Deities and Their Powers
The Nine Touches
Erif, Goddess of Fire: Rules over volcanoes
Red Fortes: Ability to create and manipulate fire
Renni, Goddess of Inner Capability: Oversees personal growth
Orange Fortes: Ability to manipulate and heighten senses and the body’s physical capabilities
Ria, God of Air: Governs tornados and wind
Yellow Fortes: Ability to create and manipulate air, especially for flying
Htrae, Goddess of Earth: Reigns over fields and crops
Green Fortes: Ability to create and manipulate wood and plant life
Retaw, God of Water: Controls flooding and tsunamis
Blue Fortes: Ability to create and manipulate water
Raw, God of War: Stands on the battlefields of soldiers
Purple Fortes: Ability to manifest weapons, shields, and boundaries
Laeh, Goddess of Healing: Watches over the sick and injured
Pink Fortes: Ability to heal and enchant potions to fight illness
Dloc, God of the Cold: Dwells in blizzards and avalanches
White Fortes: Ability to create and manipulate ice, snow, and other winter precipitation
Wodahs, God of Shadow: Lives in darkness
Black Fortes: Ability to camouflage and cast illusions
The door was made of ice—glowing blue, crystalized ice. And behind that door was my…I guess I should say destiny, even though it sounded absurd. Meeting a boy who might be my husband one day should not qualify as destiny.
Yet here I stood with my parents in a gaping black mouth of an entryway, with columns that jutted out like fangs to a blue-stoned palace so massive I had to turn my head side to side to take it all in. The last beams of dusk caught the glassy surface and danced. I glanced at my parents, both of them unconcerned. I guess we weren’t going to talk about how strange it was to make a door using only white magic. Had that been in their lectures? And, Adraa, don’t mention the creepy door situation.
My father lifted a fist to knock and I lurched forward, tugging his arm down. But it was my mother’s words that stilled us both. “Maybe…maybe we should wait.”
Snow flurries whirled. The winter wind howled. Then Father gave us both the look. “We’ve been talking about this for years, Ira.”
I hadn’t been involved in these annual discussions, obviously. I was eight. My parents had been considering my arranged marriage since forever.
“And after all those steps,” Father huffed.
I didn’t even want to glance behind me at the slope of stairs we had climbed. My legs ached, quivering in confusion as to why we hadn’t flown here on skygliders like sensible witches and wizards. By stair twenty I had begun imagining the Maharaja of Naupure made us walk up here, not to fulfill tradition as everyone had told me, but to weaken me. By stair sixty-two, a nagging thought crept in like the cold—I approached a prison, not a palace.
I could see from the crinkle of my mother’s crooked nose that she was about to laugh. And my one opportunity in this nightmare of steps and cold and weird doors was about to slip away.
“I’m with Mom. This is a bad idea!” I said.
Both pairs of eyes shot to me. Father immediately bent down and clasped my shoulders. “Just think of this as meeting a new friend, Adraa.”
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