@crocordile asked:

BEFORE THE BEGINNING, focused on either Rei, Loraya or Aceptra 

Let’s see, Loraya is pretty much covered (;_;), and … yeah, a non-spoilery bit from Rei’s backstory:

[excerpt from a letter]

I’ve just arrived at Athian-Llyrende. The Fire Temple here is enormous. There are more people than I could begin to count, from children scarcely older than you to old, old Alayr, and pillars and towers and–I’m sorry, I am too tired to describe it properly. I’ll send a picture so you can see for yourself. They even have an amphitheatre for duels; there aren’t many, but there’s a Magrai’la every year and everyone comes to see. I’ll tell you all about it, I promise.

How are your studies going? Splendidly, I’m sure. I sent some lighter books this time; you need something more than mathematics and domination to occupy your time!

I was going to tell you something else, but I can’t remember! Please forgive me, I am so tired. I will write again soon;–take good care of yourself.

Official Introduction/Cast

The Elentian Empire collapsed long ago. In the fragmented remains, however, its people live on, a bastard hybrid of human and demon spread through three nations. Even a sheltered girl of thirteen like Giva Poldan knows that. She’s heard all about their witches, too, the Elentian women who bargain with their demonic kin for power. Giva, the daughter of a diplomat, isn’t sure she believes it. All she knows for certain is that they’re enemies of the Cedeirans, her own people, and have been fighting against Cedeira for ten years. But when a delegation of Elentian witches arrives to negotiate a treaty, they reveal Giva herself to be a witch—to the shock of her father, stepmother, brother, and most of all, herself.

Under Cedeiran law, Giva must walk through Guthek’s Gate, a cursed archway through which all vanishes forever. She is not killed, but instead emerges in the Elentian nation of Marelia, hundreds of miles away from everything she’s ever known—and it turns out, fifteen years in the past.

Major characters:

Giva Poldan (13): the third child of a dutiful, rule-abiding diplomat, whom she strongly resembles in character. Now, Giva is cut adrift in a world where she’s alienated from her own people, yet confused and uncomfortable among the matriarchal, only maybe-human, definitely alien Elentians. She doesn’t know the rules, and everything she does know seems to be wrong.

Lady Arceptra Cordell (27/12): one of the leading noblewomen of the Elentian delegation, she leaves a strong impression on Giva as a charismatic and gracious lady. She appears later as a girl sequestered with Giva in the magical sanctuary beneath the Collegium of Cyrada, but very different from Giva’s memories, overpowering one minute and inattentive the next. She turns out to be a member of the old ruling house, a magical prodigy groomed by her family to join the elite Alayr—but she’s losing control of her magic, and the enemies of the Queen have different plans for her.

Rei Andastal (16): a long-standing resident of the Sanctuary and protégée of an off-putting Alayr bureaucrat. Friendly in a more restrained and muted way than the highly-strung Arceptra, Rei is an illusionist like Giva, but highly skilled, able to shield Giva from her magic, and offer advice and reassurance. Rei, a relation by marriage of the Queen, lost her family to the same enemies who intend to make a puppet queen out of Arceptra, and was consequentially placed in the Sanctuary.

Loraya Deylar (28/13): an official ambassador in the delegation, in close association with Arceptra but much less obtrusive. Later/earlier, she’s the last of the girls to arrive in the Sanctuary, fanciful and gentle, but so cripplingly shy and nervous that even Arceptra seems even-tempered next to her. She is a distant relation of Rei’s and looks up to her. Otherwise, she flinches at so much as an acknowledgment of her existence, setting Giva and Arceptra on edge when she isn’t withdrawing into her books.

Rei tells Giva: everyone in the Sanctuary has a secret.