Short story: Seer and Moonlight
A/N: Here is a short story I wrote a couple of days ago. I was going to upload it then, but my internet connection has been unpredictable the last few days. So here is a short story partly inspired by the book series called ‘Rogue Mage’ by Faith Hunter and partly inspired by something a friend of mine wrote.
The air was cool so high up but it bothered me little as I glided on an updraft, the racing northern winds keeping me in place, wings flapping rarely. Far below I could see trees and I could see dirt and I could see humans on horseback, I could see small animals among the trees as if they didn’t see me up here.
I dipped my wings and slowly the lift of warm air fell away as I dropped, sights set on a small furry creature, running through the woods. As I fell I saw more and more small furred creatures, running through the woods and though I didn’t know it, they all ran from something.
But I feared nothing, there was nothing for me to fear. After all, I was a…
“Mage!” the shout came from nearby, near enough that there had been no need to shout.
My eyes opened and I felt the ropes digging into me, ropes that had been tied there hours ago to keep me in place while my mind wandered. With a practiced turn of my wrist and a small struggle with the knots that had been pulled tight by hours of work, I was free to fall from the modified saddle I had been tied to all morning.
I spat the blood from my mouth and coughed until my throat and lungs were clear of it. Then I let Leroy, the man who’d shouted at me, pull me to my feet by the back of my shirt. Leroy was the leader of our caravan, though his wife did most of the leading, and so I let him shout at me.
Hawk landed on a branch not far from us, a large squirrel clutched in her claws and both eyes on Leroy. She was the entire reason that I was here and not somewhere else either starving to death or actually being respected for my limited talents.
“What did she see, boy?” the man asked, his voice gruff but not quite as impatient, he had probably been trying to rouse me for a while.
“There is no one but us for quite some distance, as far as she can see,” I fumbled with the ties on my saddlebags as I spoke. “But there is something in the forest that all the small creatures are running from.”
“Something?” he sounded unimpressed, but he knew there was no way for me to be more specific, I was Hawk when I saw through her eyes, I saw what she saw.
“If I had to guess, it is a dark creature,” I finally found what I was searching for and pulled a bottle from my bag. “But all I know is that all the forest creatures are running from it.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Better safe than sorry,” he grabbed the back of my shirt and lifted me onto my saddle one handed. His nose stayed wrinkled as he rode up the column of his caravan, muttering to himself, word spread out from me after him.
“Did you really see a dark creature?” a woman’s voice asked me as I waved at Hawk in a vain hope that she would stay close and not stretch my mind the way she always did. I turned to see Lea pull up beside me, a conspiratorial look on her face.
“No,” I told her flatly, watching as Hawk flew up into the sky once more to continue hunting the fleeing forest creatures while there was still enough light. “She saw all the smaller forest creatures running from something in the woods.”
Although I made this correction every time someone asked me about my power only Leroy and his wife, Mila, asked what Hawk saw rather than what I saw. It was for this reason, and numerous others, that Mila was probably the only person I liked in the caravan.
I slumped in my saddle and Lea took the hint, pulling back to talk to her brother and sisters. My head ached and I didn’t want to have to drink from the bottle I still held in my hand. Magebrite, as the stimulant had been dubbed, was at least half the reason I was leaving a lungful of my own blood in the dirt behind us.
But it was more than likely that my heart would stop again if I didn’t drink, so I forced the vile liquid down my throat and did my best not to vomit it right back out. As my body shuddered with the magic in the drink my mind drifted free.
There was no sight here, only the feeling of the connection to Hawk and the fear of the animals fleeing through the forest. I could connect to Hawk and see through her eyes any time I wished, but I could only connect with strange animals if they were calm and within view, none of the animals I could feel in the forest fitted this description.
Within a few seconds the power from the magebrite was absorbed and all I was left with was the taste and the feeling that the lining of my stomach was significantly weaker than it had been before I drank. I put the bottle back into my saddlebag and sat taller in my horse as he followed the other horses.
When I had finally bought myself a horse I had made sure that I got a docile horse who would follow others in lieu of actually having to be told anything. Apparently Geronimo, who like all horses was really named Horse, had been a pack horse most of his life.
Though I knew that there were hundreds, if not more, small animals running through the woods past us, it wasn’t until darkness started to descend that we saw any. Hawk had long since returned to her perch on my right, armoured, shoulder when the first mice ran between Horse’s legs, then came larger animals, squirrels and rabbits and the like.
When the caravan stopped and the camp was set up mostly the animals stayed away from us, but more and more flowed over the road. I wanted to coax Hawk back up into the sky, but I knew she wouldn’t see, especially if it really were a dark creature.
I had seen a dark creature once. When I was very young and still without this power a dark creature had come upon my family as we travelled between Lyzion and Crown Hill. It had been night and the fire had been burning and at first it just looked like the wind had picked up among the trees and then it came into the light.
Still it could not be seen, dark creatures were aptly named, as it absorbed the light, making it near impossible to see where it was as it silently destroyed my mother and father and older sister. I have no clue as to why it did not kill me, but it did not.
That night in the woods I had met Hawk and three days later Mila, who could not have children of her own, had taken me in when she passed with her husband’s caravan. Since then only Leroy, Mila, Fey, Damien, and I still rode with the caravan, most of our other members were people who wanted the protection as they travelled.
If my guess was right then they would not get what they had paid for though they would be in no position to ask for their money back. But it was my opinion that their fate was no concern of mine, my concerns were for myself and Hawk and Mila.
Hawk required very little concern, well able to feed and groom herself sometimes I let my mind drift into hers to see what she could not do for herself, but I did not have the energy that day. So instead I turned my mind to Mila, who was helping to organise the men who would guard against the possible dark creature in the forest. My last concern was for myself and, other than making sure I ate, there was nothing for me to do but sleep.
And then came the voice.
“Are you there?”
My eyes flew open and my hands clamped to my ears to block out the head splitting sound, but it wasn’t a sound that came to my mind.
“Is anyone there?”
The pain was unbearable, and my mind came free of my convulsing body and suddenly…
I knew someone was there, I could feel them, feel the power that leaked from them, but they would not answer me. “Are you there?” I called again, but this time it was like they didn’t even hear me, like their mind had left their body.
I was slammed back into my sweating body, blood leaking from my mouth and nose I turned over and vomited it onto the ground where I lay, unable to do anything else. I knew now what it was that came through the forest and I had to stop Leroy from attacking and getting himself and all his volunteers killed.
Kicking and thrashing I managed to get free of my sleeping bag and crawled behind the cart I had been sleeping near to where the line between us and the forest was. Big hands pulled me to my feet and just when I thought I would manage to speak the voice came again.
“Who are you?”
This time I screamed, clutching at my head, unable to stand the pain, and the men who had been holding me dropped me like I had suddenly become red hot. Again I vomited blood but before the voice could come again I managed to gasp out my words. “It isn’t a dark creature.”
Again hands lifted me from the ground and Leroy’s face swam into focus. “What in the name of the all mother is wrong with you, child?” He looked a mix of angry and genuinely concerned.
“It isn’t a dark creature,” I repeated, as loud as I could manage. “It is a mage.” The voice came again.
“Why do you not answer me?”
Everything went dark.
I woke to find that I was in Leroy and Mila’s bed, in their wagon. I hadn’t been inside the place for nearly four years, but I supposed that if I hadn’t woken with the sun they would have had to transport me somehow.
Sitting up I did what I did every time I woke, I reached for Hawk.
I was high in the clouds, gliding into the north wind, wings angled so that I was borne up as the wind worked to try to keep me in place. It was cold up here, but I could see so much better the small animals that were far less restless than the previous day.
I pulled myself back into my own body and rushed out the back of the wagon, stumbling as I hit the ground and the carriage kept going I fell out of the way of Horse. I hacked out a mouthful of blood and prepared to clear it from my lungs but no more came and I was shortly able to get back to my feet and catch up with the slow moving wagon.
There was someone else in the bed, someone who looked like they were about the same age of me, who was completely naked. They were curled into a ball, their skin a shade so dark they were almost invisible in the gloom of the carriage.
I opened the front door and found Mila driving, as she always did, while her husband patrolled the caravan. She looked at me when the door closed and smiled. “Good to see you’re awake, are you feeling alright?”
I sat down next to her. “As good as ever,” I wiped blood from my mouth, “what happened?”
“You started screaming and passed out,” she shrugged, it wasn’t the first time, “then this little girl stumbled out of the woods, totally naked. You said that it was a mage so we tried to talk to her, but she saw you and passed out herself.”
“So that was who was in the bed with me?” I asked.
“You were both passed out, we needed to put you somewhere.”
“She didn’t say anything?” I asked. “She was speaking inside my head, that was why I was in so much pain.”
Mila glanced at me. “She didn’t say a word aloud.”
“It’s possible she can’t speak,” I admitted, “mind to mind communication isn’t actually language.”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “How do you know? You’ve never met another mage.”
“It isn’t like Hawk can speak English, but I understand her when I am in her mind.” I pointed out.
She shrugged, her question had been interest, not scepticism. “Will she be alright?” she glanced with concern at the wagon she drove. Of course she was concerned for the child.
“I haven’t a clue,” I admitted, not one to lie, “it is more likely than not, though I don’t know any medicine.”
“Fey said that the girl should be fine, but she said that about you before you started coughing blood,” she smiled at me and shrugged, “mages are outside her wheelhouse.”
A reply came to me but before I could speak it fear bombarded my mind. I was reminded of passing an animal store, the fear and anger of the animals that had been caged there. Taking a deep breath I tried to force the girl’s fear from my mind.
Without a word to Mila I opened the door and entered the wagon. Large black eyes fixed on me and the fear subsided immediately. She sat up in the bed and stared at me with eyes that were solid black, no white or iris.
She opened her mouth and I hoped that it meant she knew how to speak, then closed it again and furrowed her brow, apparently deep in thought. “What… happened?” She had to pause for thought between words.
I almost sighed with relief. “I passed out in pain and then you passed out,” I suggested, “that is what I heard.”
She cocked her head at me and again came the expression of deep thought. “Are… you… alright?”
“As close as I’ve been for a while,” I smiled reassuringly, “are you?”
“I am… fine.” She stopped again, thinking about language apparently. “I have been… in the… forest… for a… long time. You… leak… I… followed you.”
“Leak?” I asked, fairly sure what I knew what she meant.
“Your… power leaks from you.” She slid off the bed and stood, revealing her nakedness and her lack of concern about it. I had seen one woman naked, by accident, and this was not the same. This girl had no concern for her appearance, but others would.
“What’s your name?” I asked, opening a wardrobe and searching through Mila’s clothes for something that would fit the girl.
Of course there was nothing, she was an even shorter than I was and Mila was an adult after all. I would have to give her my spare clothes and if she was to stay we could buy her some more the next time we stopped.
I was on the verge of leaving to get my clothes from my saddlebags when I realised that the girl hadn’t answered. I glanced back to find her regarding me, head on one side as if trying to decide on something.
“I do not… remember,” she told me with a smile, “what is your… name?”
I blinked, nonplussed, everything had a name, but I couldn’t drift into her mind and look for it, as much as I wanted to. “Silas.” I told her. I had no last name because I had no family.
She smiled. “Silas.” She repeated the name with interest.
“Wait here,” I instructed, “I will get you some clothes.”
Again she was thoughtful. “Clothes?”
“I will be back soon,” I turned and opened the back door and carefully hopped out to match pace with Horse. He followed the wagon without concern or anyone leading him. I dug into the saddlebags and pulled out my spare set of clothes.
She stared when I tried to hand her the clothes, like she had no idea what they were, and then a memory sparked in her mind. “I remember… clothes,” she informed me, still not taking them. “I have not… worn them for… a long time.”
“You will need to wear them to leave the wagon,” I told her, trying again to hand them to her.
She considered for a while, then took the clothes and unfolded them. “These are yours.” She stated, putting them on the bed.
“I am giving them to you,” I replied, “I am the only person with clothes your size.”
“Giving them to me?” she grinned and her teeth were not black as I half expected them to be. Immediately she turned and pulled the clothes on.
She looked almost normal wearing clothes, except that her skin was still close to properly black and her eyes seemed to be only pupil. She grinned at me again, her teeth a stark contrast to her skin and her eyes. “Thank you for the… gift.”
Of course, she had lived in the forest for a long time and other animals were not the same as humans. The simple proof of this proposition was that I had seen the minds of numerous animals and not a single one of them had a name, but the mind of a human was full of their own name and the names of others.
I nodded. “Do you want to go outside now?” I asked.
She shook her head, strongly and firmly and over and over.
Of course, she was a dark mage.
Posted on November 17, 2013, in Writing and tagged Animal Magic, Caravan, Dark Creature, Dark Mage, Hawk, Horse, Mage, Magic, Short Story, Sickness, Travelers, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.