Vixenscratch

Short stories and serials by Alexandra Herakai

Ermine Reflection: Mirror, Mirror

 “Anli! Have’d you see’d my mirror?”

The gazelle-like construct lying curled up on a rug by the boy’s bed didn’t even lift her head; barely cracked an eye open. “You put’d it on your shelf next to your Scrying textbook.”

“I already look’d there.” The thumbed-through textbook landed on the floor, only a few inches from the wozelle’s nose, and she flattened her triangular, grey-furred ears. “It be’s all disappear’d!”

I do’dn’t take it, do’n’t throw books at me,” she grumbled, shifting one wing to cover her face, and tried to go back to her interrupted nap. “Scry for it?”

“Do’n’t be silly. How be I supposed to scry for my own focus?”

“You can’d just about scry in the palm of your hand if you want’d to,” she pointed out, her voice muffled by the wing still draped across her face. “You’ll come up with something. Now let me sleep?”

He did keep quiet for a while, considering ways to solve the current problem. She was right, of course, he could scry for his focus, but something told him that if it wasn’t where he’d thought it would be, and where Anli had said it would be, he’d have no more luck that way. Talented as he was, he did need a more suitable focus than the bathroom mirror in his dorm room in order to do his homework even if that mirror hadn’t been so inconveniently located. There was just no way he was going to be able to keep shields up, scry, and write down what he saw while standing up in the small bathroom, and on top of that he wasn’t terribly keen on inconveniencing his roommate like that.

“I’ll go out for a while,” he finally declared, picked the thrown book up off the floor and dropping it on his desk. “I think I see’d a mirror I can’d work with in that antiques shop in town.”

“Good. Night.”

Anli was still sleeping when he returned an hour and a half later, a parcel wrapped in tissue paper and newsprint cradled in his hands, but she lifted her head when he sat down at his desk with it.

“What’s that?”

“A mirror.” Soeman started to unwrap it, carefully, peeling away each strip of tape holding the wrapping in place. “I tell’d you, do’dn’t I?”

“I do’n’t know. I be’dn’t listening; I be’d trying to sleep.”

He ignored her, dropping one sheet of newsprint to the floor and starting in on another. The process was considerably more time-consuming than the faerie store owner’s efficient wrapping of his purchase — then again, she had said the thing creeped her out. He hadn’t been able to understand how, though he’d certainly not protested at the price the mirror had therefore fetched.

A smile crept onto his face when the last layer of tissue paper fell away, revealing his new treasure. Like the mirror he’d once found in his mothers’ attic, its surface was imperfect, slightly distorting his reflection, though unlike his original focus this one came with a ceramic stand, a small matte-glazed figurine of a winged white glacier fox. Something about it just felt right. Oh, he’d much rather have had his original focus, or better yet not had to deal with his Scrying homework at all, but if he had to do it without his mirror, this wasn’t such a bad alternative.

He cleared some more space on his desk, laying out a notepad in easy reach, and grabbing a pen that Anli had only chewed a little bit on. Far as he was concerned the exercise was stupid, a masochistic exercise in multitasking and little more, but after failing Scrying twice he wasn’t going to risk doing so again. Especially not since the last time hadn’t been entirely his fault, and he was fully aware that had he made more of an effort with his homework the first part of the previous term his inability to deal with the practical final wouldn’t have tipped the scale over towards failing.

It should be simple enough, really. Find the silver locket he’d reluctantly given to his teacher, copy down the text it was stored with, the end. It was the fact that he would be graded on how many times he had to call up the image anew — a single time being ideal — and the very stern reminder that he’d need to keep his shields up, that bothered him. He could easily finish the assignment without shielding, it did absolutely no difference to his performance, but he wasn’t quite foolish enough to think his teacher wouldn’t be able to somehow tell.

Maybe he should have told his teacher how difficult he found it to shield, but he wasn’t terribly keen on also repeating Ms. Rioletth’s Magical Safety class, so he’d bumbled along best as he could. So far, Mr. Tigavian hadn’t called him on it, admittedly possibly because the Islandic man was relieved that Soeman was, finally, taking the class seriously, if for the wrong reasons.

It felt like wrenching a joint the wrong way when he went through the mental exercises and threw up a shield around himself, brittle as eggshell, and he shivered at the sensation, like a fingernail down his spine, as the shield spun a small, steady stream of magical energy out of him. He’d finish with a headache; he usually did, embarassing as that was considering his talent.

He adjusted his grip on the pen, set the tip against the notepad, and looked at the mirror as though he was focusing on a point slightly beyond it. Then he thought of the piece of jewelry, touching the focus with his gift, attempting to command it to show him the item, like he had done hundreds if not thousands of times with his old mirror. The artifact in front of him, however, older than the owner of that antique store had guessed, reacted to the touch of power it had not known in millennia in ways he had not expected.

It was the work of moments for the bright blue and violet light flashing out from the mirror to eat through his shield, even as that same shield drew power out of him to attempt to sustain itself in face of the threat. Instinctively, he dropped all efforts to maintain that minor protection, letting the rogue magic that had accumulated in that harmless-looking item wash over him.

He must have passed out, because he woke on the floor, Anli anxiously nuzzling his palm and whining like a beaten dog. His head hurt something horrible, and her voice didn’t make it any better. The floor by his desk was dusty — how come he’d not noticed before? — and trying to breathe slowly and deeply to not further aggravate his headache lead to an agonizing fit of sneezing.

“Bonded? Be you hurt?”

He tried to tell Anli to just be quiet, but all he accomplished was a ferret-like squeak. Startled, he lifted his hand to his throat, and was even more surprised to find that it touched fur. With a growing sense of panic, he tried to open his eyes, but his blurred vision wasn’t worth the searing pain as light hit his eyes. Ignoring Anli’s fretting next to him he curled up, knees pulled up to his chest and tail — he had a tail? — over his nose. He wasn’t sure what had happened, but he felt helpless without the use of both his voice and his eyes, and on top of that he was in enough pain to feel pretty damned miserable, between his head and his stinging eyes.

“Bonded?”

He pressed his hands against his ears, flinching as he noticed that they, too, were nothing like what he’d have expected against his palms.

:Get up off the floor,: she demanded in his head, where he couldn’t cover his ears to shut her voice out. He was way too drained to focus enough to shut her out of his head, and she probably knew it.

He whimpered, staying where he was.

:Get yourself off the floor, Soeman Fir. And look at me when I talk to you.:

If he hadn’t known she was so worried, that demand would have made him angry. Now he just shook his head, as gently as he could manage.

:I know it hurts, but please try, for my sake?: she insisted, switching tactics. The gentle coaxing made him much more inclined to try, but he still wasn’t quite convinced it would be worth it.

:We’re going to have to get you some help,: she pointed out, nuzzling his cheek. :If I have to go to campus Health, you know your teachers will hear of it.:

His fist clenched around a handful of her mane, then, and he pulled himself up, slowly, to a sitting position. She stood patiently, letting him use her as support if that was what he needed, merely bracing herself when he, shaking, put more weight on her and, teeth clenched, used that hold on her mane to get onto his feet.

He couldn’t manage to formulate a coherent thought, but seeing how he was shaking just standing up, she took pity on him. :Let’s get you in bed, shall we? I don’t think you’re up to going much of anywhere.:

His head still hurt and his eyes still stung, but curling up and pulling the blanket over his head, trying not to think about how unfamiliar his body felt, still made things a little better. He couldn’t sleep, but having the time to calm down, and the darkness to ease the irritation in his eyes, still made him feel a bit better overall.

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