William settled into the same small, uncomfortable chair in Serina’s workroom and thought briefly of calling the whole thing off and just going to bed for the night. He was exhausted, and very full. They had ate well at the midday meal, and followed with a long walk through the palace gardens to stretch their legs. But he still felt weary; weary of heart, weary of soul. He needed a deep rest that he knew he would not get until this war was over. And it had yet to begin.
Serina flitted and mused around the room, despite having left everything exactly as it had been before the meal, when they had tried to contact his wife Elenya.
Finally, she dragged her chair over to sit in front of him.
“Now then, tell me about this sister of Beddigan’s before we do the mind-share. What do you know of her and her skills with sorcery?” Serina asked. William took a breath and thought a moment.
“I do not know Clottie well, and from what I do know she is very new to sorcery — having only just begun apprenticing with Lady Lisanne earlier this turning.” He began. “She had shown no predilection for magic prior to meeting the great sorceress. But so far, she can do a few basic things, like make portals and the like.” He said dismissively. Serina’s brow furrowed,
“Portals?” she asked, looking puzzled. William realized then that he didn’t know if that type magic existed in these lands. He cleared his throat,
“Ah, yes. A way of transferring a long distance with only a step. Creating a… doorway between places? We have crystals that can do this as well, but they are rare and very expensive. Sorcerers can do it at will.” Serina looked dumbstruck for a moment. Then her eyes were glittering with curiosity,
“The wonders of your part of the world! The things I could learn there…” she breathed. William just sat quietly while the Mage turned over the possibilities in her mind. Eventually, she shook free of her reverie and refocused. “Yes, alright then. So, do as you did before with Elenya and create as complete a picture of Clottie as you can.”
William took a steadying breath and closed his eyes. This was going to be a lot more difficult, as he had only met Clottie a couple of times and had spent little time with her. He focused on the features of her youthful face, and the tenderness of her heart. He tried to hone in on her true nature: that of kindness, warmth, and a little fire; just enough to be of use in a fight. And her fierce love for her brother, his oldest and best friend. The way she had embraced this roll as apprentice to a master sorceress, all to help Beddigan save him from the prison camps in Fort Alline. The altruism in her was not false or feigned. She had the heart of a warrior, surrounded by the warmth of a loving young Mouse.
He felt Serina’s paws near the sides of his face and he waited, holding that image of who Clottie was firmly in his mind, until he felt her arms drop down. He opened his eyes to see her grinning at him.
“You know you’re quite good that that.” She said as she put her chair back and walked over to her work table. William stood and followed her,
“Am I?” he asked. She nodded. “I feel like I have known this Mouse as long as I’ve known my best friend.” William snorted.
“I haven’t known her that long.” The Panther shrugged and continued to flip through her book, double-checking the last few details. William waited as she moved a safe distance from him and the table and nodded as she gave him a reassuring smile.
“Positive thoughts now. We need this to work!” Her arms swooped through the air and William was caught again in the beauty of the ritual; the little sparks of magic in the air. Annalose and Ardra, please let this work, he thought, as the Panther’s eyes began to glow.
Shianne leapt up from her chair, paws flying to her daggers at the shriek that came from the sorceress’ work room. She raced through the cottage and threw the door open to the small room to see Clottie sagging against Lady Lisanne.
“What have you done to her?” Shianne growled, noticing the eerie way Clottie’s eyes were glowing and her blank stare. The sorceress shot her a sharp look,
“I did nothing. She screamed and collapsed in the middle of reading a book about transfer spells.” Shianne made do move to apologize, but did move further into the room to lift Clottie’s slacken form from the sorceress’ grasp. She moved the stricken Mouse to a short couch and laid her down gently, looking curiously into her blank, staring, glowing eyes.
“Clottie? You still in there, honey?” Shianne said, patting the Mouse’s cheek softly. When Clottie didn’t move, or speak, Shianne rounded on the sorceress again.
“Help her! Do something!” she snarled. The Fox met Shianne’s furious eyes with nothing but a placid stare.
“I can do nothing for her. Somehow, she has gotten ensnared in some magic, and it will be up to her to either fight or accept this magic and come back to herself.” Shianne made a frustrated sound.
“This is why I loathe sorcery!” she hissed, turning back to sit at Clottie’s side. Lady Lisanne said nothing, and Shianne returned to patting Clottie’s cheek. “Annalose and Ardra, don’t die. Please don’t die.” She whispered to the Mouse.
The force with which Clottie snapped out of the spell nearly tipped the couch over, and sent Shianne flailing to the floor. She caught herself easily and rolled, missing the hard legs of the work table. She rushed back to the Clottie’s side, the Mouse now sitting and gasping for breath on the edge of the couch, her eyes back to their normal blue. Lady Lisanne appeared next to her with a glass of water which Clottie drank haltingly. When she was mostly back to breathing normally Shianne sat down next to her,
“What in this Warbler’s Cursed world was that about?” she breathed, pulling the Mouse into a quick side-hug. Clottie was beaming now, and vibrating with barely restrained excitement,
“A sorceress of some type… I’ve never seen anything like her before! Some magic… strong magic, from the lands where Beddigan is! Where our Friends are!” she began, halting and babbling, tripping over her words in her haste to get them out. Shianne gripped Clottie’s forearm to rein in the excited Mouse’s attention.
“Woah, woah, Clottie. Calm down. Start at the beginning.” Clottie nodded eagerly and then took a steadying breath.
“I was standing at the work table reading about transfer spells, and how to maybe get you to the far side of the Snowcap Mountains, despite having never been there myself, when I felt this intense stab of… something. I can’t explain it.” She said, stopping to think for a minute. “Almost like… recognition.” She added. “And then,” she continued, “I was pulled away… away from here? Away from my body maybe? And I saw this… creature. Sort of like a Wolf but sleeker. Fur as dark as the darkest night! And she knew me.” Shianne listened, quite literally on the edge of her seat.
“She knew you?” she asked and Clottie nodded emphatically,
“Yes, William had told her of me! They were trying to find a way to contact us and this is a way that sorceress — they call themselves Mages there — communicate. Mind to mind!” Lady Lisanne made a small sound that momentarily drew Shianne’s attention away.
“You know of this?” she asked the Sorcerer. Lady Lisanne nodded slowly,
“Only in theory and history, not in practice.” She said stiffly. Clottie nodded.
“It’s very peculiar, but it worked! She said she wasn’t sure it would work because there is some barrier between our lands. But it did work! And she was able to show me where she and William are right this moment.” Shianne felt a burst of hope.
“Show you… as in you have seen it clearly enough for a portal?” Lady Lisanne jumped in then before Clottie could answer.
“No, it is far too dangerous! You have no idea what you would be walking into, or if the portal would even put you in the right place. We have no idea how this barrier will affect out magic here. You could end up stuck in the wall of a house!” Clottie stood up from her seat.
“No, no my lady. I think it will work, and so does this Mage, from what I was able to explain to her about how the portals work.” Lady Lisanne made a frustrated sound.
“Thinking it will work doesn’t mean anything. We simply do not have enough information to know how this barrier will affect the spell!” Shianne butted into the conversation then.
“With all due respect ladies, it’s my choice if I wish to try this, and I will try anything to avoid losing my paw.” She said simply. Clottie beamed at her. Lady Lisanne met her eyes and Shianne felt a spark of fear. If the sorceress decided not to let this happen, there is little she or Clottie could do. It was easy to forget the depths of power they were dealing with on a day to day basis.
“You could lose your life, Shianne. Is that really worth it?” Shianne thought a moment and weighed the sorceress’ words carefully.
“Yes. I will take this risk… should you allow it.” She said, looking directly into the other Fox’s eyes. After a beat of silence, Lady Lisanne nodded slowly.
“Collect your things while we prepare.” was all she said, which Shianne took as a sign to leave the two sorceresses alone for a few minutes.
A short while later after collecting her things, she was summoned back to the room. Clottie beamed at her when she stepped through the doorway.
“Are you ready?” the Mouse asked, crossing the room to embrace her. She hugged her friend closely and blew out a deep breath.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” She muttered with a half-smile. Clottie returned to her place in the open part of the room, and Shianne turned her attention to Lady Lisanne.
“My lady,” she began, “Thank you for all you have done for me. I will repay this debt.” She said solemnly. The sorceress merely inclined her head in acknowledgment.
“Safe travels.” The Fox said softly, and Clottie began to focus her energy to draw the portal circle.
Once the shimmering oval appeared Shianne peered inside, and felt a bolt of relief when she saw beyond the Mage, who indeed was quite foreign looking, a Bear she recognized quite well.
“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.” Shianne said and Clottie nodded with a smile and tears in her eyes.
“Give Beddigan a hug for me!” was the last thing Shianne heard before she stepped through the portal and found herself in a sunny, airy room, made of white stone. The portal oval snapped shut behind her with an audible pop and Shianne felt dazed for a moment. The Mage was grinning and stepped aside to let William pass her.
“It is good to see you, Shianne.” The Bear said softly. In a moment of purely sappy indulgence, Shianne pulled the Bear into a hug, blinking back tears.
“I didn’t know that I’d ever see you lot again.” She released him and stepped back. “Where are your companions? I have pressing business with them.” William nodded and the Mage spoke up,
“Clottie implied as much, though the details, I do not have. As for your friends, they will be returning from a diplomatic mission tomorrow. Come now, we have much to discuss, just the three of us!” Shianne eyed the Mage curiously.
“And you are?” she asked. William looked momentarily embarrasse,.
“Forgive me. This is Serina, Mage to the Pantherlands. Serina, this is a close friend of Beddigan’s, Shianne.” Serina stepped forward and took her paw, shaking it vigorously.
“So nice to meet you!” the feline purred. Shianne saw the glint of sunlight off of the cuff and saw Serina’s eyes drawn to it. “My, what a lovely bracelet.”
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