Amari had been four when she had been taken in. The person who’d found her and then offered her a life of luxury and greatness had had really smooth skin. Not a single wrinkle, like a canvas stretched too thinly on flesh. She listened when he told her how powerful she could become, but was wary to go with him. Strangers were dangerous. But really, could someone cause her more hurt than she already had? She wanted out.
She knew she should have waited, given more thought to it, checked if he was reliable, but when the man offered his hand to her, she took it, and told herself it was just to see if his skin felt as smooth as it looked.
“What’s your name?” Amari asked. She was standing with the smooth-skinned man inside what seemed to be a mansion, her hands fisted at her sides. She might’ve come with him, willingly, but she could still be careful. Her eyes were pieces of coal set aflame.
The man grinned. “Call me the Magister.”
“Can I sleep now, Magister?”
The Magister ruffled her hair. “Of course, you can. Come with me, I’ll show you your room.”
He took her hand in his, and pulled her up an endless flight of stairs, past torch lit hallways and stopped in front of a huge oak door. He pushed the door open, picking Amari up and plopping her on the four-poster bed.
“Lie down. You can sleep here.”
Amari spread a wary hand over the silk covers, searching for harm in the bed or his words. Finding none, she lay her head down on the pillows, slipping inside the duvet. The Magister sat himself down beside her. He watched as the fire in her eyes lessened, reducing slowly but surely until finally she mouthed a silent “g’night” and the flames were put to rest.
Long after, when the Magister shut the door behind him, he smiled to himself. He had found her. He had found her.
The Magister laughed when she asked to be taught how to make herself invisible first, but she pouted and didn’t move. Eyebrow raised, he asked her why she wanted to hide herself. Was there something she didn’t want the Magister to know? Before she could reply, however, he laughed it off and agreed.
Then he walked a few steps forward before turning back and looking her in the eye. He knelt down to reach her height. Assuming he wanted a hug, like he had many times before, claiming it was for his own sake and not hers, she went forward and put her tiny arms around him. As she leaned in, suddenly a shock went through the tip of her ears where they grazed the Magister’s skin. A string of broken sentences flowed into her mind- a few more years and... incredible power the likes of which no one has seen before... I’ll make her a... she’ll be my pawn- but just as quickly as they’d come, the flurry of thought cut off.
She jerked back out of his grasp, and stared at him, eyes wide. The Magister slowly raised his hands to the side of his head, his eyebrows furrowing.
Before the Magister could figure out what happened, Amari had already disappeared to some far corner of the mansion.
When she was seven, the Magister tested her. Said that he needed to evaluate if what she had learnt for three years could pay off or not. She remembered climbing over mountains, crawling through the jungle, summoning that deep blue power inside her, like she was reaching into the depths of an ocean, and seeing his face as he beheld the yellow rays that then burst out of her hands, like the rays of sunlight that pierced the darkest ocean. The Magister had asked her then, You see what you’re capable of?
She thought of the dark, shadowy area beneath the stairs, where she invariably found her way to every day, hiding and using the golden wisps that sprouted from her fingertips to overhear conversations in the grand hall.
The Magister often talked with his friends there. They talked a lot. The Magister talked a lot to her, too, but always about simple things. About how she was feeling and what she would like to have for dinner.
With his friends, however, he did not mention food. He spoke about battles and wars and revolutions. Of magic and peace and love. He spoke about how Amari would be the key to everything, the piece that would tip the scales in their balance.
Amari heard, but she could not say anything. Not even when they were alone again, and he was asking her if the bed was comfortable enough for her.
Every time she thought about voicing her own opinion, she was hit by a painful reminder. She’d been on the streets, scrapes on her hands and knees from falling over at every stray pebble, little feet struggling to, but unable to do more take a few more stumbling steps forward. The leftover food she’d scavenged from dumpsters always left that bitter taste in her mouth, like she was being abandoned on the road all over again, wrapped in a measly blanket, not understanding that no one would come for her no matter how much she cried. She had been weak. Pitifully weak. Unable to fend for herself. Yes, she had been weak, but now?
Now she wasn’t. She wouldn’t ever be if she simply continued to listen to the Magister. Whatever he told her, she would do, because he had saved her.
So, when the Magister asked her, even though some part wanted to tell him she didn’t truly wish to take part in all the things he talked about, she simply said, I see.
Amari was the most powerful mage in the world. That’s what the Magister always said, that’s what his friends all believed. Amari believed it too.
With a flick of her fingers, she could slice the mountains she had climbed up, panting, just a few years ago. She could clap her hands, entwine her fingers, and the same mountains would stitch themselves back together, as if nothing had torn them apart in the first place.
She thought of herself as those mountains. Always appearing calm and stoic, both unstoppable force and immovable object, when in reality, she could be torn apart just as easily as-
She jerked her head, a sharp movement. How did it matter if she could or could not? She’d just stitch herself back up again.
“Sixteen thousand of them,” one of the people in the hall gleefully started. Amari was 11, in her spot under the stairs, with extra shields and wards placed over herself to avoid detection. The numbers the speaker quoted sent a chill down her spine, and she wondered if it was possible the numbers did not mean what she thought they did. “Sixteen thousand of them eliminated in one attack! It was definitely a good idea to use her,” they finished.
When the speaker cast a glance at the ceiling, right at the area where Amari’s room would be, she realized they meant her. And then realized that her worst fears had been answered. She immediately cut off further sound. Something threatened to regurgitate up her throat, like her stomach was turning itself inside out.
She had been told to collapse a building, and she’d done it without feeling, assuming it was one of the many exercises she performed every day to strengthen her power. She had not stopped to think that there might be people inside.
No. No. She had to be true to at least herself. Although she had not known at that time that she was committing a crime, she had suspected that sooner or later they would instruct her to do something like this. She had been negligent, not checking whether she could sense life forces inside, wanting to get through the task as soon as possible.
“Sixteen thousand people,” she whispered to herself, wondering if the gold strands she weaved in the air weren’t actually cruel, dark black. “I’ve killed sixteen thousand people.”
She felt herself begin to come apart. She wondered if it was actually possible to stitch back humans just like she could stitch back mountains. She wondered if she had any reason to not do what she really wanted to anymore.
The Magister found her, like he always did. “You were listening, weren’t you?”
“How did you know?” Amari asked, her voice hollow.
The Magister smiled, “You forgot to hide the traces.”
So, she had. In her revulsion over what had happened, she had carelessly forgotten to hide the traces of her magic after muting the voices off.
“I’ll be more careful next time.”
That was supposed to be the end of the conversation, but the Magister lowered himself on the bed she was curled up on. A distant memory flickered through Amari’s mind, one where the Magister had given her a bed to sleep on for the first time, and sat on its edge, the comforting weight beside her lulling her to sleep. Even now, his presence soothed back the edges of her that had begun to fray.
She felt something inside her calm down considerably. She knew he knew that she calmed down in his presence.
She hated it. She hoped that one day she would be able to escape from here. From him.
It wasn’t a whole sixteen thousand the next few times. It was two, maybe three people, a group of travellers, a family living in the outskirts. No, not even a thousandth of it, but it felt much heavier. She wondered if Atlas, holding the sky felt the same weight on his shoulders. She thought holding the sky would be easier.
She did wonder, sometimes. All the time, really. She wondered about herself and her magic and what if she had never been born and why the world was as it was but mostly, she wondered about the Magister.
She wondered if he thought of her as a daughter. Probably not. Maybe he did. Why else would he care for her? She thought about him as a father- or at least the closest equivalent. Or maybe he simply wanted to ensure she was happy and healthy, all the better to use her as a weapon later. As his pawn.
She wondered. She wondered if she could leave him and go away, just as her biological parents had once. Would that be the tearing apart event? She wondered.
She toppled mountains over a valley. There seemed to be a caravan traveling there then. She saw it too late.
That night she dreamt of her golden magic turning black, an ink that spread through everywhere, staining the world. She couldn’t see anything but herself, and the darkness left by her own hand.
When she woke up, she found that the black had seeped into reality. When she flicked her fingers, she found she controlled the shadows.
And the shadows were easy enough to work with.
The seventh time, it worked. When the Magister came to her, she felt only disgust. A little bit of fear. A wave of fury that threatened to spill out of her and seize him.
He stepped forward. She stepped back.
He took a larger step forward. She moved quickly and stepped forward too.
Before he could understand what was going on, she slapped two hands to the sides of his head.
(A/n: “Before he could understand what was going on, she slapped two pieces of bread to the sides of his head.”
WHAT ARE YOU? AN IDIOT SANDWICH.)
It hadn’t taken long to send the black wisps into his mind. She found a few barriers, a few walls to keep powers like hers away. For those few seconds it took, she saw his eyes widen, something akin to panic course through them. So, he had suspected, she thought. He had suspected that she would try reaching it to his mind one day- to do what, who knows? But the few seconds passed and she found easy access to his memories, to his knowledge, everything that ever passed through his mind.
She could take her time, for he was in limbo and she could go through the contents of his brain leisurely.
Should she? What was she hoping to find? Did she want to confirm that the Magister had had paternal feelings towards her? What if he didn’t? What if he did? Would that mean she would be willing to go ahead with whatever he told her to do? Did she really want to know what was in the mind of someone who not only condoned but encouraged killing?
She thought for a while.
And then she decided.
No. Even if she did find something, was able to look at their conversations and interactions through the Magister’s point of view, it wouldn’t change anything. She didn’t want to be the cause of death of anyone anymore, and she didn’t want an excuse for her past actions. She would accept it as it was. And that was the end of the matter.
She reached further with her power, found the connections in his mind with the other mages, his friends who believed with him that she would be their pawn to achieve whatever they wished to. Laughing silently, because she was using her powers to do something, she was sure they would be awed at, she erased their memories. She erased everyone’s memories who had ever seen her, heard of her, used her.
And so, she ceased to exist in their lives, a weapon that had decided that it was better off not being used like so.
Amari lived on the streets. She didn’t have a home, or a set of clothes. She didn’t have somewhere she could cook or go to find food. She worked hard to conjure up sustenance and homes for everyone else- they were the families, the ones like the people she had killed. This was her way of making peace with them. She never let herself rest, even if it meant looking at the dark black spill from her fingers all the time. It made her sick, yes, but in spite of all of that, she was happy. Because just the other day, she had found just a little bit of the golden slip back into her magic.