Chapter 10

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            It wasn’t until they were well out of Saimore that Rika was finally able to shake herself out of her shock. She thought she remembered Damek questioning the woman further before herding her back to the inn, getting them packed up, and on the road, all within twenty minutes. She looked at him, where he walked in front, every now and again glancing back at her. “Thank you,” she said, voice scratchy with the emotions fighting her control. Fear, panic, worry, and despair were all warring for dominance of her, having long since ripped her enthusiasm to pieces.

            Damek dropped back so he was walking beside her. He reached out and patted her arm. “I’m sorry. I should have checked before I brought you over and got your hopes up. But don’t you worry, we’ll find you a mage to send you home. I’ve got us heading for the capital. They’ll be a whole slew of travel mages there. If the worst comes and none of them can help us, they’ll definitely know who can and can point us in that direction. So buck up there, stranger-girl.”

            She had to smile at that. “Sorry. I just…I was so sure I was going home and then…” Rika shook her head. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m in another world, or the spell that brought me here’s to blame, but my emotions have been yo-yoing since I got here.”

            He smiled encouragingly. “It’s probably just the stress. You’ve been through quite a lot. And if what you’ve said is right, you’ve only been here just a day. No one’s going to blame you for needing time to adjust. If your world’s as different as I’m beginning to think it is, I can’t even imagine how you feel.”

            Rika chuckled. “It is really different. If I hadn’t been reading books about places like this for as long as I have, I’d probably be worse. But I’ve always dreamed of places like this and of seeing real magic.”

            Damek stopped, staring at her. “What do you mean, real magic?”

            “We don’t have magic in my world. Or at least, not that I know of. And with the internet and all, I’d think I’d have heard, even if it were in some faraway place.”

            “I don’t know what kind of net that is, but to not have magic…” he trailed off, rubbing his nose. “I can’t imagine it.”

            Even Ahisu, who’d seemed content enough to trail behind them, came up so he could face Rika, staff in hand. “There is no magic?”

            She smiled, happy that he was at least showing some interest in…well, something. “Yeah. We don’t have magic. I mean not that I know of. And if we do, it’s certainly not like here, where everyone knows there’s magic and mages about.”

            “But…” Ahisu trailed off, staring at her. Turning on his heel, he stalked off to the opposite edge of the road, he settled there, looking like he was staring off into the trees.

            Rika frowned, wondering if she should go see what was wrong. Damek drew her attention, shaking his head as he started walking again. “The more I talk to you, stranger-girl, the more I realize how really far away you came from.”

            She followed him for a few steps, then glanced back at Ahisu. “Shouldn’t we wait for him?” she asked, tilting her head in the mage’s direction.

            Damek snorted. “No. He’s a mage with a life debt to you. He’ll follow just fine. It’s best not to get too involved with most mages. A lot of them are very interested in keeping up the illusion of mystery and power. Even when some of them are completely useless. He might even fall into that category. It would explain why he won’t tell us what kind of mage he is, since he looks like the type who’s very concerned with his magic and how others perceive him.” When he caught sight of Rika’s frown, he rolled his eyes. “You’ve seen how he dresses. It looks like he’s going for fear and awe from strangers. I have to say, without the magic to back it up, it’s not an effective look. I still want to know what kind of mage he is, though. On the off chance he could be useful.”

            Speaking of mages reminded Rika of their failed visit just that morning. She felt her heart pick up speed and bit her lip. Just thinking about not being able to go home was enough to make her nearly cry, only her willpower keeping the tears off her face. Already she missed her own bed, her school, Myra, and most of all, Connor. She turned to Damek and said “What kind of mages are there?”

            “A lot. Too many to list. You get everything from the common once like movement and water kinds of mages right through to the rare ones like foreseers and air mages. Then you’ve of course got useful mages like transport and plant mages, and the useless ones like illusion and sound mages. There’s also the darker kinds of mages, like necromancers, demon summoners, and disease mages. You’re lucky. Transport mages are well on the common side, so it shouldn’t be too hard for us to find a really strong one, which is what we’ll need to get you back.”

            Rika smiled, finding Damek’s very obvious attempt to make her feel better reassuring. “I’m fine. I’ll be even better once we find the right mage. And until we reach the capital, there’s nothing I can do about it, so there’s reason for me to get myself all worked up. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. At least I’ll have more time to train with you.”

            He grinned, ignoring the sound of Ahisu’s footsteps behind them as the mage finally caught up. “We should have the basics more than covered by the time we reach the capital. I might even be able to start teaching you some of the advanced techniques. You’re not half-bad, for someone without any real formal training. I’m sure I can at least get you to a level where you can keep yourself safe from one or two attackers by yourself. Of course, it’s going to mean a lot of early morning and bruises for you.”

            Rika groaned as Damek chuckled. He really was a sadist.

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