“I see your parents didn’t scold you too much,” Ari says, smiling up at Crofton.
Crofton gently pets the bird’s head before sending it off into the forest. “Just the usual, ‘keep an eye on that girl or else she’ll get herself into trouble’. And your mother?”
“The usual, though a bit more on the dramatic side than usual.”
Sliding off the bridge, Crofton lands next to her. “Ah yes, the please behave even though I know you’re not really going to listen speech?”
Shrugging, Ari eyes the food. “Yeah, with a little added warning.”
“She knew about the second gang.”
“Did you tell her about them or did she…?”
“I didn’t tell her so I can only assume she saw it or Lyrrel did and told her.”
“That’s good, though, isn’t it? She should know so she can let the council know. That gang really wanted to kill us, Ari.”
“But they didn’t.” Ari grabs the food and sits with her back against the stone of the bridge. “Besides, the council already knows about gangs like that. It’s not a secret people are becoming more afraid of magic users.”
Sitting next to her, Crofton shakes his head. “I don’t understand why. If someone were going to try to take over, wouldn’t it have already happened? Why the sudden fear now?”
“I don’t know.”
Crofton stares at Ari for a moment before taking the food from her. He opens the cloth to reveal a cake with berries. “My mom made this for us. She’s hoping it’ll convince us to stay out of trouble.” He hands her a small piece. “For a little while, at least.”
Smiling, Ari takes it and smells the sweet aroma. “If all it took was one of your mom’s cakes, I’d ask her to feed the whole city. Maybe then everything would calm down.” She takes a small bite and sighs. “It’s so good.”
They sit silently for a moment as they eat the cake. The sound of the stream fills the air with a cool, calmness. But Ari can feel Crofton’s uneasiness.
“My dad thinks there may be a potential uprising brewing.”
Ari turns her head quickly to look at him. “What? How would he know that?”
“He used to work in a caravan of slave traders that regularly had members try to take over. He says the way the people are talking reminds him of those days.” Crofton takes a bite of the cake before continuing. “He thinks there’s someone encouraging the dissent, rallying the non magic users and telling them lies about the magic users wanting to control them.”
“But none of that’s true. We haven’t done anything to make anyone even think that’s true.”
“Some don’t view it that way. There are still a lot of people who consider your mom and dad the rulers of this city, magic users and non magic users alike.”
“But they aren’t. They made it clear after the war they never wanted that. Hell, my father isn’t even here!”
“My dad says sometimes all it takes to start the seeds of fear and doubt is one word.” Shifting uncomfortably against the stone, Crofton locks his eyes onto the stream in front of them. “What do you think about that Kemp guy?”
Thrown off by the sudden change in question, Ari leans her head back to think. “We were lucky he showed up when he did. He probably saved our lives.”
Crofton stands, wiping his hands on his pants. “Yeah. You’re right.”
Eyeing him curiously, Ari finishes her piece of cake. “What are you thinking, Crofton?”
“Nothing. It’s just, there’s no doubt there’s been an influx of people coming to this city seeking help or a safe place, but…”
“If magic is fading, why are there still so many new kinds of magic being discovered? Wouldn’t the very fact magic is weakening mean some of the lesser know magic would simply fade out completely?”
“Kemp said he was the last in his village that could use magic,” Ari points out.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You’re thinking too hard about it. Especially for a non magic user.” Ari stands and walks out from under the stone bridge. “Come on, let’s head back before our parents think we’ve gotten into more trouble.”
Ari starts walking forward when movement at the corner of her eyes catches her attention. She turns her head to see darkness racing towards her. Before she can react, the darkness fills her vision and she feels herself falling into nothing.