One time, and one time alone, Nan suffered the “creeper shoulder brush” in a packed metro car. It aroused a thirst for vindication that would only be slaked with every pint of the offender’s blood had she the displeasure of seeing his face again in a quiet alley. Nan had very good reason to believe that she stumbled upon the magical equivalent in her ignorance.
Ram Lady was at least a half-head shorter than herself. Prime height for jaw to skull impalement with her lowered horns.
“You appear surprised. Why would I catch you with my miniscule reserves? I am named, the same as you. Pray tell, how many others have you casually probed? How often have you abused your providence delivered strength for a pastime so dishonorable?”
Whym flowed. It was small, just a trickle of energy, yet its presence stifled her. Her breaths came through a filter, hard pressed. An aroma akin to daisies and cut grass filled the air. “Can you not simply ask to see someone’s sigil?! Are you addle minded?!” The woman glowered. “Do you even care for the example you lay?!” Throughout her spiel, she worked herself up from a stern, measured tone to the verge of shouting.
Nan was reminded of a bear rearing up on its hind legs roaring in warning: “See how big and threatening I am? Back off.” A silly image in retrospect, standing bears usually meant curiosity, not aggression. Movies worked to ruin one’s perception, but it fit the situation at hand.
Nan bit her tongue. She did get the impression of some shape before her “probe” was deflected. So it was peeking, not touching? Still bad under most contexts. She opened her mouth, only to trigger another bout of reprimands.
“I detest you. I detest all of you! How arrogant must you be to just… to just- augh! Three times, slipper clad feet struck the ground hard enough to jar the bottles of condiments on the table.
How hadn’t this drawn more attention? Nan spared a glance outwards. Indeed, there were onlookers; a man in a disheveled lab coat and fuzzy ears that may as well have been a pair of radio dishes stood out from a similarly dressed gaggle seated under them. They decided to look away rather than answer her silent plea. Was she expected to just take a clobbering? Where was Izusa? She couldn’t sense anything but the encroaching field of whym.
“I uh- didn’t mean to? I mean I didn’t know that I probed you. It was my first time.” Nan held out her hands, palms open. The air between her fingers felt thicker than water.
Ram Lady’s scowl deepened. The bear stood taller, opening its jaws in the anticipation of a roar. Nan’s breaths grew shorter still. The tiny bit of whym surrounding her pressed until it seemed ready to crush her lungs. She considered pushing back with her own reserves.
“I’m a new arrival?”
“Truly?” Ram Lady, stammered. The stifling pressure retreated, leaving only a dull ache behind. Nan took a deep, blissful breath. Sweet, sweet oxygen. Never again, would she disregard its beauty.
Ram Lady’s expression went from one of unadulterated rage to that of a woman who feared the lash of a displeased god. Or a lawsuit. She held her mouth open slightly, though her words seemed to be locked in port. A heartbeat passed. Two.
Ram Lady let out a sound that was suspiciously close to a soft baa.
“I was unaware…” Her eyes widened. “I said such mean things!” A short flare of whym. Ram Lady sat astride her, one of Nan’s hands gingerly held in both of hers. “I rescind everything.” Again, Ram Lady’s breath got lost in her throat. “Rather, I apologize.”
“It’s okay, really.” Nan said. “I’d be mad, too if some stranger just brushed up on me.”
Ram Lady’s ears twitched. “No. That hardly lends cause for what I did.” In a much quieter tone, she added, “I… I shall take my leave. You needn’t suffer me anymore.” She spoke in a fit mirroring her first, this time waxing depression rather than anger. Slowly, whym bubbled up. “May providence guide your path.”
Her aching chest motioned for her to just shut up. To let the Darth Vader analogue leave and hope they never cross paths again, but Nan was still bearingless in an unknown environment. If weathering an infuriated force choking ment making a friend, she’d do it twice.
“You were sitting alone, right? I’d like it if you stayed. I’m Nan, by the way.” Personal connections were high maintenance things. All the better to keep thoughts of home at bay with.
Ram lady blinked. Her pink eyes held rectangular pupils that maintained a horizontal orientation with the ground, even when she tilted her head. “So kind…” She said.
The nature scented whym shifted from a bubble to a braid. Her book and mug of coffee settled on the table seconds later. She puffed herself up, putting on an air of composure and confidence that clashed with that of a few moments ago. “Yaranessli Vo Vannon, second daughter of Amir Vo Vannon. It will be fine if you simply call me Yara.”
Yara wore a blue button-up shirt that would have made her look like a boy if her hair wasn’t twisted into an intricate bun. “Cute” would sum up the bits of her first impression that didn’t include strangling her with thin air. Yara thumbed the handle of her coffee mug “Just don’t do that again, even if you can get away with it.”
“I’m confused. Don’t we cast spells with sigils? Is it indecent to look?”
Yara shook her head. “Seeing one and probing are completely different. An invocation sigil is your will given form, a reflection of your soul.” She lifted a finger in the air. A green scroll winked into existence, opening with a fwap. The bit of whym she segregated to bring it up was like a single rain drop. Negligible, if she wasn’t paying attention to it.
“Calling them for their own sake is a sign of trust and respect. A request to be dealt with fairly, and a promise to do the same. If you go deeper than the surface, you can pick up memories or emotions. Intimate things. Spreading your senses is fine but, if you must cast to do so, do not. You may overstep.”
Nan nodded. So “feeling” harder would reveal someone’s sigil without their permission. That may present problems down the road. When she picked up Yara’s signature, zeroing in was almost a knee-jerk reaction. “I didn’t cast anything, you felt unique, and I kind of wanted to know why. Then I felt like I could if I just looked a bit harder. Sorry.”
Yara grimaced. “That is rather unfortunate. You must have a sensory affinity. ” Both of her hands clasped over her mug. She drummed her fingertips against the plain white material, mulling something over. “In any case, someone should have told you. How long have you been… alive?”
“Nan got out of medical stasis an hour and a half ago. Thanks for not killing her, she’s a good kid.”
She didn’t notice the soother coming up the ramp. Cogs deposited two plates stacked with bacon and pancakes covered in syrup and a blue fruit-like thing that was too large to be any berry she knew; grey seeds ran along one half of its heart-shaped form. Glasses filled with chocolate milk trailed behind.
“Izusa, you are mistaken, I would never!” Yara’s gaze shifted to the chair. Her expression changed from one of shock to horror. She pulled at her horns in distress, the sound she made was most definitely a baa. “Nan, are you in a vulnerable state? Did I hurt you?”
“She’s fine. I’ll savor that reaction of yours though, thanks.”
Yara’s cheeks turned an interesting shade of pink. “Soother Izusa Keme. That was low of you. Your cruelty is boundless.” Her admonition had no bite behind it, just disappointment. Given what she’s seen of her in the past few moments, Izusa was simply being Izusa, and Yara had long adapted to her ways.
Nan would have found the exchange humorous, had a giant spider in polished blue platemail not stalked its way up the ramp.