Chapter Twenty-one: Vyala
L’iam approached Adesina. There was no fear in his eyes, which was strangely comforting to her. Rather, he looked thoughtful.
He gestured to a direction away from the fort. “Would you walk with me?”
She glanced at her brother. E’nes’s eyes weren’t frightened either, and he gave her an encouraging smile.
Feeling guarded, but also curious, she agreed and followed L’iam away from the group of L’avan. They walked at an easy pace, not speaking for the first few minutes. He studied the ground in front of him, his hands clasped behind his back as he walked. Adesina fixed her gaze straight ahead, looking but not really seeing.
“You are quite talented.”
She responded to this compliment the same way she had to A’asil’s. “Yes.”
Amusement twitched at the edges of L’iam’s mouth. “Would you mind telling me how you did it?”
She had been asked the same thing by her classmates when she had first discovered the skill, but no one had ever understood enough to be able to do it themselves. “If I focus hard enough, my mind creates a picture of the world around me. From there it is simply a matter of aim.”
He gave a slow nod. “Have you any other skills that set you apart from your fellow Shimat?”
Adesina looked at him warily. She had not said that other Shimat did not possess the same skills as the ones she had shown the L’avan. Still, she could not help commenting, “I am the best.”
Once again, L’iam looked entertained. “Really? The best of the Shimat at seventeen years of age?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Perhaps not the most experienced, but certainly the most skilled.”
He became serious. “I do not doubt that.”
L’iam came to a stop and faced Adesina, a crease forming on his forehead. “I am certain that you have heard rumors of the L’avan. In particular, our ability to use what is commonly called magic.”
The young woman nodded, intrigued.
“This is true, in a way. We have what is called vyala. It means soul light in our language. It has many different forms, and it is what sets us apart from the rest of the human race.” He gave her a searching look. “I believe that you have been using your vyala unintentionally. This is what makes you the best among your peers.”
Adesina was skeptical. “You think I have been performing magic without knowing it?”
He assented. “Your ability to sense the world around you is one of the abilities given to certain L’avan.”
She just couldn’t bring herself to believe that her talents had not come from years and years of hard work. “How do you know I am even capable of performing magic?”
L’iam had to work to keep his expression smooth. “Because you are L’avan. Even if I did not know your parents, I would know of your ability, for the eyes do not lie. Vyala runs through your veins.”
“The eyes?” she asked.
“That is why every L’avan you will meet has unusual eyes. They are touched by vyala.”
Silence followed for a few minutes as Adesina processed all of this new information. She felt a strange craving to learn all that she could about these people. Perhaps it was an attempt to learn more about herself.
As she considered everything L’iam had told her, pieces of the puzzle of her life began falling into place.
Yes, she had worked hard her entire life. She had struggled and sacrificed and forced herself to continue when she felt she had nothing left. No one could say that it had been easy for her, even with all of her talent. Although, looking back, Adesina could see all the things that had set her apart from her fellow Shi. She knew it wasn’t just her strange appearances. She knew it wasn’t her driving ambition to be the best, because every Shi shared that goal. She knew it wasn’t because she had been given a head start in her training.
L’iam watched the emotions playing across her face, and he could see when she had accepted his words. “I could teach you how to access your vyala consciously. I could show you how to use it to make you an even better warrior.”
Adesina was instantly suspicious. “Why would you want to teach me to be more dangerous than I already am?”
He thought about his answer before giving it. “Because we were not born enemies, even if our different lives have made us such. Because I believe that every being deserves to know their full potential. And because as L’avan, I have no right to deny you the knowledge you were born to have.” After a pause, he added softly, “Magic changes us in ways we cannot imagine. Perhaps, when you discover your potential, I will have no reason to fear your intentions.”
Adesina looked at the man standing in front of her. She looked at him the way Mistress Faryl had taught her.
He held himself upright, accustomed to standing before others. Even though he was relaxed at the moment, there was a great deal of nobility in his bearing. His features were soft and open, inviting her to search them for any signs of deceit. His eyes, more than anything else, drew Adesina’s gaze. They were sharply intelligent, but wise as well. They were modest yet confident, unreserved but controlled, compassionate, lively and unflinchingly honorable.
She finally nodded. “Very well. I accept your offer.”
A brilliant smile broke over L’iam’s face. “I am glad. We shall begin tomorrow.”
At first Adesina was confused over the delay, but then she looked at the sky and noticed it was getting to be evening. They walked back to the fort and went inside, where everyone was waiting.
K’eb was serving supper, and everyone was engaged in pleasant conversation. It struck Adesina how different it felt to be among this group of companions rather than when she had been among her fellow Shi. The friendly words hid no underlying hostility and the camaraderie felt between them was real.
L’iam went to sit by Ri’sel, and E’nes beckoned for Adesina to join him. K’eb filled two plates of fried potatoes and venison and brought them over to the newcomers. The conversations continued, only slightly more subdued.
Ravi was also sitting by E’nes, studying Adesina with his usual thoughtful expression. She took the chair that was offered to her. “How was your hunt?”
Ravi smiled. “It went well.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You know, I have never seen you hunt before.”
“Well, I could not take you with me.”
The young Shimat rolled her eyes. “I mean, I have never even seen you leave to go hunt. I assumed that you did not need to eat.”
A faint frown crossed her guardian’s face. “That is ridiculous. Every living creature needs nourishment of some kind.”
“You are the one who said you were a figment of my imagination,” she said sarcastically.
E’nes chuckled at this exchange. “I am glad to see that you have found someone new to torment, Ravi, now that my mother is gone.”
Adesina looked up from her plate in surprise. “Mother?”
Her brother nodded. “Yes. I told you that our family was good friends with Ravi’s family.”
The Rashad had an affectionate look in his eyes. “I never tormented E’rian. It was more of a battle of wits.”
“Why did you not tell me before?” Adesina asked Ravi.
“I said that I knew your mother.”
She shook her head in denial. “You said that you knew she was a good and wise woman, which any stranger could observe or overhear. You never told me that you knew her well.”
He shrugged. “It was not relevant at the time.”
Adesina was starting to feel angry. “Not relevant? How can you say that after my Dreams?”
E’nes looked back and forth between Adesina and Ravi with a puzzled expression. “Dreams? Adesina can Dream?”
She was too focused on Ravi to fully understand what her brother had said. It was a moment before she tore her gaze from her guardian and turned it to her brother. “What?”
The room had unexpectedly fallen silent. Adesina glanced around to see that all the L’avan were staring at her again, with the same look of apprehension in their eyes.
L’iam leaned forward. “Is it true, Adesina? Do you have the ability to Dream?”
The young woman clenched her jaw together, irritated that she was being stared at like an aberration.
Ravi was the one who ended up answering the question. “Yes, she can.”
Adesina got to her feet, her chin held high. She looked each of the L’avan in the eye and then walked out of the room. She didn’t stop until she was in the solitude of her bedroom. She shut and bolted the door, anxious to be left alone, then turned to face the window.
Ravi was standing next to the bed in the corner. Adesina didn’t know how he had gotten into the room without her noticing, but did not question it. She was not in the mood for those kinds of questions.
“Did you see it, Ravi? Did you see the look in their eyes?”
His expression was kind as he moved to stand by her. “What look, Ma’eve?”
“Like I am a freak of nature,” she spat.
“They are afraid,” he explained gently, “because they do not understand.”
She sat down so she was at eye level with her guardian. “Understand what? You said I was L’avan, and so did L’iam. Why am I still so different from them?”
His golden eyes were luminous, even in the fading light. “You are L’avan, Ma’eve, but you did not grow up as such. Your life has been quite different from theirs, so of course you are different as well.”
“I do not belong anywhere,” she said softly, the words falling on her like a blanket of despair.
He shook his head. “Only if you choose to not belong.”
They sat in silence for several minutes before Adesina could trust that her voice was steady enough to not betray the strength of her emotion.
She had been an outsider her entire life because of her physical traits and her unusual skills. Even though she had worked harder than anyone, it was not enough to earn her a place among her Shimat peers. Now she had found people who shared her abilities as well as her strange coloring, and she was still an outsider even to them.
It did not matter that she had been born one of them, because she had not been raised like one of them. And it did not matter that she had been raised a Shimat, because she had not been born a Shimat. No matter what she did or whom she was with, she was completely alone.
Adesina used anger to cover her voice, and snapped at the Rashad, “Why can I do things that they cannot?”
Ravi, unmoved by her tone, thought about this for a while before answering. “You received training in your youth that is radically different from anything that the L’avan receive. Due to this training, you have developed in ways that the L’avan thought impossible.”
It made sense in a way, but it didn’t make Adesina feel any better. She walked over to the cot and laid down, draping her arm over her face. She was appalled to find tears welling up in her eyes.
Why was she crying?
Adesina couldn’t understand. Yes, she was being judged and misunderstood, but this wasn’t new. She had spent her whole life being judged by teachers and peers alike. Why should it bother her now?
She could only conclude that she was overly tired.
Ravi walked over and sat by the bed, leaning his head against her arm. He began singing softly in his rich, beautiful voice. Tears fell freely from Adesina’s eyes, which remained covered by her arm.
When she had no more tears to cry, she finally found solace in sleep.