Obstacles

[This story takes place between The Mage and The Shifter.]

“It is not working!” Cassie yelled, breaking the spell. She picked up one of the rune stones in front of her and threw it. It was part of a set Ice had given her to help her study the runes and get comfortable with them.

He looked at his pupil with a mixture of sympathy and irritation. “Do not throw them.”

She turned toward him. “I cannot feel them the way you said I would! There is no magic!”

It was an effort to stop himself from yelling back. “You are already familiar with the runes, you just need . . .”

“No, I am not!”

“Yes, you are. When we first met, you used some runes, do you remember?”

“When?”

“You put them on your parents’ pyre.”

“Those? They were just traditional symbols.”

“Do you know what they mean?”

“We just put them there so that the souls of the departed make it safely to the next world.”

“The first rune was protection. The second means journey. And the last one stands for joy. You already have a connection with . . .”

“I do not want to talk about this anymore.” She stood and ran from the room while tears streamed down her cheeks.

Ice picked up one of the stones and absentmindedly rubbed it between his fingers. He wanted to go after the girl, scold her for leaving, but he could almost hear Krina admonishing him not to, reminding him of his failures when he had taken her on as an apprentice.

Perhaps he was not meant to instruct others. The girl did have a natural talent for the runes, but the memory of her parents seemed to serve as an obstacle. There was something else, as well, some other power in her, the reason that the Terrgat had sought her in the first place. However, he had been unable to identify it. Perhaps that power, whatever it was, prevented her from touching the magic of the runes.

As much as he wanted to push her past these obstacles, the memory of his missteps with Krina gave him pause and undermined his own self-confidence. Maybe he should not teach Cassie. Yet, she needed some means to protect herself. If he could not teach her his magic, he needed to find a way to unlock her own power. If he did not, she would be vulnerable the next time the Terrgat came for her.

Pitch Blue

“This little device… I’m very proud of it… Just a press of a button, and it turns everything in the area blue.”

“Blue?”

“Yep!”

“You come up with the dumbest things. Never mind how it works. What’s even the point?”

“Are you kidding? This thing has serious potential.”

“To do what? Redecorate rooms?”

“Try it.”

“I don’t want to color everything here blue.”

“Don’t worry; it will wear off. Push this button.”

“Fine. This is stupid.”

“Just do it.”

“Okay… Wait. Where’d everything go?”

“It’s still here.”

“All I see is blue.”

“I know.”

“Why can’t I see any objects? I thought this turned things blue.”

“It does. Everything is now the exact same shade and brightness of blue. No shading or perspective. No texture. It’s all uniformly blue. It’s a little like turning off the lights. But instead of things being pitch black, they’re pitch blue.”

“So you’ve invented a remote control light switch? With a blue option?”

“This works in any light conditions. Maybe I should go with blueout, instead of pitch blue?”

“Why blue?”

“It’s my favorite color.”

“You really embrace the ‘mad’ in mad scientist, don’t you? How do we undo this so we can move without walking into things?”

“I told you, it will wear off.”

“When?”

“In about an hour.”

“Sigh.”

Memories

“You used to be fun.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“Doesn’t make it less true.”

“Maybe you just want it to be true.”

“So my memories are fake?”

“We all see what we want to see.”

“Well I definitely remember you at least wanting to be happy. What happened to that?”

“I became a realist.”

“You gave up.”

“Tomato, tomahtoh.”

“So how do we get you back to at least wanting to be happy?”

“You want me to want to be happy? What if I don’t want that?”

“You don’t want to want to be happy?”

“This is starting to hurt my head.”

“See how hard it is to keep from feeling good? How much work it is? You’re giving yourself a headache.”

“I’m pretty sure that it’s just this conversation causing my headache.”

“So it’s my fault?”

“. . . Anyway . . .”

“You really don’t remember being fun?”

“It was a lifetime ago.”

“Sounds like you admit it might have been true.”

“Anything is possible.”

“Never forget that.”

Not Lost

All the trees looked the same.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Individually, each tree looked different from the next. Thin, younger trees. Large, older ones. Split trunks. Knots. In the context of the forest, however, they looked the same.

To put it another way, I was lost.

Okay, look, I’m trying to be a reliable narrator here, but it’s very easy to sacrifice accuracy for an economy of language. ‘Lost’ implies I was trying to get somewhere. I wasn’t. Or perhaps I should say, I was already there. Amongst the trees.

The forest really was beautiful. Quiet. Isolated. That was the point, to get away from everything, everyone. With all the distractions in the world, sometimes it is necessary to escape, to be alone with yourself. Breathing air that has been recently exhaled by trees. Feeling the bark. Spending time reminding yourself who you were, who you are.

So I wasn’t lost. I just didn’t know where I was. And that was alright.