(an inspirational speculative novel)
By Rachel Rossano
This selection is told from Zezilia Ilar’s perspective. She is in love with her teacher, Hadrian Aleron.
In a world where some people have “talents” (the ability to speak mind to mind and move matter with an invisible energy), Hadrian and Zezilia are the two strongest Talents. They have been experimenting with a technique called commisceo, a linking of minds.
Right before the beginning of this section, Hadrian left Zez behind in the main camp to complete a mission in secret without severing the connection. Too late, they discover the dramatic side effects of commisceo-linking over a great distance. Zez goes after him. As the excerpt begins, she is traveling via horseback toward him.
- ConProp is the term for a violently abrupt severing of all mind connections. Zezilia has the rare ability to perform it at will. However, she has been known to throw men several feet with the backlash.
- Italics indicate mind to mind speech.
He was close. My entire body tuned into his location. His pain filled my senses, causing echoes in my own head and leg. At least the compression of my chest had eased and the sensation of isolation was decreasing. Then I spotted him. He sat under a pine tree, leaves and needles in his hair and clinging to his cloak. His eyes closed, his head lay back against the trunk, exposing his throat.
I drew my mount up a few feet from him and dismounted, tying the leads to the low branch of a neighboring pine.
“Why didn’t you ConProp?” he demanded before I turned around. I heard him rise to his feet as the pulled muscle in his left leg complained. “You could have ConPropped ages ago. I have asked you to at least four times.”
“Seven.” I turned to face him. “You begged me to once, asked me twice, and ordered me four times, which brings the total to seven.”
His face drew into haggard lines. Pain pulled the features taut and exhaustion haunted his eyes. He looked as though I could push him over with one finger. I wondered if he could even stand on his own considering how he still clung to the tree.
“I can so stand on my own.” Pushing off, he stepped forward. He could stand. However, he couldn’t hide the wince of pain from the pulled muscle. He straightened to his full height and frowned down at me. “Now, tell me. Why didn’t you ConProp?”
His frown deepened.
“Somehow I knew if I did, I would lose you.”
His face didn’t change but his eyes softened slightly. “Are you sure it wasn’t the commisceo speaking?”
“No, but I wasn’t about to try it to find out.” I stepped over to where I could see him more clearly in the dim light of dawn as it crept through the trees. “What happened to your horse?”
He grimaced, shame flickering between us. “He bolted.”
“The side effects of the commisceo?”
He nodded while examining my face with his eyes. “Are you all right now?” The concern in his voice caused my chest to warm. It was foolish since I already knew he cared for me as a brother, but it did all the same.
“The isolation sensations still linger, but I can breathe again.”
He nodded. “Let us not try that again, okay.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help myself. It was a relief to have the ordeal over with. I never wanted to experience that fear again. Abruptly my laughter transitioned into a sob. I tried to stop it, but the emotion won. Before I could get a hold on the pain, I was crying tears of release. Hadrian stepped forward and gathered me against him. I buried my face in the front of his cloak and struggled to regain my composure.
Relax and let it go. His warm and gentle thought soothed my fear that he would think that I was being childish. I half feel like crying myself. I thought I was going to burst from wanting to be near you.
His thought passed between us. He stiffened slightly as though regretting admitting it, but he didn’t withdraw.
I was afraid I would lose you, I admitted. That is why I couldn’t ConProp.
I know. His embrace tightened slightly. I felt the same thing.
Then why did you keep telling me to ConProp?
He eased back from me. When I looked up at him, he touched my cheek, brushing aside a tear. I was afraid of losing you. I am going to rescue Eldivo, and I didn’t want you to come with me.
I am coming, I informed him.
He nodded. As much as I don’t like it, I suspected as much.
“So, you know where Eldivo is?”
He stepped away, completely releasing me. Everything within me wanted to catch his hand and pull him back, but I couldn’t. Now was not the time.
Why did I choose this one?
Even now, years after I wrote it, I am drawn to the intimacy and raw emotion between the two of them. The unspoken love sears the page. Their restraint makes the passion all the more powerful.