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The Legacy of Androva Series

New Book, New Series, Second Chapter

Today's blog post is another update on my next book, part of the newly named Light Mage Series, which is turning out to be a lot of fun to write . It's for a slightly older audience than the Legacy of Androva, but there are some common elementsmagic (obviously!), a bit of romance (this time it's m/m), and plenty of life-threatening obstacles. The magic works very differently though, and its backstory is more complicated. I've been world-building in my head whenever I get the chance, which is great because it makes the long commute to my day job seem shorter! This is the second chapter. The first chapter is in the bog post directly before this one.

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope you're having a great summer so far! In the UK, our weather continues to be surprisingly hot and sunny, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts 😎.


2 A Name 
There was a girl with them. I avoided her gaze, but I could feel it appraising me like I was back in the market at the Forum or something.
“What were you doing in there?” said Gabe suspiciously. I decided to brazen it out. They couldn’t exactly report me for standing in an empty classroom.
“Just looking around. Wouldn’t you, if you were me? Tomorrow, everyone will be staring at me because I’m the new guy. I’d rather not be lost as well.”
Devin’s expression was sympathetic, but Gabe wrinkled his nose, pulling his lips into a sneer. “Whatever,” he said. “If you want to waste the last day of summer break snooping around the school, that’s up to you. Dev, Mina, let’s go.”
“Hold on a second,” said the girl. “He’s the one, isn’t he? The one you were arguing about before.”
She took a step closer. Her self-confidence was so potent it was almost like she had a force field around her. I glanced at her quickly. She was wearing a lot of face paint and those surely weren’t her own eyelashes, but she was still very pretty.
I recognized her from when I’d been standing on the corner, watching everyone arrive. She hadn’t been short of company, but I’d been more interested in the reactions her little group had provoked in others. Although some students had stared, as if they wanted to belong, others had been wary. This girl might be admired, but she wasn’t universally liked.
“What’s your name?” she asked. “Come on, don’t be shy.”
I smiled faintly. She was so sure I would answer, so certain of her place in the social hierarchy of this school. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by making connections all over the place, but perhaps I should use her. It could help me to be friends with someone like Mina.
“Come with me to registration and you’ll be the first to find out,” I said with a shrug.
Her expression flickered while she considered this. I deliberately made eye contact and held it for a couple of seconds. “Volo te mecum venire,” I whispered.
“Well, I’m leaving, even if you’re not,” said Gabe. “Mina, I can’t believe you’re giving airtime to this. It’s pathetic.”
She glared at him. “Did you just call me pathetic?”
He swallowed. “No. Him, I said. He’s pathetic.”
“I’ll go with you,” she said, brushing my arm with her fingertips. Thank the gods for sleeves. Her nails were intricately decorated. Everything about this girl was so contrived, but I found it oddly familiar. She was no different from a Roman socialite.
“Me too,” said Devin. He grinned. “It’d better be worth it, though. If your name’s John or James or something, after all this…”
“He doesn’t look like a James,” said Mina. “Too straight.”
“Straight?” Devin sounded… disappointed?
“No,” said Mina. “The name. Not him.” She considered. “He’s hard to read. He could be… anything.”
Gabe stared at me with open dislike. Things seemed to be getting very complicated all of a sudden. There were undercurrents of emotion swirling between the three of them like colored ribbons. Surprisingly, Devin’s were the darkest, not what I’d expected from his easy-going demeanor.
My training kicked in, like an involuntary reaction to the challenge, and I had to walk away before I did something stupid like grab one of the ribbons to untangle it.
I could guess what my name was going to be. I was pretty sure it would be the name I’d used when I’d last had this face. Perhaps it hadn’t been his choice after all. The nature of my crossing was rather unorthodox. This might be like a default spell or something.
When we arrived at the cafeteria, Gabe reluctantly following a few paces behind us, it was almost deserted. There was just one man sitting at the bank of desks, trying to sip from a mug and scroll through his phone at the same time. He was scruffy and earnest looking.
The man lifted his head and set down the mug, spilling some dark-brown liquid onto the desk. He looked straight at me.
“A-ha!” he exclaimed. “You must be our mysterious new student. I was about to pack up for the day. No one in the team will admit to entering your unusual name into the system, and we were starting to think you were a glitch.”
“Go on then, Mr. Mason,” said Devin, folding his arms expectantly. “What is his name?”
“Avitus Sequani,” I said.
There was a short silence. “Avi is fine, though,” I added.
“Well,” said Mr. Mason, “Avi. Welcome to Sherbourne High School.” He bent over the keyboard in front of him and typed something quickly. “We don’t have a photo in your file. Is it OK if I take one now so I can print your ID card?”
“Er… sure,” I replied. I glanced at the others. Mina and Gabe were whispering to each other, but Devin was watching me, his arms still folded and a puzzled look on his face.
“I hope you don’t  mind that I described your name as unusual,” said Mr. Mason, directing me to stand against the cream-colored wall. “I meant no offense.”
“None taken,” I told him. He held up a camera that was connected to his computer by a black cable. Was I supposed to smile?
“It’s just that I studied the classics in college and the Sequani were part of Gaul in the first century BC. Until Julius Caes—”
“I know,” I interrupted. I didn’t need to be reminded of the history, passed down by those who had emerged victorious from the long years of Gallic-Roman conflict. You have no idea. You weren’t there.
“Oh?” he said, not looking at me as he fiddled with the camera settings. “I suppose I’m not the first person to have mentioned it—fascinating example of just how brilliant Roman strategy could be. Do you know any Latin? Do you…?” His voice and enthusiasm faded to nothing as he looked into the lens and saw my face.
I was furious, and, judging by his expression, failing to hide it. The cords in his neck tightened as he swallowed. “Er… that’s it. Keep still.” He pressed a button on the camera and immediately went back to the computer.
Do I know any Latin? Yeah. I grew up learning the language of the people who slaughtered my ancestors. I grew up learning the language of my owners. How about you, Mr. Mason? You probably studied it for fun, right?
Shit. What was wrong with me? I shouldn’t be getting so emotional over ancient history, even if it was my own.
Mr. Mason’s taps on the keyboard had become slightly agitated, in that way the earthbound have of hoping their technology will somehow perform differently if they press harder. “I’m sorry, er… Avi,” he said. “There seems to be a problem with the photo. I might need to take another one.” His expression showed that this was the last thing he wanted to do.
I walked around to look, followed by the others.
“I can help, Mr. Mason. I did a photography project in Art when I was a junior,” offered Mina. “I… What the hell is that?”
We all stared at the screen. Damnit. I did not look remotely earthbound in that photo. “Dispareo,” I whispered, and the image on the screen faded to black.
“Looks like you’ll have to take another one,” I said. “Maybe you used a special effects setting or something.”
“I’ll take it,” said Mina, grabbing the camera from the table. I returned to my former position in front of the wall while she double-checked the settings.
“OK, Avi, give me your best pose,” she said, raising her perfectly drawn eyebrows. At least while the camera lens was between us, I wouldn’t be making direct eye contact with her. It was far too soon to do it again. “Cotidianus,” I muttered as she pressed the button.
The whole eye contact thing was becoming more of a problem than I’d anticipated. I’d forgotten how face-to-face communication depended on it. Although I had a physical covering, my eyes were like a pathway to the light and the magic inside of me. Even if they weren’t permitted to remember what that light was, the earthbound were still inexorably drawn to it.
The card was duly printed and I put it in the back pocket of my jeans. I frowned when I realized there was a phone in the pocket as well, taking it out to have a closer look.
Why do I have a phone?
It immediately chimed with a text. The first few words flashed up on the screen inside a gray box. I fumbled to touch it before it disappeared, my fingers a little clumsy in their new earthbound covering.
First restriction: now you’ve entered the school, you can’t leave it. I am only able to keep their attention turned away from you if you don’t stray far. Welcome to your new home. Have fun, won’t you, Luca?
Him. That’s why I have a phone. I tightened my grip and the phone dug into my palm. I was growing more used to the physical sensations. My connection with this body was obviously increasing. Briefly, I wondered if that were a good thing or a bad thing.
“Guys, I need to pack up now. Unless you’re going to stay and help, you should get going,” said Mr. Mason.
“Oh, I’d love to help, it’s just that I’m expected somewhere else,” replied Mina sweetly. “Sorry, Mr. Mason.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Gabe. He nudged Devin with his elbow, but Devin remained silent. The puzzled look from earlier hadn’t quite disappeared from his face.
“I’ll stay. I’m not expected anywhere,” I added. Well, I’m not expected anywhere in this dimension. Besides, I was stuck in the school, and access to its student records was exactly what I needed.
Mr. Mason fiddled with the cuff of his shirt. “I was, er… kidding, er… Avi,” he said. “The janitor will be back later. You go on now.”
“I could stay a while,” said Devin. “My mom’s not expecting me until this afternoon.”
It was faint, but I didn’t miss Mr. Mason’s sigh of relief. I scared him. I should fix that.
“What?” said Gabe.
Mina pulled on his arm. “Come on, Gabe, let’s go join the others in the park. You owe me ice cream, remember?”
She walked up to Devin to say goodbye and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She put her mouth to his ear and looked straight at me as she spoke her whispered words.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
He gave an embarrassed cough. “Mina,” he said in a low voice.
“You can’t stay here. He’s dangerous,” said Gabe, taking a step forward. I could sense Mr. Mason’s horror as, for a few seconds, he thought Gabe might be talking about him.
“Ga-a-be,” said Mina slowly. “It’s the school cafeteria in the middle of the day, and the most boring teacher in the school is in charge. Nothing’s going to happen.”
She turned and held her hand to her mouth in pretend remorse. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Mason. I meant the most responsible teacher in the school is in charge.”
He pressed his lips together. I got the impression this wasn’t the first time she’d been openly rude to him. “Thank you, Mina. Are you leaving now, or did you just say that to get my hopes up?”
“We’re leaving.” She dragged Gabe after her. I felt sorry for him. He was only protecting his friend, and what he’d seen had been unpleasant. I would have made him forget it, but the opportunity to take him to one side had simply not presented itself.
And, there was still the niggling problem of his name. It was probably a coincidence, but… Gabe. Gabriel. One of the original seven. The skin on my neck prickled.
No. I won’t spend time worrying about something I can’t control.
Mr. Mason soon had us sweeping the floor, arranging the tables stacked at the side of the room into rows, and putting out the chairs, six to a table. On Monday, they’d be occupied by chattering students eating their lunches, and I might even have found the person I was here for.
It looked like I was going to have to be patient if I wanted the chance to use the computer on my own. My mouth twisted. Patient, I can do. I’ve had a lot of practice.
I glanced up from placing the last chair to see Devin looking at me. “What is it?” I asked. I put my hands on my hips and lowered my chin, pretending to be out of breath so I wouldn’t have to look into his eyes. I wasn’t out of breath. Lifting a few pieces of man-made furniture hardly compared to gladiatorial training.
“This is going to sound crazy, but your name is really familiar,” he said.
“No, it isn’t,” I replied automatically.
“I wasn’t asking you,” he said.
I frowned. “Why would a two-thousand-year-old Latin name be familiar to you?”
“I didn’t say it made sense,” he responded. “I just… I just…” He grimaced before continuing. “This is going to sound even worse, but in my head I can see you wearing, like, a tunic or something…”
 Appearing horrified at his own words, he put his hands over his face. “Oh, shit, just forget I spoke,” he added, his voice slightly muffled.
I gaped at him. This is the fastest connection I've ever made. How can he see so much already?

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