Brave New World

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Ache With Relief

October 1, 1999

It had only been a week since Melchiorn found Reyna in the park, since she’d fled the police department, and discovered she could perform magic. To her though, it felt as if a year had passed. Her entire being felt dirty and slow from not having access to bath or clean clothes. Her teeth hurt from all the sugary food she’d been eating from food vendors and with no toothbrush Reyna feared her teeth might fall out. She’d also thrown up twice in two different bushes thanks to her mostly sugar diet—her stomach was not used to such treatment. All in all, the young girl felt like she was living in hell.

The excitement that came with her magical prowess had died off pretty quickly due to the fact that all she seemed to be able to do was summon items towards her. Reyna mostly summoned food, but she’d also swiped a few t-shirts and a picnic blanket earlier on in the week. At first she felt bad, her mother had burned the idea that stealing was bad into Reyna’s mind so often she could still hear her voice. However, as the week progressed, Reyna found she no longer cared, just as long as she was fed and warm.

Letting out a tired sigh, Reyna felt her stomach grumble and patted it with both her hands. Thumper sat next to her on a bench and she looked over at him, “What should I eat for lunch today, Thumper?” She asked him. When it didn’t respond she groaned and tilted her head back to stare at the sky. It was very cloudy, and they weren’t nice looking clouds either. No, they were dark and every now and then made scary sounds that Reyna did not like. She hadn’t thought of what she’d do if it rained on her while she lived in the park. Maybe she’d hide out in a bathroom. Her stomach growled again and she hopped off the bench and made her way towards another food wagon, her sights set on one of the large salty pretzels.

The park was pretty bare that day since the weather wasn’t looking so nice, but Reyna still looked both ways to make sure the coast was clear of police men before reaching her hands out and pulling the pretzel towards her. The twisted bread slid out of its warming container and began to float its way towards her. Snatching the warm dough out of the air with her small hands, Reyna immediately began to stuff the pretzel into her mouth. She’d just swallowed the first chunk when a deep, harsh voice spoke from behind her, “My, my, isn’t that an impressive talent you’ve got there.”

Gasping, Reyna soon began to cough on a piece of bread that had accidentally been sucked into her windpipe. Angling her head up to look at the stranger, she saw that he had curly brown hair and a thick beard that almost reminded her of a young Santa Claus. He even had a twinkle in his eye as he looked down at her. “I—I didn’t mean nothing by it! I swear, I’m just hungry. I’ll pay her back, I swear! Look, I’ve even got a bunny I can trade for it!” She rambled, holding up Thumper for him to inspect. Her small hands gripped the rabbit’s neck though, and Reyna thought that if he tried to make her give him up she’d run.

The man chuckled and patted her head. The motion reminded Reyna of Melchiorn and that caused her muscled to relax just a bit. “No, girl. I won’t make you trade your beloved toy for a giant pretzel. Would you like something to drink with that, though? Maybe some lemonade?” He asked, bending down to her eye level. Staring into his brown eyes, Reyna bit down on her bottom lip before nodding. Smiling, the man made a slow waving motion with his hand. Reyna blinked and when her eyes opened she saw he was now holding a bottle of ice cold lemonade.

Mouth dropping open with a loud pop, Reyna stared at him with new eyes, “You’re a Wizard!” She knew very little about wizards—just what she’d seen on T.V., really—but she knew they were very powerful and wise. The man handed her the lemonade and made an affirmative noise with the back of his throat.

“I prefer the title Sorcerer, actually. I’m Dunstan,” he extended his hand out to shake hers and Reyna had to shuffle some things around in her arms so she could give him her own. “What’s yours?” He asked, standing up and gently leading her over to an empty bench so Reyna could eat without having to carry everything.

“I’m Reyna,” She supplied, squiggling on the bench until her bottom hit the back of the seat. Then she began to chow down on her pretzel again. Dunstan watched her for a few seconds, and waited for her to finish drinking half the lemonade bottle before he cleared his throat. The action reminded the young girl of the lawyers on the T.V. shows that her mother loved watching.

“So Reyna, that was some pretty impressive magic you just performed. Do you parents practice?”

“Oh no,” Reyna replied, putting her pretzel down long enough to answer him, “They never did any magic.” She thought back to how many times she’d heard her father rant about magic and non-human creatures to her and her mother. “No they did not.”

Dunstan hummed at her response and then asked, “And how old are you?”

“Seven.”

“Oh really? That’s younger than I thought.”

“Yeah, Mama told me I’m tall for my age. I was tallest in my class too!” She added proudly, beaming up at him. Dunstan gave another low chuckle and patted her head.

“Tell me, Reyna, would you like to learn more magic?”

Scrunching her brows at him, the young girl stayed silent. Seeing the confusion in her eyes, the man continued, “You see, I’m looking for an apprentice. Ah,” he paused due to her now dead eyes, “A student, that is. I’d like to take someone under my wing and teach them all I know about magic.”

Silently testing the word apprentice out on her tongue, Reyna mulled over his words. “You want to teach me?” She asked, and when he nodded, continued, “Why?”

Laughing easily, Dunstan smiled widely down at the seven year old, “Because, dear one, you seem to be quite the prodigy and I’d love to have you on my side.”

Reyna hummed, but didn’t ask him what prodigy meant. She liked the way it sounded, but she had a feeling that Dunstan wouldn’t appreciate her word questions like Melchiorn had. “I guess so,” she finally responded.

“Great! All right, why don’t you lead me to your parents then and we’ll figure out some sort of schedule.”

He looked so pleased, Reyna almost felt bad for her next words. “Oh, you can’t do that.”

“And why not?” Dunstan asked, tilting his head to the side. His eyebrows had furrowed and his smile quickly slid into a frown.

Reyna mirrored his movements, “They’re gone.”

Eyes widening, Dunstan’s shoulders stiffened up and his mind replayed the last twenty minutes. Looking over the seven year old more critically this time, he could see that her hair hadn’t been washed in days, dirt caked her finger nails, and heavy bags lined her eyes. The sorcerer could have cursed himself for his obliviousness. Instead though, he said, “I’m sorry to hear that. It’s a shame that your parents died so young.”

“Oh, they’re not dead,” Reyna explained while swinging her legs over the bench seat. “They’re just gone. I don’t know where they went, but they didn’t take me with.”

Eyebrows now shooting up into his hair line, Dunstan took a moment to collect himself. “Would you—Reyna,” He said her name with such seriousness that the young girl practically snapped her neck to look back at him. “Would you like to come live with me then?”

“Really?” Reyna asked, her voice small and unsure. Hadn’t her mother warned her about strangers like this? Then again, the feeling in her stomach had remained quite this entire time and that had to mean something.

“Sure, I mean you can be my ward.”

“What’s—,” Reyna hesitated, but wanted to know, “What’s a ward?”

Dunstan made a vague gesture with his hand and shrugged his shoulders, “It means I’ll take care of you, basically. I’ll make sure you’re fed and clean—that sort of stuff. And I’ll teach you magic. Does that sound good to you?”

It definitely didn’t sound bad to her so she nodded. “Great!” Dunstan clapped his hands together and stood up to throw away Reyna’s trash. “Come along then, Reyna. Let’s get you cleaned up, shall we? We’ll start our first lesson tomorrow. You’ll love it.” He promised. He’d looked right into her eyes when he said the last part and Reyna thought she finally understood what Melchiorn meant when he explained conviction and that this man had it. Dunstan held his hand out for her to hold, but then took another look at her dirty, sticky one and thought better of it. “Follow me.”

Grabbing Thumper with one hand, Reyna grabbed onto Dunstan’s pant leg with the other and fell into step with him. She wished her belly would tell her what to think of this new stranger, but it remained silent. Reyna shrugged it off and figured no feeling was better than a bad one and that she’d feel better about the situation once she was clean and properly fed. The thought of a nice warm bath made her eyes water, the thought of real food made her mouth salivate, and the thought of a good night’s rest in a real bed made her head ache with relief.
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