Heliopath’s World: Kestrel: The Reaction Phase

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the Heliopath's World collection

By the end of the day Kestrel was laying with her head buried into the pillow, wishing that her headache would go away or that she would finally fall asleep. She’d spent most of her time hoping for sleep because of the headache, which had slowly got worse during the day instead of fading the way she’d expected it to, ignoring the food that had been put into the room by an orange level mage. When she’d first woken up she had been very hungry but that had faded away by mid morning. Growling, she turned the pillow over again because the coolness made her headache feel slightly better.

“How are you feeling?” a voice asked.

It took her a moment to realise that it was the man from earlier. “Why do you care?” she asked, rolling over so her face was buried in the pillow.

“Heliopath cares.”

“That’s really nice of him.”

“Don’t be sarcastic.”

The end of the bed sank slightly so she guessed that he’d sat there. Sighing, she tried to find it within herself to care what he might be doing there, but she didn’t. All she cared about was getting rid of the headache that had made her day so miserable. There was a moment when she wanted to laugh at herself because she couldn’t imagine her first day as Heliopath’s captive being anything other than miserable, but she was blaming the headache for it.

“So what you’re saying is Heliopath sent you up to check on me?”

“Yes, he did. He guessed that you probably haven’t gone through a reaction phase yet.”

She blinked slowly, her eyelashes feeling uncomfortable against the pillow. “Explain,” she said, sighing again.

“It’s a part of becoming a mage. Our bodies react badly to the magic we use. That’s part of the reason we have a level system in place. It makes it a little easier to go through the reaction phases, because you go through one at a time, although how bad it is done depend on exactly what magic you’ve used and how long for. As you’ve been using low level green magic for a long time without going through a reaction phase it’s going to be much worse than it would have been had you gone through it sooner. Should you make the decision to learn magic this is something you’ll have to deal with.”

She rolled over to look at him. “Why hasn’t someone told me about this before?”

He stared at her thoughtfully for so long that she didn’t think he was going to answer her question. “I can’t tell you why for sure, but I can guess. Falcon probably isn’t planning on ever letting you level up your magic because you’re female, so he doesn’t feel the need to tell you what to expect. Green level symptoms are usually pretty minor, which makes them less of a worry to someone who has gone through blue level symptoms.”

“What does my gender have to do with anything?”

“If you get to a high enough level it can make you infertile. That’s why you don’t see a lot of female mages.”

“It’s my choice. Falcon has no right to make the decision for me simply because…” She had to stop herself from saying ‘because he’s my brother’. “…he’s the leader of the Hollow. I’m going to tell him that next time I see him.”

“If you joined us then Heliopath wouldn’t stop you from learning how to use the power.”

“I’m not going to betray Falcon and the Hollow simply because I want to learn higher level magic.”

“You don’t have to betray them. Let me talk to Heliopath. I’m sure I can convince him to get someone to teach you while you’re here.”

She sat up slowly, trying not to wince at the pain in her head, and stared at him in disbelief. “Why would you do that?”

“Heliopath wants you to join us, even if Falcon decides not to. He’ll do anything to convince you that you’d be better off here than you are at the Hollow and getting someone to teach you won’t cost him anything.”

“It’s not going to happen.”

“Don’t make any decisions now, Kestrel. Take some time to get to know the Gardens and see what you think first. Falcon isn’t really that important.”

She sighed. “I’m not going to join Heliopath. There is no chance of it ever happening.”


“I’m loyal to Falcon.”

“That can’t be the only reason.”

Kestrel bit her lip hard to stop herself from talking to him and she couldn’t help thinking that he might be using one of his powers on her. “Maybe it isn’t, but I have no reason to tell you what any other reasons may be.”

“Protect yourself, not him. He’s not worth it.”

“You’re probably right about that.” She looked down at her hands, trying not to think of things that had happened between her and her brother through the years. “That doesn’t change who I am though. I am, and always have been, loyal to Falcon, and neither you or Heliopath are going to change that.”

“He wasn’t too bothered about you when Heliopath told him that you were here. Some of the things he said were actually quite insulting. It got me wondering why exactly you would be so loyal to someone who obviously doesn’t feel in any way obligated to you, and I had a look in some of the books that we have here.”

She looked at him, wondering exactly what books they had in their library about the Black Hollow. Their history wasn’t exactly a secret, any more than the history of the Gardens or any of the other safe houses was, but that didn’t stop her from worrying that they might say more than she wanted them to.

“They were very interesting. I found out that the Hollow doesn’t have any form of loyalty spell on any of its members, which would have explained why you’re so loyal to Falcon. The Hollow itself has been passed down from father to son for nearly three thousand years and so far no one outside of the family has managed to take it over, even though there have been people who have tried.” He smiled at Kestrel. “I think that there’s some sort of spell on the Hollow that means it can only belong to someone who is genetically related to the original founding member.”

“What type of spell do you think it is, if it exists?”

“The most likely spell is one that only a black level mage could have used, which is where the building would have been bound to the family by blood. It’s a spell that will kill the caster and it means that Falcon or anyone else in that family has the ability to become a black level mage.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“During the time I’ve spent with Heliopath I have found there is only one type of person who will have any sort of unwavering loyalty to their leader if they aren’t bound by a loyalty spell, and that’s a family member.”

It was hard for her not to react to what he was saying but she managed to keep her face totally blank. “Really?” she asked, keeping her voice level.

“Your relationship to Falcon is something that I could easily exploit, but I’m not going to. Right now I’m looking at a girl who could become a black level mage and can’t, because one overprotective family member is making it difficult for her, so I want to make the most of that.”

“You do realise everything you have said is conjecture.”

He nodded. “Even though I am just hypothesising Heliopath has given me full permission to do everything I can to convince you that you should at least learn how to wield the power that you’ve been given while you’re here. If Falcon gives himself up at the Equinox you could easily become the leader of the Black Hollow.”

She laughed. “I understand now. You want me to feel grateful that you’ve taught me how to use magic and what? Allow Heliopath into the Hollow? Let him get involved in making all the decisions that may come up? It’s not going to happen.”

“If Falcon doesn’t give himself up at the Equinox then you’re going to wish that you knew how to use higher level magics. Get yourself up to say red level before then and Heliopath may let you have a chance at living rather than being executed.”

“What do you get out of this?”

“What makes you think I’m going to get anything?”

Kestrel ran her eyes over him. “You’ve got to be Heliopath’s right hand man at least. You have to be at a higher level that I thought you were this morning, brown or above probably. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were grey, or even black, and that makes you the most likely person to teach me if I did choose to learn magic here. For you to give up that amount of time you’re going to have to be getting something out of it.”

“I just want to teach someone with your potential.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“That’s up to you, but it’s the truth. You have the strength of mind to learn how to make poisons because you weren’t permitted to learn any higher magics and that makes me think that you’re going to be an amazing student.”

“Compliments will get you nowhere.”

“Kestrel, I want you to trust me. If I teach you then I’m doing it for you and for me, not for Heliopath or to get a foot in the door at the Hollow.”

“What changed between this morning and now? You wanted me dead.”

“I realised that you are probably worth more to us than Falcon ever will be.”

She smiled, shaking her head. “There you go with the compliments again. I’m not going to give in on this matter, compliments or no compliments, so you’re just wasting your time.”

“It’s my time to waste and I think I can convince you that it’s going to be better for you to learn while you’re here, because there’s no guarantee that Falcon will let you learn when you go back.” He stood up, looking down at her thoughtfully. “Just think about it, Kestrel.”

She watched him walk to the door, trying to make herself believe that she was doing the right thing. Falcon was going to teach her once she hit her majority because he’d promised that he would and she believed his promises. Pushing the thought away that he’d broken his promises before, probably more times that she could remember, she focused on the few times he had kept them.

“I’m Ash,” he said, turning to look at her from the open doorway. “If you need anything then just ask.”

When the door closed Kestrel was alone again. Her headache had faded away and she took the time to glance out of the window to see how long she had been in the Grey Gardens. When she saw that the sun was nearly setting, she sighed, wondering what everyone at the Hollow was doing.

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