A new year brings a new illustration! This is a depiction from my fourth novella, The Furthest Leap. Jonill, assistant teacher at the Council’s mage school in 73 AK, finds her life upended after being included in the first group of mages taught by the Defender to leap with power (later called Traveling).
In order to Travel, human mages must first learn to access the avarii parallel plane, the mysterious realm that avarii used for shapechanging. Jonill is the first in her class to enter the avarii parallel plane unaccompanied.
And since the illustration portrays such an unusual setting, I decided to include a longer excerpt.
“I’m afraid, Lirra, that you may not be strong enough for this,” the Defender said. He sounded regretful. “At least not yet. As the others practice, they might come up with a way to be more efficient, or faster. I haven’t tried as much as I should, perhaps, because I have power in abundance.”
Snow swirled through the air outside and a chill draft ebbed past the shuttered windows. It was the twenty-third of Odturn, and felt like it.
“It’s much easier for you,” Barin said. “So who’s first?”
Everyone looked at each other, then at Jonill.
“Fine,” she said, feeling her face grow warm. She stood up. “I’ll go first now, if Evi goes first for leaping.”
“But what about me?” Taneg said, in false protest. Gannen cuffed him, laughing.
“You know how to reach the parallel plane and you know how to shield.” The Defender’s bright gaze remained fixed on her.
Jonill guessed he sought assurance she had not acquiesced out of a sense of obligation. She nodded.
“Returning is far simpler than entering. Even if something goes wrong, you’ll return here. If anything goes wrong, I can Heal you.”
She nodded again and erected defensive shields with no gaps anywhere. Then she flung open the door in her mind, thrusting herself a strange type of sideways, movement and steadiness at once, like treading water. That familiar warm dimness engulfed her. Raising a secondary shield against its battering force had become nearly reflexive during the weeks of training. It curled around her regular shields like a layer of heavy and resilient pine sap.
Then she realized that nobody would believe she had succeeded unless she made some sort of change, because her return would happen at the same instant. Whatever she did should be quick; no reason to get exhausted. Lirra had played with writing on a scrap of blank paper and braiding her hair, too slow on both counts.
Fire would suffice. Jonill extended her shields, felt her strength slowly ebbing as she lit tiny fires all around, emulating the glinting of the parallel plane that she stood in. Tiny golden lights like a swarm of fireflies. Satisfied, she reached for the living world—
She stood by her chair again, somehow ejected with a violent wrench. Her inner shields wobbled; the tiny fires trembled.
Her classmates applauded. Embarrassed, Jonill let her remaining shields fall and the lights fade. Lirra sprang over and hugged her, Gannen stamped in approval, while Evi cast an amused glance at the door.
Taneg chuckled. “I hope we don’t all have to do that.”
“I figured you wanted proof,” Jonill said. “Though maybe feeling my going was enough.”
“It had better be enough when I go,” Overmage Barin muttered. The others laughed and agreed with him.
Jonill considered her experience, then turned to the Defender. “What happened to the outer shields?”
“It’s difficult to bring matter from the parallel plane into this realm,” he replied. “They were destroyed when you returned. I don’t recommend you try to bring them back with you.”
“No, why would I?”
“It’s Evi’s turn now.” Gannen appeared impatient.