Perpetual Low-level Panic

I don’t think my family and roommates quite thought through what it would be like going through this transition with me. Or maybe they did, and didn’t tell me they knew what they were signing up for.

Because I certainly didn’t.

Soft road-raging and regular word-vomit, escape mode when I should be enjoying the novelty, fussing up a storm about things that aren’t technically my responsibility, sleeping in the same bed as me for 5 weeks, broken ranting sessions full of things I mostly don’t mean but need to cleanse myself from at 11pm when you have to be up at 5:20am for work the next morning, tearful, timid conversations about how scared and anxious and tired I am, random texts about how California’s the worst because money and traffic, unexpected fits of “I got the job but I still feel like the interview went badly and I can’t stop feeling so incredibly awkward about it.” And so on, and so on.

I used to think I was generally pretty easygoing. But perhaps not in a time of such transition when I was in the middle of one of those “off” years anyway—when everything feels forced and painful and borderline useless, yet everything’s changing out from under me because of this step I’ve made. I’m still hurting from the burnout of this last year, but I’ve launched myself into a position where nothing is familiar or straightforward; and swift, multifaceted adaptation is demanded or else.

So, my brain’s been crying a lot, but somehow the knots are gradually untangling. Things are generally ok, and though I seem to get lost every time I step outside, I’ve managed to show up for where I need to be. There are still some hang-ups we’re working on, but I pray those will be resolved soon.

Thanks for sticking it out with me. You know who you are.

Needless to say, I haven’t been in a great position the last few weeks to write a coherent blog post. It’s been a lot.

But in the midst of the ongoing “Sara-is-losing-her-mind” times, good things have been happening. I’ve made it through orientation, for one. Training for my job starts a week from tomorrow, which is also the day we can hopefully move into our apartment, which is within walking distance of the transit station (aka no more swearing/praying while trying to find a parking space is making me late first day of orientation). I’ve attended both of my on-campus classes once, and though I’m not sure how to approach homework efficiently, I think I’ll get used to it pretty quickly. I’ve already learned so much and I’m really looking forward to all this semester will bring.

It’s all going to take so much work, so many extra miles with hurting feet. Admittedly, I still don’t feel ready, but I’m unsteadily bracing myself anyway. I feel like I’m training to become a wizard. Illustrators are wizards, truly. And training for wizardry’s intense, man.

We’re not in undergrad anymore. No social events, no indeterminate bedtime, no room for procrastination or “I don’t want to do homework right now.”

It’s time to break out the upbeat anime protagonist music (though I’m more the sarcastic, tired, awkward protagonist these days—but they’re a part of happy slice-of-life shows, so it’s fine, I think). I’m here to work. It will take early mornings, late nights, dead recovery Sundays, hardcore time budgeting, probably some blood, and lots and lots of charcoal.

But I think it’s going to be worth it. I really do.

The Ghost Prince

“Why did you take your coverings off outside?” Evin’s governess, Gwinna sighed as she applied a pungent glob of salve to the raw skin on the back of the boy’s otherwise colorless neck. “And why did you leave them off for so long?”

Evin winced. He looked at the reddened skin of his burned hands. A little closer, he thought. A little closer to the color he should have been.

Though he was still very far off.

“It was too hot,” Evin said quietly. His mask and hood breathed well enough, but the canvas chafed against his face. The coat it was attached to became humid if he ran, especially in the summer.

Not to mention the garb looked stupid. He hated it.

The only part of him people could see were his eyes, but only through large tinted glasses—which didn’t fit his face properly and constantly slipped down his nose.

Everyone knew Evin couldn’t set foot in the sun without being covered head-to-toe. Yet Stephan and the other kids always insisted on playing outside anyway. It was supposedly more fun.

Evin had freed himself that afternoon. Just once, to see for himself how expensive it was. They didn’t understand how good they had it.

A door opened and the smug, violet face of his older brother appeared.

“Hey old man,” Stephan said. “How’s the ectoplasm?”

“Shut up,” Evin muttered.

“Stephan,” Gwinna said. “I think your brother needs some space right now.”

Stephan smiled and shrugged. He sauntered out to the balcony and disappeared over the side.

“You know how dangerous it is for you to be out in the sun,” Gwinna said. “Don’t ever take your coverings off outside again, all right? I know you don’t like it, but it’s not worth hurting your health over.”

Evin nodded dismally.

Everyone in the whole world got to have some sort of color: Red, orange, burgundy…And how could Evin, a kid who happened to belong to a family with a very specific, important skin tone, be the only one denied?

Poor Evin, they said. Had to be cursed, they said. The royal family was always dark violet. What had the king and queen done, people whispered, to deserve to have a child without pigment?

“This is going to blister…” Gwinna sighed, gently applying the salve to his face. She lifted a hand to rub some in the part in his white hair. “Thank goodness you kept your glasses on out there.”

Evin nodded, narrowing his red-violet eyes at the tiles beneath his feet.

At least Dilikí had one proper heir.


A/N: Diliken tend to be superstitious, and rather shallow in some circles. It’s just a genetic defect, guys. Everybody calm down.

Still, 13 years later, Evin did rise to the head of the monarchy. How? We shall see.

Royal Bicarbonate of Soda

A/N: Stacea doesn’t quite understand that regular people really can’t smell as well as she does. But everyone else just thinks she’s either being sensitive or metaphorical most of the time. Perthaeam are kind of like highly territorial guard dogs with a knack for sensing things that lie beneath the surface. Two days’ time will reveal for Kennick and Irix what’s afoot.


“Aría.” Stacea stepped up beside her, an empty silver tray tucked under her arm. “What do you make of that kid over there?”

Aría surveyed the guests in the direction indicated by Stacea’s tilt of head.

She spotted him, standing along the edges of the reception, mouth clamped shut and eyes staring straight ahead. His entire demeanor was an inward moan of social anxiety.

Aría ducked her head closer to Stacea. “What about him?”

“What do you make of him?”

“He looks uncomfortable to me. I didn’t see who he arrived with—seems too young to have come alone. Who does he belong to?”
“He smells like a reptile to me…” Stacea said quietly. “I don’t like him.”

Aría hesitated, confused. “Like he can’t be trusted, you mean?” She didn’t know if calling someone a reptile was an insult in Dilikí as it was in Kaladría.

“I don’t know,” Stacea murmured. “It puts me on edge.”

The boy winced. His hand found its way to the gold vest, over his abdomen.

“You really don’t smell it?”

Aría abruptly handed her tray to Stacea, startling her. “Hold this for a second.”

Once the tray was out of her possession, she ignored Stacea’s hissed protestations and threaded through the satin and conversation to the kid leaning against the wall.

The boy noticed her with a start.

“Excuse me, sir,” Aría said gently. “Are you all right?” She could practically feel Stacea’s dismay boring a hole in the back of her head, but she didn’t look away from the king’s guest. “Can I get you anything?”

The boy looked at her, wide-eyed, as if cornered. He pulled his hand off his vest and pinned it to his side.

He was sweating. “No, I’m fine,” he said. “Thank you—” His breath caught. He swallowed. “Actually, where is the bathroom? Sorry…”

“Here, let me show you,” Aría said. “It’s just outside of these doors down the hallway.”

The boy moved after her, his hand finding its way to his middle again. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Aría hadn’t expected an honorific toward her to come from his mouth. She led him out into the silent hallway, watching him in her peripheral vision. He kept his gaze on the floor, eyes tight.

“Really, can I get you anything?” she ventured again as they came upon the door. “Soda water, perhaps?”

The boy cracked a wan smile and reached for the doorknob. “No, thank you.” He opened the door.

“If you change your mind just let any of us know, all right?” Aría tugged lightly on the black collar of her servant’s uniform.

The boy nodded and slipped into the bathroom. As Aría stepped away, she thought she heard the sound of vomiting.

She hesitated. The door from another one of the rooms opened and Aría jumped to make herself scarce. She stole down the hallway, ducked into the servant’s passage, and headed straight to the kitchen to continue her assigned task for the night.

She would keep an eye out for him, she decided, and possibly swing by the bathroom later to make sure he was all right.


Kennick dragged himself out from behind the heavy bathroom door. As he unsteadily made his way toward the ballroom, the door opened to betray his master.

“Where have you been?” Irix said.

Kennick gestured behind him. “In the bathroom, hurling chips.”

Irix let the door shut. Her expression softened as she strode up to him. “That’s not good…” She put a hand on his forehead. “You don’t feel feverish…And what did I say about colloquialisms?”

“Sorry…” Kennick said.

“You haven’t been drinking have you?”

Kennick shook his head. “Just juice, water, and food, as you said.”

Irix crossed her arms. “Have you been feeling sick today? Are you nervous? Did you drink tap water somewhere?”

Kennick shook his head again. He winced at a sharp jab of pain in his abdomen. “I think it’s passing.” And he thought he’d already adjusted to upper class tap water.

“Good.” She considered his face. “I have another couple of hours before we can leave. Can you make it that long?”

“Yes, I think so,” Kennick said. He felt like he was lying, but he thought he’d be fine sitting still and sipping water. If he could just be with his master, he’d be all right. People didn’t usually talk to him much if he was near her.

Half an hour later, the maid who’d shown him to the bathroom found him in the parlor, reclined in an easy chair near where his master sat at a table talking with colleagues. The maid offered a well-meaning smile and handed him a squat wine glass with a cloudy, fizzing liquid inside.

“For your stomach, sir,” she said quietly. She didn’t sound Diliken, or Arkanian as far as Kennick could tell. “I hope you’re feeling better.”

“Thank you.” Kennick flashed a wan smile as he took the glass. Irix glanced back, making eye contact first with Kennick, then the servant before giving a single, appreciative nod, and returning her attention to what the man across from her was saying.

The maid bobbed a respectful curtsy before pivoting around and taking her leave.

Kennick watched her go, gingerly raising the glass to his lips.


“Stacea,” Aría lowered her voice as she accompanied her back toward the kitchen. “That kid you don’t like? I think he’s with Irix Ingram.”

Stacea glanced back, the side of her nose scrunching up. “You were babying the apprentice of Irix Ingram?” She looked aside thoughtfully. “No wonder he smells strange.”

“She has an apprentice?”

“How did you find out who he was?”

“He was sitting by her in the parlor when I gave him soda water.”

Stacea brought a hand to her forehead. “Aría, that’s not your job.” She looked up at her. “Wait—you mean you were close to his master?”

“We made eye contact…Can you believe that?”

“You not only handed her apprentice an unapproved beverage, but you handed it to him right in front of her? She could have thought it was poison, for all we know. What if she took offense?”

“She looked kind of grateful, actually.” Aría ducked her head. She lowered her voice further as they entered the kitchen, “I just wanted to help the kid. He looked so miserable. And the posh and starch of these sort of things are bad enough without throwing up in a king’s bathroom—”

Stacea shot her a warning look as they neared the table where the kitchen staff was busily filling trays with more appetizers.

Aría picked up a tray. “He’s with his master now. I’ll leave him alone, all right?”

Stacea’s lips tightened as she picked up a tray of her own. “That would be best.”

How have I been? Well…

I used to think autopilot was a bad way to live life. I’ve since come to find out that a measure of autopilot-ing in life is good. It frees up headspace for more important things. Avoiding “reinventing the wheel,” so to speak so I have more energy to spend on writing, drawing, and coffee dates.

My autopilot’s kind of out of commission these days because I’m moving away soon; taking a foolhardy, unprepared step further toward full-blown adulthood and my dream career. Admittedly, it’s hard for me to imagine professional life. I’ve learned so much, I have experience in a wide variety of areas, and I learn quickly, but I forever feel like I’m not quite there.

Looking for a job to pay for my rent just intensifies the feeling—that I’m still just a derpy kid not ready for the world. Not ready for anything.

Everything’s displaced and I haven’t even left yet.

This Saturday, my family is accompanying myself, my sister (roommate #1), and my friend (roommate #2) to the SF Bay Area for a week while we scramble to find affordable housing and good work compatible with class schedules.

And right now, I’m just sitting alone at the kitchen table, music blaring through my headphones, typing away and thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

I’ve felt a little out of touch with reality lately. The reality I’ve naively tried to ignore.The burnt out biology student throwing herself into graduate art school and needing to work a good 30 hours a week to stay afloat. I don’t want to have to face the dark sides of that reality. I’m not sure if I can take it.

I wish I could hype myself up, get myself to believe that it will be challenging but fun nonetheless like I did freshman year of undergrad. The most recent semester felt like a constant state of being run over, and I can’t stand the thought of that happening again with an added hour commute, alien terrain, and monthly bills on top of it all.

But God has worked me through self-worth issues, an arduous path of personal betterment, and classes that I thought would be the death of me. He has led me into things I never would have thought I’d have the heart or the courage for. He encouraged me in the science route for undergrad, challenged my obsession with writing, pointed me toward professional storytelling the moment I pried my hands off what I thought I wanted for a career. He saw me through 2.5 years of a sport my family couldn’t afford. He found me a good car for under $2000 that I really should have paid a lot more for.

If He can pull off all He’s already done for my family and me in my short 22 years of existence, I think He can get me a job and an apartment in the Bay Area.

As much as I complain in this anxious, listless limbo, I still believe it will work out.

Because there’s still a part of me that leans toward naïve optimism out of a deep sense of necessity. As cynical and burnt out as I still am from the last four years (which really were a good 4 years), and as this move is becoming more and more complicated (impossible housing market, losing a roommate, car trouble, etc. etc. etc.), the interface between logic and faith as I understand it demands I recognize the need to look for the bright side of things. To not lose hope in optimism and the excitement of new seasons realized. To above all look to the God who has proven Himself faithful countless times over.

Problematic Providence

A/N: An excerpt from Dragonfly, but you may recognize these two from an earlier post about a scrappy 12-year-old with mention of her sullen, adopted brother. Flash forward seven years, they’re nowhere near model citizenship: key players in a guerrilla-style resistance movement, up against human weapons and an impending dictatorship, suddenly faced with a possibility that could just as easily spell their victory as their demise.


“Derek, you’ve been brooding for two days,” Andrew sat down across from her brother, who silently picked at a bowl of cereal Tuesday morning. “What’s eating you?”

Derek didn’t move for several long moments. Finally, he tentatively lifted his gaze. “You know that screening we did the other day?”

“Yeah. I thought nothing came of it.”

Derek hesitated. “I’m Compatible.”

Andrew just stared at him. Her eyebrows lowered as the full meaning of Derek’s words sank in. “Compatible.”

Derek nodded. “And Livingston wants me to activate it as soon as possible.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Please tell me you told him to get over himself.”

“I told him I’d think about it.”

“You’re actually considering it.”

Derek shrugged.


“Well I don’t really have a choice, do I?” He raked a hand through his black hair. “Having a Compatibility on our side could turn this battle in our favor.” He looked up. “There’s a chance I could rescue Mom.”

“And you’re willing to turn yourself into a monster like the ICoNs to do that,” Andrew said quietly, indecisively. “Assuming Mom is even still alive…”

“They’re not monsters—” Derek insisted, perhaps a little too quickly. His mind turned to what Orly had said about her son, Patrick.

“You realize you’ll be a weapon, right? No matter what Livingston says, he’s going to head that direction the moment you finish transforming. Especially if it’s something intense.” Andrew crossed her arms and leaned back. “And once you bring it out, you can’t go back. If you don’t like your Compatibility, or if something goes horribly wrong, no one will be able to help you.”

“I know.” Derek rested his elbows on the table.

“And you’re a wanted man. If you go to the hospital, it’ll all be over. Another one of our upper circle captured.”

“I know…”

“Don’t do it, Derek,” Andrew said softly, but Derek detected the threatening edge to her tone. “We can get everyone back on our own. No mad science involved.”

“But that’s what we’re up against,” Derek said, anxiety and desperation pulling at his throat. “And would it be so bad? To be a Compatible? I’d still be me, wouldn’t I?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”
She shrugged. “On your Compatibility. And it’s not just whether you’re yourself or not. How will your decision to go through with it align with the rest of the Conscience? Would loyalty falter if you and Livingston dabble in the government’s insanity?”

Derek stared dismally at the table. “I don’t know. It’s just…I have a responsibility. To you, to Mom, to this huge network we’ve created—to do whatever I can to set things right.” His eyes narrowed. “And I helped plan those failed missions—and I hate sitting here unable to do anything. If there’s even a shred of possibility that I could repair some of those mistakes…”

Andrew frowned. “We’re all doing the best we can…”

“But what if it isn’t enough?” Derek met her gaze. “What if it will never be enough? Too much is at stake, Andrew. If we fall, who will take our place before the government wreaks utter destruction on peace and order?” He turned his face aside and narrowed his eyes at the floor. “We’re on borrowed time as it is. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be better to take the precaution…” His expression softened. “…It would be a small price to pay. You have all given so much, and that means a lot. An awful lot. What kind of leader would I be if I weren’t willing to make a few sacrifices myself?”

Andrew stared at him, her jaw tense. Her eyes burned, but she didn’t say anything more.

Snakes and Rabbits

KennickA/N: High society is a much darker place than Kennick realized. And Ix has a lot to deal with, especially with her loud-mouthed apprentice learning more about the vulgarities of the world the hard way.

The boundaries of this story are still extremely unsolidified, so I’ve just been kind of going off the deep end. As you’ll no doubt find in the excerpt below. (Mages tend to be quite eccentric.)

+ + +

“Just send out a bunch more oranges. They reproduce like rabbits anyway.”

Kennick was lurching toward them before he realized it. “What the heck did you just say?”

A firm hand caught his shoulder, tugging him back.

“Let them talk,” Ix whispered warningly in his ear as she turned him around. “Doesn’t mean anything.”

Kennick tried to extricate himself from her. “Oh no, I think it does.”

That was him they were talking about. His mother, his sisters, his other family and friends. His father too, who had died on the battlefield fighting their war.

Is that what they thought about oranges? Is that what they thought about the sacrifice and loss and grief that had ravaged so many families?

He pulled against his master. He glanced back over his shoulder as Ix just short of dragged him from the room. He wished he had his snake tail instead of his socially appropriate legs. He wished he could wrap it around them and squeeze.

They’d see who the real rabbits were, then.

“Kennick,” Ix was saying. He kept pulling, trying to pry her off even as the door closed behind them, leaving them alone in the hallway. “Kennick.”

Kennick glanced aside to see an unoccupied electrical socket. He reached for it.

Ix slapped him hard across the face. “Kennick listen to me.”

Kennick stopped. He couldn’t meet her gaze.

Ix stared him down. Kennick stood very still, futility and anger and grief throbbing in time to each other in his stinging face. He felt the hate emanating from behind the closed door. The barrier of which he was supposed to pretend he was on the better side. If he let them talk they’d continue talking.

“Things do not have to stay the way they are,” Ix said steadily. “That’s why we’re here. To make sure they don’t. But it takes time.”

Kennick’s eyes narrowed, pain welling up in his throat. How could he stand there and pretend he was one of them? To let this go on for even one more second?

Ix sighed, resting a hand on his shoulder and gently guiding him toward the opposite door. “Come on. Let’s go home. I’m done here anyway.”

Kennick rubbed his eyes. “They have no right to say that. They’re stupid if they think—”

“Not here,” Ix said, her hand tightening.

“But how can they even think that?” Kennick persisted, at least attempting to lower his voice. “Was that all they were? All the people that died? Are we just rabbits to you?”

“No,” Ix said. “Not to me.”

Kennick regarded the burgundy skin of her arm. The false illusion of burgundy she had rendered his own. He felt sick.

“Let’s get you properly serpentine and with some hot chocolate in your possession,” Ix said, thinking. “We’ll plant ourselves in the lounge and talk it through, all right?”

Kennick nodded, dismal.

Talking about it in secret wouldn’t change anything. He expected it would just make him feel worse.

10 things I like about the United States

Everything that’s been happening lately in my country has been causing me a great deal of frustration, so I found myself uncertain of how to celebrate today. After staring off into space for a while, I decided I was better off spending today in gratitude for what we have in this country instead of mourning everything we may very well be losing.

The future is uncertain, but there is still a lot of good worth saving. There are plenty of other days in the year to fight for stuff, but today is meant to be a day of celebration.

So, for this Independence Day, I compiled a simple list off the top of my head of 10 of my favorite things about my home country:

#1   The United States is a beautiful country, with so many different, gorgeous landscapes and cities that are also very different from each other. There’s something to suit almost everyone.

#2   We’re very concerned with environmentalism and making the earth a healthier place to live.

#3   American English: my native language, which, in my almost 22 years of speaking it, have made it my own, studied and practiced its ebb and flow, how it works both written and spoken, when it sounds ugly, when it’s pleasing to the ears. The more I study other languages, the more I appreciate my own native tongue.

#4   Our country was founded on a burning desire to work for the greater good. As far as I can tell, that goal remains.

#5   The cultural values of working hard and making your own destiny, the romantic idea that dreams are always worth pursuing.

#6   Oregon. I love Oregon. It’s a pretty quiet state, the weather is conducive to sweaters most of the time, and it smells sweeter than anywhere else I’ve been.

#7   The friendly, direct manner of how Americans acquaint themselves with new people, but how being vague is polite, and how asking “How are you?” is a common component of even a passing greeting.

#8   American breakfast: pancakes, eggs, toast, sausage/bacon, biscuits and gravy…

#9   It’s fairly easy to be vegetarian here. I’m not vegetarian myself, but we’ve grown to a place where meat is not technically a necessary dietary component for our health and survival.

#10   That we are one from many, and continue to be so even today.

May God bless this nation. May He give us the hope, courage, grace, and wisdom we need to proceed.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Today I was surprised to wake up and find out about what happened in the United States Supreme Court this morning.

It seemed quiet to me, for such a big decision. But perhaps that’s just because I don’t live near any big cities.

But by now, the noise is beginning to grow. Much celebration, much dissent.

I am optimistic, and excited for my friends. Even though this came about perhaps a little more forcefully for comfort government-wise, and even though this sparks a variety of other questions and concerns for the future, I sincerely hope this is the beginning of something better.

I hope we will be able to treat each other with so much more grace than we have been. This won’t work well without it. In fact, not being able to love each other will kill our country far faster than redefining traditions ever will.

We don’t necessarily have to agree. With such a diversity of experiences, that’s just not possible. But let’s not demonize or silence each other. Let’s not hurt each other to make a point, or cheer on the ones that do. (Looking at both sides, here.)

Love wins. Christians believe that more fervently than anyone else I’ve ever met. Let’s have a little more faith in it.

Opinions aside, let’s make this a positive mark in the history books.

Thunder Egg

A/N: I had this dream about a week ago, with a kid with a rude mouth and someone very angrily trying to drown him in a fountain–and light and explosions and magicky type things. As soon as I woke up, I pulled out my notebook and started writing. The images changed shape very quickly off that first impression, and I found myself tasked with the mystery of who this kid is and where his story could possibly fit in the current book in recreational development (titled Diliken). Or what his story even is.

I’m beginning to figure it out, I think.

[This scene isn’t that scene, as that scene would be a massive spoiler for things I still haven’t a clue about. Have this considerably more snap-shot-esque one instead.]


The heavy curtains were drawn, but Kennick could feel the static. Crawling along his skin, making his hair stand on end, crackling through his nerves and whispering through his head. It forced itself in, thousands of imperceptible pieces trickling into a snapping, urging swarm.

A shaft of lightning burst from behind the curtains and Kennick shoved his face into his pillow, clutching the sides of it in his tight, shaking hands. Thunder cracked to follow its light and he flinched. The roar of rain smothered the outside world but he could always feel the lightning.

“Go away.” He squirmed under his blankets, gritting his teeth as another flash split the roiling sky. “Stop it.” His shoulders tensed, his voice shuddering. “Please just stop.” He just wanted to sleep, not to hurt and boil so much inside.

He could supposedly transform reality someday, but for now, it never listened to him.

The doorknob clicked as it turned. Kennick jerked his sweat-covered face from the pillow to see who entered.

He saw the rumors of a tall white nightgown in the darkness, poking out from a dark robe. The hair and face of his master had to be in it somewhere, but she blended in well with the nearly nonexistent lighting.

“May I come in, Kennick?” she asked softly.

Kennick pushed himself up. “Yeah.”

Ix stepped forward, pulling her robe closer around herself as she glanced toward the window. “Lovely storm, isn’t it.”

Kennick sat up, pressing a hand to the sharp, pulling pain in his jaw. “No. No it’s not.”

Ix sat down beside him.

A hand found its way to his shoulder.

“I know,” she said with a sigh, her hand tightening. They contemplated the turbulent dark for a few moments. “I feel it too.”


She nodded. The hand lifted, and she traced a finger along the underside of her jaw line. “Right here is where it hurts. The rest is just…distracting, to say the least.”

He nodded, watching his master. She understood. Nobody had ever believed him before. About thunderstorms, fire, excessive noise. Everything that made him feel strange and jittery and overwhelmed had to do with what he could do. Ix understood that.

And not only that. She had lived with it for many more years than he had. She knew what to do with it. How to make it work.

Another surge of energy from the storm outside assailed him and he ducked forward with a whimper. He felt Ix’s hand on his back, slowly rubbing up and down his spine, dispersing the particles.

Their buzzing began to fade, and he realized she must have been taking it from him. After a few minutes, she stood up and ventured to the window. “I’ll plant something to help you sleep better.”

Kennick straightened up and twisted around to see. Ix clenched her hands together tightly. She muttered a single word, and a burst of light swept the stray hairs hanging in front of her face like a gust of wind. Carefully, she opened her hands to betray a glowing sphere about the size of a billiard ball.

She ran her fingers over its surface, identifying its boundaries, and drew a line to the ground, which she flicked under the curtains, under the terrace doors.

And gradually, Kennick began to feel less staticky.

She turned, rubbing her hands on her robe. “There. That should do it. Is that too bright?”

“No,” Kennick said quietly. “What is it?”

“A thunder egg,” she said with a wan smile. “A decoy. This should capture the majority of energy filtering in from the storm.” She passed the bed. “And keep it from reaching you.”

Kennick smiled, relieved. “Thank you.”

She nodded and continued to the door.


She glanced back. “Yes?”
“Any chance we’ll be learning that tomorrow?”

She smiled. “It’s a little advanced for tomorrow’s lesson. I’ll take care of things like this for now.” She took the doorknob. “Don’t touch it. I’ll dismantle it in the morning.”

“All right.” Kennick pulled his legs back up under the covers. “I won’t touch it.” With the amount of energy it would have absorbed by morning, he wouldn’t dare.

“Good night, Kennick.”

With that, she shut the door. Kennick glanced at the soft glow of the thunder egg by the window. He blinked, a faltering smile finding its way onto his face.

He lay down, slipping into sleep as soon as his eyes closed.