Chapter 21

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            The next afternoon, Damek waited until Elthia was called over to one of the merchants for a headache before he waved the other two to fall back a bit. Once they were settled into what Rika was beginning to feel was their secrets position, he spoke. “We have a problem.”

            While Ahisu turned his attention to what lay behind them, Rika frowned. “What kind of problem.”

            “Last night I talked to the other travellers and some of the performers. From more than one of them, I heard a rumour. It’s being said that Lord Zobah and Lord Atelic are both looking for the same person. A girl from far away who has a magic book.”

            Rika’s eyes widened and Ahisu actually turned to stare at Damek. He nodded. “That’s bad enough, but Zobah and Atelic are the two vying to become the king’s heir. Everyone knows he’s been sick for the last two years and is nearing death, and since he never had children nor does he have siblings with children, it’s been a mess with the nobles fighting each other. Zobah and Atelic are the frontrunners for next king. And if they’re both looking for you, it worries me. It worries me a lot.”

            She bit her lip. “I don’t understand why though. It’s not like I know anything about nobles or kings or anything like that. The only thing that’s really different about me is that I’m from another world, but I can’t imagine why they would be looking for me just for that. You didn’t hear anything else did you?”

            Damek shook his head. “No. That’s all the rumour’s saying. It may not be true but…but it would explain why the soldiers attacked us. And why the other group stopped us. They were wearing two different uniforms so…”

            “But why?”

            “King,” Ahisu said.

            The other two stared at him for a long moment. “What?” Rika asked, after failing to puzzle out what he was saying.

            “To choose.”

            She shook her head. “I don’t know why they’d want me for that. I don’t know anything about them, this country, even this world.”

            Damek frowned, made a face, then nodded. “He might be right. And that would be exactly why they might want you. You don’t have any preconceptions or prejudices. But getting involved with nobles never ends well, so I think it’s best we just continue on avoiding the soldiers. And we don’t even know for sure that’s why they’re looking for you, so let’s just stay safe and quiet.”

            Rika bowed her head. “Maybe I could ask Elthia what she-”

            Her blue-haired friend cut her off with a single “No.”


            He shook his head. “I know what you want to do there, stranger-girl. You like Elthia and want to tell her the truth. I certainly agree that she’s a perfectly nice woman, but it’s not safe. We don’t know her well enough. And even then, it’s still dangerous. She might let it slip, might be tricked, or anything else. The fewer people who know a secret, the fewer people are likely to hear about it, okay? Your safety needs to be our first priority.”

            Ahisu nodded as well. “A danger.”

            “She’s not a danger,” Rika muttered, gaze on the ground. Which is why she didn’t see the look Damek gaze Ahisu.

            After several moments, the mage touched his staff to her shoulder. She looked up at him, surprised. “New spell,” he said.

            Rika groaned. “Not another one. I couldn’t do anything except make the paper fly yesterday. And you said you still don’t know what type of magic I have, so teaching me to use it is nearly impossible.”

            He snorted. “Easy spell.”

            “That’s what you said about the last one.” He glowered at her until she sighed. “Fine.”

            “Messenger spell. Message on paper. Send paper. Easy,” he said, pulling a sheet of folded piece of paper out of his sleeve and handing it to her.

            Rika frowned. “So I write the message on the paper then make it fly to whoever I want to read it?” When he nodded, she pursed her lips. “I guess I can do that. Making paper fly seems to be the only magic I’m good at.”

            Pulling a pen out of her satchel, Rika did her best to write “I’m doing magic” complete with smiley face exclamation point on the paper. The result was more than a little wavering, but still legible. When she was done, she held it carefully in her hands, doing her best to fall into the half-meditation state Ahisu had been teaching her.

            Only when she was calm and centred did she reach for her magic. Ahisu had said that everyone’s magic felt different to them, but they’d know it when they found it. Hers, at least she hoped it was her magic and not wishful thinking, was fizzy. When she reached for it, for some reason she always felt like it lived in the pit of her stomach, it’d start to fizz. The more she reached for, the stronger it felt, until it was like a science project’s volcano, all ready to explode.

            Shaping the magic into what she wanted, she held it until every detail felt right, then poured it out into the paper. For a second, the paper only sat there. Then it fluttered slowly upwards, the sides of it flapping almost like wings, before lazily soaring over to hover in front of Ahisu. He grabbed the paper, then handed it back to Rika. “Again.”

            She nodded, a faint wrinkle of concentration on her forehead. The way it moved, it didn’t look like it could go very fast, especially if it had to go far. She wondered if the she folded the paper, if that would affect its flight. Leaving that thought to percolate at the back of her mind, she concentrated on doing the spell again, this time trying to shove some speed in there.

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