Hidden Magic - Chapter 10

- Read from the start 

Meren continued on her journey in a much better mood despite the insects that had begun to settle on her arms and flit away before she could swat at them. She would learn how to control her magic and do so quickly. She would get by fine without Kryro's help. Her smile faded as a thought struck her. What if the mage didn’t speak a language she did? This gave Meren a few minutes of panic where she paced back and forth, unable to force herself forward, until she recalled that her father had said it was a halfling village, as well. Even if the mage she sought was not a halfling, someone there would be able to speak with her and point her in the right direction. 

This conundrum solved, Meren traveled on with her spirits again raised. It was a cool night, the moon was bright enough to see by, and her brother would be safe with his own kin soon. Things could be worse. Things could be better, yes, but they’d work out. Now if only she could do something about the bugs! She brushed at them again and this time her hand hit something much larger than an insect. When she squinted in the dim moonlight, there was nothing there. She felt it again, this time more like the brush of someone trying to catch her attention, and she fought back a shriek. It was only years of training for silent scouting that kept her from doing so.

Her heartbeat didn't slow until a hoarse voice whispered, "Calm down, elf-girl. It's just me." 

"Phillip? How? Where are..." Right. Magic, of course. "So that's how you got away from the clearing. I'm beginning to think that you're following me around, you know."

"I think not. Alright, so this time I may have been." Now that she was paying attention to the spot to her right, she could see vapor rising about a foot above her head when he spoke. "And I... er... did follow you back to your home."

Meren glared at the spot she now knew him to be. "How many times do I have to tell you to leave the area? And could you please make yourself visible again so I don't have to speak to a cloud of smoke?"

Phillip muttered something under his breath, then appeared looking rather sheepish and still vaguely purple. "Six, I would guess. But before you say anything else, you didn't seem too upset when I knocked out those orcs and put out the fire."

"So it was you. I figured as much.” Meren tried to glare at him, but found that she couldn't and felt dangerously close to smiling at the annoying human. "I suppose I should say thank you."

"Always a pleasure to help a woman in need," he replied with what was probably meant to be a smirk. Meren snorted, which didn't seem to take away his strange good mood. After a moment, however, he turned serious again. "If you don't mind me asking, what happened back in your town? Encampment? Why are you going south and the centaur back into the forest?"

There went her good mood. But what was the harm in telling him? He'd probably just tag along, bugging her longer if she didn't. No wonder she had mistaken him for a swarm of pests. "East. I'm only going south until I can cross the river. My kin learned of my magic-- thank you for throwing yours in there because they now think I have even more than I actually do, by the way-- and they sent me off to a mage who lives in a town to the east. Kryro is going north to find his kin."

Phillip's dark eyebrows wrinkled in thought. "A mage? But I'd thought you were already trained."

Meren stared at him, unsure of where he would have gotten that idea. "No, never. I can do magic, but my father thinks that a mage can help me avoid setting things on fire."

Phillip shook his head slowly and gave a short, low whistle. "Hearing that, you do need to find a master. If you can do magic like that on your own, setting the forest on fire may be the least of your worries, Meren."

Being called by her name for once showed that he was serious, but a statement like that was downright terrifying when she'd already fretted about her lack of control. Phillip tugged at the frayed hem of his sleeve and Meren got the impression that he was thinking hard about something. "I didn't mean to frighten you, only to give a warning. Just make sure the mage you find is a good one. I don't mean good as in 'competent'... well, I do, I suppose, but what I meant was someone who is a good person." His raspy voice grew quieter as he added, "Believe me, this is important."

As he spoke this, Meren recalled his earlier paranoia. It was possible he was trying to warn her away from his own experience, whatever it was. "I will. But where are you going? More things aren't following you, are they?"

He stared at the staff in his hand, studying it for a few moments, then glanced behind him. Meren was about to ask her question again when he answered softly, "I hope none are. And I don't know. I was going west, but how can I go home looking like this?" 

"Wouldn't that be the best time to go home? If they're your kin, they won't mind who you are."

"As yours so readily accepted you?" His hoarse voice was bitter, but Meren didn't think he was directing that sharpness at her.

He had a point. A rather good one, actually. "Alright, bad example, but you need to go somewhere you can be safe."

After saying so, she realized that she meant it. Despite the human's irksome tendencies, she truly didn't want those horrible things coming after him again. An idea occurred to her and she reached into her pouch where she'd stuck the pendant earlier that day. She pulled it out by the chain and held it out to him. "Here, take it back. It might keep you safe if you don’t go home.”

Phillip stared at the slightly luminous object for a long moment, then shook his head. In the dim light she saw in his dark eyes an emotion she couldn't quite read. Before she could figure it out, he looked away from her again, but took her hand in his. "No, you should keep it. If the master you find is worthy, show it to him. It may help you. Otherwise, keep it a secret."

Meren could only nod dumbly, completely bewildered by his words and actions. This was the same person who had been a thorn in her side for years? Seemingly satisfied by her mute agreement, Phillip gave her a small smile and let go of her hand. "Good. Stay safe, Meren." 

His words echoing those spoken so recently by Kryro left Meren even more speechless, and it wasn't until he'd walked out of sight that she realized she hadn't asked him why he'd turned purple in the first place. As she walked across the stone bridge, she shook her head. If you couldn't trust your own curiosity, what could you trust? She couldn't help smiling to herself as she mentally answered her own question: spells to frequently be chaotic, a brother to be endlessly protective, and purple wizards to be dependably unpredictable.

The End

(Originally written and shared in October 2011)


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