Gareth noticed Jasmine’s attention wander, and he sat back in the chair as she ate her food. He was still thinking about what Marianna had said. He had a choice, and one that wasn’t easy to make. He still wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Pulling energy from the universe and channeling it was far more powerful then manipulating earth energy. Energy from the earth was more grounded and stable, where the energy from universe was infinite, and one had to know how much they could take, or risk taking too much and dying.
His mother, a fae, had raised him under the protection of the Resistance, while his father pretended to work for the queen Awen, while gathering intelligence for the Resistance. He had died in a battle when Gareth was twenty. When he was ready, his mother, Rhea, had taught him how to gather magic. She taught him how to manipulate the darkness, like she had seen her husband do so many times. She taught him the fae ways, and the halfling ways. She had known that one day, it would be his mission to do as his father had, and get close to the queen, and he needed to be prepared.
One day when he was in the forest within the confines of the Resistance, he had discovered that he had a rare gift. He had been shifting energy from the earth’s core to some flowers, making the buds open up to colors of violet, red, pink, and sky blue. It had been an accident. He looked up to the sky, and wondered what exactly was beyond the borders of what could be seen from earth. He had felt a rush of energy through him, foreign atoms rushing in and through his body, and he felt like he was being torn apart. He didn’t know what to do with the strange energy spilling into his body like a flood, like he was the black hole that the stars were falling into. He had passed out when it got to be too much, which hadn’t been too long after it happened. He had still been trying to control earth energy, which is why he had been practicing.
When he had awoken inside his home, he had a damp cloth over his eyes, but he could hear his mother and a male whispering in the next room. He couldn’t make out the words, but his mother’s tone sounded fearful. He sat up slowly, his head pounding and his body aching. He wasn’t sure what had happened. His vision was a lot sharper, more so than when he had just completed some magic work with the earth. He could see the cracks on the floor in the corner, all the way across the room.
Gareth had slowly padded his way out of his bedroom, coming into the living room. There was a simple sofa and a couple of chairs and a table. A book shelf lined the wall on one side, heavy with volumes written by fae and humans alike. His mother sat on the sofa with a man, and they stopped talking when he entered the room, slowly shuffling along.
Rhea had jumped up, “Gareth! You shouldn’t be walking around!” She ran over and grabbed his elbow, guiding him to one of the chairs, easing him down into it. He wondered if he was really so fragile, but he accepted the help, wincing as his stiff muscles protested the movement.
His mother had sat back down, nervously clearing her throat before saying, “We need to talk to you. This is Sage.” The man only nodded to him, studying Gareth intensely for a few moments. The man’s eyes were dark brown pools that reflected the world around him, and his hair was black as a raven’s feather. It was streaked with grey, but barely so. He wore a long black robe with sleeves that covered his arms and hands.
“You have a special gift,” Sage had said. “A rare gift. However a gift it is, it is dangerous if you don’t wield it properly.” Gareth had only been more confused, the man was speaking so vaguely.
“You have the power to draw down the energy of the universe. Almost all fae and halflings can only use energy from the planet Earth. But you, you can pull energy from our galaxy, and everything beyond. The vastness of this power is immense. Dangerous. If you don’t use it correctly, you can die. You are lucky to be alive, young man.”
Gareth’s mother interjected. “Sage has agreed to help you learn this power. It is far beyond my capabilities, I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I will help you,” Sage had said. True to his word, the very next day they started, although Gareth was still sore from the currents of energy that had bolted through his system the day before. Sage had taught him everything he knew. It took decades for him to feel comfortable with the strange magic from the cosmos, and they had many close calls. Gareth had passed out many times, only to go back to it the next day. Sage had been a ruthless teacher, wearing him out to the point of exhaustion many days. His mother had shaken her head many a night when Gareth dragged his worn body through the door at night, worried about him and the toll the energy work had been taking. But they continued on the brutal process of learning. It wasn’t easy to get used to the feeling of his body wanting to be ripped apart by the atoms swirling around and through his insides, and learning how to manipulate it was even harder.
One day when Gareth was well used to his power, Sage had come to him. “There is one who has the power that you do. I am old, and by the time she reaches the age to wield her magic, I will be gone. You must help her.” With that, he had met Brock. Jasmine had still been a young girl, playing in the dirt and trees with other children from her village. Sage had passed, and then he had only seen her from a distance later, watching as Brock worked with her, teaching her what Gareth instructed him to. He had told him to be very careful about opening any opportunities for the universe’s energy to enter her body. He had felt proud of her progress, as though he had been training her himself.
There were many times throughout his own training that Sage had shared tales of fae dying from too much energy from the cosmos to reinforce the danger in it, as though Gareth couldn’t feel it himself as he worked with it. “Danger sometimes comes when you least expect it,” Sage had warned. “If you find yourself consuming too much, it’s nearly impossible to right the balance in your body. You must always keep your chi centered, always know exactly how much magic you’re spindling and what your limits are. Anything more, and you will go out of balance and the power will consume you. The atoms will tear your insides apart, and you will be no more.” Gareth always heeded these warnings with sincerity, considering he had nearly died the first time it had happened as an accident.
The more Gareth thought about it, the more he realized it wasn’t right keeping Jasmine’s magic from her, especially her special power from the universe, but he just didn’t know if he could trust her. It was frustrating, when all he wanted to do was teach her. He knew she could handle learning about the universe. He didn’t know what it felt like to have his magic withheld, but he knew it couldn’t feel good. He didn’t feel right without his connection to the earth and limitless sky.
Jasmine’s voice interrupted his thoughts when she said that she needed to get rid of the storm. Of course, he knew what she was implying. He only sat for a moment, and then pursed his lips. “No,” he said firmly. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” She made a noise of frustration, her own lips pursing at his answer.
“Don’t you realize? We are going to be stuck here forever!” She pounded her small fist on the table, wincing when she hurt her own hand.
Gareth almost smiled at that, but he let it go. “I’m sorry, I just can’t let you have your magic,” it pained him to say it, but he still didn’t wholly trust her. He got up from the table and walked to the kitchen, glancing at the books that lay open on the counter near the caldron. The pages were old and yellowed, with neat handwriting upon the pages. He couldn’t read the language and frowned. There were some drawings of herbs on the pages, and he looked at the jars that were also on the counter. The herbs within them looked like the drawings. He flipped back a couple pages and stopped when he saw a drawing of a storm. It was an incantation for creating a storm! Damn Marianna and her tricks. Her wild magic had only fueled the fire started by some herbal magic. He slammed the books closed and Jasmine jumped.
“What is your problem?” She bit out angrily.
“Nothing,” he replied curtly. Their moods swirled around the room, suffocating each other, their anger only growing. He didn’t know how much longer he could be in this room with her like this. He needed to breathe, to think, to clear his head. He couldn’t do that with her watching his every move, seething in her contempt. It pained him that she hated him so for this. He thought maybe he might cave, but he didn’t know when. If this storm didn’t let up soon, it might only be a matter of time. He didn’t want to appear weak, and could only hope the storm abated.
Marianna sat on the couch, invisible to them both. She wondered if Gareth had forgotten about her. She felt disappointment in his answer, but it wasn’t over yet. There was still time, if only he realized what he must do. She felt the heavy emotions in the room, both of them simmering in response to each other’s misery. She kept her hands clasped in her lap, watching the show. She winced when he slammed her precious books closed, obviously angry at her meddling. She probably should have put the books away, but she hadn’t thought of it.
The future was not set in stone, and she hoped he made the right choice in the end. She knew it was a heavy burden to bear, but he had to know the full consequences of each choice. She wondered what he was thinking, what direction he was leaning. Well, she wouldn’t know until there was some kind of action, not just words. Until then, she was content to just listen and watch just a while longer.