Why was it that whenever something happened I had to run? I ran last night when Lailah and I got that text, I ran earlier when Rayla and I went to the library, and I was running when I found out that Runaan Dove, CEO of NYHTS, was Rayla’s dad. Step-dad, adoptive dad, whatever. I had to tell Lailah. Or Corvus. Someone, I had to tell someone to get this off my chest.
As I ran farther from Rayla, the time between thunder started to get more and more unpredictable. The storm was losing control without her, but it wouldn’t go away. Every time the sky boomed, I felt it in my chest, it felt like a punch to the ribs. And it didn’t help that I was extremely unathletic. When I reached my apartment building, I was wheezing, and I couldn’t breathe. Even still, I rushed up the stairs to my apartment. By the time I opened the door and threw myself inside, I was doubled over, vision cutting in and out, clutching my stomach as another roll of thunder resounded, effectively knocking the wind out of my gut. I barely remember throwing my satchel to the ground.
“Woah, Callum, breathe,” said a voice. I couldn’t see who it was, which didn’t help.
“Wh-who’s-who’s there?” I gasped, holding the edge of the kitchen counter, trying to stand up straight.
“It’s me, it’s Lailah, Callum, you have got to breathe.” She took my shoulders and forced me to look at her. “Breathe, just-”
“I-I can’t,” I managed, “I can’t- I’m so overwhelmed with everything-”
“That’s okay, its okay, just take a moment to focus on the present, take a deep breath, and just be.” She inhaled slowly, and I tried to follow, doing my best to overcome the pain in my chest whenever the thunder roared. “Sometimes,” she continued, “things can get so complicated that our minds can’t quite sort them out alone.” With her voice ringing in my ears, I took a deep breath one more time, thunder fading until all that was left outside was the soft hum of rain hitting the window. “Seems like we both have a story.”
“What do you mean?” I was still clutching the counter for support, but standing a bit straighter. Lailah took a step back and crossed her arms, her face pitiful. “What’s wrong?”
“Runaan called me.” As soon as she said the words, my blood pressure shot up, another clap of thunder hitting my chest, making me cough. I shook my head, moving to sit on the couch. Lailah perched herself on the counter across from me. “What happened to you?” she asked.
“You first. What’d Runaan want.” The severity in my voice cut sharper than I would’ve liked.
“He-” Lailah sighed, lips pursed. “He wants me to convince Rayla to move back home.” I gasped again as another bang of thunder rolled across the sky. Why was this happening?!
“Okay, what is up with you?” Lailah finally asked.
“This storm? Kind of my fault, maybe.” I was gripping the armrest with an ungodly amount of strength, trying to keep my breathing in check. “It’s a long story.”
“Head Tracing… it’s magic,” I said, grateful for the chance to slow down, to analyze the afternoon’s events. “Years ago, we used to read stories of connections people found with their soulmate, ones that could connect them to a magical source; stars, earth, sky, ocean, sun, and moon. There hadn’t been a case of a connection so strong in hundreds of years, so when NYHTS came out with studies that proved Head Tracing as a science, people had little reason to not believe it.
But Rayla and I- we have that. We have that connection. She’s the moon, I’m the sky. When we’re together, we can perform spells. She can create illusions, and I can bring elements of the sky to the palm of my hand. Our connections to the elements are stronger when we’re together, losing control and strength when we seperate. And I think- I guess this storm-” I glanced out the window, at the raindrops racing down the glass, “Is because of me.” Lailah stared at me for a moment, a mixture of shock and disbelief plastered on her face.
“And what happened to make you bring this storm around?” she finally asked. The answer was simple.
“And what are you so panicked about?”
“You finish your story, I have a feeling they connect.” I closed my eyes, leaning back on the couch, trying to let my muscles relax.
“Right…” she began, “Runaan called me and told me I needed to convince Rayla to come back home. He told me that the money we stole is to fund my soulmate’s apartment in L.A. while her producer’s out of town-” a crash of thunder, tightening the air in my throat, making me cough. Rayla was a producer from L.A. What if...
“If I don’t get Rayla to move back home, my soulmate and her brother-” another boom-“wouldn’t be able to afford living there, they’d have to move away again, giving up on their dream. Runaan painted a picture for me, telling me that my soulmate would be poor and broke and sad unless I sent Rayla back home. Why he wants Rayla, I have no idea, so I thought it best to find you.”
“Does he know Rayla’s with me?”
“No, I don’t think so” she said. “Any ideas?”
“Yes, actually.” I sat up straight, finally a bit more at ease than before. “Rayla is Runaan’s daughter.”
“Yeah, Rayla got a call from him earlier, asking where she was. She wouldn’t tell him. And get this-” thunder rolled once more, and I grimaced, trying to ignore it. “I think Rayla is your soulmate’s producer.” Lailah stood.
“How can you be sure?”
“Well, Rayla just signed a guy and a girl- siblings- to her studio, and agreed to pay half their rent so they could stay in L.A. And without her there, I’m sure the money is getting a bit dicy-”
“Which is perfect bait to get me to do what he wants.”
“But wait,” Lailah said as she started pacing. “If I send Rayla back home, then she can help pay rent, so what happens to the cash we stole?”
“Maybe it’s some sick, twisted bait. Send Rayla home, they can stay in L.A., NYHTS keeps the extra cash that they don’t need anymore. Don’t send Rayla home, they have to move out, NYHTS keeps the extra cash anyway.” I thought some more. “Maybe they’re lying about what they really want to do with the money. I mean- It doesn't make sense they’d pay for Soren and Claudia’s apartment if Rayla was in town.”
“Her name is Claudia?” Lailah stopped cold, staring into space.
“You- you didn’t know?”
“No, somehow NYHTS found her before I did.”
“Then does that mean-” I sat up, still a little shaky, “Could they find Rayla?”
“I think you’re safe, if Runaan is trying so hard to find her, chances are they can’t on their own.” She sat up on the kitchen counter again. I let out a sigh of relief. “Which is a good thing, too. If they knew-”
“They’s hold her over my head, I know.” I listened to the rain for a bit. The thunder had disappeared, and my heart rate was finally normal. Maybe there was a section in the sky book, about how emotions connected to the weather once the arcanum was unlocked.
Oh shit, the book! I stood and crossed to my satchel, still on the floor and opened it, pulling out my copy of The Lightning Thief. It’s title almost pained me, due to the circumstance. I walked over to where Lialah was sitting on the counter and handed it to her, suddenly sheepish.
“I'm … sorry for whatever I said earlier.”
“It’s okay,” she murmured, taking the book. “I know you were just trying to be nice.”
“Yeah,” I said, unsure of how to proceed. “I mean, I get it, too.” She looked away. “When my mom died, everyone tried to be a part of it, like they knew what I was going through, even though they had no real idea.” I turned back to my satchel and pulled it off the ground, setting it on the adjacent countertop. “I didn’t want to talk about it for a while. I still don’t.” The rain started picking up again, but there would be no thunder. Lailah was silent, and I started flipping through the sky book again.
“How did she die?” she asked after a while.
“She was a teacher. She taught high schoolers. And there was a shooter, and-” I stopped before I continued. “She didn’t come home that day.” I wasn’t about to get emotional over it. I’d told this story so many times, I’d kind of grown numb to it. But it was still a lot, sometimes.
“I’m sorry,” Lailah muttered, sliding off the counter, clutching the book. “We should come up with a plan, maybe. A way to keep Runaan off our tail.”
“Did he give you a timeframe?”
“Then we have a week to figure something out.”
The next day, Lailah and I still had no idea what to do. We stayed up late, trying to come up with solutions to our dilemma to no avail, and Lailah ended up leaving my apartment at around 2 a.m. in order to not arouse suspicion her roommate. Before class, Lailah met me in the lecture hall, both of us with circles under our eyes. She looked like she had a million questions as she set down her books in her usual spot. I was behind my desk, finishing up some notes when she came up to me and asked;
“So what are you going to tell them?”
“What do you mean?” I replied, not looking up from my notes.
“Head Tracing is magic. You can’t just- let that secret out.”
“No, of c-” I sat up straight, staring at Lailah, suddenly concerned. I hated lying. “What am I supposed to tell them!” I stood, sending my notes falling to the ground.
“Callum, no, you can’t-”
“I can’t lie to them, I can’t do what NYHTS wants, spreading their ‘scientific facts’ when it’s all bullshit-” I couldn’t help but pace, sending more papers to the floor. “I’d be playing into what they want, knowingly , too!”
“Callum, no, you have to keep calm.”
“Well what do you suggest I do, then?” I turned to face her. Lailah didn’t answer right away, stunned. “I can’t just- leave them in the dark.”
“This seems like something you should have thought of beforehand-”
“And when exactly did I have time to think about this? We made this discovery yesterday-”
“Well you can’t teach on the lies you’ve been teaching, but talking about the sources could get us in trouble. What if another one of them was a member and told Runaan?” That got me. I couldn’t risk Runaan knowing, especially considering his connection to Rayla. I put my hands on the edge of my desk, staring at a snippet of my notes, still lying on the desk.
“... part of what makes Head Tracing so interesting, and the history behind it, is the science…”
That was it. The history. The history of Head Tracing, the history that centered around magic. I looked up at Lailah with a smile, a smile that caught her off guard.
“I’ve got it. Go to the library, an in the history section, there should be four books with runes on the side, labeled ‘star’, ‘earth’, ‘ocean’, and ‘sun’. If you find Rayla, ask for her copy, ‘moon’, too. I’ve got sky.” I must have sounded crazy. “Now hurry, try to find them before class starts!” Lailah rushed out, leaving me to pull together a topic before class started in fifteen minutes. This lecture might prove to be more interesting than planned.
I pulled out my sky magic book, flipping to chapter two- History of the Sky Arcanum.
The Sky Arcanum was discovered by a mage by the name of Aaravos Greene in the year 1267. Aaravos is the only known being to have conquered all six of the primal sources. While he is most known for his advancements in star magic, Aaravos is, to this day, the leader in Sky Primal studies. He created the Fulminis spell in 1270, and the Aspiro spell in 1286. These were the beginner-most spells that spiraled out of control in 1298, when he began experimenting with changing the spells. For instance, he created the spell Aspiro Frigus , a freezing spell inspired from the spell Aspiro . Aaravos started to lose his sanity as his arcanum studies continued, and he disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1324.
Since then, many more spells have been created with the Sky Arcanum, though in years past, those spells have been some of the most dangerous, second only to spells of the Ocean Arcanum. In 1452, it was discovered by a great mage by the name of Hilary Hahn that users of the Ocean Arcanum and the Sky Arcanum are the most dangerous and destructive. She discovered that these arcanums fit perfectly- and their joint powers were strongest in the eye of a hurricane.
Okay, hurricanes, cool, good to know. I highlighted the line, already envisioning what the librarian might say when she saw the marks. On a spare sheet, I made a note of the dates on the page, writing the details about the different spells and their impacts. I opened my laptop and bookmarked any website that seemed like it might be useful in terms of magical history and lore.
Hilary Hahn was primarily a Sky Arcanum user. Her connection with her soulmate, Sandra Dianne, who was an Ocean Arcanum user, was so strong, that they were able to tap into each other’s arcanums. It is believed that their spirits still roam the earth in hurricanes across the globe, year after year.
Sky is the most curious of the sources. Sky Arcanum holders are typically free spirited, and under pressure, make quick decisions, and are able to think quickly on their feet. If this doesn’t describe you, that’s alright. In 1488, a mage by the name of Triton Valdez ran studies that proved that personalities are not linked, but rather derived from the sources. Valdez also discovered that Sky Arcanum Users always have perfect pitch- so long as they take the time to learn and study music. Many famous musicians are Sky Arcanum holders whether they realize it or not.
Woah, wait, perfect pitch? I have perfect pitch? That’s so cool! I made a note of this, circling it so I would remember to tell Rayla later.
Twenty minutes later, with all six primal books, chicken scratch notes, and twenty or so websites on magic and lore history, I stood in front of the class with what barely qualified as lecture notes.
“Many of you may not be aware of this,” I began, straightening my notes on a lectern, “But Head Tracing used to be considered magic. People used to believe that the songs we heard in the air were the result of the six primal sources; stars, earth, ocean, sky, sun, and moon. In theory, each person was thinly connected to a source, and it was through these connections that the Traces found their way. How?” I paused, glancing at my notes. “No one really knew. It was magic, after all.” I turned and wrote the six primal sources on the board. Under each source, I drew the rune that was connected to it.
“Each source is linked together strongest through one thing; music. I mean, think about it. The sky, the air, the atmosphere, that’s where sound waves travel. The stars- we have the technology to hear them from earth. And the sun, the sun emits sound, too, but since it’s much closer than every other star, it’s power is stronger and different. It’s song is deeper, more mystical. The moon emits reflection of the sun’s light, almost like a backup singer, or a harmony. In water, sound waves move faster than humans can hear. And the earth sings, too. Where do you think earthquakes are coming from?
See- the sound, the songs of these sources are mystical and strange and work in mysterious ways. When we listen to music, that signal is indeed broadcasted throughout the whole universe. But it’s the sources that guide that sound to the one you’re supposed to be with. How? Well, no one’s exactly sure, but that’s what makes it magic. However, these sources are deeply rooted in us, too. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a connection string enough, you and your soulmate might find yourselves in tune with the source that brings you your Trace.
But what do the primal sources mean, anyway? Well, each source was discovered by one mage, Aaravos Greene. As he discovered the power in the sources, he created spells that went along with them. Now, the term ‘created’ is used loosely, because Aaravos didn’t actually create them, he was just the first to discover them, and he claimed ownership. But I digress- back to the sources.” I spent a good deal of time discussing what the different sources were known for; The sun, known for his fire, the moon, known for her wisdom, and so on, describing the spells of each source as I continued. I found myself learning along with my students, and I felt more excited about a lesson than I had in awhile.
After class, after most of the students had cleared out, Ezran stayed behind, notes in hand.
“Callum,” he said, approaching me as I straightened my notes, “that was the best lesson you’ve ever taught.”
“Did it have anything to do with… you and Rayla?” he asked. I froze, unsure of how to answer.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you said that couples in the past had been able to tap into their sources, and that the moon was the goddess of illusions. You described how moon arcanum users could create holograms and visions.”
“Yes, that’s correct-”
“Well, last night, Rayla was looking at some of your drawings again,”- I tried not to blush. I failed. “And as she was looking at them, I saw… him.”
“Him, as in…?” I signed Harrow’s name, and Ezran nodded.
“Rayla… created him. Out of thin air. He wasn’t really there, but-” he looked away.
“You want to know why I chose to teach this lesson today, Ez?” I asked. He turned back to me, nodding. “Well… Rayla and I have that connection. She’s connected to the moon, and I’m connected to the sky.”
“Why would I lie?” I paused, shouldering my satchel. “Did Rayla seem… upset?”
“She was a little distraught,” he admitted. “Why, what happened?”
“I… learned something scary, and I didn’t know how to tell her.” I was embarrassed, to say the least. That was the second time in two days I’d left her to be soaked. I wasn’t doing too well at this whole… soulmate thing.
“You know, Callum,” Ezran said to me, a bit softer. “I read somewhere that even if you’re destined to be with someone, you still have to work for it.” He studied me, and when I didn’t answer right away, he continued. “The universe is never wrong, but it often changes its mind.”