July and August
Gabriel and Isabelle walked me in circles around the birthing room. A warm dark room lit by candles and the birthing bed lay in a corner with blankets open and waiting for an occupant.
‘I feel your pain, Soul. I’m here.’ Gabe promised. His arm looped around mine, and rested a hand on the hip opposite of him.
I lay on a pile of blankets as pain chased the cooling healing magic.
′We’re great. This is not my first time around delivery.′ I assured.
’Yes, but how often are you on the end that is pushing?′
′This is a first.′ Another wave of pain claimed my attention.
“It’ll be quick.” Is promised, supporting my arm, and wrapping her arm to my hip opposite of her.
Gabe seated himself at the head of the bed and lay me in his lap. he let me grip his hands as hard as I required. When you’re infinitely stronger and immune to magic, what could your laboring Mage-ic partner possibly do to you? Other healers darted in an our of the room, checking me periodically and informing of which phase we had entered. Somehow talking shop eased me through the worst of the waves of pain.
After some time of breathing, and pushing I was met with a screaming bloody baby boy. He was immediately passed over to me. I brought forth warmed water and used it like a sponge to clean him of the blood. Cooling magic flowed through all of me and it took what remained of my stamina to focus on cleaning my new son.
′Rest my Soul, you’re exhausted.′ Gabe’s thought was a soft whisper, meant for me alone.
′Gabe...he’s here. I can’t sleep now.′ I protested. He kissed the top of my head and rested a mostly cleaned Salem, adjusting to sleep, on my chest.I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
TWO YEARS LATER...
“My sweet prince!” I scooped up Salem and twirled with him. His shaggy black hair, with one white streak flew with the wind of movement. Salem protested protested in his father’s tongue.
’He said he doesn’t want a bath.’ Gabriel translated, amused.
“You must be clean.” I sighed and tapped my forehead on Salem’s.
“Aiti” He whined in elvish. I flicked his nose.
“No!” I kept my voice light but stern. Salem pouted but didn’t fight me anymore. I waved my free hand and moved the stone bowl the size of a small boulder.
“I know it’s loud and it sounds scary, but I know you’re my brave, little prince who will keep me safe.” I poked his nose.
“Kyllä äiti.” He sounded like me when he sighed.
“I love you.” I kissed his forehead. Salem hissed and growled shortly, and my heart melted. Though I didn’t understand him, I loved listening to him speak.
′He said he loves you too.′ Gabriel explained.
′Are we overloading him with three languages, AND magic training?′
’Little dragons need proper training and routine. Who better to educate our son, than us?′ Gabriel assured. ′I know it frustrates you that he is picking up Draconic faster than elvish, but to be fair he actually IS a dragon.′ Gabriel felt my little pond of jealousy bubble a bit. It did bother me that Salem took to Gabriel’s language faster than mine.
′I know. I am well aware of what he is, and of what I am not. I want to bond!..He’s my son, too...′
′Salem will never question who his mother is. He’s too like you,′ Gabriel assured. Salem and I made our way to the falls in the middle of the mountain. Salem covered his ear to block the roar of the falls. I set him on the heightened edge of the bridge, and took a step back.
“Ready?” I widened my stand and held my hands up around me.
“Ready.” Salem copied my stance, wobbling a little, but he steadied himself before he could fall over the edge. In unison, we used water magic to extract four spheres of water and carry them back from the falls to our bedroom, where I spent most of the time with Salem while teaching him Elvish and English.
“Good!” I beamed, proud. Salem kept pace with me, holding up his two spheres of water. He followed me closely. I allowed Salem to lead once it was too dark for me to see. “Go ahead, Salem. I’m right behind you.” I assured. Salem lead the way back to our room, sniffing audibly.
“Left,” Salem said. We made our way towards the house, placing the water he collected into the stone bowl and I placed my orbs of water above the door to keep them out of the way.
“Ready, Salem?” He gave me a single nod. I gathered my cleaning oils while Salem stripped. Kneeling beside Salem gave me a better view of him frowning at his reflection. “You know what to do.” I encouraged. Salem closed his eyes and held his hands out before him. The water remained unchanged, anticipation consumed my attention. Nothing mattered more right then. A thrill shot through me when the water suddenly began to boil. A towel was placed before the black bowl where Salem wiped the dirt off his feet and stepped into the stone mini-tub. “I’ll make this as painless as possible.” I set the oils down and waved my hands in the air, and soaked him in the bath water before I poured the oils in my hands. I washed his hair, singing some elvish songs I knew before I handed him the clean small cloth with some oils on it. “I’ll leave the rest to you.” I stood and left him in the back of the room. I moved one of the orbs from the door to a holding container Gabe had built so we didn’t have to make the trip out to the falls every day. I managed to fit one and a half orbs into the container.
Salem finished his bath and I rinsed him off before I gave him clothes to change into.
“Remember to thank your Aunt Isabelle,” I told him, straightening his yellow shirt with ‘I’m too awesome’ printed on the front. I adjusted his cotton yellow pants. I offered my hand to Salem, who accepted it and allowed me to take him outside the cave we lived in, as the sun was rising. I let Salem out on the lush meadow, letting him chase the butterflies as they retreated back to their homes to sleep. He chased mice as they scurried around to avoid the birds.
FLAP...FLAP...FLAP! Long powerful strokes could be heard whether you had amazing hearing or not. Gabriel landed on the meadow before Salem. Salem laughed and ran up to the giant golden dragon, whose scales caught the morning twilight’s light, and stood proud. Salem tripped into Gabriel’s dragon-hand and cheered as Gabriel slowly rose his hand to look at Salem.
Salem cheered. Gabriel pulled back his scaly lips to reveal sharp dragon teeth in a wide grin that didn’t suit a dragons face. Gabriel beamed with pride when it came to Salem. The giant golden, scaly dragon with black horns and sharp white teeth approached me with little Salem in his talon sharp hand. I accepted the young boy and let the beast walk off behind the trees. I glanced towards Sol arising from bed that painted the sky beautiful morning colors.
“Bed time,” I adjusted my hair, all gathered in a white braid and dusted off my yellow, red, green, and blue double slit shirt that hung about mid-calf, and turned the gold sash around my waist. I felt the wind of motion blow around me and I turned to see Gabe in jeans smiling at me, his golden eyes tired. He gave me a smile that told me ′Yes, patrol was exhausting, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.′
“Honey! I’m home!” Gabriel greeted me with a kiss that tasted of campfire smoke, with the heat of a forest fire.
“Welcome home.” My stomach fluttered when he approached. Salem insisted on greeting his father, and when Gabe retrieved him I had the fun of watching Salem charm his father. Gabriel tossed Salem high into the air, peering into the sky, I could hear daconic speaking in the back of my head, but didn’t note it until Gabe wrapped an arm around my waist and kissed me.
This was it. This was all I wanted. For someone who’s life was fraught with complications, I was a simple creature. Here, with Alan my brothers, sister-in-law, Gabe, and Salem I was home and had no plans to change a thing!
“Good Time, Soul. Long day?” His hand rested on my hip, as he nuzzled me.
“Why do you even bother asking?” I tapped my forehead on his. He placed a soft kiss on my head and squeezed me affectionately before he turned and caught Salem.
We walked down the stairs and into the belly of the mountain we called home.
’We are one thrown-together, unexpected family,′ Gabriel chuckled. He held Salem with one arm and wrapped the other around my waist. We walked through the darkened tunnels lit by the torches mounted on the walls. A guard who wore a purple tabbard, held together with a red sash, and brown leather pants and boots, met us in the hall. Her slicked back blonde hair and purple eyes greeted us warmly.
“All is well?” She looked at Gabe as she spoke. Gabe gave a sharp nod, perhaps too tired to speak. Danielle FlameRiser, let us pass and continued her patrol, lighting torches. We made our way to the underground city teeming with activity no matter the time of day.
Most of us didn’t know what time it was anymore.
A few Pyres and Pyresses were charged with keeping the Mage-made sun near the ceiling of the city going so those who farmed could grow crops, and all that requires Sol’s blessing to function properly.
My father, Alan HailStorm, built this underground city to save Mages from the tyranny of Sanctuaries or from being on the run. This safe haven housed more Mages than I had ever seen in my twenty-something years of life.
Salem’s sentences were simple, he stuck to mostly draconic which meant he and Gabe could talk for hours about one thing or another and unless Gabriel had the wherewithal to translate, I was kept mostly in the dark. It brightened my day to see Salem and Gabriel were close, but it broke my heart a little that I couldn’t do the same.
′He loves you, Soul.′ Gabriel would often assure me.
We crossed the white stone bridge closer to the falls inside the mountain that filled the moat between the city and the part of the mountain that lead to the outside. Water Mage children played by the land’s edge, and practiced their magic in safety, without fear. The only Hunters in the entire city were my twin brothers and their girls. Leo my eldest brother, by about twenty minutes, captured his girl Isabelle SnowSeeker with crystal blue eyes and a positive attitude. Theo my second eldest by ten minutes enjoys life with a darker personality, but a humorous one.
The last Hunter was my other half, Gabriel WhiteBridge, Prince of our fair kingdom, no really. I didn’t know he was the crowned Prince when I accepted him, but that was neither here no there. Salem turned his head looking at me from over his shoulder. His predominately dark purple eyes mixed with an inner and outer ring of gold I credited to his father. Indeed there was no guess as to who Salem’s father was. His dragon half had to come from somewhere. I’m a healing Mage, by all laws of magic as we knew them, I shouldn’t have been able to have Salem, however Gabriel’s immunity to magic went deeper than previously believed.
Salem’s dark hair shined with some white in his highlights and his tips, a perfect mix of Gabe and I. We waved to the people that passed, some trying to wrangle their children to heel, others gave up ages ago.
“Hey! Wondered what happened to you!” A light voice chirped. Bouncing blonde hair, bright jade green eyes in a purple long slit shirt with a black sash skipped our way. I held my arm out to hug her. Isabelle was the ray of sunshine that made everything easier to handle. She was my sister in all but blood and name. She hugged me eagerly and spread the love to Gabriel. Isabelle accepted Salem from Gabriel and spun in place.
“How is his adorableness?” She kissed his noes.
“Aunti-belle!” Salem cheered, happily. Is rubbed noses with him. Leo jogged up, his hair pulled back into a low white ponytail. His crystal blue eyes shined when he saw Is with little Salem. He wore the same attire she did, right down to the black sash to hold it all together, but with military grade leather boots. “Uncle-Lo.” Salem named.
“Yes I am, how are you, young Prince?” Leo cooed taking Salem from Is.
‘Maybe teaching him to walk was a waste of time.’ I elbowed Gabriel. Gabriel chuckled.
“Theo is on patrol, and Hazel is busier than ever. I’m going to the spa, Harvey said he was caught up on work and didn’t need my assistance today. Leo goes on shift when Theo gets off so I was going to take my girl to a spa day, lord knows you could use it. The springs here are incredible for-...” She stopped herself.
“For a mountain-full of Mages? I imagine Pyres and Hydras know what they’re doing if they run a spa. Gabriel is about to drop where he stands. I’ll take him back to our place.” Gabriel took my hand as I spoke.
“Go, go. Lay your demon- I mean dragon, and we’ll watch this little cutie.” Is smiled at me. She adjusted my sash and hugged me one armed. She winked at me and kissed my hair lightly. Leo hugged me, affectionately.
It was hard, to separate myself from Salem. It nearly physically hurt. If handling pain wasn’t my job around the city it would have broken a few paces ago. Gabriel’s arm around my waist tightened, affectionately.
′I know it’s hard Gale. I used to daydream about what a family would look like with you, even after we were informed that healing Mages couldn’t have children. I knew you would be good to our kids, and Salem is happy.′ Gabriel assured.
′He doesn’t smile at me.′ I told him sadly.
′He smiles when he deems a situation worthy. He forgets to smile when you’re looking at him. He smiles when you’re around. I promise. I’m tired, but not tired enough to sleep.′ he hinted.
′I thought flying was good exercise for a dragon. Unless it’s your human body that required movement.′ I raised my eyebrow. He squeezed me affectionately against him.
′Only if you’re up for it.′ He nudged for an answer.
′I’m only happy to properly thank you for keeping us all safe.′ I wrapped my arm around his neck and squeezed affectionately.Our clothes were gone in seconds, along with our self control. He pinned me to his side if the bed hovering himself over me. He left icy hot kisses from my jaw to my shoulder, ending at my hip, lightly tracing my Mage’s mark on my outer thigh. His touch was warm, rough; the text book definition of desire. He sent heated electricity throughout my singing nerves.
′Let me know if I’m hurting you.′ he sent.
‘You’ll know.’ I assured. He made his grand entry causing me to grip his hair as if I meant to rip to out. My knees squeezed against his obliques. After a moment the pain subsided the cooling effect of magic kicked in. Wading through tidal waves of sensations I was drowning in the mix. Between his fiery touch, his smell of burning wood and taste of smoke I found my ability to think scrambled and scattered. He flamed my inner fire until it burned through the roof of the box I kept it in. I was weightless, and light as air.
I mused for a moment that I could fly alongside Gabe through the open sky. We lay side by side on the bed, our hands clasped together, panting. Gabe reeled me closer to him, his heartbeat against my ear; fast, and steady. His light growling made him vibrate against me, like a cat cuddling up and purring. It didn’t take long for the purring to turn into the reverse snore I’d grown accustomed to. I lifted my hand and brushed his curly black hair away from his face. I had done it.
Once I deemed Gabriel asleep, I wiggled out of his grasp and put on the multicolored clothes I wore and slipped out of my stone home. I walked down the cobblestone path, brushing my hair and holding my essential oils I received from an older Hydra. I saw children run across the street, adults carrying one delivery or another, and smiled in amazement. My father had built this underground city to save all these wild Mages and escaped Sanctuary Mages from the wrath of the mythical law and in the process built a society made wholly of Mages. He proved that without the cast system of the Sanctuaries, or the threat of death hanging over their heads, Mages could co-exist peacefully. We were not the threat that everyone said we were.
‘We were not a threat to each other, we were not a threat to our children and we were not a threat to others.’ After the first year in the mountain town the tension between my Hunter siblings and my Mage-ic people dispersed and they were accepted with the same dignity as if they were among the flocks of new Mages that found their way into the mountain’s belly, every day. Alan would leave every once in a while and return with a new conclave of Mages seeking refuge. Some Mages, the adventurous ones whom believe they could be of use elsewhere and felt confident in their abilities to hide and make a true life for themselves left, scattered among the rocky mountain range. We often receive missives via Gabriel or sometimes a falcon on how those who left us started Sanctuary-cities for the Mages too far from Alan’s.
It wasn’t long before I could smell the natural spring opposite of the falls. Hydresses wearing light lavender tube tops and light blue mini skirt, their hair wrapped up in white towels delivering drinks or towels or oils to the people occupying the spa. The smell of citrus orange accented the hazy heavily steamed air. I slipped out of my shoes outside the bathhouse/spa and wrote my name into the clipboard.
“Gale, hey!” Isabelle waved at me, Hazel crossed her knees and arms and looked away. A Hydress led me down the hall and towards the girls. Isabelle and Hazel were in the steam room with a Hydress and a Pyre. The pyre waved his hands to heat up the rocks and the Pyress splashed some water into the pile of rocks. I held up both hands and summoned a flame and a ball of water.
“I got this, guys. Thank you.” I smiled at them. They smiled politely back and left to accomplish other tasks. A Pyre came back and handed me a towel dress. I accepted it, changed, and surrendered my clothes to be cleaned. I sat next to Isabelle who wore the same towel dress, and a towel bound her hair. “You did that on purpose.” I played being miffed and pouted.
“What? Slipped the condom in your sash? Aw, poor baby.” Is cooed and pouted at me. “I’m simply doing my part to give back to the dear dragon who works tirelessly to protect us from the world outside.” She replied innocently. “How else can I show my appreciation for our friendship over the past two decades?” She kept up the innocent ′what did I do?′ act and I fell for it.
“I’m not a gift to pass to him at will.” I tried to be mad. I really tried.
“You’re the light to his dark. He’s the body and you’re his Soul. I asked why his Soul would be female and he shrugged. ′It is of the old ways not to question the old ways.′ Or some cryptic stuff like that. I bet it sounds cooler in dragon. Speaking of, is that what Salem speaks? Neither Leo nor I can understand him and we don’t know what to do with him.” Is admitted. I laughed.
“He speaks enough Elvish or English for me to keep him alive. Salem likes animals. If you find a cave rat or something he’ll play with it. He’ll play with stones but he breaks those. I’m currently teaching him the difference of soft and rough. I want him to get that down pat before I start sending him out with the other kids for school by the moat. Did he destroy anything? I’d be happy to fix it.” I hesitated to ask but Salem didn’t know his own strength yet. Poor boy was doomed to be gifted.
“Oh, only the bed.” Is sighed sadly.
“I’ll get that fixed right away!” I gasped and sighed in frustration. That didn’t sound like Salem, Salem was normally docile but he was in the grabby stage.
“I’m kidding, dear. He was an angel. It takes a village. You have the best village available!” She promised.
“It takes a village to stay sane. You will eventually have to give him back.” I pointed out.
“I don’t wanna.” Isabelle pouted. I couldn’t help the small smirk of pride.
We stepped out of the sauna and to the hot springs, surrounded by black rock. The steam was visibly floating from the water’s surface.
I discarded the towel and held my arms out to either side of me as I stepped in. The hot water burned against my softened skin. I sucked in some air between my teeth as the contrast of cool magic and hot water clashed in a pleasant sensation that I hadn’t anticipated. Isabelle wasn’t long after me and we were soon wading in deep hot water. Isabelle splashed me and I returned the favor. We claimed a few seats by the quiet mini waterfall that fed into the pool we relaxed in.
Hazel joined us, but took the seat on the other side of the pool.
“I heard some of the Mages with less marks on them are renting a healer for school...or something?” Is guessed. I leaned my head back against one of the smooth black rocks behind me.
“The instructor might take a mark to borrow a healer for the kids during a particularly unstable magic lesson as a precaution. It’s for educational purposes. The healer must volunteer to be the one to go with the kids. We have kid-friendly, to kid-only, healers and healers that prefer to handle the teenagers. We let the healers in training practice on adults before we let them handle children.”
“You never told us what it was like to deliver a dragon baby.” The sparkle of curiosity merely added another twinkle to her dew-covered meadow-green eyes. You couldn’t deny Isabelle anything.
“I had delivered enough babies that I knew it hurt. The babies usually came out discolored and screaming. They were usually covered in blood and the mother asks if the child is well. Once you confirm the child is healthy and cleaned, it is returned to the mother for bonding and naming purposes.”
“You sounded all sciency and cold about it.” Is looked concerned for a moment.
“That is how we were taught. Procedure had to be followed. Rules left unbroken. Lives were not lost. Remember, we had our Guardians in the same room as us at nearly all times. If a Guardian was impatient enough they often aided in teaching their ward what it is their ward is training in, depending on the comprehension of the Guardian. If their comprehension exceeded their levels of patience then the “extra lesson” was usually overlooked by the Instructor. If the comprehension level matched the Guardian’s level of patience then the Guardians would have to report to HeadGuardian Alistair, at least in Crystal Tides. My Guardian’s level of patience exceeded his level of medical comprehension and he let me sink til I swam.”
“And Salem’s birth?” Isabelle’s patience dropped a notch. I pursed my lips to keep from smiling in amusement.
“Salem was quiet when he was born, like he didn’t want to disturb us. Of course, it hurt.”
“You’re a healer.” Isabelle tilted her head like she were attempting to untangle a paradox.
“And the healing magic kicked in, but pain is hot while healing is cold. When Salem was fully born, the heat of pain was gone and the healing kicked in faster than normal.
“Once Salem finally cried, and Gabriel laughed while holding him, I was relieved.”
“What’s so funny?!” Is leaned in, her voice a quick chirp.
“I did ask Gabe what was funny, but it might not have been comprehensible. He said, ‘Salem says he’s cold.’ ” I shrugged.
I was proud of the progress I saw. Every Hunter present was put to protection’s use, my brothers, and the girls had earned their place here.
We stepped out of the heated pool and into an ice block with a working door. The door was closed for all of thirty seconds before the doors opened again, and we were presented with our cleaned uniforms. We changed into our clothes, Isabelle checked her phone, dashed off to Harvey’s tailor shop, and promised to meet us at the coffee hut.
Hazel and I walked down the cobble stone path in silence, waving at other Mages as they passed.“Hazel?”
“Fuckin’ what?” Her dominantly green eyes didn’t climb up to meet mine. She was content to stare at my nose.
“Can we be friends? At least to start?”
“I’m not falling for your false forgiveness, Gale.” She tried not to snap but the acid dripped heavily from her words. I didn’t dare try to hug her for comfort. Thankfully my original question came back to me during the tense silence we walked in.“I’m in way over my head with a dragon toddler.” I put my hair up in a ponytail.
“Salem sounds docile.” Hazel shrugged.
“He IS. He doesn’t fuss, he stares. I guess he’s taking everything in, but no brain should be able to process like his does. Gabriel assures me everything is fine and this is normal or whatever dragons call normal. He eats a lot of meat, like his father but I manage to get a few veggies in.”
“He’s two. What are you feeding him?” she asked.
“When the boys go hunting they slip a little extra elk jerky my direction. I’ll pass it to Gabe and Salem. I usually wrap Salem’s in lettuce or whatever the Tera’s have on market. Speaking of Teras, I’m planning on rejoining the Healer’s Circle to pay back those marks I have earned. I was glad they gave me time to have and bond with Salem.” After our down time at the spa we met Phoenix in the coffee hut close to the moat by the white stone bridge, our usual ready to go on arrival.
Phoenix waved as us, and cleared off the our usual table by the window we took our seats. Our still steaming coffees stood on the stone table, ready and waiting.
Isabelle waltzed into the coffee hut with a folded cloth in her hands and presented it to Phoenix.
“This is for your little one!” She sang, Phoenix accepted the cloth and unfolded it. Phoenix unfolded the black blanket with realistic flames printed on it and held it out between us to inspect it.
“Send Harvey my thanks.” Phoenix beamed in glee.
“I’m glad you like it! I worked hard on that for a few days! Harvey wove in a softening spell so it won’t bother his skin. Don’t wash it like usual, this has to be taken to the tailor’s shop to receive proper cleaning. The spell does wash off if not done properly.” Isabelle warned, sounding all professional and Mage-y. I smiled at the table top. Isabelle more readily accepted and flourished in the change of lifestyle from beloved Hunteress-in-training to loathed outcast, and finally to well-praised assistant to the mountain’s head Tailor.
“Your coffee is over by Gale, and LoveLace. Thanks Snow. No mark by your name today.” Phoenix promised and continued his responsibilities. Isabelle plopped down next to Hazel and smiled before sipping her drink.
“It’s been awesome to see you again, Hazel.” Is sipped her white chocolate mocha, her foam mustache made me chuckle.
“Yeah, how do you know her?” I sipped my gold flecked hot coffee.
“She was with us in Ireland. We only saw her at the pub or wherever we ended up the next morning. Gabe was usually the sober one carrying us to the nearest hotel, or back home. You are my way of paying him back.” She smiled modestly. “Ya know, Phoenix’s boy may be about as old as Salem if Salem wanted a friend.” Isabelle pointed out.
“He has to master the common language, and control his gifts before I can send him out to make friends.” I declined.
“You can’t protect him from making mistakes, Gale.” Is bravely spoke up. I raised my eyebrow over the rim of my mug.
“Cyrus could be a teacher better suited for Salem. Not that you’re not doing a great job Gale, but maybe he would be picking up what you want to teach him if it’s coming from someone his age?” Isabelle stumbled over herself in exchange for well-meanings. I swirled my coffee, considered her words carefully.
“Perhaps. I’ll take it under advisement.” I replied.
“I helped!” she clapped quietly and quickly. I tilted my head as I smiled at her.
“You’re Alan’s daughter. He’s like the head hancho around here right?” Hazel found her voice today!
“Hancho? Um, yes?” I raised my eyebrow.
“Why are you bothering to do anything around here? You have a kid to take care of.” she pointed out.
“You’re like the Paris Hilton of the mountains.” Isabelle agreed.
“Um, who...? I’d rather lend a helping hand and do my part to keep this place going as smoothly as possible. Especially being Alan’s daughter. How would it look for his daughter to only mother her child? I have all four elements at my command the least I could do is use them for the common good.” I shrugged.
“Real fuckin’ noble.” Hazel snorted. I sent a sarcastic smile her way. She sipped her coffee ignoring me.
I made my way to Mageress Tearess WoodKeeper’s house to sign up as a registered healer again. I was given leave to have Salem and it was on record as the first for many reasons. A Healing Mageress has never given birth to a child before, nor one that happened to be half dragon. Or whole dragon. I didn’t know if my humanism counted as a clean slate for Salem. I knew he had my four elements and not just his father’s and my fire.
’Salem knitted his eyebrows together, framing his purple and golden eyes.
′He’s asking for you.′ Gabriel sent.
′Did he wake you?′ I asked.
′No, no. I’ve been up for a short while. I’ve been watching you.′ Gabriel shrugged like this was common. It was. I grew up under his gaze and knew this was common at least for us.
“Hello dear!” Tearess WoodKeep bounded out of her bedroom and into the living room to the door I waited by. I summoned little bits of my elements and held my hand out to her as they orbited. She summoned a little pebble to levitate from her hand and joined it with mine. The positive wave that rippled when our magics met was lower than average, but it wasn’t alarmingly low.
“Welcome Mageress HailStorm!” She smiled politely. Her long chest nut brown hair, sprouted some grey in her roots. Her medium purple eyes radiated. She wore the purple long shirt that hung about her knees with slits on the side and bound together with a green sash.
“Thank you Tearess WoodKeep.” I smiled in response and we dropped our hands, our elements evaporated out of existence.
“Come to reclaim your position?” she inquired.
“Yes. Are there any patience in need of attention or-”
“Now that you’re a mother I was hoping you could teach the newer generation of healers how to control their abilities or pass along any tips on how to avoid accidental healing.” WoodKeep suggested.
“’Teach the young?” I pursed my lips to keep the laugh down. ′I can barely talk to my own child.′
“Of course. You have an aura about you. When you feel comfortable doing so, you should bring your son. Does he have this gift?” She suggested. I knitted my eyebrows together as I found the page WoodKeep kept to keep track of the healers running around the mountain. I wrote my name down, pricked my middle finger, and placed a dot of blood by my name before it healed over.
“I don’t believe so. He has a closer connection to fire. His father has been training him as well.
“Ashame. It would be a major boost in business if the son of a healer also held the healing ability. At any rate, it’s good to have you back on board, HailStorm.”
It did feel right to be back where I belonged. After accepting some afternoon green tea and sugar cookies with Tearess WoodKeep I made the medium-short track back to the small stone house I called home. I didn’t need the link to hear Gabriel speaking his native language, and it did my heart good to hear Salem’s laughter through the glass-less windows of our home. Since weather wasn’t an issue, no one saw a reason to put glass windows in the homes, but living in a windowless building reminded us that we were living in a cave of sorts, separated from the outside world. We agreed windowless buildings was a fair compromise. I walked through the plain wooden front door to see Gabriel sitting on the floor of our living room by the stone framed couch with plush brown cushions. Salem sat in Gabriel’s lap, and played with a fireball. His smile was beautiful.
Salem called out in his father’s tongue and ceased his flame, his mixed emenance and gold-laced eyes wide with excitement as he slid off the bed and toddled towards me his smile dashed in contrast with his wide eyes. I rested my hand in his hair as he hugged my leg in greeting. I picked him up, rested him on my hip and looked over at Gabriel.
Gabriel confirmed something to Salem, his yellow eyes shined in the torch lighting of our home. I tried to hide the shiver that climbed up my spine. Despite what his predator eyes did to me, I saw the dark circles under them.
′The only person on the planet I can’t heal.′ I thought sadly, for once.
′I’m well, my Soul. Pay attention to Salem. He has missed you while you were out.′ He gestured slowly so as not to scare me.
′I am used to the speed of your movements. Be yourself, my dragon. And get some sleep.′ I encouraged. I turned my eyes to Salem who stared at me with his usual curious gaze. I let one corner of my mouth turn up. I touched our foreheads together, and rubbed my nose against his.
′If I don’t wish to sleep?′ He replied, teasingly.
′Guarding an entire mountain of Mages and a couple of Hunters, has drained you. And a father on top of that. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, but you’re not good to anyone if you drop out of the sky of exhaustion.′ I bounced Salem in place. I summoned a little ball of water and passed it to Salem. Salem accepted it but couldn’t quite hold it together. He took the ball and was soaked. He didn’t like the cold or the wet and began to cry.
“Aww, my sweet prince.” I set him on the ground in a seated position and summoned a gale of heated wind. We watched his hair blow back a bit, and he closed his eyes. His clothes were dry and his hair was a new mess. I picked him up and dried his tears.
“C’mon sweetheart. Try again.” I summoned another ball of water and he tentatively took it. He focused on it and played with it like a new toy.
′So what do you do when Salem and I are asleep if you’re not asleep with us?′ I inquired.
′Sometimes I don’t sleep at all. Sometimes I stay awake and watch you and Salem sleep, it’s soothing to see my family together, safe.′ Gabriel crossed the room, quickly. The wind created from his speed blew my hair back a bit and I felt his arms encircle us. This was safety, this was home. No one could take this from me.
′Then take a picture, my dragon. You should still get some sleep. We’re finally on a nocturnal schedule. You should take advantage of it.′ I was nearly nagging now. Gabriel neither spoke nor thought a word against it.
“And you worried about being a good Mom.” His voice betrayed his smile that I couldn’t see, but knew was there. I brushed some hair away from Salem’s mixed eyes.
“Salem should see Hazel. His hair grows as fast as yours. Puberty is going to-...Oh gods. I’m so not ready for that.” I groaned. Salem tugged on what of my hair he possessed. Salem always had a serious face when I looked at him, constantly deep in thought.
“Yes, sweetheart?” I responded. He spoke seriously. I recognized those words, but not in that order.
“Translation?” I whispered to Gabriel hoping not to upset Salem.
“He said he loves his mother.” Gabriel translated.
“I love you too, my sweet prince.” I touched my forehead to his and rubbed the tips of our noses together. ′You should still get some sleep, Gabe.′ I rested my head on his chest as Salem smiled up at him.
It wasn’t that Salem couldn’t speak, he merely didn’t see the point in speaking unless something had to be said. I wondered what went on in his head. I wondered what he would dream about when I put him down for bed.
Gabriel took my advice... sort of. I told him to take a picture of us when Salem and I slept and instead he took to drawing us in the sketch book that I hadn’t realized survived the escape from the BladeRuner chateau. I flipped through the journal sometimes and saw sketches of me praying to the gods or participating in rituals Dad would host. It was strange not to address Nayana or Sol for the past few years, but then my time was no longer dictated by the rise and set of them. Now the elemental gods and the god of magic, Ashtar took presidence here.
A little keyed up despite my travel I took Salem on a walk around the city. He lost his hands in my hair, as I balanced him on my shoulders. Other kids waved, and adults smiled at my boy.
“Salem, wave back. They wish to greet you.” I held his legs that dangled from around my shoulders, letting him know I was there. Salem removed one hand from my hair and gave a short wave. The tween girls that I may have considered hiring to baby sit him, if Gabe and I needed a night off, giggled when Salem waved at them.
“Good, see it’s not a bad thing to communicate with other people. Life isn’t fun alone. One day I’ll tell you how I discovered that.” I promised.
“Gale! Gale!” Little Laura SouthSpire came running up to me. Her long curly blonde hair bounced behind her, her golden sash loosely tied around her hips. Her medium purple eyes wide with worry.
“Laura, what’s wrong?” I knelt down to be around her eye level.
“Travis fell out of a tall tree.” Laura’s voice hinted at a bit of guilt. Now was not the time to call her out on it.
“Show me where.” I told her. She led me towards one of the trees tended by the non-healing Teras of the mountain. Laura led me to one of the older taller trees where a young boy with lighter purple eyes lay at it’s base clutching his arm and crying. If he had gone into shock he got over it long before we arrived. I lifted Salem off my shoulders and set him on his feet. “Watch him.” I commanded lightly. I gave Salem’s hand to Laura. I walked over and knelt before the brunette young boy of around twelve.
“Travis...Travis OakLord?” I named.
“Y-y-yes.” He answered through uncontrolled sobs. His eyes were red and puffy from crying. His blue sash had been ripped, and his uniform was splattered in mud and grass stains.
“Travis, I am Gale HailStorm. What happened?” I used my ‘Mom’ voice.
“Laurie and her friends dared me to climb a tree and...I fell.” He clutched his limp hand to his chest.
“Let me see you.” I said softly. He hesitated and shook his head at first.
“I’m here to help.” I assured. He slowly revealed his arm out to me. I ran my gloved hand along his arm and felt the unnatural dip.
“Hm, you broke your arm. I can fix this.” I bit the top of my glove and slid my hand free. I lay his arm on my knee and rolled the glove into a tight line of cloth. I bit down on my glove and rested my bare hand on his arm. My arm audibly snapped. In a few moments my magic kicked in to heal. He regained full use of his arm again. His eyes widened in surprise.
“Wow! Are you OK, miss?”
“Yeah, see. No problem.” I smiled at him and wiggled my fingers.
“Travis! I’m sorry Travis!” Laurie wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Thank you Laurie.” Travis muttered, and gently hugged her back. I smiled at them. ′Laurie looked so scared and guilty. She definitely learned her lesson.′ I decided. I turned to see Salem rush over to me.
“Are...you...OK?” Salem’s stone face gave nothing away, but I smiled anyway.
“I am well, Salem. You don’t have to worry about me.” I put the glove back on. Salem held his hands out for my arm, as stubborn as his father. I gave him both of my arms and let him trace them, squeezing periodically but hesitantly. “You would make a great doctor one day, son.” I smiled with a little pride. Salem seemed satisfied with his findings and deemed me well enough to travel again.
“Doc...tour. Docks-tor.” Salem played with the word.
“A doctor is like a healer for those of us who don’t have healing magic.” I explained. Salem stared at me, as if willing his thoughts to me.
As per routine, I met the girls at the coffee shop at our usual table. To a pleasant surprise, Leo sat on Isabelle’s other side, laughing with Hazel.
“Gale, your father came into the tailor’s shop looking for you, earlier. He wants you to meet him in his office at your earliest convenience. He has a favor to ask.” Isabelle mentioned as she handed me my mug of gold flaked coffee. Salem was in my lap munching on a strip of jerky Leo handed him. Leo smiled at Salem and asked to take him.
“Salem, go say hi to Uncle Leo.” I whispered to him. Salem climbed over the table and plopped down by Leo. Isabelle and I laughed. “That’s one way to go about it, I suppose. I’ll go see Alan today. He may have missed me when I took Salem up to see Gabriel again. I try to make that an every evening thing. Gabriel is usually exhausted when he gets home, I try to give them time to bond before Gabriel is dead to the world. I could bring that up when I go see him. Give Gabriel a night off once a week or something.” I suggested.
’Gale, the only reason I can sleep is because I know I keep you and Salem safe every night by patrolling the mountain spine. Allow me?′ Gabriel argued.
‘You’re tired. You need time to recover. Salem should know his father.’
‘Love, Salem and I talk during our travels back down to the city. He’s content to those moments. He especially loves listening to you, even if it seems like he can’t understand you or isn’t listening, I promise you he is.’ Gabriel must have been distracted, but he sounded a little amused. I curiously listened to a squawking I hadn’t fully heard before, but under tones sounded familiar. Gabriel laughed in the background and I decided all was well, and shrugged it off.
I gave Salem a piggy back ride as we left the coffee shop, despite Isabelle’s endless offer to watch him while I attended to Alan.
Salem should know his grandfather. I should know MY father. I found myself climbing up the stone steps that lead to a closed off office room that over looked the city. ’I can’t believe he climbs up and down these steps all day every day. It explains how he stays in great shape.′ I knocked on the stone door.
“Come in, Gale!” I heard him call through the door. I waved my hand and watched the stone door slide into the building. The stone door rolled aside, and Theo answered the door. I saw Alan put his pen down and put his glasses on the large nearby table, before his dark eyes met mine.
“Three breezes bring a little flame, and some snow to visit a hurricane! My bird of a heart soars!” Alan appeared from behind Theo, beaming as he scanned us with emenance eyes. He and Theo both stepped aside and let us in.
“Dad!” I smiled upon greeting. He wore the usual uniform everyone else wore of a purple tabbard and a yellow sash to hold it all together. He stood and greeted me with a hug. He picked Salem up off my back and held him.
“I didn’t believe my first grandchild would come from you.” He tossed Salem into the air and caught him. Salem’s adorable tiny gray wings stretched out, and folded in in rhythm with his grandfather.
“Hello, Theo.” I hugged him in greeting, and took a quick look around the office. I hadn’t paid too close attention when I visited. Salem insisted on being returned to me and so I accepted himsSalem cooed, his head on my shoulder.I agreed with a laugh.“Can I offer you something to drink? Coffee?” he asked.
Alan’s shelves were alcove carved into the mountain wall, housing time, unnamed, and objects I had never seen.
“It’s good to see you Alan, I have a couple of questions meant for familial ears only.” Theo mentioned to Alan.
‘Theo hadn’t arrived too long before me then.’
“Should I go?” Is scoffed, her chin rested on Theo’s shoulder as she hugged his back against her.
“No Isa. I trust you.” Theo didn’t move to push her away.
“I love you too.” she kissed his cheek and skipped over to me.
“Salem! The royally adorable!” she whispered, as her jade green eyes shined on her nephew. Her beaming eyes softened, as she gazed at Salem. Barely two and enthralls all who lay eyes on him. “I can’t begin to describe how it feels to be an aunt. Is this was it was life when you met Lia?” Is held one of Salem’s hands in hers, and made silly faces to him.
“I was stoked to be an aunt.” I admitted. ′We may have a problem when he’s of age.′ I realized.
′That’s for future us to worry about. I’ll join you soon.′ Gabe thought softly. If thoughts could whisper.
“I had dreams about the night Gale went missing, and the day we were taken to Ireland. What happened?” Theo inquired.
“Echoes ride the breeze to come full circle. A call to heed, to answer a previous hour of need shall be answered indeed. For now the family feeds.” Alan patted Theo’s back.
There was another knock at the door and Is answered the stone. It rolled away to reveal Leo in the Mountain Hunter uniform, a long purple tunic with a black sash.
“Hello all!” Leo beamed.
Alan’s dark eyes softened on Leo as he greeted his first son.
“My first breeze! The snow you’ve brought has been a helpful hand of the cloth.” Alan hugged Leo with some enthusiasm. Leo hugged him back a little stiffly. Even after two years, it’s still strange to live in the same location as Alan, much less the same room.
“Dad what if I told you that Salem was your first grandson but not your first born grand-child?” Leo began. Alan’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I have a daughter, Ophelia. She’s a....Hydrass. Leo had to pause to find the correct term.
“Another daughter of house HailStorm!” Alan sounded pleased. “Water runs through you my walking river!” Alan’s eyes turned glossy and for a moment we lost him to the far winds. “Where resides my Dewdrop?”Alan refocused and fell back to reality. “She should be among her people.”
“My sister is watching her, she’s quite attached.” Is chimed in, taking Alan’s searing gaze away from Leo, skipping to Leo’s rescue.
“She may also live here. We are SnowSeeker friendly.” Alan shrugged as if it was old news.
“She prefers the sun.” Is replied sweetly.
“We have many eligible Pyres,...or Pyresses if she prefers.” Alan continued. I turned down the darkened hallway, with a summoned flame to light my path.
I found what may be Alan’s room. I stepped in to see the stone table lit by the the torches mounted on the walls, the chairs and office chair before a stack of papers ′He works out of his home? That’s dedication.′
A bed stood beside an alcove book shelf covered in more magical objects I didn’t have a name for. I seated myself on the foot of his bed, and hummed a lullaby as I rocked him.
There was a knock at the door.
“Gale, it’s me.” Is opened the door slowly, and spoke softly.
“Come in.” I answered.
“Hey, tired boy? Hungry?” she smirked, knowingly.
“He will be, wasn’t Lia?” I patted the spot on the bed beside me.
“Leo would take me to buffets to cover all cravings. He was too nervous to bake.” she recalled fondly.
“He’s lucky to have you. How are you? I can’t imagine any of this being easy for you. For any of you.” I spoke gently.
“We’re still adjusting. I’m constantly thinking about Lia. Had I known this place existed, I would have sent her here.” Is frowned.
“Had I known this place existed, I would have been here long ago.” I agreed. “However, you did the right thing with what you knew. It’s important for Lia to know her family. This includes aunt Annabelle.” Through my brief interaction with Annabelle was unpleasant, we shared a niece and that was enough to put our differences aside and be there for her, at least if you asked me. “If you trust Annabelle, then Lia is in safe hands.” I assured. Is smiled. “Gabe would gladly take you to see Lia.” I pointed out.
“You should have seen Gabe when he was permitted to hold Lia. His eyes got all sparkly, and he held his breath. Lia never saw the floor, or her crib for her first two years of life. She was passed from person to person. She slept on one of us, played, and...” Is grew wistful.
“This evening must be especially hard.”
“I didn’t know.” she shrugged. “What were you humming?” she inquired.
“SunMeadow was one of the nurses in the baby room, when I was new to the clan. She taught me the lullaby to soothe restless infants. I smiled down at Salem, his eyes were closed, but he yawned anyway. There was another knock at the door. I fixed Salem’s purple tunic with a yellow sash around his waist. Is volunteered to answer the door.
“Food’s ready.” Leo announced. “Are we decent or should I grab a camera?” Is giggled and Salem cooed. I followed Is to the door.
“Should we not wait for Gabe? He’s on his way.” I pointed out.
′I’ll find some poor farmer’s cow, if I feel faint.′ Gabe replied.
’Not the poor farmer’s cow!′ I couldn’t help the physical laughter that followed my reply.
We met Theo in Alan’s living room. Theo to my surprise offered his arms out to Salem.
“May I?” I tilted my head at his question, but surrendered Salem to Theo. Theo smiled and cooed at Salem as he walked away from us.
“Sometimes I still can’t believe he’s here. That we’re here.” I accepted a cup of water from Leo. He wrapped his arms around Is who was watching Alan play with Salem and impart some wise words to Theo...I’m sure.
“It is...different to be under his protection. I’m glad Theo, Gabe, and I were able to make use of ourselves.”
“Not concerned about my use?” Is teased cuddling into Leo’s body heat.
“A.) I could always find a use for you and B.) Every tribe could use a seamstress. I wasn’t so worried about you.” Leo kissed her forehead.
“Returning to work?” Theo approached me, Salem-less.
“What happened?” I couldn’t hide the smile of amusement I wore.
“I was robbed by grandpa.” Theo shrugged, but frowned a little.
“What was it like meeting Lia?”
“I was definitely surprised the first time I was soaked by Lia’s bubble. You get used to it.” he mused. “I was surprised she was a mage, that was the first clue that gave credence to your existence, actually.” Theo sipped his, not water, beverage.
There was a new knock at the door. Leo walked away to answer it. Gabe and Leo fist-bumped as Gabe entered the humble abode. He removed his shoes and held a candle flame to Alan, a gesture of respect. Alan inspected the flame and blew it out of existence.
“Hello, Alan. I imagine you’ve been busy over these last few years, but it’s good to finally see you.” Gabe held his hand out to shake.
“A snake in my tree.” Alan held his hands behind his back “Wonderful.” Alan hooded his eyes in disapproval. I widened my eyes in surprise.
“Welcome back. We’re happy to see you.” I pecked Gabe’s cheek after I sent a small glare to Alan who raised a white eyebrow at me. ‘Now I see where we get it from.’ Theo approached with Salem and passed him over. Salem was squirming wildly in Theo’s arms reaching for his father.
With everyone present we finally gathered around the table, Theo sat beside me, and I sat to Alan’s left. To Alan’s right is Leo followed by Is and then Gabe. Forks and knives scraped across the plates, tensely quiet.
“You remember my occasional outings to gather more lost souls? I usually left a small council in charge, but hurricanes can’t live forever. I need a breeze to to become a Gale.” Alan shifted his eyes from glaring at Gabe to resting on me and softening. I bit down on the asparagus on my fork.
“Run the Haven.” My fork froze in my hand.
“I’m going out to save more lost souls and I need you to take my place until I return.” He held Salem before his face and set him on his lap. Salem picked up a spoon and inspected it. Curiously Salem snapped it in half and inspected its contents.
“Salem, Älä tee sitä.” Gabe chastised lightly. I picked him up to explain why that wasn’t OK, until Alan laughed and took him back.
“He’s a curious creature. I'm not concerned over a broken thing. I heard you had recently signed back up to be a healer for the mountain. I’m proud of you for putting your gods granted gifts to use. A pure Mage should never be on standby.” Alan chuckled lowly, saving him from my lecture. “Who better to watch my life’s work than the purpose for my life’s work?” Alan shrugged and summoned a little air ball for Salem. Salem accepted it and squeezed it between his hands until it disappeared.
“M-me? In charge of the Mountain Haven?” I let the idea roll around before I voiced a thought. “I’m not experience enough to be in charge of an entire mountain of people.” my fork froze in my hand.
“What about your council? You should call upon WoodKeeper or one of your more trusted people who understands how this is run. Harvey might even be a smarter option.” Theo agreed.
“He knows everyone on a first name basis.” Is agreed.
“Pick someone trustworthy.” I thawed my frozen fork. Alan set Salem to sit on his lap and play with the broken spoon, and reached into his pocket. Alan produced a thin plastic glove and put it on his right hand before approaching me. He used the gloved hand to brush some hair away from my my face and kissed my hair.
“Whom can a Mage-ic father entrust a safe mage-ic Haven than his only Mage-ic daughter? If I cannot trust you to look out for your fellow Mage better than an acquaintance, then to whom can this Haven be placed?” He traced circles around my cheek with his thumb. “Purity is hereditary.” He muttered that as if it was only for him to hear. “Who better to watch other people’s children than a mother?”
“How long will you be gone?” I caved.
“A week. No time at all.” He promised.
“You called everyone here to ask Gale to run the Haven?”
“You live here with voices.” Alan shrugged.
“Hey Dad. What is our line?” I don’t know why I blurted this question.
“Pure Mage-ic on both sides. Your mother will always be asleep.” Alan picked Salem back up and inspected him as if he had never seen Salem before.
“What? How?! We have dark eyes!” Theo pointed out.
“Merry Christmas! You’re Mages as well! Of a sort. Your mother, and you boys are ’carrier-Mages-. Their mage-ic genes never flipped on. Your switch flipped more than once, if you wanted my scientific theory on why you can control all four. I believe it is the power in your blood, but I have another theory I need to solidify. I’ll have another favor to ask of you when I return. You’ll be fine my Night in Gale.” He whispered to my hair.
“How do you know? Dad, I can barely talk to Salem? Gabriel has an easier time.” I confessed.
“You’ve kept him healthy, and to be fair, both Gabriel and Salem are of the draconic blood, it’s not surprising he takes to Draconic faster than english. You’re not elvish even if it is a useful skill to pass on. There are elves in the Draconic castle, he will appreciate you passing on the elven language. Heaven forbid he be able to speak the common tongue long enough to get a point across. Growing up Tri-lingual with parents that speak different languages is hard, but rewarding.”
“Gabe says the same thing.” I muttered and kicked an invisible pebble.
“It is another reason why I have faith in your abilities, my NightInGale. I’ll let you in on a secret. I thought I was destined for great things. I thought I was going to be famous. I thought my name would carry in the winds and through the mouths of those who would come to fear my power. The gods had decided I was not suited for that destiny and instead led me towards your mother so I may bring forth those who will do great things. Their names will be carried in the winds. Her name will have power, and they will do great things. You can start by keeping the city in one piece until I return, yes? You happen to know someone with ruling experience. Give him a passing thought.” Alan suggested, if a little bitterly.
“That reminds me. I would like to request that Gabriel have a night off to sleep and spend some time with Salem.” I cast my insecurities aside and turned my voice flat.
“For the time I am gone, Gabriel may have some time off to bond with my grandson. You are right and he should get to know his...son.” Paper crumpled in Alan’s hand. Anger. Regret. It permeated the room and I felt him tense. “Wise beyond your years, you understand the directions of the winds as they change. May you soar with the birds, scaly or not.” He exhaled some negativity and moved on. “Never guess if I ever loved you, I loved all four of you. You, your brothers, and your mother. She’s still in my heart.” If they had anything like what Gabriel and I have, it tears him apart everyday to be away from her. Our scattered family. I kept my trap shut, refusing to mention she chipped me, and tried to marry me off to the son of a well-to-do Hunter family.
I didn’t mention she didn’t know about Salem. He had to know that the twins were sent to Ireland if the accents weren’t a dead give away, there were things she had done that he had to have known about, and he loved her still. I wondered if Is would do the same for Leo. I had no question Isabelle would protest but wouldn’t betray Leo. I didn’t want to think if Gabe or I would be that dedicated. If a dragon has been watching you your entire life and is still asleep in your bed now, I suppose that meant he wasn’t going anywhere without me.′
‘You dare question my loyalty?’ Gabriel sounded sleepily insulted. I had forgotten he came immediately after the change of the guards.
‘I’m not questioning your loyalty, Gabe.’ I assured. Alan squeezed my hand unafraid to break me, thank the gods.
Alan left and publicly placed me in charge. No one was surprised Alan would choose me to take over. His Mageress daughter? But of course.
I walked into his house. I set Salem down in the play pen Alan had arranged for me before leaving. I found the mountains of hand written documents. What would a Mage of the mountain need with paperwork?
The polished desk stood and awaited further instruction. The papers stood high on the ‘unfinished’ side. I pulled out the cushioned computer chair that rolled out over the plastic mat under the desk. I plopped into the chair and heard the air escape the torn leather. I saw the cup of pens and paper work stacked on the left, labeled ‘unfinished’.
I picked up the first piece of paper at the top of the stack.
′Gabriel’s Patrol August 1st-31st
Leonardo Emmet HailStorm -Sunset to Sunrise
Phoenix FireRain- Sunset to Sunrise
Theodorus Alan HailStorm - Sunset to Sunrise
Gavin SwiftWater- Sunset to Midmorning
Hailee TreeRooters -Midmorning- late afternoon
Luke EarthTrapper -Midmorning- late afternoon
Cassandra RougeSlayer -Late Afternoon to Sunset
Julia NightBane- Late Afternoon to Sunset ′
It gave me a moment to breathe to know the twins had inspired so many others to volunteer to help protect our new home.
‘Alan planned the patrols, he would have to work closely with Gabriel to coordinate these.’ I checked the right side where ‘Finished’ documents were stacked.
The finished patrols matched perfectly with the schedule in my other hand.
“They do have to sleep at some point. Wow, there’s no overlay of workers, everything is on point.” I noted and placed the papers back into their respective piles.
No training. No warning. And a mountain of lives at stake.
I got this!
I spent my days shuffling through paperwork I didn’t expect him to have to file through. We live in a mountain! We’re not exactly using electricity...from an electric company, at least. We used electricity from the Pyres and Pyresses. It usually paid off one mark under their name and that was payment enough. Turns out Dad was fighting the crown for rights to the very mountain we lived in. I didn’t know we were in a sort of turf war over it.
’Hey Gabe? How do we handle land disputes?′ I caved.
‘Stare at the paper, let me read it...wait, Salem is fighting me on the bath, again.’ I heard some soft yet stern tones of his draconic language be exchanged before he got back to me. ′Looks like my father is being stubborn. I’ll relinquish rights to the land.′ Gabriel promised like it was a broken bookshelf he promised to fix later. It sounded so mundane and normal for something people could easily wage war over and have done so for centuries.
′What, you’ll write a note and sign it “Your crowned Prince Gabriel WhiteBridge”?′ I scoffed. ′Like this was so simple.′
′Actually yeah. My name still holds weight, My Soul. I couldn’t get a private audiance with them before your wedding day. I am still in line for the throne. I can do that.′ Gabriel promised.
′If it was that simple and he KNEW, why didn’t Alan ask you? If you could have solved this so much sooner?′
′Pride. You had to get it from somewhere. Well written arguments could win, but your father’s mind wanders and his arguments fade into past issues that hadn’t been resolved. You would be the only other person in the mountain who could possibly understand and you’re the only person I can’t say no to.′ Gabe pointed out.
′He knew I’d find this and he knew I would ask you about it. His pride remains and no one was harmed in the making of this exchange of land. Sneaky bastard.′
′You had to get it from somewhere.′ Gabriel teased.
I found an entire stack dedicated to the trading route along the mountain spine. What a brilliant idea. We could build an entire world underground! How wil the gods take being cut off from
From the window that framed the distant city so I could see all, I witnessed the Mage-militia as they marched for the surface to start their patrol.
Due to it being Gabe’s night off, they doubled their efforts. The payment was that they basically got anything they wanted for free. They put themselves in danger every...whatever time it was, to keep us safe, as a result we didn’t charge them for anything. I thought it was a great deal.
′Yeah, yeah. I know. If that problem is solved-...′ I wrote a note addressed to Alan about the paperwork and the end result. ′-then I won’t worry about it. Hey I’m going on patrol around the mountain tomorrow night. I’m going to ask the twins and the girls if they are willing to cover more ground with me.′
′Leo and the girls happen to have come over to visit. Salem is attached to Isabelle. I think that’s Hazel at the door. I asked if she would make a house call for Salem.′ True to his prediction, Hazel waltzed through our front door. Her long dark red hair was pulled back into a pony tail, her green attire kind of fit into the uniform everyone else wore, aside from hers was a green double slit shirt with a mint green sash. Green may have been the color of the Teras down here, but in the world outside it was mostly associated with forest nymphs and witches. Her wide Hazel eyes drooped in her default expression of unimpressed.
“Three strikes by your name, Reptile-boy.” she checked her nails.
“Good to see you Haze!” Isabelle had passed Salem to a reluctant Racheal and bounded over to Hazel, greeting her with a warm hug. “How’s work?”
“I canceled three appointments for this house call.” Hazel complained. Isabelle held out Salem to her, Hazel was equally reluctant to hold him but as soon as she took Salem, Hazel set Salem down on a counter surface while Isabelle tried to distract Salem with a sock puppet she made using a freshly cleaned sock and permanent marker I didn’t know we had.
Salem spoke flatly.
“What the kid say?” Hazel brought out her tools and began her work. Gabriel spoke, his tone was conversational and informative, I was disappointed I didn’t understand him.
“He called you a witch.” he translated.
“Why you little-!” Hazel began.
“Hazel! You ARE a witch!” Isabelle told her.
"That’s not the point!” I wanted to face palm. I was glad that I was in my father’s office and not home witnessing that train wreck.
“Then what IS the point?” Gabe crossed his arms slightly defensive.
“I have a NAME. Have you taught your kid any respect at all?!” Hazel snapped.
’You’re in a mountain of Mages you moron!
Salem frowned and covered his ears with his hands, protesting loudly.
‘I wish I could save you, my boy. Next time I’ll just do your hair!’ I tried to focus on the paperwork but the sitcom that seemed to follow Hazel wherever she went invaded my home.
“He’s three Hazel, cool your jets.” Leo came to the rescue, taking Salem from the counter top where he was placed.
“...Whatever...he’s not a stupid kid...someone should teach him not to call people by their race. It’s not appropriate.” Hazel huffed.
‘That’s only true to you Hazel! My gods, I’m never hiring you again!’ Gabe sent good waves to roll under my skin, listening to my objection.
“Everyone here is addressed by race, Hazel.” I watched the world roll for a moment. I assumed Gabriel rolled his eyes.
‘How have you tolerated her for this long?’ I questioned, stamping an official seal I wasn’t familiar with on some paperwork. ‘Is leadership usually framed by paper?’
‘Actually yes, and as for Hazel,...she’s not always like this. She’s surprisingly easier to handle when drunk.’ Gabriel answered.
‘I’m not letting a drunk witch around my son until he’s old enough to drink!...I’m not ready for that!’ My forehead hit hte desk.
“Yes, yes I know. I already talked to Mr. ’I’m in charge and you’ll like it’ about it and he won’t put a stop to it. One of the things I hate about living here.”′ Hazel frowned.
‘Why should we keep Hazel if she’s going to complain about being here?’
“And you should be nicer to the person doing your son’s hair reptile-boy.”
“You should be nicer to your crowned prince.” he shot back.
“Oh, so NOW you can use the royal angle on me? Just point out that you’re both royalty whenever it’s convenient for you? Get real Gabe. Nobody down here, and I do mean NOBODY, cares!”
‘A. No one else knows ya dumb broad! And B. YOU pulled rank first!’
“Yeah, I care.” Isabelle stepped in to peacekeep. I physically signed in relief.
“He’s always been this way.” Racheal...helped? I suppose.
“Thanks for the trim,” The world rolled again. “Just remember if you try to pull rank, I’ll win.” He reminded her.
“Who does something as lame as pulling rank?” Hazel began.
‘Um YOU! You better be a saint when drunk Hazel, I swear to the gods!’
“Sounds like too many people and too much trouble. Also remember who owes who a favor.”
’Whom! Whom owes whom a fav-you know what I give up she can’t hear me! Gabe please stop antagonizing her. I have enough going on as is.′ I requested.
’It’s fun. She’s miffed over nothing and she loves me. She’ll get over this, as you wish Soul.′ Gabe promised.
‘I’d rather not try to explain to Salem how every witch isn’t as she is.’ I replied.
’Remind me to write Alan that note.’ Gabriel reminded me. ’“Please, put another strike by my name, Hazel. If you’re done I’m sure you have other people to...trim.” Gabriel was equally annoyed at this point and dismissed her haughtily. Hazel grabbed her tools and left without another word. I progressed through my work a little relieved. Salem was cleaned and groomed and my-whatever time it was- could go on as planned.
PHeonix agreed to patrol the east mountain side, and Isabelle promised to check the south. I told them they only had to patrol it twice and I would take the rest.
“Mistress!” Harvey ran up to me, out of breath.
“Harvey. What’s wrong?” I adjusted my tunic.
“I have a package for you. Your father told me to deliver this to you today.” Harvey passed over the medium sized box under his arm. I accepted it and opened it curiously. Inside was a neatly folded pile of purple cloth with a little stick with different color jewels embedded into it. I tied my hair around the stick and placed it inside. I picked up the cloth and watched it unfold into a purple robe as dark as my eyes and a cloak of the darkest night. The robe was fancy with gold chains and sashes. Some aspects of it were leather, otherwise it was a soft cloth and seemed like it wouldn’t last a moment in my world.
“It’s beautiful Harvey, but what is it for?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Alan asked me to make it sometime last year and brought some elven-made leather. He said to give this to you on this date. I believe this is today’s date yes? August third?” Harvey shrugged.
“I don’t have a clue but I’ll take it. Thank you, Harvey.” I smiled at him.
“Of course, stay safe on your patrol tonight, my lady.” Harvey smiled and gave a bow as he walked away. I gave a head bow in return and placed the cloth back in the box. I rested the box on the desk and left for patrol.
′The Sol-set guards gave an all clear.′ Gabe sent.
′Got it. I’ll send my report when I’m done.′ I kept things all business.
‘Or I could watch through you.’ He replied, absently.
‘You’re watching Salem.’
’I can do both.′
I walked through the dark tunnels behind the main quarter watrfall for hours, double checking the usual rounds and made my way to my own when I heard echoing flesh pounding on flesh. Grunts of pain and echos of black-hearted laughter bounced off the stone walls. The torches that dimly lit the tunnels hadn’t changed, but suddenly the tone was ominous. I ran down the hall towards the noises, slowing only when I came upon a room that was rarely used. Couples may use it for conjugal visits, but there wasn’t a piece of furniture in sight.
I pressed myself by the threshold of the slightly opened door to see two shadows mocking, kicking, and wailing on a third shadow. Their laughter grated against my ears. The Pyre took some flame from a nearby torch and shot it at the third shadow. I waved my hand and the flame evaporated, announcing my presence. Two Mages, one dark haired and one blonder pair. The blonder Mage wore the colors of earth and the darker haired one wore the color of fire. Their eyes were medium and of similar shades.
“Oh-ho! You’re in for it now! The Lady has arrived!” The darker haired one laughed.
‘The Lady? One public announcement and three days in office when the mountain hasn’t exploded shouldn’t give me such a lofty title.’
“You two best have a gods granted reason to be this far in the tunnels!” I crossed my arms over my chest as I approached. I heard the sound of metal grate against stone as I nearly tripped over a knife that gleamed familiarly in my summoned fire light.
“We have discovered an intruder, dear Lady and we were simply giving him a Mage-ic welcome.” The way the boys snickered sickened me. I walked closer to the crumpled figure under the torch light.
I pushed passed them to see a beaten and bloody body slumped against the wall, he coughed up some blood all over his shirt that held so many dark colors I couldn’t tell you which one was the default color. His pants were torn and dirty as well. Weapons broken and abused were scattered all around the floor.
“We don’t take kindly to intruders.” The blonder one taunted.
“What’s going on?” I placed my hands on my hips and glared at the Mages.
“We found an intruder wandering around the mountain.”
“The belly or the valley?” I crossed my arms over my chest.
“The Valley...” The blonde one admitted earning himself an elbow from the darker haired one.
“You dragged an intruder into the belly of the mountain?! Are you winded?!” I raised my voice slightly.
“He was too close! He would have discovered us at some point! Why are you cooking us over a spit?! HE’S the Hunter!” The dark haired one protested.
“Her brothers are Hunters you, dolt! The head of the city guard, her boyfriend is a Hunter!” The blonde one thwapped his friend on the back of his head. The word ′boyfriend′ ground against my ears, painfully.
“I will deal with this. You two are cleaning the city from top to bottom everyday for the next month! I will make note of this and see that the Leader enforces it when he returns.”
“Awww!” They complained.
“Starting now!” I snapped.
“Can’t we at least watch?” The dark haired one pleaded. I raised my eyebrow at him and frowned. I snapped my fingers and they watched as a ring of fire appeared between us. I waved my hands towards the walls and they watched as the fire engulfed the room. The Pyre moved his hand to douse my fire only to find his magic was nothing compared to mine.
“GO!” I boomed. They scuttled out of the burning room screaming. The ends of their uniforms caught fire as they exited. I ceased my flames and crossed the room to the young man slumped by the wall. I pulled a glove out of my sash and knelt before him. I picked up his arm and inspected it. He was burned and by the looks of the fresh wounds on top of older, yet still recent ones, he’d been hurt for a while.
“I’m sorry you were attacked. No one was supposed to leave without express consent. I will see that their punishment be more severe. If you are able to speak, what brings you so close to the mountain side?” I summoned some cooling water and let it settle over his injured bare skin. It sizzled and the smell of charred flesh invaded my nose unpleasantly.
“...Searching...for someone.” he in a horse whisper. I knew that injured voice...I moved my gloved hand from his arm to his face and moved his torched blonde hair to reveal familiar blue eyes.
“Erik..?!” I gasped.
“Thank God, I finally found you.” He smiled a little, and groaned as he tried to stand, and fell unconscious soon after. I couldn’t imagine the pain h may have been in or for how long. How did he survive?!
‘I need you.’