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Today was her day off. There would be no work and no shopping. No studying or training. And no familiars by her side. Today Melfina needed to be alone.
Tomorrow would bring Wayland. Wayland, and whatever would come. An official letter, sealed and signed by Archduke Aedilwulf himself, had arrived the day before last. It claimed that they would show mercy, and not sentence her to death. That they understood she made a stupid, but honest, oversight. And so the Luna Guard would only show up to ensure a safe repossession of their property and not to take her to be executed. Should she try to run, it would be considered a Violation of Property committed with her full knowledge and understanding. One serious enough that Luna Guard and the Order of Light would be sent after her, as well as anyone interested in collecting the bounty they would place on her head. The reward would be considerable.
She had already done what she could. Lord Luna had been informed. He even believed her and would do what he could, but he couldn't stand up to the might of Luna. Luna was just too powerful. She had also practiced her spells, for whatever good it might do. But if it came to fighting, they had no chance.
But at this very moment, none of that mattered. Today was her day off, because today she sat in remembrance of parent's death.
Two and a half years now, she thinks as she lays flowers on the rock where her mom used to sit. A blanket lies beside it, and she takes a seat next to a picnic basket filled with some fruits, bread, and cheese, and a small pouch filled with some of the marsh melon juice that Draven had given her.
The clearing was a lovely place. Full of thick and vibrant grass that always cushioned any fall, and enough rabbit holes to provide countless hours of entertainment when she was little. A large tree at the edge still had the swings her father had built, and the large rock formation off to the side was where she and Reba pretended they ruled kingdoms or owned businesses or lived in large manors with princes.
This clearing is where her parents taught her to cast spells, and where they let her gather fresh supplies to make her first inks. This is where they told her she would be apprenticed to the holy mages, and where they took her for her birthday.
"Look mom. I baked a cake..." she trails off, "...happy birthday to me." Tears well up in her eyes, but she blinks them away.
She didn't know if she believed in God. Her parents never got around to teaching her what it was all about. She didn't think there were very many in Luna that actually cared about the paladin's God. After things went bad with Wayland, she made it a point to avoid the subject entirely.
But she hoped there was something out there for them. Some place they could be happy. She didn't know what to believe, but she wanted it to be true.
She closed her eyes, knelt beside the rock, and prayed. "Dear God, I'm sorry that I don't know if you're out there, but my parents were wonderful people. They were good to everyone, and they deserve to be happy. Please look out for them, and make sure that they're safe. And please let them hear what I have to say."
"Mom, I hope you're safe and doing well. I hope you and dad are proud of me. I know all I brought today was simple, but I'll get around to learning how to cook like I said I would. I wish you and dad could have taught me some of your recipes before you left. I miss the smells of our kitchen."
"But I should be okay with gold now. I sold a formula for the silent tiles I invented. The store is completely mine now. I had some dresses made, but I got paid so much that I don't know what to do with the rest."
"But I'm in trouble right now. Wayland... he won't stop. And he's coming tomorrow. I don't know what I can do. I have a Tome of Lost Knowledge. I have an actual Tome of Lost Knowledge. It's mine and there is no way it could be his copy. But he wants it. And claims it's his."
"You told me to not give in to him. You made me not give in, even when I wanted him to stop what he was doing to you. But I can't stop him. And Lord Luna can't stop him. And if I run, he'll send everyone after me, including the Order of Light." Maybe even Stark would have to hunt me then.
"I want you to be proud of me. But I don't think I can fight him like you did. I can't see how anything I can do can keep him from getting it. But if I give it up, no one will die."
"I wish you were here. I feel so alone. You and dad would know what to do. Lord Luna supports me, but what can he do? All he has are ten total guards against all of Luna. What can he do? What can I do?" The final words barely come out as a whisper, and she lets tears do the rest of her talking.
Minutes pass, and the tears eventually stop. She remains kneeling by the rock, not wanting to think, and not wanting to move, and just lets the stillness of the day take over. The breeze caresses her cheek and birdsong dances in the air, but inside she's just empty and numb. Her parents lives were ruined by one man, and now he was focused on her. And there was nothing she could do.
On the brink of falling asleep, a rustling in the grass catches her attention. It wasn't just the wind. It was coming closer.
Probably a rabbit wanting to sneak off with my grapes. Well she wasn't feeling very hungry, so she wouldn't mind sharing.
Before her eyelids fully open, an expression of hate penetrates her mind. Her eyes widen and at the edge of the clearing stands a four-legged form she hoped to never see again.
A deep voice, clear and menacing calls out. "You are weak. You have given up before the battle has begun! You don't deserve to see tomorrow begin!" And with that last word out of his mouth, Darksage sprints towards her.
Melfina grabs her bag and jumps to her feet. There was no time to think about what was happening. It didn't matter what it had said the last time. What did the word hurt mean to a wolf anyway? Biting out a chunk of her leg could be considered a warning. Tearing off an arm might be considered a lesson. A fatal wound could be a test. Whatever the true answer was, the only thing that mattered was that a wolf that weighed three or four times her own weight was bounding towards her, with death on its face. And it would reach her soon.
There was no where to run. No cover to take. She was in the middle of a field, and the choices were to fight or to die. He was coming quick, but there was time for one spell, or even two if she was quick enough. Melfina thrusts her hand into her bag and pulls out the first book in her grasp.
The hollow eyes of a skull stare back at her as she pulls out the green leather bound book. It would do. She was no where near becoming a master of the craft, but there was one spell she had practiced more than all the others.
The air ripples before her as the spell leaves her hand. It crashes into the wolf and he tumbles to the ground.
It worked! But the wolf is quick to stir. She responds by casting pain spike again and again.
"It will take more than that, necromancer!" A low and steady growl rumbles from its throat. It rises to its feet as the effect lessens with each strike.
"In vas nox" she yells, switching to a new spell.
The second charge of the wolf falters, as poisonous gas enters its lungs, but even so, Darksage manages to yell, "More!" and resumes the charge.
Melfina closes her eyes. The next spell didn't need a target. She had been able to cast it once before, but needs to see it in her mind's eye. Her hands move as she blocks out all thought of powerful jaws crushing her neck.
"Kal vas an flam!"
From deep within, she could feel her very soul empowering the attack. A savage blast of cold bursts forth from her body.
She hears the snapping of hundreds of blades of grass as the wolf drops at her feet. Her eyes open and witness the two of them encircled by to twinkling of sunlight reflected though the frost covered floor. Tendrils of steam rise from her body.
Laying limp on the ground, with its own eyes now closed, the wolf manages to speak. "I am yours now, necromancer."
"Yours. To command as you see fit. You have shown your strength."
"I want you to die!"
Darksage manages to open its eyes and look into her own. "If you kill me, know that you will have to dominate another if you summon one of my brethren."
"How do you know this?"
"I know many things. I have told you before. I was bound by the Ossian Cult itself. You must know of them. You have their power. I have watched your home. I have felt it."
Blades of grass snap as the dark wolf slowly climbs to his feet. "I listened to your prayer, and I know about the enemy you face. Call me, and we will face him together."
There was no sign of aggression in his actions or in his words. Maybe she was being foolish, but she felt he could be trusted. That he spoke the truth, and would follow her lead. Maybe he can help.
"Do you need to be healed?"
"Now that I have a master again, I will heal much faster. I just need to rest." She thought she could actually feel him getting stronger. "Tonight you rest as well. Tomorrow we fight. You are a necromancer now. You are never alone."
* * *
Rules for Being Human . . ,
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