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The Legacy of Androva Series

I like mixing a little history in amongst the magic/spells/alternative worlds when I'm writing ⚔🛡. The research is fun, as is figuring out a way for my characters to have their adventures without changing any of that history.

In Seeking Magic, the third book in the Legacy of Androva series, Jax and Shannon go back in time to Pompeii. It turns out that the way home is not as straightforward as they thought, and of course Mount Vesuvius is about to erupt...
In my new Light Mage series, there will be some history too, but it's not so much time travel as it is past life memories.

For today's post, I thought I would share three details that I found interesting from my research into Pompeii, combined with pictures of three places that Jax and Shannon visited.

Pompeii's amphitheatre is even older than the Colosseum in Rome, and emotions at the games ran pretty high. Emperor Nero actually closed it down for 10 years in 59 AD. A small disagreement between the residents of Pompeii and Nuceria escalated into a riot of such epic proportions that swords were drawn, and many people were killed.

Detail 1: Graffiti was uncovered in Pompeii about a particular gladiator, with the words 'Celadus, suspirium puellarum,' which means (polite translation!) 'Celadus makes the girls sigh!'

These are the formal gardens of Villa Julia Felix, thought to be laid out to resemble the Canopus canal in Egypt. The central pool would have been topped up with fresh water daily.

Pompeii had an aqueduct that supplied the city's drinking fountains and public baths with fresh water. Detail 2: Private houses used the water to supply their gardens, not their kitchen or bathroom facilities. Strange way to prioritise! 🤔

The Temple of Apollo has an amazing 48 columns, and is one of the oldest temples in Pompeii. It dates back to the 6th century BC. Apollo was a Roman god who mainly represented the sun, but also medicine, prophecy, archery and music.

Detail 3: The laurel wreath is said to date from Apollo's Pythian Games. Apollo insulted Eros, the god of love, who got his revenge by making Apollo fall in love with a woman who would never love him back. Eros shot Apollo with an arrow of gold, and Daphne, a beautiful nymph, with an arrow of iron.

Daphne's father, a river god, helped her to escape Apollo by turning her into a laurel tree. Apollo vowed to love her forever, wearing laurel leaves in his hair, and making the tree evergreen. It's interesting that the laurel wreath is still around today as a symbol of victory!

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the mini history lesson!

Chapter Five is now ready to post! We learn a little more about Luca's background, and he realizes the history he shares with Cass (that she knows nothing about!) is going to make it very difficult to behave normally around her. You can catch up on any of the previous chapters via the New Series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading .

5 A Difficult Part to Play

I thought I must have misheard. How could they be brother and sister? They didn’t even share the same address. The computer had told me that much. Although… their coloring wasn’t completely dissimilar.
“She’s your sister?”
“Ugh. I don’t discuss family with strangers,” said Cass, giving me a withering look.
Devin stared at the floor. “You don’t discuss family with anyone,” he muttered.
The bell rang again. Devin lifted his head. “We’re late, Avi. Come on. Mr. Fennick isn’t as bad as Mrs. Stanton, but he’ll still give us detention if we don’t get there soon.”
Cass walked off without another word. I watched her leave, not knowing how to stop her without making myself look ridiculous, or desperate, or both.
“Are you any good at Math?” asked Devin, taking my elbow to steer me in the other direction.
“Um… fair, I suppose. Why?”
“Because Mr. Fennick is going to test you in front of everyone. That’s how he gets the measure of any new student.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“If you’re OK at Math, you won’t have a problem. I mean… it’s not like you’re shy, is it?”
I was, once. But my training removed all that.
It occurred to me that I didn’t have to attend lessons. I could follow Cass instead. Or, better yet, I could use the time to formulate a strategy that wasn’t based on, “Please don’t hate me.” I mean, really? What was wrong with me?
“No,” I said to Devin. “I’m not shy.”
He laughed a little. “I thought… when I first talked to you, I thought you were. Then I saw you with Mr. Mason…”
He trailed off as we arrived at the classroom. The only two seats left were right at the front. I saw a few familiar faces from homeroom, but there was no sign of Gabe or Mina.
The teacher, Mr. Fennick, was impeccably groomed, from his neatly-trimmed beard to the shine on his shoes. He gestured impatiently at the empty seats. “You’re three minutes late,” he said, frowning. We sat down and he waited for everyone else to stop talking.
“We have a new student today,” he began, giving me a pleased smile. I remembered what Devin had said about the public test. It seemed like Mr. Fennick was looking forward to it. He glanced at his laptop screen for a second. “Avitus,” he said, pronouncing it Av-ee-tus.
“Uh… the emphasis is on the first syllable, not the second,” I replied. “But… Avi is fine too.”
He subdued the inevitable giggling with a scowl. “Avitus,” he repeated, stressing the sound of the A. “There can be no way to know how Latin words were originally pronounced, of course.”
Yes there can, when you have a former Roman slave sitting in front of you, telling you how his name used to be spoken.
“I apologize,” I said evenly. “It was not my intention to embarrass you.”
His cheekbones flushed red above his beard. But he could hardly reprimand me for apologizing.
“I can’t see where you transferred from,” he went on, glancing back at his screen. “Was it from outside of the state?”
The state… the country… the earthbound dimension…
“Yeah.” I didn’t offer any details.
“Without knowing your academic history, I can’t be sure you’re in the right class, Avitus. Everyone here is planning to take a science or technology major in college. Advanced calculus is not for the average student.”
His smile was back. “I think a little test will help to reassure both of us, hmmm? Come up here and stand next to me.”
Twenty faces stared back at me. Some had expressions of boredom, some sympathy. Most were just relieved it wasn’t them.
“First, can you tell me what calculus is?” Mr. Fennick asked.
“Well, it’s a Latin word. Emphasis on the first syllable,’” I replied, keeping my face straight. Devin grinned and hastily lifted his hand to cover his mouth.
Mr. Fennick bristled, but before he could say anything, I continued. “It is also the mathematical study of continuous change.”
“There are two main branches of calculus, as I’m sure you’re aware?” he asked, folding his arms.
“Differential and integral,” I responded.
He began to question me in more detail about the specifics. It was more difficult than I’d expected—keeping my answers to high school standard and not showing him up. He stopped after about five minutes and allowed me to sit down.
My situation was the same as for any Light Mage. We acquired vast reserves of knowledge and skills over the course of our time as guardians. Our ability to learn was limitless, but in all other respects we were frozen at the age we’d been when we first qualified. It was something to do with preserving who we had been when we’d made the sacrifice.
At my age, it could cause problems. In one sense, I was old. Thousands of years old. However, I was also seventeen, and I’d be seventeen as long as I was a guardian. On a good day, I could empathize with my assignments so well that my average success rate was off-the-charts impressive.
On a bad day… well. On bad days, I was emotionally immature and I didn’t give a shit who knew it. Sometimes I thought I might be growing up a bit. I was always proved wrong.
Mr. Fennick continued his introduction to the topics we’d be covering this semester, ignoring me completely. I ignored him too, focusing on the challenge of how to instigate a conversation with Cass that would last longer than half a minute and didn’t involve using a spell to make her like me. I drew a blank.
It was a double lesson. Mr. Fennick seemed to be the only person in the room who was happy about that. Gradually I became aware of Devin’s emotions, filling the space between us. He wasn’t paying attention to Mr. Fennick any more than I was.
Normally I had to make a conscious choice to tune in to the emotions of the earthbound; otherwise, I’d be inundated. That Devin could get to me without even trying was not a good sign. The connection wasn’t complete yet, but it flickered between us, like a newly lit candle. It only needed a little encouragement to turn into a steadily burning flame.
When the bell rang, a few other students came up to say hello. I did my best to talk to them without holding eye contact. Devin waited next to me at first. Then, after a muttered comment, he walked away. I doubted anyone but me heard what he said. It was self-critical in the extreme.
I let him go, promising myself I’d find him again later. The next class was Drama, and I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see Cass again. When I arrived at the classroom door I scanned the tables inside, seeing that Mina was there too. Cass sat at the front, on her own. Would it be too obvious if I sat next to her? Dumb question, Luca.
Mina beckoned me over. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said. “I heard this class was totally full. How did you get in?”
With Mr. Mason’s login details. I took a seat. “I’ve had some experience of performing. I guess it was enough for me to qualify.”
I wasn’t lying. Gladiators weren’t actors, not exactly, but learning how to play to the mob had been an important part of my training. Of course, it was unlikely Drama class would involve quite as much death and dismemberment as the Colosseum. Mina’s barbed comments could not draw blood in the literal sense.
The teacher arrived. Miss Randall. She’d only been at the school two years, but I immediately saw why her class was so popular. Her enthusiasm and positivity were almost tangible. She welcomed me with a bright smile and a firm handshake.
Within five minutes, she’d had us push the tables to one side and arrange our chairs in a circle. I found myself sitting opposite Cass. I attempted a smile of recognition, which she did not return.
“OK. Senior year production.” Miss Randall clasped her hands in her lap and leaned forward slightly. “I’ve been researching, and I want us to try something different.”
“Different, how?” asked Mina.
“A comedy.”
There were a few muttered comments and Miss Randall held up a hand. “I know we’d talked about choosing one of the tragedies,” she said. “But comedic timing is one of the most difficult things to master as an actor. And it’s still Shakespeare. There will be no shortage of dramatic moments.”
“It’s not the same,” said the boy sitting next to Cass. “No one ever won an Oscar playing the fool.”
Cass turned to him and calmly reeled off a list of Oscar-winning comedy performances. Miss Randall hid a smile. “Thank you, Cass. Look, everyone, I want this year to be a challenge, but I want you to have fun as well. I think we’re in danger of taking ourselves too seriously.
“If we can make a modern audience laugh at a comedy that’s four hundred years old, we’ll have really achieved something. Besides, you might find the subject matter of Much Ado About Nothing interesting. It should spark a healthy debate, if nothing else.”
Much Ado… what?” asked the girl on Mina’s other side. “I’ve never heard of it.”
Much Ado About Nothing,” repeated Miss Randall. She reached under her chair and picked up some printed pages. “We’ll be using an abridged version, which I’ll email you later. However, I took the liberty of printing off a few scenes for today’s lesson.”
She split the pages in two and handed them to the students sitting on her left and right. “Take one and pass them on. Pair off with whoever has the same numbered scene as you. Don’t worry about character gender right now. We might mix that up a little, anyway.”
We were given half an hour to learn our lines and practice the scene, which we would then perform in front of the rest of the class. Mina grabbed my page to check its number. “Five,” she said. “Shame. I’m number seven. I can probably get someone to swap with me…”
She scanned the room. Cass and the boy next to her were the only two who hadn’t paired up yet. “Number five?” she asked. Cass raised her page in answer. My heart thumped as if I’d just received a direct kick to the chest. Though the thought of being her partner was terrifying, the thought of not being her partner was far worse. “Want to swap?” said Mina.
Before I could try to intervene, the boy shook his head. “No way, Mina,” he said.
“It’s not your decision,” she retorted.
I looked at Cass and she stared back. “No,” she said. “I don’t want to swap.”
She wants to be my partner! I started grinning before my head could finish reminding me to play it cool.
“I’m mentoring him, and if we do this scene together it will get Mrs. Stanton off my back for a couple of days at least.”
Huh. Not quite what I’d hoped for, but better than nothing.
“Whatever,” said Mina. She concealed her irritation behind a sudden smile, and the boy’s frown evaporated. “Come on, Leon. Let’s go and kick our scene’s ass.”
We had access to the next door classrooms to practice, and Cass led the way to an empty corner before turning to face me. “Can you act?” she said.
“Can I…? Oh. Yeah. Well, kind of. I think so. I mean…” Gods, Luca, shut up. “Yes. I can act.”
“Good. Benedick or Beatrice?”
I glanced down at the scene. I knew it well. I’d seen this play performed when it was first written, and it had been a smash hit.
“You can choose,” I said.
She gave me a brief smile. “OK. Miss Randall will probably expect me to play Benedick, so I think I’ll be Beatrice.”
I hesitated. “Do you know the play?”
“Yes, a little. Why?”
I cleared my throat. “Er… the character of Beatrice… and you…”
She laughed. It sounded incredible. The darkness surrounding her lifted for a second. “It’s just pretend, Avi. That’s why I love acting so much. I can escape who I am. If the audience want to assume I have something in common with Beatrice, let them. I don’t care.”
She said my name. Together with the overpowering familiarity of her energy signature at close quarters, it was almost my undoing. I only had to take us back there, to Rome, and she would remember it all. She’d remember me.
I understood now why guardians were never assigned to those they’d known. The temptation to intervene pulled at me, irresistible and dangerous. If I could just explain this to her…
No. If I take her back, she will fail. She has to do this on her own.
I looked down at the sheet of paper clutched in my hand. One of my fingers had torn a hole in its center. “OK,” I managed, keeping my gaze lowered. I can do this. Stay focused. “Do you still hate me?”
I winced. Apparently I still lacked the ability to prevent myself from saying stupid things. “Don’t answer that,” I added quickly. “Let’s try the scene.”
There was a short pause, then she began. Benedick and Beatrice were about to have their first argument, each keen to demonstrate their scorn for the other, and for romance in general.
“I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you.” Cass’s voice was perfect. Light, sharp, and slightly amused.
“What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?” I responded. I raised my head, giving her a full-on glare. We made eye contact for the first time, though it only lasted a second. There was a smile on her face, which widened briefly before she delivered her response.
“Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?”
We continued our lines and the characters sparred with each other. Although we were using words and not swords, there was a rhythm to it that was so familiar it made my head spin. At the end, I didn’t know if I were Luca, or Avi, or Benedick.
“I would my horse had the speed of your tongue.” I said my last line and turned away.
“You always end with a jade’s trick: I know you of old,” she responded, her voice softer.
You do know me. You do know me. This is unbearable.
“Well,” she said. “That was pretty good. You’re better than I expected. Shall we go again?”
Gods help me.

I moved house just before I wrote Stealing Magic, and although I live at the end of an ordinary suburban street, there is an amazing area of ancient woodland practically on my doorstep. The woods have survived until now because they belonged to the local university, and the land was never sold off for housing or development.

In terms of my weekend writing it's a mixed blessing as the view from my desk can be kind of distracting! However, it's also inspiring to overlook something with so much history. Ancient woodland is defined as having existed continuously since before the year 1600. Why 1600? Apparently, before then, deliberate planting of woodland in the UK was very rare. Therefore anything older than 1600 was created by nature rather than human beings and had likely been around for a long time already.

Most ancient woodland is much older than a mere four hundred years. For example, Sherwood Forest, home of the legendary Robin Hood, has been dated back to the Ice Age more than ten thousand years ago! I often look out of my window and wonder what I'd see if I were able to go back in time. Here's my top three:

(1) King Henry VIII might have led the royal hunt through those same woods. He was supposed to have stayed near to where I live during his summer progress in 1509, and at that time in history most English woodland was under royal ownership. He'd just become king, and was only eighteen years old. Henry must have felt as if the future were his for the taking. He didn't know he would eventually marry six times and break with the Catholic Church in a desperate quest for male heirs.

(2) It was probably inhabited by wolves. Wolves have been extinct in England for hundreds of years but once roamed free in its forests. However, it's doubtful Henry VIII would have encountered any wolves on the royal huntthey were supposed to have died out completely during his father's reign due to a combination of being aggressively hunted and the reducing number of forests. In the dead of night, the foxes and owls who live in the woods can be pretty noisy. I sometimes wonder how quickly they'd shut up if they were ever interrupted by the howl of a wolf 🐺.

(3) Poachers could have hidden there, on the run from the law. If they were found to have killed the king's deer, their fate would have been death by hangingreason enough for the poacher to be terrified. All thanks to William the Conqueror, who made it illegal in the eleventh century for commoners to hunt in "his" forests. But often the unhappy choice was poaching or death by starvation.

The way I see it, the woods are a piece of living history and, on balance, I think the distraction is worth the view. When we first meet Jax and Darius in Stealing Magic, they are magic-takers, according to the terms of a long-ago treaty between their world, Androva, and ours. They open portals in the dead of night to harvest from the endless supplies of living magic in our trees. I am sometimes asked where the idea for living magic came from. I suppose today's blog post is the answer! Thank you for reading 😊

And it's on to Chapter Four! Luca finally meets the person he's come to the earthbound dimension to save and it doesn't quite go according to plan. He also discovers something unexpected about Devin. 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 visiting my blog today .

4 A Bad Start 
When Devin walked into homeroom he was with Mina and Gabe. They were arguing about a television series they’d watched on Sunday. Mina seemed convinced the main character was no good.
“You wait, he’s going to break her heart. I can see it coming a mile off.”
I recognized their voices straight away and lifted my head. Mina had her fingers curled possessively around Devin’s upper arm.
During the weekend I’d memorized everything the computer could tell me about the school and its student/teacher population. I’d been the first to arrive—well, technically, I never left—choosing a seat near the back so I could see everyone else. I stayed hunched over my phone, which I’d learned how to use, more or less. I had earbuds in my ears, and so far none of the other students had tried to talk to me, though I’d sensed them looking.
Devin noticed me first, and his animated expression immediately faltered. Gabe and Mina turned to see what he was looking at. I held my breath, wondering just how much he remembered of our parting the week before. Dedisco wasn’t infallible.
I’m holding my breath. Like I’m earthbound. How weird. It’s not like I even need the air.
“Avi…” Devin’s voice sounded almost relieved. “I thought I might have imagined… well, I guess not,” he added with a self-conscious laugh.
“I told you,” muttered Gabe. “We all saw him, didn’t we?”
Mina’s lips curved in a delighted smile. “We certainly did.” Her voice was a little louder than it needed to be. “And he looks just as stunning as he did last week, don’t you think?”
She glanced left and right, confident in the attention she was attracting. Look at me. I already met the new guy before any of you. Although she was ostensibly complimenting me, her behavior was pretty outrageous. I was now the center of attention whether I wanted to be or not. As was she.
“Not as stunning as you,” I replied, meeting her smile head on with one of my own and keeping my eyes half-closed. I leaned back in my chair and balanced one foot on the opposite knee. If she wasn’t going to allow me to remain anonymous, I certainly wasn’t going to allow her to dictate the terms of my visibility. She laughed in surprise.
“Why, thank you,” she said. “Where did you get to on Friday? Dev wouldn’t tell us.”
She gave Devin a sideways glance, but he ignored her. I knew he was still looking at me. Damnit. With his soft brown eyes and tangled emotions, he was like a walking distraction, customized to resemble the kind of assignment I liked most. I doubted my attempts to avoid a connection with him would succeed for much longer.
Mina’s perfectly painted lips tightened. “I was sure you and Dev would spend the rest of the afternoon together,” she added. Her voice was even louder now. “You were getting on so well. I think he… likes you.” Her eyes, surrounded by their long, curling lashes, gleamed with something that looked a lot like malice.
By this time our little exchange was really attracting attention. Everyone was waiting for either me or Devin to say something. Devin glared at Mina, but before he could speak, the teacher arrived, carrying a large pile of folders. She kicked the door closed behind her and shouted for us to sit down and shut up.
Apparently this teacher was not like Mr. Mason. Most of the students scrambled to take their seats without any hesitation. She dropped the folders onto the desk and surveyed the room, only having to raise one critical eyebrow for the two students not yet seated to hastily find chairs.
Authority radiated from her, despite her petite frame and delicate features. She took a few steps forward and her gaze landed on me. “Name?” she said.
I blinked. “Samantha.”
There was a gasp of laughter from the row behind me, which was immediately quietened.
The teacher narrowed her eyes. “Your name,” she said. “Obviously.”
Oh. That makes more sense. “Avitus Sequani,” I told her. I refrained from adding that she could call me Avi. Informality did not seem to be her thing.
Mr. Sequani,” she said, confirming my suspicions. “You may think that using my first name is amusing. However, I can assure you that as long as you are in my classroom, you are alone in that thought. If you do it again, I will reward you with a week of detention to give you the time you need to reflect on your sense of humor.”
She waited expectantly. The boy next to me kicked my foot. “Dude, apologize,” he whispered urgently.
“Oh, er… I’m very sorry, Mrs. Stanton.”
After a brief nod, she returned to her desk and began calling out names one by one to confirm attendance. Everyone received one of the folders when their name was mentioned. I took the chance to look more closely at the other students. I could see most of them easily from my position near the back of the room, and it was as I suspected. She definitely wasn’t here.
Had I made a mistake when I was changing the schedule? Or had the changes somehow reverted back to the way they were before I interfered?
“Present,” I answered, when Mrs. Stanton called my name, copying the response everyone else had given. As she was reaching the end of the alphabet, the door was thrown open so forcefully it banged against the wall. The girl framed in the doorway was rigid with indignation.
“Miss Vryson,” said Mrs. Stanton, without even looking up. “I was just about to call your name. Why don’t you take a seat?”
“It’s true, then? You’re still my homeroom teacher?”
“Apparently so. I received an email yesterday afternoon with the scheduling change. I can only assume Mr. Mason changed his mind.”
“He can go to hell.”
The silence was absolute. Mrs. Stanton’s eyes were like chips of ice.
You can go take a seat. Right now. We’ll discuss your plans for Mr. Mason when I say so and not before.”
Cassandra Vryson. I put one hand onto the desk to steady myself. Her emotions were overwhelming in their intensity, and I felt every single one of them. Anger, hurt, regret. And fear. So much fear.
It’s worse than I thought it would be. I’ve never successfully brought someone back from this.
She looked nothing like her photo and nothing like the boy I’d known. But underneath her physical appearance, it was there. I recognized him. Her. In that moment, I understood that gender was utterly irrelevant. I recognized the person. My eyes filled with tears.
She took the only spare seat, which happened to be right in front of me. I could have reached out and touched her. I tightened my grip on the desk as a reminder I should do nothing of the kind. The boy next to me was shifting sideways, like he thought putting a bit of distance between us was a good idea. Yeah, it is.
Really, all I wanted was to throw my arms around her and shout my thanks to the gods. I wanted to restore every single memory we’d ever shared so she could relive them with me. I wanted to hide somewhere he could never find us until I found a way to fix this. “Contego,” I whispered, and the emotion emanating from her softened a little.
“Mr. Sequani?”
Mrs. Stanton was tapping one foot against her desk.
“Sorry?” I said, attempting to subdue the turmoil inside my head until it was at a more manageable level.
“You will be, if you continue to ignore me. It is customary for new students to introduce themselves. One or two sentences will do. We don’t need your life story.”
I cleared my throat. “Well…”
“And stand up,” she added.
I pushed my chair back and got to my feet. Shit. All that time I’d spent learning about everyone else, and I’d neglected to construct even the most basic of backstories for myself.
“I’m… I mean, my name is Avi. I… er… I’m from Europe originally, but I’ve moved around a lot. I guess I’m… ordinary.” There were a few suppressed sniggers from around the room. Mrs. Stanton sighed.
“No one is ordinary,” she said, making it sound ominous and encouraging at the same time. She was quite impressive, really. I grinned before I could stop myself. She gave me a faint smile in return, apparently unaffected by the eye contact. Yes. Impressive.
“I have to partner you with a mentor for your first semester, Mr. Sequani. I know you’re a senior, but you might still have questions about the school that another student can help you with. Are there any volunteers?”
Several hands went up, including Devin’s. “Yes, Miss Vryson,” continued Mrs. Stanton. “You’ll do very well.”
“I didn’t volunteer.”
“No, but it’ll be good for you. I’ll let your comment about Mr. Mason slide if you accept.”
“Fine. Whatever.”
The bell rang and everyone starting moving and talking at once, most of them heading straight for the door. The girl in front of me stood up slowly and turned around. We were almost the same height.
“Cassandra?” I said.
She had black hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. Her bangs were heavy, almost long enough to touch her eyelashes. Her expression was severely unimpressed. She wasn’t even looking at me properly.
“Don’t expect me to hold your hand,” she said.
I pushed my hands behind my back. Touching her skin was the last thing I wanted to do after Devin’s reaction on Friday.
She rolled her eyes. “Oh my God. I meant it figuratively. Just keep the questions to a minimum. If you can.”
She bent down to lift her purple backpack from the floor and pushed her folder into it. “I’m going to assume you know how to read a timetable and a map. See you around,” she added, and turned away.
“Please don’t hate me,” I blurted out before I realized what I was doing.
She hesitated, then turned back and gave me an incredulous look. “What?”
“Please,” I repeated, unable to stop myself.
“I hate everyone,” she said. “Why should I make an exception for you?”
“Because hating everyone is as irrational as loving everyone. At least save the extremes for people who are worthy of them.”
She took a step closer, lifting her chin. “Is that supposed to be wisdom or something? Keep talking, you patronizing loser, and you’ll prove yourself worthy in no time at all.”
The boy who’d been sitting next to me put his hand on my shoulder as he passed. “Just don’t,” he muttered.
“Avi,” said another voice. It was Devin. He was alone. Mina and Gabe must have already left. “What class have you got next?”
“Math,” I answered.
“Me too,” he said, brightening. “I’ll show you the way, if you want?”
I glanced at Cass. I still hadn’t made eye contact with her. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite this bad. If I have to use magic to get her to even talk to me, it’s never going to work.
She gave an exaggerated sigh. “Are you done with your little lecture? I have to find Mr. Mason and ask him why he broke his word about homeroom.”
Oh, hell. I was the one who’d changed the schedule, using Mr. Mason’s login details. And although Cass and I had gotten off to a terrible start, I didn’t want him changing it back. Homeroom was the best chance I had to see her on a regular basis.
“He won’t change it,” said Devin. “He can’t. Not now you’ve been partnered with Avi.”
“Shit,” she said. “You’re right.”
“I’m right,” he repeated. “Really?”
He smiled, gesturing in my direction. “I have a witness, you know.”
“Yeah, the new guy,” said Cass dismissively. “His word won’t mean anything for weeks yet.”
“Avi,” said Devin, ignoring her, “I’m sorry about my sister. She’s… well, she’s complicated.”
I stared at him.
Half sister,” corrected Cass, making a face.
“Your better half,” said Devin.
Wait, what?

“Show the reader what’s happening. Don’t just tell them.”

Sound familiar? If you’re a reader and/or a writer, you’ll probably be well aware of the showing versus telling debate. Showing tends to be considered superior – the argument being that no reader wants the entire story handed to them on a plate.

However, it’s normally the case that showing uses a lot more words. This is not always a good thing. As with most things in life, balance is key. I have a theory that showing, using dialogue, is one of the most helpful ways a writer can move their story forward without resorting to out-and-out telling. They can simply have their characters reveal the backstory, or the current setting, or their emotions, or anything else the reader needs to know.

Here are three examples to show (sorry!) what I mean:

Example 1: From the first book in the amazing Partials series, by Dan Wells

“Do you have a name?”
The Partial eyed her carefully, that slow, studying look that made her feel like he was calculating everything about her. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because I’m tired of calling you ‘Partial.’”
He studied her a moment longer, then smiled, slowly and warily. “Samm.”
“Samm,” said Kira. “I have to admit, I was expecting something more unusual.”
“It has two Ms.”
“Why two Ms?”
“Because that’s what it said on my rucksack,” said Samm. “‘Sam M.’ I didn’t realize the M was for a last name: I was two days old; I’d never met anyone with a last name. I was just . . . Samm. I spelled it that way on a report, and it stuck.”

Over the course of this short conversation, Samm, the part-human cyborg, becomes real – even endearing – as the reader’s opinion of him, like Kira’s, is challenged and begins to change. The reference to his life at two days old is an intriguing piece of backstory and the fact that Kira decides to ask his name in the first place confirms what the reader might already have suspected about her character.

Example Two: From the awesome Noah Can’t Even, by Simon James Green

“Naomi Grimes – get your bony little arse down here – NOW!” Ms O’Malley bellowed.
“My name’s Noah!” he shouted down indignantly. “She knows damn well my name’s Noah!” he hissed at Harry.
“I think it’s clear she’s taking the piss.”

This exchange tells us a lot about the teacher, Ms O’Malley, the two friends, Noah and Harry, and also the way they perceive each other. There is the fact that Ms O’Malley calls Noah by a girl’s name, for example. And Noah doesn’t realize she’s being sarcastic, while Harry does, yet he’s matter-of-fact (not mocking) in how he corrects Noah. I’m also a fan of adverbs after dialogue tags (in this case “indignantly”) as they’re immediate and effective. This one tells the reader Noah is completely oblivious.

Example Three: From the incomparable Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

“He’s not a child!” said Sirius impatiently.
“He’s not an adult either!” said Mrs. Weasley, the color rising in her cheeks. “He’s not James, Sirius!”
“I’m perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly,” said Sirius coldly.
“I’m not sure you are!” said Mrs. Weasley. “Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it’s as though you think you’ve got your best friend back!”
“What’s wrong with that?” said Harry.
“What’s wrong, Harry, is that you are not your father, however much you might look like him!” said Mrs. Weasley, her eyes still boring into Sirius. “You are still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!”
“Meaning I’m an irresponsible godfather?” demanded Sirius, his voice rising.
“Meaning you have been known to act rashly, Sirius, which is why Dumbledore keeps reminding you to stay at home and —”

This section from The Order of the Phoenix is not particularly exciting or memorable in terms of its place in the story, but it’s great because it demonstrates how J.K. Rowling uses a simple conversation to convey a lot of information in a very efficient way. It reminds the reader of backstory they may have forgotten, and it tells Harry about things he would not otherwise know. It also illustrates the relationship between the adult characters and gives the reader an insight into their particular flaws and strengths.

That’s the last of my three examples. I don’t know if I’ve managed to prove my theory, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. The great thing about reading and writing is that there’s an endless variety of styles and genres available to us. No matter what your preference for showing versus telling, there’s something for everyone. What’s your view? Do you prefer one or the other, or a mixture of both? Thank you for visiting my blog today!

Time for chapter three! Chapters one and two can be found by using the New series label above. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today . I hope you enjoy reading a bit more of the first book in the upcoming Light Mage Series.

3 A Girl 
“Everything OK here?” asked Mr. Mason. Devin and I jumped, not having noticed the teacher approaching. Devin lowered his hands slowly.
Mr. Mason cleared his throat. “Avi,” he said. “About my comments earlier and the history behind your name. I hope I didn’t upset you. This school has a strict policy of inclusion regarding—”
“It’s OK,” I said, cutting him off. “Really.”
“Well… if you’re sure.” He shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other and rubbed his chin. I softened. He wasn’t just quoting policy. It was obvious that he was much more concerned about my feelings than his own.
Gods, this man is crying out for a guardian. My magic reacted instinctively, and almost without thinking I checked his life path, closing my eyes briefly to better visualize the energy map he was carrying.
He hadn’t even begun to explore his potential. I wanted to tell him to open his eyes and look at the world around him rather than live vicariously through his history books. I wanted to tell him he might not have too many more chances to figure out what he was capable of before the opportunity was gone forever.
He’s not mine to teach. He probably never had a guardian of his own.
I sighed. “Really,” I repeated, making eye contact. “Bonum est. Non sollicitare.”
His face relaxed even as his eyes widened a fraction. “Your accent is unusual.”
“Was that Italian, or something?” asked Devin. “What did it mean?”
“It was Latin. He said I shouldn’t worry. Look, Devin, Avi, there’s no need for you to stay any longer,” Mr. Mason went on. “I’m grateful for the help, but don’t waste what’s left of the day.”
Devin nodded and turned to leave, glancing expectantly at me. I had no choice but to follow him, hoping I could think of an excuse for us to split up before we reached the school boundary. We walked along the corridor in silence. He exhaled a couple of times like he’d been about to speak and changed his mind.
“What is it?” I said eventually.
He stared at me and I shifted my gaze to the side just in time. There was a look on his face like he was having an argument with himself.
I tried to make light of it. “I’m not sure I’ve got the legs for a tunic. I’d consider it a favor if you deleted that particular mental image.”
He huffed a surprised laugh, breaking the tension. “That’s not what I was…” He looked down at my legs in their black jeans and made a face. “Well, I wasn’t thinking about that until you just—”
He snapped his mouth shut and a faint blush heated his cheeks. It was endearing. I was still certain I didn’t know him, but there was something about him that drew me in.
“What were you thinking about, then?” I asked.
“Can we start over? You probably didn’t get the best first impression of me or my friends. I… well, I…”
“It’s complicated. Between the three of you,” I offered, remembering the tangled emotions.
“Yes,” he said, making a face. “Something happened over the summer and I’m still… I’m not…. I don’t…”
He stopped walking and turned to give the nearest locker a kick. The noise echoed in the empty space. “What is it about you, Avi? I was going to ask you to come with me for a soda, I swear. I wasn’t even going to mention…”
He ran a hand over his close-cropped black hair. “I mean… why would I even tell you that? School starts on Monday and we all promised not to… I’m doing it again.” He looked at the ceiling. “Will someone please shut me up?”
I tensed, but there was no sign of a change in energy around him. No guardian to answer his plea, even if it had been directed wrongly.
The earthbound always looked to the wide expanse of the sky for help, not understanding that different dimensions can coexist in the same space. They would do better to look over their shoulders. Some of them did. Some of them feel us. But we were careful about making deliberate connections with them. Connections messed with our objectivity in a big way. It wasn’t always possible to avoid them, but we tried.
“It’s my fault,” I said truthfully. I wished I could go back to that first, “Hey,” on the sunny street corner a few hours ago. I could have told him I was waiting for someone. I could have left him alone. I should have.
“No,” he argued. “No, it’s not.”
But it was. He’d touched my skin. I’d used magic on him. I’d looked into his eyes too many times. I should do the right thing and cut him off now. It would be selfish not to. And yet… I hesitated.
His hands were clenching into fists and then unclenching. I could see the ribbons again as his emotions were magnified. They were going to strangle him one day if he didn’t learn how to unravel them. Don’t lose your focus, Luca. You can’t save everyone.
Mitescere,” I said.
“Mit-es?” he repeated slowly, the tense lines of his body already easing. “Is… is that more Latin?”
It was only a temporary measure, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. He needed to calm down and I had to leave. This would accomplish both.
“I’m sorry.”
“What for?” he asked. He blinked as the spell settled around him. In a minute he would have to sit down. He’d be too relaxed to do anything else. It wouldn’t hurt him, and it would wear off soon, but not soon enough for him to see where I went.
“I’m going now.” I took a few steps backward, watching him to make sure he couldn’t follow me. He leaned against the lockers as his strength ebbed away and shook his head.
“You… Did you do this?”
“I’m sorry. Dedisco,” I added, taking no chances, before I ducked out of sight around the corner. I walked as fast as I could, grateful for my soft-soled shoes and that I knew the layout of the school.
With determination, I turned my thoughts away from Devin. I knew where I was going. I needed a school computer, but I wanted to make sure I avoided Mr. Mason. He was still in the school cafeteria, potentially with the janitor he’d mentioned.
The library was exactly where I remembered. After a hastily murmured, “Resero,” I was sliding one of the double doors open. The space inside extended upward for three floors to a series of large skylights at the top, through which the sun was shining steadily.
There was a balcony on each level, and jam-packed shelves extended backward from the railings. The air was hot, enhancing the particular smell that only hundreds of books in an enclosed space could create.
I breathed it in. Luca, you’re too sentimental for your own good. I loved libraries, ever since I’d first discovered the one set aside for guardians’ use. It smelled like the perfect blend of earth and air, balancing wisdom and possibility in equal amount. But these days, in the earthbound dimension, paper was an inefficient way to store information. Libraries like this would become more rare.
I sat down at the large desk near the entrance, where several monitors were waiting silently. I located the nearby power source, and one of the computers came obligingly to life. When the login screen appeared, I typed the details I’d seen Mr. Mason use earlier rather than rely on a spell. I had to practice the earthbound way of doing things if I were to stand a chance of blending in next week.
The menus were easy to navigate. I’d watched technology many times over the shoulders of my previous assignments, and this computer followed the instructions I gave as if my fingers on its keyboard were nothing out of the ordinary.
After I’d pulled up an alphabetized list of senior-year students, I had to swallow away the dryness in my throat before I could continue. I started to scroll down the page with the wheel of the mouse, but soon stopped, frustrated by how long it was taking.
Reperio,” I said. Immediately the list paged down, over and over, too fast for me to see the names. When it stopped, I stared in disbelief.
“Miss Cassandra Vryson.”
Miss? Miss? I sank back into the chair. Dimly, it registered that this earthbound covering did not deal with shock very well. I could hardly breathe, and yet it seemed at the same time I was breathing too much. I barely noticed the photo and other information that flashed onto the screen as the computer, still following my spoken instruction, opened the student’s profile in full.
I knew, of course, that gender could change from life to life for the earthbound. It was my job to know. No one was able to experience all the lessons there were to be learned if they never changed gender. It was just…
I blinked at the monitor, but the information didn’t change. Was he really a… a… girl now? For a few seconds I wondered if I’d gotten it wrong, but soon dismissed my doubt. I’d recognized the energy signature the second I came across it. Even though it had been nearly two thousand years, I’d never stopped looking. And it was a match. This profile was a match.
But I’d thought he… I’d thought… don’t use his name… I’d hoped there would be something left of the boy I once knew. I hadn’t realized until that moment just how much I’d been hoping. I’m a fool. Hope was for the earthbound. It helped them through the worst of their lessons. Mages like me, however, were not supposed to entertain the idea of it, let alone feel it, or, gods forbid, actually need it.
My phone chimed with another text.
Oh, Luca. I wish I could feel what you’re feeling right now. Second restriction: the two of you will have NOTHING in common. Not one single thing. Keep smiling :)
It was with great difficulty that I resisted the temptation to throw the phone to the floor. I held it for a moment, my jaw clenched so tightly I could feel the tension all the way down into my shoulders.
After I’d calmed down, I placed the phone onto the desk and very deliberately leaned forward, reading the information on the screen one line at a time and committing it to memory. Vital statistics (same birth date as I remembered), address (irrelevant, as I couldn’t leave the school), academic history (average, with the exception of Drama), and behavior record (appalling).
The photo was intriguing. He… she… wasn’t smiling, but it was impossible to know the emotion hidden behind the passive expression. The person in the photo could have been feeling anything from boredom, to contempt, to despair. I couldn’t tell.
I pulled up the scheduling application. At first glance it seemed like we weren’t in any of the same classes. Tentatively, I made a couple of changes, and the computer allowed me to save them. I could at least make sure our paths crossed occasionally without having to seek him… her…. out.
After I turned off the computer, I climbed the stairs to the top floor and walked toward the back wall, not stopping until I was hidden from view. It was dark away from the skylights, but I was relieved to find I could still see clearly.
Now I had some time on my hands, I intended to figure out what I could and couldn’t do with this new covering of mine.
Old covering. There’s no way Avitus Sequani can be considered new.
Devin couldn’t touch me without the shock of it causing him pain. And every spell I’d tried had worked perfectly. Still. There were other things I could check.
So I did. I filled the little earthbound space with something different: scenes from history, my history, as a guardian. The green carpet and dusty shelves shimmered before transforming into a new place in time.
First, I was standing in the corner of a battlefield at sunset. Then I was clutching at the rail of a fast-sinking ship. Next, I was watching the ink dry on the most famous declaration in history. I chose them at random, going back and back, until finally I was at the end of my timeline as a guardian. It was the pit beneath the Colosseum, stifling and dark, with the roar of the mob overhead. I stopped.
There was one thing left to check. I knew I could still see energy and emotions, but could I manipulate them? There were no earthbound here to experiment on—not that I would—but this was a place where the earthbound spent time. I wandered along the rows of shelves until I found what I was looking for. An argument. Here. There was an echo of it still in the air.
I encouraged it to disperse, and it did my bidding willingly enough. OK. I’m convinced. I’m still a Light Mage.
This covering, this physical body, was an illusion, however good it was at following my instructions or echoing my emotions. And it was very good. I felt a connection with it at times that was surprising, considering I’d been here only a few hours.
But if it were only an illusion, I would have to be careful. I needed to ensure Avi’s behavior remained within the accepted parameters of an earthbound existence. I supposed I would have to pretend to eat and drink, visit the bathroom, and so on.
I made a mental list. Limited magic. Basic spells only. No time travel. Observe the rules of gravity at all times. And try not to make any connections.
It was a long list, but I didn't care. I was here, and so was hshe. Monday couldn't come soon enough. 

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