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Story Time: Magic Practice

This story time takes place during 5.12, as in, in the middle of 5.12. Like, right in the middle. I like this story time for a few reasons, most of which you won’t find out until season six. So please, take this story and speculate.

Let’s go!

*

Larkin was used to tension. His magic was held in difficult balance, arguably the hardest and most important balance he held. It should get easier, holding tension like that, the longer you did it. Muscles got stronger when you exercised them.

It should get easier, but it didn’t, not when the tension was constant.

“I have…I have time now,” Rukes said, standing up, looking pointedly at Larkin.

“O-oh!” He stood up as well, aware of a sudden release in tension. Relief. Why relief, why in this circumstance? “Uh, sure.”

“I ought to practice buffs, anyhow,” Rukes said, with a casualness that belied how much they’d been working on it when they and Larkin were alone. Still though—

“I…I’d rather you not practice on me, um…” Larkin protested weakly.

Rukes stared him down, inscrutable. “Well someone has to be my victim.”

Regrettably, this was true. Buffs had to have a living target in order for Larkin to evaluate if they worked, and Rukes always insisted on an evaluation. He didn’t know how they stood up to the critique.

Yak sighed and rose out of her chair. “Why not?”

Ah, the tension was back. “Oh! A—are you…are you sure?”

“Better now than when we’re fighting a dragon,” Yak returned.

Larkin looked to Rukes as Yak spoke to Max and Phoebe. Rukes looked…impassive. They shrugged one shoulder slightly. Great, Larkin didn’t know what that meant. They didn’t care? How could they not?

“Okay, I guess we’re practicing!” Larkin said, trying to be chipper. “So, you already know the basic theory of projectile magic, right?”

Rukes narrowed their eyes. They didn’t, of course they didn’t. “Remind me.”

The three of them went outside. The inn was in a little village mostly populated by dwarfs that was really only a road and a few buildings outside a mine entrance. Yak and Rukes had thought to grab their coats as proof against the cold rain, but Larkin was never really too cold, so he just flipped his cowl over his horns. It’s funny, he thought, he hadn’t had to wear his cowl in a while. A tiefling was not welcomed anywhere alone, but a tiefling who was part of an adventuring party could be overlooked.

“Magic is all about the flow of power,” Larkin said, as he’d said to Rukes before. “Technically, if you’re good enough at magic, you can just will things to happen, but almost nobody is good enough at magic to do that, which is why we use material components or spell foci or movements and words.”

This was review, which was an important way to begin a lesson. And Rukes was nodding along. “So projectile magic is like, throwing some of that power out from yourself.”

“Should we go over there?” Yak asked, pointing across the road to a small clearing devoid of trees.

“Good idea,” Larkin said, and they all started across the road. “And yeah, more or less. The trick is where the energy comes from, because it needs momentum to strike, and the physicality can help with that.”

“What do you mean, where it comes from?” Yak asked.

“Oh! Um.” Larkin genuinely didn’t expect Yak to be interested in this. “Like…a wizard will tell you that their energy comes from their mind and heart, the center of themself. And for me…it feels more like shaping clay on a pottery wheel, it’s…it’s something that’s always around. Right in front of me.”

“Hm.” Rukes frowned at the air as they arrived in the little clearing.

“What’s it feel like to you, then?” Yak asked.

“I don’t know,” Rukes grumped. “It doesn’t feel like anything.”

“That can’t be true,” Larkin blurted.

Rukes gave him a look of absolute scorn. “It’s not like it’s my power. It’s Sune’s.”

“It’s Sune’s power, but it’s your energy,” Larkin said, resisting the urge to wring his hands. They were so glib about their magic. “It comes from you. That has to feel like something.”

Rukes shrugged. “Anyway, since Yak’s here, I’m not working on projectile magic.”

This was going to bother him, but Larkin opted to let it go. “Yeah…yeah, fine, let’s do some buffs practice first.”

“All right, move back a little bit,” Rukes told Yak, and Yak put some distance between the two of them. “What should I do, a Shield?”

“Try something more complicated this time,” Larkin encouraged them. “You remember talking about Aid?”

“Sure.” Rukes took a slow breath.

“You aiding me?” Yak joked. “That’d be a change.”

“Don’t pay them any attention, focus,” Larkin said.

“I am focused.” Rukes glowered at Yak, and then put their hands up, and then put them down. “Gods. I don’t…Larkin, you psyched me out.”

“What do you mean, I psyched you out?” Tension, tension between Larkin and Rukes now, that wasn’t a tension he wanted!

“Now I can’t stop thinking!” Rukes snapped.

“Oh, there’s another change,” Yak commented.

“Shut up,” Rukes said to them, and then to Larkin, “I’m in my head about this now.”

“What did you do before that you’re forgetting now?” Larkin asked, not entirely sure what the answer was, trying to think of it before Rukes did.

“I don’t know!” Rukes sputtered.

Yak laughed. “I can’t believe you’ve got the yips. This is literally your only job.”

Rukes held out a hand at Yak and spoke, their voice starting to echo: “I said, shut your toothy mouth!”

A blinding flash of light burst from Rukes’ hand and struck Yak in the chest.

“Ack!” Yak doubled over in pain, swearing in Draconic.

“Oh my gods!” Larkin ran over to Yak, holding out his hands without touching her, because that seemed like it went too far and he wasn’t entirely certain she wouldn’t kill him. “Yak, are you okay?”

“What the hell, Rukes?” Yak gasped.

Rukes cackled.

“Rukes,” Larkin sighed. “That’s not funny.”

“It’s hilarious,” Rukes gasped. “Oh man. See if you chuck any more insults at me.”

“You suck,” Yak spat. “You’re the worst.”

“That’s what you get,” Rukes said, approaching the two of them, still chuckling. “I don’t insult your muscles. Here, be whole.

A faint magic sound rang through the rain. Yak took a deep breath and coughed once. “Holy Molt. Why’d you have to cast on me like that?”

“Why’d you have to mock me?” Rukes returned, which was an excellent cover for the truth of the matter, that Rukes hadn’t meant to do it at all. “You going to be nice now?”

“I’m going to go inside,” she growled, and turned back to the inn. “Experiment on Larkin.”

“Aw, c’mon, Yak,” Larkin said, feeling like a little kid pleading for someone to play with him, but Yak just hunched their shoulders and didn’t turn back.

Rukes snickered. “So that’s projectile magic.”

Tension: of keeping a secret, of worry that Rukes would mistreat their magic, of a blatant lack of control. “You could have really hurt them, Rukes.”

“She’s fine.” Rukes waved a lackadasical hand. “I know how to do this now, though. I should thank them.”

“You think you know how to do this now?” Larkin scoffed.

“Yeah,” Rukes said, and extended a hand. “To hell with that tree stump in particular.” The sentence echoed as they spoke it, and that flash of light appeared again, striking the tree stump and splitting it in half. Rukes laughed, absolutely delighted.

Larkin huffed and crossed his arms. This was irresponsible. This was stressful. Tension.

“That’s what power looks like,” Rukes said, grinning. “Why are you so upset? This was what we were going for.”

“I’m not upset,” Larkin grumbled.

Rukes gave them a look of withering skepticism.

“You’re just—you’re not taking this seriously,” Larkin sputtered.

“And why exactly should I?” Rukes asked dryly.

“This power is not a toy, and—and you have a relationship with a god to maintain, and—”

“You’re jealous,” Rukes said decisively.

“I am not—what are you talking about?”

“This comes easy to me and it’s not fair, right?” Rukes pulled a coin out of their pocket, flipped it in their hand, cast Light on it in mid-air, and then caught it and snuffed it out just as easily. “You have to work for control. I don’t.”

Larkin deflated. He was being petty. A new kind of tension. And it did make him jealous. “That’s…beside the point.”

“What’s the point, then?” Rukes slipped the coin back into their pocket.

“I don’t want you hurting yourself or anyone else over something stupid like carelessness,” Larkin muttered.

Rukes began, “I’m not about to hurt—”

“You already did!” Larkin snapped.

Rukes looked surprised by the outburst. If Larkin was honest, he was a little surprised himself.

“All right, maybe you have a point,” Rukes said finally.

A release in tension. “Really?”

“I’m not about to take Sune more seriously, she knows what she did.” Rukes sniffed. “But I’ll avoid being careless.”

Relief. A flood of relief. The mental muscles holding the tension relaxed a little, and felt almost sore.

“Thanks,” Larkin sighed. “Right.”

“I think I was wrong before,” Rukes added. “The magic does feel like something. It’s subtle, though.”

“Really!” Larkin moved so he could look them in the eye. “What does it feel like?”

Rukes avoided his gaze, flexing their hands. “It’s…the momentum, the way the energy flows, it’s about the words. I have to mean it.”

Larkin exhaled, nodding. “That makes sense, it’s…related to prayer, maybe.”

“Maybe.” They looked as though they had something else to say, but decided against it.

“What?” Larkin asked.

“It’s stupid,” Rukes said, waving a dismissive hand.

“You can tell me,” Larkin offered hopefully.

Rukes considered for a moment before saying, “I’m not beautiful. I know that.”

“That’s not true,” Larkin said automatically, because that was what you told someone who was denigrating their appearance.

“I’m not fishing for compliments, idiot, I’m just saying a fact,” Rukes scoffed. “I’m not breaking any hearts here.”

That, Larkin thought, was a very sad thing to think about yourself, especially since Rukes had a perfectly nice face. But he kept that opinion to himself.

“Something about the magic, just in the split second I’m casting, it feels…” Rukes paused for a moment. “It makes me feel like I’m…shining like a star.”

Their voice was a little raspy, a little distant. Larkin felt like an outsider in this conversation. What must it be like, to have a relationship with magic that wasn’t just…

Tension.

“I didn’t ask for your judgment,” Rukes grumbled.

Oh, he was staring. “No, I…that sounds really nice.”

Rukes looked skeptical. “Why are you humoring me?”

“I’m not,” Larkin protested. “I’m…I’m jealous.”

Rukes searched his face, and then averted their gaze. “You don’t have to be jealous of me.”

Their tone was so regretful. Larkin suddenly worried about Rukes, which was new. Rukes was the one who always knew what to do.

They were silent for a moment, and in that silent moment, there was no tension.

“Okay, enough of that,” Rukes said. “Are we practicing or what?”

“Yeah, uh…you want to do more magic projectiles or—”

“Sure. What do you call the one I just did?”

Published inStory Time