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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7. Chapter Six- Influence

“I think you’re ready.” Rory, sweating profusely, shot Towlen a look of bewildered excitement, but also scepticism.

    “Really? Are you joking?” He had spent days reading laboriously under Towlen’s watchful eye, learning all of the words and studying all of the facts, training his mind to think of just one specific detail and shutting out all else. When she was satisfied that he had truly learnt all there was from the book she had allowed him to start practising in the arena.

    He had started with just the simplest spells. Water from Earth, fire from Light, feathers from Air. It took him a few tries but soon he was expert at basic Association- until Towlen decided to try breaking his concentration at random intervals with comments such as ‘Try not to think about penguins’ and of course, he would think of penguins which, in turn, sent him into a panic for fear of shooting penguins from his palms.

    Shortly, he also taught himself to block out any interfering sounds. Towlen was pleased when he didn’t bat an eyelash as she screamed insults at him.

    “Definitely, and just in time as well, only one obstacle left.” Rory’s heart sank; there was always just one more obstacle. Towlen read his face, the way he bit his lip as he always did when he was uncertain, the ever-so-slightly furrowed brow and the way his shoulders drooped as they did when he felt defeated.

    “No, no! Nothing bad! Just- one more thing.” Rory waited impatiently, the Ceremony was tomorrow, and knowing Towlen, the one more thing that he had to do was probably monumental, what else is there for me to do? I’ve learnt everything, studied everything, practised everything! Have I forgotten something? Oh, I bet it’s really obvious, what have I forgotten? Is it something important? Oh God, it IS something important! Rory’s eyes misted as he became absorbed in his inner turmoil.

    “Rory, are you listening? I said that all you have left to do is choose your performance!”

    “What?”

    “You just have to choose your performance, Rory. Have you had any ideas? I’ve had loads!” She perched herself on one of the lowest benches in the arena, Rory sat beside her, wiping his face with the cuff of his sleeve.

    “No, not really. What have you got?” Towlen leaned back and casually rolled her eyes towards the ceiling.

    “Pfft, where to start? I’m thinking flowers, roses, orchids, lilies are my favourites-” she gazed pointedly at him. “You could spin them in a net of silk and- okay okay! Maybe that’s a little bit too hard. Imagine what you could do with flowers though.”

    “Well, flowers aren’t really my thing.”

    “Then what is your thing? Do you even have a thing?”

    “Oh, shut up,” he said, blushing crimson.

    “Just asking,” she replied coolly.

    “Stop that! Anymore ideas?”

    “Oh yeah, hundreds. It’s really more of a question of if you can do it-”

    “Alright, well give me your most bazaar idea and we’ll start from there.” Towlen grinned and took a deep breath.

    “So- You’re flying over the crowd leaving a stream of gold dust in your wake, making a flower bloom in the palm of each and every one of the spectators, and when they breathe in the dust a feeling of immense elation overcomes them. Oh- and the flower never dies so they can keep it forever.” She grinned at Rory’s reaction, he looked rather more akin to a mind boggled goldfish than anything else.

    “Are-are you serious?” he spluttered.

    “Very nearly,” she smirked as Rory paused, weighing his chances…

    “Right then, hold out your hands.” He shuffled closer to her as she held out her hands palms up before him.

    Practical to practical.

    Practical to Earth.

   
And in his mind he journeyed through the life of a flower, drawing in every drop of information that he had ever learnt in Mrs Fenwick’s biology class. From a seed smaller than the head of a pin in the soil, till full bloom. After he’d messed with the colours a bit and deemed it fit, he allowed the suppressed energy to flow through him.

    A tiny golden orb formed, hovering in the space between his palms. Shimmering tendrils of gold extended from it and widened in to petals as it grew in to a lily. When he had finished, the gold faded away to reveal a royal blue flower that blushed deep purple at its base. Towlen was speechless as he placed it in her hands.
 

    “It probably won’t last forever but…” he trailed away when he realised that she wasn’t listening in the slightest. In that moment, an idea came to him, and he figured that he might as well try that, too.

    Practical to practical.

    Deep breath…

    Practical to mind.

    Keep calm. Happiness, love, emotions generated by the mind. Silver wind gushed out of his palms and Rory had to gasp as all of the emotions that he was producing flowed through him in such a rush that he was left breathless. It had felt so strong inside of him, as if it had been built up over millennia and had to be released, had he done it wrong?

    There wasn’t much time to ponder as Towlen pounced on him.

    “OH MY GOSH THIS IS AH-MAY-ZING! Oh Rory! I’ve never been given anything so beautiful in my entire life!” She wrapped her arms around him tight in a crushing hug and kissed him. It was short and excited and Rory flushed red.
 

    Towlen sprang up and was away, dancing towards the centre of the arena, arms flailing. Rory wasn’t quite sure what he had done to her.

    The silver mist still hung in the air where she had been sitting and the effects seemed to be wearing off. Towlen slowed to a stop and turned sharply to face Rory from across the arena.

    “Did I just kiss you?” she demanded, Rory nodded dumbly. The air around him shimmered and was clear again, and he wondered why he had not been affected by it, having been so close.

    “Yes… um… Sorry about that…”

    “Why are you ap- Did you just put a SPELL on me?!” Another silent nod, Towlen’s lip trembled and her face reddened considerably. “Next time you decide to mess with my emotions, try TELLING me first!”

    Suddenly, Rory felt like he had shoulder angels as he contemplated telling her something that might only make her angrier.

    Go onnn, say it. She won’t mind. It wasn’t all you.

    No. Don’t say it, who knows how she’ll react?

   
Trouble was, he wasn’t sure which one was the angel and which was the devil.

    “You know-” He croaked. Clear throat, start again. “You know, I heard- I mean- I was told that mind spells like that only, you know, exaggerate emotions that you already have.

    Towlen stiffened, “It’s called friendship, Rory,” she snarled, before turning to the door and stalking out without looking back, and the Angel on Rory’s shoulder spoke.
  
    Hate to say I told you so.


                                                                    *     *     *

    “Congratulations.”
 

    “What for?” asked Rory, taken aback at Towlen’s appearance at his doorstep in the early evening.

    “I’ve decided to forgive you.” Rory had to press back against the doorframe in order for Towlen to slip past and enter his house. He hadn’t expected to see her so soon after she had stormed off.

    Leaving the library had been difficult, like one of those terrible mazes where you can’t see above the hedges. The journey had taken him far longer than he’d anticipated. All of it looked the same, just… books.

    Rory closed the door behind Towlen and followed her in to the kitchen where she was pulling juice out of the fridge.

    “Um- thanks?”

    She nodded to herself and poured two hefty glasses of apple juice and set them on the table. Rory deliberately blocked her path to the nearest chair and folded his arms defiantly across his chest.

    “But you’re going to have to say sorry first,” she said taking a step closer to him and they stood eye to eye, lips pursed in identical flat lines. Rory was suddenly reminded of Towlen’s abnormal strength and leaned back slightly.

    “I-” He hated to say sorry, she was the one who had abandoned him in the library and left him to take a bus home, but they were best friends, and so close to the Ceremony, he definitely needed her. “I’m sorry.”

    “Apology accepted, then.” They grinned, and each sunk in to one of the cushioned chairs. “I think that emotive spell you put on me was a bit… strong. You shouldn’t use it on a crowd, It’d cause havoc.” Rory nodded in mute agreement.

    “So-” she pressed. “What are you going to do about it?

    “Well, I was thinking the flower worked quite well,” he said, gesturing to the lily bathing on the sunny windowsill.

    “Not exactly everlasting though,” she said, pointing out the wilting tips.

    “Doesn’t have to be-” he grinned “I thought that maybe I could make a really huge one that would hover over the crowd, and if I can associate it quick enough, then I want it to burst in to a cloud of silver dust that hangs above them and sort of… Glitters.”

    The familiar way that Towlen’s eyes had begun to sparkle spurred him on.

    “And I know- I hope that when people see it they’ll be excited or happy or anything good really. So I’ll let the dust go and attach a very loose emotive spell to it and they’ll just get happier and happier as it falls. Then , I’ll turn the dust in to gas and it will just… fade away.”

    There was a short silence, then-

    “Rory, that’s brilliant!” Towlen leapt off her chair and embraced Rory in another crushing hug. Rory wheezed and laughed in spite of himself.

    “Er… thanks,” he chuckled, not having expected such a warm reception.

    “Do you really think you can do it?”

    “I’d like to think so, let’s just hope, I guess.”

    “Have you been studying since we left the arena?”

    “Oh, you know me. For the last three hours I’ve been holed up in my room browsing the hundreds of books you’ve given me.” He smirked and got to his feet. “Come here, I’ve got something to show you.”

    He led Towlen to the living room, where he had constructed a model of the outdoor stage that he was soon to be performing on, on the coffee table. Complete with a large crowd consisting of various toy soldiers.

    “Woah-” she grinned, “You’ve been practising in miniature.”

    “Exactly! Sit down, I want to show you.”

    “He kneeled down in front of the table as Towlen sat in the battered love seat. He closed his eyes. Here we go.

    Practical to practical.

    Practical to earth. Deep breath, Rory. Once again, he imagined the process of a seed in the earth growing in to a royal blue lily, violent purple at the base and as close to the original as possible. He opened an eye and peeked at his handiwork, perfect. The flower was slowly revolving in his hands, the last of its gold surface fading away. He pushed it over the crowd until it hovered above them.

    The next bit had to be quick. Keeping his fingers as they were –a risk in itself, as it made the whole spell a lot trickier to associate- he linked the beauty of the flower to the beauty of the sky, the stars, the clouds. He heard a puff of air, and knew that it had worked. But he wasn’t going to let it fall yet, just one last thing. In the blink of an eye he had shifted practical to mind on his right hand, and for a while he fought to gain control of the magic, as if it were slipping through his fingers. C’mon…

    The stars, the clouds, the sky, happiness, relaxation, wonder. Again he felt the rush of emotion flow through him, though not as strong as it had been before.

    He let the glistening particulates fall and opened his eyes. Towlen’s were wide and bulging with what he hoped was something similar to marvel. The air above the crowd continued to shimmer slightly, some of the spell sting hung there.

    “Try it,” Rory said. Towlen simply continued to stare, evidently dismissing the notion. “This one’s fine, a lot weaker and has other emotions mixed in, so it’s not just, you know, overwhelming love and happiness. I’ve tried it, it’s fine.

    Towlen paused, then leaned forward and took a shallow, tentative breath.

    Towlen pressed herself to the back of the chair and grasped the arms. Rory knew how she felt, and the only way to describe it would be… heart-warming. Rory smiled, thinking of how Towlen felt, comfortable, at home and warm from the tips of her toes to the hairs on her head, she relaxed, loosened her grip on the chair and her whole body slackened, looking absolutely content.

    “Towlen?” Rory said, Towlen laughed. Concerned, Rory leaned over and gently prised open her closed eyelids, Towlen swayed and smiled drunkenly.

    “Towlen!”

    She seemed to snap to her senses immediately. Somehow, a mixture of a familiar face a loud voice had brought her back to earth. Still looking a little drowsy, she struggled to focus on Rory’s face, smiling lazily.

    “That was-” The rest of her sentence was lost in a drawn out sigh.

    “Needs a bit of tweaking, I’d say. At this rate I’d have the audience sleeping on the ground.” Rory said, frowning.

    “S’not so bad,” she yawned, stretching.

    “Cough,” he said.

    “What?”

    “Cough.” Reluctantly, Towlen coughed in to her hands. Glistening air spilled through her fingers and Rory had to quickly change a laugh into a cough at the bemused look on her face.

    “OK, now, close your mouth, pinch your nose and… blow.” As she did so, the iridescent magic escaped from her ears like steam bursting through a hole in a pipe. Then –much to Towlen’s shock and discomfort- it started to trickle out of her eyes. She squealed and immediately released her nose and opened her mouth.

    “I think it’s all gone now.”

    “Good.” She shook herself like a wet dog and leaned over to examine the model.

    For the next few hours, Towlen and Rory did not leave the sitting room. Towlen was poring over thick books and keeping up a constant stream of suggestions for how Rory could adjust his emotive spell whilst he never left the side of the table and his model and tried every one of her ideas. It wasn’t long till his knees were throbbing, but It wasn’t so bad, they were numb soon enough

    Towlen stubbornly refused to be his guinea pig, so he had to try each and every spell on himself whilst Towlen assessed the effects. It wasn’t till past sunset that Towlen laid down The Methods of Manipulating Human Emotions, a weighty text that she had discovered on one of the many bookshelves.

    “I think I’ve cracked it.”

    “Hm?” Rory blinked the dryness out of his eyes as he came out of a reverie wherein he had been gazing blankly at the toy soldiers, his mind pleasantly empty.

    “I think you’re using just a bit too much wonder. Of course, we’ve taken out all of the relaxation because that was never going to work well in a crowd. I reckon that wonder is a lot more similar than we think; so instead of just decreasing the strength we should take it out altogether. It’s the only logical answer, really.”

    “Sounds like a plan,” yawned Rory, desperate for sleep.

    “Try this,” said Towlen, ignoring him. “Happiness –obviously- with a substantial amount of brilliance and absolutely no love or wonder whatsoever.”

    Rory stretched out his arms and completed the necessary spell. A confusing rush of emotions flowed through him once more, and then there was that even odder sensation of absorbing those same emotions as he inhaled his own spell. The rush that he and Towlen had long since figured occurred with every emotive spell passed quickly and was replaced with a light, lifting feeling that made him grin and want to bounce on the balls of his feet. He spread his arms wide and embraced the world, imagining himself taking to the stage.

    “This is it!”

                                                      

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