Walking over the giant chessboard on the floor, I noticed The Jeweler looking me over. Head to toe. Smiling with approval. I couldn't understand why. ‟Still wondering what it is that I see in you, Justin?‟ He asked. ‟What could possibly be so special about someone so young? So unprepared for the duty of bringing a new era to the light for so many lost souls.‟
‟I'd be lying if I said that it hadn't crossed my mind.‟ I replied.
‟Sometimes a lack of experience is the true strength and beauty of youth. No universal truths, no stubborn beliefs resistant to change...you're a walking miracle, Justin. The Dawn was wise to choose you as its next vessel.‟
Confused, I said, ‟I just don't understand. Why me? What sense does it make to choose me? I'm not some great warrior, or a genius, or a leader. I'm just a stupid kid who gave up on life and got lucky enough to even be standing here right now.‟ I said. ‟There's nothing special about me at all.‟
The Jeweler stopped me at the end of the chessboard, looked me in the eye, and smiled warmly. He said something in that weird vampire language and patted me on the shoulder.
‟What was that?‟ I asked.
‟It's a very old vampire proverb. About life, about death, and the value of the experience in between. About those who choose, and those who are chosen. The 'value' in us all.‟ He said.
‟What does it mean?‟
‟Well, loosely translated...it means, 'once the chess game is over...both the king and the pawn...go into the same box.' It means death is an equalizer for us all, and life should never be seen as anything different. From womb to casket...we are all equally capable of miraculous deeds.‟
‟Heh...you said all of that?‟
‟The language of shadows contains centuries of wisdom that many will never know. Perhaps I will get the chance to teach you more during your stay here.‟ He said, guiding me down a hallway towards another room. I swear this place is so HUGE! From the outside, you'd never believe it contained so much...stuff. The next room he took me into was built like a giant circle, with strange markings on the floor positioned around a series of circles. Each circle getting smaller as it got closer to the center. ‟Please, sit down.‟
‟What? Like...you mean on the floor?‟ He nodded. ‟Is this a test?‟
‟Isn't everything?‟ He replied. ‟No firecrackers this time. You have my word.‟ I did as he said, and crossed my legs in the center circle. ‟Arms out to the side. Comfortably.‟ I stretched my arms out. ‟Fire.‟
‟I want you to conjure fire. With both hands. And I want you to hold that fire until I tell you to stop.‟ He said, walking around the outside of the circle.
‟Just, like...in my hands or...?‟
‟Fire, Justin. Now.‟ He said. ‟Find the appropriate energy, and have it manifest in a calm and controllable manner.‟
Controlling an extra is never as easy as it seems. Especially when it's not even my extra. There's a process involved, where I have to visualize it, and conjure it up. It's easier to do when I'm fighting, because whatever I need just sort of leaps to the surface to protect me. It feels weird when I actually have to think about it.
‟I'm waiting, Justin.‟ He said.
Ok...fire. Where is the fire? Ummm...ok. Something's happening. I hope I don't burn myself.
My hands started to get warm, my palms were face up, and the more I thought about it...the hotter things got, until finally two stalks of flickering flames shot up nearly three feet in the air above me. It burned out almost immediately. Just one huge flare up, and then it was gone.
‟Is there a problem?‟ He asked.
‟It went away.‟
‟Is that what you wanted to happen?‟ He said, still walking a slow circle around me.
‟No. I mean...I don't know. I got fire. That's what you wanted, right?‟
He stopped to give me a stern look. Not so much in a mean way, but in a way that let me know that I was clearly missing the point. ‟Try again, Justin. Fire.‟
‟I'm not...I'm not sure I know how...‟
‟You know how. Focus. Manifest the fire, and hold the flame.‟
With a sigh, I tried to concentrate a little bit harder this time. I remembered back when Taryn first taught me how to do his 'message' thing. How I was straining and gritting my teeth and balling up my fists to try to get it to work. He kept reminding me that it wasn't something 'physical' that was making it happen. It was my feelings. My mind. Relax. And breathe. Yes...breathe...
There it is.
The flames began to rise up out of my palms again, but it wasn't as violent as it was last time. I kept concentrating and holding the flame steady, the heat of it was already causing beads of sweat to form on my forehead, but I kept it burning.
‟Lower, Justin. Calm the flame, and hold it.‟ It took a couple of tries to figure out how to turn down the heat a little and make the fire smaller, but before long...I looked at both hands to see me holding a small fireball in the center of each palm. ‟Very good.‟ He said. ‟Now, I want you to close your eyes, and listen to the sound of my voice. Do not let go of the fire. Do not permit it to burn out of control.‟
‟Okay...‟ I said.
‟As I'm sure that you have already accumulated more abilities than even you are aware of, it is going to be a serious challenge to keep these talents from slipping out of your control. Not simply to avoid material damage to yourself and others, but also to rewire your way of thinking.‟
‟My way of thinking?‟
‟Yes, Justin. You are going to have to start thinking deliberately. You are going to learn to create the things you want to happen, instead of merely reacting to the things happening around you.‟ He said, every measured step still positioning him behind me. ‟Being the Vampire Mimic is about choice. It is about bringing reality itself to life in ways that give them purpose. The reactive mind must take a backseat to conscious, intentional, decisions.‟
‟I'm...I'm sorry, Mr. Lockheart, but I don't understand.‟
‟Why did you walk out to the end of that Pier, Justin?‟ He asked.
‟Wait...what?‟ I opened my eyes, and I saw the fireballs in my hands burn brighter.
‟The fire, Justin. Calm the flame.‟ He instructed, and I got them to settle down again. ‟Your eyes...close them. I need you to focus.‟ I already didn't like this, but I did what he asked. ‟The Pier, Justin...you walked to the edge. You climbed over the railing. You stared down into the dark waters below. Why?‟
‟You know why...‟
‟But do you know why?‟ He asked. ‟Articulate. Put your actions into words. What did you go there to do?‟
‟I don't see what this has to do with anything...‟
‟You realize that it takes more energy for you to avoid the question and hide the secret than it does to simply say the words aloud, don't you? Every being's default setting is to tell the truth. So speak. What were your plans...once you stepped over the railing...and looked down into the waters below?‟
I could feel the flames in my hands heating up again. I didn't have to look this time, it was almost as if I could feel the extra surge of energy slipping away from me and had to fight to get it back under control. A part of me didn't want to say it. A part of me was filled with...this never-ending sense of shame when it came to the life I lived before Taryn came along. But as The Jeweler continued to pressure me into answering him, I finally mumbled...‟I was going to jump.‟
‟Jump?‟ He said, still waiting for me to complete my answer.
I gritted my teeth, but still maintained the flame, even though my arms were getting weak. ‟I was going to kill myself...‟ I said, barely above a whisper.
‟Can you explain why?‟ He asked.
‟Because I just couldn't take it anymore. That's why.‟ I could feel the anger welling up inside of me, but had to swallow it down in order to keep the balls of flame at a supposedly 'manageable' intensity.
‟Take what anymore?‟ He asked.
‟Any of it. Life in general. I was so SICK of being abused and forgotten and mistreated for NO reason!‟ I sneered.
‟So tell me...do you think that wanting to kill yourself was a 'choice'? Or a reaction?‟ He asked.
‟Wha...what...?‟ I said, now struggling to keep the fire down to a minimum.
‟Was your march towards a suicidal solution a deliberate choice? Or was it merely the result of you reacting to the situations surrounding you at the time?‟
‟I don't see what this has to do with anything...‟
‟Everything. What you think, what you feel, what you believe...are these your conscious choices? Are they intentional? Or are you simply surrendering to a series of unfortunate circumstances?‟
‟What's the difference???‟ I growled.
‟The 'difference' is that you are in control of one...and the other is in control of you.‟ He told me. ‟Surely, you don't plan to simply 'react' your way into an eternal legacy without thinking.‟
‟I didn't ASK to be a part of anyone's legacy...‟
‟And yet, here we are.‟ He said. ‟What do you plan to do about it?‟
‟I don't know...‟
‟It is your duty to know. The time for running on autopilot and feeding off of your current emotions is at an end. You become more dangerous with every vampire you come into contact with. Will you be able to carry the burden of knowing what kind of destruction you may cause if you act merely on instinct alone?‟ The Jeweler stepped in front of me and squatted down to look me in the eye. Eyes that were supposed to be closed. ‟You stand on the fine line between being an angel and becoming a demon. If you're going to simply become a product of the events that lay behind you, instead of an innovator for the challenges that lie ahead of you...the demon will win. You will become a reflection of the pain and the hatred that surrounds you, and will have no defense against it. How can a boy who has known such suffering possibly offer hope to others when all he sees are the dismal shadows of his past?‟
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