Unknown

Being an Unknown is tough. It's a hard life, even if it wouldn't seem that way. There are strict rules to follow, unimaginable consequences for the slightest violations once you've become a full member and the constant travelling isn't nice either. And then there's that little fact that no one outside the Brotherhood can ever be allowed to remember meeting you.

Sølv-vinder af konkurrencen "Fantasy".

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1. The Girl

I was emitting a low-level discretion pulse as I rode through the village. It was hardly necessary, I thought, but the force of habit is strong. Crow, the horse I rode, turned its head toward me and stared at me, as if to say: “Really?” I didn't reply. The field wouldn't have kept the villagers from noticing me, should I begin to speak.

I'd been riding most of the day, and the last many ones before that, the only paused being to sleep, and as I rode past the small inn, the smells from within were enough to make my mouth water. But I knew that I had no time for visiting inns, not on this side of the annual gathering, so I rode past it in silence. I would have left the town like I came: Unnoticed and silent, had it not been for the fact that I suddenly felt someone staring at my back. I turned my head, somehow expecting to find a Brother staring back at me, but found myself looking into the eyes of a child.

Well, I thought, she can hardly be classified as a child. She's almost a woman grown.

That was irrelevant though. Her sex or age mattered little if she'd seen me. But as I dismounted to get it over with, she did as they always do: She spoke.

“Who are you?” she asked. “Are you a traveller?”

Fantastic, I thought. What could have been a simple matter of taking care of her had now become much more complicated. People were looking. People were noticing. I had to reply.

“Yes... I am indeed a traveller. I was merely passing through this village. I'll be on my way now, if you don't mind?” I said. My voice sounded slightly hoarse. It had been long since it had been used.

“I do actually mind.” The girl said, completely ignoring any common decency. “It is so rare that we have visitors here. Would it be too much to ask for you to spend the night and tell us of what goes on in the wide world?”

She had me. She had me, and she knew it. Her smile was insufferable.

***

The inn wasn't really any more than just a house with a couple of extra bedrooms and a bar. The beds were nice and comfortable though, so I really shouldn't complain. It had been weeks since I'd last slept on anything but the cold, hard ground.

The girl was still staring intensely at me as I lay on my back in the bed with the feather mattress. She'd followed me to my room, apparently intent on not letting me slip through her fingers.

Smart child, I thought as I exclaimed a sigh of pleasure while sinking into the mattress. If I'd truly wanted to be gone, we'd be gone by now of course, but she didn't know that.

Laying on the bed served more of a purpose than simply resting my aching body, although that was also top priority. I was waiting for her to make the first move.

They always do in the end, I thought. She'll be too curious not to.

After a while that seemed like an eternity (in the good way. I was really starting to like this bed), she couldn't hold it in any longer and blurted out: “How?!”

“How what?” I answered, although I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“How is it that I could see you, but all the other couldn't?”

I raised my head enough to look her in the eyes as I replied: “Because you are special.”

“Special how?”

“Special in the same way I was at your age. You have magical talent.”

“Magical talent?” She sounded disbelieving. “Like, fire-storm magic?”

“Not... Quite.” I smiled at her description. It was a very typical idea of what magic was. “I'll explain it to you, in-depth, on our way.”

“”Our way?” Who's saying I'll be going anywhere with you? Besides, there's no way in hell my parents will let me go with some total stranger who says I have magical talent.”

“They'll let you go.” I said. “They always do.”

She looked as if she was about to argue that statement, but I raised my hand to halt her.

“You leave that to me. It's not the first time I deal with parents.”

“But what if I don't want to go?”

I looked at her bemusedly as she said that. “You're really going to refuse what may very well be your only chance, ever, to learn to use what is within you?”

“I could go to the academy.”

“And who would pay for your tuition? Your parents certainly won't be able to afford it. Besides, you have potential to do so much more than what the academy can teach you, and we can offer you that.”

“But... What would you do if I refused?” She looked a bit more nervous now than she had before. Understandable, really, considering I'd just told her that I was her only chance at the magic I'd half-promised her already.

“I'd knock you out, sling you over the back of a horse and move on.”

****

We left early the next morning. No one came to see us off. No one saw us leave. No one even remembered us being there. We simply rode out of town, as silently as I'd arrived, though I'd upped to discretion field to allow for talking. I didn't expect her to stay silent for long.

She didn't.

“Where are we going?” She would ask.

“Home.” I would answer.

“When will we be there?”

“When we arrive.”

“Will there be others like us?”

“There will be people like me and people like you. There will be no people like us.

“Which kinds of magic will I learn?”

“The strongest.”

She would go on and on in eternity, and I would answer briefly and vaguely. What a pain, I thought. Thank the gods I'm not a Master. I'll much rather leave the questions to them.

Unfortunately my oath required me to bring every prospective apprentice I should encounter to the Inverted Citadel. Lying to them would be of no use either. They'd know. They always knew. Just as I did.

 

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