Of Fire and Ice
Location: Coedwig March, Cymeria
:: Penhallow Manse (3533) ::
That morning, Ynella’s husband, Riordan, excused himself after breakfast. Stating he had errands he had been putting off, he dismissed his student, Mikhael, from lessons for the day leaving him in Ynella's company. Ynella felt the Heir’s eyes on her and gave in to an inner smile, knowing that he was uneasy in her presence without Riordan as a buffer. Of late, she had been silent during dinner and taking her breakfast alone. She looked over at him as she broke open another roll and drizzled honey across it. Her brows rose as he got to his feet quite gracefully for such as large man.
"I should work on the cataloging," he demurred as a prelude to excusing himself from her presence.
"I would like steamed mussels with dinner tonight, Bryn," Ynella said, unlike her husband she used the name that Mikhael had chosen for himself. She also rose to her feet. "Let the cataloging be and take me to East Mouse? Riordan hates for me to row out there alone."
"Yes, of course," Mikhael replied, stepping back to allow her to pass.
"I will just change my gown and meet you at the quay," Ynella inclined her head and left the dining room in a sweep of skirts and toss of wild red-brown hair.
Twenty minutes later Mikhael was helping Ynella down from the quay and into the sailing skiff that was her favorite. She had changed from a richly embroidered gown of deep brown to a pair of fine leather breeches dyed a dark blue and light blue tunic with full sleeves and long narrow cuffs. A leather vest and tall flat soled boots in the same dark blue leather as the breeches completed her outfit. Her amazing mane of hair was caught back in a braid where bits of its stubborn curls attempted escape. Mikhael settled in the rear seat, intending to row them clear of the quay before raising sail.
Ynella settled in the seat next to him and took hold of the starboard oar. “It will go faster if we both row,” she stated calmly, allowing him to the set the lead and pace. Her years on the sea far outstripped his and proved that experience was, in some things, as valuable as physical strength. As soon as they were free of the quay, Ynella shipped her oar and unfurled the sails, trimming them expertly until they caught the wind sending the skiff skimming over the waves. Less than an hour later, he was springing over the boat's side into deep surf to catch its lines and drag it onto the shore, grounding it safely, while Ynella stored the oars and neatly furled the sail, making it ready for their return trip. She then grabbed two deep buckets and joined him, wading through the surf as gracefully as if she were walking the halls of Penhallow Manse.
Instead of heading directly for the tidal pools where the largest and best mussels were found, Ynella dropped her buckets in the lee of a boulder and waved toward where the terrain rose toward the center of the island. "I wouldn't mind a tramp to the lake. It always fascinates me that the water there is so clear and cold, no taint of salt like we sometimes get from the wells at Penhallow."
Saying nothing, Mikhael nodded his head in agreement and followed her up the rough track. As they made the gradual ascent, they talked of Penhallow and he told her a bit of his life in Harkania. Ynella knew that he knew she was aware of his real identity, but perhaps because of his trust in Riordan, he was not reluctant to talk to her. Whatever the reason, Ynella listened with interest, extending her senses to read him as they journeyed. Riordan Brynmor was not tainted by anything of a dark nature, but Nell wanted to know that for herself.
Conversation tailed off as they reached the lake. For several moments both stood still, admiring the clarity of the deep blue water. Ynella smiled slightly. Leaning down, she unlaced her boots and stripped them off. Rolling up the legs of her breeches, she waded out to a large flat topped boulder and climbed up on it. Turning to sit where she could dangle her feet in the water, Mikhael was left with little option other than to follow her.
They sat for a time in silence, watching sea birds wheel lazily across the sky. When Ynella spoke, her honeyed voice was as cool as the winds of the North, but not unfriendly. "Riordan has shown you how to make fire. But there's more than one kind of fire, Mikhael Stormdanovich." The aura of power gathered around her, yet she did not move. A bolt of lightning, thin but not less deadly, struck a boulder on the far side of the lake and disappeared harmlessly into it. "There is lightning, hot as a thousand cook fires, hotter than the forges of the Dwarrow. But there is also the cold fire, it too can burn, but not in the way hot fire burns. It is my element and easier for me to control. Once you have the way of it, it paves the path for all other arcane knowledge."
Ynella extended her hand palm up and closed in a fist. As she unfurled her fingers, a flickering and glowing ball of light rested in her hand. It was no bigger than a small child's ball, green-white in color, and nearly translucent. Hesitantly, he reached out to touch the shimmering ball and nearly snatched his hand back. It was cold...as cold as the depths of the lake. Laughter followed his reaction, "There is a trick to melding ice with fire, Mika." For the first time, Ynella used one of the diminutive forms of his name. Surprisingly, it was the one deemed more affectionate than the one most commonly used, which was Misha. "Let me teach you..."
Unlike Riordan who held forth on theory and kept demonstrations to a minimum, Ynella taught by showing. She cupped her hands beneath his and generated the cold handfire through his hands while, at the same time, she murmured a mind-seeing spell allowing him to see and feel what she was doing. More than an hour passed before she pulled away from him and watched his first solo attempts. Her blue-gray eyes never wavered as she reached out with her senses to follow what he was doing, feeling him recall the feel and pattern of her arcane aura as he tried to alter his own and visualize what she had taught him.
Unfolding his fingers, Mikhael stretched out his hand and whispered a few quiet words. A light, blue-white in color, shimmered to life, dancing uncertainly above his palm. It did not yet have the smooth glow of Ynella’s handfire and sputtered than glowed. Without warning, it flared brighter and then exploded in a shower of ice pellets and cold sparks. Mikhael yelped and shot to his feet while Ynella lay back on the boulder laughing.
"Try again. This time try to think the elements together, do not try to build one and then the other." Ynella once again had a green-white ball of light dancing in her cupped hands.
"Witch," he muttered quietly but not in an insulting tone.
She watched as he spread his hands quietly and brought his fist up, almost level with his eyes. Think the elements together, Ynella had said. It sounded simple enough. He could feel the coldness forming inside his curled fist. Carefully, not losing his concentration, he unfolded his hand. Lying in the center of his palm was a ball of flickering blue-white light. It felt icy cold and hot at the same time. Mikhael would be at a loss to describe it to someone else.
By the end of the lesson, Mikhael was able to form the handfire and dissipate it with relative ease. Ynella, however, could call her handfire in the blink of an eye and set it to hovering by her shoulder as a light. A trick used to good purpose as they hunted in the dark corners of the tide pools for mussels and clams. When they loaded up the skiff, Mikhael was tired from the arcane exertions but well pleased with his progress. He also earned high praise from the lovely Ynella, "Perhaps Riordan was right about you after all." In relative accord, they returned to Penhallow.