“Tris, what is all this magical crap in the shower?” Briar called.
“We're testing something,” she answered from Evvy's bedroom.
“In the shower?”
“It imitates rain,” Evvy said.
“So you filled the shower with … something.”
“Class project!” Evvy said.
“Yours or Lightingbraids?”
“Both.” Tris said. “She's supposed to get paired with a college mage with a for her magical tech fair project, and I'm supposed to build something that mixes at least two kinds of magic. I could do it myself but then I'd need to do two things, which takes time away from reading.”
“Well, can you get your class project out of the shower? I just got in from the greenhouses.”
Tris sighed and picked herself up from Evvy's floor, banging her shin on Evvy's coffee-table desk on the way out. There wasn't that much in the shower. She could see the even silver glow of the rocks she and Evvy had been working on – magic crap, as Briar said – but these were small rocks. Even she could have showered without moving them and been fine, and Briar was actually coordinated . She turned the shower on to show him that it was perfectly fine … and got covered in water bouncing off the magic for a few seconds before overwhelming the spells. “Oh.”
Briar snorted and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, oh. You think I knew what it was going to do?”
“It's going to keep the rain off, like Tris does!” Evvy said, appearing in the bathroom door.
“Then why not just get an umbrella?” Briar asked. “All this time I've never seen you use the one I got you, I thought you just liked getting soaked.”
Evvy looked down. “I … I'm not very good at umbrellas.”
Briar looked at Tris, who shrugged. “Don't look at me. Do you think I'd make rain slide off around me with magic if I were good at umbrellas?”
“I did wonder about that, Lighting. But … I … just … want … to … shower. Out, and take your rocks with you!” Briar said.
Evvy and Tris took the stones back to Evvy's room in the shared apartment.
“Do you think he's really mad at us?” Evvy asked, left hand flapping nervously at her side Even though she had known Briar longer than Tris had, she still had more trouble recognizing when he was just showing the thorns he was named for and when he truly meant to bite with them.
“I don't think so. He always switches back to my real name when he's angry. And his tattoos were still showing flowers more than thorns.”
“Is that how you tell? People always told me to pay attention to things like tone of voice or gestures, but I can't really tell what those mean,” Evvy said. “The teachers talked to my parents about it a bunch of times, and how I couldn't really tell when people were interested in what I was saying or not, and how I didn't usually want to play with my classmates, back when I had parents, but they already knew about the magic and just said that ambient mages were weird.” She started to sniffle.
Tris remembered her teachers telling her foster father, Niko, nearly the same things. He'd asked her if she was interested in looking into it further, and their reading had focused on psychology and neurology for a while, along with several autistic-written blogs she still followed. She'd even written one her junior and senior years, though she hadn't updated it since graduation except to say where she was going to college. She'd even gotten a diagnosis, though she never gave the paperwork to any of the schools she attended – she felt no urge to deal with their nonsense over yet another kind of documented weirdness. Weather magic – multiple kinds of weather magic, including lighting – scared people plenty.
“I think most people do it that way. But not everyone, and if it doesn't work for you then it's a better idea to try and find something that does work than to try and force the “normal” way,” Tris said, slowly. “I looked for other things instead. You probably can too. Like Briar's tattoos, the colors of flowers reflect his mood, and the vines get thorns when he's angry. Or people like us, who have nicknames, can keep an ear out for when people are using one of our nicknames as opposed to our full names.”
Evvy looked thoughtful. “I … never thought of that.”
“But you thought of putting what I do with the rain into a stone you can carry with you instead of just getting wet in the rain, and that was really smart.”
“You think so? Even though it doesn't work?”
“I know so. And it doesn't work yet. We have, what, five prototypes?”
“Four. And we haven't tried the tourmaline yet. Or emerald, but that's expensive and I don't want to mess it up unless we're sure it'll work.”
“Niko learned a way to cleanse all spell remnants from objects when we were traveling a few summers ago. They used the ritual to cleanse traces of death, but it worked for traces of magic too, so if he'd teach us – ”
“ – then I wouldn't be permanently messing up my emerald.”
“Want me to email him? We can still try the tourmaline while we wait for him to answer.”
Tris grabbed her phone out of her room. While she'd never had magic affect her phone before, water certainly could, and she wasn't about to risk the smartphone around magic that was moving water in not quite the way she wanted it to.
Evvy (the teenage girl my friend Briar has been taking care of the last couple years) and I are working on a project together, and she really thinks emerald is the best stone to put the magic into, but emeralds are expensive and she can't really afford to mess one up. (Neither can I, really, even with the glass making on the side.) Do you think the ritual you learned a few summers ago would cleanse a prototype artifact well enough that we wouldn't need to dispose of the stones?
She hit send and went back to Evvy's room. “All set.”
Then Briar was at the door, wearing a clean T-shirt, jeans, and no shoes. “So, what's the problem?”
“The idea was to get the rain to slide away from me like a dome the way Tris does it with her magic, but to put it in a water stone because we're trying to control the water. And we got the water from the shower to slide away from the stones about a foot away from them, but I don't think that's enough, and it didn't last very long at a time either, which definitely isn't enough. The aquamarine was the best, and the opal kind of worked. I bet the pearl would have worked except it's not actually a stone so I couldn't do anything with it, but someone who could work with it could maybe have done it. We're going to try tourmaline next, but I really think that emerald is the best water element to use for this except those are expensive and getting messed-up magic out of things is hard except Tris says Niko might know a way.”
Briar looked at Tris, who just shrugged. You asked , she thought.
“You're just using water rocks right now?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Evvy said.
“When you make your invisible umbrella things, are you just using water?” Briar asked.
Tris thought for a moment. “No. I tell the air to push the water away.”
“So you probably want air and water stones. Air pushing the water away,” he suggested.
“That's a really good idea. Can we try that Tris, can we?”
“I don't see why not. Which water stone worked best again?”
“I still think emerald would be better but of the ones we tried aquamarine was best.”
“And what air stones are good with aquamarine?”
“Celesite, I think. A white one would be better for contrast,” Evvy said. “I have a white one, and I've got another aquamarine with a hole in it too.”
Can you the cel-celesite in the shape of an umbrella with aquamarine over and around but not through the umbrella maybe?” Briar suggested.
“I think we should try with the stones we have before we get into carvings, but probably. Ready to give it another shot, Evvy?”