Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
My hands run skillfully over the wooden loom, searching for any thread that is weaving itself an interesting path. Nothing. No snarls or splits, twists or knots, just threads crisscrossing all over the place. Orderly disorder. Why do human beings always go about their tedious lives day after day without my intervention? It’s almost as if they enjoy the averageness and unremarkableness of so called “normality.”
I seize a thread at random, and see in my mind’s eye a thirty or so year old woman with copper skin and dark hair. Her sharp features are furrowed in intense concentration directed at something I can’t see. I sigh. Why not? It’s not like I have anything better to do.
Clenching my fist around the string so hard that my nails bite into my palm, I fall fully into the scene.
Sweat dripped off of Sylvaris’s nose as she bent low over her oaken desk. She grimaced as she stabbed the thick needle into her thumb for the third time in as many minutes, but continued carefully stitching the seam up the side of the newly made satin slipper.
A bell clattered as the door opened to her shop. Without looking up, Sylvaris rattled off in a business-like tone, “Hello, madam. How might I aid you?”
The young woman strode forth into full view. A fair-skinned girl with heavy freckles, tall, blond, and dressed in a fine dress of a pale blue silk she remembered making for the queen a few months back. One of the visiting foreign princesses, perhaps? That color blue really didn’t suit her; already Sylvaris was plotting what sort of dress would look good on the girl.
The princess smiled. “All I need is a dress for the Queen’s birthday ball. Such a fine occasion; most women don’t make it to quite as venerable an age as she. You know, I was going to marry her great-grandson once.” Her face grew distant and sad. “Once.”
Sylvaris glanced away. She’d never been good at dealing with other people’s problems. She had enough trouble dealing with her own-it was even harder to soothe someone else. She decided to ignore it.
Snapping her fingers for a shop assistant, Sylvaris explained, “I’ll have Winni take your measurements in just a moment. In the meantime, are there any specifics about the gown that you’ve already decided upon? Material, color, length, style?”
“Yellow is the Queen’s favorite color-”
I yawn and release the thread. So...trivial. Perhaps if I livened up Sylvaris’s life a notch? I grin at the thought. Most of my blessed don’t like it at first. They don’t like it later on, either, but they get accustomed.
I take a silken thread, so light and thin that it feels like a strand of a cloud, and twine it tightly around hers. The loom is always such a mess, but one thing remains constant. Magic goes where I tell it to, and nowhere else.
“-And I am quite fond of lace,” the princess finished. Winni was currently measuring about her waist, and Sylvaris was jotting notes down on a sheet of parchment, such as, “Find a way to incorporate lace tastefully.”
“I think I can work with that,” Sylvaris told her with a slight smile. It would be a challenge, for sure, but an exciting one.
The girl’s attention wasn’t focused on Sylvaris, though. Sylvaris followed her gaze to her quill pen, and a leaden feeling hit her like a sack of potatoes thrown at her stomach.
They both watched in shock and fascination as it wrote on its own, scrawling across the paper like it was pulled by an invisible hand. Winni got over the fright first. She dropped the measuring tape and ran out of the shop. The princess was quick to follow. Not at all logical, of course. If Magic chose you, chaos would follow you wherever you ran. And then the guards would find you, and they’d lock you up forever. No one showed mercy to the cursed.
But maybe it wasn’t her. Maybe it was Winni or the princess. But the pen kept on writing. It would have stopped if the person who was cursed had left.
But this didn’t feel real. Maybe it wasn’t. She’d had nightmares like this, after all. Maybe in a few minutes, she’d scream and wake, and her husband, Elric, would comfort her. He’d tell her it was just a dream, that she and her family were safe. Maybe.
But her pen had written in glowing green words. Her pen had written, “Hello, mortal. Magic has taken an interest in you.” She read the words over several times, but they wouldn’t change. They wouldn’t disappear. The ink stubbornly clung to the paper. Magic was directing its attention towards her.
This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening. Elric asked her just last night whether they should put away more money in case Magic decided to play its games on one of them. or, horrible as the very thought might be, their son. She had dismissed his concerns. They were a middle class family, not special in any way-except for the occasional royal attention their shop got. Why would Magic pay attention to her?
The tales were never definite in what came after the words, for the simple reason that almost anything could. But the words were always there. In fire, ink, mud, or blood, the same words were always scrawled. “Hello, mortal. Magic has taken an interest in you.”
Sylvaris sat frozen on the floor of her home, waiting for it to burst into flames or ice over. Waiting for the final proof to come. Then she wouldn’t be able to deny it any longer. She would be a Magician, and all the pain and terror that came with that would be hers. Then the guards would come. They’d lock her away even though she hadn’t done anything, because that was their job. To protect the city from the scum of humanity. Magicians.
Only a few moments later, the winds began to whip, flicking the tears off of her face.
I lean back in my chair, a smile playing over my face. It should be interesting to see how this plays out. Another piece added to my game, and it’s connected to the Queen, no less. The more connections, the more fun-and the more likely the game will play out to my desired conclusion. But I digress. I should check the status of the other playing piece I set up. A short, somewhat golden skinned young man, with scars twisting across his mind and body. Perfect, or rather, perfectly flawed. And flaws are vital for this game.
Dafyr rested his hand gently on the forehead of the little girl he took in a year ago, pushing aside her dark bangs. He’d refused to let her tell him her name when he took her in. Still didn’t know it. Names were nothing but trouble and baggage, in his experience. Still, he almost considered asking it at that moment. How would he find her again? After the events of yesterday, he couldn’t stay with her anymore.
“You’ll take care of her, Fannah?” he asked. A bitter thought crossed his mind, though he didn’t let it show on his face for the child’s sake. If what happened yesterday was any indication, Fannah didn’t have any choice. It was do what he wanted or die.
The elderly woman who ran the soup kitchen nodded, her crinkled features slipping into a smile, but the sharp gaze of her blue eyes didn’t leave his face. “You know I will. But why do you have to leave so suddenly, and why can’t you bring her wherever you are going to go?” Dafyr knew she’d understand if it was a run-in with the law that was causing him to leave-she cared for the inhabitants of the city slum, after all. Though she’d have a lot of questions about how stupid he could possibly be to get in trouble with the law-they really only protected the rich. That and they took away the Magicians. But no one was willing to help a Magician, even Fannah. If she knew, she’d abandon the child as soon as possible.
He evaded her questions by saying, “Nobody will trust me now, especially with a child. I don’t trust me now.” Dafyr left before she could ask him anything else, or before he could start sobbing. He wished he lived in those bedtime stories his mother used to tell him before she died, where Magic didn’t exist. But he didn’t, and all the wishing in the world wouldn’t change that.
Last night, Dafyr had spotted a lovely young noblewoman frivolously spending away her money at the worst bar in town, gulping down drinks left and right. The girl was an idiot, coming here without a companion, but that was typical of the upper class. All bravado and no common sense. It was a wonder they weren’t extinct.
Flea-bitten men were already eyeing her-the dirt she had smeared on her face and hands could not conceal the smoothness of her skin or the straightness of her posture. Her hair was a thick and lustrous brown, and her fingernails were far too smooth for a woman who worked for a living. He felt he was better than those men-he, at least, only wanted to take her purse, though even that thought made him feel guilty, considering if he would just let go of his blasted pride and his family would concede to let him bring the girl, he could have all the money he’d ever need. But there were others who would do far worse to the woman, so in a way he’d be doing her a favor.
He strode up to her with a grin and a wink and adopted the accent he’d picked up after living for years in the slums. He still hated playing this game, having to chose the words that would get her to leave without the men here losing their view of Dafyr as a hard bitten criminal. “‘Ey, lass. You look lost. I could, say, guide you back to the part of the town patrolled by the guards? Just being neighborly.” He smiled disarmingly. He liked to think his smile was his most convincing attribute.
She gazed up at him, a dazed, vacant look in her eyes. “Are you Prince Charming, come to rescue me from the hydra?” she asked, in a tone made sincere by drink.
Dafyr groaned, and under his breath, said, “Or perhaps you are so drunk that the nonsensical is the only thing that makes sense, and hallucinations are real. I only hope your haven’t emptied your purse too much.” Louder, he said, “Come with me, my princess.” He had to steady her several times on the way out. Several of the more lecherous men glared at him a little on the way out of the bar, but they also nodded their acknowledgement at Dafyr’s skills.
Outside, when he got to an empty, badly lit street he pressed his rusty knife to her throat, gently. “I will guide you to safety, I swear, but first I need payment.” He reflected on his actions. He had tried a lot of things for money before this, from dock work to prostitution (his grandmother would murder him for it if she ever found out), but nothing worked out enough so he could survive. So he was stuck being a common thief. Wasn’t part of the blasted Queen’s job to keep the economy going? She wasn’t really succeeding.
The woman stared at him with a wide-eyed expression, and Dafyr sighed in exasperation. “Look, this area is pretty damn dangerous, especially for a woman of your age and social status. Staying here for a long time might as well be suicide, so you might as well do so. If not, you should just throw yourself on my dagger. It’d be quicker for you.” Not that he intended to leave her here to her death if she didn’t pay up, but she didn’t know that.
Her body tensed and she leaned forward. Dafyr realized what was happening, too late, and stumbled back and slipped to the ground. She...she flung herself on the dagger. Dark red blood spurted from her throat, splattering in warm droplets on his face.
He froze there for a long moment, long enough to see the change. To see the blood change to a luminescent green, and flow into a pool beside her, and slowly spell out the words, “Hello, mortal. Magic has taken an interest in you.”
That was when he dropped the knife and ran.
He turned it over and over again in his head since that moment, but couldn’t make sense of it, other than that his words had somehow compelled her to kill herself. It wasn’t even safe for him to speak anymore. And so he must leave. Get away from people, and then debate the essential question. Whether a man such as he should continue to exist.
“No, you don’t. I won’t let you die that boringly.” I twist his string sharply in my hands, and hear him give out a sharp cry of pain as he falls in a reasonably crowded street. He’s still conscious, though. Good. He stays silent, aside from crying out, but I can work around that. Crying out is enough. The people rush to help him, and those not under his influence fall back as his eyes glow green, and they notice how easily the others go to help-uncommon in a town this ruined. A few minutes later, the city guards, with their special “protection”against my blessed, knock him unconscious with their weighted clubs and drag him away. He stays silent throughout it all. Blasted stubborn boy. I need to remind him of the rules of my world.
There is no free will. Only my will.