“If it’s Rationale magic, would that be unusual enough for you to feel out?” Mireya asked Cyrin as they wandered the displays, giving each object a careful look.
Cyrin gestured at the vast collection of artifacts. “I don’t think I’ll be able to track down a specific type of magic in here. There’s too many trails, too many distractions. I can feel what everything right around us has, but it feels like— it all blends together further out. I’ve never been surrounded by this much magic before.” Their voice was filled with awe.
Mireya nodded thoughtfully, slowly walking around a display of a full suit of armor so she could see it from all sides. She had to wonder what it was like to be Cyrin right now, submerged in all the magic around the two of them. He’d once told her it was like separating and sorting all the colors from a rainbow that most others couldn’t even see, and here in the midst of Aphirah’s greatest artifacts, she couldn’t help but feel like she was missing out on a flood of beauty.
She had a connection to magic that no Minor Mage could ever dream of having, but this she was jealous of.
“Can you tell me what they are?” she asked, lifting up the gauntlet of the armor like she was shaking a hand.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Cyrin grinning and spinning in a circle with an arm outstretched, their dark chin-length hair flying around with the movement. They had to have been waiting for her to say that, and Mireya felt their same eagerness to be here. Standing at the bottom of the Permafrost’s Fall was the dream of any Ren mage from the North.
“That one has Salve,” he declared as he paused his spinning to point at the armor she’d been examining, then went back to it until he indicated a quiver of arrows on the display directly across it. “And those have Force.”
“Those would deal quite a blow, but they hardly manufacture bows for those anymore,” Mireya sighed. “And that armor’s going to be way too big for me, isn’t it.”
“Probably,” Cyrin agreed. “Which is a shame, because I can tell the armor has perfectly pure healing magic. You’d have no chance of magic poisoning with it.”
Mireya moved away from the healing armor as her heist partner turned around a few more times, landing on various items and announcing what they were while they walked through the gallery. There was a tall mirror with Projection magic that reflected the impossible image of this same room without the two of them in it. The shield that Cyrin warned her would erupt with hot Flare magic if she came into contact with the surface got her attention, but not a touch. Sometimes, he pointed to what looked like empty stands only to hold up an item hidden with Concealment. If possible, she was having even more fun with it than him, urging him to tell her faster what the next thing was.
A silver hunting horn caused Cyrin to pause, their finger held frozen as they pointed at it. “That one has Chant. That’s a pretty unusual choice, especially in the creation of artifacts.”
Mireya picked it up and raised it to her lips.
“No, stop,” Cyrin said hurriedly. “It’s also got Tremor, I just got wrapped up in the rarity of Chant and forgot to mention that part. Do not blow that.”
Mireya immediately set the horn back down on its stand and examined it suspiciously. “What could that combination even be could for? Playing a note that could simultaneously be heard by all for miles and shake a building apart?”
“No idea, but it would be a great thing to try underground.”
She rolled her eyes playfully and pointed at a random artifact, which was a rolled-up parchment scroll with a white ribbon tying it shut. “What does that one have?”
While Cyrin moved over to it, Mireya quickly checked her communicator. She hadn’t had a signal since going underground, so she could only look at what she had saved to it, like the painting of the Glory Ring. The lack of service distressed her somewhat. It wasn’t often that she was out on a heist where they were off the grid. Even if she’d never called for backup before, because there never was any, staying connected was a reassurance.
Mireya loved thrills, but she felt unsettled here. Her full abilities didn’t work in ancient settings, and she wasn’t much good underground either. This setting made her oddly vulnerable, and even though it wasn’t remotely the purpose of this place, the Permafrost’s Fall was strangely good at working against her.
She scrolled through a message chat with Clarity anyway, before realizing that the silence had gone on too long for what should have been a quick response. She quickly glanced up again. Cyrin had their back turned to her, and she couldn’t see their face while they leaned over the scroll. Moving to stand beside them let her read the confusion in the crease of their brow and the shock in how their lips moved without sound.
“Cyrin?” Mireya asked, tapping them on the shoulder. “What is it?”
He visibly struggled with his words for a moment longer, mouthing things without managing to make a sentence. Finally, he heaved a sigh and gestured at the scroll with a frustration that she didn’t see in him very often. “I can’t feel it.”
Mireya frowned. “You can’t feel the magic?”
Cyrin shook his head. “I can sense it there, for sure, but I can’t even make a guess at what type or types it has. It’s… unfamiliar. Whatever they spun into this spell, it’s impossible to distinguish.”
“You’ve never been unable to tell before,” Mireya said slowly. “Right?”
“I don’t think that’s ever happened,” Cyrin said. He pinched one end of the ribbon around the scroll, rubbing it between his fingers. “Magic’s like a spool of yarn, you know? What you weave creates your spell. Feeling for the type it has is like running a comb through a braid to see all the individual strands, but this one won’t come undone.”
Mireya slid the ribbon off the scroll, letting it fall in his hand before moving the artifact and unrolling it onto the display stand.
“Hold on, that parchment is hundreds of years old,” Cyrin protested, but she knew they had to be as curious as her.
With a hammering heart, she finished laying out the scroll, smoothing out the edges. The moment it was flattened, the surface started shifting and glittering. Mireya and Cyrin watched as the scroll became covered with a thin layer of water, bubbling and rippling, without spilling over or seeming to come from anywhere.
“Is that a world map underneath?” Cyrin asked incredulously.
Mireya nodded once she saw the shape of Aphirah under the water, slightly blurred by the movement above. Some of the world’s regions seemed to be glowing. The South and Central each had a slight sparkle in the bubbles rising from them, while the North shone like there was treasure hidden in the shallow depths of the water. With the same thought as her, Cyrin dipped a finger in the surface over the Renvara mountains where they were currently.
“It definitely feels like real water,” they said, flicking a droplet to the ground. “If it’s a Projection, it’s even more physical than those Banes.”
“And you still can’t tell whether it has that or not?” Mireya asked.
“Just as confusing as before.”
She slowly began to roll the scroll up again, hesitating before taking the ribbon from them. “We could take this back with us,” she suggested. “There’s a lot of things here that could change the artifact world, but this feels like a discovery. Just imagine what Clarity could do with this.”
Cyrin shook his head regretfully. “I would love to, but we planned to bring back a ring with us. I didn’t bring a bag to carry something that delicate.”
Mireya sighed as she tied the fragile scroll up. “That was terrible planning on your part.”
“Hey, at least I make plans,” Cyrin retorted, leading her away with one last forlorn glance at the scroll. “You can’t even say that much.”
“And whether you actually follow them or not is up to your whims, right?”
She heard him grumbling a reply, but she was distracted by the purple glint that she spotted a few rows of displays over. She quickly reached for his wrist and pulled him back, feeling her fingertips spark at the contact. “Over there.”
Cyrin winced slightly. “Static shock,” they complained, but they had noticed what she’d seen.
The two made their way over to the stand she had indicated, where the Glory Ring was resting on a velvet cushion. Mireya had to admit it looked much prettier in real life. The artist painting it had done their best, but they hadn’t quite managed to capture the mesmerizing glimmer the ring shone with, how the very shape of its golden curve compelled attention. She rarely saw Rationale used anymore, but there was no doubt that this ring held it.
Cyrin carefully picked it up, sliding it onto a slender finger. “Well?” they asked, striking an elegant pose in the aisle. “Does it work? Do I look charming?”
Mireya blinked, surprised at the sudden change. Nothing was different about Cyrin’s appearance, but there seemed to be a slight shift in how she noticed them. The stone-gray flecks in their dark eyes stood out more, and their olive-brown cheeks were luminous with a soft glow. Their pose was meant to be exaggerated, like a rich person modeling for a picture, but it looked as if they were ready to command with power. The very tilt of their chin suggested majesty. Their black clothes of a thief looked even more made for them, like their own kind of shining armor.
Magic was weird.
“I’m afraid it’s going to take more than a ring to make you look dazzling,” she said, trusting that they’d get the sarcasm. “I guess it doesn’t work on everyone.”
Cyrin huffed with laughter as he took off the ring, and then he was himself again. “All you had to say was no.”
“Sorry,” Mireya said, holding out a hand for him to drop the Glory Ring in, and she tucked it in a pocket of her blue coat. “But this is worth one million to split between the both of us, and your vanity would be too expensive.”
“Oh, having style is vain now?” Cyrin asked, pretending to be stung. “You better be careful saying that. I know a lot of people in high places.”
“And how many of them hate you, again?”
She heard him mumbling something under his breath that sounded like a Ren prayer as he shook his head with concealed amusement and turned away to walk back towards the shield. It wasn’t the religious type of prayer, just a non-addressed somebody give me the strength to deal with her. She was fairly sure he had gotten it already by now.
Following Cyrin back to the exit, Mireya smiled slightly as she passed all the artifacts again, but gave the mysterious scroll one last longing look.