What is happening is wrong, make no mistake. I watched the Official the other day, hovering around what was once the entrance to the Vault. Whether or not she had been suspicious of the spot, I couldn’t tell. I did my best to stay away from her. But now it didn’t matter either. She could be as suspicious as she wanted, there would be nothing to find.
So magic remains hidden here. I wonder often about that old man, where he could go now to still be a magician. The young woman, who had continued her studies despite how life has become. The young boy, without a place in order to harness his power, might be discovered by someone if he doesn’t learn how to conceal it. The Librarian, without his child, without the rest of his Library, forever sealed away.
I am the only one who hadn’t lost anything like that. I don’t have any magic.
I am the only one who only lost the Keeper.
“What did you bring today?”
I should not have jumped. I knew we were not alone. The older man sat where he always sat, in the corner. I could see the magic on him. A part of me found it to be show-offish, but I knew this was the only place left he could do that. Let the magic shimmer over his hands, leaving trails through the air as he moved his fingers. It may have been a display, but it was a display for himself.
“Those little electronic pocket pets,” I told him. “From back before they had more than black pixels. Back before they had all of those online capabilities.”
The old man chuckled. “I remember those! Four of them, too? That couldn’t have been cheap.”
I glowered, but thankfully the Keeper did not seem to be listening to us, focused in on their latest presents.
When he promised his sister he would help her with her science project, he’d been expecting something different.
“I’ve collected all of these crystals to power my snow machine,” she told him, matter-of-fact.
“Snow machine?” She showed him the passage in her textbook that covered the runes required. He frowned, picking it up to look it over. Elementary school had really changed since he was there.
“Where’d you get all the crystals?”
“In the bat fields.”
He sighed. “You know mum will be upset to know you were in the bat fields.”
“It’s why there’re so many crystals there!”
Well, while he wasn’t magically minded, he was okay with engineering. “Okay then. I’ll help you put the shell together, but I’ll leave the runes and crystals to you. Most important.”
The real question was why she wanted to make a snow machine, but he would ask her about that later.
The ship seemed to bounce under Maly’s feet. The scent in the air was far removed from the desert and the taste of the air had too much salt. She wasn’t sure she liked it, but she hadn’t been told to stop yet.
She wanted to turn toward her father, determine his reaction, ask him if he thought this was enough. Despite those feelings, she didn’t. He would tell her when enough was enough. Maly also knew she couldn’t read his face, so looking at him would tell her nothing. It would only make her more antsy during a time where she needed to stay calm and focused.
Her chant remained lyrical, tones bouncing from her tongue and creating the illusion around them. The words she had been taught to understand, the music she was drilled to instill into each syllable, it all flowed from her lips and spilled to the deck. She could feel it, though she saw nothing. When it began to burn into her throat she blinked her eyes fiercely, trying to forget the discomfort. Trying to stay focused.
For a moment, it wavered. Then she refused it.
Maly stopped, not certain when she had closed her eyes. She still felt the waves, smelt the sea. And when she opened her eyes, the illusion still held around her.
“Good,” her father said.
He was dying.
He was old, so that made sense. He hadn’t expected to live this long in the first place. He had expected to die of old age though, as lucky as he’d been with the dangers of the world. Vidvan hadn’t been waiting for some unnatural cause to claim him. Now here he sat in the cell, knowing no one could come from him, and feeling the magic eating away at his life.
He was dying. Really unfair. Mainly, he felt indignant that his research would be taken and completely messed up. If only he could have sent it away. He would be better off burning it. On the other hand, destroying his notes… He couldn’t do it.
He sighed and closed his eyes. Opened them. Closed them. Couldn’t open them again.
And then, he had.
When he realized he wasn’t dead, or that the afterlife was very similar to how he had felt fifty years before, he was almost put out. Vidvan picked himself off the floor. He looked down at his not dead body and, satisfied it functioned better than it had before, decided that maybe he could get his notes out after all.
He rattled the bars to claim that someone had thrown him in here accidentally. No one would know how, but he certainly didn’t look like Vidvan now.
Maly waited for her father’s sentencing, all the while despising how her sister had thrown her under the bus. Channary was probably still reading the library. Like she always did.
At the very least, Maly was no longer invisible. Father had taken care of that as soon as she had spoken up. He had needed no books, no ingredients, no chanting. He had simply looked at her and she could see her hands again. Now she sat where he had bid her and waited for whatever punishment he deigned acceptable for entering his study and messing with his magic. Though she was beginning to feel that the waiting probably was the punishment. She hoped it was. She hated this already. Her father scared her when he practiced magic, though she loved him all the rest of the time.
She straightened her posture and turned her head toward her father. His face was stern, but that meant nothing. It was almost always stern.
“It seems as though there is little I can do with you. How many times does this make now? That you have found your way into some magic?”
Maly bit the inside of her cheek, but knew if she didn’t answer honestly she would be in even more trouble. “Six times, sir.”
He nodded. “Six times. I’ve had enough of this. We will change. Now.”
“I will teach you.”
The words almost missed her ears, because they seemed impossible. She tried not to react with incredulity or begin smiling like a fool. “Teach me?”
He fixed her with a stare that made her desire to smile vanish immediately. “This will not be easy. You will be under a rigid schedule now. You will no longer be allowed to do as you wish. But this is no longer a decision. This is what we will do. There is no backing out now.”
No options meant she had one thing to say. “Yes, sir.”
“Then you will receive the same dinner as I and go to bed right after. You will wake up at four in the morning and we shall begin your new procedures.”
She no longer wanted to learn magic. “Yes, sir.”
Mai stood still besides Zlhna’s chair as the woman wove her magic. The audience watched in awe and that was who Mai watched – the watchers. Those hovering close all had the same look of wonder on their faces. Mai wasn’t as worried about them. She recognized the complete banality that they represented.
Zlhna smoothed out the magic as though it were fabric and began to cut out the shapes she desired. Mai had seen this so many times, she could narrate it without looking. Which was what was necessary, because it meant she knew when, if anyone, would strike.
There were not many standing at the peripherals and they all appeared to be there because they had been late or shoved out from the main crowd. Zlhna’s eyes aimed up under her upper eyelid, showing the whites of her eyes. All she had awareness of was her fingers.
Mai caught sight of the assassin when Zlhna’s eyes narrowed further. This was the moment.
Mai shifted her stance barely and bit the side of her tongue until she tasted the blood begin to flow. She felt it flow through her veins. Staring directly at the attempted assassin, she shifted her arms as though she were about to move, just to get his attention. It worked. He met her eyes and she had him.
She stopped his blood. He crumpled to the ground.
Satisfied, Mai swallowed her blood and waited for Zlhna to finish her magic.