"I know this... thing is important to you, but don't you think you're going a little too far?"
"I can honestly say I have no idea what you're talking about."
Amira bites her lip. Elodie stirs her tea with a swirl of her finger, stopping on the tenth turn and pulling it to her lips with a come hither gesture.
She decides to try again. "When was the last time you slept?"
"This morning." Elodie sets the cup down with a little pat, pale green wisps of her magic disappearing beneath it. "For three hours. That counts, doesn't it?"
"Did you fall asleep," Amira asks slowly, playing with her spoon, "or did you pass out?"
Elodie's nose crinkles. Amira sighs, slumping back in her chair.
"It counts," she snaps, the shelves of dried herbs and powdered medicines jumping at her voice. "It does!"
"Alright! Alright, alright, it does, it does." It does not, but she isn't looking to get stabbed by a knife tied to her best friend's emotions—or worse, turned into a lizard. Again. "I'm just—worried, you know?"
"There's nothing to worry about. I'm almost done."
"If you're sure," Amira replies softly, and Elodie takes a loud sip of her tea.
The sun is on a downward spiral and she's about to leave when Elodie asks, her gaze cast towards the ground in faux disinterest, if she'd like to see for herself. Amira stares at the brightly lit avenue just outside of the hovel, surrounded by tall trees painted in the yellows and oranges of fall, the smell of the home's freshly re-stained leather suffusing the air, and shuts the door with a nod. They travel through the long boot of a house, stepping around piles of books and baubles that Elodie refuses to throw away no matter how many times they go through the song and dance of spring cleaning. Elodie's hand is warm when she helps her across a hole in the floor, almost too wide to jump but not quite there, not yet, and the warmth stays with her long after their hands are parted. Amira holds it to her chest as Elodie unlocks the stairs to the basement—a room longer in height than it is in width, the heel of a stiletto trapped beneath the ground—and only starts her way down when she's given the go-ahead.
She always knew Elodie was better at magitech than her, but the gauntlet resting on the worktable in the center of the room just seals the deal. Slivers of pure silver wind their way through a bright copper coating, in and out like veins, culminating around a dark stone—black sapphire, she thinks—at the center of the gauntlet's palm. Every part of it has a purpose—the bronze clasps to make it easier for the joints to move, the steel at the end of the fingertips to soften the conductivity, the scratchings of runes on its underside where it would meet the skin. Amira lifts it with ease, marveling at how light it is despite its workings, and studies it as Elodie joins her by the table.
"It could be more efficient," she mumbles, brushing metal flakes from her workbench. "As it stands, one can only wear it for about six weeks before getting tired out."
"Six weeks!?" Amira turns to her, staring. "That's—that's a month and a half, Ellie, that's plenty efficient! Especially if that's all the time—no one wears this kind of thing all the time, twenty-four-seven, so they'd never hit that point!"
She pauses and looks down at the gauntlet, turning it over to get a better look at the runes. "What is this for, anyway?"
"It's to stimulate magic. Some witches are born with a strong seed of magic, but their thales are too thin for them to use it. This gauntlet—and its matching twin, once I'm satisfied with this prototype—should help to stimulate those thales and enable the user to use magic as easily and freely as any witch with properly working ones."
"Oh, that sounds like my problem." Amira stares at it, then looks up. "Are these for me?"
Elodie's ears turn red, but she says, "No, they're for—in general. Medical Arcanology is my major, Amira. I just—happened to tackle this problem that you happen to have. You aren't the only witch with terrible thales, you know, it's actually a— a pretty common problem, and—"
Amira cuts her off with a hug, burying her face into the other witch's shoulder with a sob. "Oh, Ellie!"
"Thank you," she whispers, her cheeks warming. "Ellie, thank you."
"It's just senseless that some of us are designed poorly." Elodie sniffs, but she returns the hug—it's tighter than Amira expects it to be for someone of her bony size. "Especially when those people are as stubborn about magic as you are."
Amira laughs, and they hold each other quietly for a few heartbeats more before they part, faces red. Elodie takes the gauntlet from her and sets it back on the table, clearing her throat and taking a small screwdriver from her tools pocket.
"Anyway—as I... As I was saying, it could be more efficient. It's just been difficult to synthesize the mythril I need for that in a large enough—and pure enough—quantity." Elodie pauses, tightening a screw on the wrist. "I've been dreaming about it lately."
"This is what I'm talking about."
"I am so close, Amira. If I can just get this to work, you'd—a general you, don't smile like that—you'd never have to take it off. You would always," she says on a breath out, knuckles white around the screwdriver's bright red handle, "have magic at your beck and call, at your fingertips, just like the rest of us. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
It would be. Amira flexes her fingers, well-aware of how cold they are—a problem with her magic circulation meant her blood circulation was a little thin, too. She wouldn't have cold hands, cold feet, cold anything if she had working thales. She wouldn't need seven layers to go outside in the ever-chilly climate of Wornstone, and she wouldn't catch her death playing in the snow that came every season save summer... She'd be able to cast magic as effortlessly as Elodie did, as any of their peers did. It'd be a blessing. It'd be a miracle.
It isn't worth losing her best friend over. Elodie has always been thin, but she'd become aware of just how much thinner she had grown when they'd hugged. Her dark red eyes, her charm point, are sunken in, the skin around them dark with a lack-of sleep. Through her olive skin Amira can see her thales pulsing a ghoulish pale green, a sure sign of arcane sickness. Her normally meticulously kept white hair is unkempt and twisted, and her trembling fingers reflect the tugging and twirling she's done to it with sharp indents around them. Amira first takes the screwdriver from her and sets it down, then takes her hands and raises them to her mouth.
"Elodie," she begins, throat tightening. "Elodie, Elodie, Elodie. I really, really appreciate it—everything. But I promise you that six weeks is plenty of time. I promise that I don't have to wear it every moment of every day to be happy."
Elodie's eyes widen and she shoves her; Amira stumbles back with a yelp, but she keeps her hold on Elodie's hands and they both go down on the stiletto's basement floor.
"I am doing this for you!" Elodie's voice is strained, tears springing to her eyes. "And you're just going to reject me!?"
"I'm not rejecting you, I'm just—" Amira struggles with her, coughing as an elbow goes into her gut. "Ellie, I love you, I'm just saying that this is good enough!"
"It isn't! It isn't, it isn't, it..."
Elodie stops struggling in her arms and sobs instead; Amira breathes heavily, the weight of the other witch making it hard to get enough air into her lungs but not enough to make her feel like she needs to push her off. She strokes the white hair, untangling it with her fingers as she goes, and speaks softly into the space above them.
"If I could even match you for a day I'd be happy, Ellie. This is more than enough. No one says you have to perfect it tonight either, or even tomorrow. We have our whole lives ahead of us." She smiles, watching Elodie's shoulders shake. "Why not leave some of that work to an older, more experienced Elodie Masters?"
"As long as Amira Arima doesn't go too far from her side," Elodie replies, sniffling. "Will you promise to stay with me?"
"Then I'll stop. Just for now though," she continues hotly, sitting up and wiping her face. Amira breathes deeply, blessed air filling her lungs completely. "I'll continue once I've rested up."
"And you'll be reasonable about working on it from now on, right? Taking breaks? Eating?"
Elodie's nose crinkles. "No promises. But I'll try."
Amira sighs and closes her eyes. Better than nothing, she guesses, and she lets Elodie help her up so she can try the gauntlet for herself.
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Love this story. You have a great voice. I liked this line because it says so much about the relationship in very few words: "If I can just get this to work, you'd—a general you, don't smile like that—you'd never have to take it off." This was a great read, thank you for writing it.
Thank you for your kind words! That was one of my favorite lines, too. I'm glad you liked reading it! c:
Fascinating story Alice! It feels fresh and full of character and worldbuilding. Great job!
I've recently been told I have a "gentle worldbuilding" style, and your comment seems to match that sentiment haha. Thank you for reading and commenting Edward!
Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!
Thank you very much!!