Another weekend, another chapter of Spell Tracker 😊. Devin is understandably curious after what just happened between him and Luca, but Luca refuses to give him the explanation he asks for. There's also another message from the Spell Tracker and, inevitably, it's not good news. Finally, there might be a first kiss on the horizon, so this feels like the right time to remind everyone that the romance in this story is m/m. If you'd like to catch up on any other chapters, please follow the New series link at the top of this post, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today!
8 A Distraction
not. There’s no such thing, trust me. I’m just a guardian.”
mean a guardian angel?”
is a word the earthbound use. I’m a guardian. I was earthbound once, but now I
you’re a ghost?”
suppressed a smile. I’d never heard a Light Mage referred to as a ghost before.
“I’m not ready to talk about it. There are rules.”
nodded seriously, then that smile broke through again. “It’s still snowing.”
Want me to make it stop?”
yet. I quite like avoiding reality for a change.”
this is still reality. It’s just that the earthbound do not understand any
dimension except for the one they exist in.”
I was more ready to talk about it than I’d realized. What was the matter with
me? I pulled my sleeves over my hands. The air was growing colder as the snow
continued to fall.
excuse me? Can you explain that, please?” asked Devin.
“Well, it’s safer if you don’t know. Plus, you
might not be ready to accept it anyway.”
raised his eyebrows. “Do you have any idea how patronizing that sounds?”
nodded. “Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, though.”
got your word for that.”
And it’s all you’re getting.”
you should think before you open your mouth,” said Devin, his brows lowered in
a scowl. “You can’t just casually mention other dimensions and refuse to
can because I did. But I won’t do it again if it bothers you.”
that’s just perfect,” he retorted, rolling his eyes. “I feel much better now.”
laughed. I like you, Devin. “Can’t we change the subject?” I said.
opened his hand to catch a few snowflakes, then curled his fingers into a fist.
He let out a sigh.
say the first thing that comes into your head,” I suggested.
don’t know whether to hit you or kiss you right now. Shit. Shit. That
wasn’t what I meant to say.”
scrambled backward, attempting to stand. After catching his foot on a table
leg, he landed on one of the cardboard props, which crumpled underneath his
weight with a tearing sound.
I’m so smooth I amaze even myself sometimes,” he muttered, keeping his eyes on
I bit my
cheek to keep from laughing. “What did you mean to say?” I asked. Don’t
think about kissing him. Don’t.
lifted his head. “I was going to tell you about the inflationary multiverse
theory. Some physicists believe—”
know,” I said, interrupting him. “The idea that there was more than one Big
Bang. Parallel universes and all that.”
there? Are there?”
tell you. But earthbound science certainly helps us to refine the rules within
which we operate.”
many of you are there?”
near enough.” That’s an understatement. Not many magicians are Light Mages,
and even fewer go on to qualify as guardians.
rang. School was over for the day.
I said, and the snow stopped falling. Devin stood up slowly. “Do you want to
get a soda? I mean… can you do that?” he asked.
only pretended to eat before. This physical covering is an illusion. It doesn’t
need the… er… the traditional earthbound things.”
dropped lower down my body for a few seconds, before he blushed and looked
away. Fleeting though it was, damnit if that part of me didn’t pay
attention just the same. I pressed my lips together, fighting the temptation to
do something stupid, like tell him needing wasn’t the same as wanting, and
would he please kiss me already.
I got to know Devin, the more intriguing he became. There was a fierce
intelligence hidden behind that easygoing exterior. I wanted to spend more time
with him. I wanted to help him.
chimed with a text. My first thought was that it must be from Cass, and I took
the phone out of my pocket straight away. I muttered a swear word. Him. It was
“Hello, Luca. Having fun? You do know this
boy has nothing to do with our little contract, don’t you? You’re going to lose
lose lose lose lose lose LOSE!”
My reaction, as he had no doubt intended, was to panic. He was right. Spending
time with Devin would not help me save Cass. School was done and she’d be
leaving. I was suddenly desperate to find her and make her understand what
would happen if she didn’t—
the matter?” said Devin. “Was it bad news?”
exactly. Just a reminder about something.”
phone chimed again. For the love of—
“Fourth restriction: you can only make ONE
connection. And you just wasted it on someone completely random. I find that
quite amusing. Have a great evening, won’t you, Luca?”
said, staring at the phone in disbelief. “No.”
leaned closer. “God, Avi, what is it? You look terrible.”
prickled on my forehead and the small room turned from cozy to claustrophobic. I
wanted to scream. My throat burned as I swallowed the noise down. If I couldn’t
make a connection with Cass, my chances of success would reduce even further.
avoided connections. We did. Except in cases where the potential benefits
outweighed the risks. In cases where we couldn’t reach our assignment because
their armor was too carefully crafted to get past it any other way. In cases
touch me,” I said, leaning back. My voice was loud in the small space. Devin
snatched away his outstretched hand.
down,” he said. “I was only trying to help.”
I didn’t mean… I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I have this thing going on with… at… at
home, and it’s really getting to me.”
face relaxed. “OK. I get that. Although… exactly what ‘home’ is for you, I have
the phone away. This was my fault, not Devin’s. I’d been warned about the
restrictions and I’d still rushed into making a connection, apparently unable
to help myself. It was like all my years as a guardian counted for nothing and
I was Avi again, for real. Well, that’s a scary thought.
said just now. It’s not what you think. It would really hurt you if your skin
touched mine. It already happened once before. Gabe saw it.”
understood immediately. “So that’s the reason he…”
don’t I remember?”
easier on you if you don’t. The pain appeared to be excruciating.”
but… I don’t like you deciding what I should and shouldn’t remember. That’s not
know how to answer him. Guardians filtered memories all the time. It was a very
effective way of managing the help we gave, and I was accustomed to making
decisions on my assignments’ behalf. Good decisions.
where you apologize,” he said, folding his arms.
I was still
on edge from the text message, and my temper rose. “No. What am I apologizing
for, exactly? Protecting you? If I stopped you from walking off a cliff, would
you expect me to say sorry for that too?”
hardly fair. You can’t compare what you did with… with death. Don’t be
my eyebrows. I was being spiteful, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. “Can’t
I? What if I told you I was protecting you from death in both scenarios? What
would you say then?”
was unwavering. I watched the muscles in his body tense up.
said quietly. “That’s impossible.”
would probably have said the same about the snow until you saw it.”
but… death? What does that mean? You’re not dead!” His voice rose.
depends entirely on your definition of death.”
alive. Of course.”
laughed. “Yes, it’s all very simple from where you’re standing. But what does
alive mean to you? A beating heart? A conscious mind? A soul?”
a step closer, his eyes fixed on mine. “I can’t argue with someone who twists
everything I say. Don’t mess with my head. That’s wrong no matter what
all the other stuff is supposed to mean.”
anger wasn’t the complicated, murky kind. It burned a clean, bright red, making
the air between us crackle with energy. Making me feel alive. Before I knew
what I was doing I leaned forward and kissed him.
hesitated for a second, then he was kissing me back. My hands came up and
cradled his jaw. I ran my tongue along his bottom lip and his mouth opened on a
gasp. My head was spinning.
great difficulty, I pulled back. “I’m sorry,” I said, slightly breathless.
you apologize?” His chest rose and fell as he looked back at me. He lifted one hand
to his mouth.
He trailed off.
going anywhere,” I said.
thought I couldn’t touch you?”
must be the connection. Oh… that might be dangerous.
couldn’t,” I said. “But now you’ve seen who… what… I am, I think that’s
impossible. Physics doesn’t work that way, whatever dimension you’re in.”
more than that, but I didn’t want to scare him by explaining how the connection
worked. For him to know that I could use magic was risky enough, but for him to
know why he couldn’t…
“Maybe it wasn’t really that painful in the first place.”
and looked down, curling the fingers of his left hand inward. “OK. It was
pretty bad. God, no wonder Gabe thinks you’re a monster. We have to tell him.”
have to. Mina and I thought he was losing it.”
stepped closer and lifted his chin. “Yes.”
couldn’t stop staring at his mouth. I was starting to understand why guardians did
not live alongside the earthbound. This physical covering had a mind of its
own. And it was desperate to kiss Devin again. You can’t go around forcing
kisses on people, Luca. Get ahold of yourself.
my teeth, I stepped back. “Look. I’ll be honest with you. I’m in uncharted
territory here. I’ve never done this like… this.” I gestured to my body.
“Rank-and-file guardians like me are usually invisible in this dimension. We
don’t cross over. It’s not allowed.”
considered this. “You’re breaking the rules? Why?”
sighed. “It’s a long story.”
light above our heads went out. Devin’s surprised intake of breath sounded loud
in the darkness. “It must be getting late,” he said. “I need to tell my mom I
won’t be home on time. She worries.”
glowed in the light from his phone as he typed. The tip of his tongue emerged
from one corner of his mouth. I was staring again.
she…? You said Cass was your half sister. Do you share a mother or a father?”
flicked his eyes upward, then down again as he continued typing. “That’s an
interesting way to put it. We did share a father. Except neither family
realized they were sharing him until he was killed in a road accident.”
that’s… horrible. When did he…?”
the swooshing sound of his message sending, but he kept his gaze lowered. “A
while ago. When I was in fourth grade.”
sorry,” I said inadequately.
short silence Devin looked up and gave me a smile. “Did you just say ‘Gods’?”
shrugged. His smile got bigger.
kind of cute,” he said. “Like you really did arrive here by accident from
help it,” I said. “It’s the one word I can’t seem to shake from before.”
glanced at his phone as it buzzed with a notification. “We should go. They’ll
be locking the school, and we don’t want to spend the night here.”
leave,” I said.
can’t? You’re stuck here?”
part of the long story.”
said. “I need some time to think, and if you stay here you’ll distract me.”
good way,” I added. “I mean, you’d distract me, but in a good way. No. I don’t
mean that. It would be a bad way. I mean… you’re the distraction. Damnit.
I give up.”
disappointment had turned into a grin as my inarticulate floundering continued.
“At least give me your number so I can message you,” he said. Before he left,
he leaned in as if he were going to kiss me, but stopped an inch or two away.
record,” he said, his voice low, “you distract me too.”
down again as the sound of his footsteps faded. I am in so much trouble.
I'm so happy to be able to reveal the cover for Spell Tracker, the first book in the upcoming Light Mage Series 😊. It's the work of Christian Bentulan (more info about him on his website here) who did an amazing job, as you can see!
The book is set for release on December 1st, and the pre-order at $0.99/£0.99 is now live.
In the meantime, there are seven chapters available to read via the New series label at the top of this post. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today!
Back cover description: Luca has a problem his magic can’t solve. The boy he’s loved since they fought side-by-side as gladiators in Ancient Rome is about to die for the last time. Luca’s only chance to prevent it is to make a deal with the Spell Tracker, who demands Luca’s own life as collateral. At seventeen years old, Luca is a Light Mage, the rarest of magicians. He’s able to navigate the earthbound dimension without losing his memory of its magical counterpart. Like an invisible kind-hearted ghost, he helps others to graduate their life paths and take up their chosen magical professions. But this time, with the help of the Spell Tracker, Luca is earthbound again for real as a high school senior. The boy he’s here to save is nothing like he expected, and before long his head and his heart are all over the place, as well as his intended rescue. The Spell Tracker can hardly wait for him to fail. The life of this particular Light Mage is something he’s wanted for a very long time… Spell Tracker, the first book in the Light Mage series, is a contemporary fantasy story with time travel, m/m romance, and no cliffhanger. Additional content information will be available via the Look Inside feature. Recommended for 14+
This weekend's blog post is Chapter Seven! Luca and Devin have a heart-to-heart, with Luca revealing a bit more about his magical identity in the process, and we also find out how Luca got that scar on his face during his gladiator training.
I'm getting ready to reveal the cover and blurb for the new book very soon, with publication still on track for 2018. In the meantime I'll keep blogging chapters. I've managed to plan ahead (very, very high level!) for three books, so it's looking like the Light Mage Series will be a trilogy. I could easily write a prequel too, but I'm getting ahead of myself there. It depends on whether readers are interested or not! You can catch up on any of the previous chapters via the New Series label at the top of this post. Thank you very much for reading ☺.
7 A Connection
Neither Gabe nor Mina said anything, so I decided to
go after Devin. I caught up to him just as the bell rang for the end of lunch.
He ignored me and walked a little faster. His emotions were really starting to
worry me. They were all over the place, the ribbons twisted into ropes in
It would be a while before they merged into the
suffocating prison that surrounded Cass, but she was hardly a good benchmark,
being that she represented the absolute worst-case scenario.
Devin went into the bathroom and I waited outside,
pretending to examine my phone. Cass hadn’t replied to my text. I added her
number to my contacts, almost typing in her former name, but I caught myself
just in time. I willed the letters out of my head. If she ever heard me call
her by that name, she might remember everything and I would have failed
I considered whether to add him to my contacts
as well. I could certainly use his real name—it wasn’t exactly a secret that he
was the current Spell Tracker. Except I didn’t want to give him the
satisfaction. I looked at the messages he’d sent me. Three restrictions so far.
I could only hope he was done.
By the time Devin emerged, the corridor was empty. He
frowned at me. “I’m late.”
“Yeah, me too,” I replied. “Do you want to skip next
period and go somewhere to talk?”
“No, I’m… What did you just say?”
“Do you want to go somewhere and talk?” I repeated.
“You don’t have to.” I won’t make you. But I want
“I can’t,” he said, looking disappointed. “I haven’t
skipped class since freshman year. I promised my mom…”
“What class do you have now?”
“English. With Mr. Nux.”
“Where is it?”
“Room 7B. It’s—”
“I know where it is. Come on.”
We half walked and half ran to 7B. Mr. Nux, tall,
fuzzy-haired, and with a genial expression on his face, was closing the door
when we got there.
“Devin. You’re just in time.”
“Me specta,” I said. The teacher’s gaze shifted
to my face. “Devin isn’t feeling very well. He can’t attend your class today.
If there’s an assignment, please email it to him. Me credite.”
“Of course,” he responded. “Of course I believe you.
Hope you feel better soon, Devin.”
He closed the door.
“What the actual…?” said Devin.
I grinned. “Now you’re not skipping class. You’re
“And you?” he asked.
“Oh,” I said, my grin widening, “I’m definitely
“Where should we go?”
I can’t leave the school. “Somewhere no one can hear us. Are there any rooms
that don’t get used for teaching?”
He thought for a moment. “The backstage area next to
the main hall, whereI helped Mina fix her makeup for last year’s
production. It’s a dump for all the junk from past plays, like costumes and stuff.”
It wasn’t bad, as a place to escape to. The old props were
a little bizarre, but it was private, and once I’d adjusted the lighting with a
quick, “Suavis,” it was cozy enough. We sat on the floor, our legs
stretched out next to each other. I could hear his breathing.
“I like you,” I said immediately. “I want to be
friends with you.”
He gave me a sideways glance. “Really?”
“Yeah. I know Gabe doesn’t think much of me, and I
have no idea what to make of Mina, but… non curamus.”
“I want to be friends with you too. God, I feel like
I’m in fourth grade.”
“I wish I’d known you in fourth grade,” I said.
“You don’t. I was worse than Cass.”
My heart twisted inside my chest at the reminder.
“Sounds impossible,” I replied, keeping my voice neutral.
He was different now. Maybe he’d had a guardian once,
and they’d helped him. Maybe they’d thought they were done. And now his
emotions were getting away from him again. I wondered what had happened over
“Do you like her?” he asked. “Mina’s a
nightmare, but her instincts are usually right.”
“It’s not… That’s not it,” I replied, not really
answering his question but not wanting to lie to him either. “Like” doesn’t
really cover it.
I flashed back to the Ludus Magnus in Rome, the
place where Cass and I had first met. There, gladiators like us had been instructed
in the art of dispensing death and entertainment, the one alongside the other,
for the viewing pleasure of the mob.
We’d been adversaries from the start. I’d arrived two
days after her, both of us purchased by the lanista at different
auctions. He’d been touring the provinces for new blood, expecting that co-Emperor
Lucius Verus would soon return victorious from his campaign in Mesopotamia. In
166 AD, Marcus Aurelius, the emperor, would naturally celebrate with new games
in the Colosseum. New games meant new gladiators. It wasn’t a profession with a
long life expectancy.
We were both young and angry. Both determined to
survive at any cost, even if that cost was the life of the other. She was
better educated than I was, provoking me to fury one complicated insult at a time.
I was the better fighter, but only just.
It had been an ordinary training session when
everything changed. I only had to close my eyes and I felt like I was there
again. It was hot. My tunic was stuck to my chest and dust rose up around us as
our feet skidded back and forth across the dirt. We were still learning,
neither of us assigned to a particular fighting style yet. Our swords met over
and over, and apart from our accelerated breathing, the clacking of one wooden rudis
against the other was the only sound we made.
I deflected a jab to my stomach a little too late. The
tip of her sword grazed my tunic and I scowled.
“Getting tired, Avitus?”
I didn’t answer, immediately going back on the attack.
I had to narrow my eyes against the lowering sun, and when our swords locked I maneuvered
her into a quarter-turn. That’s better.
We were close enough that I could smell the heat of
her body and see the perspiration on her upper lip. I pushed with all my
strength, muscles burning, and gradually my sword drove hers backward, closer
and closer to her face. I looked into her eyes, expecting to see the same
contempt she always showed me. It wasn’t there.
That was the moment. As if Jupiter himself reached
down with a lightning bolt to strike us where we stood. My sword was against
her neck. She made a noise I’d never heard before and her pupils expanded.
My hand rose to touch the scar on my cheek. She’d
given that to me about thirty seconds later when I’d dropped my guard, her
sword easily slicing into my skin and leaving behind a wooden splinter an inch
long. She’d been furious with me for the way I’d made her feel, though I hadn’t
discovered that until much later.
“You’re smiling,” said Devin. “I guess you do like
“No. She reminds me of someone, that’s all. Prior
socius,” I added, almost to myself. I cleared my throat. Devin looked
“Look, I wouldn’t say no to being friends with her, but
nothing else,” I said firmly. “Not with her.”
Wait, not with her? Not with anyone, Luca.
“So… you speak Latin,” he said.
“And it does something.”
He huffed a sigh. “I think so. Not always. Like,
nothing happens when you say your name, but when it’s… when you told Mr. Mason
not to worry. Or Mr. Nux just now.”
“Perhaps I’m just very persuasive,” I said quietly.
It was the guardians’ way. Persuade. Hint. Support.
Show potential solutions to the assignment without actually telling them what
to do. They must learn their lesson unaided, however difficult that may be. Provide
context, and the lesson is undermined. Interrupt free will, and the lesson is
Devin was fiddling with a button on his shirt. “You
are persuasive. It’s terrifying. I just met you, but if you gave me even the
slightest bit of encouragement… I’d tell you anything. Everything.”
“What would you tell me?” I said, my voice even softer
He drew up his knees. His emotions overflowed again,
in a rush, like a dam had broken. I shifted position so that I was more or less
“I want to help you,” I said. I shook my head when he
began to protest. “You don’t have to tell me anything. Hold out your hands.”
I showed him what I meant, raising my hands until they
were a few inches away from my torso, palms downward.
“I’m just going to… Percipio,” I said.
He froze. “What the hell is that?”
“It’s you. I mean, it’s your state of mind, right now.
All the layers of emotion you’re producing.”
“It’s… horrible. Like snakes and fog.” He made a face.
“It tastes bitter.”
“Well, some of it is. You need to think back to what
the cause might be and deal with it.”
“I can’t,” he said immediately. Too fast.
“Oh. You already know what’s causing it,” I
said in surprise.
His face closed off and he pulled his hands back. “I can’t,”
he repeated forcefully. “I promised.”
I was so tempted to look at his life path. But it was
bad enough that I’d already invaded Mr. Mason’s privacy that way. Devin
deserved better than that from me. He said he wanted to be my friend. I hadn’t
had a friend since… don’t go there again, Luca.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Rescindo.”
“It’s still there,” I couldn’t help adding. “Just
because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s gone. It won’t go away on its own.”
“I can’t,” he said again, remarkably calm for someone
who’d just touched the unresolved life lesson that might one day kill him. Life
lessons were sneaky like that. They just kept representing themselves in
different ways, over and over, becoming more difficult to ignore each time.
Eventually, darkness accumulated to such a degree that the time left to learn
just… ran out.
It might be quick or slow. Everyone was different. But
there was no stopping him once the balance tipped. He enforced his
contracts without mercy.
We were both silent for a moment.
“Tell me about the Latin,” he said eventually. “How do
you make it… do those things?”
I sighed. “Do you really want to know? It will be
another secret you have to keep…”
“What is it?” he said, grinning. “Are you a spy? Has
everyone in the school been brainwashed to respond to your every Latin
He did have the most amazing smile. Luca, you are
“Latin is my language. Because of who I am, that makes
it powerful. When I use it with intent…”
He leaned forward. “Show me. Do something.”
I looked at the ceiling. “Nix,” I said.
Straight away, snowflakes began to fall, soft, white,
and freezing cold. Devin pushed himself to a standing position and turned his
“Oh my God,” he said. His face, rather appropriately,
was lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. “I’ve never seen real snow before,”
After a little while he sat down again, kneeling in
front of me. “It’s magic. Isn’t it?”
I lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. “Yes.”
“Aren’t you worried I’ll tell someone?”
“And who would believe you?”
He laughed. “Nobody.”
“Are we still friends?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied, making eye contact. I
returned his stare, holding nothing back. I felt the connection flare into
life, like stepping from shadow into sunshine. So did he, if his dazed
expression was anything to go by. My magic glowed. There were a couple of
snowflakes on his eyelashes. “You… you look like… like an angel.”
Today’s blog post is an additional scene about Penny’s
brother. A couple of readers
have asked me what happened to Andy in between Controlling Magic and Connecting
Magic. Did he find it easy to reconcile becoming a magician with his
earthbound life? Well… not exactly. I doubt Andy will be too happy about me
revealing the details, but I also know that Jax will be delighted… 😏
The scene opens about six weeks after the end of Controlling Magic. Andy is revising for
his Chemistry ‘A’ Level with his best friend Hugo. ‘A’ Levels (A=Advanced) are exams
taken by eighteen-year-olds in the UK prior to attending university. Andy and
Hugo both intend to study medicine.
I hope you enjoy the scene, and I’m always open to
ideas for more bonus content so just let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to read about! Although the Legacy of
Androva series is finished, I still miss the characters, and any chance to
revisit them is fine with me 😄. Thank you very much for reading!
“What is your
problem?” asked Hugo.
Andy sighed. My
problem is I hate suppressing my force field so no-one realizes I’m a magician,
he thought. It’s like trying to read the textbooks through a dirty pane of
glass. How am I supposed to live half of my life without magic now I know the
Because you chose to, said the voice
in his head. Better half of your life
without magic than all of it.
He glanced at
Hugo who was staring back at him exasperatedly. They were meant to be testing
each other on chemistry theory, usually one of Andy’s favorite subjects. Final
exams were less than a month away, and his place at medical school depended on
should take a break,” said Andy.
“A break from
what exactly?” Hugo replied. He threw down his pen. “Dude, we haven’t even
finished one question yet.”
For a second,
Andy wished he could tell him. He wished he could explain about Androva, a world
where magic was real. The only reason Hugo himself hadn’t been born with any
magical ability was the ancient treaty with Androva whose terms prevented it.
Angelus, the evil magician contained by the treaty, had been defeated over a
year ago, but the treaty’s legacy on Andy’s world was unlikely to be reversed
know everything about Terra and its inhabitants, but it knew enough to be wary.
The prospect of creating magicians on such a world had already been rejected by
a majority vote of the Androvan Council. Andy had seen the Council’s analysis,
and the list of potential negative outcomes had been pretty depressing.
&Magic as a
weapon, or as a way to influence and control
&Magic as a
commodity—for sale or for hire
&Magic as a way
to achieve youth or beauty
&Magic as a
spectacle or freak show
Andy had agreed
all were possible. Not to mention that the safety of Androva was almost certain
to be lost as a consequence.
got a lot on my mind,” Andy told his friend.
his head. “Is it Lisa? She still giving you a hard time?”
Andy. He hunched his shoulders slightly. Lisa had been his girlfriend for most
of the previous year. She’d been devastated when he broke up with her.
then?” asked Hugo. “You haven’t been single for this long since primary school.
necessarily single,” said Andy carefully.
“Who? Who is she?”
asked Hugo, leaning forward. “Tell me. Show me,” he added, looking around for
Andy’s phone. “I knew there was a reason you weren’t studying properly,
hesitated. He hadn’t told anyone about Valentina yet, but he knew this had to
change if he were going to successfully attend both university and the Seminary
of Magic on Androva. He didn’t want to hide the fact that he had a girlfriend.
Valentina needed to be able to cross from one world to the other the same as he
It was going to
be difficult, though. When Andy went to Androva, everyone knew he was a Terran.
He didn’t have to pretend to know all the spells Androvans his age took
for granted. But Valentina would have to pretend. Even setting aside the fact
that she was a magician, Terra was so much more sophisticated in terms of culture
and technology than the world she’d grown up in. Andy had a lot
of friends, but he’d known Hugo for the longest. He made a decision and held
out his phone.
seventeen. She had dark red hair, blue eyes and a smile that lit up her face.
Overlaid by the subtle magnetism of her magical force field, it still knocked
Andy sideways whenever he saw her, a new sensation he found quite
unsettling. He wasn’t accustomed to feeling at a disadvantage with girls.
“Um… have you
got one without a filter?” said Hugo after a few seconds.
Andy. “I mean, there’s no filter. That’s actually what she looks like.”
his eyebrows. “Wow. I never thought I’d say this about you, but I think you’re
something I don’t know,” said Andy, shaking his head.
and branched-chain isomers,” replied Hugo, glancing at the chemistry book.
should be a comedian not a doctor.”
seriously, where did you even meet her? She looks like a model.”
She’s… er… studying to be a doctor too.” This was true. Valentina wanted to be
a Remedax when she came of age. “I met her in Darius’s house,” Andy added. Also
true. Except that Darius, his sister Penny’s boyfriend, was a magician from
Androva like Valentina. Lying by omission. Andy supposed he had better get used
The sun came
out from behind the clouds and shone into the open-plan kitchen where the two boys were
studying. The edges of Andy’s phone glowed brighter with the blue of the
Protection Spell surrounding it. He hastily returned it to his pocket. The
tingle of magical energy against his fingers amplified his restlessness. There
was no escaping the fact that he’d rather be at the Seminary learning the three
time-honored Combat Spells, or creating a portal to the other side of the world
out of thin air. Even an Androvan History lesson about Sygnus symbols would be
preferable to his ‘A’ level Chemistry book. However, he wasn’t due back at the Seminary for another two days. He sighed.
gonna work, is it?” said Hugo.
said Andy, startled out of his daydream.
gestured at the textbooks. “I’m not your teacher, dude. We should probably
forget it. I’ll go to the library and catch you later or something.”
sharpened. I don’t want to forget my Terran education, he thought. But Hugo’s
right. I can’t carry on like this. “Tomorrow,” he promised. “I’ll be back in
the zone tomorrow.”
“If you say
so.” Hugo kept his head down, closing his laptop and putting it in his backpack.
“Are we cool?”
“Sure,” he said. “I guess it’s reassuring to know you’re as susceptible to a
pretty face as the rest of us.”
not the reason I don’t feel like studying,” protested Andy.
at the risk of sounding like your teacher after all—a pretty face is no
substitute for your MD.”
the door behind Hugo and packed away his own laptop and books. He stared out of
the window into the garden, wondering what to do for the best. Feeling
so undecided was an unfamiliar sensation for him. Good looks, brains, and a
black belt in karate made him stand out from the crowd. But there was an edge
to Andy that kept people his own age guessing. He didn’t care if studying
wasn’t cool. And he broke the rules as often as he followed them. He wasn’t
arrogant, but he was confident. At least, he usually was.
The trees by
the fence rustled loudly as the wind picked up. The living magic they contained
was no longer harvested by Androvan magic-takers, though Andy and his younger sister
Penny sometimes used them to practice on. Magic-taking was a useful skill. Andy
reached into his pocket for his phone and typed a message.
“Are you around this afternoon? At home I
buzzed with a notification only a minute later.
“I am. Penny’s on Androva though.”
“I know,” Andy replied. “You’re the one I want to see.”
There was a
short delay before Shannon’s reply appeared. “Jax is here too.”
“Thanks for the warning but that’s cool.
He might be able to help. See you in 10.”
“OK. See you soon. We’re out back.”
Jax and Andy
weren’t out-and-out enemies, but they weren’t close friends either. Shannon was
Penny’s best friend and Jax was her boyfriend. She lived a few streets away.
Andy grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge before setting off to walk the
short distance between the two houses. The sun was hot and he wished he felt
confident enough in his use of magic to use an Ice Spell on the back of
his neck. Knowing my luck I’d create a collar made from icicles, he thought. The
strength of his force field had increased from zero to maximum very fast
because he’d already been almost eighteen when his spark was ignited.
called as he walked through the side gate.
Shannon. She and Jax were sitting beneath the chestnut tree at the foot of the
garden. Jax had his hand flat on the grass next to Shannon’s, not quite
touching, but close enough that Andy knew their force fields would be able to
sense the proximity.
Andy sat down,
placing the bottle of water onto the ground. He would never admit it to the younger
boy, but there were times he found the directness of Jax’s green-eyed stare slightly intimidating. Especially right now, when Andy felt at a disadvantage
before he’d even opened his mouth. He couldn’t help admiring Jax for his
confident and innovative use of magic. Jax, on the other hand, saw in Andy all
the maturity and experience he knew he didn’t yet possess.
himself. “I have a problem,” he said.
his gaze, but not before Andy saw the flicker of curiosity in his eyes.
“Glad I could
brighten your day, Jax.” Andy was unable to hide his irritation.
Jax in an attempt to prevent his grin from widening. “I’m sorry to hear that,”
she said to Andy. “How can we help?”
“I can’t… I
mean… How do you compartmentalize it so well?”
frowned. “I assume you’re talking about my magic?”
kept it hidden from everyone, didn’t you? And you never failed your Terran
classes, either. How did you do it?”
down, allowing her force field to expand far enough that her hands glowed softly in the shade created by the tree. “It was the first thing I
learned,” she said quietly.
“How did you
manage to get so good at it?” asked Andy. “I could really use some tips. I’ll
never pass my exams the way I’m going right now.”
“I suppose my
motivation was pretty solid,” she replied with a faint smile. “That might have
had something to do with it.”
her gaze, pushing her hair off her forehead from where it had fallen forward.
Her brown eyes glinted silver. “Protecting Jax. Remaining a magician. Staying
alive,” she said. Jax put his hand on her knee, his former smile nowhere to be
understand,” said Andy. “I thought you beat Angelus because your magic was so
powerful. Is so powerful, I mean.”
“It was before
that,” said Shannon. “Jax and I were only in a position to confront him because
the Androvan Council had no idea what I was capable of. I hid my force field so
well I even fooled their senior interrogator.”
Androva you did,” murmured Jax.
explained the parts of their story that Andy hadn’t been fully aware of.
“Impressive,” he acknowledged. “And it makes sense. I guess it’s not much help
to me, though. I can’t exactly replicate what you went through.”
Shannon. “Probably for the best,” she added, huffing a small laugh.
Jax. “I have an idea how to motivate you.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a proper
idea,” he told her. “I promise. It might hurt a little, but hey”—he looked at
Andy—“you’re desperate, right? You would never have come here otherwise.”
that’s true,” Andy agreed.
“So. There are two parts to this. Firstly, I think you should try to escape one of
Shannon’s Containment Spells. They’re killer because she’s so strong. If she doesn’t
hold back, you might find the pain inspires you to suppress your force field
more effectively. Like a crash course.”
“Go on,” said
Jax. “Show him what I mean.”
“Is this OK
with you, Andy?” said Shannon. Her hands glowed brighter.
“Yes, of course. But I doubt—” He broke off with a gasp and a series of swear words,
clutching his head and bending double. Once he’d gotten over the initial shock,
he gritted his teeth and worked on escaping the band of magic inside his head. When he’d finished, his face was white, and he had to take a few sips of water.
again,” he said.
“Again,” he insisted.
rounds of Containment Spells, Andy was satisfied. He lay back on the grass,
staring up at the leaves shifting in the early summer breeze. “Well,” he said,
closing his eyes, “I really didn’t know I was capable of suppressing my force
field so far. Thanks, guys.”
“Are you all
right?” asked Shannon.
a head transplant won’t cure. I’m kidding,” he added immediately, opening his
eyes again. “Really, I’m fine. But if you have any Headache Remedy lying
around, I wouldn’t say no.”
some,” said Shannon, picking up his bottle of water and unscrewing the cap. She
concentrated for a few seconds before adding some sparkling drops of magical
energy to it.
glad we did this,” said Jax, checking. “You don’t regret it?”
Andy. “I’m grateful. Honestly. What was the second part, by the way?”
Jax. “The second part. Magic mixed with ordinary Terran school is impossible. I should know. I
barely survived it without giving myself away—let alone studying properly like
you’re attempting to. I think you should do your ‘A’ levels first, then go to
the Seminary. You’re annoyingly
good. If you took a sabbatical from Terra after your exams, you could probably learn all six disciplines in a year.”
There was a
pause, then Andy chuckled.
funny?” said Shannon.
telling me I was trying to do something even you wouldn’t have succeeded at?”
have told me the second part first. I needn’t have suffered the indignity of those
Jax failed to hide his trademark mischievous grin. “If only I’d thought of that.”
A few seconds later, Shannon pushed Jax over with a Movement Spell so strong he landed on his back with a bump, the breath knocked out of him. “I can’t believe you did that,” she said, scowling.
Andy smiled. “I don’t know. If I were in his position, after the whole thing with the… kiss… I’d probably have done the same. But I think we’re even now. Right, Jax?”
Jax nodded. Fair was fair. Although he wasn’t sure if he and Andy would ever be close, he didn’t want the older boy as his enemy either. He gave Andy a tentative smile.
“Friends?” said Andy.
“Friends,” agreed Jax.
Shannon offered to fetch some sodas from the kitchen. “We should say a toast to New Friends,” she said.
Andy ended up staying until his sister returned from Androva, and Penny was most surprised to see her brother and Jax getting on so well. In the not-too-distant future, Andy’s help (in the form of a replacement phone) would prove to be something of a lifeline for Jax—quite literally. The seeds of friendship sown that afternoon were more important than any of them knew.