Jayna crouched down in the small clearing in the forest and traced a circle on the ground, preparing herself to perform the complicated pattern for the spell—first, she drew a star shape, then added several triangles around it, using the dirt and leaves to make markings in the earth. The combination of shapes had obvious benefits, though she didn’t need to think about what those benefits were. She needed to focus on making the pattern first, and afterward she could contemplate how and why it worked.
“You have to keep moving steadily,” Eva said.
Jayna looked up from making the pattern in the dirt, a mixture of dusty earth and rotting leaves. Some of the leaves were still damp from a rain that she didn’t remember having fallen in the forest any time recently. “I am moving steadily. I’m just trying to wrap my mind around the pattern here.”
“What is there to wrap your mind around? Just make the shape.”
Eva rested her head back against the tree trunk, her eyes barely open. She sounded annoyed, which was probably because she didn’t have her typical glass of wine. Jayna had dragged her out into the forest before Eva was given that opportunity.
“Sorcery is complex,” Jayna said, smiling to herself as she recited the words she had learned in her earliest days at the Academy. “It takes a mixture of knowledge and understanding, but it also takes some potential. I can influence the potential by augmenting the knowledge and understanding that I possess.”
“It looks to me like it’s a series of patterns and shapes that have to be drawn carefully,” Eva said.
“Do you want to try this?” Jayna asked.
Eva arched a brow. “You have got to be kidding.”
“You do have your own kind of magic. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could do the same thing.”
“Just because I have some innate potential doesn’t mean I can use your kind of sorcery.”
Jayna smiled to herself. “I think you’re scared.”
She continued tracing the last of the interlocking triangles that would create a link around the star. They were designed to contain the power that she pulsed through the star, and once she solidified the spell, she then had to add several different ingredients that she had brought with her: a strand of horsehair, the powder from bristenfruit, and the oil of lirnat leaves. Those hadn’t been terribly hard to acquire, but difficult enough that she didn’t like the idea of wasting them if she didn’t create the pattern correctly in the first place.
“I’m not scared,” Eva muttered. “I just think all of this is useless. You’ve even said yourself that your connection to the Toral ring has increased. Why bother with all of this when you have more power than you’ve ever possessed before?”
Jayna paused, though she shouldn’t have. Pausing while making the pattern was a mistake, much like Eva said. Not that she disrupted the pattern, but she invited the possibility of irregularities appearing in it. “It’s because I have more power through that ring than I ever had before that I’m doing this,” she said. She twisted the dragon stone ring on her finger. Ever since trying to enchant the bloodstone, a powerful stone that had proven capable of drawing even more power, the dragon stone had altered. There was a layer around the pale white of the dragon stone, a crystalline, almost reddish hue that had formed around the ring and changed the way it worked for her.
“You understand why I’m doing this,” Jayna said.
Eva sat up, dusting her hands across her white dress. Somehow, even in the forest, Eva managed to keep her dress clean. She kept all of herself clean. Her pale skin took on a hint of a glow, and only her raven-dark hair carried the shadows of the forest.
“I understand that you’re doing it because you’re afraid.”
Jayna just shook her head. “It’s not fear. It’s preparation. I need to be ready for Asymorn. Norej. Sarenoth.” She looked around as she said each of the names. She had no idea if they had any way of tracking any mention of their names and she wanted to be careful. The closest she had come to any of them was when she had encountered sorcerers who served them—and another Toral like herself.
Then there was Sarenoth.
Jayna started forward, dragging her toe a little deeper through the earth, kicking up a bit of leaves and debris as she did. Outside of the city, she didn’t fear the Society detecting her magic, though even if they did, she no longer knew if that posed a problem for her. She had helped the Society.
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