Oh my god. School. Life. I have no time or energy for anything right now. I am so sorry this is taking so long. Thank you to everyone who's still reading, I started this chapter two months ago and have had no time for anything since then.

[Edit: Sorry guys, fixed the repeating chapter problem. ^^;]


Bottled Lightning: Chapter 8

By Rachel Poulson


Tris could tell that her siblings were a little disappointed to hear about her shortened return home, but they accepted it with good grace, and congratulated her. She spent the whole night deciding which books to pack, and in another girl her excitement might have been called giddiness. The morning dawned far too early for her liking, and she swung her legs over the side of her bed while grumbling about heating pipes that didn't work.

It was Rhealle's birthday that week, and Tris had bought her a book while in the town near Lightsbridge, not knowing what else to buy. But since it was supposed to be something Rhea would enjoy, Tris had bought her a tawdry book with a printed picture of a shirtless man on the cover. It had made her cheeks burn to be seen buying it, but it was gift; she held her hooked nose high and ignored the knowing look from the bookseller.

It rained all week. Evert and Andria's family came to check their progress and give them notice to pack for the holidays, and Rhea finally worked up the courage to kiss Kouja on the cheek. Onani took Tris hiking in the hills, and she picked and pressed some flowers for Briar.

Two days before the Lairanese cousins were scheduled to leave, Tris found out exactly what form Evert's weather magic took.

In one of the fields used for magical experimentation, an explosion of lightning blew a huge chunk out of the greenery, scorching the earth around it and setting fire to a few nearby bushes. The flames were quickly blown out by the wind which encircled the meadow.

Evert's friends stood in a small group well away from his demonstration, behind one of the wooden barriers set up for just that purpose. He walked back, wiping a hand across his forehead with a smile. "Well that was fun."

Trist was the first to recover. "You're a war mage." she said bluntly, flinty eyes narrowed at him.

Andria sighed. "He's kind of a war mage. His magic is best suited towards it, so he's been studying it since the magic tester found him." She waved a hand vaguely. "Personally I think he's better suited to performance magic. He never misses a chance to show off."

Onani's mouth was open, but his expression turned into a grin. "That was incredible. If I ever need to recommend a battle mage to someone, you'll be my first choice."

Evert preened and Andria elbowed him in the ribs. Tris wondered sometimes if he didn't have a permanent bruise from her sharp nudges.

On the way back to the dorms, Tris barely listened to the conversation, nodding occasionally, but lost in her world of lightning and thunder.

She'd seen it. Seen the light in his face as he pulled apart his hands to create a ball of lightning so much like the ones she used herself. Seen his smile, the tense brow, eyes glowing in the white light, because he was enjoying it, because he liked the way it felt to hold that power in his hands and not flinch–

Was that what she looked like? When she danced in the rain, skirts spinning around her body, rain soaking her because she didn't honestly care, braids released from their snood, soaking up the lightning like some mad girl trying to become the storm?

Back in her rooms, she lay on her bed for a long time, thinking. Why had he been so keen to help her with her magic? Did he have the ability to sense her magic, if it was akin to his own? Had he known all along? What was the extent of his magical connection with weather? Was it only weather, or could he sense the earth as she could? Could he feel the tides? Did he have problems keeping his power in check? What was his mage kit? How was he so normal?

She fell asleep as a light rain began to fall over Lightsbridge, soothing her mind and her magic, allowing her a deep dreamless sleep.

By the next night, another storm had forced its way through Lightsbridge, hail pounding the walls and battering the defensive spells on the glass windows. Tris remembered that last taste of Karang lightning, and she wanted to feel fresh for her studies with Boneweaver and Smokewind. Magical studies and application drained her magic harshly, and it was always nice to feel a little replenished before a big project.

This time she was more cautious about being seen, especially with the show Evert had put on yesterday; she sent her power out, searching for watchers on the grounds, and found none. Lightsbridge guards had more to worry about than an idiot student staying out on the walls in such appalling weather.

She carefully set aside her glasses and tucked her scarf into her bag, loosening her snood, the metalic net which held her carefully pinned hair. The fabric of her gown and oiled cloak were bristling with static electricity, gathered in anticipation of the storm.

She relaxed a part of her magic. Breezes wrapped around her, pushing the hail away so she could work in peace, the airways free to nuzzle her face as they'd longed to do since her first appearance in Karang. Images began to flicker before her vision, urging her to scry and listen to them. She was in the middle of calling down a stab of lightning when her senses screamed at her.

Trisana threw her head back and saw.

Evert was wreathed in the sparks which were his magic's imitation of the lightning above, forcing his way across the roof of the stone tower on which she stood. He had one hand up, as if to shield himself from the growing power overhead, which wanted to use him as a path. His face was chalk-white under the sickly glow of the lightning and the raindrops' reflected moonlight.

Her eyes widened. "You shouldn't be here," she shouted, lightning withdrawing for a moment as she released her grip.

His short-cropped blonde hair stood in every direction, creating a halo around him as he reached out a hand. Not towards her, she saw, but towards the lightning still lingering around him.

"What are you doing?" he yelled back, grasping the trickles of lightning. "I thought you were sensible! You're a weather mage standing in a storm!" The veins in his neck stood out tensely from the surrounding flesh, and his body trembled under the weight of the power. The storm was growing, filling the sky and charging the air too quickly for their breezes to soothe its sparks.

Irritation filled Tris as she struggled to keep her emotions and magic in check. "You idiot! You'll get yourself killed!" He doesn't know how to do this, she realized, he's not used to affecting weather while it's happening!

His face gleamed with sweat. "I'll be fine! I'm a weather mage too, right?" He raised both hands towards the sky, face grim, calling with his power. She flung out a hand, trying to divert the path of the electricity.

no, no, please don't, I can't protect him if he's pushing my magic away, why are people so stupid, god I hope this doesn't hurt–

The lightning answered.

pijule fakol, Evert, you bloody idiot–

An enormous bolt struck them both, enveloping in a soft whiteness that crisped flesh off bones and burned the tallest trees from the inside out. They stood together in the center, their magic twining through the lightning, feeling its kinship and soaking its power into their bones' marrow.

Tris looked upwards in the midst of that overwhelming whiteness, twisting her hands and pushing the lightning back up into the storm before it could obliterate the tower they stood on. Evert stood where he'd been struck, staring dumbly at her, eyes wide and face pale. Tris marched towards him, anger lining her features as the power settled within her.

"I knew I couldn't hold it all, you see," he rambled loudly, "So I thought I'd give a little back, because it's just lightning and it won't hurt me–"

The sound of her hand hitting his face rebounded off the buildings and then was swallowed in a growl of thunder.

"You're crazy," she said flatly. Her eyes were blurred without her glasses, and she was too furious to remember the spell to adjust her sight magically. "You're crazy, and you're a weather mage, and you could have blown this whole college apart with that. Haven't you learned any control?"

"I'm not crazy! It's just lightning! I'm a weather mage, the same as you," he responded. "So stop treating me like an idiot because I don't walk around engrossed in my own smartness all the time." He rubbed his aching hands together nervously. "Sure, it's harder to use than my lightning, but it's just lightning."

"Just lightning?" She glared at him as best she could through her poor vision. "You moron. You stupid, stupid moron. You don't even know, do you? How stupid you are?" She was repeating herself, she knew, and she didn't sound very intelligent right now, but honestly the thought bore repetition. If I hadn't been out here tonight, if he'd tried to handle the power on his own…. She shuddered.

Making a sign next to her eyes, she fixed her vision and looked him in the eyes. "Lightning is not your tool. Lightning is not a pet. Lightning is not something you can just use and expect it never to bite the hand that feeds." She stabbed a round finger into his chest, forcing him backwards. "Haven't you ever been outside in a storm before? Don't you know what it's like to be afraid? Haven't you ever wondered why people think weather mages are so dangerous?"

She had him pressed against the tower's stone wall, her magic seething beneath her icy exterior. "Don't you understand what happens when you hit someone with lightning?"

Her grey eyes were cold, she knew, too cold, but she was tired of pretending not to be what she was, and she was tired of people breaking things that she had to put back together again.

She took a deep breath, backing away, staring out into the rain. "You shouldn't study war magic," she said flatly, "until you understand what it means to take a life. Until you understand what it means to be in a war."

He was shaken to the core, but not so shaken that some part of him didn't feel offended at the insinuation that he was naïve. "Oh, and I suppose you know what it means to be at war?"

She went completely still, her eyes locked on his, and her breathing was shallow, dangerously so. He backed up until his whole body was pressed against the sopping wet stone, unable to look away from the burning behind her deep grey eyes.

Her eyes were full of silence and an earthquake pressing in from all sides and the drowning of sailors as their ships were blown apart and a wildfire passed through her flesh and a plague that killed thousands and a murderer was sunk into the ground and a huge magical wall was shattering for miles–

And behind it all was a blank wall which said If you hurt them, I will kill you.

He blinked, and it was gone. He felt wretched, nauseous, his body still aching from the power it had tried to absorb. He stumbled to the side, clutching at the stone wall as she retrieved her bag and her glasses, canceling the vision spell and ignoring him. She walked into the tower, still shaking with anger.

She clenched and unclenched her fists, trying to return to reason, breathing slowly and trying to clear her mind.

My name is Trisana Chandler and I'm twenty years old. I'm a weather witch, I'm studying at Lightsbridge, my foster siblings are Daja Kisubo, Sandrilene fa Toren, and Briar Moss. Home is Summersea, at Daja's house, with Briar's garden and Daja's workshop; home is also Discipline with Lark and Rosethorn and Crane and Niko…

She wouldn't cry, because she hadn't actually lost control, but it took her a long time to get to sleep, even with the steady thrumming of sleet against her windowpane.