The Witch's Circle

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Chapter 11

Delwyn stares at the flower, grinding his teeth. The lily is a snowy white, its center fading into a fuchsia pink. The brown seeds sprinkled with pollen. Palore is sitting over in the corner, at his desk scribbling feverishly. The sound has weaved and clamped its way into Delwyn’s mind as he’s been doing many of Palore’s absurd tests for over three hours now. Tests that are supposed to, as the mage says, help them see what elements Delwyn’s magic will respond to.

That is, if he even still has magic, as he keeps telling the mage.

Magic doesn’t just disappear, Palore always retorts; it may go heavily dormant, but it’s never gone.

With only two days left until he departs for his hunt for Douglas and the witches, Delwyn decided it would be in his best interest to practice magic. Of course, he lied to his father stating instead that the training was to protect himself from the powers of the witches.

And now sitting in the middle of the floor of the mage’s chambers, the fireplace roaring at his back, his eyes dry, Delwyn blinks away the irritation, growling as he pushes to his feet.

“It’s no use. I’ve been staring at that plant for the better part of an hour. I’m not a Naturalist.” He calls over to the mage and drops down into the armchair.

The goal of this exercise was to see if Delwyn’s magic falls under the category of nature. He clearly cannot shapeshift; he has no control over the weather in the smallest of ways, and now, as they’ve figured out, he cannot make a plant grow.

Palore doesn’t turn to him, doesn’t pause his scribbling as he says, “Very well, we shall try another method.”

“We’ve tried over twenty different methods now. Doesn’t magic run out of divisions?”

“Magic never follows any one norm, my dear boy. It is what it is; whatever it chooses to be. It is not up to the wielder to decide.”

“Admit it, Palore: you’re running out of options and I’m running out of patience.”

The mage chuckles. “For a Witch Hunter, I assumed you had plenty more patience given the training you’ve been put through.”

“It’s different because it’s physical. My mind is kept busy as I’m moving constantly. Here I’ve been sitting on my ass staring at fire, at plants, and at water for the better part of our time together.”

“There are other methods, Delwyn, and I can only hope that yours is not one of the much darker methods.”

“Darker how?” The hunter asks as he rises from his seat to walk over to the mage. “What do you plan to lock me in a dark room? What power could that awaken?”

“It is rather difficult to explain, but to answer your question, no, I’m not going to lock you in a dark room. I don’t need your father after my head because you lost your sanity under my watch.”

“So, what do you propose we do now?” Delwyn doesn’t try to peer at the old man’s notes. Apart from not being able to read such sloppy chicken scrabble, he doesn’t really care what sort of notes he’s been writing.

Finally, Palore stops his writing and places his pen down with an accomplished thud and turns to him. “I’d like to traverse your mind, Delwyn.”

“Excuse me?”

“I would like to traverse your mind,” the mage repeats. “I want to see if perhaps there is some kind of, block within your mind that is preventing you from feeling any actual ‘tug’ from the elements presented.”

Delwyn shifts uncomfortably. “I mean, we’ve only tried three of, however many more tests you have. Why so soon?”

“Because the elements are the four basics that we start with, and then it branches down to the different categories. Now, admittedly there is magic that cannot be rationed with, cannot be properly explained, but it does exist. But those are more complicated, and I just want to make sure we’ve ruled out everything there is with the basics before moving on.”

“You think my magic would’ve responded to something already?” Delwyn asks, leaning his hip against the mage’s desk.

“Absolutely. But I just feel like there’s this mental block – most likely trauma from your childhood – that is preventing you from really letting your magic surface.”

“Had I’d known this would turn into some kind of therapy, I would’ve left.”

“It’s not going to hurt, Delwyn.”

“But it’s an extreme invasion of privacy.” He says, his tone no less than sharp.

“I’ll only scour what is important, if any memories surface, I shall not look.”

Delwyn folds his arms. “Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t want to see those memories again? That perhaps I buried them for a reason?”

He already feels exposed enough without wearing his leather armor, having switched out for a simple grey tunic and fitted black pants. He pinches the fabric between his thumb and pointer finger, rubbing it.

“I’m only looking for a grain of your power, Delwyn, I will try not to touch any memories of yours.”

“Try?”

“I cannot control your subconscious, dear boy, and neither can you. Whatever is going to happen, it will happen.”

Delwyn swallows the lump in his throat, turning away from the mage. “There are places in my mind that you should never go. Where no one should ever go.”

“I’m sure your mind has blocked off your most personal memories. I doubt I would be able to get past such mental shields and –”

“Shields? Is that what their called?”

“Within the terms of magic, yes.”

Delwyn pushes off the desk. “Are they by my own making?”

“Subconsciously, yes.” Palore rises from his desk, Delwyn offering a hand when the mage stumbles a bit. But he brushes him off and straightens his back with a few loud pops. “There are witches who possess the ability to walk into a person’s mind as if going from one room to the next. They are rare, and the trait appears as the Goddesses wills it, but there are enough scattered throughout Tamarak that many – such as yourself and certain nobility – that train extensively against the skill set. Without mental shields, Delwyn, they can invade wherever they want. One who is more powerful can make you their unwitting salve, making you do whatever they want, and you wouldn’t even know it.”

Palore begins to walk back to the couches by the fireplace, and Delwyn follows. Perhaps telling his father about training for protection wasn’t going to be a total lie.

“And your specialized in this, skillset?” Palore nods as he sits down on the couch. “Why not practice that kind of magic instead of finding my own? I can fight just fine with blades, but it won’t mean anything if my mind is exposed.”

A nod of agreement. “If anything, this will help me see how much strengthening your mental shields will need.”

Pressing his lips into a line, Delwyn follows after, sitting across from the mage on the glass table. “You are certain that this isn’t going to hurt?”

“I promise. But I live by my word that I cannot control what happens, and neither can you. Whatever your mind shows to me – to us – it will not be by your own will.”

Delwyn blinks before his gaze becomes downcast. As quiet as a moth’s beating wing, he mumbles, “I don’t want to see her. It still . . . it’s too painful.”

He hadn’t told the mage vivid details about his past, his mother, like he had with Douglas and Luke. But it was enough that he left the mage speechless. However, to Delwyn’s surprise he bounced back with an excitement he didn’t think any elder man could have. Then started the babble of the tests and Delwyn simply left on quiet cat feet.

“I’m afraid I cannot control that, Delwyn.” Palore says with fatherly ease. “But perhaps it may be good for you to see her.”

Delwyn lowers his head, the ends of his bangs falling over his eyes. “I don’t know.”

“I’m merely looking for a signal; a tether, or a light to guide me to where your power lies. All wielders have a well of power from which they draw their magic from, and every well has an end; a bottom. Once they reach the bottom, they cannot risk continuing the use, otherwise they may push themselves to a burnout.”

“What’s that?”

“A burnout is when the magic is pushed beyond its limits and soon begins to consume the user’s body, their mind. Magic needs energy to work, which is why you see or have seen some users gobbling down food like they’ve been starved. If the energy is drained from one reservoir, it looks for another. That is when it becomes dangerous.”

“Is that what happened when you were training Douglas?”

Palore sighs, folding his lips in, connecting the empty space between his beard. “I didn’t send him into a burnout, I overstimulated his magic. It was my fault, and I will not be doing that again.”

“Good.”

“So, what’s your decision?”

Delwyn ponders, fiddling with his fingers and bouncing his knee. After the death of his mother, inside, he had become like a frozen sea, suffocating in the cold, hardened by rage and grief and despair until the surface cannot be broken.

Some small part of him whispers that he could survive killing; he can survive in the wilderness for five years; he can survive discovering and using his magic . . . but that empty, cold hole in his chest, where his mother’s light had once shined . . . he isn’t sure he can survive that.

In his early years, even with the simplest way they lived their lives, that part of him had been full of color, of light.

But that part of him had been broken when his father led those Hunters to his mother; when his mother was beaten and bloodied on the floor of the cabin; when his mother went down kicking and screaming so that he could live.

But his soul, his very being had been broken when he felt his mother’s blood on his hands, and her final breath was screaming for him to run.

“Fine.” Delwyn finally says.

Palore doesn’t say anything. He only nods and adjusts his sitting position to face Delwyn. The Hunter mimics the motions. “I’ll try to be quick.”

“I don’t care.” Delwyn mumbles.

“Close your eyes.”

Delwyn obeys.

“Take a deep breath.” Palore mumbles softly.

Delwyn obeys. Upon his exhale, he feels his body straighten ever so slightly, every muscle going taut, his bones straightening. Magic, but deeper than that. Power that seized everything inside him and takes control. He feels something pressing into his temple and he thinks it may be Palore’s thumb, but he doesn’t dare open his eyes.

Then, from within the blackness of his closed lids, he sees a small silver thread snaking its way towards him, as if the darkness had distance and space. With his mind’s eye, he watches as it comes closer until he thinks it will worm its way into his eyes, but instead it latches onto the spot between his eyes and instantly grows taut.

There’s a flash and suddenly he is seeing through eyes that aren’t his, eyes that are staring directly at him. Palore’s eyes.

Delwyn hadn’t realized, or perhaps had forced himself to forget, just how much he looked like his father. His features are sharp, yet smooth, his muscles vivid from training, his collarbone sporting some veins leading up to ear. His ebony black hair falls over his eyes, shortening down to his neck.

He hated himself, more out of physicality than anything. The only trait he has of his mother are his eyes: the turquoise as blue as a frozen winter sea.

Then, he is back in his stiff body, unable to cringe as an invisible, callus hand taps against his mind, the feeling similar to someone pressing a pressure point on his head – a small pain, but nothing knee-wobbling.

As quickly as if comes, it leaves, and Delwyn can only follow the tether of Palore’s mind as they explore his own.


Palore knew that the boy had a cold exterior, but he had no idea that it would follow south right down to the boy’s very soul.

Upon entering his mind, it was like he had been bitten by a winter’s snow. Even if the boy didn’t have any mental shields, the coldness would be enough to drive anyone out.

At least he was being cooperative, responding better than those he previously attempted to traverse. As his time as a magic trauma therapist, most of his subjects had been willing for the experiment, but all shoved him out once their memories started to rise like a high tide, flooding worse than a busted damn.

Delwyn’s mind was so cold – exactly like the bite of ice: powerful and ruthless. The gates are made of spiked iron, curled with barbed wire and it is cold . . . so, so cold. An ancient fortress, sharp and brutal.

He takes a step beyond the gates, into the antechamber of his mind, and begins searching.

Dark.

Darkness like he had never encountered before.

Delwyn.

The images slammed into Palore one after another, after another, after another.

An emerald forest that stretches to the foothills of snow-capped mountains. A small cabin perched at the edge of the woods, a self-made path winding and bending to meet a road leading to town.

But then the images change, and suddenly the sky is black, the cabin is on fire, and a woman’s sharp scream cleaves through the world, accompanied by men’s laughter.

And a child crying.

A child lay prone in the bushes with a near empty quiver of arrows, and a well-used bow.

He lies on the ground covered in blood and mud, tears cutting a line through his mud-caked face.

“Delwyn?”

He did not seem to hear him as he keeps crying, pounding the earth in fury with a bloodstained hand.

The woman’s screams continue. Palore resists the urge to cover his ears.

He reaches for that bloodstained hand. “This is a memory, Delwyn. We can leave.”

The child keeps crying.

“We can leave, Delwyn, you just have to pull yourself together. Realize this isn’t real.”

His face is bloodless, but at least he turns his attention to the mage. “Palore?”

Surprise lights up his terror-wide turquoise eyes.

“Let’s go back.” He says.

Delwyn only shakes his head.

In an instant, he suddenly screams. The sound ear ripping, blood-cuddling and Palore is launched back by a freezing wind. The memory disappears, seeped into a black hole as it bends and twists.

Enveloped in blackness again, he finds that silver tether he casted out between him and Delwyn. Following it, he thinks he may be coming close to Delwyn’s magical center.

Within a blink, Palore finds himself in a grassy field. Turning in a circle, he finds the cabin whole again, blossoming against an azure blue sky in the middle of spring.

“Come along, sweetheart.” A feminine voice chirps. A scent of blossoms and cinnamon carried on a light breeze.

Palore whirls to find a beautiful young woman standing in the middle of a field of wildflowers. The skirts of her fitted, yellow homespun gown pool into the field of pink and yellow and white and red. Her dark chocolate brown hair is swept up by a rose petal comb, the rest dangling down her back in loose ringlets. She’s carrying a small canteen around her hips.

Her skin is the color of ivory, smooth and just as flawless. Her smile is soft, her turquoise eyes shining with excitement.

Down the way, movement stirs within the flowers and the same child from before bursts through the blooms. Only instead of crying and being covered in blood, he is smiling – wide and bright – and instead of a bow, a small satchel bounces at his hips as he runs.

“Coming, mother!”

A young Delwyn runs up to his mother, a torn flower in his hand. With color high on his cheeks, his matching eyes are wide with excitement.

A flood of butterflies rises from the flowers as he runs, and Palore could’ve swore he watched as they encircled the young woman, the sun casting a golden halo around her. The epiphany of a spring’s sun.

When he stops in front of him mother, he braces his hands on his knees as he catches his breath. As she kneels before him, he holds up his little hand to show her the flower. “Look! I found this, for you.”

The torn flower looks to be like a daisy, its roots twisted and bent in circular motions. “Oh, why thank you my darling. It’s lovely.” She chirps, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“Here!” Delwyn stands on his little toes to place the flower in his mother’s hair, just behind her ear. His skin is nearly as pale as hers. It must’ve gotten tan from all those summers training in the sun.

“Thank you, sweetheart; now come, we’re almost to the pond.” She stands and extends out her ivory hand, a thin gold ring encasing her finger.

The young Delwyn takes his mother’s hand and the two of them walk further towards the pond surrounded by trees. The buzzing of cicadas and dragonflies fill the air as the woman sways her hand back and forth to scatter the critters from their area.

She settles on a moss-covered log, ignoring the state of her dress, and Delwyn sits next to her. “Now, let’s try this again.”

Young Delwyn whines and stamps his foot. “But I’ve already tried this yesterday, and it didn’t work.”

“Come now darling, I know you can do this. Let’s just focus.”

“I had to take three baths to get that mud off of me from the last time.”

“That’s because you tried to make a bubble in the mud.” She giggles softly, a flower in the spring. “I’m here to help you.”

She lowers her delicate hand over the water, near glowing compared to the dark wood and the vivid green moss of the surface. A droplet of water pops up from the surface, followed by more and more until a ball of water the size of a grapefruit is floating in her hand.

She slowly stands and young Delwyn watches as she giggles and begins to dance on her toes. In fluid motions, she stretches and twirls the water into ribbons, circling and flowing around her body like an exotic dancer.

“It just takes practice.” She says.

Young Delwyn removes his satchel and readies himself by the water. As his mother turns around again, the water flowing to follow her hands, she suddenly gasps and pauses. The water drops back to the pond with a heavy clap. Young Delwyn doesn’t seem to notice.

“Delwyn.” Palore says, taking one step closer, even when he’s set across the pond.

Surprisingly, the child lifts his head and his eyes widen upon recognition.

“We need to go.” Palore continues, taking another step closer.

“Go away.” Delwyn’s mother commands, her voice colder than before.

“Delwyn, please. We must leave.” Palore insists, holding out his hand to the boy.

“Leave him alone,” Delwyn’s mother growls.

As if the whole scene had taken a heavy exhale, the trees and grass begin to wilt and rot, turning brown and haunching over in exhaustion. The pond’s water turns black, hardening into a sheet of obsidian.

She steps closer, onto the black pond and instead of the quiet pad of bare feet, an odd clicking noise echoes in his ears.

Then, like paper caught by a wayward flame, the entire scene begins to wither and flake until only that familiar blackness of Delwyn’s mind remains.

Distracted by the odd clicking noise the woman’s feet made, Palore glances down. Bird’s feet, he realizes with horror as he laid eyes on the enormous scaly black talons that peek out from beneath the hem of the woman’s skirts.

Behind her, Delwyn sits transfixed in fear. The mirage of youth fades and he suddenly becomes the man Palore is familiar with. Donned in fighting leathers, his turquoise eyes are the only form of light there is.

Palore looks again to see that the closer Delwyn’s mother comes, the gaunter and more inhuman she begins to appear.

With every step towards him, the flesh of her cheeks sinks farther inward to reveal the contours of her skull, her lips shriveling back to expose rows of tiny needle-thin teeth. Her nose dissolves into a hole while her eyes, hollowing, become sunken pits lit by two distant pinpricks of light.

“Mother?” Delwyn whimpers, a sound so strange coming from the boy.

But his mother ignores him as she advances towards Palore, snarling deeply. Her skin no longer ivory smooth, but chalk white and tightly stretched, the creature rips free the fabric of her dress with clawed fingers.

Her hair tumbles around her now rack-like shoulders. Scraggly and thin, it begins to fall out in stringy clumps.

“Leave him alone!” The creature screams, charging for him, sharp pinfeathers protrude from her arms as she spreads them wide.

Palore makes no move, even though his heart thunders in his chest. For a moment, he fears that the thing launching before him, this gruesome creature, more ghoul now than woman, would rip into him with her awful teeth.

“Go Delwyn!” Palore shouts, but the boy is still kneeling, immobilized by fear.

Those twin points of light widen as they continued to bore into Palore. Vines of blackness climb up the woman creature’s neck and jawbone, her cheeks and forehead appearing like black reeds on her pasty complexion.

“Delwyn, we must go back, now!” Palore insists, the boy finally rising to his feet. Still frozen with undiluted fear.

“You will leave him alone!” The creature says, her voice no longer sensuous or girlish, but deep-throated and low, like that of a beast that had somehow learned to speak.

Then they saw it before they felt it – they all did.

The power. The shift. As if some great sleeping beast had opened an eye.

Both Palore and the demon-creature turn to Delwyn and find that silver tether wafting and wavering around him. Delwyn brings his hand up to his chest, tears rolling down his face.

Delwyn’s mother whirls to him, her steps retreating to her son. Her face crinkling with worry, her immortal beauty having returned, she hurries over to him, her dress materializing from the blackness. “Be careful my love, once you open that door, there will be no going back.”

Then the tether suddenly grows taut and Delwyn inhales sharply.

His power, his magic seems to sense them searching. Senses them there.

Palore feels the magic stir, feel it writhing with a want, a need to be claimed. As if it will lunge for Delwyn.

In a wisp of grey smoke, his mother vanishes into ash. Palore wastes no time grabbing the boy and the two of them sprint for the iron gates of his mind.

“Open your eyes.” Palore orders. “Open them now.”

Delwyn only pants, the monstrous force swelling behind them, a cerulean wave rising up.

“Open your eyes and sever the connection. Do it now or your power will erupt. Open them now, Delwyn!”

Palore hears the words as he throws himself out of Delwyn’s mind – heard them because he’s shouting in his rooms at the castle.

With a gasp, Palore snaps back into his body, cold sweat sliding down his back beneath his robes. He leans back against the couch, letting the world settle its spinning as he settles into his body.

A minute later, it’s interrupted by the sounds of retching. Palore sits up, wiping sweat from his forehead and bracing his hand on the arm of the couch. Taking a deep breath, he hoists himself up and slowly trudges over to the bathing room.

Bracing a hand on the threshold, he peers inside to find Delwyn vomiting into the toilet, hugging the cool sides. Not even trying to contain the sounds of his retching. Palore didn’t even notice the boy leave the couch after they left his mind.

The evening sun is just settling beyond the horizon, its orange glow near gold against the white tile, the only illumination as Delwyn is thoroughly sick.

Palore doesn’t say anything, doesn’t interrupt.

Only when Delwyn ceases, panting and bracing himself, counting each breath, does the mage dare to say, “I’m sorry. I hadn’t known . . . I never experienced –”

What else could he say? He truly didn’t expect that kind of, reaction. No astral being would be able to sense him, not if it was a memory. So why . . . how . . .?

Delwyn only focuses on his breathing – in and out, in and out. Over and over. His grey tunic has a stain of sweat from the collar to the middle of his torso, plastering to his back. Palore hears him spit into the toilet, then wiping his mouth before pulling the chain to send the mess down the drain. As he eases from the toilet, he plants one foot on the marble floor and after a small stumble, hauls himself to his feet.

Palore braces himself for the most star-shattering punch as the boy staggers towards him. But instead he only feels the brush of the boy’s sleeve as he passes him. Surprised, Palore follows Delwyn as he opens wide the doors to the balcony, letting in a freezing winter breeze, though it does feel relieving to the both of them.

Snow has piled up on the balcony’s railing and now abandoned potted plants, near falling over their edges to look like frosted cupcakes.

Delwyn doesn’t seem to notice as he braces his hands on the stone railing. Small bits of now fall off the edge, and some onto the toes of his boots. Huddling into his robes, Palore moves towards the doorway, still keeping a healthy distance from the boy should he turn and strike. Not that Palore would argue against it.

Delwyn hangs his head, his form silhouetted by the twilight. His hair falls over his eyes, dangling limp form sweat. With a voice of deadly quiet, he asks, “What was that?”

Baffled, Palore stumbles for the right words. “Memories – well, at the beginning it was. And then it changed, and I don’t – I couldn’t understand it; how an astral being could –”

“Am I possessed?” Delwyn interrupts, and Palore clamps his mouth shut.

After a moment, he answers, “No. I didn’t sense another presence, as she had sensed me.”

Slowly, Delwyn lifts his head and stares blankly out at the sky. Painted by a god’s hand, the tangerine orange mixes with soft and heavy periwinkles, hard magentas, and steel grey clouds. Looking around briefly, Palore snatches a blanket from the shelf set next to fireplace and slowly joins the boy outside.

The cold hits him like a stone, and as he fights a shiver, he wonders how the boy isn’t freezing. Not even a small shudder rattles the boy’s wide shoulders. It could’ve been seeing the boy has disoriented him, but Delwyn now seems, larger; thicker. As if he just now filled into his adult body.

He couldn’t have shifted . . .

“I almost forgot what she looked like.” The boy suddenly whispers so quietly. As if afraid to awaken the dead.

Palore doesn’t hesitate to place a hand on Delwyn’s shoulder.

The boy hangs his head again. “I hadn’t realized – or perhaps I had forced myself to forget – how much I look like my father. Nor did I realize how starved I was – for life and joy, how I cut myself off. Guess it was just easier after that.”

Palore tries not to cringe at the suggestion. No doubt the boy had walked around broken, and emotionally frozen for years after the death of his mother. He doesn’t speak of the other memories he witnessed while inside the boy’s mind: Delwyn’s father beating and whipping him into unconsciousness; Delwyn looking as feral as a wolf from hunting in the woods; seeing Delwyn incapacitate his father before shoving his head into a dirtied mop bucket. The man pathetically struggled for a minute before Delwyn reached his other hand in and snapped the man’s neck –

Palore clears his throat and shakes his head. He tries to ignore his own satisfaction and lack of sympathy for the man.

“All I cared about was revenge at that point.” Delwyn suddenly says again, with the same quiet, but the edge is gone. If Palore had to admit it, he almost sounded as gentle as his mother. “After what they did to my mother – what he did to my mother – I wanted nothing than to find and kill every. Single. One of them.”

His fingers curl and no doubt are digging into the stone beneath.

“Once that was done, I thought I would be happy. I thought I would find some peace, instead . . . I just felt, empty. With my mother avenged, I was stuck. I didn’t know how to fill that void. By then I was looking for danger; it was all just a thrill. Nothing scared me. I was looking for death.”

Palore pulls his blanket tighter against himself and coughs a little before asking, “As I had said, neither of us could control your subconscious –”

“You don’t need to apologize, I understand.” Delwyn said – his voice void of warmth. His face a mask of calm fury as he turned and stared at Palore. “But I want you to tell me what you felt, what happened at the end, and what I need to work on.”

A distraction.

Palore squares his shoulders and lifts his chin. “Well, at the beginning I felt . . . cold. And then I found this silver thread, so I decided to follow it, and that’s when the memories flooded. After we traversed and settled, it would seem that the illusion that was your mother wasn’t some form of ghost or spirit, but more rather, some kind of guard.”

Delwyn crosses his arms. “How so?”

Palore turns to head back inside, Delwyn following. “Well, the moment that we were discovering what your magic may be linked to, the apparition of your mother seemed to notice me.”

“How does that matter? I could see you.” They pause by the fire, Palore warming his hands while Delwyn merely waits patiently.

“It’s different because you settled into your former self when the memories started, and I became a third person observer. So, regarding your mother, it seemed like she was aware of my presence, even though I was supposed to imperceptible. But it wasn’t until I saw that thread again, and how it grew taught . . . only then did I see it.” Shedding his blanket, Palore takes a seat at the couch. “A shield.”

“What?”

“That surge of power that we both felt? That was your magic being, released, for lack of a better word. What I have come to believe is that when you were young, your mother may have placed some kind of ward around the part of your mind that holds recollection of your magic. I knew you didn’t just lose your magic!”

Palore gives a celebratory laugh, and Delwyn does him the honor of giving a smile. “But, what would she do that? And wouldn’t it have worn off sometime?”

A shrug of those bony shoulders. “I’m afraid I cannot speak for your mother. Perhaps she didn’t know of your reaction to being immortal; perhaps she did it until you were ready accept what it is you are.”

“I thought I had accepted it a long time ago.” Delwyn mumbles, more to himself.

“It may also be a case of wanting to hide your heritage when around such, close-minded people. It may be that due to the trauma you endured, it only fueled the magic to keep the barrier up so that your magic wouldn’t be overflowed from your emotions. That day when you thought it had just disappeared, that may have been the barrier solidifying, locking down your magic. And that wave from the end may have been your magic surging after you acknowledged it. The phantom of your mother may have been your subconsciousness’s way of giving the ward an identity.”

“So, the ward wasn’t broken?”

“No, not yet. We merely acknowledged it, and even then it was ready to flood. We’ll have to be careful when we try to pick it apart.” Palore sits down on the couch, Delwyn sitting in the armchair next to it.

“Will it damage my mind?”

“No, but it will allow your magic to come forward without restraint. Instead of taking it all down in one, we will do it piece by piece, to avoid your magic overwhelming you.”

Delwyn nods in agreement.

“Now, about your mental shields: it is important that you practice barricading your mind so that no one with those abilities can wander in. if they do, they can slip inside and see what they want, and take your mind for themselves. Or they may simply shatter it.”

Another nod. “Thank you for your cooperation and time.”

A dismissal, simple if also stinging, but the boy has been through enough already, not just the transcending memory journey.

As he opens the door to Palore’s chambers, the mage suddenly calls, “Delwyn,”

The boy pauses.

“You mother was a brave woman.” Why he says this, Palore doesn’t know. But it just felt like it needed to be. The woman has risked her life since she had conceived Delwyn, and is still doing everything in her power to protect him. Her legacy needed to be vocalized. Legitimized so that Delwyn understands that she wasn’t just brave to his standards, but that even when she abandoned her life of bloodshed, her Tamarakien wit and power still held forth.

Delwyn barely glances over his shoulder, a sudden glow lighting up his turquoise eyes.

“I know.”

He then closes the door soundlessly behind him.

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