Kestek Leiff was deemed the most indecisive student in her year. When she, along with all the other students, had to pick what they wanted to study, she lapped the field twice, unable to choose something she really wanted to dedicate herself to.
Most of the other sprites in her year had chosen within minutes, picking things like teaching various subjects to the younger students or pursuing studies to become merchants.
In the end, Kestek chose to study medicinal arts, meaning she would become an apothecary—and that was something the town sorely needed.
The entire Yaruid Kingdom had twenty trained apothecaries in total as of the previous year, and three of them were there in Woei. The other seventeen were scattered among the other seven counties that Yaruid was comprised of.
But after a painful year of boring lessons, all Kestek really found herself enjoying was the way ingredients went together to create something new.
The rest of it—all the injuries and blood and disgusting ingredients necessary for salves and potions—was no fun at all.
So Kestek switched to study something different, meaning she was only allowed to change her mind one more time before she turned fifteen. Then she would be stuck studying whatever she chose for the rest of her time at The Academy.
Unfortunately, she discovered after a few months that she wasn’t cut out for life as a seamstress. It was stressful trying to stitch fabric correctly, and the lessons were even more boring than the apothecary lessons were. At least in that class she had gotten to enjoy some aspects.
But she hated everything about being a seamstress, and she knew whatever she ended up choosing would be better than that.
There would be no more switching after her second time changing her mind, and she would be fifteen in a few days, anyhow. Whatever she chose would be what she would spend the rest of her life doing.
“I don’t know what to do,” she told her friend Wrija after classes one day while they sat on the rocky shore of the Kabvs Sea. “What if I choose wrong? Then what?”
Wrija shrugged, her wings brushing Kestek’s shoulder. Both girls were sprites, having wings that stayed invisible unless they were around someone they were close with or trusted deeply. It was usually accidental when a sprite left their wings visible, but it was a sweet gesture nevertheless.
Kestek had been mistaken for a human a few times before, since the only thing really setting sprites apart from humans was their wings that couldn’t be seen anyway, and their ears—but even then their ears were very similar to human ears, just with pointed tips.
The other thing was that sprites’ eyes were the color of their magic, unique in color to each individual. They also blushed the color of their magic.
Kestek had mallow-purple eyes. Wrija had jasmine-yellow eyes.
“You’re so lucky,” Kestek grumbled. “You liked the first thing you chose.”
“I just like making things with my hands,” Wrija replied. She was training in craftsmagicks, using her magic while making things like wands and flying broomsticks. “Isn’t there anything you like doing?”
Kestek thought for a long moment. She had never thought too much about it until she had to, and by then it was too late to explore her options.
A flash of movement darted past the girls, making them both flinch.
It was a boy that was probably around their age, and he had just thrown himself into the water.
He disappeared for a few seconds, then a scaly, cobalt-blue tail flicked out of the water for an instant.
“Merfolk are so annoying,” Wrija complained. “At least, halflings are. Can’t they just make up their minds and live either in the water or on land?”
Kestek had to agree. Humans were a nuisance enough without being mixed with other species. She couldn’t understand how anyone could put up with humans enough to befriend them, let alone fall in love and have a child with one.
“I thought I might find you here!”
Kestek and Wrija both jumped to their feet, spinning around to look at the sprite boy that had just landed next to them.
It was Piklof; he was Wrija’s boyfriend, being in the same age group even though he was already fifteen. The two of them had met while in the market a few months ago, and they were hopelessly in love with each other—which wasn’t all that strange for sprites. They were creatures directed by their feelings and emotions, and when they fell in love, there was no getting back up.
Sprites loved for life, simple as that. Most were married by nineteen.
Kestek politely turned away to gaze at the sea as Wrija fell into Piklof’s arms.
Even though the sun was just setting, a few sirens were taking their usual spots on the rocks in the distance, warming up their beautiful voices.
“Let’s leave before they start trying to charm us,” Piklof suggested, leading Wrija away from the shore while beckoning for Kestek to follow.
Even sprites—who had not a single drop of lust within them—could be captivated by a song of a skillful siren. Not to mention that a kiss from a siren caused infatuation.
“How do they even create such powerful magic with just a silly song?” Kestek wondered.
Piklof blinked his mantis-green eyes, looking confused.
“You mean spellsinging?”
“That’s it!” Kestek exclaimed. “That’s what I’ll choose. It’ll be brilliant!”
“You? Spellsing?” Wrija looked utterly bewildered. “Do you even like to sing?”
“Of course I do! I haven’t done it much, but now I’ll get to all the time!” Kestek couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of it earlier.
Granted, not a lot of sprites took interest in spellsinging, but that was because of the stigma it carried, since sirens generally stuck to songs about desire to lure in prey—whether it be a ship full of useful cargo or a shoal of fish that could be caught and made into food.
But spellsinging could do much more than charm someone. It could create lights and sounds, even summon elements of weather such as wind and rain.
The more Kestek thought about it, the more excited she got.
“It’s settled,” she declared. “I’ll study spellsinging.”
So she added her name to the list and eagerly awaited to start lessons.
The class wasn’t very big, consisting of a fairy, a selkie, and six merfolk. Kestek was the only sprite, but she noted that the fairy and selkie were also loners.
The entire class was made up of girls.
The lessons took place on the docks to accommodate for the large Merrow population, which Kestek didn’t mind in the least. She liked the water, despite not being a good swimmer. Sprites didn’t really need to know how to swim.
The girls got into groups of three for the warm-up; all the mermaids got in groups, leaving Kestek to join with the fairy and selkie.
Out of respect for the fairy, Kestek briefly took a knee, as did the selkie.
Then they got started, learning how to read music so they would be able to read the spells meant to be sung.
The spellsinging captain was a siren, and she explained that using a voice was too powerful for beginners. They would practice making the music by blowing into bottles that each made a different note.
Kestek got the hang of it quickly, being one of the first to successfully cast using various instruments that were provided. She memorized the order in which to blow into the bottles, and she did the same when it came to which holes on flutes to cover up and which strings to pluck on harps.
Then the day finally came where they would use their voices.
It was only then that Kestek discovered something that hadn’t caused a problem before.
She couldn’t hear the difference of one note from another.
Kestek tried to remember the way notes felt in her throat and mouth, but it was useless. It was impossible to pick out notes that sounded wrong. In fact, they sounded no different to her than it was supposedly supposed to sound.
She couldn’t bring herself to confide in Wrija, since she had been excelling in her class and was nearing top position. Piklof was reaching top position in his class as well—which was sword fighting. He was going to be the best swordbearer the town had ever seen, according to the rest of the sprites living there.
So Kestek kept her complaints and suffering to herself, trying potions and spells galore to try and gain the ability to decipher musical notes.
She could tell that everyone in the class pitied her. They knew it was too late for her to switch to a different class, and she was stuck with them despite having no ability to accomplish anything required of her in the class.
At night, Kestek started sneaking out to listen to the sirens, only to discover that the music truly had no effect on her. A few sirens even swam up to the shore to complain that she was distracting them, and it was rude to sit and listen to them if she had a talisman that nullified the spellsinging.
Unable to admit the truth, Kestek started listening from a perch in a nearby tree, wishing she had made a better choice.
One that allowed her to succeed, no matter how boring it was.
~ ~ ~