Nothing Issa was doing was inspiring confidence. His voice wavered, nervous, and that energy was infectious; Lec’s shaking grew worse, and their hands trembled too powerfully to hide. His pacing was making them anxious too, but when he sat down and tried to keep himself still, that was even worse. His legs frantically bobbed up and down, and his hands were in constant motion, more erratic than usual. If Issa were this bothered, something was horribly wrong. Lec wished more than anything that he would just come out with it.
When finally Issa started explaining why he was here at all, Lec kept fixated on him, though their shaking was turning distracting. They watched his face, watched the worry there, while trying to understand what he was saying. He was just talking about some silly prophecy; who were they to believe in the superstitions of their enemies, anyway? The names of these gods didn’t mean anything to them, and they didn’t feel they had time for a theology lesson now, among everything else. This was all so overwhelming, and so much of it was going over their head. Though their mind wandered, coming up with the worst, they tried to stay focused and follow Issa’s story.
“Two heroes.” Their voice was small, scared, as they put together what Issa was about to say. It was a ridiculous idea, the two of them being chosen by gods to play a part in some celestial squabble, but… Lec’s attention fell to the window again, to the black snow, the proof of the destruction their people—and people across the globe—had yet to understand. Could it really be true, then…? No, they decided, it was a dumb suggestion, and they wouldn’t have it. Them, hand-picked by a god—they were too ordinary, too boring, too… worthless. They couldn’t begin to believe something so far-fetched.
But Issa was right. All the things they’d heard and seen about their world of late, all the signs of impending death, did make sense in light of the Lucet story. Lec couldn’t deny that. Had their meeting Issa been coincidence as they’d until now believed, or had it all been orchestrated by a god? But why them? What was so special about them that they would be chosen? They shook their head. It didn’t make any sense. When they turned back to Issa, they opened their mouth to protest, to tell him all the reasons he was wrong, that his elder was crazy, but what came out instead was seemingly unrelated to any of this.
“When I was born,” they started, their gaze falling to the window, the rug under their boots, anywhere but Issa, “my mother thought me a miracle. She said I was making fireballs before I could even talk. I don’t know how much you know about human magic, Issa, but that… that shouldn’t happen. Mages study tomes for years or decades before they’re able to do much at all, and even the most skilled mages can’t do what I can.
“Magic is exhausting. It takes a great toll on the body and the mind, and because of that, most people give up before they make much progress. It’s just not worth it. Being able to light a candle or water your garden isn’t all that special when you need to practice every day for years to do it. But I never needed to do that. I was born knowing what to do, and I was stronger than anyone I’d ever met.”
Lec paused. Soft blushes lit their cheeks, and they gnawed their lower lip. They didn’t like talking about this, didn’t like feeling like they were bragging. “It’s… genetic, sometimes,” they continued after carefully thinking about their words. An affinity for magic can be passed through the bloodline, but geneticists and mages both can’t agree on how. Dad studied magic for years, but he doesn’t have a magic bone in his body. He can’t even shape the wind through his teeth to whistle properly. My mother studied magic in university, and she could do some basic spells, but never anything all that impressive. Soren took after her, but I… Well, I don’t know where my skills came from.
“When we studied magic in school, teachers couldn’t make sense of me. Professors and students from faraway universities came to study me and make me bend the elements for them in ways they’d never seen. They offered me scholarships to our best universities, just to test the limits of what I could do. They promised me I would achieve greatness, that my magic would be written of in our history books, but I… I didn’t want to leave my family, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being some kind of celebrity. Maybe, if I had gone, I’d be in one of those universities now.”
Lec sighed and took a moment to steady their breath. “I started turning people away,” they admitted with another blush. “I didn’t like being in the spotlight. Ironic, I suppose. I wanted a simpler life, and being a performer felt… better. It felt like home. A lot of people think of me as a waste, but I’m happy now, doing what I do. I stopped questioning why I was so good at this and started asking what I could do, how I could make it beautiful. I never thought I’d ever figure out why I was different.” They hesitated, then brought their gaze back to Issa. They paused to swallow the lump building in their throat. “…Until now.”
As much as they wanted to, they couldn’t deny what Issa was saying. This prophecy, strange as it was, answered too many of the questions they’d had all their life. Their magic, their mark, their world dying around them; this was all a burden they had accepted at birth, one they did not deserve. If Issa was right, then people around them would continue to lose their homes, would continue to die, unless they did something about it.
Lec’s hands began to move, signed words Issa wouldn’t understand, words of affirmation, reminders to breathe. Their motions were automatic, as if this was something they had done many times before. They waited for their breathing to level again before they forced their attention back to their messenger. “Okay,” they finally said. “So your god wants us to fight. What… What do we do?”