Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
Clarity’s words were a little too much for Mireya to process quickly, and the spell prepared on the table couldn’t seem to handle it either, because the test tube exploded into a burst of flames just a moment later.
Cyrin bumped into the counter as they backed away, muttering something about how they were a little tired of fire today. They scrambled to open the cabinet door behind them that was under the sink, pull out one of Clarity’s many fire extinguishers, and toss it to Mireya. She caught it and took aim at the blaze on the table, spraying foam at it until the table was covered, but she still saw light through the mess. Flare magic was harder to put out than regular fires.
“Oh!” Clarity gasped, digging in her pockets for a notebook and pen. “Do loaded statements activate the Chant in the spell? This is fascinating, give me a minute.”
“Clarity, what the fuck,” Cyrin said bluntly as he rushed to the table, somehow both disbelieving and completely unsurprised that a fire had broken out around her.
“I’ve got it, I’ve got it,” Mireya promised, holding the handle down until there was no more trace of the flames anymore.
Clarity scowled, jotting down a few notes with a disappointed look. “I could have used a little longer to observe the reaction.”
“You could probably also use an apartment that hasn’t burned down.”
“What in all the Saints was that?” Cyrin demanded, staring at the mess in confusion.
“Clarity’s failed experiment,” Mireya said. “She used Chant and Flare together to try to create a spell that activates by voice command. It works, if you like unexpected and unstable fires that randomly start when you say something entirely different that isn’t a command.”
“I do not.”
“I wouldn’t call it failed,” Clarity defended herself, tucking the notebook away again. “I just know it does something else now. Granted, it’s more fire, but it’s something.”
Cyrin shook his head. “Your work randomly blows up and it’s not even a surprise at this point.”
“Okay, if we’re going to make light of the explosion, what were you saying about the First Spell?” Mireya asked.
“Hmm?” Clarity’s brow furrowed, and Mireya was wondering if she’d misheard, before her friend’s eyes widened. “Oh, that. Congratulations on your discovery.”
“I still don’t understand,” Cyrin said slowly. “How did we discover that exactly? I’m pretty sure we’d notice if we revolutionized the field of artificing. That doesn’t tend to sneak up on you.”
“You took a video at the Permafrost’s Fall for your client,” Clarity said. “Then your client distributed it to an artifact specialist who wanted to know what else the place held, and they put together what one of the things on the recording was. So, you walked right by what is possibly the most important artifact ever created. I’d say it very much snuck up on you.”
“But there were hundreds of items there,” Cyrin said. “I identified everything that made it on the recording…”
Mireya saw them figure it out at the same time she did, when they trailed off and shocked realization spread over their face.
“The scroll,” she heard herself say, without thinking. “It’s got to be.”
“Saints.” Cyrin closed their eyes and pinched the bridge of their nose, inhaling sharply. “I knew there was something special about it. Mireya— Mireya, you held that thing. We had it. We had something that changed the world and could change it again.”
“I can’t believe it,” Mireya murmured, feeling numb from the shock of the information. “We didn’t have a clue and left it there.”
“I really wish you’d taken it along with you,” Clarity said. “If you’d done that for me, I’d never bother you with a question for magic research again.”
“Me too, but— never mind that,” Cyrin said weakly, sighing. “How do you know about this?”
“Most of the Arcade does right now. I only had to ask someone why you’d been targeted, and they told me both of you were, since you have that information and people are going to want it.” Clarity tipped her head to the side thoughtfully. “Or want it to die with you,” she added, perhaps too casually.
“Wonderful,” Mireya said with false cheerfulness. “It’s been too long since we were in trouble from people who would want us to tear us apart over something valuable.”
“You can make something of it, though,” Clarity said, in a tone that she clearly thought was reassuring. “Do you feel like making a lot of money?”
“Clarity, no,” Cyrin said firmly, already shaking their head.
“I’m just saying, the demand—”
“The demand will be coming from people who already have power, and I have no interest in handing them any more of it,” Cyrin said, setting his jaw. His gaze darted to Mireya for a moment, and even though he would already know that she agreed with him, she gave him a slight nod. “I’m not making myself the sponsor of some oppressive oligarch who we’ve probably stolen from without them even noticing because we didn’t make a dent in their wealth.”
“We don’t sell to the highest bidder, Clarity,” Mireya said.
Clarity’s blue eyes flashed briefly, her lips curving into a thin, dry smile. “Only because Cyrin can only commit one crime of the century before his full name hits a section of the tabloids it hasn’t appeared in before, and he’s played that card already.”
“Saints forbid the actual reason be that I have a moral requirement,” Cyrin said under his breath.
Clarity huffed. “Things would be so much easier if you didn’t.”
Mireya held up one hand, a familiar feeling sparking at her fingertips, and both of them turned their attention to her. She doubted her intervention was necessary— Cyrin wasn’t confrontational or one to escalate, and Clarity didn’t actually care much about her side of an argument most of the time— but even though the discussion would die out soon, like disagreements between the two of them always had, she didn’t feel like being here for it.
“Why are we having this argument when there are three perfectly good glasses of champagne sitting on the counter?” she asked.
“Three cheers to that,” Cyrin said flatly, and his way of saying the joke got a laugh out of Clarity.
“I knew you’d both agree.”
“Well, if you’re not seeking out the people who are looking for you both, are you running from them?” Clarity asked, crossing to the kitchen to pick up her glass.
“Of course not,” Mireya said, shocked.
“I’m offended you’d even suggest that,” Cyrin protested.
“Good on you for not being boring.”
Mireya heard Cyrin reply with what sounded like a teasing remark, but she was distracted from their words by a flash of light outside Clarity’s window. It was the glow of the lightbulbs of the movie theater opposite the Arcade, just flaring to life for the night. She found herself moving towards it, pulling aside the curtain for a better look.
“Why don’t you both go up to the roof?” she suggested, glancing over her shoulder. “I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
Cyrin and Clarity both nodded, guessing at what she meant.
“You can do what you want with the lights,” Clarity said. “Do be careful with the fridge though.”
Mireya smiled. “I’ll be sure to leave that alone.”
Clarity turned away, pulling open the door so she could step out, and with a knowing smile to Mireya and a raise of their glass, Cyrin followed her. The apartment door closed with a soft click behind them, and Mireya sat down on the floor right in front of the window, with her legs crossed. She stretched out her arms in front of her, shaking them out and rolling back her shoulders.
Out the window, the street below flickered with life and light. The flashing of signs, to darkness and back, looked like sparks fizzling and jumping.
Mireya spread her fingers wider, finding that same energy in the wiring of Clarity’s apartment, lurking and dancing within the walls. She let the feeling flow through her like she was a conduit, building up until she felt like she was tingling with power, and then she closed her fists.
The apartment went dark, every bulb choked of its current, with only the light from the window illuminating the space. Every shadow in the room was restful and silent, cutting hazy edges and black shapes on the walls and floor. Mireya let her hands fall open again, and the lights came on again, just as bright as before.
She repeated the motion again, letting the room alternate between darkness and light. Clench, unclench, clench, unclench. She found a rhythm to the command, letting the electricity’s flow answer to her heartbeat until the flickering and her pulse were perfectly synchronized. The energy that she could feel coursing around her relaxed and exhilarated her at the time. She’d felt disconnected from her setting in the Permafrost’s Fall, without a single wire or power source to ground her, but she was finding herself again here, in the rise and fall of the current.
Such it was to be a Major Mage.
When Mireya finally released her control on the apartment’s power, letting light return to the room for good, she let her breathing settle. She basked in the calmness for a few moments longer before she got to her feet and stretched her legs. When she felt ready, she snatched her glass from the kitchen and took a sip of the champagne while she pushed the door to the hallway open.
She wasn’t expecting there to be someone in her way.