I was back at Advanced Barding the next day. The mark had disappeared completely. It was like being let back into the village or something. Suddenly I heard of rumors and stories that hadn’t reached me at home. My peers welcomed me heartily, glad to have me back in the fold.
I was still milling about the kiss from yesterday. When I’d gotten home Diya acted worried, seeing the expression on my face. It was one of pure disbelief and puzzlement.
Today I must have looked the same. Clara kept asking what’s the matter.
“You seem so distant all of a sudden,” she whispered as Skelly discussed one of the village’s ancient bards.
“I’m just tired,” I said, looking at my scroll blankly. This bard had been full of it. I didn’t understand a thing before me.
“We all miss Bevan,” she said quietly. I looked up at this. Thinking again of the kiss. Why did Bevan kiss me? If he really liked me, why was he acting so weird? Maybe it’s just because he was nervous. But no, Bevan wouldn’t be nervous about something like that. I’ve watched him flirt with girls seamlessly all these years. Why would he be nervous about me?
Was this just a game to him or something? Maybe he’s getting a bit lonely in the woods.
“You know Kermit thinks Orrin murdered him,” she whispered dramatically. “But the rest of us don’t think so. Orrin wouldn’t murder his son.”
I wanted to ask, what makes you so sure? But held myself in. It wasn’t any use discussing Orrin’s killing ability. I knew full well what it was. Although, Bevan was his only son. Perhaps the old timer had more heart in him than balls.
“Now Magorian’s disappeared too, the whole town’s in a riot,” she said thoughtfully, glancing at her own scroll.
Magorian. Something clicked in my head way too late. I should’ve gone back to Magorian’s house yesterday. I was so stuck on the stupid kiss I’d forgotten all about Nudith’s promise to take me to him.
“What do you mean?” I asked looking intently at her. I didn’t know much about what was going on right now. I thought Nudith had only played a game or something.
“He hasn’t been to association for a while now,” she whispered severely. “People say one of the other Sage Bearers went to his cottage to find out why, but he wasn’t there.”
“They didn’t find someone else though, did they?” I asked tenderly, receiving a puzzled look.
“Like who?” She asked with one eyebrow raised. I didn’t want to tell Clara much. However friendly she could be, Clara was known to enjoy gossip.
“I dunno,” I said quickly, looking back down at my scroll.
“The elders are worried,” she went on. “Another rumour says that Orrin might have something to do with Magorian’s disappearance. They say he went looking for Bevan in Magorian’s cottage, because they’d been so close you know. When Magorian discovered Orrin rampaging around his cottage, they started fighting.”
This struck me as odd. Though Magorian was an incredible fighter, he was more the gentle type. The type who insisted violence isn’t the answer. I hadn’t ever seen him lose his temper; with the exception of that day I crossed the barrier.
“And then what?” I asked.
“Orrin knocked Magorian out and beat him to near death, then left him somewhere to die.”
But that can’t be possible, I thought, what about Nudith?
My thoughts were interrupted however, by the dramatically soft voice of Skelly.
“I see you’re all excited to have young Astrid back,” he said in his significant voice. “But she may be absent a while longer if she doesn’t learn to keep quiet in my association.”
A small smile was forming on Skelly’s thin lips. I knew he wasn’t serious. Skelly wasn’t the strictest of Sage Bearers and hardly ever raised his voice. He was theatrical, much too delicate to stoop to that level. He was one of the oldest Sage Bearers. His eyes were the lightest of greys, matching his wispy long hair perfectly.
People said he didn’t want to become a sage until he absolutely had to.
I nodded moodily none the less. This was too much to take in. What if Orrin really had attacked Magorian? What happened to Nudith then? How would she know where Magorian was if Orrin had left him to die?
No, it couldn’t be true.
But the seed was planted. As Skelly continued to explain the history of Callom Broderick, I could only focus on one thing.