The fire mage was no true fire mage. Alessa may have been born to a prominent family of fire mages – a specific, and rare, hereditary type of magic – but she had yet to summon a single flame. Her mother and father tried their best to hide their shame in her lack of abilities, but Alessa always felt it. Her sisters made snide comments about her lack of abilities, and Alessa always heard them. Her aunties began to limit the visits of her cousins, fearing their own precious babies might catch Alessa’s lack of talent. Her uncles pretended never to notice her, wishing to not be associated with Alessa in their social circles.
The only member of Alessa’s family that she seemed to not have disappeared for, was her baby brother, Tobias. Being the youngest two of seven children, with more years separating Alessa and Europa – her nearest in age elder sister – than Tobias had been alive, the pair had always been drawn more to one another’s company than any of the other Barnliekki children.
And three years ago, at the age of only five, Tobias had summoned his first inferno, and controlled it. Even better than Georgiana, the second-eldest and most talented fire mage in the family, had.
One autumn afternoon, Alessa was walking the estate grounds with Tobias. He was proudly telling her how he had managed to summon a fire spirit at his lessons that morning, a feat even Georgiana had never mastered. Tobias’ voice rung with pride and Alessa could not help but smile. Even though she always felt a gnawing jealousy of her baby brother, his joy in his triumphs – no, masteries – of the familial trade always warmed her. Tobias was both proud, and yet humbled by his abilities, a feat that always made Alessa proud of him in turn. He could have easily gotten an ego too big for the Barnliekki manor, just like Georgiana had.
As the pair of them walked the cobbled paths through the meticulously landscaped gardens and parks, Alessa was surprised to hear herself begin to lament to Tobias about her own stubborn magical abilities. Or lack thereof, in her case. They passed a grove of young maple saplings, their leaves as deep a red as any of the Barnliekki children’s locks of hair. Tobias and Alessa’s boots crunched through the fallen, dried leaves blanketing the path.
“Have you tried a radiant infusion?” Tobias asked thoughtfully.
“A what?” Alessa asked.
“A radiant infusion,” Tobias said again, as though simply repeating the name would cause Alessa to understand.
“I cannot say that I have,” she mused, not wanting to know what sort of new concoctions their parents had experimented with on their youngest child and only son. “I doubt it existed yet when Mother and Father were still attempting to curate my abilities.”
Tobias’ face scrunched up in confusion. “What do you mean, when they were still?” he asked.
“I mean they gave up on me when I was barely older than you are now,” Alessa said. “I suppose I do not blame them, most mages show some sort of inclination by the time they near their teen years.” When she looked beside her, Alessa was surprised to see that Tobias was not at her side any longer. She looked about in confusion, turning back the way they had come.
And there he stood. Staring at her, dumbfounded, his jaw dangling open. “What are you talking about?!?!” Tobias wailed, his arms flopping up and down dramatically. “Some of the best mages of this age did not show any sign of their power until well into their thirties!!”
“Well, Mother and Father decided one decade was enough to waste on me, they had you to think about by then, after all.”
She regretted the words the moment they were out of her mouth. Tobias’ face scrunched into a scowl, his brown eyes blazing angrily.
“I did not ask to be their special little project,” growled Tobias.
“I know you didn’t,” Alessa whispered, eyeing the smoke drifting around Tobias’ fingers. “I’m sorry, Toby, I did not mean it like that.”
The smoke began to vanish from around Tobias’ fingers and he squared his shoulders before stepping forward to walk alongside Alessa once more.
“I am sorry, you know,” she said again.
“I know you are,” Tobias said, his voice hard and sounding more like an adult than Alessa had ever heard it before.
They fell into a silence that felt more uneasy than they usually did. Tobias has always been the one that Alessa could just exist around. And now she wondered if she had jeopardized that.
A dried field appeared before them. Alessa wondered at the negligence of the gardeners, at the contempt her parents would hold at the sight. But as Tobias led her into it, Alessa realized it was not just a dried field. It was a scorched one. Magical practice had always been forbidden upon manor grounds. At least… they had been for the Barnliekki girls. But of course things would be different for Tobias.
Alessa eyed her little brother as he walked confidently to the center of the scorched ground. There was no slinking, no attempt to remain hidden, like he did not belong there. He walked out into that destroyed clearing in their parents’ garden like he owned the place. Or, like he’d made it.
She watched as smoke rose from small fissures in the ground. The cracked lines in the ruined ground glowed a warm, glowing amber. The ruined earth responding to the presence of Tobias and his immense power.
“Come on, Essa,” said Tobias, his voice having found the eager tone of a child once more. He motioned her forward. “I’ll practice with you!”
“But… Mother and…”
“I could burn the house down and they would still declare my brilliance,” Tobias interrupted. “Come on!”
Alessa relented and stepped forward onto the scorched patch of earth, facing her brother.
“Come stand beside me,” he said eagerly. Alessa obliged. “Hold your arms out like this,” Tobias declared, demonstrating. Again, Alessa obliged, mirroring her little brother. “Now,” Tobias continued, “you have to pull your power up from deep within you. Almost up from your toes, is what Father told me, which I know now is silly, but maybe it will help you.” He smiled at her, “Mother said it may even help to physically bend forward and imagine yourself pulling something back up with you, but it has to be the very fiber of what makes you, you.”
Alessa sighed and bent forward, her arms dangling down towards her toes. Closing her eyes, she pulled her fingers up into fists, imagining them closing around a heavy cloth. She began to rise, slowly unfurling her arms as she went. As her arms extended up over her head, she began to feel a strange sensation, a pressure, coming from everywhere within her and out, all at once.
“Do you feel that?!” Tobias cried. “I can feel it!! Keep going, and when your arms are all the way up, you have to push OUT!! Always OUT!!!!”
Alessa did not understand what that meant and she did not want to risk losing her concentration to ask. This is the closest she had ever been to magic.
Finally, with her arms stretched up towards the clouded sky, Alessa straightened her fingers and pushed up into the air. She felt strange, like she was stretching.
“Push harder!!” Tobias cried.
She felt a bead of sweat trickle down the back of her neck. There was an ache in her fingers. As she reached the point where she thought she would fail, or worse, when a burst of sparks shot forth from Alessa’s hands.
Not sparks – ice crystals.
The air was filled with the sound of ice tinkling against one another. Snowflakes mixed with the ice crystals. Alessa stared in bewilderment.
Tobias staggered back a step, his brown eyes wide as he stared from her ice and frost to Alessa. “You’re… you’re doing it Alessa!” he cried. His voice was filled with awe as the pair of them watched the ice and frost and snow pouring up and out of Alessa.
She finally felt spent, and collapsed into a heap on the ground. Tobias hurried forward to crouch beside her. Alessa looked at him, noticing his dark red hair coated in a layer of snow. His shoulders dusted, as well. The once-scorched ground around them was now covered in snow and ice. The frost patterns of the ice running in bands of scallops around them, coiling them up in their icy grip.
“In a generational family of fire mages,” Tobias said in wonder, “you’re an ice mage!!”
Alessa had not studied the various elemental magics like Tobias had, but she could tell by the tone of his voice that it was a rare thing indeed.
Inktober 2022, Prompt #4: SCALLOP; AND #5: FLAME – I cheated a little bit today, but being I am not doing the best at getting caught up…