Lyra and the Undercover Magic
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Running from pursuers, Lyra finds refuge within the Academy of Magic. However, the tranquil life isn't for her. She competes in thrilling inter-academy contests for a chance at a prestigious job in the Capital and finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue and mystery. Meanwhile, strange things happen, including adept students losing their powers. Amidst this turmoil, Lyra's path crosses with Adrian, an imperial spy assigned to unravel the academy's secrets. As their connection deepens, Lyra puts herself at risk of being exposed. Can she unlock the long-hidden truths of her past? Will she overcome the challenges that await her?
Chapter 1. Midnight Stranger
The pub was filled with the sounds of raucous shouting and glass shattering. Amid the chaos, Lyra stood defiantly; despite the rowdy band of orcs surrounding her, she remained composed and agile. The current situation only fueled her excitement for a good fight, a chance to test her magical abilities and hone her skills. Dodging the next glass flying at her, she shouted at the dwarf owner of the pub, standing behind the bar.
"Billy, this broken mug isn't my fault!" her voice cutting through the noise. "Don't you dare put it on my tab!" she added, her eyes flashing angrily.
The orc sneered and threw another glass in her direction. Lyra put up a block with her hands and whispered a spell. In seconds, the glass changed its trajectory, turning around to hit the jaw of the unsuspecting orc. The once-vile smile faded from his face, replaced by a look of shock and pain. That's what you get for whistling obscenities at decent ladies.
But Lyra's actions would not come without consequences. Judging by the numerous bodies strewn around the tavern, she would likely need to pay compensation for the emotional damages inflicted on the orcs. However, as an adept of the Academy of Magic, Lyra could not afford such generosity. Her honor, and that of the other women in the tavern, had been tarnished.
The night had begun like any other in the small village of Brumewick, where it was tradition for the townspeople to gather at bars and pubs on the last day of summer. They celebrated the waning days of warmth and peace before the young adepts from the Academy caused trouble. Lyra had decided to partake in the festivities in the last summer holiday days, but fate had other plans.
As the sun began to set, five dirty orcs burst into the tavern, throwing the owner aside as they made themselves at home. "We are, as always!" they roared, beginning to squeeze and paw the ladies indiscriminately. Chaos and mayhem were in the pub, and Lyra knew she had to act quickly. So next time, orcs will think twice before showing up next to Lyra's favorite place, Billy's Tavern.
After brushing off a splatter of mash from her sleeve and stepping over several unconscious orcs, Lyra approached Billy, who continued to polish glasses, calculating his future profits calmly. Gnomes always knew how to profit from damages.
The sound of hooves approaching in the distance signaled the imminent arrival of the city guards. Lyra tossed a handful of coins onto the counter for her meal before the unwanted guests appeared and attempted to slip away from the brawl. She made her way to the black door at the end of the hall, which led to the backyard, and from there, she was just a stone's throw away from the Academy. The streets of Brumewick were silent, and Lyra wrapped her cloak tightly around herself to ward off the drizzle.
But as she rounded a corner, she heard a rustling sound. She initially assumed it was just rats, but the sound of human footsteps quickly dispelled that notion.
"Did one of the orcs survive and decide to seek revenge?" she wondered. Her heart raced with adrenaline, and her fingers tingled with the residual electric energy from her spell.
Turning sharply on her heel, she fired a bolt of energy into the dark street. She heard a painful scream, followed by a falling body.
"I knew it ‒ surveillance," she muttered to herself. There was no time to check. She had to get home quickly where she would be safe under the cover of the Academy.
As she almost took a low start, she heard a gurgling cough followed by intermittent laughter.
"Uh-oh! It's called Leading a lady home," something hit the trash can, followed by the sound of a slap in a puddle. "Damn, it... As my mother used to say, "No good deed goes unpunished."
Soul-plucking lamentations caught Lyra's attention. She launched a little firefly into a pitch-black corner where a man lay by the garbage can and in the puddle. Tall, judging by his outstretched legs. He wore an expensive black cloak but with rotten food decorating the clothes here and there. It was difficult to determine his age since the resinous hair stuck together with food waste, partially covering his face.
"Won't you give the defender a hand?" the man asked, snapping Lyra out of her stupor. He narrowed his eyes, smiled, and extended his hand to her.
"A good defender in need of female help," she quipped. "From what did you want to protect me?"
"From black cats who were about to cross your path," the man joked.
"Seriously?" Lyra approached menacingly. "Why were you following me?"
The stranger slowly stood up, and it seemed he would not answer. It began to drizzle, the firefly giving little light, but it was enough for Lyra to get a better look at the stranger. Something about him was mysterious and attractive.
As she gazed upon him, her breath caught in her throat. He towered over her, tall and imposing in his raincoat, yet she felt an irresistible pull towards him. The rain cascaded down his tar-black hair, creating a sheen that only accentuated the depth of his piercing blue eyes. A sly smile danced across his lips, drawing her attention to the sharp contours of his jawline.
As they stood there in the rain, she couldn't help but admire how his clothes clung to his body, revealing the outline of his robust frame. With each step he took toward her, she felt her heart race faster and faster, consumed by a desire she had never felt before.
As he drew closer, she could feel the heat emanating from his body, the scent of rain and musk enveloping her senses. She knew she was lost to him at that moment, captivated by his enigmatic aura and the promise of untold pleasures ahead.
"Don't come near me," Lyra said with less confidence, but her inner voice yelled another, "Come closer."
With a gentle touch, he brushed the wet strands of hair from her face, his fingers tracing a delicate path along her cheek. She closed her eyes, savoring his touch, as he leaned in and whispered in her ear.
"You smell so sweet. Your scent drives me crazy," the man murmured, his breath hot against her skin.
Lyra seemed to wake up from a trance and immediately pushed the man away from her.
"It hurts. What did you hit me with?" The man groaned, covering his side with his hand, but Lyra's blow had been good.
"A third-degree combat clot," reluctantly answered Lyra. A negative thought flashed through her: "Actually, it's sixth-degree magic, but I won't tell you." After all, anything higher than fourth degree was forbidden to use in crowded places under the penalty of arrest. But she wanted to try out her new knowledge.
"But I think it's sixth-degree magic," he drawled greedily. "And you weren't throwing soap bubbles in the tavern either."
Glancing at the stranger again and ensuring he was not a city guard and could not arrest her, Lyra turned around with great willpower and hurriedly went home. Dawn was approaching. She needed to return before the gatekeeper began preparing the gate for the adepts' return after a summer break.
"Will we see each other again?" he shouted hopefully after her.
She gave the stranger a sly smile as a farewell and disappeared around the nearest corner.
Chapter 2. The Basilisk Academy of Magic
The Basilisk Academy of Magic was located on the outskirts of Brumewick. It was separated from the south by a turbulent river, always changing the direction of its flow due to the higgledy-piggledy mermen that lived in it. It was dangerous to swim in it, as the undercurrents or the water mermaids could drag you to the depths.
A bridge ran across the river, the only and, therefore, the main entrance to the Academy. The rear of the Academy was bordered by the Eternal Forest, stretching for miles around. They say adepts who failed to pass their final exams stayed there forever. A high, ornate iron fence surrounded the Academy with a string of protective spells around its perimeter. Beyond the wall was a park, and in the center of the grounds were towering academic campuses and residential dormitories.
Lyra approached the front gate just as the first beam of light cut through the sky. She listened to what was happening outside the gate and heard a measured snuffle, meaning
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