The next week flew by. Strangers became friends sharing the common bonds of magic. We talked about spells, we created magic together, we shared concerns about what goes on in our villages, and we offered suggestions to each other. I talked to a bunch of people and learned so much in such a short period of time. Those few days were some of the most intense in my life.

But, during this time I had an odd feeling of something not being quite right. Just beyond my perception something seemed to be happening. People treated me differently: some went out of their way to meet me, and others went out of their way to avoid me. Groups of people would hastily depart when I walked nearby. Furtive glances toward me from fellow apprentices. Open glares from some wizards as I moved within the grove.

One evening I was sitting off to the side in the main clearing eating a small snack. Another apprentice came up, a girl who had been friendly before, and sat next to me.

“So, what’s it like?” she asked.

I swallowed the mouthful I had. “What?”

“You know, having a male master.”

People had talked about it, but nobody had been quite this direct. “It’s fine. I’ve learned a lot from Starwise. You’ve seen my ability.”

“Yeah, but don’t think it’d be better to learn from a real wizard?”

Something about her tone irritated me. “Starwise is a real wizard.”

She looked off into the middle of the room and bit her lip. “I’m just saying, you’re smart and all. Maybe think about finding a new master here. Many of them would take you.”

The other apprentice got up and left before I could form a retort. I was just perplexed at what that was all about.

That night, things turned ugly.

I was sitting with my master, discussing a spell I had learned about day. I didn’t tell him about the other apprentice, figuring it was a silly thing to fret over. As we were talking, a group came up and surrounded us.

I looked up into the faces and recognized two: Riversdepth from my presentation, and Seamist who traveled with us over the mountain pass. They had a hard look on their faces.

“Greetings, sisters,” Mhorik said, leaning against his staff and climbing to his feet.

A sneer came across Riverdepth’s face. “Oh, greetings, great Starwise. But, do not count us as sisters, cur.”

He lost the friendly look on his face, and his eyes narrowed. “What is the meaning of this?”

Seamist’s voice dropped to a deadly whisper. “You do not know your place, and your apprentice is a fool. Isn’t that right, Dorua?”

After not hearing that name for a week, it hit me like a physical blow. I stared at the group in disbelief.

“And you, Mhorik. I know our name. And with your name, I have power over you.”

My eyes grew wide with fear, but Mhorik just laughed.

“That is where you are wrong. You believe that superstition. You have no power over me any more than you have power over any other wizard here.”

“Oh, no. That is where you are wrong. I will show you my power over you,” Riversdepth said as her eyes blazed with sudden magic.

Mhorik’s face became strained and sweat suddenly beaded on his forehead. He was straining against some unseen force, baring his teeth with the effort of fighting back.

Thinking fast, I did a trick I had learned this week. Holding my breath, I extended my sight to perceive magic. I saw luminous ribbons emanating from Riversdepth, fueled by the other wizards nearby. The ribbons surrounded Mhorik, constricting and threatening to crush him. His own magic was a painful blaze of light, but it was being smothered by the ribbon.

I blinked my eyes and looked at Mhorik. His face was furrowed with exertion, and a thin trickle of red blood ran down from his nose. His white knuckles wrapped his staff and I could see he was losing the struggle against so many others.

I held my breath again. All that magic was binding him, constricting him. But, I saw a lose ribbon. Reaching out my mind, I grabbed that strand and gave a pull.

Then the world detonated all around us.


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