This scene is from Storge’s second draft, in chapter 9. The Laine family is hiding after Luca and Grace revealed their powers during The Arena Attack, which you can read here. 1100 words, no content warnings. I hope you enjoy this look into my magic system!
“Luca, what in all of Laoche’s Lands do you think you’re doing?” Grace asked, flinging open the door of the apartment. Luca jumped, dropping a metal knot with a clatter.
“Um.” He fumbled for the puzzle and tried to hide it behind his back, but she snatched the still-glowing object before he could pull it from her reach. It buzzed with the magic, warm to the touch, and she clamped her hands around it as if silencing a bell. The feeling transferred into her fingertips and arms, pins and needles that danced along her skin, a surge of life. Then it dissipated, and the metal cooled again.
“Enne noticed your practice,” she said, handing it back to him.
“Only Enne can hear the magic,” Luca protested.
“We don’t know that. Besides, Acheran feels magic with his wings. What’s stopping others from noticing too?”
Luca sighed. “There’s nothing else I can help with, and mom and dad won’t let me come find work with them. I’m bored out of my mind and I just thought…” He trailed off. He let his fingers idly dance over the puzzle’s edges, but didn’t release his power. “It was a stupid thought. I’m sorry. That could have put us in danger. I’ve worried Enne, haven’t I.”
“Annoyed, yes, worried, maybe. I don’t see any guards banging on the front door, do you?” Luca gave her a half-smile at that, and she sat cross-legged next to him. “What were you trying to do?”
“Ma made the puzzle for me to practice control exercises. If I weren’t so obvious, if I could cast carefully, I’d be less dangerous, y’know?”
“Luca, even when you aren’t using magic, you’re loud.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“Humph. I’ll have you know I gave Enne the slip not even half an hour ago.”
“Congratulations,” Luca deadpanned. He laid back and rested his head on his folded hands. “Mom isn’t worried about getting caught because she doesn’t generate magic the way I do. She only takes what magic she needs, and her spells are so specialized, she uses up the energy. There’s not a huge chance of the Atilan noticing when she casts so fast. It’s how she learned, but she isn’t sure how to teach me, or show you how to use your ability to its fullest potential.”
“Shouldn’t your magic be intuitive?” Grace asked. “I don’t try to steal your magic, it just kind of happens. And Enne figured out the echos on her own.”
“It’s intuitive to live, breathe, and be magic, and natural to let the power come crashing out, but I can’t untangle the puzzle, it looks like a sick snake. Having magic doesn’t make me useful. Or safe.”
“Since when have you cared about your magic being useful?” Grace asked, cocking her head to look at her brother.
“Since Acheran started letting us work with him. You don’t pay attention to what he’s making because you can’t use any of the charms, but his inventions are fascinating. We know so little about magicrafts; even the Atilan don’t understand what’s possible. Think of how many ways it could help make people’s lives easier. It’s potential…” He drifted off, considered, then continued in a pensive, bitter tone.
“One thing has been bothering me since the arena. Lyss wants the magic boy because of his power? What good is my magic if I can’t control it? I spent so many years afraid to try tapping into it, and I choked when it counted.”
Grace sat back on her elbows, silent for a moment as she mulled over his statement. Remembering her nausea and anger after that second attack, the shame of helplessness that twisted in her stomach, she understood the stakes. They needed to practice, no matter the danger.
“Luca, I want to learn, too. I want to fight back. If we work together, we can both practice and no one will catch us.”
Luca weighed the question, but Grace recognized from the eager gleam in his eye that, despite his hesitation, he agreed. A little persuasion would win him over to her brilliant idea.
“You won’t be able to resist trying, now that you’ve got the idea,” Grace argued, “And there’s no risk if my abilities get out of control because nobody here is supposed to have magic anyhow. It’s the perfect safety net.”
He grinned, and sat up, seized the puzzle and held it out between them. Without another word, Grace put her hands in position around his, back facing the open window so that her presence dampened the sound of magic before it escaped to Enne’s keen ears. The silence between them added to the air of exhilarating secrecy that came from sneaking a chance to be themselves. Luca showed her how he moved the metal and where she needed to quiet the magic if he lost control. Then he put his fingertips to the joint and let the magic flow. His freckles and scars lit gold in her shadow, and the light moved into the metal. The warmth spread over her hands, and she leaned into it. The light flickered.
“Not so much,” Luca whispered.
She allowed the silky threads to slip out of her grip and the glow returned, steady and strong. He tried to move the metal through itself but it stuck at the joint. Luca pushed, and Grace expected the flash of magic flying back in his face that came from forcing a stubborn joint. When the overwhelmed metal rejected the energy, she caught the excess in her curved hands, like cradling a sputtering candle to protect the fragile flame from the wind. After a moment, the joint reached a critical point, and passed through itself. The magic in the room dropped off, the action completed, the power consumed. The knot unraveled, leaving a lopsided loop.
Grace couldn’t resist a quiet whoop of triumph, and laughed as Luca sat back on his feet.
“It worked!” He breathed. “We did it.”
“Did you do something different?”
“I was afraid to push so hard before, worried if I used too much too fast, the metal would snap. With you, I could take that risk. I only had to pour magic into the joint. The focus heated the metal, not the amount I used.” He ran his hand along the length of the solved puzzle, energizing it enough to be pliable. He smoothed kinks, turning the uneven bends into a circle. With a flourish, he placed it on her head as he hummed the coronation song of the Trials last day.
“Thank you, Atala sister.”