Chapter 4 - Fox

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Fox grumbled as the howling wind picked up and bit at his already cold cheeks. The canopies of the nearby forest swayed dangerously, branches cracking and trunks groaning. Behind the thick grey clouds disappeared the bit of sunlight that had fooled the whole of Moondale into thinking Spring would pay them another visit.

In this stormy weather, he'd rather be sitting in front of the warm fireplace at home than sauntering behind Katla and trudging through the pools of mud that had formed when the rain had returned to the land. Those stupid grey clouds had dropped their load with such force that they had kept him up all night.

For hours he had tossed and turned until—tired of his sheets and thoughts smothering him—he had gone down into the living room with his bag of marbles in his hand. Though Katla had been sawing his nightly logs, he had plunked the bag on his master's pillow, saying. "Katla, I'm almost eleven, almost a man. I don't wanna play with silly children's toys anymore."

Groaningly, Katla had cursed the Gods (and him too). After smacking his lips, his master had conjured a small red flame in his hand and had looked at him as though he had spoken a different language.

"Can I toss my marbles in the fireplace and burn them?" Fox had asked, then without taking a breath he had added. "I also wanna forget Mallard ever lived. Can you erase my memories of him?"

Katla had raised an eyebrow. "No... and no."

"Why not?"

He had put one finger up. "For one, it's the middle of the night."

"I can't sleep."

A second finger had been waving in his face. "Two, those marbles are made out of glass so regular flames won't burn them—"

"I can do it!"

"And three." Katla now had had three fingers up. "I'm done tinkering with memories. I'm not that good an Air Magician. Something might go wrong. And then what?"

"It won't," Fox had argued. "You just don't want to do it."

"You're right about that." Katla had plucked the marble bag from his pillow and handed it back to him. "We'll figure something out for these. Go back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

"But..."

Katla's red flame had disappeared before Fox had had the chance to remind his master that he was wide awake and couldn't sleep. Since Katla hadn't said that he should go back to his own bed, Fox stayed on the rug by his master's bed, the marble bag hidden under a pillow that he had shoved under the bed and his knees clutched to his body.

The wound on his chest had stung. To ease the pain, he had rubbed the vague outline of that fresh scar that ran all the way from his nipple to his collarbone. The length of the tip of his thumbnail—that was how close he had been to the Heavenly Halls.

Or the Seven Hells.

He had killed a man, after all.

A snapping, crunching noise appeared from behind him. Startled out of his thoughts, he gasped. A flame green in colour erupted in his hand. He was ready to attack as a white critter with pearly black eyes squeaked and scampered back into the shrub he had come from.

"It was nothing—just a mouse." Katla wrapped an arm around him, pushing him forward onto the barren training field just outside of Moondale.

"I'm not afraid. I just didn't expect it to be there," Fox said more bravely than he felt.

He remained close to Katla, close to safety, wishing to go back to a time when he didn't have to fear for his life. Back when Seb wasn't the Crown Prince of The Greenlands, when Father was still his father and Mother the only person who had never kept any secrets from him.

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