1874-08-20: Wild Berries
Wild Berries
Summary: Alia trains with Juliana.
Date: 1874-08-20
Related: The Forge
NPCs: Juliana Petreius

"Talent won't be quiet, doesn't know how to be quiet."

"An apple."

Juliana Petreius sat upon a low seat, barely more than a square plank of wood covered by thin padding and worked leather. It seemed a bare necessity, now, with the Legion momentarily at their ease. But when they were on the march? It was a luxury to be envied.

She had arranged the day's lesson in an old growth orchard, gone to ruin in the years since the land had been wasted, despoiled for no other reason save to make it a barren place for any who might find themselves coming to these lands in the wake of the Qatunax. As though in defiance of such machinations, the air was rich and lush with the smell of wild berries, the bushes of which had grown up as the pears which had been planted here had died on the branch, leaving the trees as stark, withered sentinels against the deep blue of the sky.

So very like the young woman who sat before her, on a patch of ground which had been burned down to bare earth, legs tucked beneath her, her head bowed, eyes focused on the ball of flame she had summoned and now held between her palms. It was not large, the size of a man's head, no more, but the focus and effort that etched the young woman's face was evident. So much of what had been Alia d'Meloni had been razed, left to wither like the trees near which they sat. There were times, brief moments, when Juliana thought she could see the specters of those dead things in the girl's eyes. But like the berries, something wilder and darker had taken root.

For all that the girl's attention was focused into the space between her hands, Juliana had no doubt that Alia had heard her instruction, as the younger woman began to draw her hands closer together, as though the very action was manifesting her will. It was a crutch of sorts, one that most young sorcerers whom Juliana had both seen and trained used, thinking that they needed the body to focus the mind. Eventually, with enough will and effort, the crutch would fall away. It would happen too, for Alia, once she had had fully embraced the most important lesson Juliana had to teach. That it was will alone that commanded the power that now filled their bodies.

Alia had heard the instruction, in that part of her mind that still processed what she saw, and heard, and felt, and tasted. That place where her physical senses still had enough power to move her. Yet in that place where she felt her magic take root, that place she knew but would never have been able to pinpoint, she felt the itch of power. Though she had no true concept of what other sorcerers felt, for Alia flame felt like…itching, an inching so deep beneath her skin that she could not find a way to relieve it except to use it. She had spent long hours training herself to ignore the sensation, which had begun so soon after she had come into her power, had found the will to keep it at bay, to stop it from flowing out of her body. She had learned to hold it for so long that the thrum of it under her skin, aching to be released had become a constant pain. And like all constant pains, she had learned to live with it.

Alia's mind drifted away from such superfluous thoughts, as she brought her will to bear, watching as her hands seemed to compact the flame held in the air between her palms, watching it smooth and compress, becoming smaller, tighter. Felt it become more agitated, as though the more tightly she bound it, the more it screamed for her to release it, to let it free, to allow it to feed, and spread, and burn.

Once she had brought the ball of flame down to the size Juliana had requested, she lifted her eyes from her work to the woman sitting at a safe distance from herself. She waited, with that seemingly endless patience that she had learned in the years she had spent at the College, that she had mastered in the years since the Qatunax had come.

"Light the fire. I believe we've earned ourselves a decent meal." Juliana's voice sounded almost merry to Alia's ears, but she knew better than to allow the woman's general sense of good humour to fool her. And as she looked towards the fire, Alia understood that the fire, built into a pit in the earth and lined with stones was not really the test. The test was the orchard, the trees, dry as bone, that needed only a spark to kindle them. The test, was to see if she had control enough to send the fire only where she willed it to go, the control to bend it to her will.

Alia looked away, taking a moment to look around the orchard. There was an entrance, the gate long since torn down, through which they could escape if things grew out of control. No. Alia shook her head. Not today. She allowed her eyes to return to the fire pit, feeling that sudden easing deep within herself as the flame left her hands, flying with unfailing accuracy to the tinder that had been laid into the pit in those strange pictograms Juliana seemed to prefer. She heard the crackling of the dead wood as the heat caused it to snap and pop ever before she saw the flame engulf the wood, flowing into the pit like water into an empty vessel, rising to lick at the stones it could not destroy. She felt, before she saw, the flame she had called take hold.

Juliana rose from her seat, gathering up the small satchel she had brought with her, "Some berries for dessert, would you Alia?" She moved to the fire, having no fear of the flames that were now, so quickly, reducing the spent wood to charcoal.

Alia rose, knowing the other woman's lack of comment for what it was. Approval. She brought the basket with her, as she wandered off under the shade of dead trees.

"The only thing talent wants is to be used."

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