August 18, 2015 by Lyn
Emrys’ door was open. Shahin knocked anyway, giving herself one more moment of peace before she looked at him.
“Come in,” he called lazily from his position sprawled on the bed, setting down his book.
She stepped in, shutting the door behind her. The best she could do for an expression right now was a polite blankness, so she aimed her face at his toes and stood quietly, her hands clasped in front of her because she wasn’t certain they wouldn’t shake if they weren’t.
He looked up at her with a small frown. “Well, come on in, make yourself comfortable. What are you studying?”
She didn’t like the way his frown made her feel, nervous and jittery and desperately eager to please him, but she did as he said, settling herself into his chair – not on the bed, no matter how much she wanted to be near him – until she was comfortable. “Kwxe,” she murmured. Despite her disquiet about this new subject matter, she liked the way the word felt on her tongue.
“Ahh.” He smiled at her, then, nodding. “That’s a good one. What can you do with it?”
“So far,” she said, a little hesitantly, “I seem to be able to shape it, and change it into other … things.” It all seemed surreal to her, even – or perhaps especially – after an hour spent sitting with Luke, the PE teacher, learning the scope of energy that Kwxe encompassed.
“Show me,” he said with a quiet smile and a few rapidly whispered words under his breath. He held a fist out to her and opened it, palm upright, to reveal a ball of orange flame dancing upon his palm, yet seeming not to harm him.
Fire, of course. She smiled at him, and, hoping this would work, murmured “Aistrigh Kwxe…” She couldn’t remember the word for ice, but she could remember the feel of it, the frozen core of so many of her visions. She focused that feeling on the fire in his hand, and watched it become a snowball.
“Well done,” he grinned, tossing the snowball at her.
Luke had begun drilling her and Finnegan in the fine art of changing and shaping kinetic energy already, and she snapped the words out as he threw the ball. “Aistrigh Kwxe kinetikos… pyros. ” She knew, with a little more control, she’d be able to change the direction of the snowball; she settled, for now, for turning it into a quickly-dissipating floating flame. As it sputtered, she grinned cockily at Emrys. This was fun!
He chuckled, shaking his head. “Nice. Take it easy for now though, it’ll drain you more than it seems at the time.”
She nodded acquiescence, unwilling to admit that she was already feeling the effects – she felt woozy, worn out, as if she’d just run a marathon. Only the exhilaration was keeping her on her feet. “I’d never really believed something like this was possible,” she said without thinking, looking down at her fingertips. “It’s… surreal.”
“Much more than that, even. We can talk about it, now that you’ve seen it. Wait until you see what your classmates have learned.”
“All those other Words?” They had twisted her tongue and come out garbled and mushy, even as they came out perfectly from other mouths.
He nodded, rotating the wrist of his still-outstretched hand, and began to speak very rapidly, words rolling off his tongue faster than she could follow. As she watched, his fingernails lengthened into claws, wicked and sharp-looking. Suddenly they broke off, becoming dancing butterflies in the air before landing on his fingertips, wings folding together, merging… into the petals of a rose, blooming in his hand right before her eyes, then exploding in a crackle of static, the electrical pulse making her hair stand on end slightly as the scorched petals rained slowly down around her.
She didn’t bother to hide her awe this time; she wasn’t sure she could have if she wanted to. She stared at his fingers as they twisted, and, when the last petal fell into her hand, she closed her hand over it as if it were a precious heirloom. “That…” she said reverently, “was amazing.” She couldn’t bring herself to care, at the moment, that he was winning this round, that in showing her awe, she was ceding it to him. She reached out with her free hand to touch his fingers, wondering if it was all real. And if it wasn’t, did she really want it to end?
He took her hand in his with a grin. “This place may have some strange policies, but the extra subjects are worth it. That snowball trick was pretty good for your first day. Think what you’ll be able to do with years of training.”
Heat into cold. Cold into heat. Heat into kinetic energy… the way his hand had shifted, anything into anything.
She was surrounded. It was dark, only the flickering fire in the distance to provide illumination, but that was enough to show her silhouettes among the trees; even without it, she would have heard the rustling, the breaking twigs, the low growling. She had led them on quite a chase, but, in the end, they had found her.
They would kill her now. There were dozens, maybe hundreds of them out there, monsters, every one, nightmare creatures and beautiful smiling faces and twists in space too disgusting to even contemplate, and she had insulted them beyond bearing. And before she died, she would insult them some more.
She began softly, murmuring the words under her breath. There was life under them, wasn’t there? Twigs and small plants and moss, and, of course, the trees all around them.
At the edges of the forest, the trees woke and began to join, their trunks melding into a wall while their branches became clutching arms, grabbing any goblin unlucky enough to come within their reach. Around her rocky perch, the moss and plants turned into thick, viscous tar, trapping her assailants. And in between…
Her voice rose. There was no need to hide herself anymore. Her chanting spiraled upwards, as the plants themselves burst into flame, while others froze solid. Heavy gusts of air created backdrafts, fueling the fire, sending the flames higher and higher.
Her enemies burned.
He reeled, rocking back from her as he released her hand. “What… what was that, Sheen?”
She sank back into the chair, the loss of his touch too much to bear, the forest still burning in her mind. “What did you see?” she asked softly, afraid to look at him, unwilling *not* to look at him.
“I’m… not entirely sure. Fire, definitely.” He regarded her warily, off-balance for a moment. She winced. She could imagine worse times for him to find out she was a freak, but only because she had a dark and morbid imagination. “Did you do that?” he asked quietly.
She found herself shrinking further into the chair. “In a matter of speaking… yes,” she answered carefully, “although it’s never transferred – no-one else has ever seen my visions before.” And she would have been happy if no-one ever did.
“So… that’s a regular thing, for you? Visions?”
She hesitated before answering, studying his face, trying to find a clue about how he was feeling. Was he about to throw her out in disgust and, if he did so, how would she handle that?
He just tilted his head, leading her on, his expression frustratingly blank; she was further off her game than she’d thought. She bit her lip, allowing him to see how uncomfortable this made her. “Not regular. Before I came here, it was rather uncommon. But since I met you…” Since they’d danced together, at least. “It’s happening more often. I told you about seeing death, about the visions,” she added, trying not to sound defensive.
“Right,” he nodded slowly. “So… they’re happening more often. And apparently getting stronger, if my feeling that one was any indication. Are you starting to have any control over them?”
“No,” she answered, swallowing back a little choking laugh that felt like the leading edges of hysteria. “They come when they will. Just fire?” she added, curiosity pushing her.
“You, commanding it, against something…” He grinned. “If it is a vision of the future, it looked like you’re winning.”
“It looked like I was dying, from my end,” she said, the words slipping out unbidden.
“Really?” He rose with a frown, approaching her. “And you usually see death…”
She couldn’t sink any further into the chair, but she tried to. “Yes.”
“Well… maybe you’ll get more explanation. You’re having more visions, after all. They’re probably linked to your Change somehow, which means you may end up being able to control them. Which would be really cool, y’know?” He knelt beside her, starting to smile.
She tilted her head, studying his expression. Kneeling, he was less intimidating than he had been, approaching her, but his words were starting to swirl in front of her which she was pretty sure wasn’t normal. “Cool?” she asked him. Cool hadn’t been the reaction she was expecting. But then again… “Change?”
“Yeah, cool. Maybe you’ll be able to consciously see the future, eventually. That’d be awesome.” He’d simply sidestepped her other question, maybe hoping she wouldn’t notice if she was distracted enough.
“If it was something other than death, perhaps it would be cool. What’s a Change?” Since she doubted he meant any of the female conditions she’d heard “change” as a euphemism for.
“Ah, well… most people here, in fact pretty much everyone, will go through some sort of Change in the first month or two. Some of them are physical, I’m sure you’ve seen some. Others… less so.”
She looked him over again, thinking of the day in the lunch room when she’d first seen Luke’s wings, and… “Your eyes.”
“Among other things, yes. Listen to what Words I use to do this.” He raised his hand again, and it was suddenly filled with fire, which he began to casually toss between his hands like a ball, watching her in silence.
“You don’t,” she answered, with a little bit of awe – and a little fear.
He nodded, juggling it around behind his back like a basketball. “I just command fire. It’s not my magic; it’s as natural as walking.”
“Did that come with .. the Change, then?” she asked, trying the word on for size. Change. Other students had wings, claws, scales; Emrys had fire.
“Yeah. It wasn’t easy, at first. Those of us with powers like that… well, they tend to be hard to control for a while. Go off randomly.”
She giggled despite herself, smiling at him playfully. “Did you wake up with your sheets on fire?”
“Let’s just say you weren’t the first person to burn my bed down.”
She licked her lips, smiling warmly at him. It had been intense, that first time…
“Although now that you can Work fire…” He leaned forward, closer to her, the blaze behind his eyes dancing even as the flame he held dissipated.
She leaned a little closer to him, remembering the heat of him moving above her, the passion that had overwhelmed her. And him, she recalled. It had pushed him to the edge, too. She smiled playfully. “Didn’t you tell me no more Working tonight?” she teased him.
“No… just to be careful. Although for now at least, you should probably leave the Working in bed to me.” He continued to draw closer, his lips nearly brushing against hers.