Kyran would often gaze at faraway stars, reveling in the thought of sailing among them, just as the Dominion’s forefathers did before being cast down by the Gods. It was an impossible dream. And besides, the aura of dawn was already succeeding the dark night sky, glimmering specks of light fading until they could no longer be seen.
The young man was sitting at his usual place near the rear of the hall, close to the high-arched windows that offered a spectacular view of Phaidros. A perfect distraction from Zarkat’s dreary lessons, especially in the morning, when Kyran would survey the great city as it came to life. Now, something else drew his attention.
A new Overseer had been assigned to monitor Zarkat’s class, replacing a crusty old woman who had despised every Adept at the Academy and considered them filthy blasphemers daring to partake in sin forbidden by the Gods. She had met an unceremonious end, much to the pleasure of the students.
Mutual hate between Adept and Overseer was deeply rooted, stemming from the frightful Dread Days. A time many centuries prior when the Dread Shepherds, a group of renegade Adepts shunning the pacifist teachings of the Academy, used the Source to spread war and terror. In Dominion lore, they leveled entire villages. No way that actually happened. Though only Adepts could access energy from the Source, Kyran had trouble imagining such a display of power.
The Academy cracked down on the Dread Shepherds but lost what little goodwill existed between the factions. The Dominion’s two most prominent institutions seemed destined to clash, until a compromise was reached. They established the Council of Five, composed of an Adept from the Academy and an Overseer from the Temple, as well as three impartial lords from Phaidros’s ruling Noble Assembly. It maintained a fragile peace, enacting laws designed to placate the Temple, while providing the Adepts with enough autonomy to remain in the arrangement. One such provision allowed a number of Overseers within the Academy’s walls to observe lectures and ensure none of its students or teachers were planning a rebellion. Or to prowl through the hallways with stern faces.
Only in recent past had Adepts started venturing into the western neighborhoods of Phaidros, and little was known about their capabilities. This subjected the small minority to Dominioners’ wild imagination which was often boosted by the Temple’s public relations efforts. Incredible Source-powered technologies developed at the Academy yet shared with everyone failed to remedy the perception that Adepts were withdrawn and dangerous. Moreover, current events yielded a surge of support for the Overseers. Mystifying attacks left towns on the Dominion outskirts ravaged, with accusatory fingers pointing at the Academy. And then, an unthinkable assault on the Council itself, so savage it had shocked Phaidrosians to their core.
The Overseers smelled blood, Kyran saw it in their leering eyes and pathetic grins. Gods, I hate them all. Wait … maybe not all. The new monitor in Zarkat’s course that morning was not the archetypical Overseer, and Kyran had trouble keeping his eyes off her. During his years of studies, though few, he had never come across a Temple official quite like this one. They tended to act rigid and sour. She seems much more carnal.
Barely older than the students, she introduced herself as Gwen. Standing near the front of the classroom, the Overseer had her back to the high-arched window closest to the instructor’s dais, and as the sunlight engulfed her figure from behind, Kyran could make out the sensuous shape of her legs beneath the long white dress. Lucky I came to class today. I’d be missing a revealing sunrise. She shifted her weight slightly to the left and brought her thighs close together. Kyran’s heart leapt. Her voluptuous hips appeared ready to burst through the clothing. When Gwen turned in his direction, her dark hair shimmered in the sunlight. The young man looked away. Did she see me staring?
A glance back and, much to his relief, Kyran found Gwen’s amber eyes focusing elsewhere. The Adept moved his gaze down her body and wondered how he would ever pass the class. Not that I learn anything in the first place. He shook his head to clear his mind, but any effort to concentrate was short-lived. Gwen walked toward the window. The Overseer’s entire body moved with a seamless flow, each step more pleasing than the previous. Kyran conjured up suggestive images in which they were alone. She was kneeling, a lustful smile on her lips, playfully sliding the dress up and off her body.
“Kyran!” barked Zarkat. “Would you please focus on the task at hand, rather than on our Overseer’s backside?”
Horrified, the student found Gwen staring at him, a look of indignation contorting her otherwise enchanting features. How embarrassing. Kyran heard concealed snickering from his peers.
“Good, now that I have your attention,” Zarkat said, “perhaps you can answer the question I have just posed to the class.”
The young man realized that since the start of the lecture, he had not captured a single word from the teacher’s mouth. “Can you please repeat the question? Uh … sir.” Kyran ran his fingers through his long hair, trying his best to appear annoyed.
“Well, if you paid attention,” responded Zarkat, “you would know what to say. Instead, you were too busy contemplating other matters.” Following the overt barb, the class found little need to mask its laughter, much to the teacher’s delight.
A lonely student by his own volition, Kyran had few friends at the Academy. Anything to avoid living in his shadow. The young man’s predicament kindled a nascent fury, and everything started to anger him. Zarkat’s obnoxious smile, the laughing students, Gwen’s disapproval. A flush of heat ran through Kyran’s face, and he knew his eyes were shining brightly, just as they would for any Adept drawing energy from the Source.
“Stop right now!” Zarkat shouted.
Kyran ignored his teacher. That he was in grave violation of Academy rules, specifically those prohibiting Source usage outside of supervised classroom activities, bothered him little. Then again, his lack of obedience on the matter was not a newfound issue. Kyran relished the surge of energy in his body. It percolated through his core and pulsated in his veins. The Source made him feel stronger, more powerful. Zarkat’s muted shouts were coming from a distant place, and Kyran pictured himself in a bubble, one that could roll over anything. Had he seen Gwen’s expression change from disapproval to one of concern, maybe he would have stopped. But I can almost touch the Source. Taste it on my lips.
A powerful shock wave reverberated through the lecture hall. Papers flew in all directions, jugs of water were knocked over, and the chalk splintered into pieces. Kyran opened his eyes to survey the damage and was met with looks of stupefaction and condemnation.
“Get out of my classroom!”