Clarity was throwing more Flare magic in the fireplace when Mireya got Cyrin’s message. The flames burst higher, gleaming orange over her face as she curled up tighter against a couch cushion and exchanged a couple messages with them. Clarity used her apartment for all the same things as her magic lab, and there was always something professional about the space, with the latest spell synthesis sitting in a bell jar or a new artifact resting on the coffee table. However, she always tried to make the setting cozier whenever they were around, and as Mireya finished the text conversation and sat up, the warm air was the perfect temperature against the winter evening outside.
“Cyrin got attacked,” she told Clarity, who had moved back to her kitchen.
Clarity raised an eyebrow, one arm half-raised to take something from the pantry. “I was about to grab a bottle of champagne. Should I hold off?”
“No, he didn’t get ‘burned alive’, in his words, so I assume he won.”
Clarity twisted a Force spell above her palm and used it to make the champagne bottle float down to her hand. “I’ll drink to that. He’d want us to have a drink if something happened to him anyway.”
“He would, though I don’t see that ‘if’ happening,” Mireya said.
“We only toast in good conscience, then.” Clarity used the spell to pull down three champagne flutes with a dismissive sweeping motion. The difference between how she and Cyrin used magic always had intrigued Mireya. Cyrin was careful with theirs, considering each strand a valuable gift of nature that should not be wasted. Meanwhile, as an Alchemist, Clarity was given an abundant supply of magic, and she used it whenever she felt like it, even on small and easy tasks. So far, neither of them seemed to have changed the casting habits of the other. “Who was it who attacked them?”
“They just said it was a mage,” Mireya said with a shrug. “They thought it was another mercenary.”
“Someone who was sent after them, you mean?”
“It’s probably what they meant, yeah.”
“Hopefully he’ll share when he gets here,” Clarity said, popping the bottle.
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to tell a story,” Mireya said with an amused shake of her head. “So, how’s the science going?”
“I haven’t had much luck on my latest project.” The champagne already forgotten, Clarity moved around the counter and out of the kitchen to pluck a test tube filled with shifting magic off her dining table. “I’ve been trying to use Chant in hybrid spells more, since no one else is and there’s got to be some undiscovered potential there,” she said, tapping the glass. “I started mixing it with Flare first, since that’s the simplest magic.”
Mireya nodded. “Is there anything in particular you’re hoping to do with it?”
“It’d be good if we could use Chant to activate the spell with a voice command, I thought, so in this case, creating a fire with words.”
“Is that what happens?”
Clarity pressed her lips together, looking displeased. “No, but it does activate at the sound of loud noises. Unexpectedly. It exploded when my kettle whistled. I had to throw out a tablecloth that it ruined.”
A surprised laugh escaped Mireya’s lips while she winced in sympathy. “Why’s a new batch sitting out on your table if you know it blows up, then?”
“It’s not new. I made it at the same time as the other, but it didn’t explode when the other tube did. I’m holding on to it to find out why it didn’t, and if something else will cause it to.”
“I’ll try not to raise my voice then.”
“Don’t bother.” Clarity set it down again and moved to sit besides Mireya on the couch. “If it blows up because of you, I’ll just have more data.”
Mireya chuckled. “It’s a shame you can’t do Rationale. I see some potential with that and Chant, because theoretically you could change someone’s mind with just a word. That’d be worryingly powerful.”
“Yes, I see the price I’m paying for my Hollow,” Clarity deadpanned. “I’ll have to leave that work to someone else.”
“Speaking of Hollows,” Cyrin said, poking his head in from the next room over. “Who do we know that knows of mine?”
Mireya startled a little, and Clarity let out a small sigh. “Would it have killed you to knock?” she protested.
“On what? The window of your room?” Cyrin asked, like he was taken aback. “Not the door, surely, I only have one way of getting in by flight.”
“I wish you never learned how to break in that way.”
“I agree, actually, no one had any business teaching me that.”
Mireya rolled her eyes with a smile at the banter. “My money’s on that not being able to kill you, since you survived something new today. What was it again, burning?”
“Burning’s a vague term. How about death by fiery earthquake?” Cyrin said, leaving the doorway and pulling out an armchair to sit in.
“Now that’s just a confusing term,” Mireya said.
“You haven’t heard?” they asked. When Mireya and Clarity shook their heads, they continued. “I was almost back to my apartment when I felt Tremor magic nearby. It’s really hard for me to ignore, and that couldn’t possibly be a good thing, so I went to check it out. It turned out to be a mage trying to ambush me, and he attacked with a Flare and Tremor spell.”
“That’s a dangerous one,” Clarity said, leaning forward as interest sparked in her blue eyes. “Even I don’t mess with that hybrid. What did you see? How did it work?”
“Clarity, I understand you love your magic research, but I need you to be a little less excited about me getting attacked like this,” Cyrin said.
“Come on, I’m very happy that you’re alive. After all, I need someone to tell me their first-hand account of the spell mechanics so that I don’t have to do my own experiment.”
Cyrin let out a heavy sigh that Mireya knew they didn’t mean. “It was pretty much a ripple of fire that made the ground shake as it expanded. I blocked it from the street with Force. Before you ask, I don’t know how hot the flames were, or what the ratios of Tremor to Flare were in the spell, since not dying takes effort.”
Clarity sat back, looking disappointed before her face brightened again. “If you can’t tell me that, what spinning technique did he use to combine the two?”
“Was there a deadline for a lab report due today or something?” Cyrin asked with a helpless shrug. “I wasn’t prepared for it.”
“They’re right, Clarity, you are a little too enthusiastic about this,” Mireya agreed.
Clarity huffed. “Sorry, Cyrin, I’m glad nothing’s been able to kill you yet.”
“Are you hurt?” Mireya asked.
Cyrin paused, like he wasn’t quite sure of the answer, before he pressed a hand to his side. “Just bruised ribs, probably,” he said. “I got kicked. It’s not worth using what’s left of my magic on.” He glanced over at Clarity. “How come you never offer to heal us?” he asked jokingly.
“I only get Keravara magic for my work,” Clarity said simply. “I don’t know about Mireya, but if I offered to heal you with anything but the cleanest Renvara spell of Salve, you’d chase me away no matter how injured you were, you purist.”
“When you came in, why were you asking about who knows your Hollow?” Mireya asked.
Cyrin leaned back in his armchair, his gaze shifting over to the fireplace. “Because it would have been much easier and less risky for him to use only Flare,” he said. “Tremor complicates things, and there’s no reason for him to make his attack that much more difficult, unless he needed it specifically to mess with me. I don’t try to share my weaknesses, obviously, so there’s only so many people who could know that about me.”
“So, you think that mage was directed to attack you by someone familiar enough with you?” Clarity asked slowly.
“That’s my guess,” Cyrin said.
“Is there anyone who’s angry with you and would like to get back at you?”
Mireya snorted with laughter. “That does not narrow it down at all.”
“There’s probably only about four people I’ve met who aren’t angry with me, and half of them are in this room,” Cyrin said, crossing one leg over the other. “I’m pretty good at making people mad.”
“Then it’s not nearly as few people as you’re thinking,” Clarity said. “Your Hollow isn’t information you try to spread, of course, but you’ve had to tell every employer you performed a job for that you used magic on what it was, so they could determine whether you could do it or not. Considering that the two of you get hired for being mages a lot, that’s a lot of people, and not just ones who know you well.”
Cyrin pursed their lips. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought about that.”
“I don’t see how we’re going to find someone specific who would both want to do that to you and actually could know enough to do it,” Mireya said slowly, tapping her foot on the floor restlessly. Or to us? She’d worked in the Arcade long before she’d crossed paths with Cyrin, and they had history here before knowing her too, but if it was a grudge against them that she had nothing to do with, it was a few years old at least. She doubted that someone would wait that long. The villains of the Arcade weren’t forgiving, and they only decided to bide their time for revenge when they were waiting for a weakness and an opportunity. Cyrin had only become less vulnerable over time, so Mireya had to guess that this attempt was for something recent, and something related to both of them.
She’d brushed off their warning to be careful in their message to her, but maybe they’d been right to say it.
“I’ll be right back,” Clarity said suddenly, getting up from her spot on the couch. “There’s champagne on the counter.” She ducked into her room, her hand brushing Cyrin’s shoulder as she left.
Cyrin watched her go, and they looked like they might say something for a moment, but instead they stood up and moved to the kitchen. “Would you like a glass?” they asked, lifting the bottle.
“I’ll have some,” Mireya said, standing to join them.
As Cyrin poured them each a glass— without the use of a spell— she thought back to all the times the two of them had done a heist with magic. It was part of what made them such a successful team. A Minor and a Major Mage, both with their own set of talents, holding a great range of the spectrum of magic together. They were a rare pairing, and with Clarity almost a third member as an Alchemist, it seemed they could do almost anything between them. And with each of those jobs they’d been hired as the perfect team for, there was someone new who knew Cyrin’s Hollow was Tremor.
“Are you worried?” Mireya asked once he’d finished, a little quieter than normal in case Clarity was able to hear.
Cyrin looked up, thinking about it. “I don’t know,” he said after a moment. “It’s worry-ing, but I’m not sure how worried I am yet.”
“I doubt it’s the worst threat we’ve faced, but it’s strange.”
He slowly turned to her, his face suddenly heavy. “Do you think it’s him?” he asked, his grim tone making it perfectly clear to her who he meant.
Mireya was about to answer with something uncertain, but Clarity came in again, lowering her wrist like she’d just been using her communicator. “Well,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “I knew you two can get lost in your excitement sometimes, but this is something else.”
“I don’t think we get what you mean,” Mireya said slowly, and Cyrin frowned in confusion.
“You both found the location of the First Spell today and didn’t even notice,” Clarity said, and before Mireya could process what she’d just dropped on them, she cleared her throat and held out a hand. “Can I have that glass of champagne now?”