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Command and Control

Kila Offline

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#11
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"I-I see..." was all the princess could manage to say, the words nearly choking her. And what if I have no magic? she wanted to say, but fear kept the words locked in her heart.

There was so much to think about. So much to process among the cacophonous thoughts that pervaded her waking moments. She wasn't a gifted shadow mage like her grandfather, nor did she know runes as her grandmother. She hadn't been trained in the whip, nor did she feel any affinity with animals as her father did. Her magic felt so useless. Turning invisible? Manipulating textiles? Paltry tricks. It was no wonder she had taken to the blade and physical combat. She was useless in other regards.

It was hard to breathe, but at least her father hadn't noticed her struggling. Good. She could keep up the charade until they were finished. The cool, collected princess. The gem in her father's eye (if only that were true). At the very least, she was in control of herself.

Charlie forced a breath, forced herself to find something to center herself around. "So how do you plan on drawing this magic out of me?" she questioned, still avoiding her father's gaze. Absentmindedly she touched the scar on her cheek, feeling the inevitability of combat drawing nearer. What if I fail, she wanted to ask him, but again fear had glued her lips shut. He was a hard man to read, and harder still to draw praise from. The nagging doubts that caused her chest to tighten said that she was the reason he didn't love her. That she wasn't good enough. Wasn't worth caring about.

Gods, why had Vaerath done this to her? All she'd done was make a stupid offering in an attempt to please her father, just to hear him praise her. There was so much she wanted to say. So much Charlie waned to tell him, but she couldn't. There was too much at stake. Now not only did she have to please her father, but a god as well. It was enough to make the girl nauseous, and the waiting was going to kill her. That is, if her failure didn't kill her first.

And if a blade came at her for the killing blow Charlie wasn't sure if she'd even make an attempt to call out for help with her magic.

King Fury Offline

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#12
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Vioroll glanced at her, and saw her touch her scar. "Charlotte...relax. While that was how I and my father discovered our abilities, I doubt that is what will be required for you. I've prepared something else for you." He reached a hand behind his back and pulled out a small roll of clothe. "Inside of this, there are examples of each of the types of magic we used, except for my father." He set it on the ground, and made an idle gesture. A helvate emerged from the shadows, off to one side, and walked over to the clothe.

This was Romule, a Helvate that had spent his life serving the royal line. He had personally had taken care of Charlotte on occasion, when she was injured or sick. He walked over to stand between them, then unrolled the clothe in front of Charlotte. In the clothe, there were three different artifacts. On an ancient piece of paper, there was a strange rune, clearly the Mother's rune. There was a second rune, a familiar brand. It sat on the beast's forehead as well. Vioroll's mark. Between these two runes sat a small length of wire.

"I want you to try and focus energy into each. As they represent different types of control magic, they should react somewhat to your power, even if it isn't your specialty. But these three represent very different types of control, and by finding out which one you resonate with best, we can determine where to begin seeking your own strength." Vioroll's words were soft, certain. He had no expectation of failure because he knew that failure was impossible.

Romule stepped back, circling around them to stand next to Charlie. He nosed her hand gently, then gave her a soft lick of reassurance.

Kila Offline

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#13
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Relax, he said, as if it were that easy. If Charlie could will herself to relax, she would have, but nothing could silence her thoughts. Last night had been the first in many she'd had her thoughts quieted to the point where she could actually hear herself think. Yet she moved her hand away from her scar and watched as her father and Romule revealed what had been in the cloth.

Items relating to her family's control magic. And she was to focus her magic into them. Magic she didn't have. She began to panic again, and nearly jumped out of her skin as the helvate licked her hand. An act meant to reassure, but it had only spiked her heart rate and sent it soaring. Still, she ran the hand through his thick fur, her hand trembling. No pressure or anything.


"Or course, Father," Charlie said, gnawing on her lip under the safety of her mask. She was face to face with what she feared most: magic. At this point, Charlie would have preferred trial by combat to this. Combat would have been far more merciful to her, but she was stalling now.

With a resigned sigh, the war heir situated herself so she was seated for meditation. There was no going back now.

She focused on the items before her, hands folded in her lap. There was no well of magic for her to draw from. Already the edges of the cloth fluttered as she strained to focus her power. Focus. It was so hard to focus with her fears screaming at her. She had no magic. Not magic of this type, at least.

A bead of sweat dripped down her forehead. Her body tensed under the strain of her focus. Seconds ticked by agonizingly slow. Was this a joke? A test? Of course it was a test, and she was failing.


Gods she was a disappointment.

Her brows knit together in frustration, cheeks burning hot in her embarrassment. Charlie clenched her hands tightly as she watched the fabric continue to flutter, jostling around the items she was supposed to be concentrating on. Tears began to well in her eyes and the fabric tossed the items into the air.

She'd failed.

She'd thought she'd seen the faintest of glimmers from one of the runes, but it had to have been a trick of the light, brought on by her tear filled eyes. She felt her lip quiver, and she bit it to stop the motion. The world fell away as her failure weighed on her. There were no words. What was she supposed to say?

Charlie struggled to blink away the hot tears that threatened to run down her face. There was a lump in her throat that wouldn't leave, no matter how many times she'd swallowed. And her chest, gods her chest was threatening to crush her heart and squeeze the life out of her lungs, but somehow she could feel her heartbeat in her ears.


"I-I..." What could she even say? I'm sorry? Sorry wasn't good enough.

King Fury Offline

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#14
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Vioroll smiled. "That was a good start. Tell me, Romule, did you see it as well?" There was a degree of pride in his voice, a rare sound under any circumstances.

Romule nodded. "I did. Though perhaps putting them on a clothe was a poor choice, given her specialty in magic. The ancient rune could have been damaged. Next time, we should take that into account." The beast looked at Charlie. "Don't worry. Your father and I both saw it. His rune lit up. You did well." He could tell she was still freaking out, and knew that she was going to struggle with this. Magic was never a specialty of hers, but it was important that she learn this one. Control magic was War's gift from the gods. She had it, they knew she did, but until she could use it, she wouldn't seem like a fully realized Royal.

'Vioroll, give her a minute. Maybe go get us some food. I'll talk to her. She needs it.' The Helvate's words came over the bond easily, and the Prince nodded, standing up. "Charlotte, I'm going to get us something to eat. Take some time to relax, and I will be back soon." With that, he transformed into a raven and flew out of the shrine.

Once he was gone, Romule moved to stand in front of Charlie. "Charlie, listen to me. It did work. It wasn't great, but it was a very good start, and we know what the broad kind of control magic you can use is now. Of the three main categories of control magic, you are a Mind mage, like your father. You inherited his power, and you very much are his daughter. To learn this is not an easy. It'll be the hardest training you've ever had. But I know you can do it. If you can't believe in yourself, then believe that I know you well enough to judge whether you can or not. I've known you since you were a pup, and believe me, if you put your mind to it, you can definitely do it."

He moved and rested his head on her lap, the closest thing to a hug the beast could manage without arms.

Kila Offline

Sphinx Queen

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#15
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As soon as her father left, Charlie threw her head back and laughed at the hilarity of it all. Her laugh was a strained, painful sound, and it unleashed the floodgates of her tears. They came hot and fast, and to preserve her mask, the pulled the fabric down around her neck.  And she kept laughing and laughing until her laughs mixed with strangled sobs until she could no longer breathe without gasping to suck in air like a lowly fish.

Doubling over to bury her face in the neck of Romule, Charlie sobbed. His words meant well, but they left her feeling sour and empty. No one understood her fears. Even if a rune had reacted--which Charlie was quite convinced that it hadn't, and that they were trying to placate her--she didn't have enough magic to do much more.

"Y-you stupi--d be-beast..." the girl whimpered into his fur, her insult just a barbed, guttural reaction. "I don't have a--hic--any more magic..." She sat back and sniffled, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hands. "I can't...I justcan't... I'm not g-good enough, not...not..." Charlie couldn't even get the words out as another wave of tears flowed down her cheeks, bringing with it another choking sob as she struggled to breathe.

It was too much. Too much for her to handle. Too much pressure. She'd failed, in her mind. And she'd continue to fail, thanks to her lack of magic. Even if she was Vioroll's daughter, her mother had tainted her. This lack of magic surely had to come from her.

Were it not for the sobs she still made, Charlie had all but disappeared, fading out of sight to hide. Hiding was easier. Safer. She should have hidden at the meeting. Should have kept quiet. Should have just not offered anything. Even her ears were burning white hot deep within her skull.

"I need to go," she choked out, easing the helvate's head off her lap. "I can't--I'm sorry, I just--" Her footsteps sounded over the gravel. For all her invisibility even her magic couldn't hide her panicked footsteps as she struggled to stand and breathe at the same time. "I-I need to g-get out of here..." Had the air always been this thick? The sky so dark? She was speaking sounds that made no words. Her chest was going to explode.

"R-Romule..." Charlie's form flickered back into view, her face ghostly white as her hands clutched at her chest. "Myheart...I--somethi--" Without warning, her eyes rolled back and she collapsed under her own panic. Legs too weak to hold her up, heart beating furiously to compensate for her lack of breaths, it had been too much.

All she remembered was a ringing sound as her head hit the ground.

King Fury Offline

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#16
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The Helvate's reaction was almost instantaneous. As soon as she hit the ground, he was standing over her. He carefully changed the poison in his fangs, switching from one that would simply force her to relax. The kind typically used by some predators to leave their prey helpless but perfectly alive as they ate them. Then he sank his fangs into the back of her shoulder, injecting as much as he was willing to risk. He pulled his fangs out carefully, moving the clothe from the ground to cover the bite.

He then rolled her over so she was on her side, in case she did anything else, like throw up. He knew Charlie sometimes had trouble with anxiety, but it seemed like she'd gotten too much pressure at once. He wasn't sure what to do about that, but he also knew how desperately she wanted to successfully use the family magic. If only he was sure what it was.

Romule settled down next to her, curling up so he could keep her company and reassure her. "I'm not gonna go anywhere. Don't worry. I promise, I'll make sure you're ok. Just like when you were little."

Suddenly, his ears perked up. He heard footsteps, but knew that Vioroll was nowhere near them. Who was it? It sounded...feminine.

Oh.

Z'laenna walked into the courtyard, and settled down next to the collapsed girl. She didn't say a word, but just watched her recover.

Kila Offline

Sphinx Queen

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#17
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Her head was ringing, and for some reason her shoulder hurt? Her body felt like jelly, and it was hard to open her eyes, but she managed. It took all too much effort to move her arms so she could push herself off the gravel and into a sitting position. From what she could infer, she'd collapsed. Great, passing out because of her anxiety. Already she was trying to think of an excuse for what had happened.

She'd simply drawn too much magic from herself, is what she'd say. Yes, she'd used too much magic and it had exhausted her unexpectedly. It wouldn't happen again.

It'd be a lie, of course, but lying was so easy for her.

As her senses returned, Charlie realized she wasn't alone. Romule was with her, curled at her side as he'd done so many times before. He was her pillar of support, more of a father figure than her own father. It was sad, really. There was another presence, though. One seated beside her, but who? As she turned to look, something that took way too much effort, she paled.

It was her aunt.

"Y-your Majesty," she gasped, pulling her mask back over her face to hide the reddening of her cheeks. How much had Z'laenna seen? Shit. "I simply used too much magic, is all. It took my by surprise..." Charlie gave a nervous chuckle. If ever there was a time to see her aunt, this was not it.

King Fury Offline

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#18
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Z'laenna shook her head. "Relax. I am not your father. In fact, I understand magic, including our family's, much better than he does. Tell me, since you cannot tell him, why do you want to learn this magic?" She glanced over at Romule, a silent warning for him to not show any of this to her brother.

Romule nodded slightly, then nosed Charlie. He knew that she didn't want to speak to her aunt. Most people didn't, if they had any sense. But she was the queen, and it was her right to basically do what she wished. Maybe Vioroll could convince her to leave Charlie alone, but he wasn't there, and in the end, Z'laenna was still the absolute authority in the kingdom. At best, she'd let herself be persuaded, but if not, there was nothing Vioroll could do either.

Z'laenna flicked her wrist, and a wire wrapped around her finger, before lashing out to snatch something from behind her back. It dropped a black bottle, about the size of a small drinking cup, onto the ground between the two women. "This is Lunaria. I'm sure you know what it is, but in case you've forgotten, it's a plant that naturally attracts darkness energy. It's also toxic to most creatures. While in no way deadly, it makes one's resistance to poison fail. For a demon, however, it can also be used to deepen their connection to the darkness element. I'm sure you can tell why would help you."

Kila Offline

Sphinx Queen

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#19
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She eyed the bottle warily, her eyes never leaving it. Deepening her connection to the darkness element... As tempting as it was, Charlie knew she wasn't a mage. Would she be scorned for spurning her aunt's help? Was it another test? There was too much at stake. And even if it deepened her connection, would it increase her magical reserves? If not, there was no point to drinking the stuff.

So first, she answered the question Z'laenna had asked. "I want to learn this because it's expected of me," she said quietly, reaching to stroke Romule between the ears. "Even before I was named heir I wanted to learn it. To be found worthy of learning it. To prove my royal blood, to do my family proud." A sigh. "To be frank, Auntie, I'm sure not the Lunaria would help. If my lack of magic is the root of the problem, even strengthening my connection to the element wouldn't remedy my own shortcomings."

It stung to admit, and hurt even more to be admitting such a thing to her aunt of all people. While she'd never wanted her father to know this, she'd hoped to hide her weakness from her aunt, who she was now the heir of. So she shifted the topic of conversation elsewhere. She'd been told to speak to Z'laenna about this directly, and there was no time like the present.

"Auntie, I'd like to ask you something." Charlie took a breath to steady herself. "Father told me you've been considering matches for me, and if I may be so bold...I'd like to request a year or so to find a suitable match on my own. Not that I doubt your judgement," she added, "I just feel that if I'm trusted to be heir, I should be trusted to make my own choice of partner. I'd hate to be stuck with some ignorant noble who can't handle me." The girl gave a weak chuckle, and hoped Z'laenna would consider her request.

Otherwise, she was about to be even more miserable.

King Fury Offline

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#20
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Z'laenna was silent for a few moments, then for a few moments more. She seemed to be considering the girl before her very carefully. When she finally spoke, her voice was softer, and almost more pleased than it had been before. "You only want a year? I'm surprised at you not trying to get as much time as possible. Maybe you are taking this seriously enough, then. Very well. You have your year, though I do expect you to consider and respond to any requests we actually do receive, unless they are insultingly poor. Already rejected three of those for you." Her face twisted in a slight grimace, making it very clear what she thought about the offers they'd gotten.

Then she stood up. "You need to consider why you want to learn. You're too selfless in your reasons. Control magic is about placing the self ahead of the other, no matter what it takes. So tell me this, do you want to learn it because you want to, or because my brother wants you to?"

Romule stared at Z'laenna for a moment. He hadn't expected her to try to help at all, but then again, the demoness loved to be unpredictable. So he spoke softly to her. "Charlie...your reserves are not small. You are powerful, with the potential to be as powerful as your father or aunt, but you can't access those reserves. You have a block, I don't know what, but it's there. And it keeps you from reaching most of your power. Strengthening your connection to your element may help draw out more of that power."

Z'laenna nodded. "He speaks correctly. That is why I offered the Lunaria. You are Royal. You share my blood. You have power, but you are unable to access it. Your father was content to let you try to overcome this on your own, trusting that you'd solve it alone, but you are heir to War now, and that means shortcuts cannot be ignored. Drink the potion, and wait for his return to try magic again."


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