Prologue

Vander stood in the morning sunlight in the grass-covered backyard of his parents’ estate with his right arm outstretched. His silken off-white sleeve was pulled slightly back to prevent its ruffles from interfering with his hand movements. Vander’s purple eyes narrowed.

“Fructum manu mea.”

A translucent skeleton hand appeared in front of him. Vander winces at the boney hand he just conjured.

“Not exactly what I was hoping for” he muttered to himself.

Under Vander’s control, the spectral hand moves across the yard to the stone patio and over to the wrought iron table where his cup of tea sits still-steaming.

“Alright, the moment of truth” he said as the hand’s bony fingers grip the teacup and slowly lift it off the table and bring it towards its creator.
“You know that will certainly frighten mother, dear Vander” said a soft voice from the stone walkway behind him.

Startled, Vander’s concentration breaks causing him to dismiss the hand. The teacup fell to the ground, breaking into several pieces splashing his morning tea across the inset stones. Vander turned to look at the tall slender figure behind him.

“And now I think she’s going to beat you for breaking her teacup” says the woman with a wry grin.

“Don’t worry, she hardly ever used that cup.”

Vander looked at his sister in dismay. A light salty sea breeze causes her long black hair to dance across her shoulders.

“I’d have been sipping out of that teacup in a moment if you hadn’t startled me, Viola…and as for the hand, yes, I know. I have the words and somatic component down” he continued “but for some reason it always manifests itself as a skeleton’s hand.”

“I’m no wizard, Vander, but isn’t that in your control? I thought the manifestation was a part of your consciousness?”

Vander leaned down where the broken pieces of teacup lie and begins to pick them up.

“Well technically it comes from your subconscious, so I don’t really have control over that specifically” he said matter-of-factly.

“I see, so deep down you’re a creep!” she responded playfully. “I guess I should be glad you were only trying to pick up a teacup and not a sword. You’d likely cut your arm off!”

“The encouragement is overwhelming, V.”

Viola leaned down and begins to help Vander pick up the pieces.

“What are you two up to?” rings a voice from the archway to the house.
Vander and Viola turned to see their mother standing just outside the entry to the house.

“I was just helping Vander clean up after breakfast tea, mother” said Viola innocently.

Looking disapprovingly at Vander “Vander, that isn’t one of my teacups, now is it?”

Picking up another small shard, Vander slowly stood and turned to his mother.

“Yes mother. I am sorry. It won’t happen again.”

Even before finishing his sentence Vander could sense his mother’s disappointment, and not just because he was holding pieces of a broken teacup.

“Remember tonight is the annual Dranlake Banquet. You are both be expected to be there” she said, first looking at Viola then to Vander “and no unexpected visitors, Vander.”

“Yes mother” Vander replied quietly as she turned to return to the house.
Viola turned to Vander with a frown “Oh dear Vander, I am sorry. I do miss that cat, too.”

“It’s alright V. I am happy for you this evening. I know that father is at least equally as excited about seeing you excel as he is disappointed in my magic capabilities. I’m also excited to see Dack and ask him how his final weeks of training have gone.”

“Speaking of disappointments…” said Viola, her eyes rolling.

“I know. I should be grateful that I have been blessed with these arcane abilities. I cannot imagine living in a house with two parents AND two sisters wielding magic and being the one person unable to. He’s a good man, V… not to mention he’ll be one of the few people not looking down his nose tonight.”

Viola laughed. “That’s for sure. Let’s get inside before mother thinks you’re causing any more trouble out here.”

Viola turned and began to walk across the stone patio towards the house. Vander stood and watched as she opened the door and stepped inside. He couldn’t help but smile. She had such a softness to her. Her world was so bright. Viola always seemed to find a reason to believe things would be alright. Vander’s thoughts were interrupted as a cold droplet of rain broke over his left cheek. He hadn’t noticed the clouds moving in, but the second and third cold raindrops splashing down on him brought him back to reality and his smile faded.

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