Interlude I


A warm night in late June, a few weeks later, in Hailey's apartment.


  Try as she might, Hailey simply couldn't feel it.

  "It's like there's a fabric completely surrounding you, Hailey. Just feel for it and try to grab onto it."

  "I can't, Wes. There's nothing there," Hailey cried, frustrated.

  "Well, how do you make your air pockets?" Jessica said.

  "I push air together until it becomes solid."

  "Right, so how do you feel out that air?"

  "I don't? It's just there. I know where it is and I push it around."

  "And you don't feel the room? The environment?"

  "No!" Hailey cried again, plopping herself down on the couch.

  Ian coughed. "Face it, Jessie, she's just not gonna pull it off. Still can't even do her double-jump thing properly."

  "This is a clue though," Jessica said excitedly. "Of the theory I was working on."

  "What theory?" Weston asked.

  "That Hailey's terrible at everything except air tricks," Ian said snidely.

  "Of specialities," Jessica answered, ignoring him. "Everyone seems to have one and they cover different types of magic."

  "So you think we all have different specialties?" Weston prompted. Hailey sighed and curled up on the sofa, pulling a blanket over herself. Weston seemed to be practicing messing with the temperature of the room while they carried on their conversation. She wasn't sure he was even doing it consciously anymore. It was a measure of his skill and focus that he could affect the room while carrying on a conversation.

  "Exactly. There's gotta be different branches of magic that different spells fall under and we each got a particular specialty. Something we're born with, I suppose. You're good at the stuff with the environment, Wes." Wes? Hailey noted with jealousy. Only Hailey called him Wes. Jessica was getting a bit too comfortable around him. "Hailey and Ian are both good at manipulating the elements. Ian likes fire and Hailey likes air, but they're both pretty good at either one if they really try at it."

  Hailey had to concede the younger girl was right. Even though she favored playing with the air and the flowing, dancing sensations it gave her to move it around, she was pretty equally skilled at messing with fire. She didn't have anything like Ian's finesse or deep bag of tricks, but she didn't find it as taxing as Weston or Jessica did.

  "And you, Jessica?" Weston prompted.

  "Well, I dunno," Jessica started, her face falling a little. "I'm able to do all the stuff you guys can, but not easily. So I'm not specialized in natural or elemental magic. And I find telekinesis harder than all of you apparently. I can't even lift a piece of paper."

  "What did you feel, Jess?" Hailey asked, a flash of inspiration jogging her memory.


  "When you read the page. What did you feel?"

  "You actually remember that?" Ian asked. Hailey shot him a look of disdain. It was one of the most powerful and life-changing moments she'd ever experienced. How could she possibly forget?

  "My mind," Jessica answered quietly.

  "So maybe you can do something related to your brain?" Hailey wondered aloud.

  "No, not like that. It was like, knowledge was flowing into my brain. Things I couldn't possibly know," Jessica trailed off.

  "Divination," Weston said. Jessica nodded.

  "Huh?" Ian asked.

  "Finding out things through magic," said Jessica. "I think I could summon knowledge through magic."

  "Like what?"

  "I dunno. I haven't tried anything yet." Jessica sank back into her chair, half-hidden behind a pillow.

  "So that's at least four branches of magic so far," Hailey said thoughtfully, trying to distract from Jessica and give her a moment to breathe. "Elemental, Environmental, Move-uhh… movemental?"

  "Kineticism," Jessica offered.

  "That breaks my whole -mental suffix pattern, but sure," Hailey said, grinning.

  "You're mental enough as is," Ian muttered.

  "And then we've got Divination with Jess. Four. There's gotta be more though, right?"

  They all sat back, thinking.

  "Conjuring something," Weston said. "Making things appear from nothing. We can't do it, but I'd bet it exists."

  "Wouldn't that just be elemental again?" Ian pointed out.

  Weston shook his head. "I mean something concrete and permanent, or at least relatively permanent. Physical stuff."

  "Ah, okay."

  "But the energy for that would be insane," Jessica mused aloud. "It's already a lot just to create something insubstantial like fire."

  "For you," Ian quipped.

  "Doesn't make it impossible, Jess. I'd say it has to be real," Weston said, ignoring Ian.

  "I guess so," Jessica said, picking up a notebook and writing down the ones they had so far. "So we'll call that Creation, I guess? Make sure it's distinct from Elemental?"


  "Five branches?" Hailey asked.

  "What about making yourself stronger or lighter?" Ian asked. "That doesn't really fit anything so far."

  "Could be a weird use of movement?" Weston pondered. "Moving your limbs faster or lifting yourself?"

  "No, it feels totally different," Ian said. "It's more direct and permanent than moving something around. Like you're actually growing or shrinking things, or making muscles more dense and strong. Or when we figured out how to change the color of someone's fingernails."

  They all smiled at that memory. Jessica had panicked when she saw her array of rainbow-colored nails and begged them to help her change it back before her parents noticed.

  "Self-Enhancement?" Hailey proposed.

  "What if it's not enhancing something though?" Jessica said crossly, pointedly showing her (now quite normal) fingernails. They laughed.

  "Self, then. Until we think of something better," Weston said.

  "So, six branches then. Movement, Elemental, Nature, Self, Creation and Knowledge. That's gotta be enough, right?" Hailey asked.

  "Remember the star?" Jessica said. They all looked at her in confusion. She sighed. "Hailey, do you still have the page?"

  "Of course." In fact, Hailey hadn't let it more than a few feet away from herself since Hugo had left town. They still didn't think he would do anything to expose them, but she felt a bit more secure with the source of all magic safely where she could reach it at any time. She pulled it out and looked at it again, with Weston peering over her shoulder.

  As Jessica had said, there was a curious star-like symbol in the corner of the page, with eight distinct points. They weren't evenly spaced or even the same length, and the shape was oddly distorted, but there was clear significance to each one.

  "Eight," Jessica said triumphantly.

  "Eight," Weston agreed. "But what would the other two be?"

  They would have continued discussing the possibilities all night, but a low rumble rolled through the room. The glasses on the coffee table rattled just a little, the ajar door to the bathroom visibly quivering.

  "Earthquake?" Jessica asked nervously, clutching Hailey's hand tight. She'd never felt one before, having lived in Rallsburg her whole life.

  "Nah," Weston said, puzzled. He stood up and walked to the window, peering out into the inky black of Rallsburg at night. Hailey could barely make out the spires of the old abandoned library a few blocks away, where she could have sworn she spotted a flicker of light.

  Another rumble followed, deeper and stronger than the first. Light flashed from the top of the library spire, illuminating the whole town in a burst of color.

  "Something's going on outside."






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  • Oregon
  • Professional Technological Thaumaturge

Bio: Sysadmin, IT girl, wordsmith, TV obsessive, pretzel addict.
Many keyboards have perished in my pursuit of good stories.

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