17. (Un)fathomable consequences
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After their recent discovery, it hadn’t taken long for Sarah and Erin to understand a bit more about what they’d unearthed that day in the forest. Sarah was almost certainly a Seer, and she could use her magic to learn more about the world around her. The only problem was that she’d poured just a tiny bit more power into it than had been necessary, resulting in her skull feeling like it was going to be split in half.

Once they’d understood that – thanks to some very careful experimentation in order to avoid repeating past mistakes – the next logical step had been very obvious. Sarah needed to learn to control her ability, more precisely the amount of amount of power she poured into it.

It was easier said than done, however. As it turns out, while figuring out how to trigger her power had been akin to fumbling in the dark for a light switch, learning fine control was like trying to hit the center of a target with a dart from the next city over. Needless to say, it was utterly frustrating, and incredibly, inconceivably boring. Meditation had been bad, but this was hitting new heights. Sarah often felt like her childhood dreams of magic were being mauled to death by reality. She’d joked to Erin about it, telling her the only way to make it worse would have been to make magic work through mathematical equations, only for her friend to tell her with the utmost seriousness that this was basically how spell matrixes worked.

Almost a week after their first discovery, Sarah was sitting in class, thinking back about that tidbit of information and how it had almost driven her to tears. Ironically, she was currently trying to follow her math class, but just couldn’t focus. Even if meditating and trying to get better control of magic was frustrating and boring, this was still infinitely worse. What’s more, she’d recently been making progress, managing to trigger her ability for the first time ever since the skull-splitting incident, minus the headache this time. It wasn’t as powerful as it had been then, as she was certain she received much less information about the world around her, but she could now “see” things around her without looking, and gain a basic understanding of what they were. More importantly, she could retain a lot more of what she learned. It had been confusing at first, but she was getting used to it, and she couldn’t wait to try and see the cool things she could do with her new little trick.

Idly looking around, Sarah could see a few other students in the same boat as her, not captivated by the teacher intensively scribbling equations on the black board. On her right, a few tables away, she could see Erin, in her male form, carefully noting everything the teacher was explaining with a studious expression on her face.

Sighing quietly, Sarah tried to get back into the flow of the lesson, focusing on the blackboard. She was far from being a bad student, but she tended to struggle in math if she missed too much of the lesson, and she already had enough in her life at the moment. Wouldn’t want to have to ask Erin to tutor her in magic and math, she wasn’t sure she could bear that much boredom.

Unfortunately – or was it unfortunate? – her shaky concentration was broken a few minutes later by a dull thud echoing throughout the classroom. It wasn’t that strong, but still enough to make her table vibrate a bit.

Looking around, she could see all her classmates doing the same, confused expression mirroring the one that must have been adorning her face at that moment. A few students on the left side of the classroom were looking through the windows, trying to see if they could spot anything that could have caused the disturbance. At the front of the class the teacher was doing the same, then crossed the room to open the door, before closing it once he’d found nothing strange in the hallways.

Nothing anyone could see seemed unusual, and after another half minute, everyone just kind of shrugged the incident off and the teacher slowly resumed his lesson. A few students were still sending occasional puzzled glances towards the windows, but everyone eventually went back to work.

Everyone but a student, actually. Looking back at her friend, Sarah could see her friend looking down to her right, seemingly at nothing. Sarah couldn’t see her face, but her posture seemed to convey alertness, setting off a few alarm bells in her head. Something was definitely going on, and Erin was aware of it. A cold shiver suddenly ran down Sarah’s body as she realized Erin was using her sight spell. Whatever she’d seen, it must have been magical in nature.

Sarah wanted to go and ask her friend what was going on, but obviously she couldn’t just stand up and go ask her friend in the middle of class. Her dilemma was fortunately resolved a few moments later when a second, more powerful thud violently shook the classroom.

This time, she shock was enough to move the tables and chairs, pencils and cases audibly clattering to the ground. Adding to the cacophony were screams from a few students, startled by the sudden interruption. Some of her classmates were already standing up, looking around as if waiting for something to happen. The teacher, being the only person standing at the time, had stumbled a bit and caught himself against a wall. Sarah could see the uncertainty in his gaze, as he was desperately trying to figure out a way to get some form order back and get everyone to calm down. He was a rather young teacher, and Sarah has been able to tell ever since the beginning of the year his control of the class was shaky at times. He was often exuding false confidence, as he struggled to find the best way to act. This situation, unfortunately, seemed to be a bit too much for him.

Snapping out of her unexpected train of thoughts, Sarah gazed at Erin, who was among the students standing up. Just like the teacher, conflict was written plain on her face, like she wasn’t sure what to do next. Her whole posture screamed that she wanted to go and investigate, but she was also probably struggling with the idea of other students noticing her slipping out.

Unsure of what to do, Erin took a look at the growing chaos spreading inside the classroom, the students crowding the windows and talking increasingly louder over each other. Sarah could see her resolve harden, and when her friend finally gazed at her, something had changed in her eyes.

Suddenly, Erin no longer looked like the soft and kind friend Sarah had gotten to know over the past few weeks. She seemed serious, very reminiscent of the way she’d appeared to be before they’d first talked. There was steel in her eyes, but Sarah could also see the gears turning within her mind, as her friend was considering the best course of actions, dozens of scenarios being crafted and carefully analyzed in her head.

Sarah felt like she’d just discovered a new facet of her friend. This was the Erin who regularly went into a forest infested with monster and fought against them to protect people she didn’t even know, the one who endured Becker because he was the only one who could help her at times, the one who devoted countless hours to the study of magic for the sake of keeping the world a safe place. She was a shield, taking abuse for the sake of others. Bending, but never breaking.

She’d caught glimpses of that Erin at times, whenever she would get pensive or when she’d hear a suspicious noise in the forest during their training sessions, but this was the first time she’d ever seen her this focused on her task, with so much fortitude emanating off of her. She meant business, and Sarah pitied who or whatever got on her path.

Taking advantage of the chaos, Erin swiftly and quietly made her way towards the door leading outside of the classroom. Not wishing to be left behind, Sarah imitated her friend, hurrying up to catch her. Fortunately, no ones seemed to be paying attention to the pair, and they managed to slip away mostly unnoticed.

Oddly enough, everything was quiet in the hallways. Once they’d closed the door, the deafening cacophony that was erupting from the classroom became barely audible, leaving behind an almost perfect silence.

With nothing else to do, the pair began walking in direction of the exit, not needing to share a word about it. As they were making their way towards the staircase that would lead them to the ground floor, Erin once again triggered her sight spell, looking towards the ground as she walked. Almost seemingly as an afterthought, she also cut off her transformation spell, almost instantly losing a few inches of height and regaining her gorgeous curly hair. In Sarah’s opinion, the serious look she sported on her face definitely contrasted with the cute way her too-big clothes were almost falling off her. Shaking her head, Sarah chastised herself for getting distracted and made an effort to stay focused on the task at hand.

“What’s going on, Erin?” Sarah finally asked, breaking the silence.

“There’s a creature outside, but I can’t tell what species yet,” Erin answered, still looking through the ground. Gazing up a few seconds later, she stopped and looked Sarah into the eyes, a bit of uncertainty shining through her assured demeanor. “I’m not sure you should come with me, Sarah, this could get really violent. I need to find Becker.”

Sarah understood her friend was looking for her safety and caring about her, but she couldn’t help the pang of hurt she felt at the idea of Erin wishing to go without her. It was logical, Sarah wasn’t a trained monster hunter, and at worst she would only distract Erin, but emotions rarely listened to reason, in her experience.

Still, while Sarah was torn, she did her best to ignore it and gave Erin a reluctant nod, before swiftly embracing her in a tight hug. “Be careful,” she simply said, releasing her friend.

Sarah could see the conflict in Erin’s eyes. She said nothing, giving a smile that must have meant to be reassuring, before resuming her quick walking pace towards the exit.

Sarah stayed behind, looking at Erin’s back, as she was walking towards a dangerous monster with no backup, while her only friend couldn’t help her. She felt immense guilt slamming down into her heart. Once she couldn’t see Erin anymore, Sarah turned around, glumly making her way back to their classroom, to safety.

As Sarah was walking, however, a single idea blossomed into her head. A stupid, irresponsible, and probably dangerous idea. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get herself to forget about it. Quickly turning around, Sarah ran down the hallways and down the stairs.

Guessing the position of the creature from where Erin had been looking, as well as the fact that the building was completely silent, Erin deduced that it must still have been outside, and that the ground floor was thus relatively safe.

Getting as close as she could to the place she expected the monster to be, Sarah closed her eyes, pouring as much power as she dared into her new ability. At the same time, she directed all her focus towards the creature she knew to be nearby, hoping desperately it would be enough for her to not be overwhelmed by useless information.

As soon as she released her power, a literal torrent of knowledge got released into her mind. The pain was nearly enough to bring her to her knees, but not anywhere as strong as the first time.

But now she knew. She knew the creature. What it was, where it was, how it was feeling, what some of its strengths and weaknesses were, and so much more. She was fairly certain she hadn’t retained everything, but she was desperately clinging to what she could remember.

She didn’t know how much of it would be useful to Erin, but she had to reach her and try to help. Erin may already know everything Sarah had just learned, but if her friend got hurt, or worse, died defending the school while she was peacefully waiting somewhere else she’d never be able to forgive herself.

Imitating Erin’s previous resolve, Sarah steeled herself and made her way outside. Erin had said she needed to find Becker, and had a good idea of where she’d gone.

They were all in this together, now.

Please go and check out The Enchanted Pond, my short story about a closeted trans teen meeting a dryad into another world!