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.”