Jary's magic awakens when he's 16. He's in the middle of a fight, protecting his little sisters from some assholes who couldn't take no for an answer.
Well. Protecting. More like helping his sisters beat up the bullies, and not even doing most of the work. The three of them, Jary, Cira and Ilora, have taught themselves how to put their shoulders behind their punches and how to aim their kicks. It was just the sensible thing to do after their father left them and mom started working double shifts at the largest sewing house in Icemere. With no adults to protect them, three defenceless kids on the streets of Arador's capital wouldn't last very long.
So they learned, and they are good enough that most troublemakers see harassing them as too much trouble.
The magic, though. It's the weirdest thing. One moment Jary is landing a nice punch to a guy's throat and cackling to himself, because that was a tricky move he just pulled, and the next, he just knows. Like there was a door in his mind all along, and all he needed was the key.
He looks around the alley they are in, makes sure there's only them and the four assholes who went after Cira and Ilora – and Jary is curious, so he lets loose. First he tries to make an icicle and stick it in his opponent's thigh. It kind of works – there's an icicle in his hand sure enough, a sharp one even, but it's slippery so he only manages to shred the man's shirt.
Oh well, that was dumb. He throws the melting lump of ice aside – summer in Arador, though short, can be scalding hot – and conjures a fistful of flame with a throwing motion. His opponent catches it right in the face. Screams as his eyebrows, eyelashes and pathetic stubble burn. His bangs get singed, too.
"He used magic on me," he shrieks, pointing at Jary with a trembling finger.
The fight comes to a halt. Cira is locked in with two kids, maybe 14 years old and already in such bad company, holding one up by his collar and keeping the other at a distance with a hand to his face. Ilora is frozen mid-punch to her opponent’s face. He's sprawled on his back and she's sitting on him, one hand to his throat.
Everyone stares at Jary with wide eyes.
Jary smirks. Snaps his fingers and makes a few sparks. "That's right. Now come here, boys, we were going to talk about inappropriate touching."
His opponent flees. The guys at Ilora and Cira's mercy flail and scramble until they are released. Soon enough, the alley is quiet, and Jary's sisters grab his hands like they might feel the magic in them through touch.
They ask questions, but Jary doesn't hear them. He's coming down from his high and finally allowing himself to realise what this means.
"You're going away, aren't you?" Ilora asks. Her tone is accusing and sad. The worst combination.
Jary sighs. "I think so."
"Do you remember your previous life?" asks Cira and she, at least, seems only curious.
"No. It's supposed to come back to me in bits and pieces, right?"
"That's what they say. It's gonna be weird. What if you had a family you loved? What if..." Cira brings herself to the verge of tears with her own questions.
Jary gathers his sisters into a hug. He doesn't offer verbal reassurance, because what's the point? He's a mage, apparently. Even if the memories of his old lives don't change him too much, he still can't stay with Cira, Ilora and mom. Maybe he can visit if he's accepted to the College in Icemere and gets a seal of passage.
That night, Jary dreams. He wakes up in the dead of night, more or less aware of how magic works and what his previous lives were like. He doesn't think of it as remembering, because he feels so separate from the persons he was back then. Nothing from his past lives feels like his memories, except for the promise he made to himself before his most recent death.
The promise is what wakes him up. The promise is what moves him to pack the few things he'll need, write a note for his family, and leave. He heads straight for the Mages’ College – and turns around about halfway there.
Jary joins a merchant's caravan heading south, upriver, towards the mountains and the salt mines of Koth. He signs up as a helper, which means he'll get fed along the way and paid on top of it once they make it back.
The plan works. During the day, Jary works his ass off and sneaks in practicing his magic whenever he finds an isolated spot. At night, he dreams, reliving his past joys and past mistakes. He feels like he ages ten years for every good night's sleep. The people around him seem to notice the change. They treated him like a brat at first, but now there's something like respect in the way they address him. The master of the caravan gives him special treatment, doesn't scold him half as often as the other helpers.
The lucky streak ends when they are almost back in Icemere, five months later, only weeks until Jary's seventeenth birthday.
They are travelling through a valley between two large hills overgrown with thick woods. Perfect location for a bandit raid, so of course it happens. And ends almost as soon as it starts when Jary uses the water from the creek trickling along the valley to freeze the bandits to the ground. It's a new trick.
The caravan moves on in complete silence. As soon as the master feels they are safe, she asks Jary to leave. She pays him in full, counting in even the last bit of journeying to Icemere that's still ahead of them. Jary understands. He returns the amount he hasn't earned, gathers his things and bids them all farewell. It's not difficult. He made sure not to make any friends.