Meah leans on the white stone of the balcony in the room she shares with Ime and stares down at the city. She can see people going about their normal days. They go to market, talk with neighbors, and work without worry. They are safe here in the city, hidden away in the forest. She remembers how it had felt back in her village. She had been like these people once. It seemed so long ago she walked through her village and spoke with the elder for the final time. It had all been a false sense of safety, quickly and easily broken.
“Are you all right?” Ime asks, walking up to stand next to her. He places a hand on the balcony and looks at her, concern clear on his face. “You’ve been very quiet since the meeting with Wynsil.”
She tries to smile, but she can’t keep it long. “I’m fine.” Her expression darkens as she thinks carefully. “I’m trying to understand what Wynsil told us.”
“You can take away Klaeon’s magic. What’s there to understand?”
Meah turns her head sharply at him, fear and anger mixed in her green eyes. “If I take away his magic, I’m no different than him. It would only encourage others to fear Life Healers if they start to believe we…I can take magic from others.”
Shaking his head, Ime places a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You are nothing like him. He steals magic. You heal. His magic is unnatural and shouldn’t be in anyone’s control. Besides, you can’t take magic away from others.”
“It doesn’t matter if I can or can’t. Fear stems from uncertainties. That’s how he was able to come to power.”
“What do you mean?”
Her grip on the stone balcony tightens. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. With so many magic users, how could he have possibly come into power without any form of resistance?”
“There was resistance,” Ime starts, spitting the words out angrily.
“But why didn’t it succeed? Blood King Klaeon is only one man who gathered an army of non-magic users. He played on people’s most basic emotion. Fear. He created fear of what magic users could potentially do to non-magic users. If magic users fought back at full strength, they would only be proving his words.”
“Where did you hear about this? People aren’t afraid of magic users. They’re afraid of Klaeon.”
“Who happens to be a magic user. If he, a single man, could take control of so many people, how long before other magic users could too?”
“His army isn’t made up of only non-magic users. There are plenty of magic users who joined him.”
Meah stands straight, moving away from Ime’s comforting hand. “That makes it worse.”
“Are you saying magic users should hide what we are?”
Meah takes a slow breath in and her eyes lower to the ground. “No. I just think if I were to try and take his magic away it would be no better than what he did to you.”
Ime thinks carefully about what she is saying. He leans on the balcony and runs a hand through his hair, releasing a frustrated breath. “You don’t have to worry about that. Having you anywhere near him has never been a factor, anyway.”
“You don’t want me to take his magic away?” Meah asks, surprised.
Taking her chin in his hand, Ime moves closer to her. “I want you to be safe.”
A comforted smile spreads across her face and she wraps her arms around him, laying her head on his chest. Ime embraces her and places his head on hers.
“I wish this peaceful feeling could last forever,” Meah whispers.
“When we stop Klaeon, peace will come.”
“For how long? How long will it take someone else to try to control everything?”
Ime pulls away and stares deeply into her eyes. Placing a hand on her cheek he smiles. “Let’s not think about that. One thing at a time.” He gently strokes her lip. “Come on. Let’s get some rest. Wynsil said we can stay for a few days and I think sleeping is something we all need.”
They walk in from the balcony to the large bed. Meah climbs in first. Ime crawls in next to her and wraps his arms around her. She scoots closer to him and they quickly fall asleep.