Writer: Do you like the extras so far? Well, just for your information, my other story, All the Wrong Reasons, is a spin off of this one, and the events in it are based on these same extras, only the plot takes a different direction in ATWR (kind of an AU thing). Do check it out!


Title: I don't break the rules

Eryksa: The best day of my life

It's here, it's finally here, my birthday is here! We left the house the day before and we rode all day in a jolting cart that bruised my elbows and knees and made me feel sick from all that swaying. Now I know what butter feels like when it's being churned. And I didn't get to see much of First Village at all because mama made me lie down half the day.

But now it's dusk and here we are at the Touchstone. It's so big that I can see it even from a distance. It looks proud and splendid, but I can't help feeling that it looks rather lonely, if stones had feelings. There's a big crowd so mama is holding my right hand really tight. And of course Myka is holding my other hand. I begged mama for two whole weeks to take him along, and I bet she's glad he's here now, helping to keep me from getting crushed by all those people milling around us. The only thing I'm not happy about is… I have to wear this stupid dress. It's too long and I keep tripping myself up. Every time I go down, I'm almost trampled. Really, these First Village people have no manners at all!

I wonder what mama's whispering to Myka. Now he's bending slightly and oh… he's going to give me a piggyback ride. My cheeks are burning at the stares we're getting. But at least we can move much faster through the crowd now.

We present ourselves (well, just me) to the Stonekeeper and he writes down my name and birthplace. They've put up ropes to keep the crowd away from the stone. All the supplicants get to stand in a special place. I'd rather be with mama and Myka, but at least I won't get trampled now. They say tonight is a special night, because it's clear and moonless, and if anyone receives a Sign, it'll be a sight to behold. That's why many of those standing here with me have delayed their trip past their actual birthdays, so that they can receive this really special sign. I'm not thrilled to be sharing my special day with so many people, but I suppose I can't have everything go my way.

I am the fifth in line... and the shortest among the group. The first one to go up is a girl, a head and a half taller than me, with luscious curls and the beginning of a woman's figure beneath her fancy dress. And then there are three boys, and behind me, there's a pair of twins, so tall and broad that if I stood behind them I think I can't be seen at all.

The ceremony has started. The Stonekeeper reads out the girl's name. She solemnly steps up and places her hands on the Touchstone. The crowd goes quiet and waits… and waits… As nothing happens, her face goes bright red, and then chalk white. A sigh of disappointment goes through the crowd that's come from her home village. A few rude remarks come from another part of the crowd where those from a rival village are gathered. Finally she begins to cry, falling to her knees in abject misery and soiling her dress in the dirt at the base of the Stone. At a signal from the Stonekeeper, two helpers go up and lead her away gently.

My heart is racing. Will the same thing happen to me as well? But then whatever happens, there's only mama and Myka here from my village to see anyway. I make myself take deep breaths, and clench my fists to stop my hands from shaking.

The three boys go up quickly, ears red with embarrassment, and just as quickly leave, having put their hands just long enough on the Stone for the Keeper to confirm their lack of Talent.

And now it's my turn.

The Stone is warm to the touch. For one heart-stopping moment, nothing… and then the Stone begins to glow. The light comes from inside, like the candle inside a lantern that slowly flickers and grows strong, and brings the lantern to life. It looks like there's a fire inside the stone now, all reds and oranges and yellows. This must surely be the Sign. Blood rushes to my head, making my ears ring. I'm happy, happier than I've ever been before. I'm one of Them! A Talent… finally, I have something that's all my own, that no one can take from me. The knowledge fills me with exhilaration. And yet… mixed in with the joy, there is also apprehension. Inside the red and yellow and orange of the glowing Stone, I see a seed of darkness that pulsates like a living thing and echoes in the beating of my heart. I definitely have a Talent… but what kind?

The crowd has realised what is happening and they surge forward, trying to catch a glimpse of this newest Talent. They break through the ropes and begin to charge towards me. The twins are swept along by them and press against me like a solid wall of flesh, threatening to crush me against the very Stone. I let out a little shriek. But almost instantly, the force on my back disappears. I look up, startled, to be greeted by Myka's calm face. He has planted himself behind me, hands against the Stone, caging me with his limbs like a living shield.

Another ripple of wonder goes through the crowd. I turn back to the Stone, and gasp. Around the fiery heart I've kindled inside the Stone, there is a crown of white light spreading outwards. The entire Stone is now glowing like a little star. In my excitement, I take my hands off the Stone and turn around to face Myka.

He frowns at me and hisses, "Put your hands back! It isn't over yet!"

I turn to face the Stone once again. The inner fire has disappeared. The Stone is just glowing gently now with the silvery-white light of the full moon. I hurriedly put my hands back on the Stone, but the fire does not reappear.

The Stonekeeper has come up, a puzzled look on his face. But he's speaking to Myka, not me. "Well, I can tell you that you have a Talent, but it doesn't seem that this young lady here is your Muse."

Myka sighs. "It's not me that's testing my Talent, it's her," he explains, taking his hands away.

I start to take my hands away as well, but he stops me. "One more time, Eryk, from the beginning."

At the calm firmness of his voice, I gain confidence. As I keep my hands on the Stone, the fire appears again. This time, the assistants keep the crowd at bay, and I am able to see the full extent of the Sign. And then Myka puts his hands on the stone once more, and again the crown of white appears. The two circles merge into one, and now the entire Stone is glowing a beautiful pink, like a rose in full bloom.

The Stonekeeper beams. "Ah, the young lady has a Talent, too. And you, young man, are most certainly her Muse!"

This is the happiest day of my life.

And it's not just because I'm happy I have a Talent. Much more than that, this is the happiest day of my life because I've seen the sight that I've wanted to see for my whole life and never thought I ever would.

Myka is smiling for longer than he ever has before!