That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

The trick to leaving your mark is to start early, her father’s words rang in her ears as she stood just outside the testing chamber. Start the moment you walk through the first door. Grab their attention.

She didn’t know how she was going to manage that. Her father’s method had most likely involved vast sums of money. People remembered who funded their projects. They remembered so they could come back for more. Her father had been content with memorials bearing his name, gratitude for supporting others who leveraged their money and influence.

Reianna had something different in mind.

“Everyone does the same thing,” a boy in the corner hissed. “Unravel the event.”

A simple test. Any child could do it. Any Destarian child, anyway. But the test was the first time they were allowed to make use of their power outside the careful control of the masters and their institution. Everyone mastered the flow of time by the age of ten. Passing the test allowed them to make use of that power in the real world. But they couldn’t make use of that power freely until they reached the rank of master.

“Reianna,” a monotone voice announced from the doorway. A stern, bored-looking woman with pinched lips and wrinkles surrounding her eyes pushed a pair of thick, black-rimmed glasses up her nose.

Reianna gulped as she stepped forward. “Ready, ma’am.”

“This way.”

The room on the opposite side of the door was stark white, floor, walls, ceiling, nothing to break the sterile surface. She expected to walk down a hallway, but they stopped just on the other side of the door. She couldn’t hear the whispers of the other hopefuls anymore.

The briefing was exactly what she expected. She wasn’t sure why they bothered to do it if everyone knew what they were expected to do. But she had to note the names and faces of her particular targets. A pair of influential youngsters who were destined to pair had been prevented from meeting. To pass the test, she only had to ensure they married. She could do it anywhere on the timeline.

Almost everyone unravelled the situation by ensuring their intended meeting took place. Some few jumped further ahead to arrange a new meeting. But it was more work and didn’t make a good impression on the evaluators.

How do I do something different? Aren’t simple solutions always the best? Her father had high expectations. She could already see him pressing his lips in a thin line, perhaps in anticipation of her disappointing return. It wasn’t enough to pass. For her, it had never been enough.

“You may begin,” her evaluator pushed her glasses up her nose again, her tone one of impatience.

Reianna drew a deep breath and closed her eyes, focusing on the faces of her targets. She could see their timelines winding in both directions. So many possibilities. So many convergent points. And she saw the diversions, where the timeline had been meddled with. The distinctive taint of a Destarian’s touch. How many lives did they fiddle with on a testing day? How many civilizations had to be set to rights when the youngsters failed? Who had ever given them the right to play like gods with the lives of innocent, oblivious people?

Not questions she was expected to answer.

The common tactic was to enter the time stream just after the meddling divergence. Convince the star-crossed lovers to meet in a fashion similar to the one that had been diverted. The timeline would mend.

But Reianna found herself focusing on the radiating black and purple mark that indicated Destarian meddling. What was the point, really, in diverting a timeline they wanted to remain? The guardians had to be tested, certainly, but why form so many scars across the time continuum just to make certain the newly trained were competent?

Destarian’s were supposed to be immune to the whiles of their counterparts. The mark didn’t serve as a flag to warn others away from a Destarian’s activities; it was a distortion that bent their efforts around that moment in time. Making it impossible to meddle directly with another Destarian’s meddling. In theory.

Her mind caressed the vivid, pulsing blemish. If she pushed hard enough, she could penetrate that shield. She’d done it before. She hadn’t been trying, of course, but desperation often lent strength. Could she replicate the same results with determination?

She drew a deep breath. In the millisecond span before she released it, she pressed. Fire seared her temples, discouraging the pursuit, but she persisted. Light obscured her vision, followed by darkness. Her heart pounded in her ears. The power radiated around her, black and red and disturbing to her secondary vision. A moment more and she might burn out, failing her test. Worse, she might bounce out of the time continuum all together. If she was lucky, it would kill her. If she wasn’t…

This is either the most brilliant or most foolish thing I’ve ever done.

She exhaled as she passed through the shield. Cool air caressed her cheeks. She had chosen the right moment; just before the initiated action, the weak point where the divergence only existed in potentia.

Wide eyes blinked at her. The instructor’s mouth hung open, ready to speak her distraction.

Across the cobbled streets, a young woman’s voice sounded. The man her instructor had been about to speak with, her target, ignored the unspoken distraction and hurried to his originally destined meeting. Across the cosmos, possibilities snapped into certainties.

Reianna smiled; she tried not to look smug. “It’s all right, Lady Priccian. I believe I’ve just passed my test.”

Akelar Priccian’s eyes bulged. Her jaw snapped shut. With a single irritated gesture, she indicated they should return to the testing center. Reianna bowed from the waist and winked out of existence.

Six senior evaluators awaited them in the stark testing chamber. None of them looked bored. Lady Priccian took one look at them and her gaze riveted on Reianna once more. They would have seen it, of course. They used this featureless room to track their students as they moved through the cosmos, watching their every action for the duration of the evaluation. Reianna waited silently to receive her results.

“Well,” the woman with the thick-rimmed glasses murmured after several heart-stopping seconds, “that’s certainly going to leave a mark.”

Please check out what my writing partner came up with for this prompt!

Author Beth Alvarez of Ithilear has also answered the Small Mound of Stones prompt!

If you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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