The candle flickered.
“Can you shut the window?” Rosalie glanced nervously at the flame, hands tapping the table. Royal touched them, a warning.
She yanked her hands out from under her sister’s and pressed them to her lap.
“Of course.” Sam bowed their head, a slight smile on their lips as they rose to shut the window.
“Oh, you don’t need to bother yourself,” Rene said. “I can do it.” His hand floated helplessly in the air, unsure of whether to get up or not.
Don’t be rude.
“Nonsense, I’m already up.” Sam dismissed Rosalie’s brother and closed the window shutters.
“Better, dear?” They asked.
Royal tapped Rosalie’s leg.
“Yes, thank you.” She said politely, mentally scowling at her sister.
“Well, then. This is the artifact you want me to inspect, I take it.” Sam sat back down and held out their hand.
Rene handed over the candle. Rosalie fidgeted.
“I have a couple questions if that’s alright.” Sam set the candle down in front of them.
Royal’s shoulders tensed.
“Of course.” Rene gave a strained smile.
Don’t you dare say anything unless we tell you to. Rene will speak.
“When and where did you obtain this?” Sam shuffled through a drawer on their side of the table. Rosalie watched the flame carefully. She knew that her siblings’ eyes were fixated on Sam.
“A booth at last month's market. From Abilene the beekeeper.”
“Why did you buy it?” Sam raised their arm and swung a pendant on a chain in front of the candle.
“We have…” Rene paused, desperately trying to remember the words. “We have a certain amount to spend on an unneeded item at every market. This time we got a candle.”
“So whose possession is it, then?” Sam asked.
“What?” Rene stuttered. Royal’s hand sought Rosalie’s and clenched tight. “It’s mine, I’m the only one that works, I earn all the money-”
“Whoever’s the money it was doesn’t matter. If you give a gift, it’s not your own property anymore, is it? If you intend to keep lying to me, this appointment is not going to work out.” Sam exhaled gently, causing the candle flame to quiver.
Rosalie held her breath until it steadied.
“I do have to give you credit, though.” Sam continued. “I might’ve believed you if you hadn’t brought her along.”
They grinned at Rosalie. “Hello, darling.”
Royal’s jaw tightened.
“This candle, was it a birthday present?”
Rosalie stayed silent.
“I’m sure you’ve heard all sorts of horrible things about me,” Sam said, letting the pendant dangle from their fingers. It swayed over the flame, which Rosalie watched anxiously.
“She’s very protective of it,” Sam remarked to Rene, then lifted the pendant into their hand, cradling the warm metal. “Is it tied to her somehow?”
Rene’s hands were trembling. “Leave Ro- Leave her out of this.”
“What’s your name, dear? How old are you?” They asked Rosalie.
Royal’s hand squeezed tightly.
And whatever you do, don’t give your name.
Sam’s head tilted to the side. “It’s okay to speak, child.”
“I’m not a child.” Rosalie blurted, then covered her mouth.
“Really, the dramatics aren’t necessary.” Sam removed the pendant from the chain and rolled it across the table to Rosalie. She caught it, feeling the slight warmth seep into her fingers.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me. You’re… nine.” Sam gave a decisive nod.
“I’m twelve!” Rosalie said indignantly.
“I never could have guessed that. You look so young for twelve.” Sam shook their head.
“I just had a birthday.”
Royal winced, fear creeping into her eyes.
Oh, right. She wasn’t supposed to tell them that. But she was feeling kind of tired, and they didn’t look that scary. It was probably just her siblings being overprotective again.
“What’d you get for your birthday?” Sam asked.
“Not much, we’re not super-rich.” Rosalie shrugged. “But Rene and Royal saved up for months and got me that candle.”
She wasn’t supposed to talk about the candle or give Sam her sibling’s names. Panic formed a pit in her stomach, but her eyelids were heavy.
“Excuse me-” Royal started, almost standing up.
“Royal, was it?” Sam asked. “Please sit, and relax. You too, Rene. It’s rude to leave a meeting like this, and just when Ro and I were starting to talk.”
“Ro is Royal’s name.” Rosalie protested sleepily.
“Oh, is that her nickname?” Sam questioned.
“Yeah. And mine is Rose.”
“Rose is such a pretty name!” Sam exclaimed as Royal slowly sank back into her seat, apparently feeling tired too. Her eyes fluttered shut, and Rene yawned and leaned on his hand. “But what’s it short for? Rose…” Sam prompted.
Sam smiled amiably. “Rosalie! So fitting for such a pretty young woman. But you’re tired, aren’t you?”
Rosalie nodded again.
“I should have some quartz around here somewhere…” Sam began rifling through the drawer again. “After all, I still need you to answer a couple questions.”
“Aren’t you wearing a quartz necklace?” Rosalie asked drowsily.
“I need to find you one of your own, Rosalie- ah, here it is!” Sam handed the crystal to her. She let go of the pendant to grab it, and immediately the tiredness lifted. She looked around her surroundings in a panic, just starting to process her situation.
“What did you do to my siblings? What did you do to me?” She started to rise out of her seat, but Sam motioned for her to sit back down.
“It’s nothing unfixable, don’t fret. I used their names to get them to relax a bit- thank you for those, by the way. All spells need to be personal, which I’m sure you know. I used this charm-” Sam held up the pendant. “-to make you feel tired, a spell in which I utilized the candle to make the spell personal. There are other ways besides a name to make the spell direct, you know, and that includes magic objects, which is why they’re considered dangerous.”
“Especially when they’re tied to a person,” Rosalie muttered. “You’re starting to sound like my teacher.”
Sam laughed. “I could tell that it was yours from the way you kept watching it. Magic objects have an undeniable pull towards the people they’re tied to, even if the tie was created by accident. What happened on your birthday, Rosalie?”
“Nothing! You’re crazy.” Rosalie accused.
Sam fanned the candle lightly with their hand, causing the flame to dance. “Then you wouldn’t mind if I blew this out then, would you?”
“Or so my mother tells me.” Sam grinned. “Go on, then”
“I just- I just-” Rosalie took a deep breath. For her siblings. “I usually get one of those tiny candles that burn out in an hour or so from Abilene’s booth at every market. My siblings saved up and got me the biggest one she sold for my birthday.”
“Why do you get candles, Rosalie?”
“I like the smell.” Rosalie looked away. This was the biggest secret, the one she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. Her siblings drilled it into her head every day.
Don’t tell them about-
“Are you a mage, Miss Rosalie?”
Rosalie sputtered. “Of course not!”
“In order for an object to be tied to a person, there has to be some magic involved.” Sam gestured to the candle.
Rosalie tried desperately to remember the story that Rene had been rehearsing for days.
“Rene accidentally tripped an old lady on the way home from the market. She must’ve been a mage, and placed a spell on it.”
“Sounds reasonable.” Sam shrugged.
“Really?” Rosalie asked.
“No. Why wouldn’t it tie to Rene then, and not you?”
“Cause the candle was a gift for me,” Rosalie explained.
“Sure, that makes sense, of course barring the fact that an old mage in the marketplace would’ve cast a spell on the candleholder themself, and not the candle. Object Magic is highly illegal, and a lot of risk for someone who simply tripped to take.”
“You used Object Magic.”
Sam paused and laughed. “So I did. The difference is that I’ll be out of town by tomorrow.”
“Could we just cut the theatrics? You’re a mage, or at least have the potential for magic. You most likely have an affinity for Natural Energy Magic, fire in particular. Thus, you were incredibly happy and surprised about your birthday present, and tried to light the wick using your own magic. Strong emotion and untrained magic result in magic objects. What happens if I blow out the candle, Rosalie?”
Rosalie held back tears. “I fell asleep. Until the candle was lit again.”
“Not that bad of a tie, then. Some die when their connection to the object is severed.”
Suddenly, Sam stopped talking. They held a finger to their lips, listening intently. A clatter arose from outside- people walking up the steps to the mage’s house.
“Sorry, kid. But you can’t let people know that I used Object Magic.” Sam blew out the candle, and Rosalie joined her siblings in sleep.