Gentle voices sing, growing softer or louder when the music calls for it. The song is calming, almost a lullaby. The damp, darkness fills with the voices, bringing small warmth to the cell.
Ime, sixteen years old, curls into a tighter ball on the hard bed. His tear-streaked face is hot from his silent crying. His eyes, stinging from his tears, open slowly as he listens to the calming singing.
Whispers echo from other cells. Some join in, humming where they don’t know the words. Other whispers are of surprise. They’ve never heard the ones from this cell speak, let alone sing.
The voices stop as the song comes to an end. Creaking signals Ime’s two roommates turning on their beds to face him. Ime remains still, not wanting to meet the eyes of the two strange men.
“Hey. You feeling better?”
“Kylii, give him more time.”
“Why? He’s stopped crying. That means he’s good enough to talk.”
“Let him decide when he’s good enough.”
“But that could take days.”
A slap is heard, followed by a small cry of pain. “It hasn’t even been the first night. Give him time.”
“Fine. But don’t hit me again, Daniil-li.”
Silence fills the cell. Weeping rises from the darkness from another cell. Ime holds a hand out in front of him. He reaches deep inside to where his fire used to be. He tries to bring it back. But nothing changes. He can feel his other magic working to bring his fire forth, but his fire is gone.
He stares at his hand, willing his fire to appear. After a moment with no success, he lowers his hand on the bed. He listens to the cries from the other cells and the distant sounds of men pacing back and forth.
Rolling to his other side, Ime stares at the two sitting on their beds. “Can you sing again?”
The smiles that greet him fills Ime with hope. Hope that he may survive his new home at the Arena.
Ime sits up quickly. The Arena fades before his eyes as the gentle voices begin singing. They’re replaced by a single voice. The dark walls disappear and become tall mountains. The weeping men change to animals calling across the plains.
Daniil and Kylii become Kiphy, sitting on his rock with a small fire burning before him. He sings as he cooks a row of fish. His pale eyes look at Ime and his singing stops.
“Ah, you’re awake. I’ve some food prepared. Eat.”
Ime moves closer to the fire and sees cooked fish resting on a rock. He picks up two and begins eating. “I’ve heard that song before.”
Kiphy removes the last of the fish from the fire and grabs one to eat. “I assume from Daniil and Kylii. Their mother used to sing it to them whenever they’d cry.”
Without warning, Kiphy throws a large stone at Ime. Ime raises a hand and the stone stops in mid air. He throws the stone back at Kiphy who simply leans to the side, dodging.
“You’ve good control of your magic. I assume you had to compensate for the loss of your fire by mastering the other elements,” Kiphy says, taking a large bite from the fish in his hands.
“I didn’t have my fire as long as my other magic before Klaeon took it away.”
“They came to you one at a time?”
“Yes. Earth, air, water, and fire. But even though fire was last, I felt a deeper connection to it than the others.”
“That’s because you can create fire. You don’t need a preexisting source.”
“I’ve seen others create their own fire.”
“Yes, but they can’t control the other elements, can they?”
Thinking carefully, Ime reaches for a new fish. “Is there a possibility I could create my own water and earth?”
Furrowing his brow, Kiphy leans his head to the side. “You mean without a source of water and earth? Possibly, but there’s no real need to. There’s plenty of earth and water for you to use. Let’s stay focused on your fire, for now.”
They finish their meal, eating every fish Kiphy prepared, and Ime goes to the lake to wash up. When he returns, Kiphy motions him to sit. “You should rest more. You’ll need to be fully energized.”
“You should get as much sleep as possible. It’ll be hard to come by in the next month.”
“No. I want to start now.”
Staring indifferently at Ime, Kiphy leans forward. “Fine. Tell me about your magic.”
“You know about my magic.”
“Yes. But tell me what you know about your magic.”
Ime takes a moment to gather his thoughts, remembering how he explained his magic to Meah back at Jaxon’s village. “Each magic is different. It comes from a different place. My air magic is an extension of my body, using the air encircling me to reach out to move everything around me. Earth comes from my center, using the power of my legs to shift the ground beneath me and my air magic to help maneuver and direct it.”
Kiphy crosses his arms. “But you don’t need air magic to move the earth, do you?”
“No. I can shift the earth below however I need to, air magic increases the speed.”
“Water is the most pleasant feeling out of all of them. My entire body goes into controlling it. I can feel the water in me telling the water around me what to do, like a second thought.”
“And what about your fire?”
Ime slowly places a hand over his heart. “My fire comes from here, the burning in my chest. But I feel all of my other magic working together to bring the fire out. I had to learn fire last.”
“What you speak of when you describe your magic and where it comes from inside you is very important. Though your descriptions are a bit childish,” Kiphy says.
“Childish because it’s only the surface. Where you feel your magic is only where it manifests into our world. In order to fully understand your magic and to get your fire back, you must understand where it comes from before that.”
Ime shakes his head, confused. “I don’t understand.”
Laughing, Kiphy rolls his eyes. “Of course you don’t. That’s why I’m here. To help you understand.” He waves his hand over the small flames of the fire. He turns his hand upwards and a flame dances on his palm.
“You can use fire?” Ime asks, his eyes widening.
“No, I can manipulate things around me, but that’s not important right now. This fire. Tell me how it’s made without magic.”
“Gather wood to burn and create sparks.”
“A simple explanation. But where do the sparks come from?”
“Rub two sticks together. A more practical way is flint and stone.”
Nodding, Kiphy plays with the flame on his hand. “Again, a simple explanation. But what I asked was where do the sparks come from?”
Ime shakes his head, not understanding.
Kiphy places his hand over the flame and stretches the fire. He slams his hands together and the flame goes out. When he pulls his hands apart, small sparks are seen twinkling between his palms.
“These sparks come from things we can’t see. Reactions occurring at such a small level, human eyes can never view. When flint and stone strike or when two pieces of wood rub together, these small things unseen by our eyes create what’s needed for the spark to happen. Thus, creating the very thing needed for a fire to start.”
The sparks stop and Kiphy rubs his hands together.
Ime’s eyes lighten with understanding. “You’re talking about the source.”
Placing a finger on the side of his nose, Kiphy smiles. “You’re catching on. Magic comes from a source. All magic. Beneath that source are divisions that determine what type of magic, such as Healer, Seer, Elemental, and so on. These divisionary sources are ingrained into us from the moment we’re born.”
“The main source. What’s that compared with the divisionary sources?”
“The main source is what gives all magic the power to come into being. However, it can never be taken away. Divisionary sources can.”
Ime’s eyes darken. “Klaeon took my fire source.”
“But he can’t take away the main source of your magic.” Kiphy pauses and his eyes search Ime’s face. “Do you know why there are forbidden magic?”
“It’s unnatural magic. Magic that shouldn’t be.”
Kiphy laughs and shakes his head. “All magic is unnatural, Ime. We’re all users of things humankind shouldn’t be able to do. It’s only become something normal, but it will never be natural.”
“What about beasts that use magic?”
“They’re products of magic. Their ancestors were powerless at one time. The magic introduced to them, shaped them. Maybe thousands of years down the line humans will be shaped by the magic and then it’ll be natural. But for now, it’s still something we as humans shouldn’t be able to do. But back to the question.”
“Why is there forbidden magic?”
“I will only speak of Blood Magic since it’s the only kind you’ve witnessed yourself. Of all the forbidden magic, Blood Magic is unique because it’s only found in one place. A village no one has ever seen that practices the darkest of magic. Blood Magic is their most powerful and can only be used by one person once a generation. What makes it forbidden is it chooses whom it will grant its power. The one it chooses is one who doesn’t have a source of magic in them. It can only be used by one who is never meant to use magic.”
“Klaeon is a non magic user?” Ime asks in shock.
“Yes. Forbidden magic is magic that isn’t connected to the main source of magic. It’s separate. Creating its own source and surviving in a way no other magic can.”
“How is that possible?”
“It’s one of the things we’ll never truly understand about magic. The rules of magic are known only to the gods.”
“What’s the main source of magic?”
“We don’t know. We only know there’s a main source and divisionary sources. No one’s ever been able to find the source.”
“But since Klaeon couldn’t take away my main source, you think if I can tap into it, I can bring my fire back.”
Kiphy smiles. “No. The fire he took was only the first step of your magic. What I plan to do is release your true fire magic.”