angels' reflections, camp nanowrimo, camp nanowrimo april 2014, characters, creative writing, jay wallace, nanowrimo, nanowrimo 2013, novels, selay'uu (sort of), stories in progress, story dynamics, writer, writing
Recently, I received a prompt on the Nanowrimo forums, that sounded too good to pass up to me, and I thought the readers of my blog would also like to see it!
Prompt: How did you first meet your main character? How did you come up with the character?
I first met Jay Wallace when I was washing dishes. Granted, I was pretty annoyed with my Dad at the time–after all, washing dishes is a job that was relegated to my younger brother and later my younger sister after I started college–but that’s not really a true block to inspiration. So there I was, with suds on my hands, when in saunters a young man five or six years my junior. He’s dark haired, with hazel eyes that are exceptionally clear and piercing, high cheekbones, a somewhat prominent, straight nose, firm mouth… He’s smallish, slender, slight build, looks underfed, is wearing a ragged shirt and a tattered pair of pants that barely reach down to his calves, is barefoot, and over everything else is a threadbare, worn, yet still presentable and thick woolen cloak with no hood and an attached capelet. “I’m going to be in the resistance, won’t I?” he asks, and then I realize I’m cheating–he is the Elayatar incarnation of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but then, who needs to know that? After all, he’ll soon be a character all his own.
bound to the flame, camp nanowrimo, camp nanowrimo july 2014, college, confusing nonsense, insanity, john flanagan, life, nanowrimo, national novel writing month, philosophy, rambling musings, ranger's apprentice, secret life, small rants, stories in progress, story dynamics
It’s been awhile–sorry about that. I had college applications, Iris moving, and Nanowrimo to worry about. (I’m behind on my novel, but this will take only a few minutes so I AM NOT WORRYING ABOUT IT. Studiously. :-P)
In other news, I read the first book of the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, The Ruins of Gorlan, and I LOVED it. The humor in the book was very unexpected, and the main character respects his mentor… I can’t think of anything morally objectionable in the book. (On the downside, there was one extraneous plot point that was not as well incorporated as it might be, but I’ll leave that until I can do a proper book review.) I won’t keep you any longer. Enjoy the chapter! 🙂
Warnings: Lots and lots of philosophy, maybe a little theory. Nothing too strenuous, unless you don’t like exercising your brain. ;-P
Bound to the Flame
Rowan fell silent again. Margery bit her lip. “Some of my father’s men were defending our coasts against Sea Raiders last winter, and two of them failed to report back in, and were presumed lost. They finally turned up in the springtime. One of them had lost a leg and two fingers. The other one had stayed with him all winter, helping him to survive and nursing him back to health. But when they came back, both of them had changed. The injured man was morose; the other was tired and worn-down. It took the combined efforts of all the men-at-arms as well as my father and brothers to get them back on their proverbial feet. Neither of them was ever quite the same, though.” Margery paused, looking sidelong at Rowan, unsure of how to continue. Without looking at her, Rowan slowly guided Obsidian onwards.
“And you’re trying to figure out if there’s some subtle way of helping me.” Rowan said. “You pity me.” He paused for a moment, biting his cheek. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid that, as far as this goes, this is the best way that you can help.” He sighed. “Activity helps, even if I’m exhausted and sore for hours afterwards.” There was a long time in which they simply rode in silence.
“It’s so quiet here,” Margery said, after a while. Rowan looked up.
“It is,” he said, without offering any explanation. Margery tilted her head on one side.
“Are they setting a trap for us, do you think?”
“Unlikely. I don’t feel any warning that might indicate on. If the silence troubles you, though, what about a walking song? Our enemies are nowhere nearby, I think, and there is no one to hear us.”
“All right…” Margery said. “You sing.” Rowan chuckled.
“O’er the hills and far away
Out from a rising sun
From my door I heard Mother say,
‘I pray that soon back you’ll come.’
Among the woodlands dark and gray
While leaves all fall around
And squirrels among campfire ashes play
There comes the marching sound.
“O’er the plains so wide and far
O’er the moors so dreary
While at night a shooting star
Falls at our feet weary.
By the cliffsides steep and high
Marching to a song
When the morning dawn draws nigh
Again we pass along.
“O’er the mountains at break of day
When we rise to travel on,
In the dawning cold and gray,
We march over that browning lawn.
In the rain and in the spray
Flying from a stormy sea
Marching far, far away
We’ll come flying homeward free.
“O’er the hills and far away
Into a setting sun
Until the darkness ends the day
And stars now out have come.
O’er the fells and low green tors
Turning fast to gray,
Far from home and hearth and door
We march, far, far, away.”
Rowan had a good voice, clear and strong, but at the same time soft and melodious; it was almost subdued, but it made the glades reverberate with sound, the earth beneath them trembling in unison with the melody. For a long while after the song had concluded, they rode along in affable silence. At last, contrary to all Margery’s expectations, Rowan broke it.
“Margery, if we are to be able to continue to evade our enemy, there is something that I must do.”
“Then do it,” Margery said, shrugging, not quite comprehending.
“No…” Rowan said. “What I meant is, I would like to—I should ask your permission first.”
“Why?” Margery asked.
“Well, if we are to remain undetected… I need to mute your presence and ground the loose magic that has gathered around you.” Margery gave him a blank gaze. “You can be sensed by magic,” Rowan explained. “But it’s harder for whoever might sense you to do if there isn’t loose magic pooled around you.”
“I don’t understand,” Margery said.
“Well,” Rowan began, apparently trying to think out the best way to explain it, “loose magic—magic that has been already drawn from the warp—”
“Start at the beginning, please,” Margery said. “You’ve explained elemental magic, but not this branch of theory.” Rowan inclined his head.
“Very well. This has to do more with the origins of magic than with the theory of magic,” he said. “Most magic remains hidden, like the warp threads under the weft of a tapestry, holding together the tapestry of life on this world. You can think of the visible world as the weft threads—magic holds them together, just like warp. Magic can be drawn up out of the warp in order to be used. But magic can not be used up, like material goods can. It simply returns to its energy phase. It tries to get back into the warp, but it takes effort or time—even both in some cases—to return. Naturally, it always seeks the path of least resistance—and living things, especially people with an innate magical talent, are like bridges straight to the warp. Thus, ‘loose’ magic tends to gather around magic users, and other living things. The easier a Wielder can connect with the warp, the more magic will tend to pool around them. Most naturally-gifted wizards have the ability to sense large ‘drifts’ of loose magic, which means that they could potentially sense all living things around them. So, if we want to go unnoticed, the wisest course would be to ‘dim’ our presence by returning the loose magic that has gathered around us to the warp.”
Margery shrugged. “Well, go ahead. You didn’t have to ask permission for that. I’m not a magic user, anyway.”
“I don’t like the idea of doing it without asking,” Rowan said. “Just… be warned. This may make you feel vulnerable, tired, weak, perhaps even ill. Everyone can sense magic on some level or other; potentially anyone could become a Wielder, but it would take time and energy. You have a slight magical ability, and that could exacerbate the effect.” Margery shrugged again.
“Well, forewarned is forearmed, I guess. Go ahead.”
Margery had expected to feel any of the sensations Rowan had described—or perhaps she hadn’t known what to expect—but she certainly had not expected the strange draining sensation that flowed through her and left her limbs feeling heavy and her head slightly dizzy. She focused on relaxing and not fighting the dizzy feeling, taking deep breaths. As the off-balanced sensation passed, Margery gave a sigh of relief.
“You responded well,” Rowan said encouragingly. He seemed dimmed, muted, diminished somehow—though it was not in his physical appearance. As far as looks went, he was just a fraction paler than before; that was all. “I may have to repeat this, periodically. Loose magic tends to build up, over time. It makes spell-casting easier. I only grounded enough so that we can blend in with nature.”
“This is more complex than I ever imagined,” Margery murmured. Rowan offered her a sympathetic look.
“Most things are that way,” he remarked. “They seem simple on the surface, but look deeper and they’re inescapably complex, yet beautifully simple at the same time.”
“Can you teach me?” Margery asked, suddenly, impulsively.
“I don’t think so,” Rowan replied pensively. “You’re more intuitive; you use magic instinctively, if at all. I don’t think I could teach you to use it in the way I do, and certainly not in this short a time. Not with any degree of safety. It takes a lifetime to learn properly. Magic is not a plaything; it’s a tool, and like all tools it can be dangerous if abused, or misused. It should not be used by the unskilled. Ever.” Margery bowed her head, chastened. “However,” Rowan continued, I can teach you more about it and help you to understand the gift.” Margery looked at him, grateful.
“Please,” she said softly. Rowan gazed on ahead, thoughtful.
“If you wanted to become a Wielder and were really, honestly serious about it, you could become a scholar, focusing on knowledge, discovery, and research. You would need to find a partner who specialized in focused or applied Wielding, to work with, of course, but wisdom and those who seek it are sorely needed.” Margery smiled. Rowan turned toward her, an unrecognized expression twinkling in tawny hazel eyes. “Besides, there’s another reason why I can’t teach you more than just theory.”
“What would that be?” Margery asked, ducking under a tree branch as she rode.
“Whatever would your parents say?” Rowan asked. Margery suddenly realized what the sly twinkle in the young man’s eyes was—mischief. She moved to swat him, but Rowan moved much more quickly. She missed him completely as he swiftly ducked. “There are some things you should know beforehand,” Rowan said, turning serious. “There are certain laws which should be followed, when it comes to magic. These are not merely the laws of Ertraia, but the laws of righteous Wielders everywhere. Some laws are punishable by imprisonment; others by banishment, or instant death. To seek refuge in Ertraia is to put yourself under Ertraia’s justice. First of all, magic should never be used to take a life by any means, except in the defense of life. There are certain prayers and meditations that should be undertaken subsequent to the taking of a life in self-defense. Attempting to summon spirits is most certainly forbidden. If one of the saints speaks to you in a dream or vision, that’s a different thing entirely; but you must be cautious and examine the message of such a dream, analyzing it to decide if it truly comes from God or His saints. There is almost nothing in the world that is more dangerous than a magician under the influence of a demon; you must guard yourself carefully against the mental interference of such evil forces. Magic can not defend against evil spirits; only reverent prayer can do that. Using magic to compel someone against their free will is also forbidden. Magic should never be used for personal gain. Changing the appearance—the accidents, or circumstances—of some object is possible, but only our Lord—” he bowed his head, respectfully—“can change their substance or essence. To attempt to do so would be blasphemy. It is not permissible to attempt to create life, though imitating it is allowed, under certain dire circumstances. Only God can create life, give it and take it. Saving lives, however, is most certainly permissible and praiseworthy. Creating a bond with someone and then throwing them aside without a thought is unthinkable; bonds should not be created in the first place, unless it is absolutely necessary. Bonding with an animal and then forcing it off on its own is punishable by a fine. Courting dreams and visions is not necessarily culpable, but it is generally considered to be a stupid thing to do, as it can leave you open to suggestion by outside forces that might not be benign. Some forms of knowledge are better left alone; we do not believe that the enemy is best fought with his own weapons. That makes us worse than him, because we actually know better, and yet we still allow ourselves to be provoked. Not his own, no, but with equal and opposite ones.”
Margery looked solemnly at Rowan. “So, the gift comes with responsibilities.”
“As all true gifts do,” Rowan nodded solemnly. “All true gifts are given to us so that we may serve others. We are nothing on our own. It is folly to take our gifts for granted, though this is more a matter for personal guidance, rather than for the law. We walk similar lines in magic that we do in our everyday lives. We fall in similar ways; we make similar errors. The punishments are more severe because a rogue magician can cause more harm than an average man in the same plight. The only man who might cause more damage would be one in a position of power or influence. The more we are entrusted with, the higher the expectations. We must be on our guard at all times so that our power does not corrupt us, and take safeguards against greed.” Margery nodded, seriously.
“So, are all the stories about magic true? Not the ones that say all magicians are evil, of course, but the stories about what magic can do.”
“Some of them, but probably not all,” Rowan said. “Even magic has its rules and its limitations. And there are things that should not be attempted, not merely because they can cause physical harm, but because they are morally destructive to the Wielder as well.”
“What about the stories where someone is healed of a wound that should have been fatal?” Margery asked.
“Those are more likely to be true,” Rowan replied, looking down. Margery could not help it; her eyes were drawn to the ugly old scar on one cheek. How had that come about, if…? “Ertraia’s healers are the best in Scotland,” Rowan carried on, “perhaps the best in the world. Normal wounds are easy enough to heal. Magical wounds—those dealt by direct magical means—are more difficult. Some of our healers have traveled abroad to heal the wounds dealt in war and to aid the sick, but due to the persecution of magic users and other knowledge that seems to them of magic, they have had to keep their true abilities secret, and they have grown rarer. Some of our healers have gone out and never returned, and no word came back to us of their fate. We can only hope that they yet live, and are safe and well.”
“What’s the difference—I mean, how do you tell which magic is dark and which is light?”
“No. Don’t say ‘dark’ or ‘light,’” Rowan said. “Perhaps they are, as you use them, mere metaphors, but they are not quite perfect. To use ‘light’ to imply ‘good’ and ‘dark’ to imply ‘evil’ is not quite accurate. We must remember that they are mere metaphors and not innately good or evil of themselves. Darkness predates sin; it is not evil of itself. Even the light, in this broken world of ours, is flawed. Only the Light of Christ shines perfect. Furthermore, some people use ‘light’ to equate truth, and ‘dark’ for ignorance. But this is flawed as well; truth alone, on its own, without the light of grace and divine revelation, can point people in the wrong direction. A few scattered truths do not add up to a full picture. Truth can be colored by perspective, and twisted to the selfish ends of men. Reason unguided by faith can lead down a dark path indeed. Light illuminates, but it does not always guide.” Rowan fell silent; Margery sat, overawed, perfectly still in her saddle. Rowan cocked his head to one side. “What was the question again?”
Margery couldn’t help but laugh. With his philosophical dissertation, he had obviously forgotten entirely about the question that had prompted it. “I asked how I could tell the good from the bad. Or, maybe, a right use of magic from a wrong one?”
“Much the same way as you can tell a good action from a bad one on a purely ordinary level,” Rowan said. “If either the end or the action is not morally permissible on a completely material, natural, and spiritual standpoint, you can be sure it’s wrong no matter the means, ordinary or magical. Natural law. Conscience. Both apply in any situation.”
“By natural law, you mean the moral guidelines ingrained into us, almost instinct?” Margery clarified.
They continued to travel, Margery struggling to remember as much philosophy as she could, until nightfall.
Once again, it’s time for Camp Nanowrimo! Yaaaay! 😀
Ironic, because all the Nano events I’ve ever finished were always Camps. 😛 Anyway…
Unnamed (working title) is the story of Gervaise (Baeltyr) Eredhen, son of the most influential Baron in the wealthy South Kingdom, and Iris, a petty thief and survivor. However, Gervaise is not your typical rebellious son. Rather, he is forced to chose between his father’s worldview, and his mother’s. Rejecting his father’s strangely twisted utopia, he embraces his mother’s more stoic philosophy. He has not yet discovered the depths of true hypocrisy, though; in the South Kingdom, politics is hypocrisy.
Iris, also, is not your typical thief. She may bear a dislike for the nobles and have a shady past, but there’s much more to her than meets the eye. All that she needs to join the rebellion is someone to follow, someone other than that half-wit, Gervaise.
Added to that, Gervaise hasn’t told Iris who he really is, a rebellion is in order, another rebellion with a motive not so altruistic is also on the move, and Gervaise is far more politically strategic than he ever realized.
(If you want an excerpt, I can always post one. 😉 ) Thanks for reading, and God Bless!
I told you it wouldn’t take so long this time! And look, just for you: a longer chapter clip! 🙂 Enjoy!
Bound to the Flame
The silence was ominous, thunderous. Rowan rode ahead of her, eyes straight forward, dark and brooding. The air seemed oppressive, heavy.
“Rowan?” Margery asked, after a long silence, in a small voice. “Are you angry at me for being determined to come with you?” Instantly, she saw the boy’s lean back straighten, as if he had suddenly become aware of her presence.
“No,” he said. “No, I’m not angry. Anger would be entirely unproductive. I was irritated that you wished to come, though there was no good reason for you to do so, except for the bonds of friendship, and so many reasons why you should not come along. If you—if both of us—are not cautious, we could cause what is generally euphemistically termed a ‘diplomatic incident.’ Still…” Rowan paused. “I am grateful for your aid, and company.” He smiled, somewhat cautious, a little shy, at her, sealing the pact. Margery smiled in return, relieved.
“But my going with you should be taken as a sign of our goodwill toward your kingdom,” she said, pursuing the conversation.
“It all depends on how our parents take it,” Rowan replied. “They might see it that way—they might see it as an impropriety.” Margery was silent. It was clear that Rowan was in the habit of thinking things through far more thoroughly than she was in the habit of doing. Rowan continued pensively, though not to Margery; he was thinking out loud, she realized. “Julian was taken, not me. That makes precious little sense. Why? My position was unpredictable and they could not find me anywhere? Troubling. The intimate familiarity with our plans and schedule that this theory suggests hints at a traitor. Why even be in the Ertraian camp at all? Were they trying to start a war with us? Was it meant to provoke… or was it… was it a threat? More frightening still, was it a warning? Or is it merely a ploy, to distract us from the real threat?”
“If it’s the last one,” Margery ventured, “then we may have made a mistake, rushing off like this.”
“My mother will not view it that way,” Rowan asserted. “Julian is her son by bond if not by blood, and besides, we never leave our own unaided in Ertraia. We take care of our own clans.” Margery nodded.
“That’s what my mother always says, too,” she said. “I guess we have more in common than some people would like us to believe. But… you know… it always made me feel a little strange. What about people who you don’t know—who you’ve never even met in your life before—who are your kin as well? What if you had to choose between a family member you didn’t know, and a friend who you’d known your whole life but wasn’t of the same blood? What then?” Rowan shook his head, slowly.
“I don’t know,” he said gravely. “The heart is a fickle servant. It can lead you truly, or it can lead you astray. You would have to weigh both options carefully and then choose—not that it would make the choice any the easier.” He sighed. “I feel a little strange, too, when I meet someone whom I’m apparently related to but have never seen in my life before. It’s a queer, hollow sort of feeling. For much of my life, I’ve been kept in seclusion, to keep me safe. I don’t know how many people outside the ones I knew in the castle. Even the castle itself was very remote… I grew up in a stronghold in the mountains, far from the palace in the capital city of the nation.” Rowan took a deep breath, fidgeting with the collar of his cloak. “In fact, other than someone who visited when I was still very young, I think you’re the first person I’ve known who was close to my own age.” Suddenly falling silent, Rowan stilled.
“What is it?” Margery asked.
“I’m not sure.” Rowan replied quietly. He lifted his staff from where it had been lying across his knees and slid it into one of the saddlebags. He stood up slightly in the stirrups, looking carefully about him at the clearing they stood in. The black horse moved uncertainly. “Quiet, Obsidian. Steady,” Rowan murmured, casting about in search of something. He slowly slid from the horse. As he dismounted, he passed the reins to Margery, scanning the ground carefully. He limped awkwardly across the clearing, searching the grass, the standing plants, the tall flowers, the bushes, the trunks of the trees. He gave a soft, slow, satisfied sigh at last, then lay down on the ground, full length, with one ear pressed to the forest floor. “It’s as I thought,” he said, rising slowly and painfully, though not without a satisfied, justified expression. “They passed this way, sure enough. The birds and the beasts are still discussing it, in their own language, and the trees still shudder in fear and pain. I can not hear any murmur of their feet, no matter how distant, but the other signs do not lie. We’re on the right track; this is no false trail.” With Margery holding Obsidian’s head for him, Rowan mounted, then they set off once more.
They rode in silence for a while, then Rowan said, “We—or rather I—won’t be able to use magic on this quest, from now on, for safety’s sake. We don’t want the men we are pursuing to catch us as well, or notice us passing through. Indeed, I hope that our presence will go undetected. Magic is far too visible and obvious, and its active use can be sensed from miles away.” Margery grinned, guiding her mount gently around a broken stump that protruded from the ground in the center of her path.
“So we’ll be doing things the old-fashioned way, then.” she said.
“Your way.” Rowan smiled, amused. “Right.” They lapsed back into grim silence.
“What will we do when we catch up to your brother’s kidnappers?” Margery asked, after a pause. Rowan glanced momentarily up at the lowering sky overhead, jarred out of his own private thoughts.
“I don’t know,” he said solemnly, stubbornly. Margery looked at him, hoping that he was joking, and was jarred out of her complacency by his stern expression.
“You don’t have a plan?” she squeaked, then bet her tongue. Rowan gave her a candid glance.
“It sometimes helps if you don’t plan too far ahead,” he said. “At the moment there are at least two hundred possible scenarios, of which about sixty or so seem a little more likely than the others. There are thirteen which seem very likely, but I can’t tell until we’re there. I have some idea of what I’d do in any given event, but I am not sure yet which event will come to pass.”
“You’re keeping all those possible contingency plans in your head? How can you ever keep them straight?” Margery said in awe. Rowan barely glanced at her.
“I have a good memory,” he said, his voice flat. It was impossible to tell if he was joking or not. Margery frowned.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you, Rowan. What is it like, being able to use magic? Rowan paused, silent, for a while, before answering.
“In a sense, you know already,” he said. Margery stared at him, puzzled. Rowan sighed. “Everyone is interconnected. That’s the main feeling, one of unity. It’s not just like feeling at one with nature—it’s also feeling nature, together with the world around you, being able to feel other living creatures—every living creature tends to draw in loose magic. Every person has some magical potential, but not everyone is aware of it, or has the patience to develop it. It takes dedication, patience and willpower. The weak-willed don’t last long in magic lessons, ever. It tends to unearth hidden flaws and cause tension along latent fault lines, and a master who could be so callous as to ignore his student’s distress and allow him or her to continue in the practices that were troubling him or her would be a pretty poor master indeed. On the other hand, Margery… you happen to have a slight magical aptitude yourself. I don’t know if you could ever be a Wielder, but you probably have an innate ability to sense and diffuse and even evade magic, on a very instinctive level.” Margery stared blankly at him. Rowan sighed. “It’s complicated,” he explained. “Very much so. I thought you should know,” he said defensively. “It’s how you got past the border wards—on a subconscious level, you felt the wards and bent them around you, willing yourself through. It’s very clever, come to think of it. Those wards are designed not to break under any circumstances, but they can be temporarily lifted in places to allow people in and out—and apparently, they can also be bent around a person in order to slip past them undetected. We thought our greatest danger was when we lifted the wards—but now, it seems that the greatest danger is that those wards are permeable, if one moves gently enough… Perhaps that is how the spy got into Ertraia?” Rowan paused. “I wish we had some way of getting a message back to my mother, but since we can’t use magic without the risk of detection, I can think of no practicable way.”
“So, familiars are just legend as well?” Margery said.
“Precisely. It is possible to magically bond with an animal, but it should not be done, and rarely does it make sense to spend so much time with one creature as the word ‘familiar’ would suggest.” Rowan took a deep breath.
“There may be no traitor in Ertraia, after all,” Margery said, anticipating him—or rather, stumbling along in his wake, catching his drift only with some difficulty and almost inordinate pride.
“Indeed, but I’m afraid that we can’t dismiss the possibility so lightly, unpleasant as it may be.” Rowan fell silent, pensively, and Margery did not break the silence. She sat in mingled wonder, awe, amazement, and fear. She could not help but feel somewhat overawed. Rowan’s mind seemed to work on a very different plane from hers, a more complex and sophisticated one; it was humbling to admit it, but true nonetheless. He was very intelligent and had made good use of his studies, which embarrassed and shamed her by comparison. She could not help but feel inferior next to him. Then again, the way he had trained his mind was very different from the way hers had been trained. Margery sighed inwardly. Single-minded, focused, ordered; that was Rowan. Scatterbrained; that was her.
“That’s almost insulting,” Rowan commented. Margery blushed. She swallowed, furious with herself. Had she been thinking aloud?
“No,” Rowan replied, “but it’s pretty obvious what you were thinking. Your train of thought is very clear. I have a bad habit of addressing people’s thoughts rather than their words, and some people find it… disconcerting.”
“You can read my mind?”
“No, but it’s hardly my fault if you don’t keep your thoughts to yourself, isn’t it?” Rowan retorted. Almost against her own will, Margery giggled. Rowan stared. “You are a very strange person,” he said. Margery nearly fell off of Celad, she was laughing so hard.
“I’m not strange!” she protested. “You’ve just never met a girl your own age before, haven’t you?” Rowan shrugged. Margery grinned. “I knew it!” she proclaimed.
“So, basically, you’re saying that all teenaged girls are strange?” Rowan asked, confused. Margery burst out laughing again.
“No!” she exclaimed. “I’m just saying that we must seem strange to someone like you, at first. Oh, and that not everyone is as sensible and logical as you—thank goodness,” she added as an afterthought, for good measure. Rowan promptly relegated it to the intricacies of an outside world he would never quite understand and dismissed it from his mind. He paused, and Obsidian stirred beneath him, stamping one hoof in impatience. Rowan reached down and patted the destrier’s neck, reassuringly. Obsidian pawed the ground, scratching a furrow in the damp forest loam, but stood still. Rowan glanced around, as if to ensure that they were headed in the correct direction, then nodded and urged Obsidian forward.
“I wonder if my father and mother are all right, where they are, if they’re still in council, what they are doing, if they even know yet that Julian has been kidnapped. It seems as if we’ve been continuing on like this forever.” he said thoughtfully. “I hope they’re not looking for me, that they didn’t waste their time in sending out search parties.” Margery snorted.
“I know my parents won’t,” she said. “They’re used to me vanishing for odd intervals, even for days at a time, sometimes. They generally don’t worry about me—they know I’m off adventuring and will be back, perfectly well and in good spirits sooner or later, with lots of new yarns to spin.” Rowan listened, his face hard to read, though not unpleasant, or undisposed to listen, and certainly not disapproving or antagonistic.
“It sounds like a pleasant arrangement,” he said, neutrally. Margery hesitated.
“I mean, it’s pretty obvious you’ve never been away from your family before,” she said, cocking her head on one side. Rowan shook his head.
“No, I actually have. Before I was injured, I used to ride far and wide, exploring, in between my studies. Mother was comfortable with it, as long as I told her before I left and came back to her straightaway after I had traveled to my heart’s content. I used to ride out with Father and the Rangers, or the Knights; I knew Ertraia like the back of my hand. It is true that I have lived in seclusion for much of my life, but I was never confined to the castle. Just because I have never been outside Ertraia before doesn’t mean I have had no experience with adventures. However, Margery, this is not an adventure. This is deadly serious. It’s a rescue attempt. My brother’s life may be at stake. There is no room here for error, or foolish heroics, on either of our parts.” He gave her a long, even look. Margery nodded, seriously.
“I understand. I’ve read enough about history and military operations to know that much.” she scoffed. Rowan grinned.
“Indeed. I’ve never really understood why such a vein of knowledge could be frowned on as part of a princess’ studies, or for that matter, why it should be frowned on for a prince to work in a garden, or to know how to mend his own clothes, if need be. I couldn’t quite follow why it sent the housekeeper into hysterics when I cleaned my own room. I like my room the way it is. She had a different idea of cleanliness entirely.” Rowan snorted. “She never could make up her mind where things should go. I swear they wound up in different places every time, and certainly never where I wanted them.” Margery giggled.
“I think all housekeepers everywhere must be related, somehow,” she joked. “They all seem to tidy up in a way that only leads to a bigger muddle!”
“Perhaps it’s their way of ensuring they stay in work?” Rowan mused, dryly. Margery burst out laughing.
“That has to be it. Either that, or none of them has any sense.” she laughed. Rowan laughed softly, a pleasant sound that did not seem at all out of place among the woods.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said, then noticed that Margery was staring at him. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s just that, well, I think that has to be the first time I’ve heard you laugh… I mean really laugh.” Rowan frowned.
“I must have laughed before, at some point,” he said. Margery shook her head.
“No, I don’t think you did,” she replied. Rowan was silent for a while.
“Am I really that serious?” he asked at last. Margery sighed.
“I think you are,” she said. “That, and you have a very wry way of delivering your humor.”
Sorry, this feels a bit like a filler chapter. But it’s kind of necessary. You’ll find out why sooner or later. ;-P
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!
Hello, everyone! Sorry about the wait… when real life intrudes, the blog suffers. :-S Even when the blogger has 30k plus words up her sleeve to post… Sorry, once again. There won’t be much this time… Chapter IV was a short chapter.
On to Rowan!
Bound to the Flame
He met Margery as she was coming back out of the camp. “Rowan, where have you been?” she asked.
“I know Adyn’s safe,” he said. Margery registered irritation at him.
“If you knew that before, then why ever did you go off on a wild-goose chase?” she said, frustrated.
“I didn’t know before,” Rowan said coolly. “I couldn’t know before I looked for him myself. My mind was not clear, and I could not risk trying to search for him mentally.” Margery shrugged.
“Where were you, anyway?” she asked.
“At a place I’m glad Adyn did not go,” Rowan replied. “My mind has been blurred, clouded, ever since we came here, but now it’s perfectly clear. We must find my brother Julian.”
“Does being among a big crowd usually distract you?” Margery asked.
“It wasn’t the crowd,” Rowan assured her as he led her through the Ertraian camp. In a few minutes, they arrived at the royal pavilion. A few smaller tents were grouped around it, in a small circle. “None of us sleeps in the pavilion,” Rowan confided. “My parents share a tent with me, and my foster brothers have a tent to themselves. Fortaine is probably with my mother in council, but Julian was on duty late last night. He’s probably sleeping right now. You might want to make yourself scarce, if he is. He’s a bear when he’s first woken up of a morning.” Rowan continued toward the tent; Margery remained behind. “Julian?” he asked, out of courtesy, before entering. No answer. Not a sound. Rowan pulled aside the heavy canvas tent flap. He gasped and dropped to his knees. Margery looked over his shoulder and gave a cry of shock.
The tent was a scene of chaos. The small wooden folding table that stood beside the cot was overturned, and the pitcher and basin lay on the ground, shattered. The grass was still damp, but the dry ground had already sucked up all the water. The broken pieces of a smashed chair lay mixed with the pottery. The sheets of the cot were thrashed, and ripped to shreds. Even the second cot, the one that should have been untouched, was in a shambles. The tent was empty.
Julian was gone.
Recovering, Rowan stepped into the tent, careful not to disturb anything. He examined the bed closely, looked at the table, chair, and broken jar and basin. At last, he cautiously lay on the bed, leaped up with more speed than Margery would have thought possible, moved to the other side of the tent, brushed his elbow up against an imaginary jar, leaped sideways, paused once more to examine the signs of the struggle again, began to move again, laying smaller steps into place, tracing the movement of one who had been there before, moving gracefully and yet purposefully about. Tiny pale flickers followed his every move, darting here and there, forming shy, glimmering lines. Margery watched, entranced. “What are you doing?” she asked in a loud whisper. Rowan gathered some of the glimmering dust into his palm and blew it outward into the open space of the tent. It swirled around, forming the shapes of an un-tipped table, an unbroken pitcher and basin, a chair, an un-rumpled cot, and the figure of a man lying on it. Margery could not see the apparition’s face clearly, but she could tell that the shining outline was meant to be Julian. The man stirred at what appeared to be a sudden sound, though there was no sound in the re-creation, and leaped to his feet. His elbow brushed against the pitcher and it fell, smashing silently into shards, which flew outwards, outlining their solid counterparts in an unearthly glow. Shadoy figured raced into the tent, strangely soundless, overturning the table and overcoming the brave knight, knocking him unconscious and dragging him from the shelter. The pale glow slowly dimmed, faded away; Rowan held up a hand. On his face was a look of intense concentration. The lines flashed out again and went dormant. Walking quickly to the table, Rowan grabbed a sheet of paper and a quill pen. The ink bottle was mercifully unbroken, and Rowan penned two notes with astonishing swiftness. Laying one on the bed, he tucked the other into his belt and walked swiftly from the tent. Margery preceded him out. Turning at the entrance, Rowan made a swift gesture, as if sliding something closed with both hands, open palms facing forward. The tent flaps closed and tied themselves in an intricate fastening. Rowan walked swiftly to his own tent, with Margery following. “What did you do?” she asked, curious.
“I bound the memory spell so that it would last, and then sealed the area. No one will be able to enter it and disturb it before my mother comes.” He laid the second note down on his cot and walked swiftly away, a slight limp the only reminder of his long-since injured and never fully healed leg.
“What are you doing?” Margery demanded.
“No one else will come for a long time,” Rowan replied. “They’re all in the Council meetings. I’m going after my brother.” They made their way to the stables, Margery trailing hesitantly behind her friend.
“Why can’t you wait?” she asked. “It’s dangerous.”
“Dangerous or not, the longer we wait, the greater the head start Julian’s kidnappers will have. Besides, I’m not exactly defenseless.” Rowan shifted his cloak, briefly. A dagger glinted at his belt, then was hidden once more. “He’s my brother. I have to help him.” Rowan took down the saddle from its hook and laid it on a jet-black horse’s back, patting its neck reassuringly as he did so. The horse whinnied softly.
“I’m coming with you,” Margery declared. Rowan froze, caught halfway in tightening the girth.
“What?” he asked.
“I said, I’m coming with you,” Margery repeated stubbornly.
“But… you can’t, you have to stay with your family… what would your mother think?” Rowan stammered.
“She’d think I was off on another adventure, and that I’ll come home safe. I always do,” Margery said self-assuredly, saddling Celad as she spoke. Rowan took a bow and arrows from the wall, slinging the quiver across his back. He slipped a sling into one of the saddlebags and slid a long sword in its scabbard through the waiting loops in the saddle.
“But Julian has no claim on you,” he protested. “I should go alone.”
“No Ertraian has any claim on me,” Margery said. She locked eyes with Rowan. “But there is one Ertraian whom I consider my friend.” Rowan’s mouth curled into a twist. He was not pleased with the decision, but he would bow to her wishes.
“Very well,” he said. He slid one foot into the stirrup and slung the other over the saddle with the practiced ease of an experienced rider, flicking the reins, signaling the coal-black horse into a trot. Margery followed suit, and Rowan led her off through the camp, into the woods.
Erin should not ramble around, trolling other people’s blogs like a zombie, making no sense whatsoever, at nine p.m. her time.
Erin should not ramble around, trolling other people’s blogs like a zombie, making no sense whatsoever, at nine p.m. her time.
Erin should not ramble around, trolling other people’s blogs like a zombie, making no sense whatsoever, at nine p.m. her time.
Whew, that’s done with! (I promised Sheikah last night after posting a VERY rambling comment about hoods, animation models, video games, and special effects. Yeah… that’s going to be an INTERESTING conversation… *wince*)
Once again, Erin is back with more Bound to the Flame! Rosalie: Please don’t worry. I am working on Battlefield of the Soul. Slowly but surely. I also have not given up on Shifting Tides in general. This is merely all the stuff for Bound to the Flame I had written already. It’s 30k long–and I haven’t even typed up everything yet!
Warnings: Some violence, emotional distress. It gets a bit intense, but hopefully not too bad.
Bound to the Flame
As he drew nearer to the ancient stone circle, this time Rowan could feel it drawing him in, seeking to ensnare him. This time, though, he was aware of it, and resisted its allure. To be of any help to Adyn, he had to remain conscious, aware. He could feel its power pulling at the edges of his mind, whispering a lisping siren song to all those who could hear it at all. Rowan threw off the cloying tendrils and moved faster.
Reality was warping now. Time bent and creased; might-have-beens played out in memory, flashing in and out of existence. His stomach twisted rebelliously at the vaguely unpleasant, unfamiliar sensation. His life played out, oddly different somehow.
Rowan snapped himself fiercely out of it and gasped softly at the synaptic snap of pain behind his temples and in his sinuses. If Adyn was experiencing this, he didn’t know what he could or should do. The boy was only half-trained!
Rowan moved faster. The strange currents carried him forward more rapidly, drawing him forward, murmuring to him. A pale mist rolled around the edges of his vision, but he had it under control. He wasn’t going to give in. He could feel the currents carrying him away, but he would break or be pulled under. This magic, though, felt strange—untouched, primal, raw, its breath far older—tangy, foreign—than anything Rowan had ever felt before. He shuddered as he felt it course through him. It was odd, and yet somehow familiar. He brushed the feeling off and focused himself, still wary of the curious energy, the strange raw surging of power. It murmured strange words to him, words with no meaning, words that still terrified him. It wanted him, though for what purpose he could not say. Cautiously, Rowan let it pull him towards its source, the nexus of its flow, faster and faster. All answers could be found within that curious ancient circle of standing stones.
Faster. Faster. Over the breast of this low knoll, leaping a stream, breathing steady. He did not grow tired. His leg did not pain him. The miles between him and his object were rapidly eaten up, in this strange dreamlike state where the elder energy bore him on. Speed did not bring exhaustion; movement was thought and done with nothing between the two. Indeed, it felt as if thought was motion. Long miles were not weariness. Time stretched out, and twisted confusingly. Rowan was glad for the fact that he was in control, not only because of his prior vision and the subsequent revelation, but because of the phantasms and wraiths that hovered on the edge of consciousness, waiting for the first slip to close in for the kill. The colorless mist rose slowly up again, clouding his eyes; Rowan fought it back down once more.
Then, suddenly, he was at the edge of the Cremlegged itself, with lightning cracking overhead, under a stormy sky.
Rowan jogged through the stones, weaving in and out between the huge monoliths and tall boulders. The stones pointed, ominous and threatening, toward the black sky. “Adyn? Adyn!” He dared not raise his voice above a low murmur. The stones whispered back, echoing, hollow, mocking. Adyn… Adyn… Adyn… The last dregs of the curious magic were slowly draining away, but as they lasted they bore him up, blocking any pain from his damaged leg. It felt almost euphoric, giddying, like a drug. Rowan did not particularly like—or trust—the feeling. To lose control was to unleash a storm on the world.
As he loped around the stones, their names echoed inside his mind. Courage. Honor. Hope. Premonition. Trial. Sacrifice. Dreaming. Waking. Service. Obedience. Command. Virgin dawn. Drawn-out nightfall. Pain. Freedom. Trust.
The last stone was cleft in two, riven to its base. Its two faces faced two ways: Past and Future. It was more ancient than any of the others; its name, Time. Between the two pillars of the riven stone was an empty space, empty in more than one sense of the word, and yet reverberating with power, the eternal presence, the moment in which men were given to act. Its ordained power was a terrible one, more terrible even than the immutability of the past, more terrible still than the most horrifying, ominous premonition of the future, and Rowan found himself instinctively shying away from the hollow, yawning void in the break of the twin pillars.
At the center of the ring of standing stones was a single, low, flat stone, its top and upper edge polished and worn by passing ages, crusted with lichen, carved with runes, overgrown by grass and moss—and it was stained threateningly dark. It whispered strange words directly into Rowan’s mind. He fell back from it, resisting.
He stumbled against the ancient, moldering gray stone of Trial. His fingers slipped into deep-carven runes, scrabbling against the roughness of the rock. He clung to the stone for support, struggling against the storm. The world seemed to have lost all stability. Rowan felt unmoored, weightless. The thunderous, ominous sky roiled overhead in lightning and clouds. The wind picked up suddenly, reminding him of his nonexistent, illusory control. It was developing into a maelstrom.
Again came the vision of the same precipice, but this time he was not climbing those malevolent, looming rocks alone. Margery was with him. Even as he watched, her foot slipped and she tumbled over the edge, catching herself only in the nick of time by grabbing the edge of the path’s ledge with both hands, and his vision-self was reaching down a hand toward her, calling out words he could not catch. They were carried away by the rising wind. The scene shifted. Margery and he were fighting against overwhelming odds, trying to fend off their enemies’ attacks. Margery fell, injured, and he limped to her side, attempting to turn aside the flood of black crows that crowded in on them. The vision changed again. His father and mother, Rheadwyn, Fortaine, Taryn, and many others belonging to the Ertraian clans were under attack from monstrous black-furred wolves. The wolves piled in on them, bringing them under. Rowan cried out, his voice one with the storm, feeding the gale. A dim figure, its face clouded by mist and shadowed by a dark hood, turned away from Rowan’s reflection in the vision, shunning him. He saw a twisted labyrinth; everyone who touched him fell. Melilana—Halbryn—his two foster brothers—even Adyn and Margery fell as though dead. He heard himself, faintly, as though from a great distance, crying out in denial, screaming in horror. The vision twisted, wrenched, turned inside out. He saw ghostly figures moving through the Cremlegge—some dark cult performing their arcane rituals. A young child was brought forward; Rowan closed his eyes. A beast—or perhaps a man—cried out as it, or he, was struck down. Rowan could not so much as move to interfere. Whatever the creature was, its blood now stained the low, ill-portended stone in the center of the Cremlegge. Rowan reached out, half-entranced, to one of the figures, his hand passing straight through it. Oddly enough, the figure reacted to him as well, flinching away from his touch. The warping threads and currents of power twisted out again and Rowan couldn’t contain his scream. It was ripped from his throat like an animal cry of pain. Now, walking around the other ghosts, who were beginning to withdraw, new ones, faintly outlined in shadow, as transparent as the others had been. Three children, fleeing in terror. Instinctively, Rowan reached out to aid them, but he could do nothing. They were not real—they were not present. Only as present as a dream. The children’s pursuers were already upon them. The youngest—a small girl—screamed. Lightning flew from the turbulent clouds above and smote among their persecutors, striking them down. They faded slowly away. More faded shouts and cries. This time, it was a group of full-grown wizards who sought refuge in the ancient circle of standing stones. However, their attackers were among them, slaying many, smiting them down as if they were no more than beasts. Rowan choked on his tears. A flash of light, and then the Wielders’ tormentors were fleeing in terror, eyes wide with madness. The unseen power of the place twisted and writhed once more, and Rowan was caught in the middle. He gasped at the churning, disorienting motions of the universal fabric. He cried out again. His grip was slipping. He was losing control.
Sorry it has been so long. My life has been busy to the extreme of sanity. But I’m finally posting this again. Enjoy!
Warnings: None for this chapter. A lot of theory is discussed, and Adyn acts up. Nothing special. ;-P
Bound to the Flame
Margery met Rowan in the chapel that morning, for prayers. She gave him a sidelong glance. It seemed that he wouldn’t be done for a long while; he was kneeling upright, hands folded demurely, large golden-hazel eyes turned slightly up toward the makeshift altar in the pavilion. The lights cascaded down over him in a golden shower of shifting, glittering dust motes, adding to the home-like atmosphere. Margery slid into a row of pews, kneeling down as she did, and shooting another sideways glance at Rowan. He looked as if he was exhausted, but drawing comfort and strength from this place.
After a long while, Rowan made the sign of the cross and rose. He picked up the stick that was resting against the pew beside him and made his way out of the makeshift chapel, struggling to genuflect. He limped slowly out of the tent and into the open. Margery followed. “I thought you were going to tutor Adyn…” she began.
“I am,” Rowan replied, “but only after we’ve had breakfast, and once we’re well within the woods. We don’t want any trouble. Meet us in the glade by the stream with the two standing rocks once you’ve eaten. That’s where we’ll have our classes.”
“All right. I’ll see you then,” Margery said.
Margery ate breakfast with her family and some of the other members of her clan and made her way into the woods as soon as she had finished. This was perfectly normal for her, so no one remarked on it. She followed the stream that ran through the encampment at Cremlegged, instinctively avoiding the forest on the side of the encampment that faced the ancient circle of standing stones in the woods beyond. She didn’t know why, but she dreaded to enter that ancient star wheel. She found her way easily to the glen Rowan had specified. Just as he had said, there was a stream flowing through an open glade with two large gray moss-covered, lichen-encrusted boulders at its head. She perched on one to wait, enjoying the sunny morning in the woods.
She was sitting there, as pre-arranged, on that same stone, when Rowan finally appeared, leaning heavily on his staff and shepherding a reluctant Adyn ahead of him. She rose, quickly. “What took you so long?” she asked.
“Adyn has a ritual of playing hide and go seek before magic lessons,” Rowan replied succinctly, with a little irritation evident in his breathless voice. Adyn grinned, unabashed, then he looked up at Margery with a look of awe.
“Are you a pixie?” he asked, eyes wide. Rowan groaned.
“That’s a marvelous way to start an awkward conversation, Adyn.” he reproved. Almost miraculously, the incorrigible, insufferable grin reappeared on Adyn’s face. Rowan sighed. “You’re impossible, obstreperous, and frustrating, and you’ll likely come to a bad end one of these days.” Rowan sighed and faced round to Margery. “Once in a blue moon, one word in three will get through to him. Not much more than that, though.” He sighed and gestured to the base of a nearby tree. “Shall we begin?” Margery stared at the huge—at least ten feet across—pixie ring that stood a few feet away, under the canopy of a spreading oak.
“Wouldn’t you rather use the pixie ring?” she asked. Rowan shrugged.
“Suit yourself, but you might as well make yourself comfortable,” he said, adding a slight emphasis on the last word. “We’re not doing magic practice today. Only theory. And mystique isn’t really worth much. There’s not much point in exhausting yourself just to sit in a circle of mushrooms.”
“That’s all it is?” Margery asked, disappointed.
“Quite everything,” Rowan replied. “Though some plants are thought to channel magic or have magical properties, mushrooms often just make you hallucinate. They have nothing to do with magic at all. In other words, they’re perfectly normal. There was a rumor, once, about mushrooms that could supposedly block a magic user’s abilities, but that’s just legend, with no substance that I know of. They just started calling those things pixie rings because someone thought that a toadstool would be a nice little place for a pixie to live. I don’t know why they would think that. It might make a nice place to hide under if you got caught outside in a downpour, but it would make a pretty poor seat or house in the long run. I think that pixies would really rather prefer trees, actually.” Feeling rather foolish, Margery sat down on a low stump nearby, and Rowan began the lesson.
“Much of modern magic theory is based on the work of Greek philosophers, such as Empedocles and Aristotle… you remember that much from last time, don’t you, Adyn?” The boy nodded. Rowan continued. “The Aristotelian theory of the elements states that there are not four, as in Empedocles’ theory, but five. The first four, which you probably already know, are earth, air, fire and water. The fifth Aristotle called ‘ether.’ He postulated that it was the material which made up the heavenly bodies, the stars, sun, comets, and planets. Maewyr the Great, whom we consider to be the first of the true Wielders, was the one to come up with the idea that the heavenly bodies were made up of similar materials and elements to Earth itself, and the fifth element, ‘ether’, was in fact, the essence of magic itself. All the work of later Wielders in theory is based off of his.
“According to Maewyr, the two classic elements most akin to magic are fire and air—air, because it is invisible, like magic is; only its effects are commonly seen and felt—and fire, because it is pure energy, just as magic is. Magical manipulation of the elements is a very large part of traditional magic, and more challenging than simple telekinesis or enhancement of the senses. Most people have an affinity for one, or two, but it takes training to effectively wield all five. Magic and fire are the two most difficult to use, as both are pure energy and as such are hard to control, but for the same reason they are the easiest to summon. It takes practice and experience with the elements to control plants and growth, and to learn to bend and summon light, which is considered the highest form of magic.
“Each element has an extension, or a separate form or continuation beyond itself. Some are both. The extension of fire is lightning. Water’s is ice. Earth’s is stone. Air’s continuation is rain.”
“Why rain?” Margery interrupted. Rowan looked at her, half-bewildered at having his discourse thus interjected.
“The air feels moist at times, does it not?” he asked. “And clouds come from the air, and rain comes from clouds. I think there is rain hanging suspended in the air at all times; it only falls occasionally, though.”
“Oh,” Margery said, subdued.
“Elemental storms are the most dangerous form of this kind of magic, especially since they can be so hard to master and remain in control of, and can be so easy to start in some circumstances.” Rowan continued. Adyn’s eyes wandered, following a butterfly across the pixie ring. Rowan sighed, frustrated. “And you’re not hearing a word of this, are you, Adyn?”
“Nope,” the boy said cheerfully. Rowan groaned.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to turn him into the kingdom’s champion,” he confided to Margery. “The little scaramouch.” Margery looked surprised.
“He’s supposed to become the Champion?”
“Well, what did you expect? He’s too scatter-brained to be a Seneschal,” Rowan bemoaned.
“Then… why are you training him? No offense, but you’re just a kid like me. Younger, even. How old, exactly, are you, anyway?”
“Seventeen,” Rowan replied, scuffing in the dirt with the toe of one boot.
“I’m a year older than you, then,” Margery said. She glanced at Rowan, coyly. “I thought you were younger.” Rowan sighed.
“Everyone tells me that,” he said. Margery shrugged.
“So… why are you, of all people, training Adyn, then?” Rowan sighed.
“I think it’s partly because of… the accident… to keep my mind off things. Keep me from brooding.” Margery frowned.
“Accident?” she asked, uncomprehending.
“Your highness, I’m crippled.” Rowan said bluntly. Margery gasped, both her hands going to her mouth. Rowan carried on, ruthlessly. “I’m not so badly crippled that I’m helpless, but one of my legs is weaker than the other, and some days the pain is so bad I can’t even walk at all. Since I can’t always walk and ride, I can’t be a knight in the strict sense, so I teach instead.” He glanced around, to see Adyn attempting to sneak off. With a startling burst of speed, he caught the miscreant by the collar and dragged him back. “Where do you think you’re off to, wretch?” he asked. Adyn struggled helplessly.
“I can’t help it if you’re boring, can I?” he snipped back. Rowan shook him gently.
“You just want to sneak back and see what’s going on at the Gathering, don’t you?” he said, softly. “A Wielder does not seek adventure or excitement for their own sakes!”
“Yeah, well, maybe I don’t want to be a Wielder,” Adyn retorted. Rowan’s eyes widened and he dropped Adyn, taking a step back.
“How can you say such a thing?” he asked, horror-struck.
“I don’t want to spend my life stuck in some moldy old castle in Ertraia! I want to see the world and have fun!”
“Adyn, being a wielder is an honor and an ancient tradition, and you have the potential to be the greatest,” Rowan said. “You can’t just throw that away! You can not disregard the Call like that!”
“It’s my life,” Adyn said obstinately.
“You wouldn’t go back to what you had before my mother took you in,” Rowan pointed out threateningly.
“I was a baby,” Adyn said, his voice whiny, completely ignoring Rowan’s ominous tone. Rowan’s dark eyes flashed.
“How can you be so ungrateful? You have talent, Adyn, talent, and you could be greater if you tried harder, but no! You throw it away the first time you see fool’s gold! There’s a reason why it’s lying by the wayside, Adyn, and that’s because it’s worthless!” Rowan gestured to the stone upon which Adyn had previously been sitting. “Now, sit back down, and we’ll complete the lesson.” Adyn stepped away, shaking his head.
“No. Not anymore. I’m not doing this any more. I’m leaving!” Rowan gripped the staff.
“Adyn!” he called after the boy, but it was too late. Adyn dashed off, ignoring him, vanishing into the surrounding trees in a matter of seconds. Rowan moved to run after him; limping a few steps, he tripped over a tree root and fell, stumbling and falling flat on his face, sprawled across the soft, moist loam. He gasped in pain. “Adyn!” he called again, but Adyn was gone. Margery ran to his side and helped him to his feet. Rowan limped forward, leaning against a tree exhaustedly for a moment, drawing in a slow, painful breath. Margery moved with him, supporting his slender form.
“Rowan…” Margery began.
“No time—I have to find him!” Rowan replied, anxiously.
“No. Wait.” Margery said. “You can’t catch him by your own speed, Rowan. You have to use your wits. And before you can find him, you have to rest.” Rowan groaned.
“I have to find him soon,” he stressed. “You don’t know Adyn as I do. He’s going to try to run away. His response to anything that doesn’t go his way is to run. And here, he could run anywhere.”
“But he won’t run just anywhere,” Margery said. “You know him. You can make an educated guess as to where he’ll go. And I—Right now, I need answers.”
“’Need’ and ‘deserve’ are dangerous words,” Rowan said coldly. “It would be both arrogant and shallow to take your high birth for granted, Your Highness.” Margery dashed his icy words aside as if they were so many annoying insects.
“I may not know Adyn, Rowan, but I do know humankind.” Rowan stiffened.
“And you’re saying that I do not?” he asked dangerously.
“Adyn didn’t really mean everything he said to hurt you,” Margery carried on, brashly ignoring him. “He… well, to be harshly accurate, he feels interest in me, almost fascination. He was showing off in front of me, trying to impress me. You were just an unintended victim caught in the crossfire, nothing more.”
“Do other boys act like this?” Rowan asked.
“Yes, I think it’s part of their natural disposition. Hormones are terrible things.” Rowan groaned.
“Why does Adyn have to pick someone twelve years older than himself to develop an attraction to? Sometimes I swear he’s just doing it all on purpose to give me grief.”
“Haven’t you ever had a crush on someone?” Margery asked. Rowan looked confused. “Puppy love. You know.” Rowan frowned, still confused.
“Maybe it has something to do with you being so short,” Margery mused. Rowan dismissed the comment as unintelligible, walking slowly off, leaning heavily on his staff. “I’ll help you look for him,” Margery offered, running after him. Rowan paused and turned, a look of relief on his thin, narrow face.
“You will?” he said, tawny dark eyes deeply grateful. “Thank you.”
“Where would he go?” Margery asked, catching up. Rowan looked throughtful.
“When he’s having fun, he generally hides where he thinks I’ll never find him, but when he’s mad or upset, there’s no telling where he’ll go. He might even consciously put himself into danger of some kind, just to spite me.”
Margery nodded. “Where did he come from?” she asked. “I heard you say that your mother took him and his mother in.” Rowan sighed.
“Years ago, his mother came to us. She was a an orphan, and had been chased from her home by accusations of sorcery, though she was not a magic user in actuality. She was about sixteen, then. My mother offered her work in the royal household, and she took care of me when I was little. Eventually, she left us to get married. A few years after that, she came back. Her husband had been murdered by sea raiders. She took care of me, again, after I was injured two years ago. Adyn was a child at the time. He doesn’t remember anything about the sea raiders’ attack, and he doesn’t understand. He’s a volatile child. I’m afraid of what he’ll do when he’s a bit older, old enough to be interested, anyway, and finds out what really happened to his father. But, when he’s upset, he runs to his mother, she’s the only parent he’s ever known…” Suddenly, Rowan froze.
“His mother—that’s it! Margery, he could be in one of two places. One is with his mother. Hurry back to the encampment of Clan Caerlen and ask around for Taryn. If Adyn is there, with her, well and good. If not, tell her I’ll find him.” The determined ring in Rowan’s voice said he would brook no argument. Margery nodded and set off to find the mysterious Taryn. Rowan headed off into the deeper woods—toward the circle of the Cremlegged.
Hello, everyone! This chapter has been such a bear to write, but hopefully it will be enjoyable, and the rest of the story will be easier from now on. 🙂
Also, I apologize for not posting something for Star Wars week yesterday. If need be, I’ll go overtime to make it up to all of you. 🙂
Warnings: None in particular.
Anakin seemed to be walking in a field of twilight. It was empty, and cold, and he was alone.
You don’t seem to understand what’s at stake here, child. The voice was… different. It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Anakin shouted back.
Don’t you know this place?
“How can I? I’ve never been here in my life before!”
And yet, you’ve been here your entire life. Anakin turned to find something solid, something concrete. There was nothing.
Anakin, you must fight! You must fight the evil! Anakin fled. He didn’t know where he was running to, but he did know what he was running from. And he was too terrified to meet it face to face. He ran and ran without thinking of stopping. He didn’t dare to look back at the thing behind him. He knew it was following, silent, unseen, inexorable, beyond the senses, yet at the same time, horribly there, horribly present, horribly real. Anakin swallowed and ran harder. He thought he could hear Obi-Wan’s voice in his head—Anakin, it will not catch you if you fight it! You must fight your fear! Anakin! But the voice was only an illusion, only a dream. He ran harder.
Obi-Wan woke suddenly from a restless, disturbed half-sleep he had never meant to take. He could feel the disturbance in the Force around him, as tangible as a hard, metallic smell in the evening air. The air was tight with roiling potential energy, as through a storm was brewing. Slowly, he rose to his feet, wondering why no one had bothered to start their joint journey yet. The ship was silent, still, dark. Obi-Wan went to check on Anakin and Shmi.
After the rest, brief as it had been, and agitated, he felt much better. A nearly-instinctive healing trance had worked its magic on his injury, and it had begun to heal already. Obi-Wan thoughtfully turned his mind on Ventress, the apprentice he had—even if unintentionally—left behind. He had to rescue her, somehow, and soon. The mercuric temperament of the Dathomirian girl would dispose her to rapid, bitter despair, if she was not rescued soon.
There was a bitter wind blowing through the Force. He could feel it. There was an east wind coming, and many things would wither under its harsh and breathless blast, leaving only the things that could endure, that could last. And nothing, no matter how strong, lasted forever. Palpatine’s actions—his own existence—they rattled the foundations of the Sith Empire, threatening to topple it. And if his mere existence was worth so much, then what could he do… when he really set his mind to it? The thought was staggering, frightening, even.
Shmi was sleeping, peacefully, it seemed, but Obi-Wan could sense the foggy, murky inner turmoil behind feeble natural shields. He sent a soothing breath to her, and she relaxed. Obi-Wan moved on.
Anakin was not in his bunk. Despite the apparent peace of the moonlit, mysterious, magical, still night, Obi-Wan’s growing, nagging unease blossomed into a sharp prick of lucid, almost painful alarm. Something in the Force—something inside him in answer—screamed a warning half a second before a shuddering yet powerful whirlwind of hate caught Obi-Wan and hurled him backward, against the wall. Against the ringing in his ears, Obi-Wan struggled through the haze of his own half-stunned intellect and scrambled to his feet. Still trying to regain his balance, he chased off after the fleeing boy.
It was early in the morning when Ninane found herself pounding down the hallways of the Imperial Palace, disturbing the few who were already awake, perhaps even awakening a few of those who were not. She paused in front of the entrance to Dooku’s quarters, trying to improve her haphazard appearance, but before she had finished, the door opened of its own accord and Dooku’s deep voice rolled majestically out to meet her. “Enter.”
Swallowing hard, Ninane stepped into the quarters, an elegant and impressive antechamber and study with the bedroom hidden at the back. Ninane slowly tiptoed into the room, feeling very small, insignificant, and frightened. Dooku might pretend familiarity with her, but she knew her place far too well to offer it in return, and here, on the Sith Lord’s turf, she was reminded yet again of her own lowliness. In her own laboratory, she might offer objections, but here, in the inner sanctum of the Sith, she could not even raise a hand to defend herself if attacked, unless Dooku willed it.
Dooku was already up and dressed immaculately, not a hair out of place, despite the early hour. Ninane swallowed as he turned to face her. “Ah, Ninane. I trust you have the test results I wanted?” Ninane swallowed again.
“Yes, my lord. But I think they must be impossible.” She handed the print-off sheet that she had obtained from the computer to Dooku, who perused it.
“Over 20,000—too high to accurately test, in fact?” Dooku said, one silver eyebrow raised. Ninane swallowed, a third time.
“Yes, my lord. I wasn’t sure what it was, a malfunction or a mis-calibration, or if it was something else, so I brought it to you…” she babbled, her words falling away as she realized that Dooku was looking at her.
“It was undoubtedly a malfunction,” he replied. “A midichlorien count that high is impossible.” Ninane gulped and bowed.
“I can re-calibrate the equipment and bring back an accurate count before this evening,” she offered, tremulously.
“No need,” Dooku said in his sonorous voice. “The matter is of no importance, after all.” Ninane heaved a sigh of relief. “Of course, you will keep this confidential,” Dooku continued, authoritatively. Ninane bobbed her head hurriedly.
“Yes, my lord, of course,” she said. Dooku’s smile was thin and knifing as a cold wind blowing shards of ice before it.
“I have no doubt you will,” he said.
Hello, everyone. I beg your pardon for the laconic author’s notes, but I’m busy with Nanowrimo… At least I spend most of the time writing, and I’m mostly caught up…
Enjoy the chapter!
Edit: I just realized something. I posted this part slightly out of order… You might want to go back and read Chap. II Part IV, then read this one, THEN read Chap. III Part I. My most sincere and abject apologies… I do try to avoid problems like this, but occasionally they do happen.
Bound to the Flame
They were almost back to the royal pavilion when Rowan gasped, clutching Rheadwyn’s arm, his fingers twisted in the hem of her cloak in a mute expression of pain. Rheadwyn gripped the boy’s arm, steadying him. She studied his face with calm, concerned eyes. “Is your leg troubling you again, Rowan?” she asked, collectedly. Rowan nodded wordlessly, biting his lip and drawing blood. Rheadwyn sighed. “I was afraid something like this would happen. You should not be so reckless, Rowan.” Rowan shot her a pained, angry, tearful look.
“I hate being a helpless cripple!” he exclaimed. Rheadwyn steadied him. “You’re far from helpless, Your Highness,” she reminded him. Rowan frowned.
“It’s still not the same thing,” he said. Rheadwyn sighed.
“I know it’s not,” she replied.
“Sometimes, I wonder why the wisps brought me back.” Rowan whispered. “I wonder why I even bothered to follow them. Sometimes, I even wish that I had died there, under that horse!” Rheadwyn sighed and lifted the boy, as close as she would ever willingly come to a full-fledged embrace.
“I know, Rowan. Believe me, I know.”
“Why am I like this, ‘Wyn?” Rowan snapped, his voice cracking, as if he was about to burst into tears of frustration.
“Sometimes, we don’t even know the reason,” Rheadwyn said. “I know this seems pointless to you, Rowan. But it’s just possible—just barely possible—that there is a point. You just can’t see it yet. God knows it, but you don’t. Ultimately, it’s your decision whether you are going to trust God to take charge of your destiny, or not.” Rheadwyn finished her speech by shoving Rowan’s face roughly, though not unkindly, up against her shoulder. Rowan smiled into her mahogany hair. This was why he trusted and loved Rheadwyn as confidante, friend, advisor, and loyal soldier; her lack of attempts to butter people up or influence their decisions, and her no-nonsense attitude were a breath of fresh air. Most of the nobles—even of Ertraia—unbiased as they all tried hard to be, they often had their own agendas or pet projects to further, though they tried to do so on their own time and with their own resources. Not so with Rheadwyn. She was completely loyal to the crown, and without bias or prejudice. Her suggestions were always balanced and well-rounded, but if they were rejected, she did not make undue fuss. While the other councilors and advisors sat in state at lengthy meetings, Rheadwyn served as a Ranger, protecting Ertraia and maintaining its borders, and Rowan privately hoped that he would have her advice, courage, honesty, and good sense to rely on for years after his coronation took place.
No one knew where Rheadwyn came from. She had arrived in Ertraia as a young child, a partially-trained warlock with no parents and no teacher. It was rumored that she had come from the far south of the island, far beyond the clans’ rocky, picturesque, mountainous, forested, starkly beautiful domain, from the fen country; the nation the lowlanders called Wales, but it was uncertain if this were the case, or a mere rumor perpetuated by gossip. Perhaps she had been in a shipwreck, and had alone made her way along the coasts until she turned inland. No one knew. Rheadwyn herself didn’t speak of it; indeed, she rarely talked about herself.
That had been many, many years ago. Like most of the Ertraian people, Rheadwyn did not show many signs of her age, like Melilana, who still appeared as she had in her late thirties, though she was now fifty-five years of age, and Halbyrn, who was five years older, but whose hair was only beginning to be streaked with gray. Rheadwyn herself appeared of indeterminate age, not particularly beautiful in a classic sense, but not unprepossessing, either. She was weather-beaten, with a determined aspect, a hard-edged blade of good sense and hard-earned wisdom, both an accomplished warrior and an able healer. Some of Rowan’s earliest memories were of learning the double arts of warfare and of healing by her side.
After a short while, apparently knowing that Rowan would object to being carried any further, Rheadwyn set him down. Gripping her hand like he normally would his staff, which he had left behind on a whim today, Rowan limped bravely along by her side. Rheadwyn made no comment. From long years of training and working with him, both before and after the accident, she knew both their limits—mental and physical—very well.
They arrived at the main pavilion—the gathering place of all the tribes and kingdoms—at last. Rowan moved to enter, but Rheadwyn stood as still as a stone, holding him back. The young man looked up at her, curiously, for a long moment. Rheadwyn sighed and took a deep breath. “I know you’re eager to see the world outside our borders, to meet new people, but you must be cautious, Rowan. You would do well to remember that some people here will not—and do not—welcome us. Some people here today would as soon stab you in the back as look at you, and you know how particular some of the nobles can be about the rules of primogeniture. You are the Queen’s only child, and were you killed, a named heir would most certainly be an unpopular choice with one group or another. It could mean civil war if an unfortunate so-called accident were to befall you.”
“I’m not defenseless, you know,” Rowan muttered rebelliously. Rheadwyn sighed.
“I know you’re not. That’s not the point.”
“Then what is the point?” Rowan asked, defiantly. Rheadwyn’s eyes glittered angrily, dangerously, but Rowan was too riled up to care.
“For heaven’s sake, Rowan!” Rheadwyn burst out at last. “You fail to recognize your limits—you won’t listen to warnings. What does this rebellion arise from, Rowan? Is it pride? Is it impatience? I never would have taken you for being the type to harbor either! Then again, I never would have thought you a coward.”
“I am not a coward!” Rowan shouted back. Rheadwyn gripped his shoulder, painfully tight.
“Then why can’t you accept the fact that you are only human?” she demanded. Rowan stiffened, but willed himself to speak calmly.
“I don’t want anyone to think that I’m a helpless cripple,” he said.
“All the more reason why you should accept your limitations,” Rheadwyn said softly. “You can’t work around them until you have. I know you’re not weak; so do you. No one would blame you if you were to just give up, but they would pity you. I’m suggesting a slightly different channel for your energy.” Rowan nodded slowly.
“Why is it that, while Adyn can frustrate me, you’re the only one who can actually make me angry, ‘Wyn?”
“Only because you always get me angry first,” Rheadwyn grinned. “You’re quite the pesky little blighter for an Ertraian.”
“So, you get mad at people who aren’t Ertraian?” Rheadwyn laughed and ruffled his hair.
“All the time,” she grinned. “I don’t think you will, though. You only get mad at me—it’s a sign of mental resilience, I guess. Besides, you haven’t gone mad after teaching that rapscallion Adyn for two years, so I’d say you have a good chance of being a very good diplomat.”
“Why do you say that?” Rowan asked.
“Well,” Rheadwyn said, glancing sidelong at the boy, “the world is full of obnoxious bull-headed galoots who need some sense knocked into them, and you—you started at it young.” Rowan burst out laughing, a clear, rippling note like a brook leaping from stone to stone. Rheadwyn grinned and offered him her arm. “Well, shall we?” she asked.
“’Wyn, it’s supposed to go the other way around,” Rowan protested, leaning on the proffered arm nonetheless. Rheadwyn laughed silently.
“Oh, how silly of me,” she said.
They entered the tent to see Halbryn and Melilana already seated at the dais at the opposite end. The queen rose as her faithful retainer appeared, leading her errant son. “You found him,” she murmured in relief.
“Aye, and gave him the scolding that was due,” Rheadwyn replied, winking at Rowan.
“Please don’t do that again, Rowan,” Melilana said, nonetheless. “If anyone had recognized you, realized who you were… I don’t know what would have happened.”
“I don’t think anyone noticed my tartan colors,” Rowan offered helpfully.
“Good,” Melilana replied repressively. “I know our precautions must seem harsh and constricting to you, but you must remember that you are our responsibility and our son. We love you very much, Rowan.” The boy looked down.
“I know,” he muttered, shame-faced.
“I’m just glad to see you’re all right,” Melilana murmured.
“What’s going on, now?” asked Rowan.
“We’re going to be formally introduced to the Elruunian and Arethwyne nobility.” Melilana explained, giving her son an once-over. She slid the catch of his cloak off to one side, straightened his kilt, and sighed. “There. You’re at least halfway presentable. Now, where did you leave your circlet this time?”
“It’s in my luggage,” Rowan muttered. Melilana sighed and sent one of the servants to get it. Once the maid came back, the queen carefully brushed Rowan’s overly-long bangs back from his brow, carding her fingers quickly through the thick waves, then she set the circlet on his head. It immediately slid down to one side, and Melilana pushed it back up, sliding it back until it was satisfactorily still. Rowan stood huffily, arms crossed, through the whole performance.
“That thing hates me,” he said, stone-faced. Melilana carefully centered the filigreed decoration and sighed.
“It’s inanimate, Rowan. It doesn’t have preferences.”
“I don’t like it, then,” Rowan muttered. Melilana sighed.
“I know you don’t,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s necessary. Come on.” She led Rowan up to the dais. For a while, as they waited, Rowan was distracted by one loosely curling, dark lock that had slipped out from behind his ear, but it did not last long enough to prevent acute boredom from settling in.
At last, there was a fanfare, a brisk beat of drums, and the representatives of the other kingdoms marched in. The heralds followed them in and they seated themselves on the dais, under the banners of their respective kingdoms; the stooping falcon argent on a field verdant for Ertraia, a unicorn rampant argent on a red field for Elruun, and a gold crowned bear on a field argent for Arethwyne. As the herald announced them, the leaders of each nation stood in turn and bowed to the assembly.
“King Archibald and Queen Alana Maroch of Elruun!” the herald cried. The king and queen, an older man and a much younger woman with a faintly worried, peaked face that, had it not held an expression of slight discomfort, unease, and nervousness, would have appeared extremely beautiful, stood. The queen curtsied, and the king bowed gravely. Newly married, Rowan thought. The queen is not quite sure yet of her new station. Most likely an arranged marriage.
“King Seamus and Queen Marena of Arethwyne, and their children Princess Marena Margaret and Princes Gareth, Aaron, and Hamish Dun Fayr!” I didn’t know she had brothers… Lucky lass.
“Queen Melilana Caerlen, King Halbryn Jaentyr, and Prince Rowan Jaentyr Caerlen of Ertraia!”
With a slight struggle, Rowan rose from his seat and made his own bow. He fell back down into the high seat with a tiny sigh of relief. Melilana gave him a concerned glance. Rowan smiled back reassuringly, mouthing “I’m fine.” Halbryn remained standing.
“We are gathered here for the purpose of deciding the future of our kingdoms,” he announced in his fine baritone voice. “Ertraia is here for the first time in over four decades, in the hopes of forming an alliance with the kingdoms of Arethwyne and Elruun.” Melilana stood.
“We also come with a warning. We have kept our borders closed for forty-two years, but even we have felt the repercussions of events in the outside world. We have defended our shores for the past forty-two years against attacks by sea robbers; within, we have faced treason on a scale far higher than ever before in my memory. Our guard on our borders is becoming increasingly strained. In the past week, we received no less than three refugees, none of them magic users. They would not say exactly what they were fleeing from, or where they had come from. We could see the terror in their eyes.
“I remember a time, my lords, when all the nobles of our kingdoms trusted the seers of Ertraia to predict the future, and today I come before you with not only visions, but with material evidence of the dangers that lie ahead. Will you join us in defending our lands?” There was silence for a moment, then Melilana continued, “I do not say that the danger is imminent. I am merely advocating further caution. My lords, our chief reasons in attending this gathering were first, to deliver this warning, and second, to gain the friendship of Arethwyne and Elruun. We are not strong enough to fight these foes on our own, but together we are strong enough to overcome them. Will you join us in the defense? Will you fight with us?”
Margery had stopped listening to the golden-haired queen of Ertraia after she had mentioned the hope for friendship between the kingdoms, to aid in the defense of the land. Her eyes were fixed on the young prince of Ertraia. How had she not guessed that he was not as he seemed? It seemed so blatant, so obvious, now. The prince had been hiding in plain sight. Then, another thought struck her. She knew now why Rowan’s voice had sounded so familiar. It was the voice of the young man who had ordered her to be set at liberty after she had been caught trespassing beyond the Ertraian border. She put her chin on her hand and gazed at him curiously. She had heard time and time again that the royal family of Ertraia had magical powers; she wondered, now, if her friend Rowan was a wizard. He wasn’t at all like she would have imagined a sorcerer to be. She wasn’t offended at all that he had concealed his high birth; if everyone in Arethwyne and Elruun hadn’t known her identity anyway, she would have taken every chance that she could to abandon it, as well. In fact, she had been doing the same thing to him not even an hour ago, though she knew now that he had seen right through her, as he had at their anonymous first meeting.
Eventually, the adults withdrew to one side to continue their discussion of politics and policy, while the young people drew off and out into the open air to allow the servers to prepare the dais and tables for the feast that evening. Margery walked over to Rowan, who was sitting on a tree stump just outside the tent. “Hello again,” she said. Rowan smiled wanly.
“Hello.” he said. “You’ll have to forgive me for not getting up.” Margery shrugged.
“Oh, it doesn’t bother me,” she said. She sat down beside him and studied him for a moment. “So it was you…”
“Yes. But it’s better if we don’t speak of it. Officially, it never even happened.” Margery nodded in understanding.
“So that’s how you knew you’d see me again tonight?” she asked. Rowan grimaced.
“Don’t tell me I forgot to tell you who I was. For one thing, I despise fanfare. For another, my mother would’ve been furious. Besides, I think it’s better not to take who you were born as for granted, don’t you? I’d rather earn my birthright, prove my ability to rule.” Margery was a little startled. Apparently, Rowan took his inheritance much more seriously than she ever had.
“I never thought of it like that,” she remarked. “I… well, mostly I just hate grovelers.” Rowan burst out laughing. He had a nice laugh, Margery thought.
“So, you’re really named after your mother?” he asked.
“Yes. Everyone calls me just Margery, for short. It’s kind of a joke, you see. Mar is short for Marena, while Margery is short for Margaret. So, two birds with one stone.” Rowan gave an odd little smile and said nothing on the subject.
“Marena is a beautiful name,” he said, taking a completely different tack.
“Thank you,” Margery said uncertainly.
“It suits you, too.” Rowan said, looking at her with a critical though not judgmental eye.
“Excuse me?” she said, confused.
“It means ‘maid of the sea.’ You are very like the sea… I think water must be your element.”
“My… element?” Rowan sighed.
“Sorry. Magic theory. Air is my element. I’ve always been able to control the winds,” he explained.
“Can you tell me more about magic?” Margery asked, curious and excited. Rowan thought for a moment.
“Well, I’m currently teaching a five-year-old named Adyn… just the theory for the moment. We don’t want any trouble. No one is allowed to use magic at the accord. But… you could maybe sit in on Adyn’s classes.”
“Sounds like fun!” Margery said excitedly. Rowan shrugged, resignedly.
“Adyn doesn’t think so,” he muttered, then rallied, looking her with a piercing glance that was decidedly disconcerting. “But mind, you’ll be learning things that not many people care to know. You’ll have to be discreet… I’m not even sure I should be teaching you. But… I have a feeling. It doesn’t feel wrong.”
“I can do that,” Margery said, somewhat confused by the boy’s uncanny intuition. He seemed to be able to follow her emotions with startling, even frightening, accuracy. She paused. “So, it’s true that the Caerlen ruling line is made up of wizards?”
“Most have been Wielders,” Rowan replied softly, “and those who were not had the potential to be. They merely chose other paths.” He gave Margery a questioning look. “Something wrong, your highness?”
“Well, no…” Margery stammered. “I just thought… anyone could be a magician.” Rowan looked shocked.
“Well, not everyone has a good singing voice,” he said, as if that were the explanation.
“What has that got to do with it?” Margery asked. Rowan sighed, obviously preparing to give a full explanation.
“You remember how Saint Paul says that different gifts are given to different people, don’t you?”
“And he also said that our responsibilities are in proportion to our gifts?”
“Thus, those with a magical gift have a responsibility to protect and preserve those who don’t. Also, Saint Paul said that we shouldn’t be envious of others’ gifts, since all of us have different ones. Magic is just another gift, just like anything else. People who don’t have it shouldn’t seek it out. It’s forbidden. It’s dark.” He shuddered. “Let’s talk about something else, please.”
“I never thought of it quite like that before,” Margery admitted. “But isn’t everyone who could be—I mean, who has the potential to be—a magician, trained? I mean, don’t they want to be trained?”
“There are other things than magic,” Rowan replied, “other ways of life. No, not everyone is trained. It’s partly due to resources, and partly because of personal preferences. Some people who could have been powerful Wielders choose to develop their other talents, rather than their natural aptitude for magic. There have been great musicians and healers and bards who could have all been Wielders, but they chose to pursue another path.”
Margery thought this through, then asked, “So, your mother is the ruler?” Rowan nodded.
“Yes. She married my father during the third year of her reign.” Margery looked thoughtful.
“What does your father do, then?”
“He acts as my mother’s chief advisor, is considered the highest diplomat and authority in the realm aside from my mother, deputizes for her, and he’s the commander of the knights and Rangers. He is also the chieftain of Clan Jaentyr, but since I’m the crown prince, he has a named heir, rather than a blood one. Technically, I’m part of my mother’s clan, rather than my father’s. I hope that’s not too confusing,” he added, noting the look on Margery’s face.
“Not really,” Margery said.
“You have three brothers, then?” Rowan asked. “Lucky! I have two foster brothers, and they’re both much older than me.” Margery shrugged.
“You wouldn’t be so enamored of the idea if you had to live with them,” she said. Just then, a tall, handsome young man stepped out of the pavilion and walked across to them.
“Prince Rowan?” he said, bowing, then flashed a charming smile at Margery as he straightened up.
“Tamnar, please, don’t call me by my title. It isn’t necessary,” Rowan said.
“The banquet is ready, your highnesses. They’ll be calling you back in in a few minutes.”
“Thanks for telling me, Tamnar,” Rowan said, grimacing and fiddling with the coronet he now obviously wished he had taken off for a few minutes while they waited for their elders to complete their business. Tamnar swatted his hand away.
“Queen Melilana would have your hide if she knew you were at that again,” he said. Rowan shrugged.
“It wouldn’t make me hate that thing any less.” he said. Turning to Margery, he continued, “Margery, this is Tamnar MacConnor. He’s almost a knight.”
“Not nearly a knight yet,” Tamnar said, bowing gallantly over Margery’s hand and kissing it. “Merely a humble squire.” Margery could feel herself blushing. Tamnar met her eyes; his eyes were large, liquid brown, enchanting. “Rarely does royalty go with such loveliness,” he said. Turning to Rowan, he teased, “You’re not among that number, your highness.” Rowan shrugged indifferently.
“That’s better,” Rowan declared. “I don’t particularly care,” he continued. “It doesn’t bother me.” Tamnar grinned, flashing a line of white teeth.
“Shall I take it further? Take your unprepossessing face out of here, my lord, you’re scaring the babes.”
“Go execute yourself for high treason, Tamnar. I’m too lazy to bother,” Rowan said, obviously trying to keep from laughing, and failing. Margery, somewhat unsettled, tugged Rowan’s sleeve.
“Is everyone in Ertraia like this?” Rowan shrugged.
“Tamnar teases everyone and everything. I once saw him trading insults with a rock. In my opinion, the rock had better comebacks.” He glanced sidelong at Tamnar, who acted as if he had been deeply wounded. Rowan promptly ignored him. “I don’t know why he does it,” he confided. “He just always has. It’s something that not a lot of our people do. Not even Julian teases like that. But you still get used to it, after a while.” Margery nodded, slowly.