A Sorcerer at Her Side
By Violet Day
Date: March 3, 2016
Ch. 22

Did Emonar dislike her?
Shayla couldn’t really tell. The young man was impassive. He barely spoke, he barely looked her way. He simply strode through the forest, always ahead of her, sometimes glancing at the sky as if to decide if it was too dark to continue their journey yet.
Her feet hurt. She had been wearing soft, indoor shoes when they fled. The stones in the forest path dug into the soles of her feet.
“Emonar,” she said. Stars were beginning to shine through the deepening darkness. The forest, usually a comforting presence, seemed strange and foreign at night. Low hums echoed through the trees, the sounds of night birds. “How long will it take us to get to Amiya?” Shayla had rarely left her father’s castle, and when she did it was only to visit other lords.
“We will have to make camp in the forest tonight,” he said without looking at her. “And we will arrive at midday tomorrow.”
“Is there no way your magic can make the journey shorter?”
Emonar didn’t answer at first. “No,” he said. “But I can make it more comfortable.”
The path led into a small clearing where a massive slab of rock cut through the earth. The angle of the pale stone created an overhang, under which was a good sized area that was covered from the elements.
The sorcerer stopped in the path and began to weave his magic. First, a fire. It was small but warm and strong. Second, two woven mats to sleep upon. Emonar sat down on one of them and beckoned for Shayla to follow.
“Isn’t this too exposed to the path? Anyone coming by would see us sleeping.”
Emonar seemed to find this a little offensive. It only took Shayla a moment to figure out why. “I can guard you from any traveler,” he said, his voice taut.
“Of course,” she said, smiling a little. She had forgotten about the rumors that sorcerers took great pride in their powers and could be easily offended.
As they sat by the fire, listening to the sounds of the night woods, Shayla began to run the events of the evening through her mind over and over.
“I can sense you are agitated.” Emonar’s voice was soft and almost sleepy. His words didn’t come out quite right, but Shayla wondered if she could detect a bit of genuine concern.
“Of course I am. My home is gone, my father and mother may be dead…”
“No,” Emonar said. “Your father was correct when he said he would be taken hostage. Even Sir Fane is not so cruel or so stupid to kill your parents. He wants sway with the king, and hurting your loved ones is not the way he will get it. Let your mind wander elsewhere. Worry about the journey ahead, not what has happened at home.”
“But I don’t need to worry about the journey, because you’ll be there,” Shayla said, mostly to herself. A sorcerer’s protection was valuable. She was lucky she the daughter of a favored night and not a low lord, who would have to flee with a guard with normal human ambition and skills. She had a magical being at her side, one who had grown up in an academy preparing him for this sort of situation.
“Yes. I will deliver you safely to the king.” Emonar laid down. It was well known that sorcerers needed very little sleep. Shayla knew he was simply trying to get her to go to sleep and get some rest.
Shayla drifted off to sleep and began to dream. She dreamt of a long journey across the Sea of Crowns, the boat shrinking around her as the shore of the capital came into view. She dreamt of warm fire magic at her side, near her heart, warming her. She dreamt of her father, the sounds of swords clashing as he defended her and her mother.
She tossed and turned in her sleep.
She dreamt of footsteps, breaking twigs, muttering.
Her eyelids fluttered.
“Emonar?” It wasn’t a dream.
Surrounding them and the embers of their fire was a small group of bandits, rough men with scars and short blades held out in front of them like charms.
One of the men kicked her. “Get up, sweetheart,” he said. Shayla complied, sitting up. “While aren’t you a wealthy one,” the man said, looking too long at the rich fabric and embroidery of her gown.
Another man leaned down. “And that pretty blonde hair… like a princess.”
Shayla pushed herself away from them.
Emonar rose from his sleeping mat, his dark robe sweeping against the stones and dirt of the earth. When the men noticed him, they all started, as if they hadn’t seen him before.
Shayla noticed that Emonar’s tight braids had come undone a bit as he slept. In another situation, she might have thought it gave him a more attractive look. But that was the least of her thoughts. Her heart swelled as she watched him lazily form a ball of green fire in his hands. She didn’t need to be afraid. Not in the least.
The bandits looked at each other. One ran.
The first one who had talked to Shayla, the one who had kicked her, snarled. “Magic doesn’t scare me. You’ve got pretty colors and light shows but I’ve got this.” He waved his dagger about.
“Leave now and you will keep your life,” Emonar said, his voice flat.
Another bandit ran after the other one. There were only two men left.
“Give me your gold and valuables and you’ll keep your life, magic user,” the old bandit spat.
Emonar brought the green fire to the man’s face. The scent of burning hair filled the clearing as the bandit’s untamed beard began to fizzle.
He cried out, slapping his hands against his face to put out the flames that danced closer to his skin. He dropped his dagger and ran.
One bandit remained, a younger one with pimples and prominent bones. He just stared at Emonar, his jaw slack.
“Leave, little one,” Emonar said. “I do not wish to shed blood tonight.”
The last bandit ran.
The clearing was empty again. The twin moons glowed softly in the black sky.
“Go back to sleep,” Emonar intoned. “The danger has passed. I apologize for not removing them before they woke you.” He knelt next to her and gave the most cursory glance to her side where she had been kicked. “You are not hurt,” he muttered, most likely to himself, and then went back to his sleeping mat and lay down.
“Thank you,” Shayla whispered. She tried to take a deep breath before curling back up on her mat on her side. It was dangerous outside the castle. She wondered if she would be able to fall asleep again.
She was half asleep when she heard footsteps again. Immediately concerned, she opened her eyes.
It was Emonar. He had got up from his sleeping mat to pick up one of the fallen daggers. She watched as he returned to his mat, lay down on his stomach, and placed the thick bladed dagger in front of him.
He passed his slender fingers over the steel a few times, his fingertips lightly brushing the surface.
As he did, the surface began to change. Shayla shifted her position to get a better view of the surface of the blade, but tried her best not to betray that she was awake. What was he doing?
The metal surface became misty. Then, moving shapes began to form and sharpen in the surface.
Ah, he was scrying. That was the ability to use any steel surface to see short bits of the past, the present, and sometimes the future depending on the skill of the sorcerer and the will of the spirits.
The blade showed a scene somewhat similar to their own. A few men were around a fire, but only two were asleep. The other three were awake, sitting up sharpening their blades. “Their footsteps clearly lead this way,” one of the men said, his voice tinny and strange coming from the blade. “One young woman and the light, almost impossible to track footsteps of a sorcerer.”
Shayla blinked. Someone was following them. Who? Would Emonar wake her up to tell her?
She rolled toward Emonar just a few inches, trying to see the outfits of the men.
Green and white.
It was Sir Fane’s men. A group had been sent to follow them.
At her movement, Emonar took the blade and tossed it aside.
Why wasn’t he waking her up to tell her? But most importantly –how close were the men? Were they the only ones? And what did they plan to do with her?
Shayla’s heart beat fast as she willed herself to go to sleep with all her strength. She needed to be alert in the days to come. People were after her, whether for gold or power or revenge or some twisted mixture of those reasons and more.
She was finally able to sleep as her mind settled on the image of Emonar, standing strong with his mussed braids and fire in hands. The image gave her a deep sense of safety, as if he were the walls of her father’s castle themselves. His piercing green eyes, subtly threatening, very comforting, were the last thing she saw in her mind before she slipped into an easy, dreamless sleep.

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