“Hey. Have you been waiting for me all this while?” Amber peered down the corridor. There was no one there. Silence and sleep hung heavy in this place.
“Seemed a shame you missed your own welcome feast. I brought you dessert.” He indicated the platter at his feet. “I didn’t know which kind you’d like so I brought you one of everything.”
Amber sat down cross-legged next to him. Her stomach rumbled. “Thanks!” The pies were a little oozy and the cake sagging and the cream melted, but it was her own fault, after all. “Isn’t that one of the demented monkey monsters you were fighting earlier? Why do you have one now?”
“Oh, most forest yuka aren’t so bad on their own. It’s when they’re in groups that you’d better watch out. Hunger seems to be a trigger, but I don’t think it’s too big a problem.
“Not around you, at any rate.” Amber eyed the sleeping creature’s distended belly and blissful expression. “I’m glad you found someone else to feed. Not that I mind getting dessert.” She lifted a forkful of white cake with raspberry filling.
“Well.” He stretched and stood, carefully transferring the sleeping yuka to his shoulder. Its tail hung down his back and its triangular ears twitched. “I thought you’d want to see the memory moth. Say good bye to it before it leaves.”
“Goodness, yes.” Amber inhaled a mouthful of cake, before laying aside her plate. She got to her feet, a little creakily. She’d been sitting down half the day.
“This way, then.”
The academy was all hushed silences, cobwebby shadows, and creaking floorboards. Magic spells lay buried in stone and wood. Kael kept up a rapid pace, all the way to the roof Amber had jumped off so long ago today.
The cool night air held a bite. Amber hunched her shoulders and hugged herself.
“Cold?” Kael made a languid gesture, sparking magic. A layer of warmth wrapped itself around Amber. She was fascinated to see his magical energy pouring into the pattern around her, turning it orange, knitting it into something like a sweater. Of course, he couldn’t see himself what his spellwork did to the pattern, but he was capable of delicate work, occasionally.
“Thanks,” said Amber.
“No problem.” Kael led her towards a stone shape on the balustrade. It was probably fashioned in the likeness of some fantastical creature, but Amber’s attention was caught by the large silver-winged moth that clung to it.
Greetings. Its mental voice was much stronger, a silken shiver across her skin.
“Hi.” Amber crouched so that she was eye level with it. “I’m glad you’re doing better.”
Thanks to the two of you. You have my gratitude.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad that… thing… didn’t get you.” She gave Kael a sideways look. “What was that shadow again?”
He grimaced. “Night crawlers. Nasty when they come together like that. They’re usually found deep in the forest. Why did they come after you like that?”
To Amber’s fascination, the moth gave a shrugging kind of twitch. Night crawlers are destroyers, not just of the body, but of the mind. Of love and hope and the bonds between creatures.
“Ah,” said Kael in an understanding kind of way. He squatted next to Amber. “You carry a memory to someone?”
Yes. One that means much to the receiver. It gave another shiver. I have slept overlong in the warmth and dark. I must be on my way.
“Of course. We won’t keep you,” said Kael. Amber nodded, though she was eaten up with curiosity inside.
But first… a small gift. The moth twitched its moon-slice wings, fluttered over to Amber. Up close to her face, it was huge. She closed her eyes, air stirred up by the moth’s wings cool against her cheek.
And then the moth did something. Amber felt it, something small yet strong, but she had no idea what. While she was still checking all around herself, it moved over to Kael. The boy stood still and braced, eyes open. Amber watched as his breath hitched, his shoulders tensed, and his eyes widened with surprise.
Then he was smiling. “Thanks, buddy. That was more than enough.”
But, what’s my gift? though Amber, privately and confusedly.
The moth fluttered up, in ever-widening circles. Kael sketched a wave in its direction, then hastily caught the sleeping yuka before it fell off his shoulder.
“I should return this little fellow to its home when I leave tomorrow morning,” he commented.
“You’re going away so soon?” Amber wished she could take back the words as soon as they came out. She realized she’d been counting on Kael to smooth her first few days at Heartwood. Without him, Lisette and Troi were the only other journeymen mages she knew.
At least, there’s still Ainsley.
“Yep,” he said cheerfully. “Don’t look so down, Blondie. I’ll be back soon.” He sauntered over to the door leading inside.
Amber spluttered, “Wha–? Wait, it isn’t as if… it isn’t what you think!”
“Early morning tomorrow. I’m off to bed.” Kael lifted a hand in farewell and was gone.
“Well,” said Amber out loud, putting her hands on her hips. “What about all those dishes in the corridor? Am I supposed to find the kitchen at this time of night?”
Amber stiffened. She looked around, then up. The moth was a receding glow in the moonless night.
Frank, it said again. We kept it safe just like we promised. Look inside yourself.
Stunned, Amber obeyed.
And there was something different about her own pattern, that internal web that made her Amber. Something glimmered tiny and gold within it.
For when you’re ready to unlock it.
“Unlock what?” asked Amber, thoroughly spooked. It wasn’t—shouldn’t—be possible to reach inside her skin and change her pattern. That wasn’t how things worked!
You will know when it’s time. The memory moth’s voice grew fainter, more distant. Frank… we kept… faith…
A chill-edged wind swept across the lonely rooftop. It was gone.
Amber stood rooted in place.
The moth had spoken his name. Thrice, and Amber was frozen, as if the name was a spell to hold her in place.
She had not expected this. Why here? she thought. What does he have to do with my life now? After all this time?
The roof top was not forthcoming with any answers. Amber found she could move again, and so she left, to clean up the dessert dishes and find a soft bed.
Tomorrow she’d begin searching for answers.
The next arc begins! Read Whispering Winds, Episode 1 here.
Author’s Note: This episode wraps up the Chrysalis Arc, though it turns out there are more mysteries to solves and questions to answer. I’ll be taking a few weeks’ break to think about the next story arc and also finish revisions on a book that’ll release this summer. For the next arc, expect: classes and life at Heartwood; Amber and Kael’s first mission; and some of Troi’s backstory.
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Katharina Gerlach says
I loved it, only the name “Frank” threw me a little. That’s possibly different if/when I reread the two arcs in one sitting though. Splendid work, can’t wait for more.
Was it the name itself (the way it sounds doesn’t fit the world?) or that it seemed rather random? I may not have handled this reveal as well as I wanted to (the risks of mostly first-draft episodes)!
I’m glad you’re still enjoying it. 🙂