Vol 3: Chapter 7, Part 2: Love & Magic

He had been sitting in an uncomfortably small wooden chair for quite some time while Serina flitted around her work room, pulling books and sheaves of paper from drawers and cabinets. She muttered to herself as she read a sentence or two from one book, and then consulted a chart, and then came back to the book again. Finally, he groaned loudly to get her attention,

“Annalose and Ardra, Serina! If you weren’t ready for me, I could have been doing something – anything else until you were.” William complained. Serina looked up at him, a cross look on her face faded away and was replaced by one of curiosity.

“Annalose and Ardra?” she said, “What in the Creator’s name is that?” William’s eyebrows shot up. He hadn’t considered that these Felines, separated from his own land, would have gods and religions all their own. And his religious epithets would have no bearing here.

“Annalose and Ardra, the twin’s that guide our religion. Gods who were once one, but chose to extract their two sides, into two beings, one of mostly light and one of mostly dark, to better serve our peoples. For all things have dark and light in them.” Serina sunk down into a chair, looking fascinated.

“Oh, I want to know everything about this!” but she stopped herself and jumped back up to her feet. “Later, though. Yes, later. I’m almost ready!” She went back to flitting around the room and William sighed, shifting positions to try and regain some comfort.

“Can you at least tell me what you’re doing?” he asked. She stopped for a moment, considered his question and the answered, with a shrug.

“I’m figuring out how to connect us so that we can contact your family.” She stated, as if that explained anything. William sat up straighter, alarmed.

“What do you mean ‘connect us’?” he growled. Serina rolled her eyes.

“You needn’t always be so frightened, Bear! I just meant that for this form of contact to work, I must know who it is I am contacting. And because I don’t know the people in your life back home, I have to figure a way to get that knowledge out of that big head of yours.” William sat back a bit in his chair, momentarily relieved. “Of course, there is also the whole, you may have to conduct this magic to bypass the barrier, but we’ll get to that if we have to.” She muttered. William leapt up from his chair in response,

“But I have no talent of magic!” he yelped. Serina rolled her eyes again.

“I said not to panic!” she snapped, “We will explore that option if we need to. Now come here, I think I’ve found a way for me to get the knowledge that I need from your mind.” William walked over to her side, where she stood before a great slab of stone, set up as a table in the centre of the room. The books and papers were spread out in front of her. She tapped a claw against a page, indicating a passage. “Long ago, way before my time and this time of unity and alliance, the Mages of the Lions used to offer this service, direct communication to a Lion without the gift of magic. It was both a courtesy and a necessity during the war with the Tigers, to keep in contact with villages too small to have a Mage dedicated to them, and to keep people in touch with their loved ones.” William nodded, but didn’t bother to read the passage. After all the books of magic he had read that morning, he didn’t have room in his mind to interpret anything more.

“How does it work?” he asked. She grinned then, a flash of white teeth against her silken, black fur.

“It’s fairly simple really. You just relax and think of your wife, where she lives, what she looks like. The qualities of her character. Create a picture of her with your mind, and I will cast a spell that allows me to step in and fetch it; make it my own.” William too an uncertain step back.

“You’re going to enter my mind? What will keep you from rooting around where you aren’t welcome?” Serina groaned.

“You’ll just have to trust me.” She said. William crossed his arms over his barrel chest and looked down at her.

“You ask me to trust you so easily after you admit to having used that unnatural compulsion magic on me? I am no fool, Cat.” William was startled by the scraping of her claws against the stone top of the table, and the low growl that slipped through her bared teeth.

“Never. Call. Me. That. Again.” She bit out. William held his paws up apologetically and took another step back, eyes stuck to her razor-sharp claws.

“Apologies.” He growled. Serina took a deep breath and retracted her claws. She sighed.

“No, I’m sorry William. You couldn’t have known.” She looked up at him and he saw what appeared to be a genuine apology in her eyes. “Cat is a slur here, and insult from the war times. Please, I ask you never use it again.” William nodded to indicate that he would heed her words. She smiled softly. “And as for trusting me, I know we didn’t get off to the greatest start, but you must understand, being a protective sort yourself, that I was only doing what was in the best interest of the Empire.” William considered the Panther and her words carefully. He stepped back to her side and nodded to indicate that he did understand.

“Yes, of course.” He said quietly. She smiled and patted his arm, gesturing for him to sit back in the uncomfortably small chair. He did this, stifling a groan.

“Besides,” she said with a small smile, “I meant it when I said I would never use the compulsion magic on you again.” William nodded,

“Let us begin then.” He said.

Serina drug a chair over so that she sat closely in front of him and raised her hands up to either side of his head.

“Okay, create your picture of Elenya. Make it as richly detailed as you can, and try to focus entirely on it. Don’t let anything else creep in; just Elenya.” William nodded and closed his eyes.

“Just Elenya…” he breathed as he began to think about how his wife had looked on their handfast day, all those years ago. How she had birthed his kids, and how compassionate and strong she had been when they had discovered Erikkson’s illness. How harshly she had rebuked his decision to work as a mercenary for the Wolves, but how she had loved him throughout it all. And the way she looked, a dusting of flour on her fur and apron when she made her special honey cakes for celebrations. The softness she had, even with all of her strength.

“Got it.” Serina said softly, breaking William’s concentration. He opened his eyes to see her gazing up at him as her arms dropped to her sides. “I… have never felt love like that.” She said softly, then looking embarrassed she scooted her chair back with a squeak over the stone floor and leapt up, scurrying back to her work table. William stood and followed her,

“So now what?” he asked, choosing not to address her comment about the love he had for his wife, for both their sakes. She continued reading for a moment and then stood back from the table.

“Now, I cast the communication spell and with any luck, I will contact your wife. Though how she will respond to a bunch of strange images and pictures in her mind, I cannot guess.” William thought about that as Serina took a couple of steps away. “Stand back.” The Panther said, as her arms began to swoosh and cut through the air, her eyes closed. William said a silent prayer to Annalose that Elenya would understand this first touch of contact enough that further contact could be made to answer some of their questions, both about what was happening in their homelands, and if Sinnerah could be counted on to stand up to the Wolves.

A small smattering of blue sparks appeared in the air, trailing the swish of the long sleeves of Serina’s robes, and William watched in wonder. He had never seen magic performed in such a way. He was struck by its beauty. One a shimmering ring of blue sparks hung in the air, the arm movements stopped and Serina was very still, as if frozen in time and space. William waited and watched until the ring of sparks faded and Serina’s eyes popped open. He was caught off-guard by the shimmering of tears glistening in her amber eyes,

“What is it?” he said stepping towards her, “Were you able to make contact?” Serina shook her head, and then blew out a deep breath.

“Not in the way we needed.” She said softly. William stared at her, feeling a heavy weight pressing down on his chest. She continued, “I was able to reach her, so my suspicion about magical ability lingering in your people’s bloodlines was correct. But I was unable to speak to her in any meaningful way. I projected an image of you though and felt that love you showed me for her returned with an intensity that still has my heart racing.” William felt the weight ease off a bit at the thought of his beloved.

After a few beats of silence, William spoke,

“Thank you for trying.” He said softly. Serina offered him a soft smile.

“You’re welcome, William. It was truly my pleasure, and I am sorry I could not connect you with your wife.” William nodded his agreement. Serina shut the books that remained open on the table and put a couple away. “Let’s go find us some lunch, and then we can try this all again with Beddigan’s sister as our target, hmm?” she said with another smile. William felt his belly rumble at the thought of food, not something that generally slipped his mind, but today was definitely an extenuating circumstance. He nodded and followed the Panther out of the work room, his mind stuck on the magic he had just witnessed, and the love he had for his dear wife.

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William

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