*For the previous chapters, please go here. These are posted first draft, as the brain dictates to the fingers which are remarkably stupid. Also there will be inconsistencies because until September or so, the timing on these is wonky, and I’ll forget stuff between posts. Eventually it will be cleaned up and fixed just before page is made secret/taken down and the book is published. At that time I will take lists of typos or volunteers to proof read. For now, it’s written in a hurry, usually an hour before it goes up. And, let me remind you, it’s free – SAH*
“Oh, I don’t mean I created the world to be imprisoned in. I’m not so daft as to accidentally bespell myself. I created this world…” Tristan Blackley glowered briefly at his son and daughter. “I created this world, the few square miles of it, as a way to get away from domestic strife. Not my wife only, mind you. The boys were always excited over something….”
The swan made an irritated sound at that point. Tristan smiled, “True,” he said, as though the words had been completely clear and human. “You do have a pointn about there being quite a lot of you.” He sighed. “At any rate, I created this place, so I could not be found, and I did not pay attention to how my lady wife used my own magic against myself, by making it so that I could not be found. And when the boys came after me, they too were trapped in here. At which point I realized it would take more than my magic to escape it.”
The swan squawked and Tristan sighed again. “Well, I know. I shouldn’t have let you boys know about the magic way. I never thought you would be so foolish as to try to follow you when I told you that your magic wasn’t sufficient.”
Al made a sound and as Tristan looked in her direction said, “Well, begging your pardon, Papa, but that was a great piece of nonsense. All my brothers are right ‘uns. If you told them there was some means to save themselves, how could you think they wouldn’t try, even if they might not have quite enough magic? They would think with a little more effort and a little more cunning–”
Tristan, Michael noticed, looked a little shocked at being called Papa, or perhaps at being addressed so fortrightly. He folded and refolded his napkin and said, “Well, I didn’t expect them to be that foolish. It’s magic, yes, but also cunning, and I told them they’d just be irretrievably lost. We just know they’re all alive, because of the transformations that come over us without warning.”
The swan made a noise and Tristan smiled, “No, not now. I’m holding my transformation. Yes, I’m aware I’m the one who is dangerous, even with a surfeit of voles. I felt one of them try to change, but held it down. Hopefully he’s not in too much trouble.” He turned to Michael. “Unless I’m wrong, you’re the only person who can get us out of this. I can’t walk the road myself, because one shift to wolf at the wrong time could be disastrous. And I don’t know what the challenges are out there, or if I’d be near people or other beings when I change. I hesitated to ask you both because your family tends to be so…. conventional, and because of the… well, I don’t imagine either of your older brothers will be happy at this.”
“I was just thinking what Seraphim and Gabriel might do, when they discover I was pulled from Seraphim’s house by a Gather.”
“Not much they can do here. Well. I suppose one of them might be able to get in here. Probably your human brother, as I’ve made this fairly proof against fairyland. No insult meant to your brother, whom I’m sure is excellent, but that place–”
“No, no. Trust me. I had some experience of it.” And quickly, to disguise the shudder that shook him, “But then you have kept up with what’s going on in the real world while you’ve been here? How?”
Tristan made a gesture. “The usual. Scrying on a crystal ball. But it won’t show me what is going on with my sons, and I’m concerned.”
Michael nodded. “And you think I can do it?” Part of him was screaming that he was stupid for even considering it. After all, what did he owe Tristan Blakley? He barely knew the man. And he knew enough of magical paths — roads designed to have a spell worked or unworked through walking them — to know it would be hazardous.
And in this case, it was a road where his brothers couldn’t help him.
Only the leap of excitement in his heart, the sudden feeling like he would very much like to do this made him realize what was pushing him. Indeed. if he could walk this road and win out, without either of his all too powerful brothers being able to help him — or stop him — wouldn’t that be proof, once and for all that he was a man grown, and that no one need watch over him or keep him in cotton, as though he were fragile?
Most of all, wouldn’t that be proof for himself?
“Of course, I’d also walk the road with you,” Al said. It was not a tone of voice that brooked dissent.
Michael knew the offer should irritate him. It should make him think that she would diminish from his achievement. But mostly, it made him feel it wouldn’t be so lonely. And besides, weren’t they about even on saving each other.
He realized he’d been looking into Al’s eyes perhaps a little too long as they widened in surprised response to his stare. He spoke quickly into what seemed like too-long a silence, “I… Wouldn’t object to that at all.”
Tristan looked from one to the other of them with his eyebrows drawn together, and Michael felt his cheeks heat with embarrassment.
“Well,” the older magician said. “Now that that’s resolved, let’s finish dinner. You can sleep here tonight, though I enjoin you to lock your room doors from the inside, as I’ll have to give in to the change sooner than later. But then you can start bright and fresh tomorrow morning.”