Chapter 1: Difficulties
Dannyl hurried down the corridor pressing his lips together to prevent a sob escaping. He ducked into an empty room in a fairly deserted part of the university, closing the door and sinking down into a corner, his eyes burning. He was going to get kicked out of the guild for sure. The administrator had looked so disappointed and... disgusted with him. His stomach squirmed uncomfortably and he twisted his hands in his novice robes – if he’d known what the consequences would have been for kissing… no, don’t think about it.
His father had sent him a letter this morning telling him that if he was kicked out the guild, not to bother returning home. His Father. That had hurt.
Fergun looked so smug about the whole thing laughing with a group of his cronies in the corner of the lunch hall after Dannyl had left the administrators office, his face burning red, head down.
He didn’t know how he would manage to go into lessons tomorrow – everyone would know. His breathing quickened and he bit his sleeve to muffled the sob that made its way out of his mouth. Tears dripped down onto the floor, cutting tracks on his cheeks.
He stared at the knotted wooden floor until the shadows lengthened and the room darkened and gradually his breathing quietened.
Better go back to his room, before anyone realised where he was, he mused. No way would he brave dinner with all the other novices.
Creeping to the door he peered out checking the corridor was empty before slinking out. He stole along the carpet trying not to be too loud.
Rounding a corner, he exclaimed in surprise as he crashed into a magician coming in the opposite direction. His chemistry teacher, Lord Rothen, jumped and gave a short laugh,
“Sorry, Dannyl, didn’t expect to see anyone else here!”
Dannyl muttered an apology and attempted to duck past but Lord Rothen caught the edge of his robe and peered down at Dannyl’s face and then around at the clearly deserted dead end of the corridor.
“Are you alright, Dannyl? What are you doing down here?”
Dannyl ducked his head trying to conceal his puffy red eyes, he felt ashamed that Lord Rothen was nice enough to be concerned about him – everyone knew that his wife was dying of a sickness that the healers couldn’t cure and he was exhausted trying to look after her and his 4-year-old son. Out of the two of them he was definitely the more deserving of concern than Dannyl.
“Nothing, I’m fine – just got a bit lost, that’s all,” he said praying that Lord Rothen would accept his excuse.
Lord Rothen’s blue eyes narrowed and then softened as he looked at him.
“Ok, then.” He released his sleeve and turned to walk back to the main part of the university falling into step beside Dannyl. They passed the food hall and the smell of today’s dinner wafted out. Dannyl felt his stomach complain slightly but he bit his lip and continued past.
“Aren’t you going to have dinner?” Lord Rothen inquired, pausing by the door.
“Err, I’m not hungry,” Dannyl lied and quickly hurried away.
Lord Rothen looked after the retreating figure of the miserable novice thoughtfully. He barely noticed when Lord Yaldin approached him and noted his gaze.
“Poor boy,” His friend murmured, next to him.
“Yes, he’s not going to find the next few weeks easy,” Rothen shook his head and turned to grab some food – hopefully the cooks wouldn’t mind preparing something plain and simple for him to bring to his wife Yilara who was now bed ridden. His heart clenched and he gritted his teeth. Don’t think about it.
Yaldin was looking at him with sympathetic eyes; god, this whole thing was harder than he ever imagined it was going to be.
“You know if you ever need anyone to watch Dorrien for you Ezrille and I would be happy to look after him,” Yaldin offered and Rothen nodded, too drained to protest and pretend he was doing ok.
Later back in his room he watched his wife, sleeping, at peace for now. She had barely touched the plain broth he’d brought up for her and he trying not to let panic overwhelm him. He couldn’t imagine life without her, he couldn’t. All the plans they had made, everything they were going to do. Dorrien. At the thought of his young son, barely able to comprehend the idea of his mother not being a permanent fixture in his life, he felt tears escape his eyes.
“Gods, I can’t do this without you Yilara” he whispered pressing her hand to his lips. She shifted but didn’t wake, her pale hair fanning out over her pillow. She was still beautiful but her beauty was fragile like that of a guttering flame or dying poet. Her skin was stretched over her thin frame and her blazing green eyes were hidden by the delicate curve of her eyelids. When he looked into her eyes they were so strong, so vibrantly alive that he could forget about her illness, but not when she was asleep, then she was vulnerable and he couldn’t tear himself away from her side. Each breath was so far apart – he had to watch just to make sure…
Don’t think about it!
Dorrien was asleep finally, after being restless all evening, sensing his father’s desperation he had become even more difficult and Rothen had felt like he was breaking in two he was in so much pain. Breathing hurt like his lungs couldn’t get enough air, like seeing the people he loved most in all the world in pain stole oxygen from the space around him.
Outside the window the moon was partly obscured by scudding dark wisps of cloud but its silver glow touched Yilara’s cheek turning it to cool stone. She was so cold. Her chest lifted and fell then lifted and very slowly lowered and she seemed to shrink like something precious had escaped her lips. Rothen sat frozen turned to stone in the silver light. The room was so still and the air hung there, tense and silent. Finally, he inhaled a shaky breath... but Yilara did not.
His heart stopped.
“Oh gods, Yilara” He fell on his knees by the bed and gathered her into his arms pressing his head to her neck, breathing in her smell like violets on a summers day – tinged with sickness now. She was so slack in his arms. His shoulders shook and he cried, great gasping sobs that were so hard he barely made a sound.
The moon looked on coolly as a man lost his wife and lost control at the same time, blind in his grief to the small boy in oversized pyjamas listening next door, eyes wide, to the muffled sounds of his father’s morning.
Slowly as the sky lightened and the sun started to rise Rothen lifted his head. His wife looked so peaceful – curled in his arms. He shut his eyes and managed a small mental call.
-Yaldin, I need you, now. He sensed his friend’s acceptance and was grateful that he didn’t have to explain.
Time drifted though Rothen was unaware of its passing and it seemed like only seconds had elapsed when he heard a faint tap at the door and he mentally nudged it open. He heard light footsteps and clutched her a little closer fighting of the thought that soon he must let her go. Soon but not quite yet.
He looked up as he heard a faint gasp in the door way. His back and neck were cramped from kneeling on the floor for hours. His friend met his eyes and both were filled with tears.
“I’m so sorry Rothen.”
And at that he broke again pressing his face to her sobbing tears that dampened her thin nightgown, exhaustion and darkness swirling around his head. Never again would she smile the sweet happy smile that was just for him or Dorrien. Never again would she hold him so tight that he couldn’t breathe. Never again.
His friend came to the bed side and put his arms round his shoulders. Yaldin must have made some mental call because all to soon the room was flooded with people – Ezrille making tea and the healers gently prizing Yilara’s body from his arms straightening her limbs and pulled the covers over her. They softly nudged him out the room and he sank down onto one of the sofas, numb now. He focused on breathing as activity continued on around him. Then from a door they had all ignored until now came a small voice,
Everyone turned as Dorrien peered out his blond hair tousled and tear tracks on his cheeks. His lower lip wobbled as he looked at his father and then at the door to his mother’s room.
“Mummy!” He ran towards her room and Rothen wasn’t even aware of moving but suddenly his arms were around his struggling son who kicked and screamed at him and he swooped him up not wanting him to see his mother like that.
His warm body felt odd in arms so different to…
He buried his face in his son’s clean sweet hair and breathed.
The next week past in a blur. He wasn’t teaching, all he had to do was sit on the couch and accept condolences. Ezrille helped him with Dorrien who wasn’t speaking to anyone.
To soon he was standing in the cemetery in formal back robes with a crowd of other mourners, holding his son’s hand who – being too young for robes – was dressed in formal wear of the houses.
He stood by the grave as words were uttered and his wife was lowered into the ground forever. She had always hated the idea of being buried under cold stone and as soon as spring arrived Rothen planned to come back here with Dorrien and plant a tree above her grave.
God thinking about the future hurt but looking at Dorrien he knew he had to. He lowered his head and his dark hair fall into his eyes and he brushed it away impatiently – it was too long but with everything he hadn’t had time to get it cut. He felt bad, he should have been smart for her funeral. But he felt a smile pull at his cheeks, Yilara wouldn’t have cared. She would have laughed at the stuffy formality of it all. After all he could still hear her in the cry of the birds in the trees, in the light breeze that ruffled his hair and most of all in Dorrien.
And if people looked at him strangely as he walked back up to the guild with a spring in his step, swinging Dorrien’s hand, he didn’t care. He could do this, for her.
The news of Yilara’s death spread round the magician’s guild quickly and there was an air of sadness about the place. Even the novices were more subdued than normal, especially in Rothen’s covered lessons. But even that didn’t stop Fergun taunting Dannyl. He was less obvious about it though – he knew that he had won the battle that they had been fighting – there was nothing Dannyl could do to him that would affect him as deeply as his accusations has affected Dannyl. ‘Lad’ was scrawled on the insides of all his textbooks and he couldn’t help but feel a burning shame whenever he saw the word. He used healing magic, just a little, to keep the blood from rushing to his cheeks and showing how embarrassed he was each time.
It was impossible to ignore the whispers behind his back during lessons and he couldn’t concentrate on the lectures which in turn led to him making poorer notes than normal. Worst of all the teachers either didn’t care or some (including Lord Rothen’s replacement) actively showed their disdain for him. Using his bad work as an excuse he was moved to the back of the class by one of the healing teachers. Seeing Fergun’s smug face grin at that, made Dannyl want to punch him. Even the librarian wanted nothing to do with him when Dannyl tried to take out a book, she made some excuse and took it from him like he was going to damage it or something!
But letting Fergun see him angry would only add to his smugness so Dannyl drew on more healing magic to hide the effects of his anger.
Even so when he left the library (bookless) Fergun still cornered him with some of his friends.
Later that night in his room he healed away the results of their beating after they had overcome his magical shield. He curled up on his small bed and cried into his pillow. He couldn’t carry on going to lessons, he couldn’t. His marks had practically halved since ... the incident. He punched the stark white wall. Hard. And again. His knuckles split and blood trickled down his fingers. He let it hurt – didn’t try to magic the pain away. He fell asleep like that, with tears on his face and blood on his hands.
Two days after the funeral there was a guild meeting and drinks party and Lord Yaldin and Lady Ezrille insisted that Rothen attend. He sighed but secretly he was glad to have an excuse to get out of his rooms and stop moping. Some days were worse than others and only the need to look after Dorrien forced him to get out of bed then. Dorrien was so quiet. He was starting to get worried so he figured that the drinks party would be a good chance to have a chat with one of the healers, his friend Lady Vinara, to see if there was anything she would recommend.
This would be the first time in years that he would go out without Yilara on his arm and he caught his breath as his heart clenched. That hurt more than he expected it to. He belted his robe with alchemy purple and regarded his reflection in the mirror sadly. He used a little magic to heal away the bags under his eyes and sighed; his face looked like it had aged years in just a few months.
Dorrien was tucked up in bed and Rothen made sure not to disturb him as he left his suit of rooms.
He was a little late and the gathering was already well underway when he arrived. Magicians looked up in surprise when he entered. They probably were surprised to see him out, he had kept himself to himself for the last months of Yilara’s illness too emotionally drained to want to talk to anyone other than her.
Ezrille and Yaldin came up behind him and caught his arms. He managed a smile at the sight of them. As always they were eccentrically dressed, in their robes yes but Yaldin’s were patched in bright colours while Ezrille had purple feathers woven into her hair. A first they had attracted disapproval from the guild for never appearing to be smart but their dogged persistence of dressing in more and more crazy outfits had gradually gained most people’s grudging admiration. Yilara had liked their determination not to conform to societies standards too. Free spirits she had called them.
A glass of bubbling alcohol was pushed into his hand and Rothen regarded it with amusement.
“Whose, experiment is this?” He asked Yaldin, pointing to the bubbles. His friend grinned.
“Two novices who have just graduated, Lord Lorlen and Lord Akkarin.”
“Just graduated!? And everyone is drinking it! Are you mad – do you remember our first concoctions?” Rothen exclaimed in mock horror.
Ezrille laughed, “Just try it, they’re bright boys and no-one has complained yet.”
Yaldin pulled a hurt expression, “We were bright too.”
Her eyes gleamed with amusement, “not that smart! Do you remember the ‘extra potent’ stuff you made which knocked people out after half a glass?”
Rothen grimaced – that had been a head ache to remember, but ignored Yaldin’s weak protests in favour of taking a tentative sip of the light golden liquid. He laughed in surprise as bubbles ran up his nose.
A young man with a serious expression but light eyes appeared by his side,
“Do you like our creation Lord Rothen?” He inquired.
Rothen grinned, “very much Lord Lorlen, what are you calling it?” He watched with amusement as the younger man preened under his former teacher’s praise.
“I’m not sure,” Lord Lorlen said cheerfully,” perhaps Lokkarin.”
Yaldin snorted behind him and tried to cough to cover it up. “That reminds me, where is the other creator of this marvellous vintage? I heard he went traveling,” he questioned Lorlen who began to look uncomfortable.
“I don’t know exactly,” he said, “Akkarin hasn’t contacted me in weeks but he was near the border of Sachaka last time we spoke.”
Ezrille eyebrows rose in surprise but before she could comment Lady Vinara swept up to their group, elegant as always and the conversation turned back to greetings.
As soon as he decently could, Lord Rothen drew Lady Vinara aside and asked if he should be worried by Dorrien’s continued silence. Her lips pursed sympathetically as she listened to him.
“I wouldn’t be too worried, Lord Rothen,” she said, “he’s young and will probably start speaking more once he’s comfortable. You can’t force him too. Just try and get all his routines back to normal as quickly as you can.”
He nodded, relieved by her quiet confidence that it wasn’t to serious. Routines. He could do that.
The door to the hall opened and suddenly a hush spread over the crowd gathered there.
“Daddy?” A quiet little voice came from the doorway and Rothen froze. He hadn’t heard that in a while.
Heads started to turn his way as he pushed through the robed figures quickly.
His son stood, his back to the cold hallway, barefoot in oversized red stripy pyjamas, his blond hair stuck up in all directions comically on his head, looking around, wide eyed.
“I had a nightmare and I couldn’t find you!” Dorrien said accusingly and started to cry, scrunching his hands into fists, pressing them into his eyes to try and stop the tears leaking out. Rothen felt a surge of guilt and felt on his knees wrapping his arms around his son, feeling shivers run through his small body.
“I want mummy,” Dorrien sobbed louder and Rothen tried to block out the sorrowful, pitying stares he was receiving.
“I know, I’m sorry, I’m here,” he said, biting his lip trying to hold himself together for his child. Yilara had always been better at soothing away nightmares, he thought and buried his face in Dorrien’s shoulder. His son’s tears wet his neck and they grieved together for a moment. Rothen stood up, lifting Dorrien onto his hip and strode out of the hall into the darkness of the corridor to take his boy home, ignoring the sympathetic crowd of magicians behind him.
Dorrien fell asleep exhausted when they got back just as soon as he had extracted a promise from Rothen to stay beside him. Rothen bowed his head as he sat, perched on the side of his son’s small bed, his face hidden in shadow as he used one hand to smooth the hair back from Dorrien’s forehead.
Tomorrow, he decided, tomorrow, he would put his life back together, he would go back to teaching and he would ensure Dorrien got all his routines back. He yawned and curled up around his child, cradling him in his arms as he drifted off into sleep, a determined frown on his face.
Chapter 2: Help
Dannyl slunk into the dining hall the next day shoulders hunched and a sullen hangdog expression on his face. He accepted his breakfast tray without a word from a large server who regarded him distastefully as he took a seat in the far corner of the room trying to keep well out of the way of the other novices. Heads still turned to look at him and he noted disapproving expressions from the adults and cruel sneers from the youngsters. He scowled down at the floor as he picked at his food viciously.
From the other side of the room, Rothen regarded Dannyl thoughtfully as he tried to persuade Dorrien to eat his porridge. No matter how hard Rothen tried to pretend the laden spoon was a train and his mouth the tunnel, Dorrien wasn’t buying it and sat back stubbornly, arms crossed. Rothen couldn’t really blame him – it did look unappealing – and he put down the cutlery and focused on the young unhappy novice opposite him. Ezrille had told him that there had been an incident with an older novice and Dannyl had been nearly expelled but that was weeks ago and still he sat alone. Clearly he wasn’t having an easy time of it.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dorrien pick up the spoon and poke curiously at the grey slop on his plate. Rothen determinedly didn’t look at him as the boy lifted the spoon to his mouth and licked it experimentally. He quickly whipped his head round to catch him in the act and Dorrien jumped, dropping the spoon before bursting out laughing and Rothen tickled him and swung him out of his seat drawing glances from other magicians. Most families did not live in the guild so young children were not particularly common. He would have to make an effort to find Dorrien some playmates, he thought.
He fetched some sugar and gradually persuaded Dorrien to eat the sweetened porridge before taking him to Ezrille and Yaldin who would look after him while Rothen was teaching.
Dannyl decided he had to get back at Fergun somehow for making his life hell and as he made his way to chemistry he plotted how he could catch him unawares, without his friends, and overpower him. Fergun was weak magically and Dannyl could beat him but only if he was alone. Perhaps in the evening as most people would be heading back to their rooms and he could corner him outside.
He was so deep in vengeful thoughts that he didn’t look up as he entered Rothen’s classroom and so didn’t see the foot the was stuck out in front of him. He went flying and all his books flew out of his arms he landed in a heap on the floor. Everyone sniggered and another boy accidently/ on purpose knocked an ink bottle over and blue ink splattered all over his notes and his robes. Furious and humiliated, Dannyl leapt to his feet, his cheeks on fire and ran out the classroom so they wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes.
Rothen had looked up startled by the crash of the bottle just in time to see a flash of red cheeks and glazed black eyes as Dannyl vanished out the door and gales of laughter broke out in his classroom. He sighed, children could be so cruel.
“Galen, pick up Dannyl’s books,” he ordered the closest boy and with a grimace the brown haired boy obeyed.
“And wipe that look of your face,” Rothen snapped, suddenly furious with the pettiness of it all.
“Sit down and turn Chapter 5 page 32, read all of it, I don’t want to hear a peep out of any of you for the next half hour.” He accepted the messy pile of notes from Galen and put them on a corner of his desk, while in shocked silence his class did as they were told.
Absentmindedly Rothen picked through Dannyl’s notes while the class read, trying to return them to a semblance of order and drying them off at the same time. He noticed that they were scrappy and disorganised, especially the more recent ones and he sighed – clearly the boy’s social struggles were affecting his work. He decided that he would have to keep an eye on this particular novice.
After the lesson, Rothen sent out a mental call.
-Yes? A slight feeling of surprise accompanied the reply.
-Would you come to my classroom? I have your notes.
-I.. Rothen sensed reluctance from the young man.
-Of course, I will be there in a minute. I’m sorry.
-It’s no trouble.
While he waited for Dannyl, he decided to ask him if he needed any extra help with his chemistry. From his notes it certainly looked that way.
He heard a light knock at the door and glanced up to see Dannyl hovering nervously, biting his lip.
“Hello Dannyl,” Rothen smiled reassuringly – not really sure why the novice seemed so nervous of him – he had never treated him badly and was pretty sure he was known for being one of the less stern teachers (though it was not a reputation he wanted to cultivate especially when he was one of the younger teachers). He handed Dannyl his notes and the boy took then without even glancing at them as if he didn’t care about them at all. Rothen frowned and then hastily schooled his face into a more neutral expression as Dannyl’s eyes widened and he looked more uncomfortable than ever.
“Dannyl,” Rothen began, looking over the, way too thin, pale novice critically, noting the way he held himself with shoulders slumped, head lowered most of the time letting his overly long black hair fall in his face. He hesitated wanting to ensure that Dannyl accepted his offer.
“Would you like a bit of extra help with your chemistry? I couldn’t help but notice that you appear to be having a little difficulty with some of the concepts,” He gestured to Dannyl’s notes.
“I think we have enough time before the exams to ensure you get these properly sorted out. We could meet once a week to get you back on track.”
Dannyl was actually looking at him now appearing shocked and Rothen internally winced at the boys red rimed eyes, either from tears or lack of sleep, having seen similar in the mirror for the past month.
The boy hesitated, “Thank you Lord Rothen but I wouldn’t want to bother you…”
“It’s no trouble,” Rothen broke in quickly, trying to reassure him, “why don’t you come to my rooms this evening and we can sort out chapter 4 for a start?”
Dannyl looked at the floor, a crease in between his eyebrows.
“Ok” so quite Rothen barely heard it.
He smiled gently, “great – I will see you at seven, bring your notes and some more paper.”
The boy nodded and Rothen stood up – he had time to check in on Dorrien before his next lesson – and moved past him.
A small voice come from behind him, “thank you.” And he smiled and opened the door and turned to usher Dannyl out before him (strictly speaking the novices weren’t supposed to be left in classrooms by themselves.)
“I’ll see you later – don’t be late,” he warned and hurried back towards Yaldin and Ezrille’s rooms.
Dannyl walked back to the library in a daze, trying to squash a fluttering hope that lifted his chest. Lord Rothen actually wanted to help him. He knew he needed it – he had paid so little attention in class recently and when he did the words seemed to dart past his ears like fish, sparkling and too quick to catch. He felt so isolated among his peers and his chest had clenched in panic at his lack of comprehension. It was like being in a foreign land.
At night when he lay awake fuming at Fergun and feeling the panic of not getting the lessons he felt something inside him slip and the air around him would get so hot, it shimmered. That was the scariest thing – it felt like he was losing Control. And that was basic, taught when novices’ magic was first unlocked.
He took a deep breath. Staying calm was key to remaining in control and he drew a little magic to sooth away the effects of his panic and fear.
He was good at doing that now, he barely had to think about it.
Luckily he manged to avoid Fergun for the rest of the day. The novice seemed to know that he’d won – that he had utterly beaten Dannyl – and this appeared to have satisfied him to the point where he barely looked at him.
Still Dannyl avoided supper just in case and collected extra paper from his room as well as a fresh nib for his pen (his old one had started to split) before striding to Lord Rothen’s rooms at the other end of the building.
He was 5 minutes early and he could hear a murmur of voices inside as he knocked on the warm, wooden door. It swung open soundlessly and two faces turned to look at him.
Dorrien utterly refused to eat green vegetables, even the ones that looked like trees. This was why his dinner had taken longer than Rothen had expected it too and he had forgotten the time until Dannyl knocked on the door.
Dorrien looked up at the both of them.
“I won’t eat it.”
“But you have too,” Rothen protested weakly, “they look like little trees – you could be a giant munching off the top of them.” He demonstrated and then glanced at Dannyl in exasperation with his mouth full as Dorrien stubbornly shook his head and folded his arms.
Dannyl felt old for a moment and realised that a laugh was bubbling up in his chest and tried to smother a smile. Rothen saw his eyes crinkle at the corners and mock glared at the boy.
Dannyl took pity on his teacher and crouched beside Dorrien. “You have to eat these, even though they are yucky otherwise you won’t grow big and strong,” he said, remembering how his mother had persuaded him to eat his vegetables.
Dorrien’s wide blue eyes watched him for a moment looking for a hint of deception,
“Like you?” the little boy queried. Dannyl paused, he wasn’t really a model of masculine aspirations.
“Yes,” Rothen affirmed, ignoring Dannyl’s hesitation.
Dorrien heaved a put upon sigh and slowly with much reluctance munched his way through his greens. Rothen looked at Dannyl in hero worship,
“You’re tutoring has been increased to nightly sessions,” he whispered, and for the second time in 5 minutes Dannyl was fighting of the urge to laugh.
Rothen gave Dorrien a picture book and left him on the sofa while he gestured for Dannyl to put his paper down on a scratched oak desk by the window. He drew up an extra chair and they sat at the desk together.
“Which concepts have been giving you most trouble then?” Rothen said, picking up the notes that he had brought and Dannyl froze. How could he possibly answer that? He barely had any idea what the concepts were.
Rothen glanced at him understandingly.
“Don’t worry, it always seems overwhelming when you get stuck behind – but we’ll get you caught up in no time. How about we start from the beginning of chapter 4 and I’ll teach afresh and you can tell me to slow down or speed up?”
Dannyl nodded, looking at his knees.
Rothen gave him a smile and picked up a battered textbook from the corner of the desk, “so part one, the reactions of acids…”
That night back in his room, for the first time in several days, Dannyl felt the tight knot of panic in his chest ease a bit. Lord Rothen’s explanations had been clear and without the other novices to distract him – he could actually focus on the words. He could have cried with gratitude. At the end Lord Rothen had asked him if he was having difficulties with any of his other subjects and nodded understandingly at Dannyl’s stumbling explanation that he was sort of struggling with all of them. Lord Rothen suggested he come back every 2 days and he could go over some of the healing course as well.
The next day he was able to relax more in classes and suddenly he didn’t feel like the whole rooms attention was on him anymore. Still he sobered every time he opened any of his books and saw the word ‘lad’ scrawled accusingly there. He wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Midweek came and went and Dannyl started organising his life feeling more in control as he did so. He even made a revision timetable for his exams in the summer when he was feeling particularly optimistic.
Just before his third lesson with Lord Rothen, Fergun approached him outside the university, brushing his pale blond hair out of his face.
“What does Lord Rothen want with you?” he asked, a tinge of jealously in his tone though Dannyl did not recognise it.
Dannyl glared at him and for the first time realised he was taller than the other novice.
“None of your business,” he snapped.
Fergun smiled cruelly and leaned forward to whisper, “Don’t tell me you fancy him too – Isn’t he a bit old for your tastes?”
A jolt of fury curled through Dannyl’s fists and Fegun’s head snapped back as Dannyl punched him in the mouth. The blond novice stumbled back against the modern brick wall behind him. Fergun quickly through up a shield and stared up at the taller boy, blood dribbling from between his white teeth and running down his chin. Something unidentifiable entered his eyes before he turned and ran off to the healers’ quarters.
A rush of adrenaline shot through Dannyl and he started at his fists in amazement. God, that was satisfying! A vicious, victorious smile slowly spread over his face.
He was running late for Rothen’s lesson on the final day of the week and so was the last to arrive in the classroom. Sniggers erupted as he approached his desk and dread rose in him as he looked at the wooded table top. ‘Lad’ was carved into the surface along with a couple of explicit, vulgar pictures. His cheeks burned and he looked around desperately only to meet Fergun’s smug grin from the back of the class as the other novices burst out laughing and Lord Rothen looked up angrily at the disruption.
“WHAT IS GOING ON?” he exploded as he stood up and met Dannyl’s eyes.
He strode over to his desk and looked at it in silence for a moment.
“who did this?” he queried very quietly. All the novices started at the ground. None of them looked at Dannyl or Fergun.
A cocky voice piped up unwisely from beside Fergun, “Aw, come on, we just wanted to show everyone what he is – none of the other teachers seemed to mind us doing this.” Galen grinned up at Lord Rothen, brown eyes glinting cruelly.
Lord Rothen’s normally light blue eyes darkened with fury.
“All of you will receive detention after classes for the next month,” he growled and his shoulders were very stiff.
“And If I ever hear of anything like this happening again, you’ll wish detention was all you had.”
Dannyl felt shame and gratitude rise in his chest in equal measures and he turned and walked out the class. There was no way he was going to sit at his desk right now.
Chapter 3: Control
Dannyl walked out of the building and kept going until he was out of the university and into the town. He passed brightly coloured houses filled with people and he started running and couldn’t stop until he found himself outside the cities walls, surrounded by green. He sank to the ground, put his head between his knees and just breathed trying, not to lose Control.
Why was Fergun so horrible? He was so tired of it, every single day.
And in front of Lord Rothen as well.
He sighed, he just wanted to get his exams done and out of the way. Other than being a magician he was nothing.
The other boy had had his powers blocked when he had been sent away. He would hate to lose what he had always wanted.
The rumour wasn’t even true anyway, he told himself.
Dannyl stayed there, outside the city, just watching the sun slowly sink beneath the horizon – lost in thought.
Eventually he shook himself with a start and looked around wiping his wet cheeks with the back of his sleeve.
He gradually picked himself up and turned back to the guild, to his home and stumbled on a mound of dirt. With a start he looked around him. A perfect circular crater surrounded him and he felt a rushing in his ears. He hadn’t even felt his magic slip out! Bile rose in the back of his throat and he remembered a novice in the year below him who had lose Control – the charred walls and sickening smell.
With horror he rushed back towards the guild, back towards Lord Rothen.
Standing outside his teacher’s warm, golden suit of rooms Dannyl leaned his head against the door and hesitated. When Novices learned control for the first time, they had to let another magician into their head to teach them. He was an intensely private person, especially now… Don’t think about it.
A soft mummer of voices drifted out into the cold stone corridor, dim now as the night drew in.
Dannyl half turned to go – how could he justify interrupting his teacher? The man had just lost his wife and had a young child to look after for god’s sake! That wasn’t fair. He should just go; his control would come back.
God he hated Fergun; why couldn’t he have picked anyone else to torment?
Hot angry tears pricked his eyelids and he gnawed his bottom lip.
It was getting late – he would talk to Lord Rothen tomorrow – and he twisted round to walk away from the golden glow of comfort from Lord Rothen’s rooms and into the uninviting greyness of the long walk back to his room, when the door opened behind him and Lord Yaldin emerged from Lord Rothen’s rooms half chuckling… and stopped when he saw Dannyl.
“What are you doing here?” The eccentric alchemist asked, startled - this was nowhere near the novices’ quarters.
Lord Rothen materialised behind him.
“Dannyl!” He exclaimed in surprise and paused shocked at the tears still visible on the young man’s face. Dannyl jumped and hesitated, torn behind trying to disappear into the shadows and explaining. He was so tired of being scared.
“It’s not fair!” he burst out angrily and more frustrated tears leaked from his eyes.
Rothen hadn’t expected to find Dannyl outside his rooms that evening – after the fiasco in his classroom earlier, he was sure the boy wouldn’t turn up for his evening tuition and it was hours later then their normal time anyway.
When Dannyl broke down outside his room he quickly gestured to Yaldin not to question it and ushered Dannyl into his rooms. Yaldin followed clearly curious and Dorrien looked up sleepily from where he was perched on the sofa.
He had to admit he was surprised; Dannyl normally looked so composed and whenever he was upset he just disappeared – like this afternoon for instance.
Rather than sitting at the desk as he usually did – Dannyl strode over to the wall by the window and punched it. Hard.
Yaldin exclaimed in anger and surprise as the wall splintered under Dannyl’s hand – clearly it wasn’t as well build as Rothen had thought.
Suddenly the air around them shimmered and began to get very hot very quickly.
Rothen looked around in surprise and through up a hasty shield in front of himself and Dorrien – noting Yaldin doing the same.
He stared at Dannyl, dear god if he was upset enough to lose Control…
Thinking quickly, he gesticulated to Yaldin to take Dorrien away – he didn’t want his son to have to witness this if Dannyl couldn’t regain Control…
Yaldin sent him a worried glance and grabbed Dorrien’s hand.
-I’ll bring help, he sent.
-Don’t worry about it. Close the door behind you, Rothen responded briefly, before focusing on Dannyl, dimly noting Yaldin doing as he asked.
Dannyl glared at the wall in a haze of fury and slammed his hands into it again and again, feeling with satisfaction the wood give under his knuckles, splinters digging under his skin as he ripped the panel out of the wall. He wanted to destroy something – to hurt his body as much as his head was hurting.
He wasn’t even aware of the air burning about him until he felt strong arms lock around his chest – half pinning his arms and Lord Rothen’s deep voice came from by his ear,
“Dannyl, calm down – its ok, I’ve got you.”
He struggled and let out an angry sob.
“Let me go!” He yelled. “I don’t care anymore – let me go! I’m sick of it – of everything,” he babbled, crying so hard now he could barely breath and Rothen just hung on weathering the storm.
“It’s ok Dannyl, It’s ok, I’ve got you.”
“No you don’t!” Dannyl exploded and tried again to escape, twisting in Rothen’s grip but Rothen was stronger and he couldn’t break free.
Gradually Dannyl’s struggles weakened and Rothen tipped him onto the sofa holding his shoulders so he couldn’t get up and dragged a chair over with magic so he could sit opposite the novice.
He felt sweat bead on his brow – it was so hot…
Dannyl looked up at Lord Rothen, trying to focus on his teachers face. He felt all wrong inside like something had come lose and he trembled and he felt magic slip out.
“Dannyl, focus on me. Look at me. It’s ok.” Lord Rothen spoke to him earnestly. And he didn’t look… why didn’t he look angry?
“Dannyl, I know this is going to be hard but you need to let me inside your mind. We need to give you back Control of your magic – It’s ok, we can fix this - we just need to go over the basics again.” Privately Rothen wondered if Dannyl would let him. He knew the novice had secrets and he hadn’t let the administrator inside his head to confirm his guilt or innocence over the whole issue with the other novice. Was that because it was true?
He shook his head; he should save his speculations for a more appropriate time and focused his attention on the trembling novice opposite him.
Dannyl bit his lip, just get it over with, he knew this was a possibility when he had first felt his magic slip and managed a small nod.
He felt Lord Rothen sigh with relief and his teacher took his thin, bloody hands in his large ones.
Dannyl closed his eyes and pictured the room in his mind. It was fairly sparse but he noted with some embarrassment it had started to look a little like Lord Rothen’s rooms with the same warm furniture making an appearance. The door to his magic was the only non-familiar part. He frowned, it looked battered and worn.
He felt Lord Rothen’s mental knock.
-Can I come in?
Dannyl took a deep breath and strode over to open the door for him. Rothen stood outside in a fuzzy and unclear street. He smiled at Dannyl and stepped inside as the novice backed away to make room for him.
-Show me your magic.
Dannyl nodded and gestured to the battered door in the corner of the room.
He tried to focus in remaining calm and desperately tried not to think about…
He yanked his mind away. It was impossible, trying not to think about something important.
His eyes widened as he spotted the boy in one of the picture frames behind Lord Rothen. The older boy winked at him and smiled. He caught his breath for a moment.
The picture grew as he focused on it and the boy’s sea green eyes moved closer, closer… filling the picture frame. He looked like he was about to k..
No. His mental shout was loud.
Lord Rothen jumped.
He started to turn and Dannyl panicked and pushed Lord Rothen and his room grew and distorted and suddenly Lord Rothen was staring at him from across a gulf, looking at him anxiously. Then he vanished and Dannyl opened his eyes with a gasp.
Lord Rothen rubbed his temples ruefully.
“Ah, I had forgotten the joys of teaching Control,” He muttered self-deprecatingly.
“I.. I’m sorry,” Dannyl bit his lip.
Lord Rothen waved a hand, “don’t worry about it. But you know how to control your mind,” he said, “you don’t have to show me anything you don’t want to. Just put it in boxes or behind doors, remember.”
Dannyl nodded, god he was such an idiot like a first year novice.
“Ok we’ll try again.”
Lord Rothen picked up his hands and looked him in the eye for a moment. Earnest blue eyes met miserable black ones.
And for some reason, Dannyl did.
He opened his mind again and directed the alchemist straight to the door to his magic, ignoring the picture frame at the other side of the room.
Lord Rothen frowned when he saw the state of the door.
-First things first, let’s put a solid door there.
Dannyl concentrated and the door changed to a solid warm wooden door – exactly the same as the one into Lord Rothen’s rooms.
He bit his lip, embarrassed but his teacher didn’t seem to notice.
-Ok, show me your magic.
And Dannyl opened the door.
Lord Rothen winced, and Dannyl grimaced – his usual ball of magic was misshapen and all over the place. It was glowing and moving like it was alive.
-Ok all you need to do was bring it back into a sphere again.
Dannyl glanced at him,
Lord Rothen smiled,
-yes it only requires a small amount of concentration once you’ve got the idea of visualising it mentally.
Dannyl focused and slowly the glowing mess began to resemble a ball again.
He exhaled with relief as the thing inside him didn’t feel so lose anymore and Lord Rothen gently drew them out of his room and back into the real world.
“Thank you!” Dannyl gasped and Lord Rothen smiled,
“It’s fine, you just need to go into your mind every evening for a week and ensure your magic remains in a sphere – its most stable form – and then you shouldn’t even need to think about it after that.”
Dannyl stared at him in relief – he had Control!
He lay back against the sofa and sighed.
Lord Rothen looked at him and chuckled, “you rest there for a bit, I’m just going to ring for some tea.”
Dannyl nodded and closed his eyes just for a moment…
Rothen asked Tania his servant for the drinks and smiled as he turned to see Dannyl fast asleep on the sofa.
His smile faded as he saw the novices bloody torn hands and broken wooden panel.
-Yaldin? He called.
-Rothen is everything alright? Yaldin’s reply was tinged with worry.
-Fine, Dannyl is under Control. Is Dorrien ok?
-He’s fast asleep – do you want me to bring him up?
-No leave him, I need to speak to Lady Vinara first, I’ll pick him up later.
-OK, see you then. Poor Dannyl, I’m glad he’s alright. I heard that he’s been having a hard time. Concern, unworded, drifted along with the message.
-You could say that. Thank you Yaldin.
Rothen sighed, rubbed his temples again in an effort to stave off a headache and reached out to the healer.
-Lord Rothen, how can I help? Her reply oozed a calm practicality.
-Do you think you could drop by my rooms? I have a novice – Dannyl – in need of medical attention.
-What’s happened? The words were punctuated with a sharp burst of anxiety and Rothen winced, he hadn’t meant his request to sound so worrying.
-It’s not too serious, he has just damaged his hands.
He felt her give a mental sigh,
-Ok I’m on my way.
-Thank you. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
-Don’t be sorry, you recused me form a very dull conversation. He felt her amusement and dropped the mental connection.
He turned back to Dannyl and quietly picked a blanket of the back of the sofa and draped it over the sleeping novice. Dannyl shifted but didn’t wake and Rothen collapsed in another chair and pushed his, really too long now, hair back and groaned.
Soon there was a timid tap at the door and he waved it open to let Tania in with a tray. Her eyes widened upon seeing Dannyl, he frowned at her indicating that she should not disturb him. She bobbed a curtsey and he whispered his thanks for the tea before she left.
He inhaled the fresh scent of the brew gratefully before taking a far too hot sip.
Presently there was another knock at the door and Lady Vinara swept into the room. She took in the shattered wood panel, Dannyl’s bruised and bleeding hands and Rothen’s tired expression with a glance and moved quietly to Dannyl’s side.
He watched her take first his left and then his right hand in hers and saw splinters lift out and the wounds close and disappear. She collected water in the air and used a corner of her robe to wipe the blood form his hands.
Dannyl sleepily opened his eyes and yawned. Lady Vinara smiled at him.
“How are you feeling Dannyl?”
He looked around and found Rothen and gave a tremulous smile.
‘Better, I think,” He offered.
She pressed a hand to his forehead in a tender gesture.
“Come on then, back to the novices block with you.” She helped him up and Rothen stood too and opened the door for them.
Dannyl paused and looked at his teacher.
“Thank you Lord Rothen,” he said formally and Rothen smiled back at him.
“Come back tomorrow afternoon – we still have a lot of work to catch up on.”
And then he flat out laughed at the surprised expression on Dannyl’s face.
“You still want to do that?” Dannyl looked genuinely unsure and Rothen hastened to reassure him,
“Never fear, I value your education over my walls,” His blue eyes crinkled at Dannyl’s mortified countenance.
“Sleep well!” He called and closed the door, still smiling.
A little later after finishing his tea he headed down to Yaldin and Ezrille’s rooms to collect Dorrien. He met Ezrille’s worried expression at their door and cheerfully reassured her that all was well. She sighed at him but gestured to Dorrien who was sleeping peacefully on their sofa. He scooped up his son, cradling his warm thin body in his arms as he thanked his friends for looking after him.
Just as he was leaving he called back over his shoulder,
“oh I’ve decided to be Dannyl’s guardian,” And he quickly left before they could question him, a wide smile on his face for the first time since Yilara died. He felt purposeful again – maybe he wasn’t completely whole but he was close enough and for now that was alright.