Tepet Ezra, Horns of the North

The Daiklave of Flight glistened like ice under the sun as she honed it, sitting in the House of Bells’ armory with the other students. It was free time, and though she was new she was showing extraordinary progress in mastering the sword. Combined with her ability to quickly move about the field of battle, many thought her a Child of Hesiesh. It wasn’t until they quizzed her memory of spirits, history, and war that the truth of the girl was realized. Though the white hair with blue strands certainly gave away her heritage as well.

Later that afternoon there would be a skirmish. She would act as scalelord, while the older students acted as the vanguards and generals. The nerves built in her stomach, but it was her responsibility to guide the twenty five soldiers under her, and she would never shy from her obligations to the Legion, even if she was only practicing. “Practice how you play,” she repeated to herself.

Rosrick left a month ago with other recruits to join the Tepet legion as part of his marriage to Ezra. He would fight alongside her parents, an honor she would likely be denied. But that would be okay. Roseblack said they would fight side by side one day, no doubt, that Tepet Ezra would join Tepet Ejeva as an officer in her legion. It caused the girl to go flush in the face, images of glorious battle alongside her cousin flitting across the back of her eyelids any time she closed them. She wouldn’t let Roseblack down.

“Sir.” Sesus Hensis reported to her, one of the soldiers under her. She was only given three Dragon Blooded soldiers, but even that wouldn’t have happened on the battlefield. Chances were a scale wouldn’t be given a Dragon Blooded officer in the first place.

“Hensis, what can I do for you?” She stopped polishing her blade. Hensis was the fourth or fifth cousin of Rosrick, though she couldn’t exactly remember how. The two barely looked like each other, aside from sharing the fire aspect which ran thick through the House’s veins.

“The scale is assembled and awaiting inspection, as per your orders.” He always looked far off in the distance. While not the brightest individual she had ever met, he was a very dedicated man. His ability to stand at attention put many instructors at a loss, considering the passionate fire blood. Once instructor, Sesus Arelen, started beating the boy without provocation, just to see if he could make him flinch. Hensis stood there, bleeding and his uniform cut up, flinching when struck, but then looking straight ahead. Arelen was sent off to join the legion the following week, and even then Hensis did not gloat. When asked about it, he said, “Instructor Arelen is a brave man and is being honored by the Dragons. May they grant him many glorious victories.”

“Were there any gripes, Hensis?”

“No, Scalelord Ezra. Not that you need concern yourself with.”

She couldn’t help but smile a little. “Thank you. You’re dismissed. Do as you please in the time before our skirmish.”

“Yes, Scalelord. It would please me to remain by your side.”

“As you wish.” They two sat, talking about the engagement and about the history of war. They continued chatting peacefully until a messenger came into the room.

“The exercise has been postponed. You are to answer to your CO with further instructions. Any who do not respond within the hour shall go without rations the rest of the day. Dismissed.”

Ezra’s lower lip quivered, “What?”

“Scalelord….”

She cut him off, “I’m no longer a scalelord. I am nothing but a student.” Her teeth chattered against each other and the wind picked up around her, causing falling dust to circle her. “Why is it cancelled? By the dragons, who has that right to call it off?”

“Tepet Ezra, it’s not ours to decide. We should see our CO and find out. I do not want to go hungry.” Hensis stood up and walked out of the barracks, leaving Ezra as the only one who hadn’t left. She started to cry, the tears cool on her cheek. Then she sniffled once, wiped the tears away, and left.

The company had taken rank and file, Ezra’s spot the only one empty. She still had time, but to be last was frowned upon heavily. Their CO would speak with her later, no doubt. At the front, Peleps Yores watched over her pupils. She wasn’t at attention. Shoulders were slumped, eyes were downcast, and it was obviously tears stained her leather collar. There was parchment on the floor, crumpled up. “Students, there is grave news today.” There were murmurs in the crowd until she spoke again. “As you know, the Tepet Legion went to engage the Anathema known as the Bull of the North. We don’t know the details, but the legion is lost.”

One of the boys, a Tepet, spoke up, “You mean defeated, CO Yores.”

Yores’ body started to shake. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “No, Torus. I mean if they are truly touched by the dragons, ten percent of the force may have escaped. We have a single messenger from when the battle was going poorly. When scouts were sent to the field, the Anathema’s army was picking at the corpses. We have found barely a hundred troops and are praying that some others made it away and are trapped in hostile territory.”

It was no longer a murmur. The voices roared through the hall. Ezra stood there looking forward. Her eyes weren’t registering anything, her ears kept ringing. She saw Yores yell something and the students came to attention. “Rosrick. Mother. Father.” The words were whispered, then they caught in her throat and a knot was placed in her gut which had to rise up. She fell to her knees and vomited. The blank stare left her. The ringing in her ears cleared up. All the students were staring at her. She threw up again.

Peleps Yores didn’t react to the girl. She continued and Ezra was able to hear her. “Those of you in House Tepet are to leave immediately for Lord’s Crossing. There is an escort prepared to take you, provided by your House. Keep your chins high. You are still a strong and proud house, one with a great history. No doubt this is just another chapter in an incredible history of martial prowess. Those of House Tepet are now dismissed. Everyone else, remain here and fill in the ranks. We will discuss how the Academy is moving forward.”

There was an aching in Ezra’s chest, a pain clawing its way out of her. It made her want to throw up again, but she kept the bile down. She would avenge their death. She would kill this Bull. She would prove to the world Tepet was not fallen. That the House didn’t need ranks filled in to replace them. She clenched her fist until her nails dug under her palm and caused her to bleed.

Tepet Ezra, the Child Prodigy

My new Dragon Blooded character! Created her last night. I like where she’s going, but she has a lot of growing before she’s as masterful as I hoped. Doesn’t do a lot of damage, but her entire point is to pester people on the battlefield. Currently have her set up so if she doesn’t want you to hit her, you can’t. Because she can fly and jump really far. She doesn’t play real well with her comrades, though. Here is the story of her Exaltation.

“But sir, the Bastion District in Nexus is likely the wealthiest concentration of people in all of Creation. While the wealth of the Dynasts is no doubt grander than those living in Bastion, it is spread out that one compound is the size of their entire region. No doubt you meant what city, not district.” Tepet Ezra was ten. She lived in her books, reading night and day by candle light. Her favorite candle was Sesus Rosrick, a fourteen year old boy who recently Exalted under Hesiesh, dragon of fire. He was attractive enough, but more than anything he was a smart, strong boy. Dark brown hair had gained a touch of red, and his skin was hot to the touch. On those long days in the winter, it was a reason for him to wrap his arms around her. She knew there was something more to why he enjoyed holding her, but she didn’t understand. And she didn’t mind.

The patrician, an elderly Tepet who was too old to march, wrinkled his nose. “Confound you, child, you’re a stubborn girl. So be it. Now to your next lesson.” The lessons continued, unrolling scrolls she read in secret, looking through books with little to no new information.

Then she interrupted, “Tepet Ilten, when do I get to do my sword lessons?”

“No acrobatics today?” The old man grinned, a brow lifting.

Ezra’s eyes went wide, “Can I really? Is the course back up?” After a boy Exalted on the course, an earth aspected child, he was so angry with he simply ran through it.

“It is. I think your swordsmanship is already well beyond the other children your age. Maybe you should work on your agility. You are Tepet, after all.”

Move like the wind. Be silent like the falling leaves. Go unnoticed as the air. It wasn’t quite her House’s motto, but she lived by it. If…. She shook her head, I can’t think that way. When I Exalt. When she Exalted, she would be a great warrior sage, maybe even learn the arts of magic. She would follow the Roseblack into combat, the dreamy and youthful warrior who was advancing quickly in ranks, becoming a favored of the Scarlet Empress.

The winds were gentle outside Lord’s Crossing. It went through her short platinum hair, tickling as it rustled the strands. There were streaks of blue and her eyes were a bright blue. Pale skin and an infinity for the cold all pointed to Exaltation being all but promised. Some wondered if she secretly had Exalted, and simply hadn’t told anyone. But such a prize would allow her to see her parents. It had been four years since she last saw their faces, when they left for the Imperial City. Ilten said they were in the legion now, fighting wars on behalf of the Empress in the Threshold. Some day, Ezra would do the same.

The obstacle course was a hundred feet tall and several dozen wide, with wood planks situated to allow children to climb. There were moving beams in some segments, operated by servants and slaves when required. Ilten must have summoned them as Ezra could hear the clack of wood on wood, the rolling sound of wooden joints in motion. Her teeth showed through the large smile.

Ilten said, “Go ahead, child. I know few things suit you like this does. With your love of swords and acrobatics, I quite fear one day your hair will turn red.”

“I am Tepet.” Her chin lifted, her gaze narrowing. “I will be the wind. Not the fire.”

“But of course, my lady.” He winked at her, and she giggled. “Now, go. I will time you.”

She climbed up to the entrance, twenty feet up, scrambling on the small boards which acted as footholds. The course was meant for those working on their agility. Many children thinking it little more than a game fell to break bones. Fat children who thought one could eat pastries as they wished and still play in the realm of air. She scoffed as she thought of Ragara Ulren, who fell off on his third attempt to reach the platform. He broke an arm and leg. She half thought he would just bounce with his shameful girth.

She reached the platform, flexing her hands as the feeling of rough wood staid for a while. “Up or down?” There were multiple paths through the course, a maze, but all paths led to the end. She jumped up to climb higher. Thirty, forty, fifty feet. She kicked off, and jumped between the wooden panels until they were close enough she could extend her limbs to support her in the small chute, climbing up slowly, small muscles straining. She loved the way it worked her body, how it engaged so many more muscles than sword fighting ever could.

The winds seemed to react to her. It happened now and then, when it felt as if they were pushing her, but this time there was a definite breeze at her back as she reached a flat platform and sprinted through the corridor, filled with wooden sticks flinging out to knock her down. She slid on her knees, hurtled herself between two blocks, rolled under another, and sprinted again as she was out of peril. She laughed and jumped over a pit which would take her to the bottom. She didn’t want to be on the lower levels. Not yet.

The winds picked up and she jumped another pitfall, but this time it was as if she were flying, her feet not touching the ground for near twenty meters. “Ilten,” she screamed, unsure he could hear her, “I’m flying. I’m flying!”

She could hear muffled shouts from the old man, but couldn’t make them out. He was running alongside her now, his old body almost comical in the robes. Arms waved at her, but it didn’t matter. She reached the end of the obstacle. There was an opening. She could fly, so she jumped, launching herself even farther than last time.

Ilten called out, “You can’t fly, Ezra! You Exalted!”

He was right. Soon the ground was coming up to her, over a hundred feet below her. A pit formed in her stomach and started to rise. “Ilten, what do I do?” Tears were forming, freezing in the corners of her eyes.

“Call on the wind, child. It will save you.”

She concentrated on the winds as she neared the ground. Fifty feet, but she wasn’t slowing. Ilten was still chasing after her, though he was slowing down. Twenty feet. The winds picked up, buffering under her in such force she felt as if there was something physical there. Two feet from the ground she came to a near full stop and vomited before being gently put down on the earth.

“Child,” Ilten said, finally catching up to her. “You Exalted! This is joyous.”

When he knelt to help her up, she shrugged him off, crying. “I threw up.”

“Oh child, that doesn’t matter. You are chosen of Mela.”

But it did matter. Ezra threw up during her Exaltation. She ran to the house, crying as she did, the wind carrying her.