The weather had turned overnight and frost had nipped the valley. The day would be hot later but right now it was chilly. Lady Aeden sought out Thomas in the great hall at breakfast the next morning.
He'd just started his meal when she approached the high table.
“My Lord, I've something to discuss with you in the Solar when you’re finished, if you please. It has to do with the defense of Red Dragon’s Keep. Will you meet me there in half a candlemark?”
“Of course, Lady Aeden,” he responded. “Could you let Gregory know where I'll be? I’m supposed to meet with him about battle strategy.”
“I’ll tell him, my Lord. I’ll meet you in the Solar.” She turned and walked back toward Gregory’s office.
Half a candlemark later Thomas climbed the stairs to the top of the main tower and the Solar. The bright light from windows around the entire room allowed the women of the Keep to work on sewing and embroidery, spinning and weaving. Material, trim, buttons and thread were stacked on the shelves that rose between the windows. A loom sat ready for use and a quilting frame held a quilt that waited for the needles of his mother’s ladies. With his mother gone, her ladies had taken the day to do personal errands.
Lady Aeden stood looking out of the tower window that faced east. Her face wore a troubled frown. She turned as she heard Thomas enter the room.
“What is it, my Lady?”
“I'm not sure. I felt something when I looked out the window, but what it is I don't know.” She shrugged her shoulders. “We'll know if something is amiss soon enough.”
She moved to one of the upholstered chairs next to the fireplace centered between the windows on the north side. “Come. Sit. I want to talk to you about magic.”
Thomas jerked back in surprise and concern. He frowned and his head tilted in query. Magery was practiced openly by very few. Those who had no magic distrusted those who did. Suspicion that a person could read thoughts or control another with magic often created fear. Fear could lead to murder of the magic wielder, so most kept quiet if they did have the power. He moved to sit in the chair across from her.
“Lady, why do you want to talk to me about it? I have no magic.”
Aeden tilted her head and quietly gazed at him. The silence grew uncomfortable.
Thomas shifted uneasily in the chair. “I'm sorry,” he hazarded, not knowing what he had done wrong.
“I can feel the magic in you, Thomas. You need to train it just like you will be training your body in the use of weapons.”
“I have magic?” Thomas asked in amazement. “I’ve never felt any magic. I don’t even know what it is.”
“Yes, you do. Everyone has some magic in them.”
She looked at Thomas then gave a shrug.
“The first thing to do is learn to center your-self and create a shield. Close your eyes and think about nothing. Feel the flow of energy in your gut.”
Thomas did as she asked. He closed his eyes and quieted his thoughts, something he wasn’t used to doing. At first, he felt nothing as random thoughts fired through his mind. As he waited, he thought that he could feel the energy centered right under his heart.
“Can you feel it?”
Thomas nodded. “I think so.”
“That’s the energy at the core of your being. When you are calm and centered, think about extending that energy through your body and down through your feet like roots, deep into the earth. It will anchor you and give you access to the power of earth. Try it now.”
Thomas pictured a ball of energy centered at his stomach. He waited and felt warmth start to grow. His eyes flew open and he looked at Aeden in astonishment. The warmth faded.
“That is your ki. Try again.”
He closed his eyes and pictured the energy in his mind's eye. As the warmth grew, he pictured roots extending from it into the earth far below. Power slowly grew until he fairly vibrated with it.
“Now, slowly release the energy and let it drain back into the earth. Feel the calmness of that release.”
Thomas did as she instructed, feeling the energy drain away. He opened his eyes and looked at her with a little fear. “What can I do with that energy? I felt like I was buzzing with it.”
“You can extend that energy to others, make objects move, hold things immobile as I did with Garan. There are many things you can do. The most important thing to learn right now is control: summoning and releasing and shielding.
You also need to pay attention when the power starts to fail. That is the signal to release it and rest. All magic demands a price. That price for us is death if we use the power to total exhaustion! You must eat something soon after using it. Food helps replenish your power, both physically and mentally. Now, call the power again and hold it steady.”
Thomas did so. He could feel it wavering as he tried to do what she asked.
“Think of a shield of air standing between you and the world.”
Thomas concentrated and built a wall of air around him. It felt heavy and dense. He lost his concentration and the shield wavered and snapped away.
Frustrated, he leaned forward in his chair and tried again. This time the shield didn’t even form. Bewildered, he looked at Aeden. She turned her head and looked at him steadily.
“What am I doing wrong,” he asked in exasperation.
“How calm are you?” she asked.
Chagrined, he closed his eyes and calmed his mind and heartbeat.
Again he formed a picture in his mind of a shield around him. As the shield grew, he began to feel like he couldn't breathe. He panicked and released the power all at once.
It surged back into him. Pain racked his body as his back arched and he drew in a huge breath. The pain slowly subsided.
“What was that?” he exclaimed.
“You built a very tight shield,” Aeden smiled. “And, that's what happens when you release the power too quickly. Control is everything. Magic is very literal. You want to build a shield that is loose enough to allow air through but still dense enough to protect you.”
“Let's try something else. Focus your energy into a ball of light on your hand. Like this.”
Aeden held out her hand, centered herself and slowly allowed her energy to manifest as a ball of magelight on her hand so that Thomas could follow the steps. She gently sent it floating over their heads.
“Could you feel what I did, Thomas?”
“Yes, I did. I felt everything. Let me try.”
Thomas centered himself, held out his hand and squinted his eyes, his lips pressed tight in concentration, as he attempted to create magelight. A small ball of fitfully flickering light appeared above his hand. He laughed in excitement. The light winked out of existence.
“Very good. Now, let's create a shield that lets you breathe.”
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