“Alright, I think I am set”, Erim says, placing a set of drums on the floor of the Hangar. I frown. Those drums… there is a rank smell of them, suggesting… deer? Merith gives the drums a serious look, one she bestows on Erim. “I believe that I was told you were not allowed drums as part of the settlement?”
I stare at Erim. What settlement? Who forbid him from drums? And what does drums have to do with this?
“I called Aristomache”, Erim responds in an even voice. “Got permission.” I raise a hand. “Who is Aristomache, what is the deal with the drums and what settlement?” Erim refuses to meet my eyes. “Erim attacked a Branch-Chief of Pier 7. She holds the prerogative to kill any supernatural that stands in her way, but rather than killing him, she sent him here”, Merith temporizes.
Erim glances at Merith, a glance that for some reason seems thankful. /There is something the two of them aren’t telling./ You sure?/ I think you are right about him being grateful, and he is grateful for something that is left unsaid./ I drag my head back to the conversation.
“… you ready Rune?”
I nod, making a note to ask Erim about this later. Then pause. “How do you want to go about with this?” “Start small”, Merith cautions.
I pull two strains from Verde. Erim has closed his eyes and is listening for something. Merith is scratching her skin in an absent manner. “Any reaction?” I ask.
“Too faint to make out”, Erim responds.
“I can feel it” Merith retorts,” but it’s too little magic for me to absorb.”
I pull three strains. Erim raises one hand and starts to hit a beat on the drums. I feel a faint tug on the strains that I derive from Verde, but one that somehow comes from outside,externally. “That you, Merith?” Merith nods and the tug disappears.
Four strains and Erim’s beat picks up and the furtive tugs of Merith’s magic becomes stronger.
Five strains and Erim brings out both hands whereas the hair on Merith’s arms is standing up.
Six strains and the complexity of Erim’s beat increases, two melodies, that, it seems to me, move in opposition to one another. Merith flexes her arms.
Seven strains and Erim takes out a drum-stick. A faint ring of green has formed around Merith’s pupils.
Eight strains-“hold”, Merith calls. I stop there. “This isn’t going to work, not like I’d intended. I can’t hold much more than this.” She pauses, considering. “Erim will make sure that you don’t lose control and will drain your excess magic as a stop-measure.”
Rather than speak, Erim nods, while concentrating on the beat. “Right”, I say, not liking this turn of events. “Want me to go to the limit of what I can do then?” Erim switches hands with an air of measurement. Eventually he nods.
Ten strains. I shudder.This is what it feels like to be drunk. I could tear up the world like this. /Focus./ I snap back to reality. The beat is still going strong. “Now then”, Merith begins,” go a little higher.”
I formulate eleven strains. I sink to the floor and scream. Immediately, I can tell this is too much. The magic wants to go out, out of my skin, my bones, my very pores. Shapes and forms within my sight starts to blur. I should- a steady, rythmic sound fills my ear. The magic doesn’t recede, but it calms down. I blink, and my sight is better, with shapes arriving on the horisont of my vision.
Erim is straining slightly and Merith is watching me like a hawk. /Try to shapeshift./ I raise an arm, envisioning what I want within the parametres of what can be done. My nails grow long and translucent. My skin ripples, and the hair on my arms disappears, replaced instead by scales. I envision that very change onto my entire body.
Merith whistles. “Not half-bad, but I know for a fact that you’ve taken this form before”, I nod. When I first used my magic in that junkyard a long time ago, I looked like this. Once, experimenting in the forests around Fallowfell, I grew the badger-length claws. When the detectives interrogated me in regards to Alexandra’s graverobbing, I was close to reaching this form in anger.
But this is different; I can control it./ You mean to say that you control it through the use of borrowed magic,Erim’s magic./
“Hurry”, Erim mutter between clenched teeth.
Twelve strains. The interval between Erim managing to assert control of my magic and that involuntary lack of control is much more smoother now. Sixty percent of my full power. What will happen when I reach twenty strains, or the full hundred percent of the magic Verde can convey to me? Magic, as my experiments have shown, can be both energy and mass. What if…. the skin on my elbows split, and I grow great spikes of bone.
Thirteen strains. “I can’t match the tempo from this point on”, Erim grits out. “Meaning?” Merith asks.
“That for now this will have to do”, he says, maintaining the beat.
I shrug. Thirteen strains, or sixty-five percent of my full potential is still more than normal. Abruptly he cuts the beat.
Static.Fury. Someone screaming in the background.