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The right to a blessing

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It came about because of Caldina. Someone - probably one of the apprentice guards, several had taken the rite recently, and there was always a little talk when it happened - had mentioned the rite of Cephiro's Blessing in front of her, and she worked out that it related to mages.

Not that anyone would go into detail with an outsider, or talk about it. So it was a shock when she sat down and stared at Ascot across the dinner table, she just plain asked him if he'd been allowed to go through it. Ascot flushed hot, and stuttered, and watched LaFarga freeze in the doorway and then back out without Caldina seeing him, leaving Ascot alone to desperately search for an answer.

It wasn't unusual for Ascot to be embarrassed by a direct question, especially if it involved an opportunity he hadn't had. He just couldn't figure out how to make her drop it.

Not that he hadn't - these past few years, he'd wondered, once or twice. But his wondering had always been a future thing, very distant future, when he was more interested in - well, what it entailed.

Now, he had Caldina kicking up a fuss, and he didn't want to tell her to stop talking about it because then she would make sure to find out what happened - and then he'd never be able to ask for Cephiro's blessing, because Caldina would know that it usually ended up involving sex. Ascot couldn't deal with that.

The final straw came the day she burst in on one of his conversations with Clef - they weren't really lessons, hadn't been for a long time, but they talked about magic regularly and Clef pointed Ascot at ideas that might be helpful. "Hey!" Caldina demanded, thumping into Clef's study and glaring at him. "You're the head of all the mages in Cephiro, right?"

"…Yes?" Clef said, warily, while Ascot went bright red and felt his throat closing on his shout, too startled to leap up and shove Caldina out of the room where she couldn't-

"Then you're responsible for this 'rite of blessing', or whatever you call it. Don't you think Ascot should take it?" Caldina snapped, and Ascot watched, mortified, as Clef slowly blinked at her.

Before she could say anymore, though, Clef put his hand up, and for once Caldina waited for an answer. "Of course he has the right to ask for Cephiro's blessing, if he wishes to," Clef said, carefully choosing his words. "But there's no time limit, no deadline Ascot has to meet - it's something that's very personal, and it can be overwhelming. The heart of Cephiro is essentially sheer power, and coming into that presence - many people wait a long time before they feel they are ready and want the blessing. A lot of mages never do. If and when he is ready, Ascot can ask, and we will help him."

Caldina frowned at him, then at Ascot. "So there's nothing stopping Ascot from taking part in this thing?"

"No," Clef said, firmly. "Anyone who has Cephiran magic may ask for the Blessing. Cephiro may not always grant it, if one asks when not prepared, or not sincere, but that is for Cephiro to decide - not me, and not the Guild."

"If that's so, why didn't you just say so?" Caldina asked Ascot, turning to him with a huff. "If you'd just said 'I'll go ask when I'm ready-'"

Clef stepped in then, standing and pulling Caldina's attention back to him with a wave before Ascot could splutter out an answer. "The Blessing isn't generally discussed with people who don't have Cephiran magic," he said, voice dry. "I expect Ascot felt awkward about that - it's not wise to tell too many people that you have a ritual which lets you directly touch the source of power of your entire world. Someone always hears about it and turns up to try and get access to it for their own purposes. I'm sure you can understand that it's generally impressed on all of us that we're not to speak about it?"

Magically, that worked. Caldina rolled her eyes, and left in a far less dramatic fashion than she'd entered the room, leaving Ascot and Clef in a ringing silence.

"I'm- I'm sorry," Ascot said, eventually, face burning.

Clef waved a hand at him, his own face slightly pink. "It's fine - it's not like I lied to her. But there are some things you just - don't want too many people to know the details about. It's perfectly reasonable she should ask, if she'd heard something, and that you wouldn't want to tell her! …I did mean it, though." He looked at Ascot steadily. "If you want to take the Blessing, now or in the future, you should. You're more than settled enough in your power; we'd need to find you a strong mage to be you guide, but-"

"I'd want it to be you," Ascot blurted, and Clef's eyes went wide. Ascot hadn't meant to say it, but the thought of anyone else - no. He knew who he would trust to be with him, who he would want with him. "If I take the Blessing. I want it to be you. There's no one else who-"

He stopped himself with a shudder, and pulled back, looking away.

"…I don't know if I can," Clef said, voice shaken in a way Ascot had never heard it before. He glanced up, in spite of himself, and Clef looked like he was blurting things out just as unthinkingly as Ascot had. "No one's asked, not since I've been Guru- I don't know whether-" he shook his head. "But I would be honoured. If you truly wanted me to?"

Ascot didn't point out that Clef had, until recently, looked so like a child that it had probably dissuaded people from asking him into such intimacies. "…Could we find out?" he asked, instead. And he hadn't meant to say that, either, but he didn't want to take it back.

Slowly, Clef nodded. "I can ask," he said.

Ascot left the room later with little idea what else they'd talked about, head ringing with the whole idea of it. That Clef would - for Ascot…

He wasn't sure whether he wanted the Guild to say yes, or whether he'd rather they said no, and saved Clef from this, from Ascot - he shouldn't have asked, shouldn't have presumed-

But. 'I would be honoured,' Clef had said, and he'd sounded like he meant it.

Walking slowly, Ascot began to wonder if he could get Caldina to take that holiday to Chizeta she'd been mentioning.