Willow had started out the day wishing she had more fight in her. Now she found that will to fight again, but this rediscovery seemed to do her no good at the moment. With fists clenched at her sides, she followed Alenna back to the elevator and bit her tongue. She wanted answers and she was promised those answers. Mouthing off when she was allegedly about to get what she wanted would only cause more problems.
Based on Alenna’s tight-lipped silence, the tension in the air was not just in Willow imagination. Something significant had happened. She didn’t yet understand it, but either the results of Alenna’s experiment were not to her liking or Willow’s outburst had finally caused her to lose her patience.
“I won’t ask you to explain yourself to me,” Alenna began out of the blue. “I quite like figuring things out for myself and I know you don’t owe me an explanation. That said, I hope you won’t hold my inquisitive nature against me too much.”
She glared at the back of Alenna’s head with such intensity that she was sure Alenna could feel the heat. If she spoke now, she would be harsh and pick a fight that she was not sure she could win. She was not sure she stood a chance against Alenna’s mind under the best of circumstances and right now she did not have a clear mind. She held back and stewed in her anger while hoping that Alenna could offer something by way of explanation that would actually alleviate her frustration.
Eventually, Alenna continued. “I knew there was something different about you from the first time we met and the longer our acquaintance has lasted, the more I came to realize you are capable of remarkable things.”
She paused here and Willow inhaled reflexively as though she intended to start her own diatribe, but restrained herself and held her tongue. They walked through a few more beats in silence before Alenna resumed her monologue.
“It wasn’t immediately apparent what was different about you. You hide it pretty well, but spending time with you makes it easier to figure out that there’s a spiritual sort of strength about you.
“There wasn’t much to go on with that hunch alone, of course, but making the leap from that sense of great spiritual power about you to seeing if the greatest power in this land would react to you was not too great of a leap for me to make.”
Willow felt that Alenna was trying to explain things away and maybe by explaining it, she was trying in her own way to apologize. It wasn’t much of an explanation and in her opinion, it was even less of an apology. She kept her mouth shut and waited. There had to be something more to all of this than had been explained to her just now. She was impatient, but she knew nothing would come from acting impulsively just now. Against her own instincts and denying herself the satisfaction of blowing off some steam, she held her tongue and kept listening.
“I don’t know how or why, but you’ve got some sort of magic inside of you.”
Willow scoffed at that. “I’ve seen plenty of magic in this world. Yuri is able to summon those little knives of his. There are stones that create water. There are stones that make ships fly.”
A bubbling laugh in response to her argument caught Willow off guard. Her points were made in all seriousness and to have the entirety of her statement laughed made her hands clench into fists are her sides. Thinking she stood a chance in a verbal sparring match against an adversary such as Alenna was beyond foolish. She could do nothing to combat that laugh and anything that would follow after that would only tear down her further.
“I’ve yet to see Yuri’s talent with knives, but it sounds like the small bits of magic anyone could pick up if they had the right instructor. What you say about the stones is true, but the raw material needs to go through a process under the care of priests or mystics to allow it to be of any use to the rest of us and even then, all but the largest, purest stones need to be regularly recharged and frequently replaced. I’ve never watched someone handle the raw ore as it was mined from the earth and have it react to them before today.”
Willow held her tongue more times than she cared to count up to this point, but now she was at a loss for words. Even in her dreams, she never imagined she had done anything all that extraordinary. Even after Alenna’s initial surprised reaction, she still believed Alenna’s response was more a game to mess with her head than a genuine reaction anything unique or remarkable. Now she was faced with the task of reevaluating everything she thought she knew. Something in her analysis of herself or this world had gone horribly wrong. She knew she should not be surprised. She still had very little understanding of the way this world worked. Her assumptions were much more likely to be wrong than right, but she still felt a mixture of anger and shame over the misunderstanding.
Coming here without Yuri or Asa was a mistake. She had hesitated but, in the end, ignored her misgivings. Now she regretted it. This felt like a trap and if it was a trap, then she had walked right into it. She had suppressed her instincts and told herself she was imagining things. Now she knew her instincts had not been far off the mark and with no way to turn back the clock, she was afraid of the consequences of her actions.
The biggest mistake of all was saying more than she should have. They all had secrets and she had no right to share anyone else’s secrets. She knew her own secrets would have been better kept hidden. She only started talking because it seemed as though she had been found out, but she gave away more than strictly necessary.
Keeping a secret was one thing, but lying to someone like Alenna was something entirely different. She was more than capable of the first but was terrified of the unstated consequences of the latter.
They rode the elevator up out of the mine in silence. Willow was too distracted by her worries to fret about the mechanism that had caused her so much anxiety on the way down. Once they reached the surface and disembarked the elevator, Willow found her voice again.
“Well, now you know. What are you going to do with that information?”
Alenna turned to look at her, shock evident on her face. “What would make you think I have to do something with it? I’m just a curious person. I only wanted to confirm your abilities for my own peace of mind.”
“Why would knowing what I can do give you peace of mind?”
“Well, knowing is better than imagining the possibilities, don’t you think?”
Willow knew she had thought the same from time to time. It did not do much to ease her mind. She still felt as though she had walked into a trap by giving this knowledge to Alenna. In the brief periods of silence, she tried to figure out what could be done with the information Alenna now had about her. She was drawing a blank and tried to consider that a good thing. If the information was useless, she had not really lost anything important, regardless of what Alenna might have intended to do.