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A Kind of Magic

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Mordion wasn't sure how he'd first done magic.

They'd been in the room when it happened - but then, they were almost always in the room. They ate there, they slept there, they washed there, only being allowed out for an hour or so each day for lessons. Mordion thought that he wouldn't mind, but it was always so damp in there. If you weren't shivering in the cold wet that sank through your clothes, leaving you chilled to the bone, you were sweltering in a warm damp until you weren't sure which water was sweat and which was water from the air.

He thought that maybe that was on purpose, that they wanted them to be uncomfortable. Not the robots of course - the robots couldn't want anything much - but there was something about their human keepers which suggested that they were not displeased when the children were tired, or hungry, or miserable.

This particular night was one when it was too humid to even think of sleep. Mordion had told stories and sung, trying to make the night pass more quickly, but they'd reached the point when they'd grown too tired for even that to be enjoyable. The two sets of twins had curled up together, heads on each others' shoulders, and Kessalta had seemed to drift into an uneasy doze, leaving Mordion awake.

He'd laid staring into space for some time, trying not to fidget and wake the others, and then suddenly he understood how to fix it. He thought it was a dream at first, for it was presented as easily as a dream solution. He had only to do this with his mind, push with it this way and...

He sighed in relief, pushing sweat-slicked hair back from his forehead, as blissful cool finally flooded the room. Suddenly it felt as though he could breathe again. He thought again that maybe it was a dream, for such things were possible in dreams, but then Kessalta was over him, peering at him.

"Did you do that?"

Mordion shrugged uncertainly, sitting up. "Don't know," he admitted. "Just wanted it to be cool." Just wanted it to be cool, so he'd changed the world until he found a reality where it was. Nothing more or less than that.

"I was watching. Your face went all squinty, and then it got cold suddenly." Kessalta looked thoughtful, sitting down next to him. "Can you do anything else like that?"

That was Kessalta all over, the spark of curiosity that Mordion sometimes suspected meant that she was the smarter of the two. Mordion might do things first, but he only ever did enough to make himself and the others comfortable. Enough maths that their teachers would stop bothering them, enough stories to stop the twins from crying. It was Kessalta who would take an idea and run with it, always wanting to push further. Always wanting to push Mordion further.

"I don't know," Mordion said again, but for her he tried, frowning again in concentration until a tiny spark of light appeared in the room. He grinned then, in sudden understanding, and made it dance, darting it over the walls.

Kessalta laughed out loud in delight at that. Mordion nudged her hastily, hushing her quickly, gesturing at the sleeping twins.

"Tomorrow you'll show them?" she asked, lowering her voice to a whisper.

He nodded. It would be one more thing to amuse them with when life grew unbearable. Life often seemed unbearable in there for one reason or another. "Tomorrow," he promised. "You should sleep now."

Kessalta smiled, and nestled into him, head drooping onto his shoulder. "You're good," she commented drowsily. "Good at looking after us."

Mordion didn't reply to that, but stroked her hair, waiting until her breathing had fallen into the easy regularity of sleep. How could he have answered her anyway? Could he have explained that he needed them as surely as they needed him, that the responsibility of being the strong one was sometimes all that kept him from collapsing in tears like the little boy he was?

No. But now he had magic, or something that seemed like it, and maybe that would change things. If he had the power to make things more comfortable for them, to make life better. Just to check that he still could, he conjured a light again and sent it dancing over each child's face, smiling to himself.

Yes. Now he had magic; things would be better.