Oh. Right. Magic. This world had magic.
Since I already looked like a complete noob socially, I took time to read the pretty book brother Nehcor had given me during my breaks. You think I could before bed, but damn if I wasn’t tired as the dead every single night. A day of hard work can do that to you, even if it was a good kind of a tired.
It did attract a good deal of curiosity to whoever saw it. It was a rather pretty book, and it was the only thing in my possession aside from the clothes on my back. But once I made up a story about it being a family heirloom that I was able to smuggle out from the grubby hands of my ex-husband, that seemed to explain it well enough.
Gus took a bit more interest in it than Hal and Milly, though. Possibly because his weak body couldn’t keep him invested in work as them.
“What’s it about?” he asked.
“Well, part of it is about language, and the other part is about magic,” I ended that sentence with a bite of apple. They were especially flavorful in this world, probably due to the lack of mass production.
“What about magic?”
And since it wasn’t very often that he’d give me the wide kiddy eyes, even if it was just because he was too interested to know what his face was doing, I more than happily explained to him what I had read so far.
There were two types of magic, elemental and divine. Elemental magic had to do with the manipulation of the world outside of the body. Though, when I went into detail on how it was actually the ability to influence the flow of energy through matter by using one’s own energy, Gus’s face had screwed up in confusion.
“Shit, you really are one of them learned ones.”
“Watch your mouth,” I said, as I had decided to be more active in my raising role. “Didn’t I already tell you it makes you sound stupid and uneducated?”
He snorted. “But I am stupid and uneducated.”
I glared. “You’re as stupid as you make yourself, and I’m raising you to be a fine gentleman.”
“Pfft, raising me? You ain’t my mom.”
“I don’t need to be to want you to be happy, and to be happy you need to become someone capable.”
“And a gentleman is ‘capable’ because…?”
“A gentleman is just a word for someone who is socially capable, meaning you can make and maintain healthy and productive relationships. Stop giving me that look like I’m talking too smart for you, and don’t say you don’t need relationships. What do you think is between you and me? Or us and Hal and Milly? Or families? Or between employees and boss?”
“Alright alright, calm your knickers, I get it. Just get back to telling me about your book already.”
And so I did, coming back to the second type of magic: divine magic.
It was called ‘divine’ because the human body, which was made in the image of God, was considered to be sacred, and, since this book was written by God himself, I figured it really was sacred. Rather than influencing the world outside, in influenced the body and mind, and in that line of thought, divine magic was only split into two, unlike the dozens of branches of elemental magic: healing and mind magic. Healing, which was what I did, was the ability to manipulate the flow of energy and motion in the body to promote repair and other such realignments. Mind magic, on the other hand, was the ability to influence the mind, which was a very energy complex place and needed a trillion times more finesse than healing magic, since every minute string of energy made up connections between nerve cells.
His nose wrinkled again. “Nerve cells?”
“They’re these microscopic, um, crap, you guys don’t have electricity either…they’re tiny things in your head that by, making connections, makes it so your entire body can function, learn things, and express who you are. Like memories and such. It’s…crap, you guys don’t have computers either.”
But Gus’s look had just gotten weirder.
“That…that just sounds like dark magic,” he said, oddly quiet.
“That’s probably what people call it, but it’s mind magic. A branch of divine magic, even.”
“That’s a lie.”
His expression had turned stern and hard, so unfitting for his youthful face. “There’s nothing divine about being able to screw with people’s heads.”
“Gus, magic is just a tool. Divine doesn’t say whether it’s good or bad, just special. And when something is special, it tends to have more power.”
“Power, pfft. Fire is power. I’ve seen someone blow away a whole crowd with a fire bomb spell. There’s nothing powerful about it, it’s just…” he looked down at his hands, dirty from wood polish. “Ugly.”
I got the feeling that this was one of his ‘moments,’ like when I was remembering traumatizing things. So, accepting the impression that I had stepped onto tender ground, I slid off my stool to sit on the ground with him, the book still open in my lap.
“Power is the ability to make change, Gus. Destruction can be a type of that, but it’s a very crude way that only spreads so far. Changing a soul, however,” I touched his chest for emphasis. “Can make everlasting change into the eternities. People have the potential to become gods, you know.”
His head snapped up, his eyes both big with wonder and disbelief. “What?”
I wondered if this went to close to revealing where I’d come from, and figured this much would be okay.
“I don’t know much about the religion you guys follow in this country, but you consider yourselves children of god, don’t you?”
He hesitated. “I don’t believe in god.”
“Well, pretend you do. That is what your, uh, religious teachers teach, right? You told me you’d get help from church folk occasionally growing up, right?”
He sighed. “Yeah.”
“So if we’re children of god, what do children usually grow up to be?”
“But people die—“
“Death is but a stage of growing up. We aren’t where god is, right? We can’t see everything for a reason. We’re still in the pupa stage.”
Still, the look he was giving me was bemused, though I could see something bright lighting up behind his eyes.
“Then why are there bad people?” he said. “Why would god, if he’s our dad, let people do such awful…AWFUL things?”
“Because a parent who controls their child’s every choice, even if it’s to stop them from making bad choices, isn’t a very good parent at all. All they can do is teach us the right thing to do, and he has. What do you think a conscience is?”
I thought I should probably mention judgment day as well, you know, the great inevitable day of godly butt whooping to the evil, but he happened to glance down at the open book in my lap and reached for it.
“What…” I let him take the book. “What kind of weird writing is this? Is this from your country?”
“Yes,” I said, telling the spasming in my chest to calm down. Just seeing writing from a different world wasn’t like telling him I was. He didn’t know better.
“I think your guys’ writing is prettier. They’re like someone tried to draw all the different facets of a jewel.”
He shrugged and gave the book back. “If that’s what you think. It’s not like I can read either of ‘em.”
Which got me all anxious to teach him how to read and write, and since I needed to learn anyways, I got Hal to give us a bit of time in the mornings, when business was at its slowest, to sit Gus down with the book and learn with him. If Gus thought it was weird that my book had reading lessons in the front and a magic encyclopedia in the back, he didn’t say it.
As a side effect, he slowly tried to learn the writing from my world as well, though I doubt he’d be able to since it was written in a different language. I kept having to snap him back on topic because he’d stop to ask ‘what does this word mean?’ and the weird brain flop I’d have to do to interpret it gave me a headache.
“Learning my language isn’t going to do anything for you, trust me.”
Ugh, I shouldn’t have said anything.
“Just focus! We got a limited amount of time as it is.”
Some weeks passed like that. My hands and legs healed. Gus grew stronger, including getting some actual cheeks on his poor face, though I almost missed his funny knobbly frown. The attempts at groping from the regulars died down quick enough, probably because Derrick was there, a solid square of grizzly muscle and stormy glare. There were rumors that the man he’d taken out the first time, Soren, ended up with a broken hand.