Heliopath’s World: Dale: Taking Control

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the Heliopath's World collection
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“If you really want me to help you then you need to let me do the job you’ve hired me to do.”

Their eyes met, and she nodded. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m so used to doing things myself that I’m not used to relying on other people, and that’s something I know I need to work on.”

“Especially as we’re in territory that you don’t actually know.”

She nodded again, her cheeks flushing slightly. “When I hired you I didn’t know if I was going to be able to feel things here, but I can. I don’t need as much help as I thought I did before.” She bit her lip. “You can walk away if you want.”

“That’s not going to happen. You may not need me as much as you thought you did, because you can feel things, but that doesn’t mean that you can protect yourself from some of the creatures that will be hunting you right now.”

“Hunting me?”

“You have magic that they want, so they’re hunting you and if they get a chance you will be dead, one way or another. It simply depends which one of them it is who catches up to you first.” Dale shrugged. “There are two I know for certain are hunting you, because I’ve already killed a couple of each, but the others… they’re usually more careful and you’re special. You’re the first mage who’s ventured this way in years, so they’ll be hungry. If you’re really unlucky you might come across one who wants to play with you first and then drain you.”

“Why didn’t you mention this before?”

“It wouldn’t have changed your mind. Nothing I said would have, because this is the only way to get where you want to be, and from what you told me it seems important that you get there. So you do what you’re told and I’ll get you there safely.”

“What would have happened if I tried to do this alone?”

“You’d have died the first night. Without me here they wouldn’t have a reason to hang back, so they simply would have fought each other to see who got you. The likelihood is you wouldn’t even have known it had happened, until you found yourself in the afterlife, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now that you know of them you’re scared.”

“Of course I’m scared.” She wrapped her arms around herself. “It’s sensible to be scared when there are things out there that want to kill me. Why aren’t you scared?”

“I know I’m scarier than they are. That’s why I’ve killed so few this time round. They’re hoping I’ll make a mistake, but I won’t and they know that.”

“Don’t get complacent.”

“Not going to.” He smiled at her. “I just know I’m good at what I do, and that is why I offered my services to the ‘batfruitcrazy’ mage who wanted to travel across this territory in order to get to the library that no one can enter.”

“Batfruitcrazy?” She smiled, for what he believed was the first time since he’d met her, which was exactly what he’d been hoping for. “Was that seriously what they were calling me?”

He nodded. “Even though there have been people who’ve tried this before they’ve never come to us for help. We know it better than anyone else, because it’s where we hunt, and yet they think they can travel, I’m guessing to the library, without anyone to guide them… or protect them from the creatures out there. I don’t know if they were mages, although I do know that a couple have made it to the doors and haven’t made it in.” He shrugged. “When I first made the journey there, because I was told it was the journey that all of us should make, I tried the doors. They don’t have a lock, but I couldn’t open them no matter how hard I tried.”

“They can’t be opened until it’s time. Mother told me that I need to be there by the next full moon otherwise the doors will never open again.” She sighed. “Maybe it’s time that I told you a little more about myself, guide, instead of trying to keep secrets because I thought the time would come when you’d abandon me.”

“Has that happened before?”

“Twice during this journey – thinking they could take money from a mage.” She laughed. “It wasn’t long before they realised they’d made a huge mistake, but by then they were dead and I had to travel back to get what they had stole. Unfortunately that means I have nowhere near as much time as I hoped I would to get to the library, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.”

“We can travel for longer.” He worked out how long it was to the full moon, how much further they had to go, and felt his heart sink. “If you are right about us needing to be there by the full moon you need to sleep for much less time than you have been, so we can walk for another six to eight hours.”

“I don’t have a problem with that.” The mage studied him. “Sleep has never been something I needed much of, until I started making my way to the library, and since then… it seems to me that this journey has been so difficult because the library wants to be certain that I’m the right person to open the doors.”

“You talk of it as though it knows who you are.”

“The library does know who I am. It’s known who I am since the day I was born, and knew I was the person who would be travelling across the world to open its doors.” She bit her lip. “Everything I’ve done so far has been preparing for the time when I stand in front of those doors and step into the library that has been closed for three millennia, because of the war, because some mages chose to create Ildieu and the library decided it would wait until it was needed again.”

“Why are they ready to open now?” Dale asked, studying her. They hadn’t offered names before and as she had been badly treated by previous guides he didn’t blame her. No one had ever asked for his before, so he’d stopped giving it, almost preferring to be called guide. His name had been given to him by a father he’d never met and probably never would. “What’s coming?”

“The war.” She rubbed her forehead with her hand. “Creating Ildieu only stalled it, and the time is coming when it will, probably, begin again. I was sent to the library to learn, if I can, how to stop it, but if that isn’t possible then I need to work out how we win it.”

“Who’s we?”

“Right now I don’t know. That depends on what happens when I get to Ildieu.”

“You don’t have much time, do you?”

She shook her head. “No, but that’s something I have no choice about. My future, sadly, was mapped out long before I was born, thanks to my family, and now I’m doing what needs to be done.”

“Is there someone special to you in Ildieu?”

“My siblings.” She sighed. “They don’t know me and I don’t know them, but I’ve always known of them. Unfortunately, due to the way our family keeps secrets from each other, they have no idea I exist. I have no idea how many siblings I do have and everyone I meet might be related to me in some way.”

Dale found himself biting his lip. Was she related to his father? All of the stories he’d heard about the man who’d shared his mother’s bed for a night and told her to call the son Dale made it hard to believe that there wasn’t something different about him. Some people believed they’d seen him before, decades before, while others told of the same man making the same journey a hundred, two hundred, three hundred years before. There were times when he’d take the children born of those partnerships with him and times when he would leave them behind. If Dale was to believe them then he was one of the children that was left behind.

“Are there other siblings that you know of?”

For a moment she stared at him. “What do you want the answer to be?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tell me about him.”

“I never met him. I know I probably never will. Mum tells me he was tall, dark, and handsome, which was why she ended up in bed with him. Occasionally she seems to wish that I looked more like him, but I take after her more. I will always be grateful for that, because I don’t want to look like him, although there are times when I want to know who he is, just so I have some idea of who I am.” He shrugged. “That’s why I ended up out here, doing this job. Being here is so much easier than being home.”

She nodded. “I met him, and sometimes I wish I hadn’t.” Their eyes met. “What you need to know, because it is possible you are one of my many siblings, is that we aren’t normal. A long time ago, because when Ildieu was young, there was a man who was sent to the city. He cast a spell to create a place called the Black Hollow. Like all of us he wasn’t given all the information he needed to be able to make an informed decision, and I don’t know that it would have mattered if he was. He was doing what his father asked him to do. It wasn’t until after he’d cast the spell, and some more time had followed that, he came to realise that what he’d done had changed him, but, more than that, it had changed his children. Those children would live for as long as the Black Hollow stayed standing. Their children would live just as long. I am one of those children, and I know there is a chance I might live forever, should the Black Hollow stay standing for that long.”

For a long time all Dale could do was stare at her. “Someone used blood magic without knowing what it would do?”

“You know about blood magic. You’ve grown up in a place where it’s always existed. Things are different in other places. He knew nothing of blood magic. To be honest with you I’m not entirely certain his father knew exactly what it would do either.”

Shaking his head, he started walking again. If she was right the journey they were making was far more important than any journey he’d made before. “I don’t know much about other places. I’ve never visited them.”

“That’s understandable. I was taught what I needed to know, because…” She sighed. “My father always knew who I would be. So did my mother. They made the decision together, because they knew I was needed, so I was taught everything I would need to know in the future. I was taught about the countries I would travel through. I was taught about the people I was likely to meet. I was taught about the library, and what he believed I would find there. I was taught how to use my magic to the very best of my abilities. In Ildieu I would be a black mage.”

“A black mage?”

“How much do you know about the city?”

“Far less than you.” Dale almost smiled. “I never needed to know about it, and I only ever learnt what I needed to know.”

“Okay, so what you had was a group of mages who stepped into a city that would take their memories. Please don’t ask me why they thought that was a good idea, because I truly don’t know. However, that was the decision they made, and as time passed they came to learn that they had magic. Unfortunately the time that passed… it was far longer than I think they thought it could be when they first stepped through the door. Due to that it had an effect on how they used the magic. That effect, something they call the reaction phase, means that they’ve given different magics different levels. What level the magic is depends on how difficult it is to deal with the reaction phase.”

“Things are like that out here.”

“In some places they are, and in some places they aren’t. I’ve been through other cities where the issues are much the same, but what I don’t know is whether that has something to do with the mages of Ildieu leaving their city behind to travel, or if it has something to do with the way magic has changed through the years.”

Nodding, Dale glanced over his shoulder at her. “I think I could learn a lot from you.”

She smiled. “I think I could learn a lot from you.” There was a silence. “I’m Rae.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Rae. I’m Dale.”

“For the first time I can say the same.” She sounded relieved. “Thank you for not being like the others.”

<<< Heliopath’s World: Ildieu: Ginevra: Taking Over***Heliopath’s World: Kestrel: Kidnapped >>>
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