I missed last week’s prompt because I was away at the UK Author and Readers Meet, so I’ve incorporated one of the prompts from that with some of this week’s in a continuation of my Amethyst background stories – which needs a proper title, btw. I’m using the Silver Flash Challenge to explore this world and its people, taking 1st person views of it. This time I’m with Adept David Weston.

 

The prompts I’ve used are:

 

“I know I’ve said it before, but this really is your last chance.”
the color of night
school
candle
elixir

 

Amethyst – Adept David Weston

 

“Well?” Magister Constantine asked as the helicopter circled away the small town. “Anything?” Lymington lay below us, its street lights meandering streams of golden light across the night. The woodland, and open moors of heather, bracken and gorse that made up the New Forest were mostly black, illuminated only by the occasional flare of vehicles’ headlights.

 

I shook my head. “No, sir. Nothing at all.” Which was very close to a lie. I’d picked up something, a hint so ephemeral and swiftly gone I could have thought it my imagination. But we were passing over one of the churches at the time and it might have been the energy of holy ground. Or it might have been an Unregistered seeking the camouflage of the church to mask him or her from us.

 

“Adept Weston, do I need to remind you that, as an Adept skilled in long-range detection, your success rate has been abysmally low of late?” His tone was casual, as if he commented on the weather, and I couldn’t stop my shiver of unease.

 

“No, sir,” I answered. I wanted to say I couldn’t find what wasn’t there, but that would have been interpreted as insolence and I’d regret it once we returned to base. Penalties were at best painful, at worse—well, several days and nights in the Infirmary weren’t unusual.

 

“I’m glad you realize it,” Magister Constantine continued smoothly. “One might almost begin to think your ability had suddenly deserted you.” He paused, but I had nothing to say. “This is your home town, and we have gained many students here in past years. But none since you. As I said at our briefing before we left Whitehall, I find it hard to believe such a rich mine of talents has suddenly petered out. Not unlike your sensing ability and my patience…”

 

I swallowed the bile at the back of my throat. “Magister, I – ” Ice slid down my spine and I lost what I intended to say. All four of the Magisters at the Psionics Institute were intimidating in their own ways, but Constantine was outright terrifying. I’d graduated only eighteen months ago, and I’d been allocated to the Sweeps right from the start. All Adepts have their own particular speciality; my sensory range was a lot wider than most, and the Institute wanted every Unregistered they could get their hands on, even though the older ones proved more difficult to train.

 

Every year, fewer children were found through voluntary registration, and I could understand why. In the unlikely event I ever fathered a son or daughter, if they inherited my talent and knowing what I know now, I’d move heaven and earth to keep them from the Institute. I looked away from the view outside the chopper’s cockpit and met his gaze. In the dim light from the instruments, his eyes were the color of night, fathomless and impenetrable. “Magister,” I said as levelly as I could. “I sensed nothing but the sacred ground we crossed, that’s all.” I waited and did not make the mistake of looking away.

 

The weight of his stare was chillingly oppressive, and his mental probes threaded through the layers of my thoughts like spectral fingers. He neither moved nor spoke for what seemed an age. Then he nodded. “Then we will have to take other measures,” he said. “The New Forest has always had an impressive collection of folklore on witches,” his scorn filled that one word, “and the arcane. Some of our most powerful Magisters and Weavers have come from this area and others like it. So. It’s time you returned home, Adept. Visit your old school friends, convince them you are a pathetic failure with your very slight talent locked away, and find me the Unregistered.”

 

“But, sir, they’ll know I’m a spy! Or at least suspect I am.”

 

“No. You won’t be the first reject sent back to where they came from with their memories and talents behind barriers. Yours won’t be. of course. But you will be partially blocked. You won’t be able to speak out of turn. I know I’ve said it before,” he continued, “but this really is your last chance. You will be a failure in truth, and the usual consequences will apply regardless of your talents.”

 

His probes hadn’t touched the deeper, hidden levels of my mind, but that was little consolation. The thought of the ‘usual consequences’ made something in my belly flutter like the flame of a candle in the wind, and I tasted bile again. When they were done with me, I would have lost eleven years of my life and be unable to reach the powers within me. If the Council was inclined to be lenient. If they weren’t, I’d be more than mind-blind, I’d be a drooling empty shell.

 

“Yes, Magister,” I whispered.

 

****

 

A week later, I was back in my family home near Lymington, a five hundred year old cottage in four acres of pasture and orchards. I’d been allowed to contact my parents the day before – for the first time since I’d been Registered – and now I sat on the narrow bed in my room, wondering how it had grown so small. For the last eleven years I’d lived in a cramped two-roomed monkish apartment in the Institute in London’s Whitehall, and called that Spartan, book-lined place home. Now, looking around me at a child’s assortment of books, toys, and collections of oddities, I remembered what home truly was. And was no longer. My mother and father were afraid. Of me. Of what I represented in my black trousers and tunic with its purple collar buttoned close about my throat, and my shaved head.

 

A framed photograph stood on the dressing table. I reached over and picked it up. Mum and Dad were hugging each other and laughing at me – I was hanging upside down, using a branch of our apple tree as a trapeze, and my hair was flying in a wild blond tangle. Memory supplied the details: this had been taken the day before my ninth birthday. Three days later, the headaches started, dazzling auras flared everywhere I looked, and my eyes began to change. I’d come into the talent a lot younger than most, and Mum and Dad didn’t want to register me. But they didn’t have a choice. My schoolteacher had noticed my changing eyes. She called home and said she’d report them to the authorities and register me herself, if they didn’t.

 

I ran my hand over my scalp and rejoiced that now I was away from the Institute, I could let my hair grow out. Besides, I’d gain no information if I walked around looking as if I’d come fresh from Whitehall. After all, though I had to check in with Weaver Thompson on a regular basis, Magister Constantine hadn’t given me a timescale. Any Unregistereds I met would be able to tell I had the potential for talent, even if my eyes were hidden, but they wouldn’t be able to discover if I was blocked or not without the kind of deep probe only a fully trained Magister or Weaver could perform.

 

What I’d do about any Unregistered I encountered, I hadn’t yet decided.

 

“Davie!” Mum’s voice echoed up the stairwell. “Dinner’s ready, love.”

 

“I’m on my way,” I called back. I unbuttoned my shirt and yanked it off, and rooted through my suitcase to find something, anything, more casual. All I had was a plain gray tee-shirt I wore in bed. It was clean, so it would do. I was a PI Reject now, and I could dress like a normal person. I pulled it on and hurried down the stairs.

 

The food-scents wafting from the kitchen were enough to make my stomach rumble and my mouth water. Food at the Institute was plenty and health-promoting, but basic. When I walked into the dining room, my mother was putting a familiar earthenware casserole on the table and Dad was already seated at the head of the table.

 

“There you are,” Mum said brightly, nervously. “Come and sit down, dear. It’s beef stew, your favourite, and apple pie to follow.”

 

“It all smells wonderful, Mum,” I blurted, and gave her a quick hug. And pretended not to notice her flinch. I sat down and offered her a smile that felt strange on my face, as if my muscles had forgotten how to do it. “Now I know I’m home. No one cooks like you.”

 

Tears filled her eyes and her fixed smile wobbled a little. “It’s so good to see you again,” she whispered. “You’ve grown so tall – we had no news of you until yesterday – eleven years, five months, fourteen days – you might as well have died!”

 

“He’s here now, sweetheart,” Dad said gruffly. “That’s the main thing.” He picked up the bottle of Merlot and filled our glasses, then raised his to me in a toast. “Welcome home, Davie.”

 

“It’s good to be here,” I said, my own voice thick with emotion. “I – missed you both.” I couldn’t say more, so I sipped the wine. It slipped down my throat like the finest elixir, and I nearly choked. Just a middle of the range supermarket plonk, and it tasted like heaven.

 

Mum made a small hiccupping sound that might have been a swallowed sob, and she leaned across to pat my hand.

 

We ate in silence for a while, and the meal tasted even better than it smelled. But I could feel their questions like ants crawling over my skin. They’d been told nothing other than I was coming back. I’d been thoroughly briefed on my cover story, now all I needed was an opening. Dad gave it to me.

 

“So, um,” he began cautiously. “Is this a holiday for you? How long do we have you for?”

 

“Not a holiday,” I answered. I glanced down and scraped up the last of the custard and apple pie in my bowl. Lying to my parents didn’t come easily, even though I mixed some truths in with the lies. “I sort of blotted my copybook. More than once. And I’m not exactly the most talented Registered they have. I was hauled up in front of the Magisters’ Council and I’ve been excluded.”

 

“That’s unusual, isn’t it?” Dad asked, at the same time as Mum’s whispered, “Oh, my goodness…”

 

I shrugged. “Not really. They don’t publicize it, but they’re not that keen to keep hold of the substandard. Like me.”

 

“Well, thank God for that!” Mum said, some of her tension leaving her. She took a healthy swallow of her wine. “Their loss is our gain. My God, you’re home! I can’t believe it!”

 

“Me, either,” I said. “They wiped my memories so I don’t remember what it was like in PI.” Another lie. It was a cross between a University and a monastery. “But I’m glad to be out. Damn it, I’ve got eleven years of news to catch up on!” I thought about safe topics, and plumped for our next-door neighbours. Not that next door meant across the garden fence. Like us, they lived in an old cottage in the Forest, and it was half a mile away. “Are the Cunninghams still in Oak Cottage?”

 

Mum dropped her glass, the red wine spreading like blood across the white table cloth.

 

tbc

 

For delightful free reads, check out the other Flashing Silvers!

 

West Thornhill (m/m) http://wthornhillauthor.blogspot.com/
Julie Hayes (m/m) http://julielynnhayes.blogspot.com
Victoria Blisse (m/f) http://www.victoriablisse.co.uk
Lindsay Klug (m/m) www.ichbineinteufel.blogspot.com
Lily Sawyer (m/m) http://lilysawyerbooks.blogspot.com/
Sui Lynn (m/m) http://suidlynn.blogspot.com/?zx=57a5d3d27a15dbfa
Catriana Somers http://catrianasmuse.blogspot.com/
Ryssa Edwards (m/m) http://www.ryssaedwards.net/blog/

Pender Mackie ( m/m) http://pendermackie.blogspot.com

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