Durance by Lyn Gala Page 0,1

with Talent get married.” Hell, the invitation from Zach and Art proved that. “Why did that change anything?”

Kavon rolled his beer bottle between his palms. “It wasn’t easy. Even before I chose to follow the shamanic path, my Talent put distance between me and other people.”

Darren toed off his shoes and tucked his feet under him. Kavon rarely shared stories from his childhood, and Darren tamped down his rabid curiosity out of fear that it would push Kavon into an emotional retreat. He asked, “Why?”

Kavon huffed. “A lot of teens have shamanic markings when they first get their Talent, even if they haven’t chosen to be a shaman. The glow fades later if they choose to take the path of using dead magics.”

“Yeah, that’s how most of them find out they have magic,” Darren said. No matter what television and books for young adults suggested, Talent didn’t give kids unlimited cosmic powers. That took hard work and years of practice.

Kavon grunted. “Those markings are particularly difficult for teenagers. A faint light that highlights every blemish plus adolescent acne...” He tipped his beer up, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed.

“That would have sucked.” Darren had been a popular athlete in high school and he still felt as if he’d barely survived. He couldn’t imagine how much worse it could have been.

“Oh yeah.” Kavon untied his shoes and pulled them off before propping his socked feet on his coffee table. “Being black made it worse. Kids were judgmental anyway, but when the Talent marks appeared, they were... cruel.” Given Kavon’s habit of downplaying his pain, the reality would have been much more sadistic than anything Kavon would admit.

Darren asked, “Can we go to your class reunion so I can threaten some people?”

“I’d have to arrest you for intimidating idiots.”

“Oh, it would go beyond intimidation.”

Kavon finished his beer in one long swig. “Do you know that makeup that shamans use to hide their marks?”

“Sure.” Les had a few tubes of the stuff in his desk to hide his adept marks on his hands. They were even more conspicuous than shamanic marks which only glowed when a shaman was using his power.

Kavon’s voice grew distant. “They didn’t make that stuff dark enough for my skin, so my mom tried adding dark eye shadow to make it match. She told me it looked fine, but...” He took a deep breath and the bond was ominously devoid of any emotion.

“This isn’t going to be a happy story, is it?”

“Some kid called me nigger-rig, and that’s what my classmates called me the rest of senior year.” Kavon’s voice was flat, and before Darren could come up with a response, he headed for the kitchen, empty beer bottle in hand.

His uncle Jack used that phrase for any rush job or half-assed patch that he didn’t expect to last. His mother used to scream at her brother every time he’d said it, but that didn’t stop him. But taking that offensive term and then applying it to a person—a kid... Darren needed to make these guys pay. Their newest agent was a weedy man who looked like he had endured his share of teasing. Maybe Darren could send Milton on a search and destroy mission through these assholes’ credit reports. However, if Darren showed any sympathy, Kavon was going to shut down tighter than a clam.

Darren blew out a breath and projected as much normalcy as possible. “My mom wasn’t thrilled when I started showing more interest in boys than girls around fifth or sixth grade, but even after I settled on the gay side of the street, I assumed I would get married, adopt, and shepherd a gaggle of children to church twice a year.”

Kavon came back with a second beer. “Do you want kids?”

“Now? Hell, no,” Darren said. Even if they managed to reduce the number of hours they worked, there was still the impending threat of war. Other people could keep living their lives in blissful ignorance, but Darren and Zach and everyone partnered with one of the old ifrit guides had to focus on the coming battle. The evil ifrit could break through into Earth’s dimension at any time. “Besides, I gave up religion for Lent. I can’t exactly take kids to church when I can’t find one.”

“It’s not Lent,” Kavon said dryly.

Darren snorted. “Like you’d know.”

“Oh, I would. Your mother would be calling to make unsubtle hints about serving the church. Apparently she gives up manners for Lent.” Kavon turned on the local