Chapter Fourteen

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Welkin slowly tipped the bottle and twisted its mouth into the opening. "Relax."

May tried, she really did. But there was something incredibly unnerving about watching the small, glowing mass the Star had just described as having devastating power sink from the bottle and into the contraption strapped to her arm. A cold sweat sprung to her brow as she waited for permission to breathe again.

After a few moments, Welkin straightened up. They unscrewed the bottle and resealed the latch in one swift motion, then stepped back to admire their handiwork.

"What did you do?" May asked, hardly daring to do as much as flinch.

"It won't hurt you, May," Welkin insisted with an entertained grin. "If the star power was that delicate, you'd have found out the hard way by now." They turned to where Dom was still whistling over his pile of rocks. "What do you have for us, Dominic?"

Dom stood aside. "Will this do?"

The stack already stood about as high as May's waist. She wondered if there hadn't been some magic involved while her attention was elsewhere.

"It's perfect," Welkin assured him. Rounding back on May, Welkin tapped the device with the tip of one long finger and beamed. "The star power inside this device is similar to the energy you've seen Emanthy weaponized. It is, however, quite concentrated, making it much more powerful. It also means you shouldn't run out any time soon."

May goggled at the device, her heart rate increasing with every passing moment.

"What does that make this thing?" she asked.

"A weapon of your own," Welkin replied, devilish pride winking in their golden eyes. "A tool to manipulate the energy inside so you can protect yourself. It's a projectile... cannon. Thing." They gestured vaguely. "The design is obviously quite rudimentary but I did the best I could given what I had at my disposal."

There was a time in May's life when the thought of having a magical light cannon secured to her arm would have terrified her. But after everything she had experienced over the last year and a half — no, since the very first time Kane backed her into a corner five years ago — May now saw the appeal. She raised her hand in front of her face and twisted her arm to get a better look.

"Are you sure it will work?"

Welkin smirked. "I knowit will."

They put some distance between themself and Dom's rocks and motioned for them both to follow.

"Now that I have to worry about bodily harm, I suppose we should take cover," they muttered, choosing the largest tree and stepping behind it. May gave Dom a puzzled look but only got a shrug in reply.

She raised her arm and examined the star cannon. Afixed just above her hand was a lens that looked to have been repurposed from an old telescope, nestled into a protective metal framing. Behind it, a cylinder ran the length of the gauntlet. She tapped it tentatively.

"So, how does this thing work?"

"Come here," Welkin beckoned. "Behind the tree."

They guided her to the edge of the trunk. If she leaned a touch to the right, she had clear sight of the pile.

"To prime the shot, you'll need to pull that piston back toward you."

It took her a few tries to get the cylinder to budge.

"Why is this so hard?" she grunted.

"This isn't the type of thing you want to charge accidentally," Welkin explained. "Keep your hand loose and low. Don't make a fist."

At last May secured her grip and slid the piston back all the way. A quiet, high-pitched squeal rang from the gauntlet, a gentle vibration radiating beneath her palm.

"Now what?"

Welkin pointed at the pile. "Always ensure you're aiming at your target. When you're ready, you'll find the trigger embedded in the palm of the glove. Simply make a fist and squeeze. But brace yourself for the re–"

A violent, explosive light rocketed from May's arm. The force of it threw her back onto her rear. The pile of stones erupted, throwing debris in all directions. Dom let out a wild whoop, landing a jovial slap on Welkin's shoulder, much to the Star's shock and displeasure.

When the dust settled, May was left sprawled in the dirt, gaping at the destruction she had caused. Every stone from the pile had been blasted back, some with enough power that they had become lodged like shrapnel in the trees behind unfortunate enough to be growing in the blast radius. Dom jogged over to tend to them, coaxing an ancient earthen magic to accelerate the trees' natural healing.

"Holy shit!" May cried over her ringing ears. "That was amazing!"

Welkin tapped their chin. "I think I may need to recalibrate just a touch — that was a tad excessive. But you get the idea. Just don't forget about the recoil."

Body trembling with adrenaline, May let them pull her back to her feet. She unfastened the cannon and handed it back to the star.

"What do you think?" they asked. The eagerness in their voice was genuine.

May beamed. "I think they Loyals better watch their backs."

When Dom finished tending to the trees, the three hiked back to the truck. Dom continued his shift behind the wheel, insisting he'd keep driving until he felt his glamor weaken. In the passenger seat, Welkin pulled out their tools and disappeared into a fog of concentration as they made adjustments to the star cannon. May turned her right hand over in her lap, ran her palm slowly up and down her forearm. Everything looked the same, but she felt different.

"What's wrong?" Dom asked, spying her examination out of the corner of his eye. "Is your arm sore?"

May shook her head. "No. A little tingly but it doesn't hurt. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it, I guess."

"Which part?"

"All of it?" May searched for the words to explain how she was feeling. "For so long I've felt like a bit of an outsider looking in. You, Em, Welkin — you're all so... magical. Even everyone from WIND feels mythical. And then there's me."

Dom's head titled, curious. "But you're a Wish too. They don't have anything you don't."

"Except years of knowing exactly who and what they are. I'm still pretty new to this. Sometimes I still feel like I'm dreaming." May leaned back in her seat and stared up at the ceiling of the cab. "I spent my entire life thinking magic only existed in myths."

"And now?

May held her hand up, fingers spread. She imagined the blood racing through her veins glowing with stardust.

"Now for the first time in my life I feel like I'm finally awake."

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