The Tale of a Mage (part 12)

The next morning dawned bright but chilly. Nyx grumbled as Cassandra’s cheery voice jolted her from her sleep. This had been her first decent sleep since she’d had the displeasure of meeting Livia and she wished it could last a little longer.

“Get up!” Cassandra chirped “Izzy, says we’ll leave after breakfast.” Nyx forced her eyes open to glare at her sister. Cassandra, however, remained oblivious to her displeasure. “I’ve been stuck in this cave for days,” Cassandra explained, “travelling again will be simply marvellous!”

“Well, I’m glad you’re having a good morning.” Nyx huffed pushing herself to a sitting position. Cassandra was already bounding out of the cave. Nyx took a moment to allow herself to wake fully then headed after her. As she exited the cave Cassandra held out a handful of berries and a strip of dried meat. As Nyx’s eyes fell on the food her stomach grumbled. She snatched the offered morsels and dug in with vigour.

“I guess it’s time for us to part ways,” Livia eyed Izzy expectantly, “as soon as you give me the rest of the gold you promised of course.”

“If that’s what you wish…” Izzy regarded Livia, her face unreadable, as she tossed two additional coin purses in her direction.

“What?” Livia growled. “If you have something to say just say it!”

“I simply don’t think that would be a wise decision,” Izzy replied “my mother’s soldiers know who you are and would likely assume you could lead them to us. It would be safer to stay together.”

“Fine…” Livia sighed. While she would happily turn the others over to the Queen if doing so would allow her to return to her old life, her previous experience at the Palace suggested otherwise. Besides she was smart enough to know Izzy’s magic would trump her tracking skills and she didn’t want to find out what the soldiers would do to her if she was unable to assist them in Cassandra’s capture. “I’m keeping the gold.” She added as an afterthought.

“Of course” Izzy gave Livia a conciliatory smile. Livia scowled back at her.

Once they had all finished eating Izzy set off into the woods at a brisk pace, Cassandra gleefully scampering after her. Nyx and Livia followed with significantly less enthusiastic gaits.

Despite the sunshine, the day remained cold. A powerful wind tore through the forest chilling the incongruous party of travellers the bone. An assortment of twigs, leaves, and other debris assaulted them as they hurried through the trees. More than once a member of the group found herself barely escaping the crushing might of a falling tree.  By the time they stopped to make camp in the evening even Cassandra had grown disgruntled. Izzy maintained an air of impassivity but Nyx was sure someone such as she, who was accustomed to a royal lifestyle, must be tiring of their circumstance by now. Izzy and Cassandra began setting up camp while Nyx and Livia set off in opposite directions in search of food.

Nyx and Livia returned half an hour later to find Izzy and Cassandra had put together a wonderfully cosy campsite. Sleeping spaces had been set up with the furs from Cassandra’s cave. While there was no fire, as they were still on the run, it appeared Izzy had cast some form of barrier spell to protect the area from the wind. Nyx wondered why Izzy had not used the spell to protect them from the pounding of forest debris they received during the day but was too tired to start an argument about it. They made a meal of what nuts and berries Nyx and Livia had been able to scavenge in addition to what little was left of Cassandra’s dried meat. Cassandra snuggled into a pile of furs preparing for sleep but Izzy shook her head.

“You need to practice your magic before you go to bed.” Izzy reproached. Cassandra huffed but jumped to her feet and made her way to Izzy’s side. “The two of you should get some sleep.” Izzy gestured to Nyx and Livia. This time Livia did not argue. Nyx settled down to sleep ensuring to choose a pile of furs on the opposite side of the campsite to where Livia was doing the same.

From her spot on the ground, Nyx watched Izzy demonstrate a series of hand movements. Cassandra copied them, a few sparks crackled from her fingertips then fizzled out.

“No, no.” Izzy shook her head for emphasis. “You need to focus. This is a warding spell. There should be no visible effects.”

“How am I supposed to know when I’m doing it then?” Cassandra frowned.

“When you get it right you’ll be able to feel it.” Izzy ran her fingers reassuringly down Cassandra’s back. “Try again.” Cassandra repeated the movements, this time nothing happened. Cassandra stamped her foot in frustration indicating to Nyx it had not been the type of nothing Izzy claimed to be desirable.

“Breathe” Izzy squeezed her arm gently, “you can do this.” Cassandra tried yet again. A small fire sprung to light on the forest floor. Izzy extinguished it with a wave of her hand. Cassandra burst into tears.

“I’m terrible at this and now I’ve probably given away our location to the Queen’s army! If we all die it’s going to be my fault!” She sobbed.

“No, love.” Izzy wrapped her arms around Cassandra rubbing circles on her back. “It will be fine. The fire was small and only lasted a few seconds. I doubt they would have noticed it over the light of their own torches.” Cassandra’s sobs lessened turning into sniffles as Izzy continued “You’re not terrible. You managed to cast the illumination spell yesterday. You just need more practice.”

Nyx rolled her eyes and turned her back on them. They were so sickeningly couplish and in her opinion, it was kind of gross. It was supposed to be just her and Cassandra evading the Queen together, causing havoc. How had Cassandra ended up with the fucking princess anyway? Nyx drifted off to sleep contemplating what could have been.


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