The two elder wizards talked late into the night, but thankfully sleep overtook me not long after the meal. I slept luxuriously that night.

Mhorik and I set out early the next morning, and truth be told, I was glad to be away from that place. We waved to the last few villagers who had guided us as they walked back. They were barely out of sight when I turned to Mhorik.

“What did she mean when she said you were a ‘generous master’?”

Mhorik continued walking, different emotions playing across his face. He gave a small sigh and answered, “Some wizards aren’t kind to their apprentices. Some believe that hardship makes an apprentice more focused.”

He saw the scowl on my face and chuckled to himself. We walked on in silence as I thought about this. I never really thought about other wizards much, let alone apprentices. A thousand questions flooded my mind: Why was Mhorik generous to me? Was it because I was a girl? Was it because he thought I’d become too powerful? Or not powerful enough?

We journeyed on for a few more days while I was lost in thought. Mhorik seemed to understand I needed distance, and there was no idle chatter. I started going through everything in my head and questioning it. Was Mhorik a good teacher? Did he push me too hard? Not hard enough? Was he a capable wizard? Despite being male? Because he was male and had to work harder? More and more questions came to me with each passing day, but no answers.

I was broken out of my thoughts suddenly when we were walking along a hunting path one afternoon. Mhorik suddenly pushed me into the underbrush with him. “Shh!” he hissed into my ear.

I shifted around and looked just above the foliage to see a small band of Kobolds marching along the path ahead. They were armed with large clubs and crude spears; a marauding party looking for targets.

“Fight?” I breathed the question to Mhorik as I ducked my head down.

He sucked a bit of air between his teeth, poked his head up quickly, and then back down. “Yes,” he said decisively, his knuckles white from gripping his staff.

My mind raced as I considered the magic I should wield. I felt Mhorik wrap some magic around us. “Protection,” he whispered.

I took a steadying breath, then pulled aside my sleeve and looked at my rune scars. Fire, ground, wind…. Wind! I did a simple counting spell to count the number of short spears in the group. Five came to my mind and I nodded to myself. “I summon wind,” I whispered. “Then fire.”

Mhorik looked at me, thought a moment, then smiled. He nodded approval.

We sat for a while longer as Mhorik stole glances at the approaching group. “Fifteen,” he whispered into my ear. “Ready?”

I swallowed hard and held my breath. He tapped me on the shoulder, once, twice, three times….

On the third tap, we sprung out of hiding and into the open. The wind spell on my lips as we stood, causing the air between us and the group to churn. One Kobold shouted in alarm, and a few hurled their spears at us, easily knocked aside by the wind.

I concentrated on my next spell, tracing the rune on my arm. I didn’t really need the rune to summon the fire, but I did need it for control. I planted gouts of fire all around the enemies, discouraging their advance without trying to kill them all. One of the Kobolds went into a frenzy and charged anyway, consumed by flame before he even took five steps beyond.

A few more spears hurtled toward us. My wind spell was weakening, but still potent enough to knock the short spears aside. I concentrated more fire around the group, trying to force them away from us. I inhaled deeply, concentrating hard but feeling the strain of the magic. A quick look at the field let me know that Mhorik had not cast any magic at the group. What was wrong?

As if on cue, Mhorik uttered a final word of power. It shook the air around us as a bolt of lightning struck the ground near the Kobolds. The explosive force drew in the fire and then expelled it in a wicked blaze of destruction. Bodies hit the ground, and the others went running off the path, into the tall grass and away from us.

I sat down hard, letting my concentration drop. A few flames still burned, sustained by the bodies instead of my own will. The smell was terrible, but I was too tired to care. I pulled out a bit of water and drank deeply. Mhorik reached down and I handed the skin to him.

Then I laughed. Had Mhorik been a good teacher to me? The fact I was still alive to ponder the question after that answered it quite decisively for me.

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