When the bell rang for lunch, Rejinal remained seated. “You didn’t read it, did you, Rejinal?”
“I didn’t know you were having a quiz, sir. I’ll read it before the exam.”
“No. You’ll read it now.”
“Now? It’s lunch time. My presence is required at a meeting in the dining hall.”
Ulyx folded his arms. “I’m not going to have you skim this book just before the exam. This may be the most important material in the course. I want you to really read this. Now.” Anger flashed through Rejinal, but he made the polite response. “Yes, sir.”
Ulyx nodded. “I’ll be back to check on your progress later.”
Alone, Rejinal sighed and opened the book and read.
The Power harnessed by those trained to use it shines down from the heaven above, inhabited by the gods. Rejinal already knew that, it had been one of his three right answers. He made himself keep going. In order to use the Power, one must have a special formulation added to one’s blood. The formulation is as follows: Rejinal fidgeted and scanned the next few pages. He was tired. And hungry, he thought, hearing his stomach growl loudly. He looked at his time piece and continued.
When the formulation is in place, the recipient feels a burst of energy and well-being. Henceforth, there will be a slow diminishing in the feeling, until the recipient is exposed to the Power rays of Heaven. Under the Power rays, the human feels a recharging of their previously unfelt vitality. Rejinal stopped reading, stunned. The passage had a strange sense of familiarity to it, which didn’t make sense. He discovered his mouth was hanging open, and snapped it shut. Disturbed, he got up and went to the window. He stared out for some time, trying to shake off his sense of unease. He was darned if he was going to read the whole stupid book. It gave him the creeps.
He turned suddenly and marched purposefully for the door. This is stupid, he thought. I’m not going to be a Conduit, why should I learn it anyway?
“Rejinal! Where do you think you’re going?” Ulyx’s voice was sharper than Rejinal had heard it before.
Without even turning, Rejinal called. “I have a class, and I have to eat.” He said it like an order, still striding away. When he made it outside, he felt released. But suddenly something hit him hard on the back of the knees, bending his legs. With a thud, he landed on the seat of a chair. Angrily, he struggled to get up, but he felt straps whip around his lap. He looked down, and saw nothing. He felt his lap, and there was nothing, but still, he was stuck.
A desk floated over and plunked itself firmly in front of him. Ulyx arrived and personally slammed the book onto it. For a moment, the two simply glared at each other.
“You’ll stay here, Ulyx said, until you’ve read this, and can answer all my questions about it.”
Enraged, Rejinal grabbed the book and threw it as far as he could. “You’ve no right to do this,” He said. “There’s nothing wrong with my nature mark, and I have other classes. I haven’t even had any lunch. When my father hears of this . . ..”
Ulyx raised his eyebrows. “Yes, if your father heard of this, he’d be liable to whip some obedience into you.”
Rejinal was silent, knowing he was exactly right.
Ulyx pointed a finger at him. “This is a stick, whenever I want it to be.”
Rejinal winced and lowered his eyes, but inside he seethed. Evil, those pain sticks. He’d never felt more powerless in his life, and he hated it. The book floated back and landed in front of him. He looked at it with hatred.
Ulyx watched his expression. “I think you’re afraid to read it. You’re afraid it will appeal to you, and you’ll have to take on the responsibilities of a Conduit. Read, Rejinal, and learn, but remember in the end it’s still your choice.”
Ulyx left him, and he sat for a while staring at the cover of the book. He didn’t notice Antoz approach until a glass of milk was set in front of him.
“Conduit Black asked me to bring this to you.” He looked at the closed book. “You’d better start reading that thing. You won’t be doing any riding until you’re done.”
Rejinal opened the book. “I’ll read it,” he said bitterly. “It’s not that bad, Antoz said.”
“No,” Rejinal said, “but being powerless and chained like an animal is.”
Antoz glanced around for chains. “If you learned about Channelling, you wouldn’t be Powerless,” he quipped.
Rejinal glared at him. “This isn’t funny, Antoz .”
“Sorry,” Antoz said seriously. “But it is true.”
Rejinal sighed. “I know, Antoz . Thanks for the milk.”
Antoz nodded. “I have to get to class. See you later.” After gulping down the milk, Rejinal picked up where he’d left off.
When a Conduit is charged, he can learn how to build up the Power in a finger of his choice. He can then force this Power out of himself to affect external objects. Rejinal remembered the exercises in athletics where they were supposed to be aware of their whole body, and feel the blood flow to their fingers. He was stunned at what he read next. The Conduit will eventually be able to collect Power in a finger as the blood flows into and out of it. He will know he has succeeded when he feels a tingling or burning sensation in the finger.
Rejinal stopped reading, confused. He’d felt his right index finger tingle regularly in athletics after he’d gotten the hang of the exercise. He’d thought it was normal. He was frustrated now, by the lack of detail in the book. Were only Conduits supposed to tingle? He had a wild idea. Perhaps the story about needing a formula was told to stop undesirables from learning to Channell. He needed to ask Davish if his fingers tingled. Davish wasn’t here, however. Then he recalled the discussion in class that he had only half paid attention to. No one had mentioned their fingers tingling. Perhaps he was particularly good at the exercises, as he was with many others. Or perhaps he was somehow different.
He shut his eyes and went through his exercises until he felt the tingle. Now what? He opened his eyes and placed his finger against his empty glass. Project, he thought. Project the energy. The tingle increased until his finger burned, and suddenly, as if by instinct, he sent forth a burst of energy. Reflex jerked his hand back as the glass smouldered. He stared, dumbfounded. There was a hole in the glass, and hardened beads on the desk top. Panic welled up in him. “Oh, my gods,” he said out loud. “I have the Power.” He didn’t know why or how, but he definitely had the Power.
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