Chapter 16 Air

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Ari’s eyes widen and her magic creates a breeze in the closed shop. “What?”

“Well, actually, the group that destroyed his village was on its way to join with the other groups preparing to attack your city, but that’s nitpicking.”

The breeze in the shop grows stronger and Ari clenches her fist. “There’s no proof he knew it was the same group.” The windows rattle with the increased flow of air. “He couldn’t have known they’d come after the city next.”

A finger slams into Ari’s chest and her magic immediately stops. “Stay calm, Ariana Gurek,” Nani says with a low voice. “I’m not trying to imply there’s any deceit. As you say, there’s no proof he had any idea the attack would be coming.”

“All we need is to know whether or not the caravan heading through the Redlands is passing through this town soon or not. If you really want to know why, it’s because we’re searching for my father following the path he took,” Ari says, stepping back from Nani.

“You’re searching for Ime? How do you know he passed this way?”

Ari pulls the notebook from her bag. “These are all of the letters my dad sent us up until the point he ceased contact. They describe the path he took.”

Eyeing the leather notebook, Nani takes a step back. “I see. The caravan you’re looking for will be here tomorrow. The scouts they sent ahead are upstairs resting. When they’re ready you can speak to them about the possibility of joining them.”

“In your opinion, will they let us tag along?”

“If you can prove you’re useful, but for two mages and a non magic user who looks like he’s lifted things before that shouldn’t be too difficult.” Nani places his stones and stick on the table. “Though I’ll be blunt, I wouldn’t mention the people following you.”

“How did you know about that?” Ari asks.

“The same way I knew everything else. They won’t let you join them if they sense any danger following you.”

“I hadn’t planned on telling anyone unless they really needed to know.”

Nani’s eyebrows lowered and he leaned his head to the side. “I wasn’t worried about you, but you should make sure those two outside understand why you can’t go around telling everyone.”

“They understand…I think.”

“Communication, use it.” Nani walks to the door. “I’ll send for you when the scouts are ready to talk.”

Grabbing her bag, Ari heads for the door. “I could ask how you’ll find us, but I know that’s a pointless question.”

“Consider this time until you can talk to the men a time to work on communication and discuss how you are going to present yourselves to those you meet.” Opening the door, Nani smiles at Ari. “And perhaps you should also tell them the truth about those chasing you and why they’re chasing you.”

Hesitating, Ari stares at Nani cautiously. “I don’t know why they’re chasing me other than because of who my parents are.”

“You do know the reason. It’s the same reason your mother told you to find masters of magic. If you think carefully, you’ll understand.” He waves his hand out the door.

Ari walks out, wincing at the change from dark shop to bright sunlight. Nani closes the door behind her, leaving her alone. Kemp and Crofton are sitting against the stall. When they hear the door, they quickly stand and move to her.

“What happened? Did that brat do anything to you?” Crofton asks.

“Did you see Nani? Any news about that caravan?” Kemp asks.

Holding up her hands, Ari looks from one face to the other. “One at a time, please.” She points at Kemp. “Yes and the caravan will be here tomorrow. The scouts are here but they’re resting. We can talk to them later.” She points to Crofton. “I talked to Nani and, surprise, that little brat was Nani, which you probably would’ve realized if you weren’t being a complete jerk. Now let’s go find some place we can relax while we wait for our opportunity to talk to the scouts.”

She doesn’t give them a chance to ask more questions. She heads off in search of a nice place to wait. Kemp and Crofton follow quickly.

“I wasn’t being a jerk. That little shit was rude,” Crofton says, angrily.

“That little shit is actually a full grown shit in a little body.” Ari glares at Kemp. “You saw through that, didn’t you?”

“I had no idea.” Kemp adjusts his bag and avoids eye contact. “Though, I’m surprised I didn’t notice.”

“Don’t take it personally. I think he did it on purpose,” Ari says. “Besides, we need to talk.”

The two men walking behind her look at each other in surprise. The three walk through the town and find a small inn with a dining hall. Inside there are a few tables and one woman at the counter who looks up as they enter. Other than the woman, the room is completely empty.

“Stayin’ or eatin’?” the woman asks, eyeing the group’s bags eagerly.

Taking the table furthest from her and the door, Ari smiles. “Eating. Whatever is the house special as well as three glasses of whatever you recommend with the house special.” She motions for Kemp and Crofton to sit.

“Coming up.” The woman disappears into the back.

Crofton sits next to Ari leaving Kemp to sit alone on the opposite side of the table. Kemp places his bag on the chair next to him and places his elbows on the table.

“You said we need to talk, what about?” he asks.

Swallowing the nervous lump in her throat, Ari locks eyes with Kemp. “Why did you leave your village?”

Kemp sits silent. He clasps his hands together in front of him and his eyes lower to the table. “My village was attacked one month ago. A rogue group of men came in and killed all of the magic users…but not me.”

“Who attacked your village?” Ari asks.

“A random group of men.” Feeling Ari’s eyes still on him, Kemp raises his eyes to meet hers. “Magic users…some of the ones who attacked your city.”

Crofton slams his hand on the table. “The same men who attacked our home?” He reaches across the table and grabs Kemp by his shirt collar. “You knew they were going to attack Kellahn, didn’t you?”

Ari slaps Crofton’s hands, forcing him to release Kemp. “Stop it! He didn’t know they were going to attack Kellahn. How did you escape?”

“My mother forced me to hide,” Kemp says, straightening his shirt and glaring at Crofton.

“How did she force you to hide?” Crofton asks, a tinge of anger in his voice.

“I inherited my magic from my mother. She hid me in the only place they couldn’t find me. When she died, I was released.” His eyes move to Ari. “Is this what you talked about with Nani?”

“No, but he suggested we should all learn to communicate better. So while we wait for the scouts, we’re going to practice.” Now it’s Ari’s turn to fall silent. She takes a calming breath and squirms in her seat. “There’s a reason Kellahn was attacked.”

Crofton turns to Ari and places a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “We know it’s something to do with your dad.”

“That’s only part of it.” Ari closes her eyes, preparing herself. “The ones who attacked Kellahn were sent by the Source.”

“The Source? What’s the Source?” Kemp asks.

“The Source of all magic,” Croton snaps. “Ari’s dad is searching for it to find out why magic is disappearing.”

Anyway, my dad must be getting close to finding it so in a panic it sent those men to attack Kellahn to try to scare him off. At least, that’s what my mom thought.”

The woman reappears from the back with three drinks. She places the glasses of strangely colored liquid in front of the three and eyes them warily before heading back to prepare the food.

“So your mom thought this Source sent those men to give your dad a warning to keep away,” Kemp says, taking a glass and sniffing it cautiously. He takes a small sip and winces. “Gods, cleans you right out.”

Tentatively taking the glass in front of him, Crofton takes a sip. He inhales sharply after swallowing and strains against a rising cough. He puts the glass down and pushes it away.

“My mom thought that was the reason, but there’s another reason.” Ari sighs, taking her glass, but not drinking. “They were after me not because of my dad, but… because of something else.”

“What are you talking about?” Crofton asks.

“My magic is blocked.”

“Blocked? You seemed able to use it fine during the fighting,” Kemp says, taking a larger drink.

“That’s my air magic, something I inherited from my father, but there’s another magic inside me I can’t get to. It’s blocked and I think the Source was the one who did it. Now I think it’s afraid the block won’t last and it wants to prevent that, which means getting rid of me.”

“Are you sure? Do you even know what your blocked magic is?”

Looking at the colored liquid in her glass, Ari takes a few sips and eyes Kemp. “What’ve you heard about my mom’s magic?”

A confused expression crosses Kemp’s face. “She was a Life Healer. She could bring people back from the dead. Should I have heard anything else?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure how many people actually know outside of my family and one or two of my mom and dad’s closest friends.” Ari pauses as the woman returns with a large plate of food. There’s meat and vegetables piled high and she eyes the still full drinks on the table before leaving. Once she’s gone from the room, Ari continues. “My mom could also destroy magic. She could find the source of someone’s magic inside of them and destroy it.”

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