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The Legacy of Androva Series

New Book, New Series, Fourteenth Chapter ⌛

Today's Chapter Fourteen takes us to the halfway point of the book 🙂. At the end of his flashback to Ancient Rome and gladiator training, Luca shies away from remembering how he and Cass were eventually separated. Then he meets up with Devin, who explains the reason for the tension between him, Mina, and Gabe. Luca's attraction to Devin is also becoming more and more difficult to ignore.

If you'd like to catch up with the rest of Spell Tracker so far, you can follow the New series label at the top of this post. I hope you enjoy the chapter, and thank you very much for reading 💕.

14 A Game

Cass and I spent every spare moment together as we prepared to enter the Colosseum for our inaugural fight. Knowing we faced the threat of imminent death, we wanted to do all we could to celebrate being alive. I believed in the gods when I was with her. Someone so extraordinary could not have come into existence by accident.
We worked hard to fool the lanista into thinking Cass knew what she was doing. Every night I gave her a horse-riding lesson in secret, and every day she had to fake her ability a little less.
“Don’t copy Julius,” I told her. “It’s not just a matter of kick to go and pull to steer and stop. The horse will feel your weight shifting and respond to a much lighter touch if you give him the chance.”
“He’s got to give me the chance to stay on first,” she complained. “Everything hurts.”
“Everything?”
“Yes! I’m in agony here, Avi.”
“Oh. Maybe I should take a closer look,” I said, adopting a solemn expression. “Examine you. Just in case.”
She bit her lip to hide a smile. “In case of what?”
“In case I can find… um… something that doesn’t hurt. You know… to make you feel better.”
Cass stared at me for a second, then she climbed into my lap and we were kissing. It was fierce, and sweet, and I wouldn’t have noticed if the emperor himself had interrupted us.
In the training arena, whenever it looked like she was going to mess up, I deliberately pushed her off the horse and we fought on the ground with our swords instead. The horses tolerated the training sessions with remarkable patience. I often felt ashamed, knowing I would be forced to take one of them into the Colosseum with me. Very few of the animals that entered the games ever came back.
The others continued to laugh at our enmity, and the lanista suspected nothing. It was important no one knew our real feelings. They would jump at the chance to use them against us if they could.
Eventually, the time came when Cass was proficient enough to fight a moving target on horseback. We started on opposite sides of the arena before urging our horses into a fast canter in order to attack. Before I had time to properly take aim, Cass threw her blunted spear, hitting my unprotected shoulder hard and upsetting my balance. My horse skittered backward. Cass was traveling toward me so quickly that her practice sword was raining down blows on my head and my raised shield before I could right myself.
I fell off, my sword, spear, and shield landing on top of me with a clatter. She shouted triumphantly. I suppressed a grin, happy for her even through the pain of my landing, and shouted back, “Is that the best you can do?”
“My worst beats your best any day of the week,” she retorted.
After that, she could hold her own. Her confidence increased. Our fighting styles complemented each other, and we naturally began to pair up against the others. Cass learned to throw her spear with great precision, while I worked on my sword fighting, combining force with finesse in a way that had eluded me before. Once she’d unhorsed an opponent, I finished them off.
It led us to an ending we would never have chosen.
Enough. Enough remembering for now. I’m not ready to think of… I’m not ready.
It was fortunate this was a weekend. The sun had already passed across the library skylights and begun its descent by the time I stopped. I’d been lost in bittersweet memories for half the night and most of the day.
I checked my phone. Everyone was messaging about the party. Mina had posted a lot of photos so that her followers could be in no doubt about how amazing it was going to be and also how stunning Mina herself was going to look. The whole thing must have taken her ages.
High school ends this year, Mina. What happens then? You can’t cut and paste your popularity when you go to college.
There was an extended debate in the comments about whether “Cavi” would put in an appearance. Mina hinted, but didn’t promise. I scrolled up and down a couple of times to see if Gabe or Devin had said anything, but there were no comments from either of them.
It was ridiculous how easy it had been for Mina to start the rumor about me and Cass. The more times it was repeated on social media, the more people believed it. Seeing the lie on the screen of their phone somehow lent it credibility. At least I knew Cass didn’t care.
What did you decide?
Devin. And I hadn’t decided anything.
Still thinking,” I replied.
I’ll be there in an hour. Delivery gate. You’ll have to let me in.
What?” It struck me as I tapped Send that my reply was stupid. Devin’s message was pretty clear.
?” said his reply.
I don’t know if I want to see you.” I decided to go for honesty.
I need your help,” he replied.
I sighed. Some things I couldn’t say no to. Helping the earthbound was still my job. I was on a temporary transfer, not a sabbatical.
OK. An hour.”
Cool.” He added a smiley face and I found myself smiling back at the screen. Be honest, Luca. You do want to see him.
 I passed the time by working on the library computer to complete a History essay. I wasn’t attending every class, but I didn’t want to use spells to get out of the entire timetable. I’d be far more credible as a high school student if I actually spent some time being a high school student. And graduation didn’t happen by accident. Even with sixty percent attendance, I had a lot of studying to do.
When Devin arrived, I was waiting. He smelled like he’d just had a shower. It was kind of distracting.
“According to the alarm system, a couple of teachers are signed in,” I told him. “We should go to our place. I mean… the place. Backstage. You know.”
“Our place?” he repeated, smiling.
“It was a slip of the…” I trailed off. Then, like an idiot, I touched my tongue to my lower lip.
“Avi… if you don’t want me to throw myself at you right now, you should turn around and start walking,” said Devin, not taking his eyes off my mouth.
He’s been here less than a minute. Walk.
I started walking, slowly, until I heard him follow a few paces behind me. I concentrated on finding something sensible to say. It took me a while. “What did you want my help with?” I asked, looking over my shoulder.
“I’m worried about Mina.”
Not what I was expecting him to say.
“Why? Is there a problem with the party or something?”
 He shook his head. “It’s not the party. Look… I suppose you think Mina is like this super-bitch who’s more into status than anything else, right?”
“Er… isn’t she?”
We sat down in the same places we’d been before. I didn’t soften the lighting this time, in an attempt to avoid creating any kind of romantic vibe.
“Well?” I said. “Are you going to tell me that she’s secretly insecure and misunderstood, and really she’s hurting worse than all the people whose senior years she’s trying to ruin?”
Apparently my guardian’s objectivity has completely gone to shit.
“I’m sorry,” I said before he could answer. “I didn’t mean that. I don’t know her life path, do I? She might be doing this for someone else.”
“What’s a life path?”
I made a face. “Something the earthbound aren’t supposed to know about.”
He shifted closer until our hips and shoulders were touching. “Are you talking about fate? Most scientists say every decision we make is predetermined. I haven’t decided what to believe yet.”
“Exactly,” I replied. “You haven’t decided.”
“You just said life path,” he argued. “If there’s a path, it sounds predetermined to me.”
“Yeah, but there are forks in the path. Look, I’m breaking so many rules here. Can we talk about Mina instead?”
“No.” He elbowed my ribs. “You can’t keep telling me stuff, then refusing to explain.”
“Ow.” I elbowed him back. “I’m trying to do the right thing.”
I exhaled, then shifted position so I could see his face more easily. “Look, let’s just say, hypothetically, you did have a life path and… choices. What if someone told you which fork was the most difficult? Or who’d designed the path… or where it crossed with someone else’s… or what the stakes were…
“Don’t you see? Free will is so easy to undermine. And once it’s gone, you are done. So I won’t be responsible for undermining yours.”
Devin nodded. His shock filled the space between us, the ribbon of emotion spiky and dark, but he did a good job of keeping it from showing on his face. “I get it. Why didn’t you just say that before?”
“Yeah. Well. I told you. I don’t really know how to be a guardian like this. My assignments can’t usually interrogate me.”
“Assignments? You make it sound like school.”
I shrugged. “It is. Everyone’s learning. All the time.”
“So…” He pushed up his sleeves. “Is there anything you can tell me that’s not classified? You said you wanted to help me, before. I was hoping you could help Mina.”
“I can try. As long as you understand that I can’t tell her what to do.”
Devin laughed. The spiky ribbon had already begun to fade, and now it transformed into something that fizzed like the surface of a newly poured glass of soda.
“No one can tell Mina what to do,” he said, grinning.
Percipio,” I said, wanting him to know what it felt like. He blinked. Goosebumps appeared on his forearms.
“Are you doing that?” he asked. “It’s kind of nice.”
“No. You are. Rescindo,” I added. Devin looked disappointed.
“That was me?”
“That was the happy version of the snakes and fog you felt before. Thoughts and beliefs translate to emotions, which translate to mag… to energy,” I said, correcting myself. “They have more power than most of the earthbound realize.”
“How do you cope? I mean, being able to feel this stuff all the time. Doesn’t it distract you?”
“Not really. I kind of tune in to it when I need to. I only have three assignments at a time. I mean… usually. That’s not to say I don’t get distracted, though.”
He stared at me, and the fizzing slowed down, softening into something different. I had to grit my teeth to keep from leaning into it. Gods. Would it be too obvious if I used a spell to make my jeans a bit less tight?
“Well,” I said, swallowing, “w-why does Mina need help?”
“How old are you?” he asked.
“What?”
“How old are you?” he repeated.
“Seventeen,” I said. “Didn’t I tell you that already?”
“But you’re Roman. Doesn’t that make you, like, ancient?”
“I was a Roman. When I was last earthbound. But… sorry to disappoint you. I’m not particularly old, or wise, or anything. My age is a blueprint I carried with me when I became a guardian.”
“You mean… you’ll be seventeen forever? Seriously?”
Time passed differently here. The average earthbound life was equivalent to a year in the magical dimensions. I wouldn’t live forever, but it would seem like a long time from Devin’s point of view. And I’d be seventeen for the duration of it. He was right about that.
“Not quite forever, but… yeah. Sometimes it sucks, but I’ve got used to it.”
“Thank God,” he said, relaxing.
“Why?”
“I thought I was crushing on some really old dude or something.”
I laughed. “Thanks. I think?”
He scooted a little way back from me, and the buzz of attraction between us diminished. “Sorry,” he said. “You’ll probably think I’m stupid, but I can’t seem to think clearly when I’m too close to you.”
I don’t think you’re stupid.
He looked down at his hands. “I’m going to tell you something about me, and Gabe, and Mina, and you have to promise you won’t repeat it.”
“I promise.”
“I’m hoping that because of… because of what you are, you can’t break your word. Is that true, or am I being stupid again?” He looked up. His cheeks were a little red.
Promitto,” I said. “I wouldn’t have… but now I can’t.”
“OK. Cool.”
Silence. Devin opened his mouth and closed it again. “This is really difficult.”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
“No, I do. Otherwise you won’t understand. We’ve been friends forever. They’ve always accepted me for who I am. I mean… that I’m gay. They made it easy for me.”
He waited for me to acknowledge it. “OK,” I said. “I know it can be a big deal. But remember I come from a time when people were pretty open about it.”
“Yeah. You don’t seem bothered one way or the other.”
“Well… it’s me. Can’t really escape it.”
He smiled. “I know, right? The thing is… not everyone feels that way.” His smile disappeared. “We played this stupid game of truth or dare one night. I didn’t find out until later, but Mina had been drinking. And once she said… what she said…. things just went from bad to worse.”
“What did she say?”
“Oh, only that she’d been in love with Gabe since we were thirteen. He looked like he was going to throw up when she tried to kiss him.”
“Then what happened?”
I can guess. I’ve seen how he looks at you.
“Then… then he blurts out that he’s gay and in love with me. Can you believe it? He gave me no warning. He just tried to kiss me and… he’s my friend. I don’t like him that way.”
He hunched his shoulders. “I probably looked like I was going to throw up, too. We all swore we’d act as if it never happened. But Mina’s changed. I’m worried about her. I’m worried about both of them.”

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