War and Despair

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Chapter 20

The Aeromancer turned out to be a slim, soft-spoken older man.

As soon as they had stepped through the smoke portal onto his plains, he had come soaring down out of the sky to meet them. Now they stood facing each other on a wind-swept plain. The Pyromancer had just explained the situation to the Aeromancer.

“I see.” The Aeromancer said. “These truly are dire times. The Hydromancer needs to come out from under whatever rock she’s been hiding under for the last two or three decades.”

“Yes. This girl needs to get to the Hydromancer as soon as possible. We know you had a better relationship with her than Yasin and I ever did. I think that you have a better chance of finding her than the Geomancer or me.”

“You are right, Pyromancer. Leave her with me and we’ll find the Hydromancer.” The Aeromancer said.

A wisp of smoke appeared in the air between them. Yaris’s face appeared in it. “Excuse me, sir.” He said. “Lauretta did a scry, and we’ve found something worrying.”

“What is it, lad?” The Pyromancer asked.

The smoke switched to showing a series of images. A large orange dragon landed in a grove of moonlit trees in front of a group of eight people. A dark-haired man and a dark-haired girl charged the dragon, while the rest of their group ran away. The pair battled the dragon for about twenty minutes, until the dragon knocked the man to the ground and prepared to eat him. The girl pressed her palms to the ground. There was a flash of blue light and an explosion. The dragon’s corpse flew back about a hundred feet, knocking down all the trees in it’s path like they were twigs. The images stopped.

“That is a lot of raw power.” The Aeromancer commented. “If left alone, she could probably destroy half the world. We can’t really afford that just now, though.”

“I’ll have to add that to the list of crises to be stopped.” The Pyromancer sighed. He created another smoke portal and left.

“Shall we?” the Aeromancer asked, extending his arm. The girl took it, and the two rose into the air.

“This creature that the Pyromancer mentioned, does it have a name?” The Aeromancer asked after they’d been flying along for a while.

“I don’t know. He’s the one that told me how to discard a name.” The young woman said.

“And he told you how to do it by the element of water? If he is nameless, then he probably became that way through the element of water, meaning that he has not been able to claim another name. This just keeps getting better.” The Aeromancer sighed.

“So, do you know where to find the Hydromancer?” The girl asked, changing the subject.

“I will in a moment.” The Aeromancer said. The girl noticed that his eyes had gone out of focus and now mirrored the cloudy sky.

“She’s at a lake somewhere north of here. I think. She’s hard to tell apart from the water.” The Aeromancer muttered. He sped up until the wind howled in the girl’s ears and her rags whipped against her skin.

It took an hour, but finally, they landed outside a tangle of trees and vines. The Aeromancer tried to enter the ring, but an unseen force held him back.

“She’s here, alright. Well, girl, we must part ways for now. Go ahead.” The Aeromancer said, gesturing forward.

The girl stepped into the ring of plants. She spent the next fifteen minutes fighting her way through the thorns and nettles. At last she found herself at the edge of a deserted lake.

“Hello?” she called. “Hello? Is there anyone here?”

There was a gentle splashing noise as a figure rose from the center of the lake. The Hydromancer barely looked human anymore. The shape was still right, but her skin was a dapple of watery blues and greens. Her long hair was the color of the sea at night and literally flowed down her back. Her eyes looked like twin blue whirlpools.

At last, the girl understood why the Hydromancer had cut herself off from the rest of the world.

“How did you come here, who are you?” the Hydromancer asked, swimming towards her. Her voice even sounded like raindrops.

“I am no one.” The girl said. “I entered because I am nameless. I erased my name by the element of water, not knowing that I would not be able to claim another name without your permission.”

“And?” The Hydromancer said, bored.

“You know what will happen if I accidentally mess something up at this time in history. The world will be destroyed.” The girl said, wading into the lake.

“I don’t care.” The Hydromancer said, cupping her chin in her hand.

“What?” the girl gasped. “You don’t care?”

“No. It ended for me years ago.” The Hydromancer murmured, starting to sink below the water.

“Wait!” The girl called, the Hydromancer resurfaced. “What do you mean, it ended for you years ago?”

“Take my hand if you really want to know.” The Hydromancer rasped, extending her hand. The girl took it.

Images flooded her brain, threatening to overwhelm her. A young black-haired girl playing with her sister, laughing with her parents in a land far across the sea. Unknown ships arriving on their shore, full of strange men. The foreign men looting and burning the village. A foreigner with a braided blonde beard running her father through. Then she was running, hiding in a barrel. The blonde bearded man pulling her out of the barrel and putting her with the other captives.

Her mother crying uncontrollably each night, before finally hurling herself into the sea. Her sister dying of a fever a week later. Then she was separated from the rest and sold to a magician. Every slap the magician gave her, every beating. Then her magic surfaced, and she killed him. She had managed to live peacefully for about one year, before the Hydromancer Borat came for her and forced her into an apprenticeship.

Later the Borat simply died, but still, the Hydromancer wasn’t free. With Borat’s death, she had been forced to take his position.

The Hydromancer had wandered the earth for years, looking for answers. She never found what she was looking for, but she had found happiness, temporarily. She thought that she had found the love of her life, but she was wrong. He’d abandoned her as soon as she’d told him that she was carrying their child.

Desolate, she’d returned to Borat’s old home, where she spent the next eight and a half months. Then her daughter was born. She’d tried to be a good mother, but eventually, trying to be a mother and a magician failed. After a spell went wrong, she’d been forced to cut ties with her daughter.

The spell that had failed slowly transmuted her body to water. The Hydromancer abandoned her duties, not bothering to train an apprentice, simply waiting for death to come and claim her. If the world ended, the Hydromancer didn’t care. It hadn’t been worth living in since she’d abandoned her daughter. Her life was over anyway, she only had a matter of time before she fully turned into water. Then it would all be over.

“You’ve showed me your pain. Now let me show you mine.” The girl whispered. She released all the sorrow and rage of the last eight years, all the worry and confusion of the past few days. The newfound love for those around her when she found Marigold. The sense of belonging when the creature had said that they were siblings. The Hydromancer gasped softly as the feelings and memories flooded her senses.

“If you can tell me who I am, I can help you.” The Hydromancer gasped.

“You were a girl called Casoria. Then a woman called Celyn. After you became water you discarded your name in a last-ditch effort to save yourself. But it didn’t, it hastened things along. But now I give you a new name if you will allow me.” The girl said. The Hydromancer nodded her consent. “Llyn. I name you Llyn.”

The Hydromancer climbed out of the lake, her watery feet leaving puddles on the grass. The girl climbed out after her. The Hydromancer showed the girl her hands. The tips of her fingers had reverted to a fleshy pink.

“I will allow you to take a new name.” The Hydromancer promised.

“Ceridwen.” The girl said at last. “My name is Ceridwen.” Blessed song, that’s what my mother always said it meant. That’s what she used to call me when I was a little girl.

“Ceridwen.” The Hydromancer said with a smile. “I think that I know the answer to your problem with the creature. Your brother.”

“How?”

“He discarded his name by water almost two months ago. I felt it. But there was something strange about it, because” The Hydromancer paused for a moment. “Because he never had a name.”

“How does that work?” Ceridwen asked with a frown.

“I’m not sure. But I think that he is not affected by witches’ magic. Maybe not the magic that we use either. But I don’t think that he can see the weaknesses in the fabric.” Llyn said.

“Weaknesses in the fabric?” Ceridwen said.

“That’s how the Aeromancer always referred to it. Think of the world as a tapestry. In some places, the cloth has been worn thin. The spots that people start to see when they’ve gone without a name for too long are those places. If you rip the fabric, people can die, anything can die. Things get destroyed.” The Hydromancer explained.

“Okay, so we need to give the creature a name?” Ceridwen said.

“Yes. And it must be you. Only you can get close enough.” The Hydromancer said. She produced a blue gem on a cord from around her neck and handed it to Ceridwen. The part of her hand that was still water splashed gently over Ceridwen’s hand. “You will need this to give him a new name. I will not be there beside you to give you that power.”

“You won’t?” Ceridwen said, surprised.

“No, there is something I need to fix before this goes any further. Be on your way. I will join my powers with the Geomancer, the Aeromancer and the Pyromancer’s soon.” Llyn promised.

Ceridwen nodded. “The Aeromancer is waiting for me beyond the trees.” She told Llyn. “Goodbye. I hope we meet soon.”

She found the Aeromancer sitting a boulder and twiddling his thumbs. He leapt to his feet when he saw her. “Did it work?” He asked.

“Yes. My name is Ceridwen, and I’m going to fix this mess.”

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