Aric had always been fascinated with The Others. From the time he was first aware that the people that lived outside of their neighborhoods were different from them he wanted to know why. He made lists of questions that he would ask anyone who had spent time with The Others. Each time one question was answered he seemed to have three more. Why did they live separately from them? Why didn’t they have them over for dinner like they did other people? Why were they different? What made them so? What did they do without magic? When he made his decision to attend High School with their children it didn’t come as a surprise to his family. After speaking with his Aunt Dot about why he wanted to go, and what he thought he would learn she spoke with his parents.
Aric’s father was concerned for his safety. As he was a Warrior he was always concerned with the safety of his children, but sending his son in to attend school among The Others where he would have to hide his gift? He wasn’t sure it was a good idea. His mother was a Spell-Caster like Aric and understood his insatiable need for knowledge. One of the gifts a Spell-Caster received was curiosity and Aric had that in abundance. Aunt Dot told his parents that it was not only a good thing for Aric and his own curiosity to attend the public high school but it would be a good thing for all of The Gifted. She and others on the High Council could see a time where a blending of the two communities would be a good idea. That they each had much to learn and give to the other. She also felt that the time would be sooner than they realized and people like Aric would be important during the transition. The decision was made and he was allowed to attend.
Aric was a strong student. His curiosity and almost manic need to acquire as much information as possible made him a favorite of his instructors. His good nature and sense of humor about himself made him a favorite among his peers. His friends believed that he had been home schooled until 9th grade and that this was why he seemed to know a lot about some subjects and almost nothing about others. It also covered for his complete lack of knowledge in how a typical school day was structured. He was a quick study though and picked up most of what his education in the primary and middle school system of The Gifted did not cover. By his senior year he was among the top in his class.
He and his sisters were going through college brochures the guidance counselor at school had given him. “Why are all of the classes the same as the ones you have already taken?” Deidre asked paging through a course catalog for the local university. “You had chemistry already, why would you take it again?” Aric had tried to explain to his youngest sister that it wasn’t the same among The Others as it was The Gifted. People didn’t always know what they were going to do when the graduated from high school. They went to college to decide. “But why would you go take more classes if they weren’t things you needed to know? What is the point in taking,” Deidre flipped the book open to a random page, “Intermediate Choir if you are going to be a Healer?”
“Doctor. They call them doctors. It’s not as simple as that. You can be a lot of things. If you want to be a doctor who also sings you can do that. And you might not know you want to be a doctor so you try out a lot of things. Because they haven’t been told since they were 12 or 13 what they were going to be, they can be anything.” Deidre laughed at this, “You think just because no one told them what to be they can be anything? So you think if no one had told Jocelyn she was a Prophet she could decide to be a Warrior? She could never be a Warrior no matter what someone did or didn’t tell her. No offense, Joy.” Jocelyn threw a pillow at her sister’s head, “None taken, Pain. Not everyone wants to be a Warrior, you know.”
Jocelyn turned to her brother, “Just because you know what your gift is doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice in how to apply it anyway. To say they have choices and we don’t is wrong.”
“That’s not what I meant, I mean they have more. Okay, so you are a Prophet, you know you are. You have worked in school to sharpen your gift. You’ve worked with Aunt Dot as well. Now you have options. Some Prophets go in to government, some in to law, some teach. But you would never go in to Healing. You wouldn’t work as a member of the guard or in private security.”
“Of course not, there are others much better suited to those things than I am. Why would I?”
“That’s my point! See? You have a head start of sorts. You know what your natural talent is, your gift has been your guide. Well what if you never received a gift? What if no one did? How would you decide what to be? Everything would be open to you. You would have to see what you were interested in with all of the choices in front of you.” Aric beamed with excitement at this idea. Endless possibilities for learning.
Deidre made a rude noise, “I’d still be a Warrior.”
Her brother laughed at her, “Yes, you would be. And there are some among The Others who just seem to know what they are going to be as well. They go to school to learn specific things. Or they start an apprenticeship right away. But they are the exception, not the rule. For the first two years of college most schools have you take a variety of general education classes, your last two years you choose more specific things to study in depth. As for me I cannot decide if I want Political Science as my major or Psychology. Either one would be helpful when I work with Aunt Dot on the council as a liaison between The Others and The Gifted.”
Jocelyn raised one eyebrow at her brother, “So for all of your talk about endless choices you already know what you are going to be?”
Aric smiled at his sister, “Well I am Gifted”
Through both high school and college with The Others Aric had also had to maintain an extra course of study to hone his own gifts. His classmates thought he was in a work study program and that is why he was constantly busy. And he was exceptionally busy. If he had thought he would be given slack from his normal studies with The Gifted because he was also attending high school with The Others he was mistaken. But it didn’t bother Aric as he enjoyed studying and found that as he honed his Spell-Casting skills his other studies became easier as well. By the time he entered college he was used to a breakneck pace.
As Aric spent more time among The Others he stopped noticing the things that were different as much as he started to look for the things that were similar. The Others valued a lot of the same things, family, education, hard work. They also had many of the same differences among themselves that The Gifted did. Some of them had larger families, some small. Some were religious. Some weren’t. Personalities were much the same. Some people were more competitive, some more relaxed, some wanted a crowd of people around them while others liked to be alone.Though there were some big differences that Aric knew would be harder to overcome.
Privacy would be an issue. He and his Aunt Dot talked about this often. If there was ever a time when The Others and The Gifted tried to live together how would they understand the lack of privacy that The Gifted accepted as normal? The Others had a strong sense of self wrapped in to their private thoughts. Private beliefs. Private property. For The Gifted this would be foreign to them. If you were raised among people who could read your thoughts if they chose you never assumed what you were thinking was completely private. Now it was considered rude to pry in someone else’s thoughts but sometimes a Prophet couldn’t help but overhear what someone was thinking. Aunt Dot explained it by saying that just like there were people who were loud talkers there were also loud thinkers. And their entire legal system was based on having a Prophet on the council of three who could read the thoughts of the accused and accuser to see who was telling the truth. This would seem a huge invasion of privacy to The Others. To have someone in their own minds? Aric knew this would be an issue.
Religion would be a sticking point as well. Though some of the religions between The Others and The Gifted were shared, much like their history there were differences. Christianity was common to both groups. Though with The Others magic was taken out of the teachings and Aric was shocked to learn there was even a passage he had never heard that read “Suffer not a witch to live” this was how they had justified persecuting his kind in the past. As stunned as Aric had been by that he knew that The Others would not be pleased, and some would find it sacrilegious that The Gifted regarded Jesus as a natural born Sorcerer, one who received not one but all four gifts. He was a Warrior who threw the money changers out of the temple. He was a Spell-Caster who turned water in to wine. He was a Healer who could not only heal the sick but raise the dead. He was a Prophet who knew the hearts of men and also saw his own death and faced it with the heart of a Warrior, the mind of a Spell-Caster and the compassion for those who persecuted him of a Healer. The Gifted that followed Christianity would be just as surprised by the differences between their shared religion as The Others would be. And The Others would be surprised to find the variety of what they would consider Pagan religions that were still practiced and accepted among The Gifted. Of course there were those in both groups that did not practice any religion at all. The Keepers, for instance, were largely agnostic. They believed in the magic of the Earth but did not believe it to be divinely given. The Earth’s magic was part of the Earth. Just as they were sure Mars would have it’s own form of magic and Jupiter it’s own. Magic was just another word for energy for them.
But Aric was confident that the things they held in common would bind them. For instance he attended a meditation class with some of his fellow students. As one of The Gifted meditation was as familiar to him as breathing. It was used by all four of the classes to help center them, to reconnect them to the magic that flowed from the Earth, to give them time to reflect and express gratitude for the gifts given them. He found that among The Others there were those who had been meditating for years for many of the same reasons. And when he was with them, all still and silent, he felt their energy tying them to the Earth just as he did when he was with The Gifted. They were all connected. They just didn’t realize it yet. But Aric was confident there would be enough people between the the two groups who saw their similarities that the differences wouldn’t matter as much.
As graduation from college drew closer Aric was very much looking forward to working with his Aunt Dot and others in leadership positions on how best to move the two groups toward co-existing. At the time he thought the planning would be much of his life’s work, he had no idea that one of his own kind would unknowingly force what would be known as The Joining, sooner than anyone had expected.