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Spirit’s Oath

By:Rachel Aaron

Spirit’s Oath

A sound of wonder went up from the crowd gathered in the small exhibition room at the base of the Spirit Court’s Tower as a gale blew past the hanging lamps, whipping their delicate white flames into miniature bonfires. The wind barreled across the stone floor, making the Spiritualists’ red robes flap like flags before turning on a pin and roaring back to the girl standing on the little platform at the room’s far end. It blew past her, blowing her curly red hair in all directions before spiraling down to the silver-chased pearl pendant she held in her outstretched palm. The moment it hit the pearl’s smooth surface, the wind vanished and the room fell still for the space of a breath before the Spiritualists burst into loud applause.

“Congratulations, Spiritualist Lyonette!” Spiritualist Krigel said, pushing ahead of the crowd so he could be the first to shake the girl’s hand. “A wind spirit is an achievement few Spiritualists will ever boast, but to take one as your third spirit, and while still an apprentice…” His voice trailed off as his wrinkled face pulled up in a wide smile. “A good omen,” he finished, squeezing her hand so hard her fingers ached. “Very good indeed. Banage chose well.”

Torn between blushing until her face caught fire or grinning until it cracked, Miranda Lyonette settled for a little of both as she returned the Assistant Rector’s handshake. “Thank you, Spiritualist Krigel,” she said. “It was hard work, but Eril was worth it.” She raised her free hand so they could both see the pendant she clutched there. “I just hope I can handle him.”

“Winds are finicky things,” said Reymond, one of the old Tower Keepers who’d been called in as a witness for her official demonstration. “Keep him close, Spiritualist.”

Like most Spiritualists, Reymond had never so much as spoken to a wind, but Miranda thanked him graciously for the advice. Right now she was so happy she would have let open insults go without a blink. That is, if she managed to hear them at all through the overwhelming joy. She’d done it. Three weeks of crouching beside a sedge-grass fire on the open plains, waiting to catch a wind in her smoke long enough to talk to it, and finally everything had come together. She could feel Eril’s breezy touch against her spirit, a light, racing presence even as he curled up in his pendant to sleep. He was worth every second she’d spent out there and more, and not just because wind spirits were useful. In the whole Court there were less than five Spiritualists who could claim a wind as their servant. Even her mentor, Master Banage, the Rector Spiritualis and greatest wizard alive, hadn’t bound his until he was twenty-five and working as a Journeyman Spiritualist. But here she was, barely twenty and still in her apprenticeship, with a wind of her own. If Eril had blown through her at that moment, she would have floated away on a cloud of beaming pride.

She might have already, actually, because Krigel had grabbed her shoulder to get her attention. “Did you hear a thing I just said?”

Miranda blinked and blushed. “No, Spiritualist,” she said, leaning back on her heels to ground herself.

Krigel shook his head. “I know you’re feeling ready to take on the world right now, but I need you to focus for a moment. The Rector wants to see you.”

That wasn’t surprising. He was her master, and she had been gone for nearly a month. But there was an edge in Krigel’s voice that made her think this wasn’t the usual sort of check-in she did whenever she came home.

“I’ll go right now,” she said, bowing. “Thank you, Spiritualist Krigel.”

It took a little pushing to get out of the room. Everyone kept trying to congratulate her, but the same compliments that had sent her over the moon a minute ago were now slowing her down. She excused herself as politely as possible, ducking past the reaching hands as she made her way toward the door. When she finally made it to the hallway, Miranda hiked up the plain red apprentice robes she’d thrown over her traveling clothes for the exhibition and ran for the large spiral staircase that spanned the full height of the Court’s enormous white Tower.

The Tower was the tallest building in Zarin and the heart of the Spirit Court. There were smaller towers in nearly every kingdom of the Council of Thrones, each watched over by a Tower Keeper who made sure the local spirits were being treated with the respect and fairness they deserved, but the Zarin Tower was the home of the Rector and the heart of the Court. For the last five years, it had been Miranda’s home as well, first when she was a novice, and then, after she’d taken her oaths, as an apprentice Spiritualist. Even so, she’d never felt she belonged here as strongly as she did now, bounding up the stairs to answer the call of her Rector with her three spirits sleeping safely in their gems, their souls like warm bodies pressed up against her own.