As her fingers made contact with the cool, smooth surface she felt the most intense pressure underneath her skin. It began in her fingertips where they brushed the stone and spread through her whole body. She felt her body near to bursting with pressure and pent up energy and she tried to pull her hand back away from the stone but it felt fuzed to the surface. Marine’s head felt too tight around her brain, her eyes felt in danger of bursting out of her head. She felt at once burning hot and freezing cold, she was sure there must be light bursting out of her skin. It was as if she was too alive; feeling every single cell in her body brushing against the next one as it trembled to expend the extra energy she now contained.
It was painful, this feeling as though her insides were expanding at a rate faster than her skin could keep up with. She concentrated on breathing as coolly and calmly as she could; trying to let the feeling pass if it would pass. There might have been any number of the laboratory Tingions talking to her but she had no idea. Her ears were ringing with air and blood and a million thoughts. Mainly, Am I going to survive this?
As the overwhelming feeling pounded against her in wave after wave, she began to tire at the same time as feeling the most powered up she ever had in her life. Her arms began to feel like they couldn’t go on much longer. Marine started to sag, feeling the power soaking back into the stone somehow.
A fleeting image of her parents and family being led away from their homes in handcuffs crossed her mind and she screwed up her forehead and concentrated.
“No.” She heard her voice saying out loud, “No. No.” This feeling that she got from the stone proved that it was the Lost Stone, or at least an extremely powerful stone. Ezria had been right and Vanweer was lying and Marine knew this without question now. She couldn’t get caught here again. She rilled her shoulders back, loosening the tense muscles and concentrating on the stone again. Her fingers still didn’t seem able to separate from the surface of the stone but she moved her thoughts to focusing on the battle that was raging beneath her skin.
Marine took a deep breath and listened to her body and her muscles. She could feel the rivers of power moving between her fingers and the stone almost as if it were music. She let the tune wash over her and began, finally, to enjoy the sensation. It felt right to be touching the stone, it felt like part of her; she was meant to be here. Marine realised she didn’t know if she’d ever felt like she was supposed to be anywhere before.
“Where has it gone?” She heard a voice behind her exclaiming in surprise.
“It’s vanished.” Said another.
Marine opened the eyes she hadn’t realised she’d closed and saw the voices were right were the stone had vanished before her eyes. It was nowhere to be seen; but she could feel it in her hand, as invisible as her fingers. She clutched it tightly; the swollen, bursting feeling in her skin having past. She felt energised beyond belief; her back felt straight and long, her legs bouncy and planted simultaneously.
She slipped the stone into the pocket of her overalls and looked around the lab. Everything had gone into high alert - Tingions were racing around trying to work out where the stone had gone. They inspected the plinth it had been on and the walls around. There were several people guarding the door despite none of them having any idea how the stone could have been removed without them noticing.
“We must contact Vanweer.” Said a Tingion in a tough lab coat.
“Are you mad? She’ll kill us!” Screeched another, very deep into panic mode.
Marine grinned. Interesting, she thought, so they’re just as scared of her as the rest of us. It comforted her to know that Vanweer didn’t have an army of likeminded people. Just a staff of terrified servants. That would make toppling her easier.
As quietly as she could, Marine made her way across the laboratory, taking great care not to bump into any of the panicking technicians and scientists. She edged closer to the door; waiting for it to open so she could take her moment and slip through. Eventually it did open, and Marine saw the timid face of Vanweer’s assistant, Mavis looking cautiously around the corner.
“Is there a problem?” Asked Mavis, looking at the nearest Tingion. Marine didn’t wait to hear an answer, she slipped past Mavis and into the empty corridor. She winced as her arm brushed against Mavis’, and she noticed Mavis touch her arm absent mindedly at the feeling. Marine didn’t have time to wait about and see if Mavis had realised her presence. She ran to the other end of the corridor and listened carefully at the door.
There were no sounds coming from the other side of it but Marine thought it was unlikely the guard would have disappeared from duty while there was a commotion within the lab. She paced back and forward wondering what to do. It was a small corridor and she couldn’t wait for too long in case she was discovered by accident if a large party came through. It occurred to Marine that she felt oddly confident in her invisibility staying and she smiled. She ran the stone over and over the palm of her hand in her pocket and an idea came to her.
She gripped the stone and thought of the tiny assistant who had made her way through the door and into the laboratory moments ago. Marine concentrated on the way she moved, the way she looked around nervously; perhaps waiting to be shouted at. Marine thought through all the superficial layers of how Mavis behaved and began to remember the essence of Mavis in the room; how it felt to be around her, the aura Mavis gave off, the feeling of what exactly she was combined of deep within her soul.
Marine took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She looked down at herself. It had worked.
As quickly as she could she opened the door and came face to face with the security guard on the other side.
“Er, how was everything in there?” Asked the security guard nervously, “I swear, you’re the first person who has gone in or out of that door since Vanweer left.”
Marine smiled reassuringly at the guard and did her best to put his mind at ease. “Everything was fine,” she said calmly, “The Stone seems to have some interesting qualities but the technicians have it all under control now. I am going to report back to Vanweer. I’ll be sure to tell her how astute you have been.”
Marine nodded a curt goodbye and walked swiftly away from the guard, as she rounded the corner out of sight she let the feeling of Mavis drop and slipped back into invisibility. The stone in her pocket felt like a compass, guiding her through the possibilities of a world with magic.
She slipped out of the lab and made her way fast and careful through the back streets and towards The Cavern - her invisibility absolutely impeccable against the mud walls. Marine appeared in the hollow of the Cavern to see the small band of Tingions still laying scattered around where she had left them.
She clutched the stone in her pocket, almost hopping with excitement and possibilities for what she could now do. She focused her gaze on each Tingion in turn, watching them carefully and pulling strands of atunement from her mind towards them. She concentrated on Ezria first, looking at the dozing Tingion and recalling interactions they had had through years of teamwork. She felt the air around Ezria for signs of confusion, of trickery… but there were none. The air by Ezria was gentle, focused, and peaceful with itself. It reminded Marine of Cucumber Root and she smiled to herself. She moved her concentration around each of the other Tingions and while they were wildly different and interesting in their own ways, they all felt gentle and smooth.
Until she looked at Aysmar. As Marine focused her mind onto Aysmar she felt a vinegary sensation in the back of her throat and nose. The air around Aysmar was pulling in all directions, it felt hot and sharp - confused and unable to settle.
So there was a mole, Marine thought calmly.
What does Marine do about suspecting Aysmar?
- Go to Ezria quietly
- Go to Aysmar quietly
- Call out Aysmar in front of everyone
- Kill Aysmar
- Tell no one