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Something New

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The gardens of the Castle were growing more beautiful by the day, and Clef wasn’t the only person who had decided to come out into the sunlight for a while - there were at least two of the classes of young apprentices having lessons out in the air. They were using the little sheltered gardens down close to the base of the castle; Clef was making his way along the raised terrace which looped about the outside of those first gardens, on the clear path of grass at the edge of it. From there he had a good view out over both the little classes going on, as the terrace was twice his height.

So it was he spotted the trouble the moment it formed - a fire spell from the first class going awry and passing over the hedge between them and colliding with a lightning-ball being raised by someone in the second, the combination rolling up into a great mass that boiled away towards the castle at speed - not just the castle, but towards one of the buttresses which stabilised it. Which stood unprotected - he had taken the shield down more than a month ago - and worse, was the one which held the fuel stores for the kitchens and if that spell got near them-

Clef spun about, staff appearing in his hand as he gathered power and flung it out, throwing back up the shield he had held over the whole castle for so long with desperate urgency, even as the casters of the two original spells cried out, unable to drag their power under control. And neither of their teachers managed to stop it, but he knew the shape of the castle, the shape of this spell, almost better than he knew his own form; the light started up about the base of the building and shot for the skies.

Unfortunately in turning and throwing the shield, he completely forgot he was at the edge of the terrace, and his attempt to step sideways was a step into thin air; he felt the spell snap together half a second before he hit the ground.

oOo

He opened his eyes to see the sky high above him, painfully bright, and there was a stabbing pain in his leg which - well, the only thing he could compare it to was getting shot at by Autozam again. His head was coming a close second, followed by his shoulder, and then the light was blocked out by silhouette which spoke with Ferio’s voice. “What were you thinking? I saw you go over the edge from the other side of the gardens!”

“…That we didn’t want the Castle falling over?” Clef offered. He didn’t have to look to know it was still steady behind him, he could feel the shield he’d flung still in place about the structure. Some skills apparently didn’t fade if you didn’t practise them for a couple of months; holding a shield while unconscious was apparently one of them, even if you hadn’t set out to do so.

“What, one stray student spell was about to bring down the whole thing?” Ferio jumped down carefully beside him, and knelt down in the grass; at this angle, Clef could see his face, and from the expression on it decided he didn’t actually want to look at his leg right now.

“An accidental combination spell headed straight for one of the buttresses could have, yes.” Clef closed his eyes again, wincing. At least, when the shooting had been involved, he’d had something to focus on. “We should probably make the whole thing more stable sometime. I’m not an architectural expert, it could probably do with a bit of… tweaking?”

Ferio sighed. “Well, all the pillars that don’t touch the floor made that a little obvious. Didn’t you have building blocks to play with as a child?”

Clef shook his head, and regretted the action bitterly. “I - I remember using magic to make little play-houses for my toys out of the dirt and twigs in the garden?” He could feel his magic hissing through him, starting to spark off his skin in reaction to the pain, but he had never successfully learned how to cast a healing on himself. He wasn’t even good at it on other people.

Warmth wrapped over his hand as Ferio’s fingers took hold of his own, and Clef took hold gratefully, letting the touch ground him - there was something real beyond the pain. “Someone’s fetching a couple of healers. You should stay still, before you do something worse to yourself while we’re waiting.”

“Probably best,” Clef managed. He bit his lip against anything else, against the whimper which wanted to break free, and he’d been hurt worse than this before now - but he’d never hit his head like this before, and the thudding agony was starting to eclipse even his leg. He pressed his eyes as tightly shut as he could, against the light and the world.

The first gentle touch on his head, he thought he’d imagined; by the third, even his scrambled thoughts managed to understand that Ferio was stroking his hair, pushing it away from his face. Ferio kept talking, too, but a light commentary about how guilty the various students and their teachers looked, nothing that asked a response from Clef.

It probably wasn’t long before the healers arrived, even though it felt like it, and once they had the brisk efficiency of their magic wiped pain from his head and his leg and wrapped calm down his entire spine before he realised he was even hurting there. When he finally opened his eyes again, blinking against the sunlight but not feeling like it was trying to murder him anymore, Ferio was sat on the edge of the terrace he’d fallen from with a glass of water in his hand and another by his side.

“You sit and have a drink a moment, I’ll come back and check everything’s settled once we’ve sorted the rest of this out,” the healer said, and strode away across the lawn - not quite so beautiful now. It looked like a number of students had been startled enough to lose control of the attacks they were trying to cast; there were a number of them being seen to by the handful of healers who had responded to the call. Clef got himself up, and sat beside Ferio on the terrace, accepting the water gratefully.

“Thank you, Ferio,” he said, and he didn’t mean for the water.

Ferio was silent a long moment, then said “you did the same for me, once. When I was visiting Emeraude. I broke my leg - not as badly as you just did, that was impressive, I think I’m going to have nightmares - and you kept me calm until the healers came. I’d forgotten it entirely - forgotten who stayed with me. I mean, I forgot everything else too. It’s still hazy, here and there, and I don’t know if it’s because of the memory spell or just because I was a kid when things happened, but… I dreamed it, a couple of months ago. And I recognised your voice.”

For a long moment, Clef stayed quiet. He’d not met the Pillar’s young brother that often, but now it was mentioned, he remembered finding Ferio under the tree he’d fallen out of. “…You told me I couldn’t be a very good mage if I couldn’t cast healing spells, they were the most important kind.”

Snorting, Ferio shook his head. “I was a brat.”

“You weren’t wrong. The best spells are the ones which fix things. I’ve never been as good at them as I should have been.” Clef sipped his water, staring up at the Castle, at the place he’d had to build because he couldn’t fix Cephiro.

Then Ferio thumped him on the shoulder, just briefly. “But you’re the best I know at protecting what can be protected. Anyway, sometimes it’s best not to heal things; sometimes it’s best to build something new instead.”

“…I’m pretty happy they didn’t take my leg off and try giving me a new one, actually,” Clef said, and Ferio flung his head back to laugh, loud and clear, and the sound wiped away the last echoes of the pain in Clef’s chest. He sipped his water, and let the shield about the castle gently dissolve away into the warm air, its job done.

oOo