Chapter 27

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Over the next several weeks Evelyn and Brandon met Puck for a few hours after school, continuing the lessons as much as possible every weekend. At first things went fairly easy, the initial couple of weeks spent healing and growing bigger and bigger plants had little affect on Evelyn. She took to the simplest forms of green magic as easily as a child takes to coloring. It wasn't until the third week of their meetings when Puck started upping the ante that the strain of constant magic use began to show.

"Control them Eve! See them wrapping around the tree in your mind and make them do it!"

Evelyn wiped sweat from her forehead, groaning with exhaustion. Growing the vines out of nothing had been hard enough. It had taken constant hours of effort, concentrating every bit of energy she could muster just to sprout the plants from the ground, and further hours of concentration to accelerate their growth. But no matter Puck's urgings or encouragement, Evelyn simply couldn't get the plants to move. It was draining, as if her magic was a physical substance that poured from her body like water from a pitcher, sapping her energy reserves as it flowed from her body.

"OK, ok. Just give me a minute to catch my breath, Puck." She sat on the ground heavily, the look of discouragement spreading across her face.

Puck looked between Evelyn and the tangled mass of vines that lay lifeless on the ground at her feet. As days went by he had become more and more frantic and nervous towards Evelyn's lack of progress. Evelyn was years behind, a fact he was more than happy to point out at every available opportunity, and his fear that she wouldn't be ready for the task at hand grew with each failed attempt. "We don't have a minute, Eve! You're almost eighteen! We have to go back before then, and if you're not ready you'll never be able to save the spell!"

"What does her age have to do with anything?" Brandon asked, interested in the conversation for the first time. Throughout the weeks of lessons Puck had never mentioned anything about a timeline, much less her upcoming birthday.

Puck's intake of breath was sharp, his sudden nervousness palpable. "It's just... just a goal. That's all..." As he mumbled his skin went pale, telling Evelyn more than he wanted her to know. He had let something slip.

"Puck? Answer him please. Why does my age matter?"

Puck closed his eyes and sighed. "Please don't, Eve. Please don't make me tell you."

"Puck, tell me," Evelyn said, this time with more authority.

Puck winced. "It's just... It's this world, Eve. It kills magic. What's inside you, the magic you were born with, it grows when you're young. On your eighteenth birthday it's at its strongest, but each day after it begins to die. Unless you go home where your magic will continue to grow, each day you spend after that age in this world will weaken your abilities. If you stay long enough, they'll die altogether. Once your magic dies, even if it's only for a day, what you lose can never come back. Ever."

"So you're saying if she stays here, then she'll eventually lose all of her magic?"

Puck looked at Brandon sadly. "Yes. If she stays here, Eve will eventually become fully human. Magic can't live in this world, at least not for long."

"So how are you still here?" Brandon asked with a bit of attitude.

"Brandon!" Evelyn snapped, shooting him a look.

"It's OK, Eve. He's scared of me is all." Puck said, pulling himself to his feet and turning back to Brandon. "I'm weakened here, but I can't lose my magic. I was born into both magic and this world long ago, before this world was cursed to destroy magic. Evelyn was born into magic, but she wasn't here before the curse. Her magic can't fight your world's drain."

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