Chapter OneThis time was for real. Nothing could stop me. I would crack this lesson. I would create this damned mage light. I would not burn off another eyebrow . . .
Keeping up my flow of positive thinking, I watched as a tiny sphere of blue light flickered to life in my palm. It began to grow as I fed it with my power, trying to keep myself calm. But my stomach strummed happily as a wave of triumph washed through me. I fed the bright orb just a tiny bit more . . .
And with a terrific bang it exploded, knocking me back on my ass and my breath out of my lungs.
When my vision cleared, I made out a pair of muddy brown eyes staring into mine. The eyes were attached to Trill, the kelpie, who lived most of the time in the sea surrounding my village of Rockabill, Maine. As a kelpie, she had two forms: the weird little sea-pony form she was in now and a humanoid form that would never pass as normal, even with tequila goggles.
“She still has both eyebrows,” the pony reported, her voice oil-slick slippery.
“Good,” came Nell’s deceptively grandmotherly tones. “She looked hideous with just the one.”
The kelpie nodded sagely, and I gave her my most baleful glare. “Thanks for caring, Trill,” I told her as I grabbed a hank of her seaweed forelock to help haul myself up.
“No problem, Jane.” She winced, shaking free of my hold on her mane. Without which I thumped back onto the grass, my head spinning. Magic hurts when it goes kablooey.
I groaned pathetically as Nell’s little face loomed over mine. “Come on, Jane. Get up. Now is not the time for resting.”
I took a deep breath, blinking my eyes to clear my vision. Finally, I struggled upright, still a little woozy. Nell the gnome smiled at me, but I wasn’t fooled. Behind those rustic clothes and that pleasant expression lurked the disposition of the gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.
“Come now, Jane. Stand up and do it again.”
Do or do not. There is no try, my weary brain chittered at the tiny but implacable old lady currently staring at me with her wee fists balled at her hips. If I didn’t know she could drop me in a heartbeat, I would have picked her up by her giant silver bun to discus throw her into the trees. Instead, I laboriously clambered to my feet and then took a second to reclip my bangs off my face. I was growing them out, and they were officially at the stage where they were driving me crazy.
When finished, I slowly, painstakingly, cleared my mind, trying to picture my head as an empty room, painted all in white, that held no sound. I then pictured myself sitting cross-legged in the middle of that colorless, silent room — eyes shut and perfectly in control of both my body and my mind. I felt my breathing grow shallow as I tried to withdraw even further inward, to where the power lay within me.
“Concentrate, Jane, and pull from within,” came Nell’s soothing voice. “Now, this time, create the light without focusing on the light. The light is the natural result of your manipulating your powers. Don’t let the light itself distract you from control.”
I held my palm out in front of me. Technically, I didn’t need to use my hand to create the light. But it helped to solidify my visualization of what I wanted, and I’d seen that a lot of supernatural folk, including my lover, Ryu, used their hands in creative ways when making mage lights.
And Ryu has very creative hands, chimed in my ever- irrepressible libido, as if on cue.
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