The days took on a sameness and after two months, Delia was exhausted. The magic drained her in ways she’d never thought possible. Lord Enaur was always polite but he drove her relentlessly. Today, she’d called a halt, trembling from the effort he demanded she put forth. “Enough,” she’d said, sinking to the grass in the back garden. This was the spot furthest from the mansion and screened on all sided. “Safer,” he’d said the second day they met. “For you and for the Trafords.”
“I cannot do it.”
“You can. Try again.”
She shook her head. “It’s not there.”
Enaur crossed his arms and took a breath, eyes closed. “Another approach, perhaps.”
Delia shook her head. “Why do I need to throw fire? I can repulse, shield myself, and guide my arrow to any target I can see. Isn’t that enough?”
“It’s not. Granted not every elf can throw fire. But your uncle can. He’d like nothing more than to make you a target. You can make fire, so you should be able to throw it.”
Idly, she’d held out her palm and concentrated. A small flame danced there, pale in the morning sunlight. She’d closed her hand to extinguish the flame. “It comes easily now. But throwing it seems to be beyond my skill.”
“Let’s try just gently tossing it. Making the flame a ball and lightly tossing.”
It was two hours before she could manage to create a ball of flame. She couldn’t get it to survive out of her hand. They’d stopped at mid-day and she went to her room, her whole body quivering with the morning’s effort. She wolfed down the mid-day meal Pricilla brought and once alone, tried again to create the flame ball and toss it into an ashtray she’d had Pricilla bring to the room.
She stopped at tea time when Pricilla arrived with the tea tray. “I can’t seem to do it, Pricilla. Lord Enaur seems to think it’s important, but I cannot do it.”
Pricilla nodded. “It must be very frustrating.” The young woman thought for a moment. “When I’m learning a new thing, I’m afraid I’ll fail. Then I get nervous and make a worse mess. It’s not until I relax that I can master the new task. Perhaps you have the same thoughts?”
Delia put her empty cup and saucer on the tray and picked up a tiny sandwich. This one was cucumber and cream cheese. “Possibly. The longer I try the more aggravated I am. I’ll try again tomorrow. Clear my mind of anything else and just relax.”
Pricilla put the tea things back on the tray and picked it up. “Shall we embroider when I return?”
“Yes.” Delia smiled at Pricilla. “I’ve been neglecting it for magic practice. It will help me relax, take my mind off of my failure.”
“Not failure, Princess. You’re still learning.”
The next day Dalia did what she’d promised the day before. She emptied her mind of everything but the fire. She focused on drawing the flame and shaping the ball and like a child’s ball, she tossed it. It flew three feet before winking out in the damp grass. Delia crowed with joy. “I did it. I did it!”
Enaur, grinned at her. “So I see, Princess. Well done. Let’s practice more.”
With one success, Delia was more confident and worked all morning at throwing the flame ball farther and farther. By mid-day, she could throw it thirty feet and set the target on fire.
“Well done, Princess.” Enaur snuffed the fire out with his magic and faced the princess. “I think it’s time to travel to your father.
Delia’s eyes went wide. “So soon?”
“We can practice more on the way, but yes. I’ve received word that your uncle is readying a large force. It’s time.”
She nodded. “When?”
“It will take a few days to prepare.”
“Very well.” Delia pulled herself erect. She didn’t know how she felt about leaving. The mansion was beginning to feel like home. “I suppose the Trafords will be glad to have us gone. We’ve been here a long time.”
“Lord Traford derives a great deal of status by having elves stay with him. He doesn’t mind at all.”
The two began the walk back to the house. “I’ll arrange for horses and two elf guards, and supplies, of course. You may have to have riding attire made. I know where to find an elf dress-maker who will know what to do.”
“Thank you.” Delia wondered if elf clothing was very different from human clothing. “What should I bring?”
“Anything that will fit into your saddle bags. We won’t have a baggage train.”
“Hard riding then? I’m afraid I’m not a good horsewoman. I usually rode on my wagon.”
They parted ways at the conservatory. “Five days, I think, to prepare.” Lord Enaur bowed and left.
Delia went to her room and looked through the trunk Sam had brought her. It was mostly clothing, nothing fine except a scarf she’d bought at market of silk the color of her eyes. She’d keep that. Everything else could be thrown away. She picked up the handkerchief in the embroidery hoop that was on the window seat. There wouldn’t be room for fine threads and needles in her saddle bags. Delia sat down and worked on the piece. It should at least be finished before she left.
The afternoon was broken by the arrival of the elven dress-maker. Everything was moving fast, Delia thought as the woman measured and showed her sketches. Too fast.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 11.
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