Clara awoke with a start, her heart pounding.
Something was different.
She sat up and grasped for the candle on the bedside table, and sent a small wave of magic towards it, enough to light it.
Or at least, she thought she did. She remained in the dark. She tried again and still, the candle remained unlit. She placed it back on the table.
She took a few breaths, and then took stock. She wasn’t hurt. That wasn’t the issue at all. And yet the longer she remained awake, the bigger a gaping hole behind her heart began to feel.
“No,” she whispered. “It’s impossible.”
She threw the blankets off and stood. She picked up the candle again and then moved to the window. There was a street lamp just outside, blazing brightly. She slid the window up and stretched out one hand towards the light, telling herself that this was what had been lacking the first two times she tried. She hadn’t had a light source to transfer to the candle. The fact that she hadn’t required a nearby source since the early days of her magical education was beside the point.
She tried to reach out her consciousness along her arm towards the lamp, to pull the light towards herself, and send it into the candle.
There was nothing.
She slammed the window shut and threw the candle down on the bed. As quickly as she could in the dark, she found her way to the door. The guards outside startled and called out to her as she ran past them, but she paid them no heed. She counted the doors on her left until she had passed the right number, then she pounded on the next one she reached.
“Max!” she shouted. “Max, wake up!”
She realised she was shaking, and braced herself against the door. Her face was hot. Her eyes were stinging, and she quickly wiped away the threatening tears.
It took Max a few minutes to reach the door. When he opened it, he was bleary eyed, squinting out at Clara.
“Clara? What’s wrong?” he asked.
“My magic is gone,” Clara said. “I don’t know how they did it, but they’ve stolen my magic. They’ve switched it off. It’s like the past few months never happened, it’s just… gone!”
Max blinked at her. She knew she was probably speaking far too quickly for him to follow in his barely-awake state, but she wasn’t thinking rationally.
“Are you listening to me? My magic is gone! I couldn’t do something as simple as light a candle!”
“I’m listening,” Max said. “I just… don’t know how that’s possible. Surely the only thing that could do that is some other kind of magic, and the Racharans are completely against that.”
“What about you?” Clara asked. “Can you make a Rune work? Or is it just me?”
Max held up his hand and disappeared back into his room for a moment. When he reappeared, he was carrying one of the pens every Aligarian Mage owned; it filled with ink at the touch of its owner and could write on any surface.
Once back in the corridor, Max pressd his thumb to the Rune on the side of the pen casing. There was a quick flash of blue, and Max nodded, confirming that the small additional weight of the ink was there. The Mages hadn’t been affected. At least, not yet.
Clara wrung her hands. “Just me, then,” she said.
“Looks that way,” Max replied. “Are you sure you’re not just tired or something?”
Clara shook her head. “It feels like something has been switched off inside me. There’s this emptiness that wasn’t there before. Max, I’m really scared. What if I can’t get it back? Thelidon relies on its monarch having the magical power to protect the Kingdom.”
“It’s the middle of the night; there’s not much we can do at the moment. Tomorrow we’ll talk to Reiner and the others, and find out who did this and how. Then we can work on getting it back.”
“I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight.”
“Just try. Maybe your powers will be back in the morning.”
Clara nearly rolled her eyes. Max and his unfailing optimism. She nodded.
“All right,” she said. “See you in the morning.”