It was a small girl that crept quietly up the squeaking steps to the fourth floor of the modest manor house in which her family lived. The girl, Lyra Joan Valstadt, had just turned six on this very morning and despite the fact that she was covered in dust and clothed in a faded and worn blue wool smock and a pair of rough cotton shorts she had a small smile on her face.
She had spent the whole morning in the basement chambers, crawling through and around decrepit old crates, piecing information together from half ruined volumes of lore and ancient tomes. Sometime late – well past noon – Lyra had found what she had been looking for, and as she achieved that long strived for success the fatigue had lifted from her mind and all thoughts of hunger had been ushered out by a tide of jumbled excitement.
Sitting in a far corner of the dark under layer to her home, her little hands covered in a myriad of small burns from trying to coax light from tiny candle stubs, the girl had sighed in relief. Finally, she thought as her gaze was locked onto her hands – a water stained scrap of paper in her left, and the proof of her accomplishment in the right.
Finally her Father would be proud of her.
As the little girl came to the top of the stairs she stopped and tried to brush the short hair she couldn't see into some semblance of neatness. Hoping whatever she had done had made her look more presentable the dark haired child then attempted to brush away the thick layers of dust that she could see far too much of.
As the dust puffed off her garments in small clouds Lyra's nose began to burn, desperately the little girl grabbed at it. She could not sneeze here, not when she was so close to her Father's study – so close to his approval. Tears began to well up around her eyes as the pressure increased and spread down to her chest and the burning sensation only got stronger.
By the time the feeling subsided and the danger was over Lyra had to rub her arm across her face multiple times to clear it off. This only served to get her face even dustier and ruin whatever presentability she had attempted to cultivate, but it was much more preferable to the other alternative – any kind of show of the “weaker emotions” such as tears would not go unpunished.
Continuing on with her original purpose the little girl walked down the hallway even more quietly than she had going up the stairs. None of the floorboards on this level of the house made even the slightest of creaks, her Father had always found the sound unbecoming of a gentleman's home. Lyra's hands were clutching her shirt tightly, the little knuckles white and deathly still from nervousness. As she walked down the hall she soon stood right before the open doorway to her Father's study, no sound came from within but soft golden light poured past the wooden frame.
He never leaves the light on when he's out. Lyra thought as she slowly shuffled forward and peak her head past the doorway, one hand resting lightly on the frame. Sure enough her Father, Alexis Valstadt, was sitting at his desk, his head over a spread of paper and a pen in his hand. At the sight of that familiar and foreboding face the little girl felt a confusion of emotions; love, fear, shame, and... hope. Hope that what she had achieved would finally make her parent accept her.
“Sir.” Lyra stated timidly as she stepped into the room, wanting to do nothing more than to excitedly shout “Dad!” and then show off her accomplishment. Such familiarity though would not do - her Father expected more from her than most would of a child – so she held herself back.
Alexis for his part glanced upwards and that first look of masked contempt that covered his face before he mastered himself almost broke the little girl's will. He didn't speak so once more she stepped forward and spoke. “Sir, I've done it. I...” Lyra wilted under the look her Father gave her which stated that quite truthfully nothing she could ever do would interest him. As she felt her eyes begin to burn she hastily finished her statement in a small voice, her eyes no longer on her Father but locked to the floor. “I cast a spell today.”
A faintly interested look came over Alexis's face, he had know for quite a while that the child had ample reserves of mana, but not a single bone in her body powerful enough to transform it into anything. He kept his voice passive as he put down his pen and said, “Oh.”
That 'Oh', lacking in any kind of meaning, was enough of an approval for the little girl. She held out her right hand, palm upwards, and closed her eyes in concentration. After a moment a small blue ball with a thin tail appeared above her hand. The bolt of mana wavered erratically as Lyra opened her eyes and watched it with a grin on her face.
The snarl that left her Father's mouth wasn't the expected reaction though and it wiped her smile out of existence. Alexis was standing up, his chair lying upon the floor from the violence of the motion, and the look of contempt back on his face but mixed with a an even more terrifying one that beheld his child to be both useless and vile.
“That.” The slit-eyed figure that was her Father spit out. “Is not magic.”
Before Lyra could snuff out her the bolt of mana on her own the sky outside the study's window darkened and the air inside became hot enough that it was stifling. A fist sized ball of fire enveloped her spell and the little girl could feel it wink out before the immense amount of power surrounding it. When the very last of the mana she had used was extinguished the fireball exploded with an airburst and knocked Lyra backward.
Crashing to the floor with a yell the little girl struggled into a sitting position. As she looked up her Father had walked around the desk and was now stalking towards her. Her eyes full of fear the girl only flinched as the walls to either side of her burst into flame and thunder boomed. When he reached his daughter, Alexis knelt on the ground and stared the girl right in the eyes. When his arm moved forward and grabbed her by the chin his motions were punctuated by a flurry of lightning strikes exploding through the ceiling and crackling madly.
Her face locked forward and not daring to close her eyes Lyra listened as her Father moved his lips.
“What you did. Never call it magic.”
Releasing Lyra's face the man stood up and the room calmed, the flames died out and the heavy storm clouds outside disappeared. Her face looking straight towards the charred floor and hidden from view silent tears rolled down the girl's face as Alexis spoke again.
“You have use now. You'll never be a magician, but I'll be able to use you.”
His piece said and his duty done, Alexis walked out of his ruined office and when halfway to the stairs he began to whistle a merry tune.
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