Chapter 10: Double Proficiency at a Glance
The morning rays hit her face sooner than she would have liked, and an audible groan left her as she pulled herself from the silken mound of blankets. This school would make her soft if she wasn’t careful. As she dug through her wardrobe and selected an orange dress with gold sunbursts embroidered on the bodice, a tiny scratch came from the other side of her door. She had slept in and the Corpegara were concerned.
She didn’t have time to meditate as it normally took an hour as the sun rose, so she tossed two goat legs into the living room for the winged creatures and hurried out the door. She allowed herself a moment in the hallway to regulate breathing in a burst meditation before she continued at a brisk pace.
Neal met her in the hallway outside their class, a beaming smile plastered to his face. “Good morning, my lady.” He gave a sweeping bow and she scoffed, walking past him into the room.
“That was rude,” he muttered, grabbing his stuff off the ground and throwing himself in the seat next to her, “You know, you could be nice for one day.”
“I am nice. I haven’t burned anyone alive recently.” She didn’t look up as she pulled the paper leaves from her bag to take notes and Neal burst into laughter. He was starting to understand her humor and Lyssana smirked while her head was down.
“Okay, I’ll give you that, though it did seem like you tried the other week.”
“No,” she lifted her head to look into his green eyes, “You would be dead if I was trying.” She was the human who bonded to the lava in the heart of a volcano. Burning a man required an insignificant amount of energy in comparison.
Neal’s smile faltered under her gaze and she turned her attention back to Professor Hurst walked in.
“Class,” the professor began as he threw a stack of books onto the table at the front of the room, “today is my favorite lesson of the year, so I’m going to need undivided attention.” The books hitting the table echoed through the room and all chatter died down immediately.
“Today we’re going to learn about double proficiency, which is when an elemental mage has the ability to control more than one element.” The room nearly vibrated with excitement that was barely contained. The intense stare from Professor Hurst was the only thing keeping the room hushed. “We have a lot of material to cover, so focus and learn. This subject can get complicated, but there will be time at the end of class to answer any questions you may have.”
Lyssana pulled her papers closer and began to write as he spoke. “Every elemental mage has proficiency in an element. Each of you by now knows your element and should be able to manipulate it in some way, shape, or form. At this time, I’d like you to move around the class into four different groups, and I want you to join the group of mages that share your elemental affinity.” Murmurs rose around the room as chairs scraped along the floor.
Four groups gathered in each corner of the room, with Neal and Abby sitting in the two largest groups respectively. Lyssana sat in the smallest group at the front of the class, joined by only two other pyromancers. They sat on either side, eying her uneasily. She ignored them.
“Now, most mages also have the ability to touch another element, ever so slightly.” Hushed whispers broke out in every other corner of the room, but Professor Hurst seemed annoyed at the interruption and the noise died as quickly as it had started. “This secondary affinity is generally only able to be manifested as a blend for the primary element. For example, a geomancy mage may have a secondary affinity to water, giving him the ability to manipulate wood or other plants. An aeromany mage can secondarily have water attunement to shape mist or steam. The list goes on endlessly. There are still rare abilities discovered that have never been documented before.”
Lyssana scribbled furiously to keep up with his quick speech, and she heard the echo of pens on paper all over the room. “Your homework is to research the primary and secondary affinities and the combination possibilities. Then, using this research, you’re going to come to class tomorrow and try to figure out the secondary ability of the members of your group. A well versed elemental can feel the ability in their fellow mages based on the energy signatures each of you possesses. Over time your skills will improve to the point of being able to feel the frequency of their Aura, but I expect this from no one in this room at this point.” He paused for a moment, seeming to consider his next words. “Well, none except for Lyssana. She is in an advanced pyromancy class for second level students, so she should be able to sense the ability in another.”
She held her breath, dreading the words she knew would come from his mouth. “Lyssana, why don’t you come to the front of the room and try to guess the ability of one of your friends?” All eyes turned to her and she could feel the weight of their stares on her back. With an irritated grumble, she rose and strode to the front of the room, turning to face the sea of eyes that watched her. “Let’s try Neal. I know you worked together on a previous project, so you should be used to his energy and be able to feel the lesser ability. Look beyond the slow moving rhythmic wavelengths to see what lies beneath.” He quieted his voice, the silence stifled as everyone waited to see if she failed or succeeded.
Her knowledge of this subject was limited in terms of technicality, but she had spent her entire life around strong elementals and knew the different resonances well. As soon as she started searching beyond the earth familiarity, she could feel high energy pulses of fire, like a tiny river of lava below a thick layer of rock.
“Fire.” She said aloud, turning to Hurst with no expression. It was a stark contrast to the look of surprise in his eyes. He had wanted her to fail in front of everyone.
“Correct. Whether Neal was aware of this ability or not, he has a smaller ability of fire along with earth. I’ll leave it up to you all to decide what the possibilities of his ability are. You may sit back down, Miss Terasu.”
She gave him no acknowledgment, only moved back to her seat in the front corner and focused on the energy of the person to her right. The older woman had a faint ability with fire but Lyssana could feel the slightest current of air, the energy light and flowing with the warmth from pyromancy. It felt like the warm breeze hitting her face from the mouth of the volcano. To her left was the man her age, and she could pinpoint the geomancy ability quickly, a pebble beside a stoked campfire. As she allowed herself to focus, she let her attention wander around the room to each student, feeling the undercurrents and weights of various frequencies, each mingling in their own unique ways. They were all so unique, each defining in their own way. Then she reached Abby and stopped abruptly. The girl had only the flowing ebb of water around her, the gentle lapping waves on the beach, but there was nothing else. She frowned.
The professor seemed to sense her confusion and he chuckled. “Now, not everyone has a double proficiency. Some mages are able only to control a primary element, and that’s perfectly normal. Because our energies are all unique, there are bound to be some that have no second function.” She wrote that down in a quickly scrawled script under her neat notes. “With that final bit of information, I will release you early to get a head start on your assignment.”
The students gathered their papers and shuffled out of the room, making way for her into the hallway. Now that her mind was open to seeing the deeper complexity of an Aura, the currents flowed everywhere, some with greater intensity and others that were no more than a slight whisper. She had a difficult time discerning her own energy, it had always felt warm and overpowering, especially in comparison to the people in the hall around her. She would meditate on this tonight, but for now she would be the first in the library.
The familiar third level student greeted her at the library desk as she requested directions and he made small talk while guiding her through the tall rows of shelves. “I remember learning double proficiency. I was horrible at it and it took me more than a year before I could feel the energy in others around me.”
He paused, staring at her intently before continuing toward a shelf in the middle of the room and reaching for a book. “This one is the most helpful for your report, trust me.” He gave her a wink and started to walk away before looking back at her. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but your aura feels like a raging storm atop an active volcano. It’s…exhilarating and intimidating.” And with that he turned a corner and was gone.
She added the book to her bag, along with a few others she found. By the time she left the man was gone from the desk at the front of the room and she checked herself out, writing her name beside the book titles she was borrowing. A Tale of Two Stones: Exploring the World of Elements, How to Learn Your Abilities; and More!, and Double Proficiency at a Glance. That last was the one he had handed her and she smiled slightly at the kindness, then frowned with suspicion before walking past the line of students waiting to check in. Lyssana could feel his energy return to the desk behind her as she left the library and started home.
“I tell ya what, this goes a lot deeper than I thought it would. At what point do we get the higher-ups involved?” A gruff voice whispered. It was followed by a deeper, even gruffer voice.
“No. We can handle this situation. The minute word about this gets out, we’re done fer.” There was not quite the sound of panic, but the inflection in his voice increased, and the words were spoken quickly.
The first man spoke again, his tone even more hushed. “What if we can’t—”
“We will!” The second voice cut his off forcefully. “The administration don’t care most of the time. This isn’t gonna to be the thing that brings their attention to us.”
The next set of words were mumbled under the first man’s breath and impossible for her to discern. “This just gives me an itchy feeling in the back of my head, yah know?”
“I know, but we’re gonna handle this discreetly, like we do everything else.”
The clarity in which Lyssana could hear the voices from the small gold disk in her ear was astounding. It was like being in the room with the two men, while remaining in the comfort of her home. The golden coin she bought from the creepy shop was already proving worth the gold ring she parted with, and she listened closely while walking across the court to her apartment.
She heard ice clink in two glasses and the sound of liquid pouring, followed by a loud gulp and a cough. “The hell is this?” It sounded like the first man choking out the words.
“Too strong for ya? Man up, or we’re never gonna get this shit done.”
The man continued to cough and sputter. “What’s the next step?”
“Lecht said he wasn’t working alone, that means he has his own higher ups to report to. Our next step is to find them. The only clue we have is ‘Hurt’. I s’pose it’s a name, but maybe that’s too optimistic. It could have just been a threat.”
“Pretty sure that guys face was too broken ta speak proper – Al was in a mood – so maybe he couldn’t speak right at all.”
“I didn’t tell ya to bust his face up so much he couldn’t talk!” The second man nearly shouted and Lyssana winced as his voice echoed in her ear. “Interrogating a prisoner doesn’t do much good if they can’t give us tha information we need.”
“We got a lil carried away is all. I’m sure he’ll talk more in a few days.” The words were mumbled, almost sheepishly by the first man and Lyssana let out a snort of disgust. She couldn’t imagine ever being so emotionally weak as to mumble sheepishly to a superior.
A student she walked past let out a help and scurried away quickly, avoiding her gaze and Lyssana let out an exasperated sigh. She thought this was a place for people to grow and become tough. How were so many at Istima soft? Her footsteps fell harder on the crisp winter snow as she irritatedly strode up the stairs to her rooms.
A sigh whispered through the disk and she stopped on the stairwell to hear better. “Just keep trying to get something from him. We need more to go on than a name…or a threat.”
The sound of shuffling feet and a door closing ended the conversation, and she heard an empty glass slam to the table. “This case may just make me quit my job yet.”
She twirled the dark wooden pen around her fingers as she sat on her balcony, her mind tried to comprehend the information she had heard from the Eyrie. This was Acrocor magic – that horrifying idea of tearing a person’s soul and Aura from their body; it had to be. Would she tell Cavit about this or proceed ahead on her own? The pen spun faster around her fingertips. She was becoming more precise in her magic everyday, and more resourceful with gaining her knowledge. Hurt, was it a name or a threat, or merely an observation at the state of the prisoner? Her mind raced.
The smaller coin lay on the table beside her, the light of the fireplace dancing along the tiny etched runes. She had not the slightest idea of their meaning, but somehow they connected this disk to the larger one she had left on the bottom of the chair in the Eyrie. She supposed the runes on that one matched this one, but that was a magic system far beyond her comprehension, or beyond her desire to learn.
The immediate irony of that thought hit her and she chuckled to herself. How easy it was to erase the memory of her own runes, carved into the skin that covered her spine. They helped her focus her energy, and they were given to all Saakarans on their naming days. As far as was known by her tribe, she was the only human to be included in their ranks. Nostalgia washed over her and she was momentarily taken back to those memories she often suppressed.
Her skin was warm to the touch, her eyes blazing from reflected lava. The mountain had been hers, for a single moment and an infinite amount of time, she was one with the rage and anger of the earth. It had been a feat only 3 others in her group accomplished. Salani had not made it out, and she could hear the grieving cries of his mother behind her. She was last in the line of four, but she was there. All sneers that had been previously directed to her now faded to forced respect. She would be their equal soon.
Rahvin cried out in pain as Elder Amana Klee began to carve the runes down his arm with the ceremonial blade. His blood ran vivid red rivers into the dirt at his knees, but when it was done he had been named Rahvin no more. He was now Hakan, Born of Fire. The mountain was a place of rebirth and the final challenge of growth for the Saakarans.
Down the line they went, as Serapha rose to join the ranks, then Irilen. All had cried out when the blade pressed into their skin, but it was not an uncommon thing. She would not. She would be the strongest of the group and demand the respect she had proudly earned.
Elder Amana Klee looked down in a moment of silence before kneeling at her back. She could feel the warmth of the blade between her shoulder blades only for a moment before the pain of each calculated stroke filled her senses. Her skin was being torn by the metal and she wanted to cry out as the others had. But she did not. Her jaw locked and she looked straight forward into the crowd around her. There was silence as all waited to hear her name. Lyssana Terasu. Fury of the Sun.
Cheers were shouted into the air as the celebration began, four new adults joined the tribe. Salani’s mother reached out and helped Lyssana to her feet, pulling her into a welcome embrace. Finally, she was an equal.
The memory faded as quickly as it had come and she found herself feeling warmer at the thought. It had been her proudest accomplishment, and the moment her life turned around. She was a respected member of the Saakaran tribe and she would be until her death. The skin on her back seemed to itch, but she rolled her shoulders and ignored the urge to feel the scar tissue. How different life was now that she had to start from the bottom of a new community. She would rise as she always had. The sun always did.