Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
“How exactly?” Leilan said slowly.
Shane didn’t like Mireya’s tone at all. It reminded him of how she’d sounded when she’d decided the Heirs should come along— mischievous, playful, a little bit too thrilled. It didn’t mean good news for them.
“Well, you’re about to see why I normally make the plans,” Cyrin said.
Mireya huffed indignantly. “When’s the last time you stayed in line with your own plan?”
“I’m sure there have been a few times where I felt like it.”
“Is there a new plan?” Shane cut in worriedly.
“Oh, yeah.” Mireya cleared her throat. “There’s a lot of other artifacts in the vault. If there’s any that might be useful against the Banes… we could take them.”
“Really?” Cyrin asked softly. “I don’t think we should remove more of them than we need to. They belong here.”
“I know,” Mireya said. Suddenly, she didn’t sound so eager. “It doesn’t feel right to me either, but we need to get seven people out of here now.”
“We won’t keep any of them for ourselves,” Leilan promised.
“We won’t?” Kaja asked dubiously.
Dawn side-eyed her. “Do you want us to have the help we need getting out of here or not?”
“Okay,” Cyrin said hesitantly. “Then I guess some of you can go in with Mireya to help her find the First Spell and whatever else we need, and a couple of you can stay out here.”
“Kasumi’s going to get back later, so she’ll probably have to stay outside,” Dawn said.
Shane made his choice quickly. He knew from just moments before that Cyrin wouldn’t mind his company, and although he really was interested in seeing those artifacts, he figured he probably shouldn’t go in the vault. None of the Heirs should, really, but he couldn’t make that choice for them. “I’ll stay out here too.”
Mireya turned to Dawn, Leilan and Kaja. “Are you three comfortable going in through the shield along with me?”
Looking at their faces, Shane knew comfortable wasn’t how they felt, but all three of them hesitantly nodded.
“Right,” Mireya said. “It’s back this way.”
The shield was just out of sight around the curve of the inner wall, where Cyrin and Mireya had been standing and talking. Shane had seen a few Force barriers before, usually for areas that were kept off-limits, but this one used far more magic than any of them. It was thick with dazzling, pure white magic so opaque that he couldn’t see through to the other side. He was about to wonder out loud how it was possible to get through when Cyrin spoke.
“I’m going to create a gap in it with Acid,” Cyrin said, holding up the spell he’d been working on. “Mireya will go first, and the rest of you will follow through it. You’re all going to have to be fast.”
“Does it not last long?” Leilan asked.
“It closes up fast,” Mireya said. “So, be on the right side of it when that happens.”
Cyrin bit his lip, looking down at the spell in their hands. “In fact…” After another moment of thinking something over, they opened their MagicBox and pulled out another magic shred, carefully twisting it into shape before adding it to the existing cluster.
“Are you sure?” Mireya asked. “You don’t want to run out.”
“I think it’s worth the risk of avoiding it sealing up too soon,” Cyrin said. “I don’t know what happens if it does, but I don’t think it’s anything we want.”
Dawn shuffled away from the shield slightly, and Shane felt glad he wasn’t going in.
“Sorry,” Cyrin said genuinely. “I’m not trying to make this scarier than it is.”
Leilan smiled thinly. “It’s fine. We’re ready.”
Cyrin nodded, examining the spell for a moment longer before they snapped their fingers and held it to the barrier. A hissing sound happened wherever the spell came into contact with the shield, and soon, Shane saw the layer of magic start to thin until a gap appeared and slowly expanded.
He expected Mireya to wait for it to be larger, but she clambered through the hole while it was still small. Just as Leilan stepped forward for his turn, she spoke from the other side. “Oh, it’s gone.”
Cyrin frowned. “I’m sorry, it’s what?”
“What’s gone?” Kaja asked.
“Never mind,” Mireya said quickly. “Hurry, get through.”
Shrugging, Leilan carefully slipped through the gap, and Dawn followed a moment after. Kaja waited until the hole was at its largest. She turned to Cyrin. “You’ll be here to reopen it when we get back?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Cyrin said.
Kaja nodded, turning back to the shield. She faced it for a moment longer before she stepped through the gap, and Cyrin immediately summoned what was left of the spell back to him. The gap closed up almost immediately.
“So,” Shane said slowly, hoping he didn’t sound too anxious. “Now we’re setting the trap?”
Cyrin nodded. “We’ll wait until they’re back here to set it off, but we want it ready to go by then.”
“Anything I can do?”
Shane was sure they would say no, but they paused with a hand on their MagicBox. “Could you spot me?” they asked.
“What do you mean?”
“The trap uses some Tremor. It’s not been woven with the intent to cause any earthquake or anything else that dramatic, just to spread its effects farther. It’s not dangerous.” Cyrin glanced at him. “It is my Hollow, though. I should be fine, but do you think you could keep an eye on me while I work?”
“Of course.” Thank the Saints, he wouldn’t be completely useless.
“I appreciate it.” The slightest bit of relief tinged Cyrin’s voice.
Shane watched as Cyrin flipped the MagicBox open and carefully removed a pre-made spell from the compartment. Cyrin’s hands were more than a little shaky, and there was a strained look on his face. Shane wasn’t a Minor Mage, so he didn’t have a Hollow, but he’d always heard it described as like a very, very unpleasant allergy with different symptoms.
“Can I hold that for you?” he asked. “You can always work on the rest of the magic first.”
Cyrin hesitated before he passed it over. “That would help. Thank you.”
Shane smiled slightly as he took it. He’d only held magic a couple times, and each time, he’d expected it to have some weight to it, but it was always like air floating above his palm. It was almost disorienting.
“You had to weave this spell for this?” he asked, holding it closer to his face. “That must’ve been rough.”
“I didn’t, thankfully,” Cyrin said, chuckling weakly as he took out a handful of unused magic. “You couldn’t pay me enough for that.”
Cyrin shook his head. “Someone else did it for me.”
“Same person who gave you the magic?” Shane asked.
“No, I stole that, and I picked someone I didn’t like very much to steal from. The Tremor spell’s from a—” Cyrin blinked. “A friend.”
“Not quite a friend?” Shane guessed. A shot of panic raced through him when he realized that was a little too personal of a question. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”
Cyrin smirked slightly as he turned the magic over in his hands, pinching a strand and twisting it. “You’re fine. I have a policy where I’ll hear any question, I just don’t promise any answer.”
Shane chuckled. “That’s reasonable.”
He turned his attention back to the Tremor spell in his hands, thinking that was the end of it until Cyrin said, like they were thinking out loud, “I guess it is a little more complicated than that.”
Shane glanced up. “With your friend?”
Cyrin nodded, looking distracted. “Her name’s Clarity. She’s an Alchemist, and her Hollow’s something different, so she did the step with Tremor for me.”
“Clarity,” Shane repeated. What an interesting name. “Have you got some sort of disagreement?”
Cyrin paused, absent-mindedly flicking his fingers for another twist of the magic. “I mean, we aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on everything right now, but mostly it’s just some relationship confusion.”
Shane laughed. "You’re free to talk to me about that, but I've wondered if I'm aromantic, so I probably won’t be able to clear anything up for you.”
Cyrin tilted their head to the side, that slight smile on their lips again. “I am aromantic, actually.”
“Oh, so it’s not that kind of confusion,” Shane said.
A hard-to-read look flickered over their face. “Well…”
“What kind of spell is that?” Kasumi piped up, walking over from behind Shane.
Frowning, Cyrin’s gaze dropped to the spell in his hand, which was still shaking a little, and Shane saw the problem too. The Acid spell wasn’t quite… right. The overall shape was fine, but the weaving had mistakes. Some of the bonds in the magic strands weren’t properly connected, and Shane could tell some of them weren’t meant to be woven together. It wouldn’t perform nearly as well.
Cyrin furiously muttered a word under his breath, and even though Shane didn’t speak any Ren, he recognized the curse as one that translated closely to Oh, fuck.
“It’s a real mess of one,” he said, clenching his jaw as he gave the spell a hard look.
“It’s not your fault,” Shane said quickly. “I was distracting you, and it has to be really hard for you to work with your Hollow right here.”
“What’s the matter?” Kasumi asked.
“The rest of us are through the shield,” Cyrin said, not looking away from the spell. “We’re out here setting an Acid trap, but I’ve nearly ruined this spell, and I still need to save enough magic to get the four of them out.”
“So…” Kasumi said slowly.
“So, something about this isn’t going to work as planned, and it’s going to have to be this trap because I won’t be leaving them in there.” Cyrin exhaled deeply, his breath clouding the air. “Saints. I’m sorry.”
“We need something else?” Shane asked.
“I can improvise. Just bear with me.” Cyrin didn’t look or sound well. His shoulder was pressed slightly against the wall to rest his weight on it, and he had an urgent but dazed look in his eyes. “I’ll make a new spell for the shield.”
That wasn’t likely to go any better, Shane knew. He was still around his Hollow, so it would be hard for him to work effectively, but now the stakes were higher. It seemed too much to expect.
Shane wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing when he took off his backpack, but his arms seemed to have a mind of their own. He held it out in front of him, and Cyrin gave it a confused look, frowning.
“What’s in the bag?”