Below is a sneak peek of Origins, Isura’s story. Origins doesn’t have a release date yet, but check back for more information!
Isura leaned her head against the stone of the courtyard walls, pressing the back of her hand to her cheek, to her forehead. With the monsoons, she had grown feverish, unable to sleep for restlessness, spending her days in a haze of exhaustion; always, always, she felt as if the heat was in her blood itself, eating her up from the inside. She sought out the comfort of the rains—cool, clean water washing over her—but as much as she felt drawn to it, it eased nothing. Tonight, the fever and the headache and her exhaustion seemed to make a ringing in her ears.
The lamps were being extinguished, and the household was preparing for sleep, but Isura had slipped away from her bedroom to come here, staring out into a courtyard half-hidden by the torrential rains. In the forcedly cloistered days of the monsoons, the air of the house had grown stale, the smell of the damp rising through the incense and potpourri her mother used. Isura only wanted to run, run away, and as much as she did not dare go out into the streets, every night she found herself drawn to the courtyard, to stand shivering in the cold and watch the rains pour down. It was the only place she felt she could breathe.
“Isura?” Mishal’s voice. “Are you coming to bed?” Isura knew she must go. She had tried staying here all night once, and she did not wish to relive that fight with her parents. But she did not answer; she only took a long last look at the rains, and then wrapped her robe tightly around herself and turned to follow her sister into the house.
“Not much longer until the monsoons are over,” Mishal said gamely, trying to draw Isura out of her silence. Isura did not reply; instead of her usual irritation at such banalities, she realized that she felt too tired to respond. She could hardly hear her sister. The two of them were walking further away from the courtyard with every step, but the sound of the rain seemed to grow no dimmer. She could hear every raindrop striking the ground, hear it so deeply inside that it was as if she felt it on her own skin. The thunder cracked and boomed, and the ringing rose—
She came to, leaning against the wall, spots dancing in her gaze, Mishal’s fingers tight on her arms. Wide, worried eyes swam into view; her sister’s voice became clear.
“Can you stand? Wait here, I’ll get Mother.”
“No.” Isura shook her head. She regretted the movement at once—the corridor spun, and she gripped Mishal’s arms to steady herself. “Help me get to the room?”
“You nearly fainted—I have to—“ Mishal broke off as Isura pushed herself off the wall and struggled along the corridor. “Please,” Mishal whispered again. “I’m worried about you.”
“What do you think they’ll say if you call them to see me?” Isura asked bitterly.
The months had been a misery of illness. With the fevers came the dreams: they began as soon as she closed her eyes now, the dancing flames and the call, inexorable, unceasing. Isura could hardly sleep for the yearning of it, and the excitement; but when she woke, she felt lost. Something was missing, something was gone. But Isura could not tell her parents of the dreams. Many times, when asked why she was so distracted, so tired, she had wanted to speak up—but every time, she had dropped her eyes back down, saying nothing to her mother or her father.
And so, knowing only of the fevers, her parents had summoned one healer after another, each of whom confidently predicted their own cures. None had worked, and over time, as Isura seemed to grow no worse, nor show any other signs of sickness, Isura knew that her parents had begun to suspect that it was all a ruse to avoid marriage.
Mishal, far from siding with their parents, seemed to know that Isura spoke nothing more than the truth; she was shaking her head now.
“Something’s wrong,” she insisted. To Isura’s surprise, her sister’s voice was stubborn. “I don’t care what they say.”
“I’m sure I’ll be better when I can go outside again,” Isura said dully. She knew that her sister’s care should make her happy; the thought of going outside should give her hope. But she was too tired. The ringing in her ears had hardly abated.
She held tightly to Mishal’s arm as they made their way into the bedroom, and then Isura made for her side of the bed, unsteadily. She let her robe slip off her shoulders so that it pooled on the ground, not caring enough to pick it up. She could hardly face another night of lying awake, of the dreams she hardly remembered: voices, and the crackling of flames…
Very dimly, she saw that Mishal had taken a little lamp and set it at Isura’s bedside, so that she would have the flicker of flame to stare at as she fell asleep. The rain was pounding, lashing against the roof, and all at once, Isura felt both exhilarated, and as tired as she ever had been. The sound of the thunder, of the winds and the rain, was hypnotic; her eyes fixed on the dancing flame, and she dozed.
She awoke to the call—she knew it now. There was fire: before her, around her, an inferno roaring heavenwards. Isura knew that she should squint at the impossible brightness of the furnace, that she should flinch away from the heat she saw rolling away from the flames. But she only held out her hands and walked forward, and she was not blinded, and she was not burned. Her feet carried her forwards, into the center of the flames themselves, and Isura raised her arms upwards.
She was engulfed in flame; it was around her, a roar of gold and red, half beast and half pure energy, running through her veins like liquid gold, setting her aflame from the inside. Isura opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out: she breathed fire itself, her throat open to the sky.
It was glorious; she thought dimly that she should be afraid, but she could not be. She did not fear death—no, was alive as she never had been in her life. She raised her hands and the fire streamed upwards, a column of liquid gold, roaring towards the sky. The fire was around her and in her; she was the fire, it obeyed her as a piece of her very self. This. This was what had been burning up inside of her, waiting to twist and dance in the air. She tilted her head back and breathed out—
Darkness. Water rushed into her mouth, pouring over her face; her hair was plastered to her neck. She was engulfed in a cloud of steam, water hissing on the ground nearby; her feet sank into cooling sand. The black was complete, surrounding her, pressing against her. The rains drenched her gown; they blocked out the sky, blocked out the landscape, beat against her as she tried to stand.
Isura turned, stumbling, looking around herself in increasing panic. She could see nothing aside from the rain. She was alone here—and she did not know where here was. Her voice caught in a sob, and she clenched her hands, nails biting into her palm.
No. She stood stock still until her chin stopped trembling. She was not going to cry. She had not cried when they had left Misurat, and she had not cried during the interminable days of the monsoon, waiting for a marriage she feared, like a little death. She would not cry now. Unsteadily, she chose a direction and took a step. Her feet skidded, and she stooped, stooping and running her fingers over the slick surface.