“Little miss. Little miss, we’re here. Wake up,” Salem said gently. I lifted my head from my stuffed wolf, bleery-eyed and sleepy. Salem picked me up then handed Hunter over to me. I rested my head on Salem’s shoulder.
“Have fun, kid. I hope you know what you’re doing.” Bruce said before Salem closed my car door and Bruce drove away. Salem paused for a moment. I followed his line of sight, A giant grey stone castle stood tall and proud, highlighted by the full moon. The towers were especially tall and there were eight towers. Huge towers. Wide towers. The whole castle was huge! It seemed to touch the sky with its pointy purple-topped roofs and shined with a light of lavender about it. Salem looked over his shoulder briefly to the wide canal that flowed under a drawbridge that allowed families to drop off their magical burden before driving away forever. I gripped Salem’s jacket with a free hand.
“You’re leaving me at the Arch,” I accused flatly. Salem’s grip on me tightened.
“No! . . . I’m coming with you. I’m training under the Hunter Alpha here, who, if I’m lucky, will give you to me as an assignment. Each Guardian is here to protect all Mages, but has a single Mage to watch specifically. I’m hoping you’ll be assigned to me,” Salem admitted.
He went up to the giant, lightly-colored wooden door with schwoopy metal designs that acted as both the decoration and security. There was a big, old fashioned golden key as the door’s knocker. Salem used it before took a step back. A man with light brown hair and big green eyes answered the door. He wore the uniform of the Hunters and the usual ‘I’m better’ smirk as well. Something Salem lacked.
“Recruit, good evening. I see you brought us a. . . child.” The man raised his eyebrow. “You know this is a school of Mages, yes? We’re not babysitting your accident,” the brunette mocked. Salem remained calm.
“This is a Mage-child.”
“Magic shows itself as early as six, you know, when adolescence comes into play? This girl is three at most,” the guardian dismissed.
“She IS a Mage! I’m bringing her here to keep her safe, and to teach her how to use magic!” Salem insisted. The guardian looked unimpressed, refusing to budge. “Fine, but don’t come crying to me once Aunt Medea knows you’ve turned away a Mage-child. It’s a rarity, yes, but not unheard of. The younger their signs show, the more powerful they usually wind up being.” Salem turned to walk towards the moat surrounding the castle.
“Wait!” the voice called. Salem stopped and turned to face the brunette guardian. He sighed again, but allowed us entry.
There was a loud ‘clack’ and the whole room we walked into brightened up, blinding me temporarily. The walls and floors were greystone, the area rug flattened over the main room of the entryway a deep purple. To the right was a fire place with a few red loveseats and a bookshelf on either side of its white marble mantel. To the left was a giant staircase leading to the upper portions of the castle. The wood matched everything from the bookshelf to the couches and stairs. Salem set me down on the couch.
“I’ll be right back, stay here,” he commanded. I nodded, and watched him go up the stairs. The brunette followed him, speaking softly until they were out of sight. I hopped over the back of the arm of the couch and headed for the door.
"Wait!" a voice whispered. I froze in place. Did Salem catch me?! I turned to see a young man with long blonde hair, sea bright blue eyes, and dressed in green and brown leather armor walking towards me with a small smile. He was shorter than the average man, from what I'd seen. His hair swished side to side with his walking.
"Hello, little Abilintle." He knelt down before me, holding out a rough, calloused hand. I am Cyrid," he whispered.
"Cy-rid." I let the name play on my tongue.
"It means Onyx-Spear." he translated. I tilted my head in confusion. "I belong to a clan of elves deep in the forest. We watch the castle, protect its people." Cyrid’s voice reminded me of a storyteller spinning his wonderful tales. "I'm here to turn you away from escaping the school, not right away. You will escape, yes, but give it time. You must learn all you can here, you will need it for the future. I will be here for you, whenever you need me." Cyrid sealed his promise with a kiss to my forehead before disappearing. I hurried over to the bookshelf staring at the book spines. I noticed a book was missing from the line up at about my eye level. Someone was probably reading it. I pulled out a white covered book with the same smooth material as was on Salem’s jacket. I plopped myself back onto the couch and opened the book. The words on the page were curvy and almost illegible. It looked as though it was written in pen and not how other books were fleshed out on a page. I flipped through a couple pages, finding words I could understand and putting them together. I was so focused on the words I didn’t notice that someone was here until they took the book from me.
“Noo! Mine-!” I looked up to see a woman in her mid-thirties looking down at me. Her long, peppered black hair spilled over her shoulder in a braid, she had moderately purple eyes, mocha skin in a dark purple dress with a yellow sash tied around her waist. She held the book up between her thumb and forefinger.
“It speaks,” Salem teased, coming around the couch to pick me up and set me on his lap.
“Salem, why did you bring me a child? You said you brought me a new student,” the woman said sharply. I pursed my lips. “Alistair, take her away, she’s not who I am looking for.” She turned her back to me and began to walk up the stairs.
“With pleasure.” I heard Alistair, the brunette, sneer. I flailed my arms wildly, which he blocked, picking me up by my collar.
“Wait! Aunt Medea!” Salem protested, grabbing ahold of my waist.
“STOP IT!” I screamed, and let out a burst of flaming energy. Waves of fire licked my surroundings before disappearing. CRUNCH! THUD. I hit the ground, but not too hard. I stood up, listening for signs of life. Nothing was sindged, nothing was burning, there wasn’t even a smell of smoke. I looked to the front door to see Alistair sitting up and rubbing his head, a dent in the wall the size of his head was there above him. I looked behind me to see Salem staggering to his feet, rubbing the back of his head too. The woman, Medea, looked at me over her shoulder, mirroring my own position.
"A young Mage girl? Mages don't normally show signs this early, unless. . ." She trailed off. "Where did you find her?!" she snapped.
"I-...she-" Salem couldn't get a word out. He shook his head, recovering himself. "She's Alan's daughter," Salem whispered. Medea’s eyes widened and her eyes flickered to me again.
"What is your name, little one?" she asked me. Her face was softened now.
"Abigale," I replied.
"And how old are you, Abigale?" she asked.
"Four." I held up four fingers. She looked on both sides of the room and back to me.
“Four,” she mouthed.
"Abigale, where are your folks?" asked Alistair. I shook my head.
"Hey! Don’t try to get info out of her! She's FOUR! Where is your humanity?!" Salem marched over, angered, and picked me up.
"Siding with the Mages could cost you one day as a Hunter, son. If she is as powerful as you claim she's going to be, then we should stem this problem now. Didn’t she just throw you across the room?" he said darkly.
“You attacked her!” Salem pointed out.
"Alistair!" Medea snapped. "How DARE YOU?! Manipulate a young Mage girl like that! She is one of my people, she is under my protection. Go report what went down here today, and don't leave out a single detail!" Medea commanded. Alistair sighed and huffed out of the room. "Salem, while she may be safest here, no place is truly safe for a Mage. Nephew of mine, I need you to stay here and guard this girl. There is something I must show you, but not with her. She will know when she is older...Alan always knew he was destined for greatness, always believed HE was the Mage to free us. Fathering the true Heroine of Mages, I suppose, is the next best thing." Medea said handed me a vial of blue liquid. I shook it, watching the bubbles form and float around. The way she spoke of ‘Alan’ was that of admiration and softness.
"So can she stay?" Salem inquired.
"She has to. She's a Mage.” Medea raised her eyebrow like that was obvious. “ With Alan Halestorm as her father, she's going to be very powerful. We don't know anything about her mother yet, so until we get that information, she's an unknown child.” Medea decided. I went back to shaking the vial of blue liquid.
“That is Essence, dear. Essence comes in all colors, but each color means a different thing. This Essence will restore the magic you used faster than sleeping or eating will. You will learn to make this once you’re old enough to join the classes. The others can’t know about her yet. She’s too young to be out of the castle, they could use her against us. She’s a rarity, extraordinarily rare. . . I hope you like children. Since you brought her here, she's sleeping with you until she's old enough to join the new bloods in the castle." Medea assigned.
"I get to sleep with a cute girl next to me every night? I'm ok with that." Salem nuzzled me.