Gift: The Rebellion

Rory Stone has a Gift, and the whole world wants to see.

Rory Stone felt that his life was perfectly normal, the days spent with his best friend Towlen even managed to make it vaguely bearable, even interesting, but once he finds he's got a Gift, his world starts tumbling around his shoulders. Tea with the Queen, Shapeshifters missing, children sleeping and never waking up... and Rory is in the middle.

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2. Chapter One- The Marks (Present day)

Chapter One- The Marks (Present day)

    Rory was lying wide awake in his bed, prolonging the moment he would have to get up, when he noticed an odd numbing feeling in his hands. He sat up and observed them sceptically. Surely not? Rubbing his hands together, he put pressure on various areas of his palm, but couldn’t feel anything. A strange sensation was mounting, and they soon began to sting as if with pins and needles. He held his right hand close to his eyes so that everything else was out of focus. Watching his skin closely, he gasped as it began to crawl.

    His fingerprints were writhing, forming shapes different to the ordinary ones he had been born with, forming patterns which began to change colour.

    “Sylvan! Wake up!”

    Sylvan, Rory’s Shapeshifter, stirred where he was curled at the end of the bed in the form of a small, jet black dog. He raised his shaggy head, peering through the tufts of fur. When he noticed that Rory was staring at his hands with a look of disbelief and glee on his face, he jumped up came around to see.

    Patches of skin were forming patterns and shapes on his palms, and he could feel it shifting in to place, causing an uncomfortable experience far outweighed by the delight overcoming Rory. He was almost ready to learn magic.

    Lifting up his left palm as well, he examined the pale sapphire colour of the unique patterns that decorated the tips of his fingers on both hands, the area opposite to his knuckles on his right hand, and travelling up the inside of his thumb on the left. Both were punctuated by identical symmetrical circles emblazoned near the centre of the palm, fine, inky designs filling them. After gazing at them for several minutes, wondering what his markings meant –for it was rumoured that a persons’ marks would tell the truth of who they really were- he leapt out of bed in a fit of excitement. He had to call Towlen.

    Bolting downstairs with Sylvan at his heels, he was almost happy to find that his parents were still asleep; he lunged for the phone and punched in her number.

    “Hello?”

    “Hi, Mr Hurst! Got my marks, can I speak to Towlen, please?” he asked breathlessly, proceeded was a moment of what he presumed to be shocked silence.

    “Well, yes of course, I’ll go and get her.” There was a moment of penetrating hush whilst Rory skipped about the kitchen, barely able to control his exhilaration.

    “Hey, what’s up?”

    “It’s happened! Already! My Paton marks appeared– in bed- just now!” Another pause, Rory grinned.

    “No way! Meet me up at the park in five, I have to see this.” Rory slammed down the phone and pulled several thick jumpers and jackets over the grubby T-shirt he wore to bed. He then pelted back upstairs once more and changed in to a ragged pair of jeans and trainers before making his way out of the door in to the chilly, snowy morning.

                                                                        *     *     *

    Rory and Towlen were alone in the local park with just their Shapeshifters’. It was where they often came to practise Paton magic since Towlen’s marks had appeared after her fifteenth birthday a few short months ago. They each compared the colour of their unique tattoos; Towlen’s were only a shade darker than Rory’s as he had not yet had a chance to attempt any spells. The marks turned a darker blue as the owner gained skill and knowledge of Paton magic.

    After a few minutes of prancing ridiculously in their high spirits, Towlen attempted to show Rory how to use the marks, even though it was likely that he wouldn’t be able to use them for weeks as the magic was so weak.

    “Here, look, this one on my finger means practical, which matches the one beneath it on my palm. So I touch those on my right hand. On my left hand, see here? I put the practical finger to this pattern, because it means light. So let’s go over this again. Practical to Practical, Practical to Light and-” A sphere of pure white light formed between Towlen’s palms. Her brow furrowed, “The trick,” she puffed, “Is concentration.” Towlen gasped as she let the ball of light vanish with a distinct pop in her hands before looking up to Rory and beaming proudly, “It’s easy, you try.”

    Rory was uncertain, but duly followed her instructions.

    Practical to Practical.

    On his right hand, he touched a finger to the matching pattern on his palm.        

    Practical to Light.

    He touched a finger on his left hand to a different pattern near his thumb and felt an unfamiliar buzz of energy swarm in his fingertips. He closed his eyes and concentrated. Seconds went by, or minutes, perhaps. Rory was not thinking of the time.

    Light. He thought, light.

    A soft warmth began to encase his chilly hands. He risked opening an eye, and to his surprise, there gleaming was a tiny light, much smaller than Towlen’s, but there just the same.

    Her claps were muffled through the gloves that she had shoved on after showing Rory how to create the Paton light, but her woops and cheers were clear as church bells.

    “Wow, Rory! I can’t believe it. I honestly can’t believe it!” She hugged him tight as Rory released the magic and the sphere disappeared. Rory grinned; she had really just taught Rory to cast his first spell!

    “I’ve never seen anything like it!” she said, “and the morning they appeared. Rory! It took me weeks!”

    Rory smiled, sure that his euphoria was nothing compared to how elated Towlen was for him. She had always been enthusiastic but this seemed to prove a little too much for her. She picked up Leonora, her Shapeshifter, and spun her around in the snow. Leonora, who was in the form of a small white dog with a very thick fur coat, yelped joyfully, snuggling close to Towlen as they fell together in the thick blanket of snow.

                                                                    *     *     *

     They practised like this for hours, Rory creating a small bubble of light for seconds before it disappeared, along with his vigour, with an antagonizing pop. He was determined to create a larger light as Towlen reassured him that would take weeks before it started to noticeably grow in size, and his were only a day old.

    Sylvan, now having shifted into a large snow leopard, nuzzled up to Rory, releasing a growl so deep and soft that it was almost, almost a purr. Rory sat on a swing, compressing the inches of snow that had collected there overnight.

    Rory and Sylvan watched as Towlen played with Leonora. The field behind them was a smooth white, disturbed only by their foot and paw prints. The sunlight streamed through fissures in the dense, white clouds and danced on the snow, making it look as if it were encrusted with diamonds, a stunning scene.

    Leonora had soon shifted into a small chimpanzee so that she and Towlen could make snow angels beside the see-saw. Sylvan ran away towards them, and then bounded back to Rory, shifting into a white ferret just before a collision and landing neatly on Rory’s lap, his beady black eyes darting here and there. He scampered up Rory’s arm and settled on his shoulder.

    Rory took off his gloves again and breathed deeply on his hands, a futile attempt to stave off the piercing cold whilst he practised.

    Right hand: Practical to Practical.
    Left hand: Practical to Light.

    For the second time in so many minutes, Rory Stone focused his mind. Light. The illuminating warmth spread through his hands instantaneously. This time, instead of simply letting it fade as exhaustion stole over him, he persevered, strengthening his thoughts.

    Light.

    Light.

    LIGHT!
A fierce heat erupted before him which shone red behind his closed eyes. It burned his hands and he was forced to widen the gap to accompany what was surely the largest light he had formed yet. He felt Sylvan jump from his shoulder, landing heavily on the ground, growling and roaring loudly, distressed. Fingers trembling, Rory lost connection with the magic. He felt a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead as he opened his eyes.

    Coldness flushed through his reddening hands as quickly as the warmth has come as the magic was released. The Paton marks seemed to pulse slightly, a trick of the light. Rubbing his eyes with his knuckles, he looked back down at his palms; they had faded back to their normal hue, perhaps even a shade bluer. He turned to Sylvan, who was a leopard again.

   “What did you just do?” gasped Towlen, staring at him, her face aghast. Leonora was cowering silently behind her legs, “and how did you do that?”

    If he was being absolutely honest, Rory didn’t know the answer to either of those questions, but Towlen’s reaction worried him.

    “Are- are you mad at me?” he asked, and Towlen’s guarded expression softened in turn.

    “No, it’s just,” she squirmed beneath the layers, “well, you- um- Rory, you know you shouldn’t be able to do that.”

    “Why not?”

    “Come on Rory it’s the first law of Paton. The physical form of the magic produced is directly proportionate to the magic within creator, signified by the hue of their marks. Look at my palms! The marks are a deeper blue than yours and my light is the size of a golf ball.” Rory gulped uncertainly, he had never found the study of magical law worth listening to at school. Towlen continued relentlessly-

   “You’ve seen Aaran, he’s had his four months longer than me and I’ve seen his light, not much bigger than mine. I’m sorry Rory, but your marks are barely visible, your light should be no bigger than a- a pea.”

    “Well-” Rory was fretting, but he had to ask, “-how big was it?”

    “Bigger than a bloody basketball!” she exclaimed, gesturing manically, “Rory, look down, you’ve melted the snow at your feet!”

    Looking down, he saw the deep clear puddle beneath him and simultaneously felt that his feet were absurdly cold. Sylvan turned around to face him and looked at him pointedly, then leapt up into the air and shifted into a small, silver scaled fish as he dove into the water, flipping merrily.  

    The light film of snow that had covered his clothing had melted through, freezing him and raising goosebumps on his pale skin. He shivered, but somehow he felt that it had less to do with his temperature than usual. Wrapping his arms around himself tightly, he muttered, “Oh.”

    Towlen looked almost pitiful, a look that Rory loathed. He glared at the ground.

    “I think we should get home,” she said, “here, take one of my coats before I cook under all of these layers,” she grinned at him as she handed him the coat. Rory returned the smile, though it was comparatively weaker.

    Feeling exhausted with the effort of magic, Towlen and Rory trudged back through the snow. Leonora had transformed herself into a golden eagle and was soaring gracefully above them. Sylvan was still playing in his puddle.

    “C’mon buddy, we’re leaving now,” Rory mumbled behind him, there was a tiny splash as Sylvan’s acute hearing recognised Rory’s call and the sound of padded feet sped towards them.

    He was a snow leopard again, for it was his favourite form for the winter months. Rory often reckoned that it was because snow leopards were incredibly cool, and sometimes it made him wish that he could transform at will. Sylvan trotted beside them and Rory scratched him affectionately behind his ear. A soft, comforting growl emanated from the depths of Sylvan’s belly, vibrating straight to the tips of his Rory’s fingers.

    Towlen was walking a little too briskly for Rory to keep up, eager to get home and find out how Rory had been able to produce such an amazing light. Rory wasn’t in such a hurry, plus, doing that magic had taken a lot out of him. He was literally sagging under his own weight.

    Sylvan nudged him in the side and, as Rory looked down, he grew into a beautiful horse. A mane sprouted out of his back and the leopards’ spots faded in to an even grey. His tail grew longer and bushier, his legs elongated and his face lengthened into a long silky smooth nose. Trotting around to look at Rory, Sylvan crudely gestured with his head for Rory to climb on his back.

    With some effort, Rory clambered up Sylvan’s side and settled on his back, grasping his neck for stability as he broke into a canter to catch up to Towlen.

    “You shouldn’t be using your Shapeshifter to give your rides, Rory,” she snapped. Now, Towlen was his best friend, but she could be a tad irritating at times.

    “You don’t mind though, do you Sylvan?” Sylvan whinnied and shook his head enthusiastically, almost throwing Rory off balance. Towlen simply huffed, her breath casting haze of icy crystals into the air. Sylvan trotted along behind her, so that all Rory could see was the back of her head.

   Towlen had cropped platinum blonde hair, cut so roughly and unevenly that it looked as though it had been done with a pair of hedge trimmers. Granted, she had done it herself- without a mirror (or so she said). The unusual look did give her a certain uniqueness, and the crop suited her. In fact, it framed her face quite stylishly and complemented her eyes, which were the sort of piercing green that made you think she was looking right through you. Her stature reminded Rory of that of an elf, slim and sort of pointed, her cheekbones were high and defined and her whole figure had always been peculiarly angular. Even her ears were somewhat pointed. In fact –Rory gazed intently at the back of her head- she was quite beautiful, in her own sort of way.

    “Are your parents at work?” she asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Both?”

    “Yes.”

    “Right,”

    They took a sharp turn to the right.

    “I thought we were going to yours?” moaned Rory.

    “We were,” she spun on her heels to face him, “but both of your parents are at home today, aren’t they?”

    “Damn.”

    “Yup,” she turned away from him and started towards his house.

    One more thing about Towlen- she always knows when you’re lying.

    As they turned on to Vine Street, they attempted to dodge a snowball fight led by Gregory –givemeallyourmoney- Martin. Gregory Martin was the sort of boy you didn’t want to cross, with a little too much fat to pass off as muscle and light brown hair that was shaved within an inch of its life. He was taller than almost anyone his age though, and that gave him an upper hand. Soon enough, the snowballs were whizzing past their ears.

    “Hey, Stone! Pretty pony you’ve you there, where did you get her?” he sneered, Sylvan’s hooves dug deep into the icy ground.

    “Leave it,” Rory muttered in his ear. “Just… Leave it.”

    “Stone! Can’t you hear me? Are you deaf, Stone? I asked you a question!” Another ball of snow sped towards them and struck Sylvan’s torso, and as it cracked Rory saw that it had a rock lodged in it. Sylvan reared imposingly, bucking Rory clean off his back. The taunts of Gregory Martin and his cronies thundered in his ears as he slammed, thankfully, in to the frosted grass of someone’s garden, and he was loosely aware of Towlen shaking her head and muttering.

    “That was way below the belt, way, way below the belt.” She looked up suddenly, grinning, “hey, Martin! Where’s your Shapeshifter?” Gregory Martin didn’t seem to understand the underlying meaning of the question, and was glaring her down until it struck him like a bullet as Leonora came swooping down to greet them. Graceful, yet frightening.

    “You wouldn’t…” he said, taking a tentative step backwards.

    Towlen laughed harshly “What makes you think that?” she replied, taking a longer step forward and leaning slightly towards him, “I mean, you’ve always treated us with such kindness.” She and Sylvan traded swift glances, and he shifted into a beastly Kodiak bear. Rearing up on his hind legs, muscles rippled beneath a new, thick woody brown coat. He made himself several feet larger than the average Kodiak, bearing teeth countless inches long and yellow claws that extended to nearly half a foot. They dug through the ice and scraped the ground below, creating deep grooves in the tough concrete. His eyes burned with a fierce, wild anger, Rory got to his feet, and Sylvan towered high above him.

    With one last rotten glare, Gregory Martin turned and ran. As if he really thought his life was in danger.

    “Thanks,” sighed Rory, as Sylvan shifted back into the form of a horse and he climbed on.

    “Well, it was a bit stupid of him, throwing a snowball with a rock in it at a Shapeshifter- ridiculous.” She rubbed Sylvan’s chest gently. “You OK?” she asked him and he neighed gently in response.

    “Seriously though,” she said, “his Shapeshifter wasn’t with him, and his magical abilities are so bad that he can barely produce anything the size of a pinhead. How he thought he ever stood a chance-” Rory listened to her in silence, stroking Sylvan’s silvery soft coat as they trotted along and deciding that it was actually pretty awesome that he was apparently so adept at magic. Leonora had taken back to the sky.

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