Sea of Twisted Souls – Chapter 2

Sea of Twisted Souls – Chapter 2

The first raindrop to splatter his forehead shattered his concentration. The spell, so painstakingly woven, slipped and fizzled. His eyes fluttered open to one of his father’s sharp glares of reprimand.

“Focus,” came the too familiar, patronizing hiss.

“I am-”

“You mustn’t let anything shake your concentration,” his father interrupted before he could defend himself. “The island will compensate for small miscalculations, but you must never come to rely on it. If you make a genuine mistake, it will not protect you.”

Lyntaru gritted his teeth against an angry retort. Their mother had taught them to count to ten before they spoke. He exhaled. “So you always say, Father. But you’ve also warned us against undertaking a complex spell for the first time while we’re fatigued.”

The lord of the island glanced toward the sky, noticing the heavy clouds for the first time. He blinked when a raindrop assaulted his eye. “It is later than I realized.”

“I could use a break,” Darien volunteered. With chagrin, Lyntaru noted his brother had maintained his half-formed spell through the entire conversation. He wasn’t jealous, but he did envy the ease with which Darien grasped new concepts, molding them to fit his style. Mother said he was analytical in the same way his father was; careful, studious, learning the ins and outs of magical workings so that molding energy to new forms took less effort. Darien could often explain a spell in minute detail after working it only once or twice.

Lyntaru would have given anything to match his siblings’ magical aptitude. Morulin wove magic with a careless grace only their father could match. Sorcery seemed as easy for her as breathing. He wasn’t slow; every sorcerer wove the power differently. Darien with precision; Morulin with grace. For Lyntaru, each spell was a work of art. He mimicked his father’s examples time and again, paying careful attention to every detail, until he could trace the subtle contours, until each act of creation became its own masterpiece. Mother insisted that very inclination made him the perfect candidate for ruling the island, but Father often grew impatient with his ‘inefficient’ methods.

Their instructor bowed his head and slid to his feet, stretching legs too long held in the same position. “I believe we’ve covered enough for one day. Your mother will be displeased if we’re late for dinner again.”

Lyntaru shifted, his calves protesting when he put weight on them. He swayed a moment on his feet, bending his knees a few times to regain his range of movement. Across the small clearing, Darien swung his arms from side to side, stretching his back. A distant rumble of thunder urged them to hurry down the path, but Lyntaru lingered, wanting a moment to himself.

A soft sound drew his attention. His father’s eyes were distant, a sure sign of telepathic communication. “Visitors have just arrived at the docks,” he announced. “I’d best make my way down to greet them.”

Darien glanced at his twin, then back to their father. “We’ll catch up.”

“Don’t linger too long. Your mother will fuss if I meddle with the weather.” After a conspiratorial smirk, he started down the hill.

Darien waited until he was out of earshot to cross the space between them, laying a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” But Lyntaru sighed when he said it.

“Don’t beat yourself up.” Darien flashed him a knowing smile. “It was a long lesson.”

“At least in part because of me.”

“Nonsense! If it was easy, they wouldn’t call it ‘advanced,’ now would they?”

“I wouldn’t know. You make it seem pretty easy from where I sit.” As he spoke, Lyntaru realized he sounded like a petulant child.

“Do I?” Darien arched an eyebrow. “I’m sure I lack your distinctive flair.”

“Flair doesn’t have any bearing on aptitude,” Lyntaru growled, exasperated.

“Maybe not. But everyone learns at their own pace. And besides, your magic impresses Father, even if it takes you awhile to master new concepts. You’re not much different from Mother, you know. She’s told him to back off a time or two. Maybe you should consider the same.”

Lyntaru couldn’t help but grin. “How is it you always know exactly the right thing to say, Dar?”

“Could have had something to do with sharing a womb, Lyn.”

“Doesn’t seem to have helped me.” Lyntaru shifted a rock with his toe.

“You just don’t give yourself enough credit. Is this argument going to take long? The rain’s getting harder and I’m too tired to make an umbrella.”

With a snort, Lyntaru summoned an energy barrier large enough to shield them both. Tendrils of energy extended like the tentacles of an octopus, momentarily dancing in the air before they formed a dome, shimmered, and completed the transparent film. Raindrops trickled down the sides, forming tiny rivulets as they slid across the smooth surface. “Now I know you’re just trying to cheer me up. This is child’s play.”

“No really, I’m tired. I crossed wires plenty of times building that spell. Sometimes I think Father doesn’t notice because most of his focus is on you. I don’t envy you that; you’re going to have the difficult job.”

Lyntaru kicked a stone. It passed through his barrier and tumbled down the hill. “I’m starting to wonder if I’m cut out for it.”

“Of course you are. Father wouldn’t have picked you otherwise. And it wasn’t like he lacked for choices.”

“Morulin would have been better. She could move the island in her sleep.”

“She probably would. Can you imagine what kind of problems that would cause?”

He fixed his brother with a sharp look. “You, of all people, should know better than to tease about that.”

“That wasn’t what I meant. You know why Father didn’t pick her.”

He sighed. He did know. “But why didn’t he pick you? The analytical approach certainly gives you an edge.”

“Because he likes your flair, Lyn. Magic isn’t everything. I’m rubbish with the guests. And I don’t want all the responsibility anyway. I shudder to think how you’ll spend your life.”

When he thought about running the bathhouse, it was the mundane tasks that excited him most. Greeting the guests, conversing after dinner, arranging events and coordinating trade. He was happiest among people and always had been. Morulin called him the life of every party, and he tried to ignore the jealousy tingeing her tone. Inheriting their mother’s empathy provided an advantage.

But ruling the island required mastering magic as well, and Lyntaru wasn’t sure he had the patience. “You’re going to have plenty of responsibility yourself. Isn’t that the point of Mother and Father passing down their powers separately?”

“Yeah, but most of that responsibility will be looking out for you, and I already do that. I certainly don’t mind.”

Lyntaru grinned. “I’ll build you a tower, brother. High enough that you can watch over everything without leaving your studies.”

“Glad to see you’re feeling better.” Darien unleashed a full-throated laugh.

“All right, I admit it,” he chuckled. “Let’s get back before I drain the last of my reserves on this silly spell.” Turning as one, they fell into step, walking in comfortable silence.

No one ever believed they were twins. Technically they weren’t; but that had never stopped them referring to each other that way. Darien filled most of his memories. Lyntaru couldn’t imagine life without him.

Darien was taller by almost half a foot, and stockier of build. Lyntaru was lean and wispy. He’d inherited their mother’s brown hair, sun-bleached with golden streaks. He wore it long, though not as long as his father’s. Darien kept his ruddy blond hair short, though it was long enough to curl at the tips. No matter what he did, it always seemed unruly. Usually he gave up, allowing himself to look unkempt. Darien had expressive green eyes but a stoic nature. Lyntaru regarded his amber eyes as dull but couldn’t help wearing his heart on his sleeve.

It was no wonder they were as opposite as could be; they had different fathers. And as Father tells it, he never got along with Darien’s dad. They had grown up to stories of Darien’s father, the legendary Damian Cooke, who left the island shortly before they were born. The reason, their parents insisted, was to spare the twins and their mother from the debilitating effects of a dimensional rift. But they were old enough now to know better. There was some other reason involved. Morulin had almost told him once. She was old enough to remember. But at the last moment, she recalled a chore and ran off.

Lyntaru mourned that his twin had never met his father. They were conceived in different dimensions, but their worlds collided when their sister’s magic awakened, drawing two islands in neighboring dimensions together. The story troubled him. How could he manage the island when he was ill suited to wielding high levels of power?

More than once, Darien admitted despair and frustration over his father’s absence. Their parents painted a picture of a good man; strong, intelligent and willing to risk his life to ensure the safety of others. But they both wondered why a man like that hadn’t returned to his child.

Luckily, Darien had never been an outsider among their family. Insensitive questions were few and guests were often apologetic when they stumbled on the taboo topic. Darien never got upset, at least not in public, and his father faded to a distant mystery.

For as long as he could remember, Lyntaru had been joined to his brother’s hip. They slept in the same bed until their parents insisted they were too big to share. It had only been five years since they stopped sharing a room, when the onset of puberty drove them to seek greater privacy. But their rooms shared a wall and they’d silently agreed to press their beds against it. A wall wasn’t much of a barrier to sorcerers.

The rain pelted his invisible barrier by the time they dashed beneath the bathhouse awnings and Lyntaru dispelled the enchantment. They lingered beneath the dark wood overhang, extending their hands to test the temperature of the storm.

<Lyn, are you still with your brother?> His mother’s voice echoed in the vaults of his mind.

<We just got back. We aren’t late, are we?>

<No.> Her serious tone concerned him. He glanced at his brother, but his eyes were distant, indicating another silent conversation. <The two of you had better come down to the docks. Make sure you stay with him.>

<Of course.> But why? He knew better than to question, but something had obviously gone wrong. He waited anxiously for his brother’s focus to return, biting the inside of his lip as his heart pounded against his chest.

Darien blinked and rocked backward, reaching for the wall. Lyntaru threw out an arm to catch him. “What’s wrong?” He squeezed his brother’s arm, not certain who he was trying to reassure. Darien was white as a sheet. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!”

“I might in a moment,” Darien gasped, laying a hand on his forehead. He sucked several deep breaths before raking his fingers through his unruly blond hair, leaving his bangs an untidy sprawl. “He’s here, Lyn. After sixteen years… He’s finally here!”

Lyntaru stared, unable to make the connection. Time stood still for a moment. The air caught in his lungs. “You mean…?”

“I’m finally going to meet my father.”

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