Mage's Fire

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Twenty-Four: Nadia

I stared blankly out the window, my chin resting in my palm as I watched the landscape pass us by. Gramma sat in the driver’s seat, humming quietly to herself as we drove along some highway that I had never been down before. Delta lay at my feet, his tiny body curled into a ball as he rested against my legs.

After I came home, Gramma had come into my room to ask what was wrong. When I didn’t say anything, she told me to pack a few days’ worth of clothes, and to bring Delta with me. I had no idea where we were going, and at the moment, I didn’t care. I just wanted to escape from the horrible mistake I had made.

Why did I kiss her? What drove me to such insanity? One minute, I was hanging out with my best friend, and the next I was pressing my lips to hers. There was nothing emotional about the action. I just did it, and I couldn’t figure out why.

“What are you thinking about?” Gramma asked casually, as if we were talking about the weather. I peered at her out of the corner of my eye. As if anything about this situation was casual.

“Nothing,” I muttered, staring back out the window. Nothing I wanted to talk about, anyway.

“Mm-hmm,” she murmured, glancing over at me. “You sure?” she asked.

I sighed. “Why do you want to know?” I asked, somewhat snappy.

She just smiled. “Because talking about it can help,” she said. Then she gave me a fierce look and said, “And I’d support you, no matter what you did or didn’t do. Or feel.”

My chest suddenly ached, tears pricking at the corner of my eyes. Before I knew it, I was spilling everything to her, telling her all about the kiss. Then I backtracked, telling her about the new treaty with Donovan, spending time with Sierra, the talk I had with Jack…

“You like this Sierra girl, then?” she asked.

I sighed. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t even know how I feel about the whole situation, other than angry.”

She nodded. “I know exactly what you’re feeling,” she said.

I frowned. “You do?”

“Oh, definitely,” she said. “I don’t know if you knew this, but I myself am bisexual.”

I could only stare at her, my jaw nearly hitting the floor. She laughed and said, “Oh, I’ve had many girlfriends and boyfriends throughout my life. Mages are immortal, after all, and we go through many loves.”

I was only mildly surprised at the immortal bit. I remembered talking with Sierra at her mansion one day, and she said that a vast majority of the supernatural were immortal. I just never thought I’d be one of them.

“It wasn’t until I met your grandfather that I finally settled down,” she continued. “Shortly after your mother was born, he died. I never thought I’d love someone again, but I actually met a wonderful woman just a few years ago. She’s now the love of my life.”

She glanced over at me as she took an exit and said, “Who you love, or don’t love, isn’t something to be ashamed of. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

“Does Dad know?” I asked. “That you have a girlfriend?”

She smiled. “Not exactly,” she said. “I told him I’ve dated, but I never told him that I had found another love. So? How do you feel about Sierra?”

I sighed. How did I feel? She was arrogant, and she could be a bitch at times. But after I got to know her, I knew that all of it was just a cover. She had so much more depth than people gave her credit for.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve made up my mind yet.”

She nodded. “Well, whatever you decide, I will always love you. Nothing will ever change that.”

I nodded, watching the small town as we drove through. “What are we doing?” I asked.

“We’re gonna grab something to eat,” she said. “And then, we’re going to find a room to stay in for the night.”

“Okay,” I said, distracted. Finally, I asked, “Where are we going? Why are we taking this road trip?”

She smiled. “Sometimes,” she said, “just driving aimlessly and sleeping wherever you lay your head might be just the thing you need to help you clear your head. It’s always done that for me.” She laughed and said, “I swear, I’ve traveled every road in Scotland and the rest of the UK by this point.”

I laughed as well, feeling somewhat better. I looked out the window again, a smile still on my face. Delta yawned loudly at my feet, and I reached down to rub his ears.

When I straightened again, I was seeing color everywhere. Mostly orange and red, with some green and blue thrown in as well. As I watched the colors swirl and shift around me, more and more blue entered the mix. I felt a presence, almost like a tickle in the back of my head. I frowned. I must be going crazy or something, because it felt like Riley.

I shook my head to clear it. The colors faded away, and so did the presence. What was that? Was I connecting to Riley because of my spirit magic? Or was it some of her werewolf powers that she was using? Was it both? I shook my head again. I’d have to figure it out later when I got home. Right now, I wanted to focus on spending quality time with my grandmother, and the impromptu road trip we were on now.

“Everything all right, little bird?” Gramma asked.

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I’m fine.” At least, I hoped I was.

The next few days were amazing. We just drove, stopping at random diners and motels to eat and sleep for the night. We took old highways and backroads, enjoying the sights before us. We went on hikes, nature walks, and we even went horseback riding at one point. I was worried about Delta, but he was small, and such a good puppy that I was able to put him inside of my coat and he rode like that with me. The horses loved him.

On our last night before going back home, Gramma and I decided to camp out, and I felt Riley again. This time, it was more focused, like she was searching for me. I saw the colors shifting around me again, almost like a haze over the night. The colors danced around the fire as well. Her presence was so strong here, I could almost reach out and touch her. Then she pulled away, taking the colors with her.

I shivered and pulled my jacket closer around my shoulders, shifting closer to the fire on the log I was sitting on. Delta whimpered and looked up at me, then he turned his attention back to the fire as well.

I suddenly straightened when I felt eyes on me. I snapped my head around, trying to see anything in the dark. Gramma was asleep in the tent, so it couldn’t be her…

A low growl made its way to me through the darkness. I sprung to my feet, pulling my Bowie free from its sheath with my right hand, while I summoned fire in my left. The fire covered my hand, the flames licking harmlessly up my arm. Delta growled and whimpered at my feet, and when I looked down I saw he had risen to his feet as well. The fur along his scruff was sticking up, his tail quivering as he held it high.

I scanned the darkness before me, searching for the source of the growl. I heard it again, from a different position behind me. I spun around, and I summoned more fire, lighting up the area around me.

At the edge of the treeline, I saw a pair of eyes glowing back at me. My breath caught in my throat. One of the rogues? The eyes moved closer, until I saw the dim shape of a werewolf. He stood just outside of the light of the fire, his lips pulled back from his teeth. Delta snarled, pressing himself closer to my legs.

The wolf took several steps forward, until there was only the fire separating us. He started to move around the fire and I did as well, Delta close on my heels. My heart was racing wildly in my chest, and I wanted to call out for Gramma, but I couldn’t summon the words.

“Daniel, that’s quite enough,” a voice spoke from the darkness. Icy fear flooded my veins. I recognized that voice. It was the same one from my dream, the one that had been with the rogue wolf pack.

He stepped forward from the darkness, a smile lighting his face when he saw me. He had to be in his mid-twenties, with dark brown hair and electric blue eyes. He wore jeans, boots, and a jacket. He looked ordinary, harmless, but the power radiating off of him… it terrified me.

“Who are you?” I demanded.

He waved a hand. “My name doesn’t matter right now,” he said. “But yours… your name is already carrying weight in the mage’s courts, which means you’re someone special. I’d like to know who you are.”

Something told me that wasn’t all he wanted. He stepped towards me and I backed up. The wolf took another step, and Delta snarled in warning. Now they were both coming towards me, the strange man on my left, the wolf on my right. They advanced towards me and, with nowhere else to go, I quickly backed up.

“Stay back,” I said. I had hoped my voice would sound strong and confident, but it wavered. So did my fire. It dimmed, and the man smiled.

“You’re still so fresh,” he said, and the way he said the word “fresh” made my skin crawl. He chuckled and said, “Yes, you will do nicely.”

As he took a step towards me, he suddenly froze. Fear and pain flashed across his face, and he cried out as he gripped his head. The werewolf snarled and whimpered in pain, driving his head into the ground. I stared at them, shocked. Then I heard Gramma’s voice behind them.

She stepped out of the tent, holding her hands out before her. She had a fierce expression on her face, and for a brief second, I was scared. Then she said, “You two should have known better than to sneak into a camp with an Elder Mage here.”

The man snarled in pain. “Fiona Montgomery,” he growled. He straightened, though it seemed to cause him pain. Good, I thought.

“Colin,” Gramma said. “If you know what’s good for you, you and your wolf will leave. Now.”

He grinned. “As my Elder commands,” he said, giving her a mock bow. He turned back to me, his sickening smile making me want to vomit. “And you, Nadia Belmont… I’ll see you soon.”

He snapped his fingers, and he and the wolf faded away. I gasped and nearly fell to my knees, my fire instantly going out. With shaking hands, I sheathed my Bowie and approached Gramma, seeing her in an entirely different light.

“Who was that?” I demanded.

“His name is Colin,” Gramma said. She turned away from me and started to break down the two-person tent, her movements hurried and quick. “He’s a mage, but he’s not a good one. We need to leave, now.”

“Wait!” I hurried to her side. I grabbed her shoulder and said, “What’s going on? What did he mean by ‘fresh’?”

She sighed. “Colin used to be one of the Elder Mages,” she said. “But he has a thirst for power, and we had no choice but to banish him.”

“What’s he doing?” I asked.

Gramma sighed. She seemed to be debating with herself for a moment, before she turned back to me and said, “I’ll tell you, but you won’t like it.”

I crossed my arms over my chest and gave her a fierce look. “Tell me.”

She nodded. “Fine,” she said. “As you’ve learned from the Guardians, there’s a hierarchy for each major race. Colin… he feels like we shouldn’t hide from humans anymore.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?” I asked.

She sighed. “I mean, he’s starting a rebellion to expose us to humans, all of us. Werewolves, mages, vampires, witch doctors… anything that has to do with the supernatural.”

“Uh-huh,” I murmured. “And, uh… what does he want with me?”

“He wants to recruit you for his cause,” she said. “He wants you, as well as other mages and supernatural creatures, to stand with him when he exposes us.”

I blinked. “Seriously?” I asked. “What good does he expect to come from that?”

She sighed and paused in her movements of tearing down the tent. She looked over at me and said, “He thinks that we’ll be able to live harmoniously with humans, but we won’t. We’ll all be feared, and that fear will turn to anger, and then we’ll be hunted down.”

It was all too much. My knees gave out, and I barely made it to the log as I sat down heavily. “Well,” I muttered. “Shit.”

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