Arroba: The Awakening - Chapter Nine.
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The painting is the scene he'd sketched in the living room; of me - sat in his black leather chair in my bra and black trousers, last month. Before we were kidnapped, and I had lost our maybe-baby - the happy days; before all of this crap started. My brown hair falls around my shoulders like a black waterfall in the dim light, and the fire roars and glows in the background. But; what pulses and pushes at you the most, is the look in my shining emerald eyes - the look he had asked me to keep, to relive, so he could capture it. And the only way I had been able to do that, was to look at him. And obviously, I had succeeded; because you cannot ignore the passion and lust within them, even in the painting. He had captured it perfectly. My eyes well up; and I have to wipe at them roughly, to stop myself becoming blind to the glory of the painting. I need to see it; to feel this - just for a moment - without any interruptions; especially by my silly inability not to cry at every damn little thing that moves me. A few moments later, and I can peel my eyes away from the painting. Levin had been watching me closely the whole time - not looking at the wonder of the painting, as he should be - but watching every flick of my eyes, every slight change in my expression, and my body language. He's so engrossed in my face, that when my eyes flick to his, he jumps slightly. 'I want to do our spell casting, but I can't do it in here. I'm sorry, but I won't be able to concentrate. Let's go into the living room, instead.' "Yes. Of course. I will fetch a book first, and then I will join you.' I don't say another thing, getting up from the chair and walking straight out of the room, and not stopping until I get into the living room. Levin takes quite a while to join me, and I know why; he's now looking at the painting ' before, he'd been engrossed in my reaction. But now, he's probably looking at the painting; trying to piece it all together. Either that, or he's confused by why I can still feel so strongly for a man that, less than twenty four hours ago, set out to hurt me as much as possible; and succeeded. If he were to ask me why I still care, I couldn't answer him well enough for him to understand - my feelings for Alistair just run too deeply, for it to sound the least bit rational or comprehensible. When he does walk into the room, there's a flinching hardness around his eyes. He doesn't say anything to me; just sits down cross-legged on the carpet. I join him, giving him a reassuring smile. He double-takes at that smile, and then, slowly, returns it, his eyes lightening, and his posture relaxing. After all, I can't explain it to him so, all there's left for me to do, is to make him feel easy about my reaction. Once the tension has lifted a little, we sit facing one another; cross-legged on the carpet. Levin has one of the books in his hands, and I'm lighting the many different herbs in the heavy bronze bowl in front of me. 'Right; how about, a simple one to start with. Uh.., a materializing spell for food; how about that?' I grin at his enthusiasm, and nod. 'Great. Alright; read through the incantation, and I will help you perform it.' He hands me the book, and I read through it several times, desperately trying to remember the words. I know from my own spell casting, that the less I can manage to not falter on the words, the easier the spell will be. So, I read through it a sixth time, and then place the book down in front of us both. 'Okay, done. What next?' 'Ground yourself. Then, as soon as I begin the incantation, you join me.' I nod, closing my eyes as I begin to ground myself. I grip the Malachite in my fingers, as I clear my mind of any negativity and noise. Once I'm light-headed, and full of static, I nod once; to let him know I am ready. He then begins to speak the words, and, after a moment, I join in. I know, from reading through the page, that I have to imagine the particular food I want to materialize as I say the words - so, I do so. Both of our voices pitch, as we start the third round of chanting, reciting words older than life on Earth; older than the Sovereign themselves. And, when we've finished the fifth cycle, we open our eyes. I look down at the floor, and smile as I see the grapes next to me, and the apples next to Levin, all complete with their own little bowls. 'It worked; brilliant.' I gushed. 'Ah, you should not doubt yourself so much, Dione. You are very powerful. Most students at the Academy have to attempt that one several times, before they are able to make it work.' I find confidence in his flattery; because I know, he doesn't give compliments easily or dishonestly. 'Okay; so you can take the same ritual, and use it with most materializing spells. The incantation will always be the same; all you have to do, is visualise a new object - and that can be anything from food, to clothes, to drinks. Pretty cool, hey?' 'Very. So, how does Ali transport himself? Surely that's a lot harder, but, does it work in the same manner? You know; you imagine yourself somewhere else, and poof - you go there?' He looks away for a moment, as he collects his thoughts, only talking when he finally brings his eyes back to mine. 'Even I cannot do that; and have not seen it done with any other supernatural of any kind. Alistair is a rule unto himself, and, I am not sure we should use him as an example. Because we would, most probably, fail at most of the spells. Not because we are inadequate; but because he is just that superior a spell caster.' I nod thoughtfully. He has a very good point; Ali is so very good at it all; and more powerful than anyone I have ever met. So I drop the subject. 'Okay; so, what shall we do next?' He flicks through the book for a moment, and then says, 'shall we carry on with some defence spells? Perhaps a cloaking one?' I suddenly feel very excited; I've wanted to be able to do this spell for so very long. I nod quickly in response, and he grins at me. 'Alright then. This spell is very different from the one we have just done. Instead of using an incantation said aloud, we have to think it - whilst releasing our essence. When you have done that, you will instruct your essence what to do. Now, don't be disappointed if this doesn't work straight away. This is a high grade spell; that most don't achieve within their first few years at the Academy, alright?' 'Sure. I'm trying not to expect anything that way. I won't be disappointed.' He smiles. 'That is very wise of you.' 'Thanks.' I return his smile and really feel relaxed; for the first time in a week. And, considering what happened yesterday, I'm doing very well indeed. I should be falling apart by now, but instead, I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel. How long this warm, lovely feeling will last, I don't know; because I can feel it's limited. Far too quickly, I'll start to get the ache back in my chest, and my body will course with anguish and nerves. I know that; but for now I'm' marginally ok. 'Read through the incantation, and we will get started. The only advice I can give you, is to really concentrate on guiding your essence; enabling it to do as you ask. It may feel like the opposite of everything you have done before; because I know, from my own experience, that when you are raw, it feels like your essence guides you., but, in actual fact, it is the other way around. Remember that, and you will be fine.' I take the book from his hands, and begin to read. The text in this book, is ancient Arrobian; unlike the Latin of the last, and I fumble over a couple of words, not entirely sure how to pronounce them. I ask Levin, and he helps me with ease. Once I get the pronunciation under my belt, I close my eyes and begin to ground myself again. Once I'm at that lovely, static place, I begin to whisper the words through my head. And, once I've finished the first cycle, I release my essence from the little bottle; deep within myself. It rushes to the surface; so violently and eagerly, the sensation catches my breath in my throat. It's been too long, since I've welcomed it to the surface - and it's going to make me pay, just a little, for that. As soon as I think that, I realise this is exactly what Levin meant. I mustn't let it control me. I'm the controller - not the other way around. I'm not a host. I try to find some discipline, and direct it at my essence; and it's a lot harder than I had expected. But eventually - after a few minutes - I get the hang of it. I repeat the incantation several times, and my essence reacts; immediately this time. It shimmers and swirls; until eventually, it turns a brilliant golden color, instead of the vibrantly deep red it usually is. I follow the instructions from the book, and flick my fingers several times over myself. I'll eventually be able to do this without giving away any tells, but, for now, I have to do the physical action, to direct the magic. My essence rushes through every pore of my body, and my spine bows, throwing my head back. I have to breathe deeply through the sensation; and, once I have it under control, I direct it to cover the entirety of my body. But now the tricky bit; keeping the connection; keeping it at a slow lazy ebb; a few times I falter - and it begins to shrink back into myself. I finally get hold of it; like turning a tap on, to just the right amount, then I open my eyes. Keeping my concentration rock-solid; and not thinking about anything - other than holding the pace. I hold it for as long as possible, and then let it slink back; into the deep dark place of its habitat. Levin is smiling when I've finished. 'Did it work?' I say wiping sweat from my upper lip. 'Yes, perfectly. It diminished a couple of times; but you did make it work perfectly.' 'How long did I manage to maintain it?' 'About five minutes. This is to be expected. The more you practice, the longer you will be able to keep it in place.' I grin. I did it. A spell so beyond me; so difficult - and I've done it! I move the smoking bronze bowl to one side, and throw myself into Levin; gripping him tightly. He returns my hug, and I can hear quiet laughter ripple through his chest. 'Oh Levin; thank you so much, for helping me. I thought I wouldn't ever get this opportunity!' He laughs quietly for a minute, and then whispers into my ear, 'you are most welcome Dione. This is fun for me also; more so than I had anticipated.' I look up at him. 'Really? You don't find this tedious?' 'Not at all. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. You should have had this opportunity a very long time ago, and I take great joy in being able to give it to you... finally.'