04 – Book One – Toll – Chapter Three – Lípsi

I had attained a great amount of skill before I took a life. Many years had passed: some had taken long, were harsh and painstaking; others went by seemingly within the blink of an eye, though perhaps such a statement should not be uttered when concerning magic, for perhaps if I had asked this boon of Clýstra – to make a significant amount of time pass within the literal blinking of an eye – she might possibly do it just to reveal there were no limits to her many abilities. Though I cannot begin to fathom the amount of power and life it would be require.

But I am changing my topics. This story was not to be about Clýstra, but about me, as all these stories should be; at least that is my hope, for if I am to truly regain all my powers, I will have to be both painfully and brutally honest in my telling, as much as it may pain me. I feel it is only in that way that I may truly be restored to my former glory.

[Break]

Clýstra had instructed me very specifically and repeatedly. This is a magic of taking; always taking. There is the taking from inorganic material – rocks, dirt, water, air, which are in fortunate abundance on the planet of Albion, but also do not give the sorceress much power to work with. If you are solely using inorganic material, great volumes of it will be necessary to successfully complete most spells, unless they be very simple ones. When power and life is taken from a living entity, the amount is many fold but always comes at a cost. To take from plants and trees and flowers withers and desiccates them, leaving them dried up and most importantly dead. There is no coming back from this; no further power can be gained. No vitality remains. There is nothing left but to cast it into the wind.

Clýstra was incessantly clear on this and drove the harsh reality into me for many a year, often making me repeat it back to her, explain it, come up with examples to prove I fully understood what was being done here and the gravitas of it all.

There was also a third choice for the acquiring and use of power, but one that should only be used as a last resort, when no other option remained. Clýstra did not teach me of this third way until I was considerably older, so I could fully comprehend what this decision would be and its significant consequences. She only taught it to me once, perhaps believing I would not remember and therefore never use it. Only if extremely necessary, when one has no inorganic or living material to derive power from, one can extract it from oneself. The same rules apply. The same costs apply. If you take some essence from yourself, you will naturally feel weaker and less able because of it. The more you do this, the weaker you will become. And if you take too much . . . You will die.

Undeniably.

Lesson quickly learned.

[Break]

I took my first life when I was ten. A very young kitten. I found it all alone in a bush. It’s mum and siblings had abandoned it. It looked sickly and frail, even for a kitten. I have lived with animals ever since Clýstra took me in. Cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, geese, cows, pigs. They have surrounded me and been part of me for all of my life it seems. I have helped the birthing of many an animal babe, and know what a healthy creature looks like . . . And an unhealthy one. This kitten was very much unhealthy, destined to soon pass and leave this world. But I was ten, and even though I knew deep inside of me that this was all part of life and that animals were meant to die as part of the great cycle of Albion life, I wanted to do something.

I wanted to try and save the creature’s life.

I knew it was not meant to be. Deep within. I had learned much already from Clýstra and knew of the rules and the balance of nature and life, but I was still a ten-year-old girl. I wanted to do something. Seeing this helpless creature affected me greatly, made my insides feel like slime and bad things that wanted to leave my body.

I put my knees upon the ground, and my hands gently upon the kitten’s quivering body. It’s heartbeat was faint and oh so slow for one so small. I could feel so much beneath my fingers and palms, just as Clýstra had taught me. The soft, downy fur almost like thin tickling feathers. The warm skin beneath, pulsing with life giving blood. Beneath, the fragile ribcage and bones, so tender and weak. All too seldom there was a slight rising and falling, as a frail breath was taken in and exhaled. The kitten didn’t have long left.

I closed my eyes and concentrated, and tried to give the pathetic creature some of my life, my living, my existence, and keep it alive. I thought it would require some of my energy, would make me give it away and weaken me, but I thought it would not be much, for I was a human many times greater in size to this frail feline.

I felt something happen, grew tense with excitement. I held my breath, trying to freeze my body in place, and also be ready for a weakening in my form. But it never came . . . The opposite happened. That’s when I knew something had gone wrong.

Terribly wrong.

I felt life flow into me, imbue my body with strength and excitation; I felt both incredibly light and incredibly powerful. As if I had just had many a night’s sleep and a filling, wholesome meal, and was prepared to do anything I chose. I felt . . . Limitless.

I opened my eyes, then took my hands away from the kitten, folding them again my chest in a gesture of protection.

I gasped.

[GASP – couple takes]

Where my fingers and palms had been touching the creature, the fur had now turned a sickly yellowish-white. My small fingers clearly outlined. It was haunting. It was not necessary for me to place my hands back upon the creature in hopes of finding that weak heartbeat and forced breath. I knew its life, its essence was gone . . . For I had taken it. All.

It was dead.

That was when the tears came and then the sobbing.

Clýstra came to me. She could have been cross with me. Perhaps she should have, but she was not. She took me in her arms and brought me back to the house. She held me for as long as I needed. I cried and sobbed and bled my tears until I felt there was no moisture left within me. The dry heaves came next, and then I was finally done.

She sat me on her fur-skin sofa and put her arm around my shoulders.

She spoke in a soft and kind voice:

CLYSTRA: Why did you do such a thing?

THYRA

[young girl voice]

: I wanted to keep it alive. To give it some of my life. My essence. So it would live.

CLYSTRA: Did you not think of the cost to your own life?

THYRA: Yes, but I thought it would only take a little. A little I felt I could spare.

CLYSTRA: Very well girl. But sadly this type of magic is something that can never be done by a sorceress. We can only take, but never give . . .

THYRA [Shock]: What?!

CLYSTRA: Ours is a magic of taking life and energy from other matter, be they organic or not, but we can never give back that energy. We can never put it back within a life-form. It can only be taken away, removed. And once that is done there is no turning back.

I scrunched up my face and became angry.

THYRA: I hate this magic. It is silly. It is mean. It makes me feel . . . Helpless.

CLYSTRA: Yes child. These are all feelings I and many other sorceresses have felt before. Perhaps all of them have at one point or another. But it is the way of the magic of the Circé, and it is also its failing. It cannot be changed or altered or improved. It simply . . . Is.

That was when the tears came again, and I discovered I did have more water to shed from my body. Clýstra took me into her arms once more; it was not long before I fell into slumberland.