The pub.
It smelled like smoked wood and split beer, the tables all creaked and groaned as heavy bodies from knights past lounged upon them, laughing uproariously at their mundane and contented lifestyles. My sister acted as if it were her palace.

Twittering like a bird in a flirtacious dance she spun in and around patrons, her baby blue apron forever suspended out behind her, never quite managing to keep up. Her ginger hair was tied back with a eye-catching red ribbon, though it was her smile people noticed first. I did not inherit such grace.
Without a misstep she kissed Penni's head and caressed Mika's shoulder, herding them towards the hidden kitchen at the back. She sang that she wouldn't be a moment before slipping out into her throne room once more.

Used to the routine, the boys and I helped ourselves to bread and rabbit stew and settled down onto the rotting steps of the staircase. The boys left me the bottom step as they knew it helped to stretch out when my legs starting seizing up in pain.

'I hate them all!' Tessa announced, entering the room in a storm and leaning against the closed door.

'What did Paul do this time?' I asked around butter and carrots.

The scowl she sent me would have been frightening had I not been getting it for the past eighteen years of my life.

'Paul,' she stressed the name. 'Did nothing.' She collected the bowl I gave her with a huff. 'The rest of the belittling dimwits out there on the other hand-'

'You loved them yesterday,' Mika interrupted softly and Tessa's face followed suit immediately. Mika held a respect for the drunks of Ralapa, before his mum's disappearance she alluded to the fact that his father was a knight once. Ever since, he'd been measuring up every face seated in the pubs halls, looking for identifying feature matching his own.

'I know I did, mister,' she cooed, taking a drastic turn of personality. 'And I probably will again tomorrow, I'm just a little tired right now.'

Penni chimed in then, 'Tired because Paul was here?'

Refusing to raise to the bait of a cheeky ten year old, Tessa delicately curled a lose hair behind her ear and regally lifted her chin, preparing for an interigation.
'I heard from Gerald that he thought he saw steam coming from the the little laundry shack today.' Her pointed grey eyes settled on each of us as if we were children, which I suppose was two-thirds true. 'Care to explain?'

'Practise got a bit out of hand today,' I say solemnly but sneak a wink in Mika's direction.

'You're going to raise suspicion,' Tessa said hauntily, nose still upturned. 'I wish you could be more subtle about it.'

'What did you tell Gerald?'

'I didn't, he came up with his own reasoning for it.' She watched as a started arching my back trying to rid the permenant pain that was settled there. 'Something about the sun and the laundry water.'

'Problem solved then.'

'It might not have been,' she accused.

'I can always go learn at the academy,' Mika exclaimed hopefully.

'Absolutely not!' The words came out of Tessa's mouth before I could get to them. 'You know it's too dangerous.'

Penni sat up, as he did whenever the Ministry's nerial were mentioned. 'They always look like they're having fun to me.'

'Looks can be deceptive,' Tessa recited. 'And would you want stop seeing Mika every day?'

'I suppose not.' A frown settled upon Penni's lips as he started playing with his food.

'It's settled then.' Tessa let out a breath and smiled, signalling that she was dismissing the daytime character I often detested. 'Now eat up before it gets cold.'
I flicked my fingers and made Tessa's soup scoulding hot once more.

She yelped as the spoon touched her lips and some spilt onto her apron. 'I hate when you do that without telling me,' she scowled. I didn't bother to hide my smirk.
Simon came hunkering in, ladden with bowl and plates which he ceremonous dumped into the sink. He was a fierce man. His head didn't start much higher than my own, but he's neck was swallowed by muscles that lead onto shoulders wide enough to win prizes. His scalp was bald with burn scarring and it fir his persona as a strength. This wasn't a man who got defeated, this man had been to battle and conquered. Perfect blue eyes sat below his torn forehead and they spoke of ruthless intelligence and authority.
I had a lot of respect for this man. MY fingers brushed along the scarring on my own face that got there through means much less heroic.

'I need you out there.' His voice crackled with a cough. 'Militry's nerial arrived looking for trouble.' He saunteered out the door again with Tessa following closely after, her worker's smile already refixed to her face.

'Sit down,' I said to Penni while going back to my food.

'But-' He looked at my nonchalant expression, before settling back down with a huff. 'Fine.'

'Is Worm going to be ok?' Mika worried, glancing between the door and the odd bucket of dirt kept in the kitchen corner. Simon's sister was a odd girl who stumbled behind the bar daily without saying a word to anyone as she took drink orders. The only time you could get the pleasure of her willing communication was when you showed interest in her dirt collection. She knew when you were faking it to and more than one person had suffered Simon's wrath as a consequence.

'Why would they try and hurt Worm?' Penni asked, confused.

'They think she's weak,' Mika said factfully, then looked to me to see if I agreed.

''What do you know about Worm anyway?' I questioned.

He's voice went quiet. 'She has nerial energy, doesn't she?'

'How do you know that?' Penni inquired.

Mika raised his hand and started twitching his fingers and watching the water in the sink swirl over the dirty plates of it's own accord. 'Her fingers move like this all the time.' Penni's eyes widen in fear knowing that Mika isn't supposed to do magic so close to the public eye, but I withhold the reprimand.

'And?' I asked.

He glanced at the bucket of dirt. 'The dirt wriggles.'

'Then if she has nerial energy, why would they think she's weak?'

'She's a Soleroy.'

I reprimanded him this time, with a cross tone. 'We don't say that word here.'

'What's a Soleroy?' Penni chimed in, having to repeat himself over the noise of the pub.

'A Soleroy,' I explain, getting up to put my dirty bowl with the rest. 'Is a very rude way describing someone who has neria energy that the Ministry have deemed useless and disposable.'

I watch that mull over in Penni's mind, as Mika posed to ask another question.

'Does that mean she went to the academy?'

'Yes, and you'd do well to remember that.' I point a metal fork in his direction to send the point home.

'But Mika isn't a.. soleroy,' Penni says the the word slowly hoping I won't tell him off. 'He can do loads of cool stuff.'

'Hm,' I say indulging in his train of thought. 'If the throw out those they deem useless, I wonder what they do with people they deem worthy.'

'One last thing.' Figuring it time for this improptu class to come to a close, I bother grabbing a towel to dry my hands instead of using my neria energy to steam the water dry. 'Mika, was it easy or hard to notice that Worm was a nerial?'


I nodded at the expected response and made my way to the door. 'I would recommend you avoid doing the same.'

I throw a warning over my shoulder about going upstairs when they finished and followed the sound of glasses chinking and hustling bodies into the crowded pub.