Filadiel grimaced as his teacher’s shout caused him to lose just that. His awareness of the power around him faded, light seeping back into his eyes. He knew it was there, even without the colored reflection dancing on the surface of the water.
His teacher sighed, raising her arms in a gesture of helpless defeat. “What am I going to do with you?”
He swallowed against the thickness in his throat, scrubbing his sweating palms against his tunic. “I am trying, Indral.” He did his best to sound convincing, though he doubted it would make a difference. Indral was older than his parents and had served as leader of his people twice. She was the greatest teacher he could have asked for, but she was tough as burled wood and just as knotty in her disposition. Filadiel was grateful for her assistance, but it would have been nice if she’d ease up, even once.
“Trying is not good enough. Trying is what has us stuck on this lesson, and why we’ve been here for three weeks.” Indral’s mouth twisted, a sour look, if not quite disapproving. “How do you expect to deal with humans if you can’t even control your eyes?”
Curling his hands into fists, Filadiel looked down at the rippling surface of the lake. It was his favorite place to study and most of his lessons were held here, but he’d grown to resent the reflections. It was too dark out to see his face clearly, the soft pink outline of clouds in the west the last remnant of daylight. But his eyes shone on the water as clearly as the crescent moon, their hue flickering between their normal ruddy amber and the muddled greens of frustration.
“I know you’re tired.” Her voice softened and Indral strode closer, laying a hand on his shoulder. “You’re still young by our standards, but by the reckoning of men, you would have lived for generations by now. They don’t understand the differing flow of time, the way the world keeps us young for so long. We can understand why you haven’t mastered this yet, but they won’t.”
Sucking in a deep breath, Filadiel tried again.
One by one, he attuned his senses, feeling for the subtle motion of the energies flowing around him. Every thread of power was different; earth and water, air and life, even traces of fire lingering in the light surrounding the clouds. He was blessed to feel them all, he knew; his people numbered few, and fewer each year. But feeling them and shutting them out was something else entirely. They were elves, true elves, and the power of all things was a gift to them alone. A power he had to master, he reminded himself.
Water went first, the shield of his own energy splitting him away from that ugly thing that mocked him by spitting back the light of his eyes. Then fire, since it was weakest now, then air. As with before, he struggled to divide himself from the earth beneath his feet, but it was always the essence of life that did him in.
How could he cut himself off from life? How could he shut out its strength when it welled from within him, too?
The light in his eyes flickered, faded, and then his shields fell.
The light returned.
Defeated, he hung his head and tried not to cry.
“Oh, Filadiel.” Indral stroked his mousy brown hair before gathering him into her arms.
It wasn’t fair to expect so much of him. He’d lived centuries, but Indral had been one of the first. They said she had grown from the earth itself, a seed of life planted by the creator. How could she understand his troubles? He was a child, a boy of middling years by the reckoning of his people, round-cheeked and small. He didn’t have good hold of his power, but he looked like any human child might, save his tall and slender ears that stood with their points towering above his head. How could anyone expect anything else?
“It’s not that they won’t forgive your power,” Indral said, almost as if hearing his thoughts. “It’s the colors they won’t understand.”
Blinking hard, he rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. “What do you mean?”
She sank to the grassy bank beside him, resting her arms atop her knees. “Colors are very important. Not just to us, but everyone. But colors mean different things to different people, you see?”
Filadiel shook his head.
“Then I shall try to explain.” She cleared her throat, gesturing to the grass beneath them. “Among our people, green means frustration, anger, hurt. But among theirs, it can mean prosperity, life, and vibrance. Just as to us, the blue of a summer sky means life. To some humans, you see, blue represents sadness.”
“To some?” he repeated, confused.
“There are many kinds of people in this world, Filadiel. All of them with different beliefs and ways of life. To some red means anger. To others, honor. To us, red is an intensely private color, isn’t it?”
Coughing, he flushed and looked away.
Indral laughed. “Yes, precisely. Colors mean a great deal. And that’s why you must learn to control the flow of power within you. It’s a gift to feel power as we do, but we must learn to keep it from exposing our feelings so clearly. Your heart influences the colors you shine, but if a human’s eyes could shine that way, their colors would mean very different things.”
“So we do it to keep from being misunderstood,” he said slowly.
“Yes, precisely.” She chuckled, and for a moment, her dark eyes sparkled with a hint of shimmering pink light. A pale shade; a color of mirth. He knew her strength too well to think she’d let it slip.
Wiping his hands on his tunic again, this time to dry them of tears, he breathed deep and shifted his stance wider. “All right. I’ll keep going.”
Nodding, Indral smiled at him, the way a fond grandmother ought.
His resolve bolstered, he tried again.
This week’s prompt was “colors.”
If you’d like to read more work following this prompt, you can check out my friend Megan’s take on it as well!
If you’re a writer and you’d like to try the prompt for yourself, please drop a link to your results in the comments here, or leave me a message on Facebook.