Found – Part Nine
Parts One through Eight can be found on my author’s page
There was a newness blooming in my heart. It was a feeling I couldn’t place. It was filled with equal parts—exhilaration and trepidation. It promised solace and desolation. They teetered over a great precipice, locked in a battle of the dominion of my soul. Before there was only darkness, and now there was a new contender in the fight.
“Nox?” Calum called from beyond the trees. “You should come out soon. I’ll send some fresh garments for you.”
Send? How could he possibly—As the thought crossed my mind, I watched two large rocks by the shore, close to where I had set my walking staff, began to shimmer with heat. The intensity sizzled, and they boiled with white light. I turned my eyes away and waited for the light to subside. When I looked back, the rocks had gone. In their place, I found a pile of dry folded clothes and towels. I reached to touch them, and they were still warm. Magic, I thought—such a benign and practical use.
After drying my body, I donned the still warm apparel. I reveled in the feel of the soft fabric against my clean skin. It was a sensation I’d never known before—more care and concern from someone that would someday pay for it. I wasn’t supposed to be loved.
“Do you like them?” I turned to see Calum approaching me. He was carrying a basket filled with pickings from the forest. There was a glint in his eye that I couldn’t place. It held a glimmer of mischief with something else. There was a lighter bounce in his step, mirth in his movements.
“Yes, I do,” I answered. While I didn’t feel as burdened when I first came into Calum’s care, there was more darkness in my soul than some kindness and a bath could heal. It lived in deep within me, and it waited for any light like a predator stalking its prey. It was like a part of me knew that it would always be with me. And then there was another part that didn’t care.
“Come, let’s eat.” He turned away, walking back towards his home. I followed behind him, leaning against my walking staff. A sudden pang of guilt shot through me. I destroyed his belongings during my episode. When I awoke that morning, the casualties of the bedlam had not been fixed. It must have meant they were beyond repair, like me. My head was low with shame as I walked through the doorway. I was greeted by a warm, sweet scent and the cozy glow of candlelight. My head snapped up in surprise. Jovial shadows danced across the walls, emanating from a fire under the old cauldron in the center of the room. The light reflected through various crystals casting rainbows that danced in step with the shadows. Shelves littered with intact books, empty vials, jars of dried herbs lined the walls. It was whole again.
“It’s fixed,” I breathed. I whirled around looking for Calum. He was next to me. His eyes were sweeping across his home.
“It was difficult, and there may be some Curse persistent in a corner or two. It did put up a fight. But yes, it’s fixed,” he finished with a sigh. He continued onward into his home. I was motionless with awe. Not so long ago, I had destroyed this room. With some work, it had been restored. There were a few dark places left behind, where the shadows would linger. There were pockets of darkness that would hide and wait for me. But it was new again. It had been given a second chance.
“Don’t just stand there in the doorway. Aren’t you hungry?” Calum was seated at a small table on the far side of the room. He gestured at an empty seat across from him. My steps were heavy as I walked towards him, still not believing that something so shattered could be redeemed. I sat across from him, placing my walking staff against the wall, and was assaulted by the scent of food. Food…
My eyes roamed around the table. It was no grand feast, like those I watched Maynard consume. My starved body, writhing from hunger while he gave in to his glutinous desires. If he would only drop something. I’m so hungry; I would think as I watched. No, this was nothing like that. There seemed to be just enough for the two of us, but it was the richest spread I’d ever known. I was ravenous and began to eat with pent up fervor.
“So good,” I mumbled between mouthfuls.
“Well, eat up,” Calum laughed. “We’ve got work to do.” We finished eating, the sounds of my muffled compliments and clinking utensils hanging in the air.
“Work?” I asked after washing my food down with generous gulps of water. “My lessons?” He nodded.
“Yes,” he said, rising from his chair. I noticed the effort it took him to straighten his body. He winced, a flash of pain in his eyes. He saw the concern written on my face. “I’m a touch winded after mending everything. Using so much magic at once does tend to drain you. And I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“Are you all right?” I grabbed my walking staff and began to stand so that I could go to him. He held up his hand to stop me.
“Fine, dear boy. Just fine. What I need is a good recharge.” He walked towards the cauldron; his movements were wooden. “Now come over here.” He motioned for me to come towards the cauldron. I hadn’t come close to the cauldron yet. As I walked towards it, the air became warm and heavy. It felt as though I was walking through hot sand, but it was pleasant somehow.
“Why does it feel like that?” I asked, perplexed by the strange, wonderful feeling.
“Like what?” Calum’s eyes were trained on me, his hands hovering over the cauldron, as though he were using it for warmth.
“It’s warm and nice.” I felt my eyes close, and my body melt with comfort.
“Warm and nice,” Calum mused. “Be more specific.”
“Use all of your senses. Feel it with your body and your soul.”
I didn’t know how to feel with my soul. After Linnea, I tried my best not to feel.
“You said it was warm and nice. Start there,” Calum said, sensing my hesitation. “Don’t think too hard about it.”
“It feels like it wants me here. Like it’s calling me,” I said. My answer surprised me. It just came to me, like a whisper.
“Good. This is how I recharge. Remember that stone I showed you?”
“The one from your village?”
“Yes. It was one of two. I conjured this cauldron from the other stone, so it holds great value to me. Every sorcerer has something that their Magic returns to when they’re done doing whatever Magical working. It holds on to it. My cauldron does this for me. So when I feel drained, I come here, and it refuels me, so to say.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Upon exhaling, the fire underneath the cauldron surged for a moment, in time with Calum’s breaths. They were breathing together. The room was tinted in shades of red and orange for the blink of an eye. He opened his eyes, and there was a renewed youth glimmering in their depths.
“Is it that simple?”
“Not always. Depending on what I’ve done, it could take days. It may appear so, but I’m still weak. The cauldron has revived my body, but my soul is still tired.”
“What would my Magic return to?”
“Your staff for now. That will be your Magical store for as long as you wish, or until you’ve conjured something more to your liking.”
I’d only had my walking staff for a short time, but I was attached to it. Besides the fact, I needed it physically to get around; I made it. And it was the first thing that I could ever call mine. Now it had a new purpose.
“I think it will serve me well.”
“That’s good. When you’re strong enough to walk without it, I’ll have to teach you how to conceal it. A young man with a glowing walking staff is not very inconspicuous.”
“No, I suppose not.” I chuckled. Calum walked towards a book-lined shelf and selected a large, dusty tome. He placed it on a table by the cauldron, flipping through its pages. This seems familiar.
“For now, you’ll learn to channel your Magic through it. It will be your lightning rod. You’ll use it to guide your power in the appropriate amounts until you’ve learned to control it and you feel safe,” he said without looking up.
“That sounds like it will be difficult.”
“It will be. Magic is directly linked to a sorcerer’s heart, and yours is hurting. I have no means to heal it, I’m afraid. But we must get you strong enough. Your Magic will be erratic and unpredictable for a while. We’ll go slow, I promise. If at any point you feel burdened, please let me know. We may trigger your Affliction and Curse again. In fact, I’m sure we will. But I will take care of you. No harm will come to you.” He flipped through a few more pages before finally stopping on one. He looked up to face me, his eyes filled with excitement and that touch of mischief from earlier. “I do hope you’re ready, Nox. Training is about to begin.”