The Ungifted One
Dwyth Oruf focused on the giant lizard a few feet in front of him. He extended his Telepathic Influence toward it like a finger, and poked its brain.
Come on, you big stupid lizard—let me in!
Two hundred and fifty pounds of tough yellow skin and muscle—all of which stood completely still inside his log hut—stared back at him. The beast’s head came up to Dwyth’s waist, the rest of its thick, seven-foot long body lay sprawled behind it.
Zeph, the older boy who stood a few feet to the side of the lizard, was administering Dwyth the test. If Zeph hadn’t been controlling the beast with his Influence, it would’ve been running wild around the straw-floored hut, and somebody could’ve gotten hurt.
Dwyth gritted his teeth. It wasn’t working. He couldn’t penetrate the lizard’s brain with his own Influence. No matter how hard he tried.
No surprise there. But no way was he giving up. Not this time. Of all times, not this time—his last chance to be somebody.
Come on, come on…He tightened his mind’s extension, made it firmer to pierce through the beast’s brain.
Please, just this once…
He felt Zeph’s Influence give a tug, and the beast slithered up to Zeph, who tenderly stroked its head.
No—that couldn’t be it! It was over too quick.
“I think that’ll do, Dwyth,” Zeph said softly.
“No—wait.” Dwyth’s voice reached a high pitch. “Gimme another chance. I swear, I got it this time.”
Zeph reached up and put a hand on Dwyth’s shoulder. He looked about fifteen, three years older than Dwyth, but not as tall. Unlike Dwyth’s short, wavy brown hair, long black spikes jutted from his head, his body skinny as a fire starter stick compared to Dwyth’s muscular physique.
“Sorry,” Zeph said. “I really am. But you can’t even penetrate its brain, not even a little. Your Influence is…well…pretty puny. No offense.”
“That’s not true!” Dwyth said, even though it had to be obvious to both of them and his parents across the room. All Amnarites—a tribe of humans— could sense each other’s Influence and how strong it was. “I just needed more time. Just a little—”
“In the Coliseum your lizard would’ve been slaughtered ages ago. I’m…real sorry, but I can’t qualify you for this year’s battle.”
There they were. The official words. Like Zeph plunged a bunch of Spitting Lizard swords through Dwyth’s chest. Dwyth stared at the wall.
Mother Jungle, he’d been stupid. So incredibly stupid. How could he have ever thought he’d have a chance to qualify? Sure, it wasn’t in his blood to give up, but after all these years of hardly having an Influence, it’d been silly to expect it to grow strong in him at twelve years old. Like Mother Jungle suddenly realized She forgot to give it to him in the first place. Like She woke today and thought, Bird scat. My mistake. Forgot about that child in Klahn Village I gave a weak Psychic Pull to. Better give him a strong one now, so he not only passes the Spitting Lizard Battle qualifying test, but thrives in the contest so he can have a future in the military. Or have any important job, for that matter.
Dwyth’s eyes burned, but he had to stay strong for his parents. And in front of Zeph. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to be like him. In a low voice Dwyth asked, “How many children haven’t qualified so far? I mean in all Amnar?”