Okay. I didn’t have my normal writing time yesterday, November 6th. So I only managed 2 paragraphs on my NotNaNoWriMo project, which I didn’t feel was enough to post here. BUT – I think I’ve made up for that by putting together 1,000 words today! Which you now get to read raw and unedited.
Seven Part 6
© 2018 Patrick Hester – All Rights Reserved
After two days of relative rest and, much to Seven’s surprise – no attacks, she and Julian started back to the tower. It loomed above the tree-line whenever there was a break in the foliage. Julian insisted it was a half days walk, though she didn’t remember traveling that far after the attack. Part of that trip had been she admitted, fuzzy. If true, the glimpses of the tower through the trees meant it was far taller than she originally thought.
The forest remained silent as they trekked along, an ominous omen as far as she was concerned.
Seven used a bit of tree branch, stripped and rubbed with dirt and a rock, as a walking stick. Her entire left side remained a purple bruise. Walking and moving helped, as did the foul poultice Julian forced on her every few hours. Yet she still felt weaker on her left side than she liked or would admit aloud. Nothing had hurt her in quite that way in a very long time. As such, her eyes lingered often whenever her path crossed shadows cast by tree or bush, scanning for danger or any sign of unnatural movement.
I think we triggered something last time, Julian said. And all the Shades attacked me at once. Five in total. Creating them takes time, so there shouldn’t be any more right now.
“Five?” Seven asked. “Are you certain? That’s a fine tally, little brother. Very fine.”
I was not boasting.
“You should be,” she said. “A very fine tally. But you can’t know for sure there aren’t more of them. This sorcerer may have kept some back as a rear guard,” Seven replied. “Best to be prepared for an attack that never comes rather than get caught with your pants down.”
You always think of such things, of battle and tactics. This is what they taught you in the arena?
Seven kept walking. She had spoken more about her time in the arena than he had about the Temple. That felt off-balance to her and she wanted more, to know her little brother again. His reticence bothered and frustrated her, but did not surprise her.
The conversation with the deiMagi, through her intermediary, came back to mind.
“It is interesting that you came back,” said the young man in the pale white tunic. He stood beside the large, empty desk, eyes tracking the flashing fingers of the woman seated behind the desk. Of her, Seven could make out no details. She wore a black robe with silver embroidery dancing along the cuffs, hem and trim of her cowl, which was drawn to completely hide her face and features. Gloves covered her hands, too. “There was…speculation on whether you would or not, once you won your freedom from the arena.”
“You kept track of me?” Seven asked.
“It was prudent. You gave my predecessor an ultimatum. Keep your brother alive for you would return for him one day, and would tear this place apart if you did not find him safe and well. We do not take such threats idly. Plus, the words had the scent of prophecy upon them, which we cannot ignore.”
Frustrated at this odd form of communication if not by the words themselves, Seven slammed her hand down on the desk. “Why do you refuse to speak to me? What insult is this?”
The young man’s eyes went wide and he stammered, trying to keep up with the woman’s fingers, “No insult is intended. This is for your protection. I take it you know little of how our magic works?”
Seven nodded. “True.”
“Is your sword the weapon, or are you the weapon and the sword simply the tool?”
Of all the things the woman could’ve said, Seven never imagined a question like this. The answer had been drilled into her from the start, and she repeated it by rote, “I am the weapon. I need no knife, sword or spear to kill.”
The woman spread her hands, then her fingers flashed.
“The same is true of us. We are the weapon, and our voice more powerful than fist or foot. To speak is to wield our power, therefore, we cannot speak as normal people would. To do so would be to use our power against you.”
“I see,” Seven said, though she didn’t. “So I will not be able to speak with my brother? I have to learn this,” she asked, waving at the young man. “Hand thing.”
She left her hand up, fingers pointed at the young man. “This one will teach me.” It was not a request.
“It will fall to your brother to teach you, and only if he chooses to do so. You still intend to take him from the Temple?”
“Yes,” she said. “We belong together as family.”
“He will have a choice. We will not force him. Nor will you. He may not wish to see you again, let alone go with you.”
“Only if you have done something to him,” Seven spat. “How am I to even know the boy you bring to me is my own blood if I cannot speak with him?”
“You will know, or you will not. It makes no difference to us. You brought us a boy and bade us turn him into a Magi, keep him alive until you returned for him. We have done this. The rest is up to you.”
“And if he chooses not to come with me?” Seven asked. “Then what?”
“Then you will have a choice of your own to make. For myself, I believe he will leave with you.”
“That is good,” she said.
“Is it? Are you so sure? He is not the same boy you brought to us all those years ago. He has grown in ways you cannot fathom. He is of the Magi now.”
“I learned more in the arena than I wanted to know, Julian,” she said after a time.
The quiet stretched out for a very long time. Seven kept walking.
* * *