Trial and Error
I had tried to approach Oryn several times over the next week, but each time I prepared myself to ask, I found the words wouldn’t come.
So as each day passed, Oryn and I fell into a quiet routine. We would wake up every morning and join Tristan for breakfast. After breakfast, I found my way up to the library where I would spend a few hours reading. Oryn would join me after he checked the perimeter and did some other things that pertained to his job.
I never asked what they were.
Once he joined, he would usually interrupt my reading and share another story from his father. I had quit interrupting his stories, and every time he returned from his duties, I found I was setting my book aside and preparing myself for the story he had ready.
I had heard all of the stories before, but the way he told each tale was mesmerizing that it felt as if I were hearing it for the first time. He shared stories that covered all areas of the past; the Krations, the Greenies, the Stones, the Aquians, and even a hilarious story about King Brandr and the reason he was chosen as the first King.
He always ended each story the same way, saying that most of them were myths laced with bits of truth. Yet when he shared stories about the five families of the Krations, he never ended them the same way.
“Are the stories about the Krations true then?” I asked as we walked down one of the many halls of the manor. Oryn looked over at me, his eyes smiling with humor.
“Why do you ask?”
“You always tell me that the others are myths, but you never say that after the Krations. Why?”
Oryn sighs as he comes to a stop, looking to his feet as he thinks.
“In the mountain tribes of the Aelfrund mountains, it’s not a surprise to find many families tracing their lineage back to the Kration’s.”
“How is that possible? I thought the Kration’s were extinct.”
“This is where history becomes a blur.” He says looking back up at me, “My father died before he shared some of the more intricate histories of the Battle of Sorrows and why the human subjects were forced to this side of the continent. I don’t have answers regarding why, but my best guess is that some of the Kration’s moved to the Aelfrund mountains to be closer with the humans. It’s not hard to think that some of the Kration’s may have taken human partners, so when the war broke out, it was most likely safer away from both sides.”
“The Aelfrund mountains were a neutral zone,” I say putting the pieces together. Oryn nods.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.” Oryn replies. I watch him for a few moments, my heart pounding in my chest. Over the past few days, however much I hated to admit it, I found myself starting to trust Oryn. His presence was steadying, comforting almost. I hated the fact we were forced upon one another, that I was forced to trust a stranger. But somehow, Oryn no longer felt like a stranger. I knew nothing about him, yet I felt as if I were as close with him as I was with Carena.
Which was strange since we hardly talked other than sharing stories.
“Show me how to control my outbursts.” Oryn only smiled as he said.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Oryn led me into the bowels of the manor, each floor we descended growing older.
By the time Oryn came to a stop, we stood in the middle of an abandoned ballroom in the basement of the manor. The details of it were obscured with age, the glory of it hidden behind cobwebs and dust moats.
“What is this place?” I ask looking around.
“I had been hoping you would know.” I shook my head, coming to stand in the middle of the floor. A chill in the air had me wrapping my arms around my stomach, my nerves starting to get the better of me.
It was dark in the room. Except for the small glow from the candle Oryn held, the rest of the room was cascaded in darkness. My heart pounded in my chest as I looked into the face of the darkness. I reached out, pushing with my power, letting the darkness lift.
“Isn’t this a bad idea to do in the middle of the day?” I ask, a cool chill of fear settling in my chest.
“Considering how far we are below the upper floors, I think we are fine. No one comes down here anyways.” Oryn stops a few steps away from me, the candle he carried casting strange shadows across his face. “And besides, we aren’t going to be using your power.” I watched as Oryn set the candle down, the single flame seeming useless against the overpowering darkness.
“Controlling our power has nothing to do with using our power. But it has everything to do with our emotions.” I didn’t say anything as I waited for him to explain. Thankfully, Oryn continued. “Our powers are closely connected with our emotions. When we have outbursts it is usually because we can’t keep our emotions in check. That is most likely the main reason.”
“And the other reasons?”
“The other reason for outbursts is because we need to use our power.” Oryn chuckled at the expression I gave him. “Think of your power as a bucket. The land around us naturally generates magic, and this magic acts like a stream of water being poured into our bucket. When we let the stream go, and don’t pour any water out, the bucket will overflow. If we continually let the magic fuel our power, then our power will overflow needing to be used.”
It made perfect sense, and I had no question about what he had said. Over the years, I used my power in little ways while in the manor. It would be impossible to completely suppress it, but I only made sure to use my ability in ways that could be explained away.
Except for the other day when I first met Oryn. That was something else entirely.
“Emotions, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, cause stronger outbursts,” Oryn says, taking a seat on the floor and motioning for me to do the same. “That’s why we are going to meditate.”
“Excuse me?” I say, positioning my dress around me.
“At this point, I’m sure you recognize the signs of an outburst. Not only are your emotions out of control, but your power rages within you. It’s as if someone added a larger stream of water to our bucket. It’s our body’s response to threats. The magic in the land funnels into us at a faster rate to prepare for any attack.”
“How did you learn all of this?”
“That is beside the point,” Oryn says with a wink. I huff.
Fine. He could keep his secrets.
“What I want you to do today is focus on finding that place where the magic fuels your power, and imagine that stream of water being shut off.”
“You want me to find my metaphorical bucket?” I ask. Oryn nods. “How will I know when the...stream, or whatever, is cut off?”
“Trust me, you’ll feel it.”
I watched as Oryn closed his eyes, his breathing seeming to slow as he searched for his bucket.
How hard could it be to find my bucket?
I giggled at the thought. Oryn’s one eye snapped open gleaming with mischief.
“Is everything okay?”
I close my eyes, forcing the laugh away, and focused on the task before me.
It took me five hours of sitting until I gave up. Oryn sat with me the entire time sometimes snoozing, but most of the time using his illusions to try and get a reaction out of me.
After about the tenth polar bear sniffing my hair and chuckle of Oryn at my reaction, I decided that it wasn’t going to work.
I stood, my head spinning with the sudden movement.
“That’s it.” I say heading for the door, “I’m done.”
Oryn’s hand gripped my wrist, his long fingers wrapping around to skim the delicate part of my wrist right where my marks threatened to peek out. I spun, ripping my hand from his grasp.
“You hardly tried.”
“I spent five hours sitting there.”
“It took me weeks to master this.”
“It’s well into the night and I don’t have time to waste.”
“Right.” Oryn says with a harsh laugh, “Because you have so many other things to attend to.”
Anger boiled in my blood, causing heat to rise to my cheeks.
“I’d rather better my time than sit in a dark room with you accomplishing nothing.”
“And why’s that?” Oryn pushed, “You sit in a library all day filling your mind with stories of the past. What about the future, Aurelia? What are you going to do about that.”
“I don’t have a future!” I yell at him, taking a step closer. A cold resolve settled in my chest as I watched Oryn, his expression not withering under my stare. “It would be foolish for me to think that there ever was a chance at one.”
“Then why don’t you make one,” Oryn said, frustration lacing his words as he too took a step closer.
“What’s the point?” I say, my voice sounding on the verge of hysteria. “We are misfits, Oryn. The world is out to kill us. They killed my family; my mother is dead, my father is gone, and Carena is one mistake away from suffering the same fate. There is. No. Future.” I annunciate each word, taking a step for each word. Oryn looked down at me, his eyes seeming to glow from within as he watched me. “It’s the only way to live in this world.”
“You and I have very different definitions of living,” Oryn says in a whisper. “You’re not the only one that has lost what is important to them. But some people fight for a chance to have it back, to have a chance of having that again. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want a fighting chance for yourself, for Carena?”
I paused, thinking over Oryn’s words. My heart ached at the longing in his tone, the desperation that shown in his eyes as if he were begging me to understand. I imagined that bird soaring over the pine forest, of the freedom it had with each stroke of its powerful wings. I imagined soaring on a wind of pine-scented bliss, floating over the world and seeing what it offered me. Maybe in a different life, I would have been able to have that, to taste that freedom.
“This is the life I’ve been given.” I say, “There’s nothing that can give back what was already stolen.”
Oryn looked away, his eyes seeming to search in the darkness for the right words. When he looked back, his gaze had hardened.
“You’re wrong you know.” He said, “There is always a future for those who are willing to fight for it. If you were brave enough to try, I think you would find your future out there waiting for you to show up.”
“I’m not a coward.”
“Could have fooled me.” He says, his tone dripping with sarcasm. Darkness ricocheted around the room, shadow swirling on a wave of anger causing the room to spin. Oryn’s hands shot out, gripping my shoulders as if I was his anchor to the world. He pulled me close to him, wrapping his arms around me as my body shook with emotion, with power. He lowered his head so he could speak into my ear, his low voice calm as he said.
“Only you can control your future,” Oryn says, his voice piercing through the howling storm of my darkness. “You can choose to spend your days locked away in this tower, hiding from the world around you. You can give them that power over you. Or you can choose to fight for a world where that power is yours and yours alone. It’s up to you, but I rather like the idea of seeing you free.”
I closed my eyes, breathing in the scent of pine as I pulled Oryn closer. Warmth spread through me, chasing away the darkness, the shadows filling me with such an impossible sense of hope.
The shadows seemed to whisper around me, their call beckoning. I took a deep breath as I felt out with my power, felt the monsoon of shadows threatening to take over. It was all too much, too overpowering. I clung to Oryn, my eyes wide as I looked into the darkness.
Shapes seemed to move in the dense fog, images threatening to surface.
My chest constricted, my hands began to shake.
I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t see.
“I...can’t.” I gritted out. My hold on Oryn was tight as I battled the fear within.
“You’re afraid of the dark,” Oryn said. Not a question, but rather a statement. He pulled me away from him, looking into my face. It was hard to focus when the darkness was so intense. My hair floated into my face, whipping and slashing as everything around us spun in darkness. “You have to fight it. Fight it for Carena, for yourself, for Tristan. There are people above us and if you can’t control it then everything you fear will come true.”
He was right.
I closed my eyes, taking deep breaths and trying to force the darkness to listen. I pushed out against my power, trying to reign it in, to control the flow of magic.
Yet nothing happened.
“It’s not working!” I yell at Oryn, opening my eyes to see that he was cautiously looking out into the darkness. His pupils were dilated, and I hadn’t thought he wouldn’t be able to see around him. Maybe it was the reason he held onto me so tightly.
“Keep trying.” He said, his voice holding a false calmness.
I refocused my efforts, trying my best to remain calm. I pushed with my power, but instead of feeling outward, I pushed my power inward, searching for that well that held the ability, the magic.
I felt the flow, just like Oryn had said, and without hesitation, I cut it off.
The room around me quieted, and I didn’t move for a moment as I waited for something to happen.
“I knew you could do it,” Oryn said, the smile on his face evident in his tone. He let go of me, that warmth quickly fading as the reality of what just happened sunk in.
“You did that on purpose.” I met his gaze, the smile only growing wider.
“Thank goodness I did. You were a moment away from an outburst. One wrong conversation at the ball and you would have been exposed.” His smile was smug as he watched me, waited.
But I didn’t give him a response as I turned and left the room.