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The Last Spell 19.2

by SilverNight


“What even happens if you make contact with it?” Kasumi asked, pointing at the shield. “You seem to be hesitant to get too close.”

“If you try to touch it, the Force pushes your hand back, like magnets repelling. It actually works a lot like a magnetic field— you’ll feel a strength opposing your own, like something’s getting in the way,” Cyrin said. “I’m just far enough away that I’m not being forced back.”

“And what about if you manage to push through that?” Kasumi asked impatiently.

“Well, if you really try with these things, then it flings you back. Usually hard enough to break your wrist. So, I would really hope these rings could do something about that.”

“The hesitation’s understandable,” Shane said. “You can’t climb out of here with a broken wrist.”

Cyrin huffed. “I can’t?”

“Well—”

“Alright, here’s our worst-case scenario: if I break my wrist, I get to show Shane how to climb a rope in style. Which means nothing can really go wrong.” This plan could go very wrong, and there were plenty of ways for it to, but they weren’t about to think through all of them. This was improvisation, and there wasn’t time for that. “So really, what am I waiting for?”

Even so, Cyrin was cautious as they moved their hand closer to the surface of the shield. They felt some resistance, an invisible push trying to drive them away, but it wasn’t as strong as they would have imagined for a shield this powerful. Reassured, they shoved their hand further, just through the surface of the magic— and felt an unexpected sensation in their fingertips as some of the numbness from the chilly air dissipated.

“It’s warm,” they said, surprised.

“Is it really?” Shane asked, stretching out an arm. “I really wasn’t dressed to be down here, so I am freezing—

“No, don’t touch it,” Cyrin warned. “Broken wrist, remember?”

Looking disappointed, Shane pulled back his arm as his teeth chattered.

“Could there be a reason for that?” Kasumi asked. “Like energy being released by the magic?”

“I don’t think so, magic generally doesn’t give off ambient heat unless the spell is designed for it. Magic’s not exactly energy, so it isn’t as simple as it being lost as thermal energy.” Clarity would have known for sure, but Cyrin wasn’t certain with his explanation. “Maybe it’s different if there’s a lot of it.”

“Maybe,” Kasumi said, but she didn’t sound so certain either.

“It seems like it’s working so far at least,” Shane remarked. “Your wrist looks attached.”

“That is reassuring, isn’t it?” Cyrin pushed further.

It was getting more difficult, and he found himself straining slightly now, but he could feel his hand steadily moving through the magic. He was warmer now, too. What had first felt like stepping into a heated home out of the cold outdoors now felt like drawing his hand close to a candle flame. When the cold air hit his fingertips again, the sharp temperature change was so sudden that it felt more like a burn than a freeze.

“Well, looks like I can’t show off my climbing skills,” he said, hearing a small thrill enter his voice. “My hand’s on the other side.”

“Too bad,” Kasumi said, sounding relieved.

“Now…” Cyrin paused, slowly moving his other hand through the shield, before he curled his fingers. The shield felt nearly solid, and he could almost grab the magic as he cautiously pushed the Force apart. A gap formed between his hands, spreading as he pushed outwards until he thought it was the right size. So, he could move it, but there was one more thing to test. He removed both hands, and the gap stayed open.

Shane whistled appreciatively. “Looks like we’re all getting out of here.”

“Told you I could do it. The Banes don’t like hearing that, though.”

Shane snapped his mouth shut quickly, and it took Cyrin shaking their head teasingly at him for him to relax again.

“Can you see the others through it?” Kasumi asked.

Cyrin peered through. “They aren’t there yet.”

“There shouldn’t be anything going on in there,” Shane said. “It sounded like they were going to pick the First Spell up quickly and grab whatever looked helpful on their way out.”

Cyrin’s gaze flitted to the ground where the skeleton had been. “They’re probably just sightseeing,” they said. “Probably fine.”

They weren’t completely sure of that, but it did leave them time to work.

Cyrin took out the Acid spell as well as some unused magic, having learned their lesson about keeping the Tremor away until necessary. With much better focus than before, they spun the magic strands together, taking care not to make any mistakes this time.

“Hate those things,” they heard Kasumi mutter, and they paused their work briefly to look up. She was watching one of the Banes that was making its rounds nearby, drifting back and forth. It wasn’t looking at them with its jackal eyes, but they knew it was acutely aware of their presence. Kasumi’s expression was sour, but her voice had an edge of fear to it. “Why’d they have to make them look so creepy?”

“Is that rhetorical?” Cyrin dropped his gaze back to his magic, making a few quick twists.

“Kasumi, we’re the reason why.” Shane chuckled, but he was sounding a little uneasy. “It’s supposed to scare us off.”

“Still,” Kasumi insisted. “Whoever designed the illusion to look like that should have had a job at a horror film studio instead, not here.”

Or should have had the chance to use their talents without the need to prepare for invasion, Cyrin thought dryly.

He was carefully keeping his face neutral, or he believed he was, but Shane’s gaze flicked over him. “Let’s try not to be insensitive,” he said, seeming to guess his thoughts. “You can think they look creepy. They honestly are. But there’s a good reason for their existence, and criticizing their purpose delegitimatizes that reason.”

Cyrin had to admit, he respected Shane. It was hard to know that if he’d gained any respect from Shane, he’d be losing it soon.

“Yeah,” Kasumi muttered, tearing her gaze away from the Bane. “Okay.”

Cyrin gave Shane a slight smile and nod. “It should be ready soon.”

“Thank you,” Shane said, pulling at the collar of his coat. “That’s good, it’s starting to feel a little warmer.”

That made Cyrin pause. Was it?

He hadn’t noticed that his hands hadn’t gotten cold again once he’d finished with the shield. He stepped closer, and the air did get slightly warmer, about the same temperature as when he’d been touching the shield. He was still too far away from it for that to be normal.

“It is,” Cyrin said slowly. “Something’s going on.”

“Force doesn’t give off heat in any circumstance that I know of,” Kasumi remarked.

“It doesn’t,” Cyrin said, as a thought occurred to them. “But this shield isn’t just Force.”

They tucked the Acid away and stretched out a hand, focusing on the blend of magic in front of them. Most of what they could sense was Force, but there was also a tiny bit of Tremor that they already knew to be there. They concentrated harder, and they could just barely tell that beyond that, there was the slightest trace of a third kind of magic.

“It’s got Flare,” they said. “Barely any at all, but just enough to raise the temperature a bit.”

“Did we activate it with the rings?” Shane was frowning.

“We must have.” Cyrin drew their hand back. “It has about the same amount of Tremor, which—”

As they moved, they felt a drop of water land on the back of their hand, spilling through the crease between their knuckles and dripping onto the ground at their feet.

Liquid water.

Not yet understanding, Cyrin stared down at their hand, rubbing at the wet spot, before they turned their gaze up to where the upper arch of the shield met the wall. The ice there was glistening, unnaturally reflective. They reached up to touch it, and their palm came away damp.

They only had to show their hand to the others to inform them what was happening.

“It’s melting the ice.” Kasumi spoke like she hadn’t decided how scared she should be yet, but that she knew at least a little terror was the right response.

Shane bit his lip. “It’s just starting, right? How serious could it get?”

Cyrin placed his hand on the spot again. “It’s just not enough to melt the place around us, or cause substantial damage to the monument,” he said, shaking the water off. “But there has to be some reason it was part of the shield’s spell. A safety measure."

“Like… a trap?” Shane eyed the melting ice uncertainly.

“This shield is only supposed to be opened with Acid spells,” Cyrin said, thinking out loud. “It could be designed to react to different ways of opening it. If the Flare is supposed to activate when the shield is disrupted, then the Tremor probably has a similar purpose.”

“But the ground’s not vibrating,” Kasumi observed. “And the ice isn’t cracking either.”

“Sometimes it works like a signal,” Cyrin murmured. “Like a ripple that’s hard to feel, going out from its source. Or a wave of a frequency that we can’t detect.”

“Now you seem like a STEM major,” Shane teased, but his heart didn’t sound like it was in the joke.

Cyrin chuckled, but it was weak. “Magic is both science and art. I usually stick to the artistic perspective, but other people I know prefer to think of it more scientifically. It’s hard for anyone to say which it’s more of.”

“I think I’ll keep an eye on this Bane,” Kasumi cut in, pointing to her left.

“Sure.” Cyrin didn’t turn, but instead looked back at the slowly thawing ice. It was still dripping water in a puddle that was refreezing at his feet, but he couldn’t ever see it melting a large section of the Permafrost’s Fall, let alone triggering a collapse on any intruders. No, it couldn’t directly be dangerous to them.

“There’s a few more over here,” Shane said behind him. “Do you think they like this?”

“We’re not on our way out and have no intention to,” Cyrin said, removing the yet from his sentence just to be safe. “They should ignore us.”

“It’s just that, actually. They aren’t looking at us.”

Shane’s voice was strained, like he was trying to say something more but was afraid to, and Cyrin realized that he wanted them to turn around.

The sharp gazes of the Banes were focused on the melting ice, seemingly paying no attention to the three of them. The Projections very much surrounded them, though, and Cyrin saw more drifting their way, as if drawn to their exact location. Their jackal masks were blank and emotionless as always, but they knew that they hadn’t shown up to throw a pool party in the thawed ice puddle.

The Flare and Tremor weren’t meant to rig the Fall for destruction. What little ice that had melted would freeze over once they closed up the shield again. It was meant to create the tiniest amount of damage and then draw the Banes’ attention to it.

“I think,” Cyrin said slowly, “that the Banes might not be designed to only interfere with us if we try to leave. They might also act when the monument is damaged.”

“It’s just water!” Kasumi protested, and they couldn’t tell if she was pleading with their reasoning or the Banes. “It’s not that much!”

None of the Banes gave any reaction to her words. Another drop fell from the melting patch of ice, and Cyrin thought they saw their gazes follow it.

“They aren’t going to stand like that forever,” Shane whispered. “At some point they’ll decide it’s been melted enough and strike before we’re ready.”

“We’ll be ready,” Cyrin promised hurriedly, scrambling to take out both parts of the trap spell. The Tremor in their palm made their hands shake, but they’d have to ignore it this time. “All we need is for the others to be done and ready to run. They should be back soon. They need to be.”

Saints, where is Mireya? Where are all of them?


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Fri Jun 30, 2023 8:03 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



“If you try to touch it, the Force pushes your hand back, like magnets repelling.

The only problem with capitalising Force in this context is that it will never not make me think of Star Wars xD

“The hesitation’s understandable,” Shane said. “You can’t climb out of here with a broken wrist.”

Is this a thing that Cyrin needs to do, or could one of the others do it? I'm not super clear on all the magic rules, but if the magic is in the stones, what's to stop say, Kasumi using them?

“Alright, here’s our worst-case scenario: if I break my wrist, I get to show Shane how to climb a rope in style. Which means nothing can really go wrong.”

Oh wow that's a backup plan I hope they don't need! Can you 'show' someone how to climb a rope? Don't they need upper body strength and practice?

“Could there be a reason for that?” Kasumi asked. “Like energy being released by the magic?”

Kasumi is excellent at asking the questions I want to ask.

“It seems like it’s working so far at least,” Shane remarked. “Your wrist looks attached.”

xDDDDDD

“There shouldn’t be anything going on in there,” Shane said. “It sounded like they were going to pick the First Spell up quickly and grab whatever looked helpful on their way out.”

And flirt with each other at the same time...

“Force doesn’t give off heat in any circumstance that I know of,” Kasumi remarked.

It felt a bit odd for this to be coming from Kasumi, given that she asked the question about energy/heat being given off before.

Saints, where is Mireya? Where are all of them?

Oooooh tension! I love the way that just when it seemed like things were alright, things are suddenly very not ok! I cannot fathom how they're all going to get out without at least one of them becoming very seriously injured but if you kill one of them off at this point I may cry! I don't want any of them hurt, but I also can't stop at this cliffhanger so I'll see you for chapter 20!

Icy




SilverNight says...


Hello and thank you again!

The only problem with capitalising Force in this context is that it will never not make me think of Star Wars xD


ahhhhhhh I know XD

Can you 'show' someone how to climb a rope? Don't they need upper body strength and practice?


It's more of an expression here I guess, like when you "show someone how it's done", you're showing off skill rather than how to actually do it!

And flirt with each other at the same time...


You know it ;)



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Fri May 26, 2023 6:31 pm
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MaybeAndrew wrote a review...



Hey, Andrew here with a quick review! I saw this in the greenroom and thought I'd check it out. I haven't read the full story, though I did pop back to read the first part of this chapter. What I did see, I liked. The banter between the three about college was funny and felt very normal and real, the pacing was natural and easy to read, and the magic system seems compelling and well-built. My only main critique would be that I would like some more descriptions. Maybe you gave them in earlier chapters, but I don't have a clear picture in my mind of the space they are in, the shield, the Banes, and the objects they're using. That would really help me feel immersed and invested in what's going on.
The style of the story is very modern, using lingo and terms, such as STEM, that is very contemporary, yet you mingle this with ideas of magic and 'monuments.' This sense of the world was interesting and original to me. Though, I do feel it's a bit video game-ish. The way the spells are being spoken about is very technical and (for lack of a better term) unmagical. This isn't necessarily bad, I've read much that does similar, but it does feel less like a magical fantasy story and more like a world in which a system different than ours exists. Obviously, that might just be this chapter, but the video game esq terms here do make it hard for me to feel the magical depth that stories like LOTR, Ghibli, or Neil Gaiman give me. Once again, I've also read great stories (Brandon Sanderson as one example) where the magic is so defined and contemporary feeling that its less like magic and more like new physics (hard magic systems being the term Sanderson would use for that). If you are trying to suggest those feelings of mysterious magic, with the taste of the strange and mystical, or the weight of the grand and ancient, I would suggest using some terms and descriptions to make the magic feel less contemporary. Some more poetic descriptions and language would help. Once again, I haven't read the rest of the story, so maybe it's everywhere else, and I just missed it, so take this all with a grain of salt.
(That idea of mysticism is well communicated with this monument which our character refuses to damage. I did like that.)
But as I said, the prose is very easy to read, flowing very naturally from one point to the next. The style is entertaining and doesn't waste time, but it also doesn't feel rushed and definitely feels character-focused. The tension builds well with the Banes gathering around and would only be more effective if I had a solid description of the space they're in (something I very well may have missed because I haven't read previous chapters.
All in all, I really enjoyed the story, and there's a good chance I'll read more!
Thanks, and keep writing, Andrew





We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
— Arthur O'Shaughnessy