Chapter 21, Part 1

The biggest surprise over the next few days was just how many former members of the Mekoval clan had an aptitude for magic. There were a little over 250 people who had moved from the slums into the Avaroth, and given the usual figures for magical receptivity in the general population, the expectation had been that two, maybe three Mekovals would be able to learn magic. Instead, the number was closer to one hundred.

 

Halidasa was one of those, which gave Alessandra mixed feelings. She was excited for her friend, and Halidasa was definitely young enough that she would be chosen as an apprentice, which meant that she would most likely join Alessandra someday as a full member of the Order. But at the same time, Alessandra couldn’t help but feel a vague disquiet about the things that Halidasa had said to her on the semorjo. She wasn’t sure if she was more worried about Halidasa or about the Order. Halidasa was almost certainly going to end up disappointed if her goal was to overcome death, but at the same time, what would someone do in the service of such an audacious goal? It was a bit disturbing to think about, and yet Alessandra couldn’t imagine sweet, innocent Halidasa doing anything too nefarious. Mostly, Alessandra was just worried about Halidasa ending up disappointed. But that was a thought for the future.

 

Fergen was the most surprising potential mage. Alessandra thought of Fergen as a meathead, and although magic could certainly be used to enhance physical skills, it was definitely a discipline that required a great deal of mental discipline. Not that Fergen was dumb, necessarily, but Alessandra had certainly never seen her crack open a book. She wondered how well Fergen would take to magical training, but Fergen herself seemed pretty excited about it. She had even smiled, which was a very rare thing indeed.

 

One former thief who did not have any magical aptitude was Mikaelo, and just like with Halidasa, Alessandra had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, Alessandra was disappointed that she and Mikaelo would never be peers again, that they would never be in the Order together the same way they had been in the clan. On the other hand, and Alessandra would never had admitted this to herself, but there was a part of her that was pleased that she had something that Mikaelo didn’t. In her mind, she knew that there was nothing special about her. It had been explained to her that the power-transfer process that Ilimay Ladron had used to give her powers could be used on anyone, regardless of their innate magical ability. There was no way of knowing now whether Alessandra could have been a mage if not for that fortuitous encounter in the outskirts of the slums. But in her heart, she felt a little smug that she was a mage and Mikaelo never would be.

 

Mikaelo, unsurprisingly, had been perfectly okay with it. That was how their relationship had always worked. Alessandra was very competitive, and Mikaelo wasn’t competitive at all. Every time Alessandra succeeded where Mikaelo failed, Alessandra was quick to brag about it, while Mikaelo just shrugged and went about his business. It was a trait that Alessandra found infuriating but endearing, and it was one of many ways that Mikaelo differed from Kriesaio. Kriesaio had been extremely competitive, to the point where their relationship had been fueled by them trying to one-up each other constantly. That had led to passionate fights and even more passionate making up afterward. Not for the first time, Alessandra wondered what a relationship with Mikaelo would really be like.

 

Of course, she wasn’t sure if she wanted that or not, especially now Mikaelo definitely would never be a mage. There were no formal rules around who could be involved with who in the Order, but there definitely was a stigma that Alessandra had already picked up on surrounding people who were in a relationship with anyone who was not a full member. If Alessandra wanted to be with Mikaelo, that would definitely harm her social standing within the Order, and considering her ambition was to someday rise to the rank of Honesival, that was definitely something she needed to think about. Did she like Mikaelo enough to potentially sabotage her career?

 

Besides, it wasn’t as if Mikaelo was her only prospect. Despite her annoyance towards Shalor’s attempt to keep her and Mikaelo apart, she had to admit that she understood why he did it. Maybe she would have done the same thing if she had been in his place. And ever since his dressing down by the Honesival, he had been acting much more gentlemanly. More and more, she found herself wondering if maybe she wouldn’t mind being romantically involved with him. He did offer a number of benefits over Mikaelo. He was much more handsome, for example. And far from being a detriment to her career, having a relationship with Shalor would be a major benefit for her career. After all, he was both high ranking and well connected.

 

There was another complication to all this, one that Alessandra had never contemplated in the slums. Marriage. People in the slums didn’t get married. At least, not formally. How could they, when the government of the City didn’t even recognize that they existed? There was a type of marriage in the slums, but it was pretty informal. Basically, if two people in a thief clan wanted to make their relationship a little more official, they could go to their Clan Master, and he or she would proclaim them married. If one of the members of this “marriage” wanted a divorce, they could go to the Clan Master, ask for a divorce, and just like that, they were divorced. Most people in the slums didn’t even bother with that level of formality. But in the Order, casual romances were frowned upon. If she wanted the professional benefits of having a romantic relationship with Shalor, she was going to have to marry him.

 

To be continued…

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