(1 of 1. Originally posted on March 24, 2023 for the prompt “Bloom.”)
Raendel sat with his back to the fire, keeping watch as he’d been doing since they made camp. The orange glow of the firelight on the back of his neck and in his hair gave him almost normal coloring. The Adoël intimidated her a little but cover of darkness and the warmth of the fire made her feel bold.
“What’s it like to make an illusion?” said Peristra, taking advantage of his talkative mood. “Do you have to sing certain words, like a spell?”
“No.” Raendel closed his eyes and tilted his head back. “It’s not like that. It’s hard to explain. That’s like asking someone how to sing. You just do it. You make a sound and see what comes out, and then you change it and see what happens. Learning to make images is like learning to make notes, only with pictures. There aren’t really any words, just the sounds we use to shape the light.”
“Shape the light? What do you mean?”
“I’m not supposed to talk about it, really. But I’m sick of keeping their stupid secrets for them.” He frowned briefly, then opened his eyes again but didn’t focus them on anything. He lifted one hand as if trying to catch the smoke from the fire and wring words out of it. “The images don’t really come from our voices. Not directly. It’s more like we use the sounds to shape light. Sorry, those are the only words I can think of to describe it. It’s like painting on the air. We split light to make different colors and bend it into shapes.”
She leaned forward. “Show me something.”
He blinked at her. “Show you what?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Whatever you want. I want to see you make an illusion.”
He cleared his throat and shifted his attention to a spot in the air near the fire. He started with a hum, then parted his lips. His voice rose to a crescendo and leveled off. It faded out of her hearing. Not as if it were getting quieter, but as if changing to something her ears couldn’t interpret into sound. Yet still, it captivated her in a way that she couldn’t describe. The air that Raendel focused on shimmered and blurred.
The figure of a person appeared, growing brighter and clearer until a woman stood in the air above the fire. She had the white eyes and hair of the Adoël and appeared to be young. The woman turned to look at Peristra and lifted one hand in greeting. Peristra smiled, and the woman smiled in return. The features of her face stretched and became smooth, her body shrinking while her head grew and changed.
Peristra caught her breath, entranced, as the image of the woman transformed into a white rose. The rose bloomed, opening to reveal the miniature figure of a woman sitting in the center of the petals. The woman stood and was in turn transformed into a smaller rose inside the first one. A soft rain fell all around. Peristra could feel the drops hitting her face, reached up and stroked her cheek, but found it dry. Every place a raindrop touched the rose it left a spot of redness, painting it crimson in random splashes.
She continued to gaze into the air even after the vision faded, longing for the vision to return. After a while, she drew her eyes back to Raendel. “That was beautiful. You really are an artist.”