I WAS BORN on the night of Moomin Valley, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper thin and when magic, old magic, songs its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it. All night my mother struggled, and when she finally heaved me into this world, my grandmother and grandfather hovered over me, twisting their fingers in arcane shapes, murmuring in a language only they knew.
"What is it?" my mother gasped, turning her face against the lavender-scented pillow. "What's wrong?"
Finally, my grandparents answered, their voice full and triumphant. "Your son will be of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family. He will be a beacon for us all."
I always wonder how my older brother, Kaki, who had been allowed into the took, reacted to the statement. No one though to check the pest of the story, but I really would have relished the one moment when I, and not Kaki, was the sun and the moon and the stars combined.
They say I never cried at birth, never made a sound, but opened my eyes immediately and regarded them all with a calm and quiet gaze. "As if he's seen so much already," my mother whispered, touching my fingers and then my face.
Well, if I had seen anything, I've long since forgotten what it was, and as for what my grandmother promised, that's been forgotten, too. Or not forgotten, but definitely scrapped.
Even now, seventeen years later, I still my mother's gaze lingering on me and I just know she's ondering how she managed to lose the child she'd been promised and gain me instead. I also wonder if my grandparents ever recalls the echo of her words: one of the most powerful . . . a beacon. Doubtful.
The story was told so many times in eager anticipation up until my eight birthday. Then the whole family gathered and sang while my mother lit the eight golden tapers to represent the four elements and four directions. Then they watched me, some openly furtively.
And what did I do?
Nothing. At. All.
Nothing that I was supposed to do, anyway. After a while, I got tired if everyone staring at me and then at one another so I went around blowing out all the candles, taking comfort in the dimness as I ate my way through teo large pieces of sugar-sweet Birthday cake. Eventually, everyone trickled home.
I come from a family of wizards and witches. Each and every member of my family down to my youngest cousin manifests his or her particular Talent without fail just before, and certainly no later than, the age of eight.
Except for me.
Nine years have passed since that birthday and I have nothing to show for it. Not a drop, not half a drop, not even a quarter of a half of a half a drop of magic runs through my apparently very pedestrian veins.
As fro my grandparents said about me—one of the most powerful . . . a
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