slight yawn, eyeing the hallway beyond with hunger. Lasius gave a small nod, as though to process that they had indeed heard him and began to make his way down the hall. Nelarosan shot him a glance of discontent once his back was turned and Alyria was out of the door way, but still followed on.
Clanging spoons almost in rhythm against the porcelain bowls lined the several linked wooden benches rained through the mess hall. Nelarosan hadn't been very good at keeping the pace between himself and Alyria, whose short stature allowed her to be enveloped within the crowd and easily manoeuvrer herself throughout the swarms of students.
However Nelarosan felt even more awkward about his lanky physique as everyone around him were clustered together like bricks in a wall. He didn't have the strength to push past them, not to mention the integrity so stood around like an awkward foal strewn from its mother- simply wandering around the gaps of the flock of chattering children he felt a sharp tug on his arm. The hand guided him through the crowd, landing him towards one of the wooden benches- a space on the long slab of wood free. Nelarosan glanced over to see Alyria smiling brightly back at him, the smile made him feel self-conscious and he didn't know why. Instead of questioning it he just sat down, knees banging on the bench as he slid them under.
The kitchens made a few loud noises as the adult nymphs began to finish serving the rest of the bowls for the new arrivals, but nothing was loud enough to break over the chittering of the children who were either slurping and chewing their meals or shouting across the room to one another.
The nymphs that worked in the kitchens always appeared strange to Alyria, they were all at least ten years older than she was- she recognised a few of them from her childhood- they always had the same expression stamped on their face.
It was distant, they looked like they knew they were never going to leave this place- they were all so skinny as well. A couple of rumours went around that they had failed the tests to advance from the apprentice cabins, too many times that they were now too old to try and re-do them again. Apparently their food rations had been cut severely and if they could not continue their work of cleaning the classrooms or serving the meals by pure exhaustion or starvation they were given a shock from the baton to the forehead and thrown into the furnace.
The furnace was another terrible rumour that floated around the school, it was a large room that was filled with steam and worked like a chimney- the coals on the floor burnt your legs to stumps, the steam seethed through your skin and soon the gas would lower from the ceiling and the fire would collide causing an explosion of flame to reach them. When the elder children told this story, they liked to do it in pairs or groups so that at the time they told the explosion would occur with a loud bang the other children would bang on the door or table to simulate it and try to scare the younger children. Nelarosan had noticed that neither of them had said anything in a while and cleared his throat to gain her attention. "Probably about time we get dinner, huh?" He said, tapping his knuckles along the timber bench. Alyria looked as though she had only just realised he was there. "Wha- Oh yeah sure let's go" Alyria gave a short smile when she understood what had been said and suddenly her stomach decided to remind her that it was empty and gave a harrowing pain in her side. The line had shortened from the time that they had arrived and before they knew it, they were at the very front of the line.
The failed students frailly looked in their direction as the two of them shuffled up the line and grabbed a flimsy tin tray from the rack and held it in front of them.
The closest student to them grasped blankly at the large wooden ladle and as though summoning all of her strength scooped up some bland looking soup from the giant cauldron looking serving bowl and with a deep exhale dumped it into the bowl shaped part of their trays. Her arms looked so skinny they flailed about and came to a halt as they tried to put the ladle down, it looked as though the wooden ladle was a weight to her as it made her struggle relentlessly. Nelarosan mumbled his thanks to her, which the girl blatantly ignored and with the sharp look given to her from a nearby guard in the kitchen scampered off to polish the dishes she had been doing before their arrival.
Moving along the line there was a boy this time, his face pale and skin thinly veiled over his cheek bones, he looked like a walking corpse. He had a basket of bread beside him and without even looking in their direction; his eyes planted off into the distance somewhere somehow knew where to place the bread in the right compartment- as though his body automatically functioned only for that purpose now.
The next failed student working in the kitchens was a sylph, she wore small eyeglasses and wore a cynical smile even though she was around squaller and withered souls crowed her. Alyria had always liked Sylphs, they always seemed to be searching for something better and focusing on that instead of despair like the rest.
This girl seemed to be full blooded, as her back had soft black wings sprouted from them- her eyes were bright yellow and wide compared to her thin face. She didn't look as bad as the others, and seemed to be younger too-probably a new arrival to the workers.
She was in charge of vegetables, slithers of carrots; chunky mashed potatoes (mainly the skins at this point) small branches of broccoli lined the girl's station.
As Nelarosan reached her, she gave him a small look up and down and heaped a large pile of vegetables onto his tray with her curved spoon. This didn't faze Alyria, this was a normal occurrence as most people looked at Nelarosan's frame and thought that he must be famished and this girl seemed to be one of the kinder workers.
However the sly wink that she flashed him along with the long smile made a blunt pang arise in her chest and suddenly she felt the urge to jump over the counter and strangle the girl. 'What was that wink for?' She thought bitterly to herself, as the girl served her while Nelarosan- tray now full shifted off waiting for her to finish.
'All he was doing was waiting in line and what's with the giving him so much?' Alyria fumed, thoughts bounding off the recesses of her mind as she gripped the tray harder than she should of. 'He doesn't even like broccoli' Alyria grinned to herself, ha she had won- that girl didn't know anything. Alyria primly turned from the serving line, shooting the worker girl a dirty look and stormed off, Nelarosan naively following her along back to their seats. No one had taken their seats, since most people in the mess hall had left already and there were plenty of spares for other late arrivals.
Plopping herself down, Alyria didn't even notice the colourless water with small chunks that floated on the brim which was apparently what they labelled as 'soup'. She simply slurped it down; it was warm at least and filled her somewhat.
As she turned to her vegetables, she noticed what she always did- Nelarosan was gingerly poking his soup with his spoon nose upturned, face sour. "Eat up twig" Alyria ordered him; her mouth filled with mashed potatoes her spoon ready with more. Nelarosan ignored her, pushing the bowl aside with a bitter glare. "Come on, I know it's not much to look at- but its warm eat it now or it'll get cold" Alyria nudged him in the shoulder with her elbow, motioning to her empty bowl. Nelarosan gave her a look, but slowly raised his spoon as her eyes were glued to him and took a spoonful of the watery broth and gulped it down expression pained. She was right, it was warm- but it still tasted awful, not to mention that he didn't know what these small beige flecks and green lumps were. Perhaps it was better not to know. Nelarosan took a few more spoonful's, until Alyria stopped glaring in his direction and continued to wolf into her dinner, and then pushed the tray out of his sight again. "What about your bread?" Alyria pointed to the slab of white rock that was passed for bread on his tray, her tray now almost bare asides from her own piece of bread. "Stale" Nelarosan picked up the bread and tuned it over to show her the forest of moss growing underneath it and tossed it back onto his tray.
"Here have mine" Alyria forced her bread into Nelarosan's clenched hands, who reproachfully took it and then placed it between them shaking his head. "No, it's yours" He argued, eyes closed he turned himself away from her shifting the bread back to her direction. When he got no reply, he opened his eyes and turned to see that Alyria and the bread had gone. Smiling to himself, his face however fell as he soon saw the piece of bread on his tray. Bitterly he grabbed it, taking a bite and almost breaking his teeth- but at least it didn't have mould on it as his piece had. "HA!"
A loud opinionated shout came from the bottom of the bench which jolted his entire body and nearly scared him half to death; Alyria was grinning almost maniacally at him from underneath the table- crouching not a hard feat for her height.
Nelarosan threw the last bit of the bread at her with fake irritation, the two of them grabbing their trays and dumping them onto the cleaning station for the workers to deal with and chased each other down the quarter's hallway annoying all the students that were jostled and bashed in the process in the narrow slather of space.
Alyria swung the door open, as it was to be left unlocked at night for the guard on duty to lock it again to not arouse suspicion that they might own a key and leapt herself onto the bottom bunk- ammo in the form of a pillow in her hand for Nelarosan who was right behind her. However to her disgust, as soon as Nelarosan entered the room, his eyes darted straight to the book he had left on the floor. He snatched it up and in an instant was already sitting on the top bunk, legs crossed and nose deep into the book.
Alyria gave out an irritated groan. Nelarosan either ignored her or didn't hear her from his own little world in the pages under his chin. Alyria crawled up the step ladder, resting her elbows on his covers and gave out another groan.
This time Nelarosan looked up from his book to see Alyria staring back at him- but pretended not to notice and went back to his book.
"You're studying again?" Alyria was disappointed, this meant that they couldn't stay up all night and tell each other crazy escape plans of how to get out of the tower or ways to prank Seth. "You should study too, the initiations tomorrow!" Nelarosan retorted, this time not looking from underneath his book. He really did have to study and couldn't let Alyria distract him, not that she was distracting or anything...
"What initiation?" Alyria asked, now slightly panicked- not another test again. Nelarosan lowered his book slowly, his face excruciatingly severe as he did so.
"The initiation- tomorrow!" Nelarosan raised his voice slightly as he saw that Alyria still had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. He drew a long sigh and continued on. "The initiation is to see who gets to be entered into the test" Nelarosan paused slightly, examining Alyria's expression- nothing propped up that would give an indication that she knew anything about what he was talking about. "Alyria!" Nelarosan gave out an exasperated cry, clapping a hand to his forehead in disbelief.
"What?" Alyria replied, slightly annoyed by his reaction- why was he acting like this was such a big deal? "This entrance exam is to see who gets to be in the test to be put into advanced placement!" Alyria's ears perked up at the words 'advanced placement' it was fancy word for safe.
If you got put into advanced placement it meant you wouldn't have to work in the kitchens when you became of age, and apparently from the elder children that had passed- the towers experience had heightened for them. There were insane stories of having your own room, with clean sheets- not to mention loaves of dew bread.
Alyria remembered faintly the taste of dew bread- she would get a piece every year for her birthday when she lived in Stonehaven- it was sweet like honey and crisp on your tongue. But still Nelarosan's anxious behaviour and urgency to study- even more than usual still vexed her.
"So? We get to take the test until we become of age- that's like…." Alyria paused for a while, Nelarosan rolling his eyes as she used her fingers to count. "Five years" Alyria leaned back smugly, stupid Nelarosan- always so worried over nothing.
If they or only one of them failed the other could tell them what to do and by five years how could they both not pass? "No, the workers are running out so the age bar has been lowered to 18 for advanced placement" Nelarosan muttered coarsely, eyes now skimming over the text in his book. Alyria nearly toppled backwards off the bunk bed, gripping the stubby iron railings just in time to regain her balance.
No way, this had to be a joke. "Huh?" Alyria whined gaudily, Nelarosan simply giving her a stiff nod in response. "Yep- that's what I've been telling you non-stop for the last two months" Alyria felt a sharp pang in her mind, and suddenly guilt-ridden began to recall that Nelarosan had in fact been trying to tell her something about a test- but from the years she had known him Nelarosan had always been concerned over something class related. So the words 'test' and 'important' had been trigger words for her to cut off the noise coming from his mouth and simply nod and say "yes of course I've studied- I know Nelarosan" while actually secretly eyeing around her to make an excuse to escape from the confrontation and lecturing.
"That means that this is our only chance to get in advanced placement?!"
Alyria felt like tearing her hair out from the sudden surge of stress nestling in her stomach at the moment, gripping stands with her fingers. She would be turning eighteen next winter, and Nelarosan would be eighteen in only a few months.
"Correct" Nelarosan sarcastically praised Alyria's sudden realisation of how severe the situation was, no wonder she had been so care free lately- honestly he might as well talk to the walls. When he had stumbled onto her sobbing, he had at first thought that she was upset because she had fritted the days away without studying and only faced the consequences of doing so then- like she usually did when there was a test.
But instead it had been about that bastard Seth; she seemed so distraught about the whole thing he had decided she must have studied then if she had another cause to be distressed about. But of course, she had simply forgotten about the entrance exam altogether.
"What's it on?" Alyria asked, and cringed as Nelarosan narrowed his eyebrows at her. 'Alright this is it, now he's going to spend all night going on about subject matter and thesis's' Alyria thought to herself, wincing slightly- she wouldn't even know those words if not for him. However instead of a bunch of long winded lecturing that normally would occur at this point all Alyria heard was a gruff mumble come from Nelarosan.
"Not sure" He muttered, shifting slightly on the bed spread- his face falsely fixed on his book, of which he had been reading the same page throughout the entire conversation. Alyria cocked her eyebrow slightly, looking at Nelarosan's unsure expression and fidgeting hands scratching his neck- she knew he must be telling the truth.
Alyria clambered down the stepladder, trying her best to not burst into hysterics along the way. "Exactly let's celebrate our last hours of freedom then shall we?" Alyria retorted, as though she had knew all of this all along and picking up her ammo once more, threw a pillow at Nelarosan for him to join in. Nelarosan glared sourly back down at Alyria in response, if anything not knowing what the test had in store was more of a reason to study. "I'm serious Alyria I'm studying ok?" Nelarosan threw the pillow back at Alyria and went back to his book, finally flipping the page over.
"Alright, alright" She sighed and went to her crumpled book bag on the floor grabbing out a book, joining Nelarosan on his bed with another long sigh.