I remember the day they took me away. It isn’t a fond memory. Nor a particularly pleasant one.
I was in the fields near our mother’s tavern. Some of the sheep had wandered off and I was gathering them up to herd home. I recall my sister’s scream. It was what alerted me to the danger.
There was a monster, a barghest, it was after Sevenna as she led the rest of the flock into the safety of the barn. She was distracted and I was the only one close enough to help her.
I tried. I used everything I had to stop it from reaching her. I expended every ounce of power I had to bring it down, but it just wasn’t enough. The thing shrugged off every spell I threw at it. I was exhausted and powerless when it came after me. I knew I was done for.
I can truly say I never expected to see the Wizard in that time of sheer terror. Never expected him to save me. I didn’t even realize at the time it was him.
I saw his eyes first, as red as my own, the hazy darkness that surrounded him not registering until he turned those blood colored eyes onto the undead hound that barrelled towards me.
What happened next was a blur. Blood, and bones, scattered everywhere. It was as if the monster had been torn to pieces. None of them larger than my hand.
The guards that passed on patrol didn’t see the Wizard. They did see me. Covered in blood with no way to prove the identity of the corpse. I was in chains before I could recover enough to scream. This wasn’t the first time my magic had caused trouble. They weren’t taking any chances.
They took me before the King. I was on trial for endangering the land. My magic too well known for them to let me go.
I was sentenced to penance for ten summers. Given to a Guild where my magic would better serve the kingdom.
My mother was inconsolable when the order was heard, I was to be little more than a slave. Cayden was drug out of the chamber by guards when he tried to run to me and Sevenna broke down into tears. The only ones who didn’t cry were my youngest brothers. They were barely three. I doubt they remember me.
I was put in bindings again. This time they were etched with powerful runes, that sealed my magic. They were painful. Not just because they cut into my skin, but because they tore away my power. To a Puca, that is like removing a part of their being.
I can’t recall most of the trip west, as my body had begun to fail. I only remember the moment I first saw Ferros. He was so bright red, and full of light, and warmth. I felt so miserable before him. So empty and lost. I cried but I don’t recall why.
They put me in a cold stone room with a single high window. I was bound to an enchanted post and left in the dark.
The sun was my only company for several days.
I’m not sure how long passed before I saw my savior again. I just recall seeing the red eyes. They floated just at the edge of my vision. The shadow around them seemed more solid, more human shaped, like the first time I’d seen him. I remember ‘he’ was rather oddly pretty. Especially his smile.
“It’ll be alright girl,” It’s voice was deep and somewhat hissy. “Just hang on a little longer.”
“I can’t,” My tears fell along with my words. I could hardly breath and it’d been days since I’d spoken aloud.
“You can.” It, ‘he’, glided forward. Shadowy hands reaching for my bloodied wrists. “I’ll make sure of it.” It’s touch was pillowy, almost like soft cotton. The relief that followed it’s caress was far more than welcomed. “Don’t let them win.” It pulled away from me, the loss of it’s touch almost painful, and simply faded away like it had done the first time I’d seen it.
I fought a little harder to stay strong after that.
It wasn’t the King or his men that set me free in the end, it was Ferros. He came into my room early one morning and knelt before me. He was so close that I felt as if I was a stone next to a mountain. I hadn’t thought he had been that big when I’d first seen him.
“I canna let em keep doin this ta ya lass,” He said, with pity in his blue eyes. “It ain’t right. Ya haven’t even tried ta hurt anythin. I set ya free ya gotta promise ta behave.”
I nodded. I would accept anything in exchange to be given my magic back. I didn’t want to die.
“Good lass,” Gently the giant took my cuffs in hand and unlatched them with a small crystalline key. “I’ll let ya be for a bit lass. I’ll get ya some food and see abouta healer. Just know tha doors are warded and ya aren’t goin ta get far iffen ya run. Ya should tryin get some sleep.” He pointed to the ratty bed in the room’s corner. A thing I’d fantasized about for days.
“Thank you,” I manage to whisper. I could see the tears in the giant’s eyes at my condition. I dreaded looking in a mirror.
“Nah lass. I’m sorry. It shouldn’ta been like this.” He left then, almost as if in a hurry to get away from me. I wasn’t sure if it was his shame or mine I felt lingering.
I was... better, without the chains. I suppose that was the word.
With the cuffs gone my magic rushed back and while it was a bit uncomfortable it wasn’t anything like the shock of losing it.
I made it to the bed and fell asleep rather quickly. I didn’t wake up for several days. I remember Ferros saying he thought they’d lost me.
The King wasn’t pleased that Ferros had released me without his permission but it came to pass that he couldn’t do anything about it. The Guild was not under his rule, they operated outside the law, for the safety of all, and since I’d been given to them as punishment for my penance I was beyond the King’s control too. At least until my sentence was up.
Ferros thought it best that I not be sent out on missions for a while. I wasn’t trustworthy. I didn’t blame him. I hadn’t exactly proven to be the safest person to be around. So, instead, I was basically sealed inside my room. I was fine with it. I wanted nothing to do with any of them. I wanted to go home.
It was in that time of solitude that the Wizard came to me again. I was no longer afraid of him, even if I didn’t entirely trust him.
“You look better,” I’d been reading a book Ferros had given me and not seen the spirit materialize. I jumped slightly and he laughed. “Perhaps you should learn to pay more attention to what is around you.”
“I rarely need to worry about visitors,” My voice was still rough. I didn’t talk to anyone, so it mostly went unused.
“I could come more often if you’d like.” The man, I could tell for certain now as his figure was almost whole with just a fuzzy outline of shadow, offered.
“I’m not really good company,” I close my book and take in the figure before me.
He was tall and lean, with a fair build. Not too much bulk. He had long hair that was as dark as the shadows around him and he wore black robes with silvery trims, all sorts of trinkets dangled around his waist. I could feel the magic wafting off of him. I had no doubts he was a powerful mage himself. Stronger than me. He’d proven as much when he’d dealt with the barghest.
“You don’t need to be,” The man said with a smile. He seemed in good humor. Something I hadn’t been in, in a long time. “You need only get better. Soon you’ll be able to leave this place.”
“Only to have to come back.” I reply bitterly. “This is my prison. I can’t step foot outside without a babysitter.”
“I can’t say I’m not a bit pleased about that,” The figure said. He walked, practically glided, across the room to examine the small shelf of books I’d been allowed. “It is far easier to protect you while you’re stuck in here. You seem to get in trouble rather easily.”
“Why did you?” I didn’t understand why the spirit had done any of this. Why had it come to me?
“Save you?” He turned to look at me with a raised brow as if I was some silly child asking dumb questions. “Because I wanted to? Because you needed it? Because I’m a kind person? All of the above. Do not think that the barn was the first time we’d met.” He approached where I’d been seated and knelt just enough I could look into his face. “I’ve watched over you for a long time Tiris.” He said bluntly. “When you were small, you and I had great fun. I was your imaginary friend. You grew up though, you didn’t need me anymore. So I stepped back. Let you grow into your own person. But you needed me again. Need me now. So, here I am.”
I had no memory of a childhood friend but something about his words rang true. Flickers and shadows and things moving out of sight. I didn’t know how I felt about that. My memories couldn’t be trusted. I’d seen as much with Mother. Perhaps Grandfather had a hand in this too.
“Just stay strong.” As if he’d done something he was embarrassed by the spirit stood up abruptly and returned to my shelf of books. “You will need to stay steady while you’re here. Can’t let them see weakness.” When I didn’t answer the spirit just smiled at me. “I will be back,” He promised. “Whenever you need me.”
As he was fading I called out to him. He stopped, and looked at me curiously.
“What’s your name?” I asked. “You know mine. It’s only fair.”
A smile flickered across his translucent face. He looked rather pleased. “I haven’t had a name in a long time.” He said thoughtfully, “You use to call me Wesley. You may continue to do so. It is a name I hold dear.” He was gone then.
“Thank you Wesley,” I murmur to no one as I start back on my book.
I ran away less than a moon later. Escaping to my Grandfather’s Warren where my journey actually began. I wish I had been smarter back then. I wish I hadn’t caused so much suffering.