Smoke and Stubbornness

She had had many students over the years.

There had been the overeager one, determined to become the best paladin anyone had ever seen. He was a quick study with a blade, but missed the mark when it came to honoring Avandra.

There had been the shy one, devout to their goddess. She refused to take up a weapon, refused to do any harm, even in the name of change or self preservation.

There had been the pair that had done well under her tutelage. They fought as if they were one person, yet they still did not live up to her expectations.

She had loved each that had been under her care. It was her nature. She viewed them as if they were family.

This one, though, had been a challenge. Still was a challenge.

She let out a deep sigh, watching the grounds beneath her come to life now that the sun was in the sky. Golden curls, antiqued with age, fell loose around her shoulders. She cast a glance over to the small cabin near the training grounds and emerald eyes grew wide with shock as she saw a steady stream of black smoke pouring from one of the windows. Piebald wings spread from her back as she rushed from the temple roof to the ground below, startling a group exiting the doors as she landed.

“Theathana, good morning! How fare you?” said a gnarled old man, a cane tightly grasped in his hands.

“Sorry, Rector, no time to stop!” she tossed over her shoulder as she sprinted by, worry creasing her face. The cottage she could rebuild, but there were things inside far too important to lose. She sped across the grounds and slid to a stop in front of the door to raise the latch.

She burst inside, loudly calling out “Corithya!” in a slightly panicked tone. Smoke laced the air in the cottage, but seemed to stem from the kitchen where she could hear violent swearing. A small woman poked her head out of the room, regret evident in the look she gave Thea.

“I’m sorry,” Cori said, trying not to cough too much in the smoky air. “I swear, I didn’t set the house on fire. Just breakfast.”

Thea couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled forth. “Thank the Goddess for that. We may be servants of the Changebringer, but that doesn’t mean we need to change the house so drastically.” At that, the pair worked together to clear the air and the mess from the kitchen, opting instead for a simple breakfast of already-prepared bread and fruits instead.

Cori ate in an uncharacteristic silence. She knew how strict Thea could be and often thought that her teacher disliked her. She had spoken to others Thea had trained in the past and while they, too, spoke of her strictness, none had ever seen Thea as she was with Cori.

The silence was overwhelming, though. “Are you angry with me?” Cori asked, choosing to gaze out one of the small windows instead of facing her teacher.

Thea smiled, the crow’s feet around her eyes making them crinkle in uncharacteristic warmth. “Let me tell you something,” she said. “When I first came here, I wasn’t in a good place. I did a lot of things I ended up regretting, but the thing I regretted most of all was not learning to control the anger I felt. My own teacher had me practicing spellcasting out on the lawn. One of my spells missed the mark entirely, and, unlike you, I did succeed in burning down the cottage that stood here before.”

Cori couldn’t help the shocked expression that passed over her face. “I’m sorry, you did what?”

Thea grimaced. “Turned the whole thing to charcoal. My instructor made me build it again from the ground up and refused to help me. Thought it might teach me a lesson about patience. I admit, it’s a lesson I never truly learned.” She reached behind her neck and undid the clasp on the chain that held her amulet. “When I was finished, he gave me this. Said that even if I didn’t learn patience like he’d hoped, I’d at least learned one very important lesson. Change is inevitable, just make sure it’s for the better.” She laughed again. “I told him I already knew this cottage was better, I had built myself a bedroom in this one.”

Thea sat the amulet on the table and slid it towards Cori. “I think it’s time I gave you this. And no, I’m not giving it to you as a reminder to stay out of the kitchen,” she chuckled. Cori took the amulet, gently turning it over in her hands a few times. The sigil of Avandra was very prominent, but she could see the wear it had taken from years of her teacher running her fingers over the relief. She knew this wasn’t something her teacher would part with easily.

“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll take good care of it.”

“I’d hope so,” Thea lightly tossed back, lightening the mood once more. “I’m still holding out hope you won’t turn out too much like me.”



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