Ari leans against Crofton, her eyes watching the wind move the grass. The moonlight makes the fields look like a sea of silver. She squeezes her arms with her hands, fighting back the fear still inside her.
The camp is a good distance behind them, far enough in case her magic flares up again. The tears stopped quickly as her strength returned, but she isn’t ready to face the group yet. Crofton hadn’t spoken to her since leading her from the camp, waiting for her to be ready to talk.
She’s relieved, but she can’t stop thinking of the look in his eyes. She knew something was different when she found him in the initiation building. She isn’t sure what it means, but now isn’t the time to ask him about it.
Footsteps cautiously approach behind them. Vico walks up next to them, a ball of string in one hand. He rolls it around his palm with his fingers while his eyes watch the waves of grass. “Seems the excitement has finally passed.”
Angling her head, she watches the ball move easily in his palm. “How is everyone?”
He leans his head to the side, shrugging his shoulders slightly. “Drained. Finding comfort in those without magic.” He pauses, choosing his words carefully. “Do you feel like talking about what happened?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know…what to say.”
Crofton places a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to have all the answers. I think everyone needs reassurance.”
“Reassurance of what?”
Sitting next to them, Vico moves the ball of string from one hand to the other. “That you’re okay, they’ll be okay, this wasn’t an attack…anything else similar.”
“So, admit I did this to them.” She turns her attention back to the fields. “Admit to them it’s my fault this happened.”
“Well, it was your fault,” Crofton says.
She glares at him, clenching her fists painfully. “Really? I’m feeling like shit and that’s what you say?”
“You want me to lie to you?”
“Of all the times to be communicative, maybe this isn’t the best choice.”
Standing, Vico puts the ball of string away. “I’ll let everyone know you’re okay.” He quickly walks away, sensing the argument about to happen.
Scooting away from Ari, Crofton faces her, confused. “So you want me to cheer you up or do you want me to sit here in silence?”
“I’m experiencing new magic that’s scaring me more than I’ve ever been scared before and when all I need to hear is everything’s going to be all right, you amplify the guilt I’m feeling.”
“Why does this magic scare you?”
“Because this isn’t how it’s supposed to feel.” She turns away from him. “I know you don’t like my magic so maybe you won’t understand.”
“I don’t have to understand. You clearly just want to speak your thoughts out loud. Use me to practice what you’re going to say to everyone else.” He shrugs. “Or what you don’t want to say to them.”
She holds her hand up, opening and closing it. She struggles finding where to start, taking a deep breath. “When my wind magic first appeared, I asked my mom how it was supposed to feel. It should be an extension of yourself, she told me. But when I asked if it felt the same when she used her magic to bring someone back from the dead…she told me that was different magic. Healing magic was part of her, but her life magic was different. It filled her with light when she used it.”
She eyes Crofton, wondering if she’ll see boredom or annoyance in his expression. He watches her attentively, encouraging her to continue.
“I asked if my father felt the same. She told me when she asked the same question he said when he found his true fire magic it was as if he finally became whole. A part of him he never knew was missing suddenly became available to him.” She crosses her arms, hugging herself. “But when I use this new magic I don’t feel either of those. All I feel is something I can’t control, something unnatural, and I’m afraid of it.”
“You weren’t afraid of your wind magic when it first appeared?”
The question catches her off guard. “I mean, yes, when it first started I didn’t know what to do. It took some time to learn how to control it, but it didn’t feel like it didn’t belong.”
Crofton sighs and stands. “Maybe it feels unnatural because it’s different than your wind magic.”
“Of course it’s different than my wind magic.”
“Then why are you trying to use it like your wind magic?” The tone of his voice changes, as though he were scolding a child.
She strains her neck to glance up at him. “Like you know anything about magic.”
“Maybe not, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” He holds a hand out to her. “And I think you’re forgetting to ask an important question.”
Taking his hand, she stumbles to her feet. “What question?”
“What purpose does this kind of magic have?”
“There’s a reason it was locked away, right? Maybe you’ll learn why the more you learn how to control it.”
She shakes her head. “I don’t know. Do I really want to unlock more of this?”
“The way to do it is finding masters of magic. I doubt they’d help you if the magic inside of you was bad.”
Was that true? The figure from her dream said the magic inside of her could save or destroy the world, but how? It clearly affected others with magic, but what exactly did it do?
“Are you ready to head back?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
They walk back to the camp where the rest of the group is waiting. As the two approach all eyes watch them. Vico sits close to his sister, his hands working string into intricate knots.
Ari looks around the group, seeing exhaustion in the eyes of those with magic. Even Tal, usually high energy, sits with Indra’s arms holding her up.
“I’m sorry, everyone,” Ari says. “I never intended what happened to happen. I hope you all can forgive me.”
The group mumbles softly, accepting her apology.
“You’ve all been very…patient, I think, with why we’re heading for Deirak. The true reason, I mean.” She takes a deep breath, but Crofton takes her hand and she finds his touch more comforting. “For those of you who don’t know, my parents are Life Healer Meah Flandine and Fire Mage Ime Gurek. Our home, Kellahn, was attacked by powerful magic users and non magic users sent by something claiming to be the Source of magic. My mother was killed, but my father wasn’t there. He’s been missing for many years after he went on a search for the Source of magic. But that wasn’t the only reason my home was attacked.
“I was the other target. My true magic isn’t my wind magic. It’s something that has been locked beyond my reach, but for some reason it’s slowly being released. The thing claiming to be the Source of magic is afraid of it and is hunting me. There are two reasons we’re heading for Deirak. One is to find my father, Ime, and the other is to find masters of magic to help me learn how to control my true magic.” She squeezes Crofton’s hand, preparing herself. “I’ll understand if once we reach Marpidium any of you choose to part ways with me.”
The group listens quietly, no one moving a muscle. Once she finishes, a few eye each other.
Tal motions to Indra to help her to her feet. He obliges, the two standing together and drawing the attention of everyone. “We’d better get you to Deirak then.”