With a grin of purest delight, Elora Danan summoned fire.
It burst from the ground as though she'd simply opened a tap, a tiny geyser of raw incandescence drawn straight from the molten heart of the world itself. In a heartbeat, every aspect of physical sensation within the forge was transformed. Each breath tasted sulfurous on her tongue, the furnace heat baking the air so fiercely that sweat evaporated the instant it formed on her skin. Phosphorescent lichen had been gathered in wall sconces to provide illumination but the fountain' s radiance made them instantly redundant, dominating the modest chamber as the noonday sun would a cloudless summer sky. The room's many shadows had been utterly banished. Instead, the dark face of the chiseled stone was painted now in wild hues of scarlet and gold that never stayed the same from one moment to the next, but moved and changed with such madcap abandon the stone seemed alive. Impressive as those colorations were, they paled in comparison to the appearance of Elora herself, as the fireglow danced across skin the shade of purest polished silver.
She'd spent the better part of a week preparing the kiln for her examination, scrubbing it clean both physically and mystically. She'd gone over her notes until the order and structure of the requisite spells was engraved as deeply on her consciousness as the house sigils were in the mantlestone above the family hearth. She knew what to expect when she began the summoning, but wasn't sure what would actually happen. It was one thing watching, no matter how intently, when Torquil or his apprentices worked their special brand of magic. Another altogether to try it by herself.
She was dressed for work in ironcloth trousers, padded at the knees and tucked into stout-soled moccasin boots that laced to the tops of her calves. A sleeveless cotton undershirt hugged her torso. Over that went a proper shirt of cotton interwoven with wool, against the natural damp and chill of the tunnels, and lastly a tunic of the same battered ironcloth as her trousers, padded at both elbows and shoulders. The tunic hung to her knees, slit up both side seams to the waist to allow her legs total freedom of movement. It was cut big in the body, too, which she found a cause for some annoyance, as it made her appear far heftier than she actually was. She was proud of her physique; she'd worked hard and long burning off the excess pounds that had been a part of her all through childhood and didn't care for any reminders of the way she used to look.
As she crouched before the firespout, her face split in a grin of irrepressible delight. She was determined to fix every aspect of this conjuration in memory, the better to transcribe it later into her journal. The molten rock, she observed, was of a thicker consistency than water, heavier even than oil. Tiny sparks flashed all along its length as the intense heat ignited any stray and wayward scraps of dust in the air that swirled too close. Elora could feel prickles across the small patches of exposed skin and she had to narrow her eyes against the glare, even through the dark glasses the Rock Nelwyns used whenever they channeled lava.
Unexpectedly, and with a small pop, something wrestled its way through the fissure and slithered up the interior of the fountain, to burst into full view at its summit. Elora beheld a figure that, in broadest brush strokes, consisted of a central torso, a pair of arms, a head. No legs that she could see. The lower half of the creature was one with the pillar of molten rock. Its head began as a featureless orb but the longer she stared at it, the more features and definition appeared: eyes where human eyes should be, a nose bisecting the face, a proper mouth above a strong chin. Streams of russet flame poured back from a sharp widow's peak to form a thick single plait that reached all the way down the figure's back until it blended with the molten stream.
Elora thought it was a most attractive creature. She hadn't realized she was looking at a vision of herself.
Excerpted from Shadow Dawn by Chris Claremont. . Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.