Dawn of Destiny - Chapter Three
Good grief, the girl is strong. Reva sent the thought to Donna’s mind directly, hiding the exchange from the other members of their group, and from the mystic guard escorting them to one of the visitors rooms. If she keeps pushing like that tomorrow, I don’t know if we can hold her off.
Don’t be ridiculous! Donna sent, her thoughts laced with irritated exhaustion. Julianne was strong, but they had the advantage… for now. All we have to do is keep that shield up. We’ve practiced this. She doesn’t know our methods, or our strength.
Reva bit her tongue. Their ‘strength’ was nothing but a parlour trick that enhanced their mental shield, and it relied on everyone in their group staying strong. Sure, they’d had a ton of practice… but never against anything like Julianne.
Stop it, Donna warned. We were sent here to do one of two things. As long as our shield stays up, we are safe.
And if it doesn’t? Reva thought timidly.
Back in the dining hall, the door banged shut, leaving the room in silence. One by one, minds unshielded to reveal an overwhelming current of unrest.
The door banged shut, leaving the room in silence. One by one, minds unshielded to reveal an overwhelming current of unrest.
A thread of calm wove through, and Julianne traced it back to Margit, one of the older mystics present. Grateful for the prompt, Julianne copied the soothing waves, touching the minds of the most afraid first and moving on when that person had calmed. Despite Donna’s absence, Julianne kept her thoughts locked down.
“You’re all worried,” she called out when the room had begun to settle. “Despite our recent discussions, I know we all feel the same way. People are not chattel. Everyone, no matter their status or whether they can use magic, deserves a good and fair life.”
“With wine and women and laughter,” Danil added with a grin. The room ignored him.
“We have disagreed on my choice to involve myself in the fight with Adrien, and I respect that. I know that even those who wish I’d stayed behind are just worried about our own safety, that none of you think another human should be controlled or enslaved just because of how or where they were born.”
“She didn’t mean it, though. Did she?” A younger man looked around for confirmation from his peers. “She doesn’t want to rule the world, just…” He trailed off at the glowering faces beside him.
“What do we do? Surely you don’t agree with her?” a voice called out.
“Nor do we want to start a war with another faction of our own!” came a reply. Julianne recognised both as the speakers from earlier in the night.
“Or submit ourselves to such awful taste in robes.” Danil’s gripe caused a ripple of light chuckles in the nearby crowd this time. Leaning back, a satisfied smile crept across his face.
“Right now, we will do nothing,” Julianne assured them. “We will let Donna and her people plead their case in the morning. Maybe it’s just a case of mixed messages. Then, a meeting of the seniors will be called and we will figure this out together.” She ran her eyes over the pale faces before her. “I promise, nothing will be decided by one person alone. Not this time.”
Tentatively, she reached out to gauge the mood in the room. She was surprised to feel, amongst the worry and fear, a sense of pride and security at her words. They respected her as their Master, she knew that. But proud of her? She had to fight to keep the color from her cheeks and was glad she’d left her mental shield up when the guests had left the room.
“Go and rest. Our visitors will be watched through the night and in the morning, we will see what they have to say.”
Julianne sat back down and took a long swallow of elixir, then pressed the chilled glass to her forehead.
J, you need to do something about those headaches, Danil sent.
What? The sudden mental intrusion took Julianne by surprise. It’s fine, just a little worried about the newcomers.
He’s right, Margit chimed in. You’re overexerting yourself. You might be stronger than the rest of us, doesn’t mean you’re smarter. Listen to Danil. He at least has a brain in his head.
Me? Brain? I reject that accusation, Danil retorted.
Margit was a mother figure to many of those who’d come to the mystics at a young age. Though her talent for magic was average, her sharp mind and firm manner made her perfect to address the needs of the children. She helped with their schooling a little, teaching them history and politics, but also made sure their teeth were clean and clothes tidy, that they took to their beds at a reasonable time and made them up in the morning.
I’m fine. Julianne sent the words with confidence. She had been pushing herself harder, but she was getting stronger for it. A little pain was worth the extra power, and Julianne had a feeling she’d need every bit of it.
Very well, Margit sent. The door to the great hall creaked shut as the last of the mystics left, leaving Julianne with Danil, Margit and Zoe. “But don’t come crying to me when you burn yourself out.” She enveloped Julianne in a tight hug.
“I won’t, Margit.” Julianne gestured for Zoe to come sit at the head table with them. “Do you think I did the right thing?”
Margit raised an eyebrow. “You want to know what I’d have done?”
Julianne laughed. “Turned them over your knee and spanked them, probably. They should be safe enough, but what about tomorrow? I can’t just let them run around the countryside if they truly do pose a threat, but how can I stop them without alienating half the people who live here? If I start imprisoning people on a gut feeling I’m no better than Adrien.”
“This threat is a lot closer to home than Adrien was,” Margit pushed. “Those tree-hugging peace lovers will realize their options resemble a choice between a used chamber pot and a bucket of shit. They’ll come round.”
Zoe’s thoughts were loud enough that she didn’t need to voice them.
“No, Zoe,” Julianne said before anyone else could speak. “I won’t delay my trip. In fact, this makes it even more pressing.”
In two days, Julianne had planned a private pilgrimage. An old mystic named Artemis, one with an odd manner and not much talent but an obsession with learning, was recently seen across the Madlands. Though travellers from that direction were rare, the rumour had instantly piqued Julianne’s curiosity.
“You’re heading off on nothing but a rumour, and leaving us alone with that cult stalking the Heights?” Zoe asked.
“It’s more than just a rumour. I’ve spoken to four people who remember him, Margit included.” Julianne nodded at the older woman.
“I do remember Artemis, but damned if I know how you think you’ll find him. The man never was happy amongst people and could go days without being seen even here in the Heights.” Margit’s face softened fondly as she remembered him.
Zoe screwed up her face. “I still don’t think it’s safe. Not for you, or for us. Who knows how many more of those New Dawn people are roaming the countryside?”
“Zoe’s right. We need to discuss where to go from here.” Danil spoke slowly, but Julianne could feel his mind racing. “Tomorrow’s agenda, other than this mess?” he asked, knowing the others would have read his thoughts.
Danil wanted to begin training the younger residents basic self defense skills and to re-examine the security measures put in place since the events of Arcadia.
Julianne nodded. “I think we need to discuss it, at least. I don’t want to scare anyone more than we already have.” With a deep sigh, she stood. “I miss the days when all we did was talk philosophy and drink elixir. I need sleep first, though.” Julianne stood and the others followed.
“My dear girl, would you mind helping me up to my room? These old joints need more than a bit of elixir to loosen them.” Julianne nodded. Margit waved away Danil’s offer to help, then eyed the cup still loosely grasped in his hand. “You going to drink that?”
He snorted a laugh and handed it over. Margit leaned on Julianne’s arm, holding her cup out so it didn’t spill as they left the room.
“I expect you’ve led me away to offer some kind of sage advice?” Julianne murmured as they reached the stairs.
“Advice? I just wanted help so I didn’t spill my drink.” As if to emphasise her point, she stopped and took a mouthful. “Sometimes I wish this stuff had a little more kick, like that mead they drink down at Craigston.”
“If it did, the entire mystic community would be stumbling around drunk every day,” Julianne said wryly. The elixir had been crafted to soothe the mind of magic users without the side effects of alcohol.
“Most of those fools wouldn’t know the difference.” Margit handed Julianne the now empty glass, dropping the girl’s arm in favour of the stair railing. “Of course, if you want advice, I’m happy to oblige.”
Julianne rolled her eyes and dropped Margit’s arm.
“Last time you gave me advice, it was to find a hot young stud to train up as my assistant. What was it you said? Why do it yourself when someone can do it for you, all while they’re doing you, too?”
The woman smiled and paused at the top of the stairs. “You are the master of this domain, Julianne. Selah left you in charge for a reason.”
“Because I was the strongest,” Julianne said, knowing it was her magical strength that had gained her the position.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. You think he’d have left an idiot in charge, or a warmonger?”
Julianne had to admit it as unlikely. Selah had been an idealist, and a kind man. He had to have some level of trust in Julianne above her technical ability to give her the title of Master when he was gone.
“Selah always knew you’d be our next leader. Not because you’re strong, but because you kicked a rearick boy in the nuts for threatening his girl.” The old woman paused, watching Julianne’s reaction. “Oh, I see you remember that.”
“Margit, that was a terrible thing to do! I couldn’t face Selah for days after.”
“And when you did?” Margit waited expectantly.
Julianne sighed. “He told me my spirit would get me in trouble, but he couldn’t fault my reasoning.”
“You are kind, girl.” Margit reached a hand up to touch Julianne’s cheek. “And you are strong, and fierce, and you will keep our people safe. Not just our skins, worthless as they are, but our souls. You’ll lead us into a fight we wae too scared to start, one we need to start if we are to live with ourselves when the sun goes down.”
Tears pricked at Julianne’s eyes as she hugged Margit goodnight. “Thank you,” she whispered to the old woman. And thank you, too, Selah, she thought, wishing she could tell her mentor one last time.