The Island of Guntas
22 Day of Inasham
Year 2517 AUC
Fate would yank me kicking and screaming toward my destiny. Tomorrow I was supposed to leave everything I knew for a world I’d only seen in my darkest visions and dreams. The law dictated I would travel to the Place of Lordéhi, an island outside of the City of Amora, on my seventeenth birthday, so I could officially begin my training at the Temple of Apenth not only as the Phoenix Prophetess but also the future advisor to the queen.
I wasn’t ready.
“... fifteen days without a drop of rain, Yssa! We haven’t ....” Tym, my best friend and secret crush, droned on about the drought plaguing our island as we sat on the steps of Tamman’s temple like we had done a thousand times throughout the years. A tendril of ivy—about the only plant as green as Tym’s priest-in-training robes on the island—dangled above his forehead. In a few months, he’d reach full priesthood status. A pang ached in my chest. I would miss the ceremony.
“You’re not payin’ any attention to me.” He pushed back his damp hair, red strands sticking up like a rooster’s behind.
Any other day I would’ve laughed, but not today.
“Excuse me for not being very golden today.” I huffed and stared at him from the corner of my eye. When had he grown so tall, so strong? His shoulders and chest pressed against the green fabric. His warm hazel eyes reminded me of autumn leaves. Over eight years ago, my prophecy saved his life. Twenty-four died from those sudden storms, but Tym believed me and survived.
I could’ve lost him then, but instead I was losing him now. And yet on my last day, he could only talk about crop damaged and irrigation patterns. I slapped his shin with the back of my hand. “I’m not here to talk about the ... wea ... ther ....”
My body stiffened, and a soft gasp puffed from my lips. No, not now. Not today. The vision seized me in its frigid grip.
“Come on, Priest. The storm’s over, and Apenth’s light shines down upon us. We’ll arrive at the Island of Guntas on the ’morrow.” A bearded man swipes a cloth over the oar handles. He’s taken this path before to my home islands.
The priest wrings out his soaked white robes. His shoulders hunch over, and his cheeks bulge with a greenish tint. I do not recognize him. Where is High Priest Thodain? Without a word to the ferryman, the man twists toward the boat’s side and heaves.
“Liam, untie the sail. A bit of a wind is comin’.” The ferryman dips the oars into the churning ocean.
Liam. The young man has haunted my dreams and visions since High Priest Thodain showed me him in a dream years ago. A sword shimmers against Liam’s side as his strong hands untie the ropes harnessing the sail. He pauses from what he’s doing, and his dark blue eyes meet my gaze—as if he can see me.
“Yssa?” A hand waved in front of my face and distorted the vision. Tym snapped a couple times, the sound loud and sharp. “Come out of it.”
I blinked and sucked in air. Prophecies often left me breathless. The Temple of Tamman rushed toward me and removed any traces of the scene I foresaw. Nearby, golden-clad priests sprinkled the fields with water. Bees lazily swirled from flower to flower. I gathered my hair into a ponytail and brushed the perspiration from my brow.
“What did you see?” Tym scooted down a step to sit beside me.
“The boat that’s coming for me.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” He rested his arms on his knees. His gaze followed the priests in the fields.
“What’s there to talk about? You didn’t seem that interested in talking about today earlier.” I rose from the steps. A blue butterfly fluttered against my hair. Its wings kissed my cheek before flying away. Unshed tears burned my eyes, although I refused to let them fall. I’d known my whole life this day would come. Apenth, the God of Prophecy, said I had the ability to change Fate. If so, then why couldn’t I alter my own?
“You’re leavin’ me behind forever.”
“Oh, Tym.” I pressed my palms against my eyes. “It’s not forever.”
“You’ll forget me once you’re in Amora.” His shoulders slouched, my wilting sunflower.
“Look at me.” I knelt before him. My hands nearly touched his, but I placed them against the warm stone steps instead. Why did he think I would forget him? Didn’t he know how much I cared about him? That I—No, I couldn’t think the L-word. The one that would undo me and him. We knew we could only be friends from the start, since his life was in Guntas and mine in Amora.
His head lifted, but he didn’t meet my gaze.
“Come on. Don’t you trust me?”
“With my life.”
“Good. You know I know these things. If I say we’ll see each other again, then we will. That’s final.” I stood to put distance between us again and pressed my back against a column. Coolness seeped through my dress.
“I don’t want to go. I love it here.” With you. My family.
“But you’re travelin’ to Amora. The big city! Everyone wants to visit there.” He kicked at an invisible spot on the steps, his lower lip pouting. “It’s better than this insignificant island.”
“You’ll visit the city one day.”
“Really?” His eyes lit up.
“Maybe.” I shrugged. “I ... I can’t imagine not seeing you again. You’re my b-best friend.”
My throat tightened as I sank down beside him.
“I wish you’d stay here.”
“Me too.” Could I ask Apenth to give me a reprieve? The kingdom had done fine since the last Phoenix Prophetess five hundred years ago. I could remain here and continue my training in my dreams with Apenth and High Priest Thodain and journey to Amora when I was ready.
Tym tapped his fist against my upper arm. “I’m goin’ to miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too.” I mapped out the freckles across his nose and cheeks. An image of him was all I could take with me. I shifted closer to him and rested my head against his shoulder. “I wish you were my Phoenix Guard and could journey with me, but since you don’t have the phoenix mark, you’re not him.”
“I know.” He pressed his cheek against my hair.
Grasses, sporting yellowed tips, swayed in the breeze. The aroma of greenery tickled my nose. I was going to miss everything about Guntas. From the Temple of Tamman all the way to the other end of the island at the bustling marketplace and town center. Well, maybe not quite everything. A few—okay, most—islanders didn’t care for me or my prophecies of danger and destruction. If there was one good thing about Amora, it offered a fresh start.
My eyes rolled back as another prophecy seized me.
Dark clouds shroud the sun and distant thunder rumbles through my bones. Lightning sizzles over the town center. A woman—the innkeeper Erditha— shrieks, “My inn! My inn!”
A man in golden robes with familiar emerald green eyes runs into the burning building. High Priest Vert’s name is on my lips as I follow him up the stairs toward the rooms. In the last room, a woman stares out the window, flames rolling overhead.
“We have to leave now, ma’am.” He reaches for her.
She turns and stares not at him but at me. Golden flames lick toward me, mesmerize me with their flickering beauty. The woman’s throaty screams—or is it laughter?—echoes. The ceiling collapses in ash and fire. Vert’s dying screams skewer my heart.
The premonition released me.
I bolted up and teetered on the steps.
“Yssa, what is it?” Tym grabbed me before I fell. As I regained my balance, he released me and rose from the stairs.
“High Priest Vert ... where is he?” I searched the fields for him. The clear blue sky mocked my prophecy, but I knew the truth. A storm was coming, and my friend would die. The town center would burn.
“He’s gone.” Tym’s brow crinkled in concern. “He and a couple other priests went to the marketplace to deliver some goods.”
My flesh erupted into goose bumps despite the hot late spring day. Dear gods, I couldn’t be too late. “We have to get to the town center. There’s going to be a storm, and lightning will strike the inn.”
“It’s too dry. The inn will go up like kindlin’.” His eyes widened, and he gripped my arm. “What else did you see?”