The next two weeks flew by, and soon it was Stephen’s last weekend home before he and Casmin returned to University. Mariana was preparing dinner, and Willamina had come in to keep her company. Carrying a pot over to the range, Mariana stopped and grunted, glaring at the burner.
“The stove has gone out again. Willamina, could you?”
“Where are the matches?” the girl asked.
Mariana rolled her eyes. “I don’t know, but the coals are cold, and I don’t have the time to rebuild the fire by hand. I know you can do it, just… this once? Please?”
“All right, Miss ‘we must never use our talents frivolously.’”
“HEAVY,” Mariana snarled.
“Right.” Willamina hurried over, held out her hand, and… nothing happened. She frowned, and tried again.
“What’s wrong?” Mariana asked.
“I don’t know. It won’t work.”
Stephen came in then. “What’s the problem?”
“Stove’s out, and,” Willamina said, just as a spark leapt to her fingertips, “ ah, there we go.”
Marianna set the pot down with a sigh. She turned to Willamina then frowned. “Has that ever happened before?”
The girl shook her head, and experimentally called the flame into her hands a few more times.
“Stephen,” Mariana said, “go fetch Casmin.”
After he had left the kitchen, she said, “Now try again.” Nothing. “You always practice together?”
The girl blushed. “We’ve only done it a few times. We didn’t want Edmund finding out.”
Stephen returned almost instantly with the professor.
“What’s the problem?” Casmin asked.
“Not a problem so much as a development,” Mariana said. “Although I am not sure what it means.” She told him what had happened, and he sent Stephen out into the hallway.
“Now try again,” he told Willamina.
“Do I have to? It’s giving me a headache…” Still, nothing. They called Stephen back in, and once he was within a few feet of her, the flame came easily.
“Interesting.” Casmin said.
“Let me guess. Back outside?” Stephen asked.
“Please and thank you.” This time Casmin called up his own flame, although he looked startled when he did so.
“Hold out your hand, Willamina.” He passed her the fire, and she held it for a while before letting it go.
“What is it, Andre?” Mariana asked, watching his face.
“Step back, I want to try something.”
“I always get nervous when you say that.”
He concentrated, holding out his hand. He called fire, spooling it into a ball as he did so. It grew, and then kept growing, putting out more and more light and heat. Soon he was sweating, and the ball was almost too bright to look at. Finally, panting, he let it go. Mariana gaped at him.
“Very interesting,” he said once he’d caught his breath.
Marianna rolled her eyes. “You use that word with great frequency. I am not certain that you are certain of its true meaning.”
He snorted, and brought Stephen back in.
“Well, Stephen, I think we found the source of your fireball problem,” he said.
“What do you mean? He can do them just fine,” Willamina said.
“I can do them just fine when it’s the two of us. They’re nowhere near so good otherwise.” Stephen grimaced. “I thought it was nerves.”
“So did I,” said Casmin. “But apparently, you’re a matching set.” Their identical scowls in response made him laugh.
This didn’t improve Willamina’s mood. “I don’t follow you. Why couldn’t I call the fire just then?”
“Because you can’t,” said Casmin.
“Yes I can,” said Willamina.
“No, you can’t,” Casmin repeated. “Stephen can.”
Willamina glared at him, and then at her brother. “Well, that’s just bloody unfair, isn’t it.”
“But he can’t shape it,” Casmin said. “Not like you can.” He sat down at the kitchen table and looked at them both. He crossed his arms. “We knew your magic was tied together somehow. We just didn’t know precisely how. I realize this sounds like bad news. But here’s what you don’t understand. The pair of you singly have already learned more in the last few months than most mages will ever accomplish. You’ve started late, which explains some of it. But combined, you’ve got more raw talent than any I’ve ever seen. Well, almost any.” As they started to grin, he added, “Don’t get cocky. That mostly means you’ve got the unlimited potential to blow yourselves up. And you have a great deal of work ahead of you. All the potential in the world won’t mean a damned thing if you’re lazy.”
“So in other words,” Mariana said, “both of you, back to work.”
As the twins left the kitchen, she muttered to Casmin, “What was that?”
“My place. Ten o’ clock. I’ll call the boss.”
She made a clicking sound with her tongue against her teeth. “First, the stove.”
“What?” Casmin asked, baffled.
She drew her eyebrows together. “It’s still not lit. You’re the fire mage. Make fire.”
He scowled back but did as she bade, lamenting, “I liked it better when you were afraid of me.”