“And you don’t have any idea of when he'll return?”
Conri found himself standing inside the academic counselor, Mr. Brassworth’s, office at the magi academy. It was brightly lit with a single standing table in front of a wall dedicated to a personal library. Two great arching windows oversaw the front grounds from above and parallel to a set of filing cabinets below two observational boards. One of cork littered with announcements from the academy and the city’s congress and the other a chalkboard with diagrams, equations and formulas written in what he guessed was an alternate version of the arcane language.
“I am sorry, but I don’t,” the woman who sat behind the desk replied. “Mr. Brassworth has always been dedicated to both the well being of young magi, but also to the country’s governing body for magical beings. He is always in high demand, so I do apologize once again for his absence.”
It was the first time Conri hoped the terrifying silence had set in and obscured his hearing, but every word was specifically clear. She wore a gold plated badge pinned to the lapel of her tweed jacket that read P. Boisclaire. Previously introducing herself as Penelope when letting Conri enter the office. Penelope adjusted her glasses and parted her red hair behind her ear as she watched him.
“I’m not trying to be a nuisance, but did he leave any information about contacting him while he’s out?” Conri’s voice teetered on desperate. “I met with him last month, can you please check if he left anything?”
“I’m sorry, but I've been acting counselor since his departure and I can assure you he has left nothing that I can disclose to non-students.” Her tone was unwavering. “This is an active semester, but if you are interested in working with Mr. Brassworth, I’d recommend enrolling for the next one.”
It had crossed his mind, but he knew he couldn’t afford it, nor would his grandparents help pay the tuition. Even in his initial curiosity about enrolling, there weren’t any scholarships he was eligible for. The hard truth was that it simply not a possibility at this time.
“Would it be alright if I left him my contact information? Just for when he gets back,” he lowered his head, bringing his eyes up towards Penelope in hopes their sad puppy-like appearance could persuade her.
She was deeply unamused, but allowed it. A small victory. Out of concern for her keeping her word, Conri shifted his way to the side of the desk and placed his information visibly on top a neat stack of manila folders. His eyes lingering onto a portrait that sat just inches from Mr. Brassworth’s chair. It was framed with silver leaf iconography and held a photo of individuals Conri hadn’t seen in some time. Mr. Brassworth posed straight and tall next to another man whose wild hair was tied back as he kneeled to match the height of a strikingly beautiful girl. She was dressed in a stylish blouse and matching skirt, her neat platinum blond hair brushed behind and hands placed delicately in her lap as she smiled. It was her eyes that Conri could never forget ever since he first encountered her at the café many years ago. Cerulean gems as vast as a clear sky of a world that has yet to be explored. She had occasionally showed up, but according to Mr. Brassworth, she was directly involved with their nation’s political affairs and therefore had less free time than most.
Before becoming too lost in memories, Conri profusely thanked Penelope again before excusing himself. Classes were still in session as Conri left the administration wing and entered one of the many connecting hallways filled with identical doors and windows. It felt strangely haunting as Conri followed his previous path inside, down towards the front entrance. He was nearly there until a voice called out. It was his voice.
Within seconds Conri’s vision filled with pulsating specks of black and gray. It littered the colors around him as he heard his voice continue to speak to him.
Expand visions to gaze beyond.
He scanned his surroundings, but found himself alone. The instinct to panic was setting in as he couldn’t stop listening to his own voice acting on its own. Turning around, his vision blurred as he moved, blinking caused the gray to flood in further, sinking him deeper into his nulled void. Mouth hanging half open, wanting to call out and disturb a class for help, but could only produce raspy panting. Willing his body back in the opposite direction, his disembodied voice rang louder and clearer.
One with a cosmos.
Eyes finally locking onto something new. Though the walls and door frames around burned gray in his vision, a singular door handle shone through in pristine brass. A beacon of bright colorful hope. Throwing out a hand, he gripped the handle and cracked open the door. Inside was a silent, but brilliant lecture hall filled with rows of elevated seats occupied by students all staring at the front of the room. Their attentions on a well dressed and polished looking firbolg adorned in academic regalia held a dazzling stream of nebula in their palms. It moved in fluid motions onto the ceiling above the students and displaying stars at the firbolg’s will.
Conri’s vertigo lessened while he followed the student's gaze to the professor, hearing his voice continue to recite verses he never heard until now. The professor took no notice as he continued conjuring his incantation. Watching them closely, their fingers expertly molding this gaseous mass to spill upwards as if a waterfall falling in reverse. This nebula stood predominantly out in Conri's colorless world with saturated gradients of magentas, lilac and indigo.
It was overwhelmingly joyful as Conri witness these changes to this once suffering experience. Unable to hold back a smile, Conri felt himself become washed in the light of color; he felt an desire to get closer. Before he could properly think, Conri felt his words fall back under his control and he replied in the professor's direction.
Grace me and descend.
The nebula quaked as if a heavy stone was tossed through like it was a simple pond causing the stars to ripple. Their shapes staggering out of formation into a cluster above the class. Students murmured and the professor looked concerned, clasping his fingers in hopes of dispelling the incantation, but with no immediate success. The stars were falling now, showering the classroom in a dazzling rainstorm. Gaseous droplets of light bouncing off students making them awe in astonishment. Stretching out a hand, Conri felt some stars fill his open palm with warmth, bouncing and dispersing upon impact.
The once desire was soon swallowed by the word as Conri's own voice shouted at him. He recoiled into the hallway, heart pounding as the dominating colors receded. Crouching to look through the cracked door, he saw the firbolg's dim brown eyes meet his gaze, filling Conri's body with a weighted pressure. It was as if the professor's will was fighting Conri off.
Their intention was deliberate and clear to Conri, taking it as his cue, he quickly ran down hallway towards the front entrance.
Once outside, he was caught off guard regarding his surroundings and the new sense of rejuvenation pulsing through him. The clarity and color resolution before him was the boldest and brightest he’d seen since his breakup with Emmett. Colors and sound began to burn through his once washed out world. He felt powerful. He’d have to tell Elena what he discovered; maybe they had this all wrong! Ecstatically reaching for his phone, noted his findings in the notes app so to not forget this newly found joy.
Conri’s voice echoed on its own once again, but with a more mischievous tone. Taking in his surroundings he noticed no change in his repaired vision. Following his heightened hearing brought him to a courtyard across from what looked to be a sporting field lined with bleachers. It was all but abandoned apart from a small group of students: three laughing in unison directed at a fourth whose body looked rigid surrounded by fallen books and binders. And a final individual standing between them all.
“Something funny over here?” Conri raised his voice as he approached, not even debating on whether or not to get involved. This inner strength fueled him with righteous courage.
“Conri?” the rigid one replied stiffly. Their eyes now directed at him while the rest of their body seemed frozen. Held up right by an invisible force was Eli.
Eli’s wore a school uniform, same as the rest, but looking disheveled. The laughing trio, one with half pointed ears and another with deep red skin with small horns flanked a pale skinned individual with dark eyes and white hair. The supposed leader had a smug smirk plastered on their face. The one in-between had her arms crossed looking entirely ticked off. Sea blue nail polish complimented her rich black skin as she gripped her forearms, her furrowed brows shared the same shine as her dark hair that reminded Conri of an ocean at twilight.
“You know him Eli?" the girl asked blankly, not removing her eyes from the trio.
"We're coworkers." Conri answered back as he studied his friend. "And you?"
"Sirenè," her eyes still trained on the three. "we share study hall together."
Gently placing his hand to Eli’s shoulder, he felt a thin cold layer of air separating his hand from making direct contact. Closer inspection reminded Conri of snow flurries, translucent white dust, holding Eli in place. Someone's idea of an ill intentioned joke.
"Last time Dalton, remove your curse, Eli's never done anything to you!" Sirenè's tone was pointed towards the one in the middle. "Arcane trickery is against the integrity of the academy. "
"Well aren't you sweet sticking up for a human." the red skinned one spoke up. "We thought Eli was just a sad pathetic loner, but he's receiving pity from an underclassman."
"Sounds to me like you're all just easily threatened since you're all always traveling together." Sirenè sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes. "You all hold hands when you use the bathroom too?"
"Sirenè you don't have to get involved. I can -- " Eli started.
"Please stop talking. You know my mothers taught me better than that, just focus on getting out of that." Sirenè snapped back.
Though his back was towards them, Conri couldn't help but smile hearing Sirenè. It was a brief moment of reassurance that Eli would have someone like that around him. Conri focused on the curse nipping at his palm trying to think of how to remove it. This intention was to keep Eli from moving, then they'd need the opposite to free him, right? Thinking back to his limited knowledge of the arcane, most recently, how Conri instinctively made the stars fall in the lecture hall and the professor's gaze afterwards. He wanted it and willed it to happen. The grip on Eli's shoulder tightened as he exhaled his intention.
Eli’s body began to relax while Conri watched the white flurries begin to bloat and soundlessly pop. Flexing his fingers then his hands and lifting his legs on his own without restraints, Eli was in control again. His expression flashed between relief and curiosity staring at Conri's weak smiling face that it worked.
"You're choosing their side?" an annoyed Dalton shouted past Sirenè towards the pair. "Just what are you?"
Conri kneeled to start helping collect Eli's belongs. The need to ensure his friend's wellbeing took priority over biting back.
"You just some random 'concerned citizen' huh?" Dalton called out again. "You know he's a human." The word human was filled with disgust and resentment.
“He is! Keeping to himself all day acting like he’s better than us just because he somehow snaked his way into the academy.” one of Dalton's comrades added.
Conri made sure Eli had all his things in hand before starting to face the rest.
Unshrouded candor on display
The sensation of being watched increased exponentially as Conri met the three's gaze, brief black specks flashed in his periphery. It felt like he was suddenly under a microscope unable to hide any truth.
“Get a load of this Dalton, he's a hound. A shaggy mutt by the looks of it.”
"You feed this stray on the weekends or something Eli? That's why he's helpin' you?" was followed by more laughter.
Conri shook back most of the specks as he took Sirenè's side. The thought of being the bigger person ran through his mind, but he was already so passive up until now, he argued against it. After all a shaggy mutt still has its fangs and claws.
“Since you're an underclassman and you're just a nobody I'll explain the obvious hierarchy, so you don't waste your time on the likes of them in the future.” Dalton stepped forward, pompously brushing his hair off his forehead. “Those who possess raw talents are given the best. More attention, higher praise and the assurance of becoming well known magi. Meanwhile those who rely on cheap tools to conjure even the slightest bit are lesser than scum for trying to learn in the first place.”
“Serves ‘em right for trying to abscond with what’s rightfully ours!” the half pointed eared one chimed. “They're just thieves!”
“All I’m hearing is envy for someone else's talent, meanwhile your only talent is flaunting your family’s name like a delusional peacock.” Sirenè shot back without missing a beat.
Eli and Conri couldn’t help but stifle their laugh.
"You are absolutely right," Conri added. "but not sure how respectable that family name is if it openly supports bigoted ideology. Does spouting that shit help get your parent's approval?"
Conri's voice exploded in an onslaught of violent intention, screaming inside his head.
Conri's chest concaved, knocking the air out of his lungs as his world flashed gray. A pulse of solid white wind impacted into him, hurling him backwards, only to be caught by Eli's freehand. Coughing through the throbbing pain in his chest as he rushed to straighten himself up with Eli's help as his voice filled his ears again. This time with frustration.
Swell the deep and join above
He watched a sparkling turquoise avian shape fly upwards from Sirenè's shadow like a speeding bullet and taking a territorial position beside her. A water elemental with the ends of its fluid wings mimicking crashing waves on a beach. It became evocation against conjuration. Faster and harder, Conri watched Dalton's white wind fly towards them at explosive speed. The elemental using its wingspan to push them back: its size shrinking as its liquid body was beginning to disperse with each hit. Conri now desired to retaliate. Twice now he's willed his intention over other's incantation, but he wasn't sure if he could will it to support another. Droplets of dazzling turquoise continued to rain down: he didn't have time to hope.
More power, love, control, magic for whatever desires they seek. There are also those who wish to just understand what they already have. It could be argued that Conri, a hound shifter, is seeking knowledge and guidance for where to go from here. The rest of the Fae and magical word continues to progress forward and he begins to feel himself fall behind.
A terrible breakup that left him conflicted.
A looming threat from his past.
A magical talent he doesn't understand.
His world is becoming devoid of colors and sounds without any indication on how to stop it. In a world that shares arcane talents with all creatures, magicians, demons and the like he hopes for a clear answer.