- Project: Inbetween
- Chapter: Fifty Four
- Word count: 1,741
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In a week’s time, Willow moved from theory to practice. She never expected things to move this fast, but it appeared that she was a quick study. Rashne was an enthusiastic teacher, which only helped accelerate Willow’s rate of learning.
She had a feeling her lessons were given such priority and went on for so long each day because Rashne was lonely. The other priests were all at least twice his age and aside from them the only other people he saw in an average day were the miners who delivered the ore. Those deliveries were sporadic these days as Alenna’s visit continued to disrupt the normal operations of the mine so Rashne was even more isolated than usual.
This resulted in Willow learning more than she ever thought possible in a very short span of time. She was interested int he topic an willing to learn so the process was essentially painless. She could not remember the last time she had such an apparent aptitude for a subject she studied. It almost made her regret the disdain she expressed for magic back in her own world. Perhaps her aunt had been correct all along and she really did have a talent for magic. If that was the case, she regrettably spent the better part of the last decade resisting what might be her greatest talent.
She tried not to let herself focus on regrets. There was no way for her to know if there was anything she could have learned in her world that could have better prepared her for the situation she now found herself in. Everything was familiar but still so alien to her that she doubted anyone in her family knew the sort of things she was now learning from Rashne. As far as she could tell, magic was magic no matter where she was, but the rules differed between worlds. Learning those rules was by far the hardest part of her lessons. She grew up just knowing the ways things worked and her disinterest caused her to never question the reason things were the way they were.
Even now she wanted nothing more than to get to the practical side of things. Her primary objective had been to learn about the nature of magic in this world so she would stop getting blindsided by qualities in herself that other people noticed and interpreted as somehow significant. She learned the basics about the importance of the number three and how it provided balance in so many ways in this world.
Rashne showed her the careful arrangement and fine-tuning necessary for each vein of elemental ore brought to the priests. Pretty much everyone was capable of using the stones after the ritual was performed, but it was less common for someone to have enough magic to perform the rituals.
Now she knew why Alenna had responded with surprise when she revealed Yuri’s ability to summon knives. It was not an unheard of skill, but it was unusual enough to be of interest. Now that she knew more about the nature of magic in this world, she took the time to look at Yuri’s knives. Her knowledge of the symbols she saw there told her that he used them to perform the feat of magic. Her lessons at this point did not give her the ability to interpret the symbols and know exactly how they worked, but she was at least able to recognize the way Yuri’s magic worked now.
She was glad to finally know enough to start making sense of the world she was living in. There had been so many significant little details that she missed because she was a stranger in this world.
The only part of her lessons that troubled her was getting confirmation that her own magic was strange in this world. People that used symbols and rituals to make magic happen were rare enough. People like her were almost unheard of, according to Rashne.
Willow was proud of the fact at first. It was a bit of a thrill to hear that she was special. After feeling a bit neglected and left out of the loop lately it was just the sort of thing she needed to hear. As it was explained to her in greater detail she started to realize it was not such a great thing after all.
Many people with more potent magic, ones like Rashne and Yuri who could perform feats with runes and rituals under the right conditions, were often given little choice about joining the priesthood. It was a necessary function of society in this world, at least from everything she was learning lately it seemed like the most fundamental aspect of life in this world.
Obviously, this opinion was at least slightly biased, but she was able to see some truth in it. People that were different, but served a purpose were at least tolerated and at best respected.
Although it was just in conversation rather than in her official lessons, she did learn in her time in the temple that there were some people in this world that had a sort of inner magic like her. They were feared by pretty much everyone in this world because it was known that they could do. That meant she would be feared too if word got out about the sort of magic she was capable of. The hardest part of it all was realizing that she was probably worthy of their fear.
She could hurt the people of this world. She might have been essentially harmless in her own world, but here she was capable of causing great damage. Now that she had a general base of knowledge regarding the way this world’s magic worked and exactly where she fit on the magic spectrum, she realized it was more important now than ever to keep her abilities from being widely known.
She did not want to be feared or to be hated for something she had no choice about being. She had faith that she could prevent herself from accidentally hurting anyone. So far she had never had a problem with holding back her magic, but she knew better than to count on other people having that much faith in her.
There was still a lot she needed to learn from Rashne. He was exactly the sort of teacher she needed. He was friendly and conversational and not the least bit afraid to answer her questions with more honesty than she had received from anyone in a long time.
When Willow found out they were leaving so soon after her lessons had started she contemplated asking to stay behind. There was still so much more she could learn and the idea of trying to start over again with a different teacher in another place seemed like an absolute waste of time.
At the same time, staying behind sounded terrifying. She only had so many friends in this world. Separating from them seemed like a terrible risk. Not only would she be making herself more isolated if she stayed behind, but she realized now that the idea of being separated from Yuri and Asa was intolerable.
Their departure was more than sudden. One moment their day was going about as normal and the next another ship landed with an urgent message for Alenna. The messenger from the airship was in conference with Alenna for less than five minutes before she left the private counsel and passed through the house in a whirlwind, informing everyone to pack their bags and be prepared to set sail first thing in the morning.
Shock and confusion were their initial reactions. Then Willow grew angry. She was starting to get answers and now that opportunity was being taken away. It felt unfair after the amount of worry and distress Alenna caused her. She finally managed to start to feel secure again and now the connection between her and the source of her increased sense of security was being severed.
She did not bother to hide her frustration while packing up her meager possessions. Yuri and Asa packed up silently as well, but every time she looked up she caught one of them looking at her.
Finally, she gave up trying to keep it all inside and sat down on the floor with a frustrated sigh. “I can’t believe we’re leaving so suddenly.”
“Alenna’s been called away,” Yuri said with a shrug. “What other option do we have? We can’t stay here by ourselves. We’re guests of Alenna and her family. Where else would we stay? What would we do if we stayed here?”
She knew he was right. They could not stay in Mason’s home indefinitely. If they did not leave they would need to find their own home and a way to pay for it. The options for such arrangements were almost nonexistent in a community of this size.
Even so, a part of her wanted to stay. She knew that she could still learn more if she just had the time to take the opportunity. That seemed like it would not happen now and the loss made her more than a little irritable.
“Are we just going to go back to live with Alenna and wait some more?” she demanded. She tried her best not to raise her voice, but she failed to keep the sharp edge she originally intended to use.
“I hope not,” Yuri replied through gritted teeth.
Asa moved to sit on the floor between Willow and Yuri. Willow appreciated the effort to keep the peace. She had no intention of escalating this snippy conversation into an all-out argument, but considering her temper, she knew that her intentions to keep the peace were no guarantee that her mouth would not run off and snap out a reply she would immediately regret.
“Alenna agreed not to keep Yuri int he dark anymore. If he asks, surely she will give him an explanation for our sudden departure.”
“You’re right,” Yuri jumped to his feet.
Asa was quick to join him on his feet and held out a cautionary hand. “Maybe now isn’t the best time to go demanding answers. Once we’re done hurrying I’m sure you’ll have answers to your questions.”
Willow sighed. They were not leaving until the morning and from the tension in the room right now, she knew it would be a long night.