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Okay, I was going to change the way that I had these posts organized, but I decided against it, due to some advice from Iris (who I feel like I haven’t seen in a month… *sob* and who is moving away… *double sob* *cue me learning how to use Webcam*), who said that “people don’t really read super-long, 6,000-word blog posts”.  I was originally planning to start posting the whole chapter on the blog at once, but she talked me out of it. I guess I’ll just put the links on a page, then… or something.

Oh, and I apologize for not posting anything on Valentines’ Day, but it seems to be my fate to suffer horribly trying (though not virulent) illnesses on all the minor holidays of the year, including my own birthday. (See why I’m depressed?! It’s almost like the galaxy in general has it out for me!) There will also be no pink in this post, unless Margery wore it without telling me. Melilana isn’t a pink kind of lady. I think she prefers deep azure. And this isn’t a “shipping” story. Sorry, but I could NOT write romance to save my life.

Anyway… without further ado, fraction 4/5 in the first chapter of the Bound to the Flame saga!

Bound to the Flame

Chapter I

Part IV

                “Can you feel it now?” Rowan asked. Adyn, kneeling beside him, shook his head. “Then calm down. Forget your anxieties, at least for now. You’re overthinking this. It’s giving me a headache!” The tension in the air cleared slightly. “Better. Now can you feel it?”

Adyn’s concentration shattered. He ground his teeth together angrily and threw the staff that had been lying across his knees on the floor. “No! I can’t! You’re too darn bright!

“Adyn!” Rowan exclaimed, tawny dark eyes springing open. He stared at the child in mild shock. “Language!”

“But I can’t do it!” Adyn shouted. “You know I can’t, and I never will!” Rowan gave a frustrated sigh.

“Fine. I’ll ground the loose magic pooled around me and try dampening my aura, then we’ll try again. That should make things easier for you.” Adyn rolled his eyes. Rowan frowned. “And calm down. Anger won’t do you any good. It only clouds your mind and saps your abilities.” Rowan drew in a deep breath, willing himself to calm down. After all, he reasoned, it must be frustrating to be taught by someone to whom magic came so easily—who didn’t even have to use verbal spells, for goodness’ sake!—when you yourself had to fight every inch of the way. Patience. He had to have patience. Rowan heaved out a slow sigh. Ever since the accident, patience had come hard for him. And it wasn’t as if Adyn was any better. There had to be another way, some separate solution… He could ponder it at length, later. Rowan drew in another breath. He reached down to the undercurrent of magic that flowed unseen through all things. Rather than resisting the natural impulse of the fabric of life to return to its hidden state, to draw energy for a spell, Rowan allowed it to return to its source. After all these years, he finally had the instinctive panic attack that came when he felt the borrowed strength draining away from himself under control, but it still pulled at the fringes of his mind, forcing him to swallow down the incipient nausea. No, not borrowed, he decided, but still, strength that was not his to claim. No strength was his to claim, in fact. None of it was his. It was all a gift from the Creator.

The room cleared slightly, the colors dulling and a chill wrapping around him, as the holy incense drew away. Rowan sighed; he was surprised for a moment at not seeing his own breath. “Is that better, Adyn?”

“I still can’t see it,” the three-year-old complained. Rowan sighed. Maybe he was pushing too hard? After all, the boy wasn’t even old enough to learn to read yet. They were getting nowhere, and had been for the past few hours.

“Perhaps we should try something else,” he suggested. Adyn brightened up.

“Casting?” he asked hopefully.

“You do realize, Adyn, that, if we worked on casting, we’d be spending most of the time getting nowhere on your control.” Rowan sighed in frustration. He really should be given a knighthood for this alone; he was reasonably sure, despite his limited experience, that childcare was infinitely harder than anything the field could dish out. With a lifetime’s practice of self-discipline, he quashed the self-pitying thought. Adyn scowled.

“I don’t get why we have to work on fusty old control, anyway,” he complained. “Why can’t we just work on the spells?”

“Do you want to lose control and accidentally kill someone with a stunning spell?” Rowan snapped back, with unintentional venom. Remembering the last week, when he had blasted Rowan back into the wall and the young man had only been saved by his own innate magical abilities, Adyn blushed and hung his head. Rowan sighed and gripped the child’s arm. “Adyn, I’m… I’m sorry. That… was uncalled for.” He drew in a deep breath. “What a pair we are,” he said in harsh disgust that was directed more at himself than Adyn. “You can’t wait until you grow up—you’re hungry for adventure—and I ache to get back out in the field, stop all this inactivity—though I know I never can go out on errantry again. We’re all too similar. That’s why we keep on subjectively hating each other and going back and forth like this.” Adyn looked as if he was out of his depth for a long moment, then brightened up.

“Control?” he asked, grinning. Rowan burst out laughing.

“You’re priceless.”

This is perhaps my best drawing yet...

A drawing of Rowan concentrating deeply on a fire spell. Surprisingly, this one didn’t take nearly as long to complete as I feared. Special thanks to Jewel, without whom I would have forgotten the scar on Rowan’s cheek… oh, and if you were wondering, his bad leg is not physically deformed; it was just broken badly and then didn’t heal right. The bones are too weak, so he could very easily break it again, and the muscles are weak as well. Oh, and to those who were wondering… the double-clasp in the other drawing of Rowan is really part of his cloak, NOT his shirt. 😛

Margery Dun Fayr glanced surreptitiously at her two guards as they marched her along the Spartan, gray passageways of the castle of Ertraia. They led her along to a large room, high-roofed, with curtains along the far wall, hiding the windows. The only light in the room came from a fire that blazed in the hearth; it was comfortably warm near the fire, but the back of the room was abominably cold. She looked nervously across the room. A single high-backed chair was set near the fire, within the circle of pleasant heat, but well hidden in the shadows. Someone was sitting in it, though she could not see them properly. The chair had obviously been set so that the light would shine on the face of any person entering, but the entering person would not be able to see the one sitting in the chair. The figure seemed to be covered with some sort of long, warm robe, its face hidden. The figure straightened slightly as the guards approached with Margery. “Report, Captain,” he said—a young man’s voice, crisp, fresh, pleasing; soft-spoken, but with an undercurrent of hidden, deep-rooted strength; a quiet, confident, and, for the moment, passive power.

“Sir.” The leader of the guards, a knight by his green cloak, embroidered at one shoulder with a stooping falcon, stepped forward, and saluted the mysterious young man respectfully. “She was found trespassing within the borders of the Realm. She is not Ertraian.” The figure in the chair bowed his head slowly as he thought over this information.

“Leave us,” he decided. The knight and guards bowed, respectfully, once more, and left. Margery looked at the figure in the chair, curiously.

“Why were you trespassing in the kingdom of Ertraia?” he asked. “Espionage is a very serious charge here.” Margery shifted awkwardly.

“I didn’t know I was in Ertraia,” she said.

“Half-truths are as bad as lies, your highness,” the young man returned softly. There was no threat in the even-toned words. Somehow, it was more uncanny and terrifying than it could have ever been if there had. Margery started.

“You know who I am?” she gasped. There was almost a smile in the reply—it was kind, yet at the same time, mocking—as if its owner was turning all his venom on himself, while trying to be gentle with the young woman he was questioning.

“Until now, I did not. Merely an educated guess. Call it intuition, if you will.” The figure in the chair shifted. “Please answer my questions, Princess. If you do not, I will have little choice but to have you incarcerated, even though that would be nearly a declaration of war.”

“Well…” Margery took a deep breath and swallowed. “I was curious.”

“You were foolish,” her questioner chided. “Forbidden fruit is often forbidden—for a reason.” The princess took an almost-involuntary step forward, a moth drawn to the flame. “Stay where you are,” the voice commanded, suddenly powerful. To Margery’s surprise, her body froze, as if of its own accord.

“May I at least see your face? It would be so much less awkward then…” she began.

“No, you may not.” The young man shifted restlessly in his chair. “I see that you are honest, even if you have been foolish along with it. You meant no harm. You merely let your curiosity get the better of you. You may return to Arethwyne, your highness, but I must first have your oath that you will tell no one what you have seen or heard, or even that you were in Ertraia at all. It is for your own safety, as well as ours.” He leaned forward, slightly, and Margery thought she caught the outline of a slender, elfin face. “Are you willing to swear it?” he asked.

Swallowing, she nodded. “Yes,” she said, her voice barely audible. The young man straightened up.

“Very well. Will you swear by Saint Andrew that you will neither tell anyone that you were ever in Ertraia, nor of what has transpired while you were within its borders, neither what you have seen nor what you have heard, not even your own kin or your closest confidante?”

“I swear it,” Margery replied.

“And will you also swear that what you have learned shall never be used against Ertraia, whether by the action of your own kingdom or by your aid to any invading force?” Margery gave an involuntary start; it was similar to an oath of allegiance, though it merely dealt with state secrets. She swallowed hard, steeling her nerve before replying.

“I swear it.” With some difficulty, the figure rose momentarily from his chair—he was not tall, and slightly built—and bowed gracefully to her.

“My thanks, your highness. I apologize for your arrest, but it was necessary for us to protect our own safety.” The young man fell back into the chair and raised his face. “Captain!” he called. The knight entered, and bowed. “You and your men will escort the Princess to the borders of Arethwyne. There you are to return her weapons, and set her at liberty. Farewell, your highness, and in future pay closer attention to your studies in geography.” Somewhat mystified, Margery left with her erstwhile captors.

This would really be better if I had Photoshop to work with...

A colored-in version of “Focus,” using Paint… it’s called PAINt for a reason. 😛

Here’s hoping you enjoyed the chapter. And the art. And the fact that at least one of Rowan’s feet looks right in this one… (Longtime readers of my blog will recall that positioning of the feet and hands are my greatest trials… thankfully his fingers look right in this.)

Anyway, so that’s my rant for the day… Thanks for reading, and God Bless!