Week 23 - Novel - Dreams Part XVII - November 4-10

“I wasn’t sure you were actually coming back. Thank you, Jo.”

Tan came up and patted her on the shoulder too. “Yeah. Thanks for coming back. I, unlike Ardin, don’t hold much optimisim that we’ll be harnessing the Heartstone, or anything close to it, anytime soon, so I’m real glad we’ll have you along for the journey.”

Jo laughed nervously. “Well, I don’t know if I’ll be able to harness any stone yet, so please don’t get your hopes up.”

Elvir took this as his cue. “Perhaps it’s time we finally give that a try, yes? Are you ready to begin with a few stones, Jo?”

Jo took a deep breath and nodded. She’d made it this far. There was no turning back now, and no point delaying any further.

Elvir beamed. “Excellent. You won’t need a harnessing glove. I’ve learned that much. Let’s get you started immediately with a few stones.”

He moved to his stash of stones, removed a few, and returned to Jo. He handed her a ruby stone that nestled neatly inside her palm.

“We’ll start you off simple. This stone will allow you to generate heat. You may have seen the tower of ruby in Tach, which kept the city warm. This ruby will allow you to warm both yourself and your environment. Try to focus on it, and get a feel for it. You should be able to sense the stone, just as you did with the portal stone.

Jo clenched the stone in her hand, closed her eyes, and focused. Immediately, she could sense a pulse imanating from the stone. It was subtle, yet clearly present, just like a heartbeat.

“I can feel it,” she said.

“Good. Now, try to draw from it with a breath. Then, breathe it back out to release what you pulled.”

Jo focused again on the ruby, and took a deep breath, imagining sucking some essence away from the ruby. She swelled with a feeling of almost overwhelming heat, and immediately choked it back up, coughing as the energy overwhelmed her.

“Whoah!” Ardin yelled, leaping back. Jo opened her eyes. She had coughed in Ardin’s direction, and she could see him flapping his arms in the air and wincing in pain. “Geez, that was hot. Give me a little warning next time?”

She reddened and gushed an apology, but her exhilaration at having successfully harnessed the ruby quickly washed over any embarrassment and guilt she felt.

“I did it!” she said. “Wow, I really did it.”

“That was really impressive,” Tan said. “Harnessing a ruby might be basic, but doing so on your first try, with no gear, and managing to pull so much energy from it? That’s unheard of. I guess Elvir was right, after all. There really is something special about you. You really might be our world’s only hope.”

Jo blushed again at this. She looked down at the ruby. It seemed slightly smaller. “Okay, now what?”

“Now, we practice you controlling your harnessing a little more precisely. You’ll find with time and practice you can begin to precisely target your output, both in intensity and in area of effect. You can choose to warm up an entire region, or perhaps just light a candle. Here, let’s have you try lighting a torch.” Elvir motioned to one of the torches on the side of the wall, blowing on it and snuffing out its light.

Jo closed her eyes again, and this time tried to focus more carefully in drawing from the ruby. She drew in slowly, this time, and felt the energy trickling into her, coalescing into a small sliver inside her. This time, the heat felt managable and contained. She opened her eyes, looked at the torch, and breathed out forcefully, imagining shooting the sliver inside her directly into a flame.

Incredibly, she managed this flawlessly, and the torch burst into flame again. Ardin whistled and Tan clapped. Elvir nodded appreciatively. “You are picking this up just as quickly as I thought you might. Quicker, indeed. Even Aeon did not have such an intuition on his first try.”

Jo felt a glow of inner pride at this. She was startled by her own proficiency with the ruby. It was a deeply unfamiliar feeling to her to be such a natural at something. She’d never felt that way before. Suddenly, she felt a hunger for more. She closed her eyes and drew in the ruby again, this time without even taking a breath. It felt like a part of her, as reflexive to her as using her own hand.

She pulled in as much as she could, entirely consuming the entire ruby, and then shaped the energy into a tightly compacted dense ball of flame within her, and breathed it out. She opened her eyes and saw the ball of flame in front of her, hovering exactly where she imagined it. She found that she could feel and control the flame even after it had left her, and directed it around the cavern, before finally letting it dissipate in the far end of the chamber.

“Do you think I can try another stone, now?” she asked.

Elvir handed her two stones, now, one slate and one indigo. “I’d like you to try mixing stones, now, and harnessing two at a time. I won’t tell you what properties these stones have, either. I trust that you will be able to determine that on your own.”

Jo gladly accepted the challenge, grasping one stone in each hand and concentrating again. First, she focused on the slate stone. Like the ruby stone, she could feel its pulse as well, though it had a distinctly different signature, quicker and more sharp in a staccato rhythm. She drew in a tiny bit, and could instantly grasped what power it held, feeling a strong force inside her. She released it, and a pressurized puff of wind flew out of her and extinguished the torch in front of her again.

She drew in the indigo stone next, and felt water pooling within her. She drew in the slate again, and could feel the water roiling, now. She focused on concentrating the pressure within her as she drew in the slate, and found that she could condense the water, forcing it to compact more tightly until it didn’t move at all, becoming merely a perfect sphere of trapped energy, waiting to be released and explode. She carefully shaped the sphere into a cylinder, and then pointed to end of the cylinder to create a spear of water. She then drew in as much slate as she could, putting as much force as she could into her makeshift water spear.

 
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