“I’m still not convinced I have any ability,” said Cinis as Jessica pulled the objects that she had shown him earlier from her bag and placed them on the ground in front of him. The charcoal, vial of water, diamond, and small orb.
It was oddly quiet now without Libus’ sarcastic quips or his footsteps accompanying theirs. Cinis found himself fingering the knives at his belt that Libus had given him long ago, wondering where the man had gone and whether he would find him again. Maybe Rorcul would find him, but Cinis doubted that—if Libus wanted to stay hidden, most anyone would be hard pressed to find him.
“Most people find out a young age,” Jessica said, jostling his thoughts and holding an absent-minded hand to her ear, where the earring Libus now carried had once been. “Typically they gravitate toward items they have power over and, as they grow older, realize that they can control them. But you’re different, because you have always been surrounded by vrael, which would have snuffed out any of your tries at magic. We can do our best to test you now, though.”
“But what if Libus was right, and I am just a simple mage?”
“Then that means we’ll just need to start from the bottom. All magicians have power over the elements, even simple mages. So even if you aren’t predisposed to one, you can start learning them equally. It’ll take longer, but simple mages have been some of the most powerful figures in all of history—they’re more late bloomers. Tymik himself was one.” Then she looked him over and continued speaking, her eyes flitting around the forest at any new sounds.
“But I’m not quite ready to believe that you’re a simple mage. Those showing any power beyond the simplest of party tricks are exceedingly rare. From what we know, you’re not royal, you’re not famous, and you’re certainly not rich, so I can’t think of any reason you would be on Rorcul’s list unless you possess some form of power.
“Now I want to find out for sure. Whichever of these you are able to control is what you are; it’s where you’re most likely from, and where we can find your ancestors,” she said, and she gestured to the four objects on the ground. “So we’ll try each.”
“I thought you said there were seven elements. Where are the other three?” interjected Cinis.
Jessica sighed. “Like Libus’ story said, there is no race associated with Life Magic. And as far as Light and Dark Magic go, most of their secrets are lost to time when the two races nearly eradicated each other in the wars. And you certainly don’t match the looks for either Light or Dark. No, if anything, you’re of the more bland, earthy variety.”
“Oh, thanks. I’m so happy you can complement both my nonexistent abilities and my looks in one jab.”
“Be happy that you don’t look like Brights or Shadows—it would get you killed. There’s still plenty of resentment from the wars. Now, let’s begin.”
“With which one? Earth?”
“Yes, Earth,” confirmed Jessica, her eyes bright as she pointed to the diamond. “Diamond is one of the purest forms of earth, and therefore easiest to control. We’re going to start easy, with trying to nudge it. All you need to do is make it move. You should be able to feel a connection between yourself and it. Similar to how you look at it and realize that it is a diamond in your thoughts, the magical connection should spring to your mind as well. It’s a sense, almost a vibration or weight. And once you attain that, then you can interact with it.”
“So I just focus on it? Like, what, close my eyes or something?” asked Cinis as he stared at the diamond and tried to sense it. “This feels ridiculous.”
“It should just happen. You should know it is there like you know my voice is here.”
“I’ve been around plenty of rocks, and I assure you, none of them have ever leapt out to me before,” said Cinis. He took a breath and tried again to feel it out, to push it, to do anything thing with it.
“Move,” he whispered, trying to reach out again, but he was unable to find any other presence than that of his beating heart.
The diamond sat in the dirt, defiant and mocking, catching the light from the sun on its carved edge.
“Anything?” asked Jessica.
“Apart from looking like an idiot? Nothing.”
“Fine, the vial of water, then.”
“Nothing,” he responded after a few moments. “Nothing at all.”
“Then the charcoal,” she said. “Either to move it or light it on fire. Your choice.”
“Neither,” he said, crossing his arms. “I think this is a lost cause, Jessica.”
“We still have one more element. Air. Go on.”
“It’s not worth it,” he said, but he looked down again and focused on the glass orb. “It’s useless, I might as well try to—”
But then, in the dirt, the glass wiggled and began to spin. It jiggled on its axis then shot upward in the air to hover at eye level as Cinis’ mouth dropped open and his eyelids rose.
“I, I did it?” he stuttered, reaching a hand forward to touch the orb.
“Nope, I was just getting tired of your complaining,” said Jessica as she blew a strand of blonde hair from in front of her eye, and with a flick of her hand the orb fell to the earth again as Cinis scowled. “You’re going to have to have more of an open mind if this is going to work.”
“Well it’s not going to work if you try to trick me!” Cinis shouted back, unfolding his hands and jamming them into his pockets. “See? Look! Look at the diamond right now, and tell me if you see it moving at all, if you see anything. Go on, diamond, move!”
“That’s hardly orthodox—” said Jessica, but her voice cut off as her gaze fell to the ground.
There the stone quivered in place, shaking atop the dirt as it pressed downward, a small mound of dirt growing at its edges.
“Oh, very funny, Jessica!” Cinis said. But then he looked back to her face, which was frozen in shock.
“That’s not me,” she whispered as he blinked, and with a sudden jolt the diamond shot off at an angle, embedding itself into a tree trunk in a shower of bark. Cinis stepped backward, involuntarily this time as the world tilted slightly and he grew lightheaded, catching his balance as Jessica’s fingers snagged his arm to steady him.
Then he pulled his right fist out of his pocket, and opened his hand to reveal the object that he had been holding, which now was warm to the the touch.
The ring that Dyrius had left him, with the gem stone glowing bright in the center.