DISCLAIMER : I don't own anything except my own OC's. Some character names (slightly altered) are used with the kind permission of gaming friends,

Chapter One

The flames danced and sparks flew up into the night. A small figure sat huddled in a blanket watching the flames, the silent tears tracing lines down her cheeks, catching the firelight, Her thoughts drift back to another time...

The sweet song of a distant memory echoes in her mind, of a young girl in a nightgown quietly sitting as her mother sings a lullaby, and chases away the days tangles with a silver backed hairbrush. Content and happy the young girl relaxes, drifting towards sleep at the rhythm of the brushing and the sound of the sweet voice. Feeling warm and safe she snuggles under the covers of her bed and drifts off to sleep, feeling the fleeting kiss placed on her brow.

Another tear falls to the ground, "Oh mother, why were you taken from us?" she whispers. The night continued and the flames died down, she rose silently to her feet and slowly walked back to the dormitories... a solitary figure enveloped in grief.

-oOo-

Time had not softened the dark moments of despair, months may have passed, but to Shiama the death of her mother sometimes seemed as fresh as the moment she had discovered her mothers' crumpled body in the flower garden.

At 8 years old she was old enough to understand that this meant her mother was never coming back, but also too young to be without a mothers love. Her father did his best to console her but his own grief was a deep as her own. Together they sorted through her belongings, the silver hairbrush, gold phoenix pin, a crystal pendant on a silver chain and a small notebook of memories she had written down, started the day Shiama was born.

Shiama kept these items in a small chest of golden wood, with her mothers' favourite flower, a scarlet poppy, carved into the lid, tinted with red so it seemed like it grew from the surface. her mother called it a fire flower.. it's dark centre like the firestone and petals radiating like flame. Each item held a memory,. a moment in time, captured and held in her heart. Her father had tried his best but he couldn't cope with the upbringing of a young girl and running his business, so Shiama was sent to be a pupil at the monastery at Shing Jea to be educated just after her ninth birthday.

To a curious young girl the monastery was a wondrous place, with people from many lands visiting and training with the masters. Shiama found her lessons interesting, as well as improving her written skills she learnt numerical ones too, plus history and culture of other lands and its people. She often thought how handy it would be with all this new knowledge when she returned home, to be able to help her father and the business. With this in mind she dedicated herself to her studies, This soon set her apart from her classmates. Shiamas' hard work brought praise from her tutors and attention of her classmates, but not the type she would have preferred. They made the assumption that she was trying to be better than them and began to bully and tease her. She tried at first to alter their view of her but nothing seemed to work, a lot were of noble birth and others too frightened to stand by her so that's how things stayed. Shiama often hid when she saw them coming or visited places where an adult was present so to deter their behaviour. It was on occasions like this, when she found herself alone and frightened, that the memories would come flooding back. At first she wore her nice clothes but the dirty tricks played by the others meant more than once found her washing them in secret.

It was Wintersday Eve, the year Shiama was 10, she wore her mothers brooch to the evening festival, it had been a wonderful event full of colour and laughter, but it was coming to a close and it would soon be time to retire to bed. Shiama was standing to one side, no one had even asked her to dance and she was watching longingly. She spied Reanna, daughter of a rich nobleman walking towards her with a smirk on her face. "What have we here? A wallflower... " she sneered, "No one wants to dance with someone like you". Her eyes widened as she spotted the glint of the gold brooch. "It seemed we may have a thief in our midst" She whispered aside to her friend. " No one as poor as you can afford this, so it must be stolen... give it here!" Reanna reached to snatch the brooch, but a tutor seeing the commotion strode over to see what was happening. Shiama took advantage of this distraction and disappeared from view. Along the corridors she ran, then ducked into an alcove to one side of a tapestry, trying to control her gasping breaths as she strained to hear the footfalls of feet following.

Moments passed, she remained hidden until a peaceful silence drifted around her. Slowly she peered around the tapestry but there was no one in sight, just the flickering candles on the wall sconce's. Shiama unpinned the brooch and lay it in the palm of her hand. Her thoughts drifted again..

"Tell me about the Phoenix mother" Twinkling eyes, sparkling with light and excitement looked up into her mothers face.

"But you've heard it so many times before my darling, you must know it off by heart." The young girl watches as her mother laughs.

"But the way you tell of Phoenix being born again mother, fills me up inside and lifts me higher like its' flames."

"Very well". The woman sighs. The young girl sits enraptured as her mother begins her tale again...

Shiama finds herself back in the present, her eyes staring at the brooch, it's glowing as if alive, small flames flickering around it.

Shiama was discovered by Arcadia Hunt aged 16, a trainee with the masters at the monastery. He had overheard conversation amongst the tutors and found himself interested to learn more about this bright young girl, the only child of a widower. As he learnt more about her, he debated whether or not to talk to her. It was shortly after that he grew concerned at her changing behaviour, and had started to keep an eye out for her. He had watched how how her eyes filled with the sights and sounds of the evening, enjoying herself. It was a shame, a bright young thing spending the whole evening totally alone, then he saw Reanna step in and the spiteful behaviour, plus Shiamas flight from the hall. He hadn't had a chance to leave until now, and searched the corridors hoping to find her.

As he rounded a corner he eyes beheld a sight at first he did not comprehend. Shiama was standing in the light of the candles, with her eyes focused on something in her hand. He looked again. "could it be?" he thought. Careful not to interrupt her concentration he approached, and saw flames around the phoenix brooch in her hand. He spoke gently in a whisper. "A beautiful creature the Phoenix..., amazing how it dies and is reborn." As if in a trance Shiama spoke. "Yes, my mother would tell me its' tale, I would never tire of hearing it." She felt a tinge of sadness and the flames died as she remembered her mother was dead.

Realising she was not alone, Shiama stepped back startled. "Don't go please.." Arcadia could see her fear and resisted the urge to reach out to her in case she took it as a threat. Shiama hesitated. "I saw what Reanna did." He continued. "But I'm not like that. Please believe me" Shiama blinked, seeing how his eyes pleaded and the tone of his voice, her eyes dropped their guarded look. He turned as if to walk away but then hesitated, and then turned back.

Shiama spoke. "What are you doing here?" Arcadia smiled. "I was looking for you, it seemed like you needed a friend." He looked at the floor then up at her face. Shiama gave an uncertain smile, not sure how to respond to this young man who stood before her. He commented "That is a lovely brooch phoenix, if I saw it clear enough." A warm smile touched Shiama's lips. "Yes.. it was my mothers." Her eyes took on a glow of wonder. "but tonight it seemed to come alive for the first time.." Her words drifted to a stop.

Arcadias' look went un-noticed, he realised what was happening. "I don't think Reanna will have a chance to be cruel to you anymore Shiama." He smiled broadly and continued. "Can you meet me at the inner courtyard at about 8am tomorrow morning?" Shiama hesitated puzzled, but seeing his eager face, she nodded.

With a wave he was gone. Suddenly Shiama realised she didn't feel quite so much alone. She walked to her room, changed and crept into bed.

-oOo-

The sun was shining brightly as Shiama rose, washed and dressed the next morning. Thoughts of the previous night ran through her mind, should she go and meet the young man from last night, she didn't even know his name but had seen him around with the masters once or twice. Was this a kind of trick or not? By the time she had eaten it was 7.45am and she found herself walking up the steps to the courtyard.

As she neared the top she heard two voices "Arcadia, are you sure?" She heard the reply. "Yes master Soto, I saw it with my own eyes..". Shiama stopped at the top of the stairs. Master Soto? What was he doing here? Arcadia spied her before she could turn away, "Shiama, you came, I'm so pleased." He revealed a smile as he walked towards her and taking her hand led her to where Master Soto stood.

"Master.. I'm sorry if I interrupted something but.." She paused briefly. "..Arcadia asked me to come." His aura was comforting and she found herself smiling at him. "Oh no my dear child, we were waiting for you." Shiama looked at them both with a puzzled glance. "Arcadia has told me of you and of something he witnessed that needed my attention". Suddenly Shiama thought of Reanna and the trouble caused by her brooch, she started to apologise, but was interrupted as Master Soto continued.." It seems we have a new apprentice.. " He smiled and bowed to her. "Welcome Elementalist Kestrel. I trust you will find your training with the masters as rewarding as with your tutors".

Shiama was speechless. Arcadia squeezed the hand he was still holding. "I didn't like to say anything last night, but when I saw the flame around the phoenix brooch I guessed what was happening. You said yourself it was something new so you didn't realise that your elementalist powers were emerging." She looked at them both unable to find any words. "Come my dear, I know the entrance year has started but, when Arcadia explained your circumstances I think we can make an exception and transfer your belongings straight away." A that moment nothing could douse the feeling of happiness she experienced as she followed the master to her new room.

A week later Shiama received a letter from her father, the message from monastery had been delivered to him as he reached Kaineng Centre. He was so proud to hear of how well she was doing, and of the new emergence of her magic skills. He also wrote that he missed her dearly and that she should come home for a holiday during the next seasonal break. Life began to blossom for Shiama, she soon forgot Reanna as new friends drew her into their group.