Sery stood in the middle of one of Eterna’s larger workrooms, eyes closed and magical senses extended. Marielle and Tasielle, her volunteers for this exercise, stood together at one end of the room.
Sery frowned in puzzlement and frustration; no matter how hard she tried, the twins registered as a single person to her senses. At her gesture, they moved apart; when they had almost the entire room between them, she could finally sense two separate
, except the two
exactly the same, when every other person she had ever encountered had a distinct magical signature.
She gave up and opened her eyes. “It’s like you have the same
,” her words soft but frustrated.
The twins exchanged a glance. “Well, kind of,” said Marielle.
“We’re in resonance,” said Tasielle.
“Resonance?” Sery repeated blankly.
“Um, it’s like our
are ‘in tune’, so to speak, so we can share mana particles, even when we’re far apart,” said Marielle. “We haven’t actually studied it much, because we were born this way. It happens pretty often with identical twins, but not always.”
“Twins who have dissimilar personalities tend not to be in resonance,” Tasielle elaborated. “Mages can learn to tune their
to match others, but it’s very hard and usually only for short periods of time.”
Sery nodded slowly, absorbing the information. She would have to read up on the subject. Maybe it was something she could do? It did not sound like it would require the active use of magic. “Thank you for helping. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell you two apart.”
The twins laughed. “That’s fine,” said Marielle. “We’ll just keep introducing ourselves every day.”
“Let’s go buy some snacks at the market before the play starts,” said Tasielle, leading the way out of the workroom.
Veltyen pretended to read a book and tried to decipher Sery’s latest behaviour. She had chosen to take the single seat in his living room and had been staring at him with almost unblinking concentration for the past half hour.
She was not trying to get his attention; he had looked up a few times and she had blushed and apologized for staring. She was not actually paying attention to his actions, or she would have noticed he had not turned the page in his book for quite some time.
Her concentration showed no signs of flagging even after this length of time. What could possibly be that interesting about him today?
He could not stand the mystery any longer. “Sery,” he said, voice deliberately gentle. She still jumped at the sound. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Um… Listening,” she answered hesitantly.
“Listening to what?”
The answer was not as confusing as it might have been a few weeks ago, when they had determined that Sery’s ability to sense mages in her vicinity was an extension of her ability to feel
. He assumed Sery was working on some new technique she had read about, but gave in to the urge to tease. “Don’t you already know what it sounds like?”
He let her flounder for a few seconds before a grin broke out on his face. “Come here.”
Sery padded over on silent feet and he tucked her against his chest, knowing she sensed more detail with physical contact. “Better?”
He felt her nod before leaning her head on his shoulder, and the ambient magic level increased.
Content in a way he never could have imagined before Sery stumbled into his life, he settled down to actually read his book, a manual on the practicalities of permanent-alteration materials magic. It was a branch of magic he had little training in, but he was starting to realize it would be helpful if he had a secondary specialization that would allow him to stay closer to home.
Chapter 1: Low-Energy States
Unlike the branch of temporary property alteration, in which the amount of magic consumed is directly proportional to the magnitude of the change in the material properties from baseline and the duration of time the change is maintained, permanent property alteration is characterized by intermittent stable states to which change is possible, with areas in between either requiring high magic consumption or being entirely impossible to fix the material on a permanent basis. “Low-energy” states are relative to the higher energy states around them, and are not all equally easy to fix. The closest stable state to the material’s baseline is not necessarily the lowest energy and therefore may not be the most magic-efficient to convert to.
Sensing the multiple possible stable states and selecting the one most suited to the mage’s needs is…
A deepening in Sery’s breathing told him that she had fallen asleep. Smiling, he snagged the blanket folded over the back of the couch to cover her before continuing his reading.
A gentle chime alerted Sery that someone had contacted her apartment’s communication crystal. Entering her apartment’s library/office – Veltyen used the equivalent in his apartment as an equipment room – she touched the crystal to accept the call.
She was surprised to see that it was not Foria who was calling, but rather Evodie. The fashion designer looked as immaculate as usual, her blonde ringlets artfully arranged and her green mage-robe intricately woven with a subtle pattern.
“Sery! I’ve cleared time for you next week. Are you free Fivesday morning?”
“…I think so,” Sery answered.
“Excellent! I’ll see you then, let’s say around nine o’clock?”
“…Okay, but what for?” Sery ventured.
Evodie looked mildly affronted. “To fit you for your winter wardrobe, obviously. I expected you to contact me weeks ago to schedule it! There’s no way that the light jackets I made before have been adequate for how chilly it’s been.”
Sery wore a guilty expression and Evodie’s affront grew into full outrage. “I don’t
this! You’ve been wearing someone else’s clothing!” the designer accused.
“Veltyen bought me a coat,” Sery admitted in a mumble.
“Oh, I am going to have
with that man! And I will be seeing
on Fivesday. Some second-rate, no-name,
The mage said ‘off-the-rack’ the way someone else might say ‘flea-infested’.
Sery nodded meekly. Evodie’s eyes narrowed while the corner of her mouth twitched.
“Stop being cute,” she ordered. More grudgingly, she added, “Wear the coat. It’s cold out.” She ended the call without waiting for a reply.
Bemused, Sery went across the hall to tell Veltyen about her new appointment.
“Come in!” he said in response to her knock, so she touched her hand to the crystal panel and entered.
Veltyen sat in his equipment room, focusing his attention on one of the cloths he used to clean his weaponry. The formerly white cloth was now an uneven blue. It lost most of its colour saturation as he looked up, but a blue tinge remained.
“Hi Sery,” he said with a smile. “Make yourself comfortable. I got more of the cookies you like.”
Sery walked into the kitchen, starting the water boiling to make tea at the same time she made up a plate of cookies. Brewing the tea to Veltyen’s exact preferences, she carried a tray over to the living room, where he had moved, still holding the cloth.
“Thanks,” he said, pouring for them both.
“Evodie called,” Sery said.
Veltyen grinned. “She’s really mad at me about the coat, isn’t she?”
“‘Oh, I am going to have
with that man’,” Sery parroted from memory.
Veltyen laughed. It was Sery’s favourite sound in the world. “Words won’t be the least of it, I’m sure,” he joked.
“I have to go for a fitting on Fivesday morning. …Want to come?” she ventured.
“Of course. We’ll make it a race.” Though Mindseye was considerably shorter than Magewhisper, she was better at manipulating magic, and the two mage mounts were fairly similar in speed at a mage-sprint.
“Okay,” Sery agreed happily.
“My dear, you’ve gained weight,” Evodie said approvingly as she magicked fabrics. “You were far too thin last time.”
Evodie’s fashion house was a sizeable three-storey building in the centre of Nottagan’s fashion district. The first floor was a bustling storefront, the second a maze of fitting rooms and work rooms, and the third reserved for Evodie herself and her junior partners. Eclectic artwork hung on the walls and swathes of bright fabric were everywhere. The feeing of controlled chaos permeated the space.
Compared to Sery’s previous wardrobe, Evodie now chose heavier, warmer fabrics for the fall and winter. This season, the fashion was to have slightly off-colour thread run through the cloth, depicting a subtle pattern, and Evodie used her magic to create beautiful patterns of waves, flowers, and geometric shapes.
Sery gasped when Evodie pulled out a roll of scarlet cloth that had an almost metallic shine.
“This is mage-silk, from the Sunrise Empire. I’ll use it to make your gown for the Longnight Ball.”
“Longnight Ball?” Sery repeated without recognition.
“The Guild Association holds it at their headquarters every year here in Nottagan. Anyone registered with them is welcome to attend, and the guild heads pretty much always go. Veltyen usually weasels out of it, but
, my dear, are going whether he likes it or not. Now stand up straight so I can fit this properly.”
The silk glided over Sery’s skin like liquid. She was sure the fabric had to be ruinously expensive. “Are you sure you want to use this on me?” she ventured.
“Of course. You are my muse for this season. This dress will be the
of House Evodie, and everyone who sees it must immediately crave one of my designs.”
Evodie fussed over her silk creation, completely reweaving the design three times before she was satisfied. “Okay, let’s go test it out.”
Veltyen sat on a bench outside Evodie’s workroom, changing the colour of a spare scrap of cloth. The mages here were quite proficient at the task and had given him enough advice that he could now manage an even colour throughout. His problem now was to increase efficiency; he used ten times the amount of magic they did to accomplish the same task.
The door opened, and a vision in red came out. Only when Sery started to blush did he close his gaping mouth.
“Success,” Evodie said smugly.
The sleeveless mage-robe was simple in design except for twists in the nonetheless seamless fabric that added visual interest along the front. Ghostly suggestions of roses washed through the fabric, darkening enough to look like embroidery near the edges. An underskirt of darker red added volume to the gown. None of this explained how vibrant and adult Sery looked while wearing it.
“It’s… wow,” was all he could say.
“She’s going to the Longnight Ball, and unless you want her to fend off the hordes of young men by herself, you’re going too,” Evodie said sternly.
“What… that’s… okay.”
Taking advantage of his stunned state, Evodie dragged him into the workroom for a fitting.