I enjoyed working with my hands, whether it was gardening, building something, or doing magic. Creating something always felt right, to build something up, piece by piece, until the result was a finished work of art. It didn’t always have to be artistic, though. More often than not, I was experimenting with my magic. I think it because my magic stole and absorbed, taking from the universe, it made me want to replace what I’d forcefully robbed from this earth with simple objects. A sort of balance, if you will. I tried not to think about it too much, because how could a small project that I built in one afternoon make up for the taking of a life?
Most days, I spent my time in the garden, my favorite place. I sat on my bench, fully enthralled in my latest project. The stone of the seat was a searing cold on the backs of my thighs, despite the thick pants that I wore. I didn’t mind it. Actually, I liked it. It grounded me here, to the present. I shivered, the breeze getting stronger as it ruffled the branches of bushes and the other plants in the garden. It was quite bare, now, with winter was upon us, but it still looked beautiful to me. I glanced up at the landscape behind the garden, now more visible that the greenery was all but gone. As always, it spoke of peace, a calm soothing backdrop to the series of unfortunate catastrophes that made up my life.
I picked up another stone. They were all perfectly smooth, taken from the river not too far from the capital, Tarpik. The river Myr split through the continent, originally dividing the two countries of Thiol and Ryne hundreds of years ago. It ran in a straight line until it encountered the mountain range, Tarah’s peaks, where it then forked, running along the mountains’ base. The Myr River was famous for its strong current, deep channels, and clean water. Most mages know that nature itself is one of the most powerful resources, and as a magic sink, I was more aware than most. These stones had been sculpted by the River herself, and therefore, retained a significant amount of magic.
You wouldn’t think that an inanimate object – and a rock, no less- would hold any sort of relevant magic. But, these did. I’d been testing this on a much smaller scale, in small pebbles and other minute objects. All of the tests had proven exactly what I’d thought. After a great deal of practice and control, I was able to create a kind of energy vacuum inside the rock. I absorbed the magic from the rock and created a hole where no magic existed, then sealed it. This energy vacuum is so different than the surrounding environment that in order to balance itself, as nature and energy is always wont to do, the resulting energy difference causes an explosion when the seal is broken. It was essentially the same process I’d used to create Spate with Dean, although he filled the energy vacuum with his illusion magic.
I’d discovered a very deadly method for making a bomb from discreet, otherwise harmless, objects. The small pebbles I’d tested on had provided such intense results that I was reluctant to experiment with these larger ones anywhere near my home. If anything went wrong, I could accidentally take down the whole building.
I was going through the pile, quietly creating the energy vacuum in each stone, at a very slow pace. It took several minutes of delicate mental energy manipulation, and I could only do small quantities. I had to absorb all of that energy, after all. Even though they were only river stones, I could still only handle so much before I was overwhelmed.
I sat there, enduring the winter chill in the air, focused on creating magnificently deadly implosion bombs, when Dean approached me. He walked up behind me, intentionally rather loud, I noticed. He probably didn’t want to alarm me. It was smart to do so; I’d been known to shoot first and ask questions later. I set down the stone I’d just finished arming, very, very gently on the pile of the others at my feet, then turned my head to face him.
“What are you making?” he asked me, waving his hand to point at my slowly growing pile.
“Bombs,” I answered in a sing-song voice.
He leaned forward to examine one, but I stopped him by grabbing his wrist.
“Don’t touch – they’re dangerous,” I warned.
He straightened back up to standing, nodding. He took a healthy step away, making me smile.
“What is it you need, Dean?” I asked kindly, the smile still on my lips.
“You asked for my report?” he questioned, all business.
I sniffed. “Yeah. And?”
“I think I believe her,” he said solemnly, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. He shivered. “It’s damn cold out here, Renn. I don’t get why you like this place.”
“So, you think she’s really one of us?” I asked, ignoring his last comment. Part of the reason I loved this place so much, especially in winter, was that nobody else did.
“I think so. I mean, I can’t be entirely sure, but I think so.” He shuffled closer and gestured for me to make room for him. I slid over, making sure not to touch my pile of death encased in stone.
“Bring her to the meeting tomorrow, then. I want to invite her to join us at the royal ball,” I said, staring out into the frozen countryside.
He looked into my eyes again, cautious concern marring the vibrant blue. “Why do you keep giving her so many chances?”
I considered what to tell him. He deserved the truth, but what would he think? I stared back into his eyes, unsure what to say just yet. My silence made him fidget.
“Anybody else you would’ve executed from the start,” he reasoned as he looked down at his lap. “I know you don’t enjoy it, but that’s never stopped you before, if you had to.”
“Are you complaining that I’ve kept her around?” I asked, quietly laughing to myself despite the seriousness of our conversation.
“No – no, I’m not,” he argued to the garden in front of us. He took a deep breath and stared at his hands knitted together in his lap. “I think I’m falling for her,” he whispered, barely audible. He glanced at me, confused. “And, it’s crazy because I know she was a spy, but I can’t lie to myself anymore,” he admitted passionately. “So... am I crazy? What do you think of her? You’re my best friend, and your opinion matters to me.”
I sighed. He needs to know everything; I owe him that much. And if he really thinks he’s falling in love with her, then he needs to have all of the cards in his hand. I looked off into the landscape, trying to find solace there before I revealed my last secret.
“She’s my sister.”