“You can’t have it.”
I blinked. His voice was sharp, when it had been so reasonable before. I opened my eyes to see if he was still the same man. I folded my arms and narrowed my eyes. I tried to read him– mostly as an experiment. The emotional equivalent of static burned my nerves, even causing physical pain. I willed the chaos to end. All was quiet, but I realized my new found senses were blocked. I sighed. Trajan looked like he’d just swatted away an annoying insect.
“Why? Need a fancy trinket for your collection?” I asked out of nowhere.
He flinched and his eyes narrowed, though his face was as bland and pleasant like vanilla pudding. The beard did not help.
“For your sake. For the sake of the universe I’m sworn to protect.” His voice had gotten a bit deeper like crunching gravel. Despite this shift I knew it to be true.
“I’m not just some damsel in trouble.” I snapped, exasperated.
“You are that, and you carry a weapon you do not understand. My lady, I don’t’ understand it. As a wizard that makes me highly uncomfortable.”
“I need more than that. The wizardly “because I said so” is not helping”
Because it is inimical to life– especially yours.. For another thing, your powers are rogue. We don’t’ know what would happen. As for walking the labyrinth, you are but a child. That… process quails– and kills — wizards more powerful than I. A slip of a girl like you with Deep reality changing magics? You could destroy the natural order, including this place you love so much.”
I frowned and flopped back on the ugly brown flowered couch in the apartment just over the carriage house. He would not come into the house proper, and wasn’t especially clear on why. My head was still bandaged, and hurt. The lights were low, but the wizard seemed to glow of his own subtle radiance. I leaned my head against the curved edge of the couch, squinted and looked away.
I stared at the strange yet humorously antique looking painting of what looked like a Sargent– if he’d ever painted one of his lovely brassy sea going vessels being attacked by a Kraken. I hadn’t noticed the strange disk shaped UFO figure in the clouds before. I wanted to laugh, but the hole in my heart was already aching too hard. The wound ached, seeming to suck all the hope out of my heart.
I pulled myself together and looked back.
“The drow said…”
“And why on earth did you believe her? The Drow have their own agendas, and it is not often you can trust them. The last time the Summer and Winter court worked together doesn’t bear thinking about. Trust me. I was young then, but I was there.”
“Did you or anyone else hear what she said?! I read her. She was speaking the truth. I could even feel her broken oath. She really wants to work for us now… or anyone who will stop this tihing.”
The wizard sighed. “Yes, we heard her story. She appears to belive every word, and indeed everything she describes, much has already come to pass. things even she does not know. But she still works for Drack. IT may be that she is doing his bidding even as she is fooled into thinking otherwise.”
“I know she hasn’t been tampered with. I can tell.” I said stubbornly.
The wizard cocked his head. “Could you? That is a rare talent. Cosciba had it… long ago. But he has passed in to the depths, and we are poorer for it.” he paused and looked at me pointedly.
“I’m sorry to hear that. But, okay?”
“He was killed by the winter court,” he said, voice low. “The house of Cerese are assassins for the king.”
I shook my head, both filing away the information and shoving aside my feelings about this. I turned to look at him. I knew what she said was true, I knew her version of things were accurate
… but I had no proof. I had to get the wand back. But I didn’t know how to go it when it was imprisoned for my own good.
“But I need to see that wand. Efen just visit it?” I asked.
He shook his head. “It appears we are at an impasse. Anything else before I go?”
“Yeah, okay. I guess.”
The wizard narrowed his eyes as I appeared to concede.
“What were the Rye wars?”
“That was the war over the ownership of the portals to this world. The winter court had a stronger claim, but the Summer court said that no one being should control them. So… we have this modern arrangement.
I blinked. “Which is?”
“Each portal is owned by the currently reighning monarch. In winter, it is the Winter court that controls the gate. in the Summer, it is the Summer court’s gate. In spring and fall, they are owned by no one, so as to satisfy the Summer court.”
“Lilly fought in them. She said I should ask you.”
“Lilly is the only Unicorn in that battle– in the whole war– that survived. yes, there are still unicorns, but none of those with ties to your world survived, save her. The rest went deep into the labrynth and haven’t been seen since.”
I was stunned.
“Unicorns were the first birth when the paths between worlds was established. It is their job to steward the magics of earth”
“That’s gotta be big job for one unicorn.” I said.
“Lilly tells me there are those who never fought, who stayed on Earth, who renounced Arcadia for attempting an invasion. But no tales of their works have come across into Arcadia– or even to the In Between. Lilly doesn’t even talk to me about them.”
I I shook my head. “My brain hurts.” I begged.
The wizard smiled, warm despite the words. “Do not attempt to read my thoughts. Blocking such is the first thing a wizard learns.”
I sighed. “you are exasperating.” I said.
“One could argue that is my job.”
I closed my eyelids, feeling their weight like irresistible gravity. Before long a blaze of light turned my inner darkness red. By the time I blinked my eyes open again, he was gone.
The lights were off and a light blanket I did not recognize was draped across my body. Though now it was night, and the porch light was on. I heard someone banging around in the kitchen.
I suddenly realized I had to feed the animals.. hours ago. Fortunately, most of the entourage that didn’t use the attic literboxes were already outside or paddocked. I still managed to fall on the floor instead of slip gracefully out of my impromptu bed.
Patrick appeared with a flashlight. He was even handsome in the half light.
“You shouldn’t be trying to move too quickly.” he advised. “Remember you have a concussion. Don’t worry about the animals, Grace. I took care of them that the help didn’t already tend.”
Hello Kitty slinked past Patrick and lept onto the edge of the couch arm rest. She sat regaly on the edge, tilted her head and looked at my pitifully. Then dangled her tail down just past my reach. I tried to grab it, and she yanked it away. She turned away haughtily, then turned back towards me, leaping to the cushion next to my head. There she crouched, as if to say, “you need someone to keep an eye on you.” In her crouch she looked very intent, but still at rest, with all four paws tucked under her body, like a white puddle. She was part Japanese bobtail, with the white coloring and a couple of black spots on her flank, but she actually had tail intact. The last third of it was black. But her face was more apple than wedge, and her body was rounder and her fur was denser. She had one yellowy green eye, and one deep blue eye, which in the wrong light made her look like a pirate. Her delicate pink collar with a bow competed the picture.
She watched me with incredulity as I attempted to get back on the couch. Patrick actually picked me up and carried me back to the couch, taking a bit longer than was strictly speaking necessary. I’m not skinny by any stretch, but I’m not fat, either. Just… a bit curvy in places. Mom would nag me into oblivion if I turned out like her sister Joelle. But I’m not light as a feather either. He seemed to have no trouble at all hefting me to chest height and swinging me over my sprawling distance from the couch. He set me down gently next to hello kitty, without disturbing her. Once it was clear I wasn’t moving, she padded closer, purred and nudged me with her pink nose.
“If you’d take care of yourself, I wouldn’t have to.” he said, but didn’t sound particularly displeased by it. My heart was screaming something, but I was too tired to hear. I drifted off while Patrick was still smiling.