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Skipping Stones part 2

Firie's picture

Continued from Part One at Skipping Stones



She was nine, and it was too early.


The sun had not even reached the tree line yet, and still lit the house brightly. It would be hours before the housemaid came around to light the hall lanterns. They would be serving dinner shortly. Not to her, though. She was supposed to be in bed already. The cook would bring her something later, a bit of fruit and some bread probably. Not a full meal, and no desert or treats.


Despite being told, there was no way she could fall asleep this early. She had not been sent to bed before dinner for years! Not since she was a little kid. However, she supposed, Father’s war trophies would be a little harder to mend than Mother’s tulip garden had been. She had just been play-acting, pretending to be a Guardian Wizard and defending the world from monsters, and the ferocious worg head mounted above the hall fireplace made for an excellent opponent.


She hadn’t meant to melt its fur off.


So here she sat at the top of the stairs, much too awake to be in bed. She could hear Father in the den, talking to Mother and Irnerius. Father sounded frustrated, and Irnerius… well, with Kerecsen swearing his oaths to the Silver Hand, Irnerius stood to inherit the estate as the next in line. As of late, he frequently sounded like something was annoyingly expensive, especially when she was the topic. She tugged her red and silver hood, modeled so carefully from her storybook pictures of the Guardians of Tirisfal, tighter around her ears.


It wasn’t as though she could make the fur grow back. Maybe magic could do that, but she didn’t know how to do much more than melt things. Maybe she could get him a new worg? But no. The orcs did not ride them into battle anymore, so it would not be as good. Besides, she was not sure how she would get a new one without melting the fur off that one too.


“They’re going to send you away.”


She squeaked and jumped, and cracked her head on the banister. She had not heard Czene come up behind her. They both froze, listening for any change in the conversation below. There was a moment’s silence before Father continued talking, apparently unaware of the eavesdroppers.


Angry at being surprised, she turned to Czene and hissed under her breath. “Don’t do that! And how would you know what they’re going to do?”


He stood there, neat and proper as always, never leaning against the corner of the wall next to him. Her third brother was only two years older than she was, and in following the tradition of noble third sons, his clean new acolyte’s robes fastidiously layered around him.


“Father asked me to change my travel plans,” he said simply. “He doesn’t want me going through Strahnbrad and south anymore. Instead, he told me to go east to the city first. That means when I head south, I’ll be passing by – “




He shot her a sharp look at the exclamation, and she clapped one hand over her mouth. When there was no yell from downstairs telling her to go to bed, she pulled her hand away and whispered, “They’re sending me to Dalaran?”


Czene nodded. “Oh yes. Right now, they are talking about how much to pay the wizards to let you stay. They won't just take you, you know. Father seems to think that his influence will get you a seat, but Irnerius believes we’ll have to buy you into a school.” He sniffed, and studied his robes without looking at her. “It’s not as if one of the great mages will walk up and offer to teach you.”


She blinked. Her stories about wizards and magic never talked about how masters selected their apprentices. She didn’t know very much about magic at all, just that she, well, ruined things. Frequently. Last week Mother had tried to teach her how to properly stitch silk fabric. She had gotten frustrated, and caused the fabric to unravel into thread. The entire bolt of it. “What… what if they don’t take me?” That wasn’t a sniffle. She’d just hit her head harder than she realized.


“I wouldn’t worry over that,” Czene said. He tilted one hand, considering the cuff of his robe sleeve. “Remember how eager Father was to have me sent to Northshire? And I only frightened a few of the housemaids. He’ll pay anything to have someone take you. Irnerius won’t want to waste the money, of course, but Father will sell his swords if he needs to.”


Her fingernails bit into her palms, and she turned a scowl up at him. “You stop that. You don’t know what they’re talking about at all and you’re just making things up again.” Like the time her horse had a sore hoof, and he had convinced the cook it had a broken leg and should be butchered. Or the time he had told her that mages wore hoods because magic was evil and dark, and sunlight would burn them to ash. The next morning before she woke up, he lit her blanket on fire where the sunbeams hit her bed. She had locked herself in her closet and refused to come out for hours.


Czene stifled a chuckle, and smiled at her. “Don’t be foolish. Of course I know. But…” he leaned closer, lowering his voice. “You shouldn’t be worried about the mages not taking you. You should be worried what happens if they do.”


“I’m not going to listen to you!” she hissed. Her arms trembled, and her hands hurt where her fingernails were digging in, but she did not back away from him.


“No, of course not.” He brushed over her protests without hesitation. “That’s rather the issue, isn’t it? The mages will expect to be listened to. And you will run off and play your own little game. What do you think the great archmages of Dalaran will do when some little girl messes up and makes an ancient tome of magic crumble into dust, or shatters a delicate crystal focus? You’ll ruin everything again, and they’ll be very angry.”


He was only a few inches away, looming over her in his immaculately neat robes and perfectly brushed hair, still smiling in his calm, too-polite way. “The masters of powerful and terrible magics are not known for their patience. Watch your step with them, little one. If you beg nicely they might let you run first.”


She hit him. It was as much a lunge as a punch, throwing her whole body at him with a shriek as she stood, planting one fist beneath his chin. They fell, her clinging to his robes and screaming as she drove her fist at his head again and again, him swearing and spitting as he swatted her away, both of them crashing off the steps and into the banister as they tumbled down. When they hit the floor she landed above him, fingers clawing at the neck of his robe, her nose dripping blood on the pristine white and silver. He kicked, throwing her back against the stairs again. Then they were both in the air, dangling from the backs of their collars as a voice thundered over them.


Rooms! NOW!


They were thrown forward, and both hit the stairs running. She gave only a glance back, through the banister as she rounded the corner at the top, at her father glaring furiously after them.


Lu Zeitan's picture

(( Oh, kids. You do a

(( Oh, kids. You do a beautiful job painting the picture of this family =) I look forward to the rest! ))