Delia was in the practice yard. It felt good to move after spending hours in the mage’s room and then in council with her father. There had been much gazing at maps as they tried to figure out what woods and what lake Mage Kaepli had seen. Decisions were finally made and scouts would be sent out any minute now. Main troop forces would be sent when word came back from the scouts.
The practice field was nearly empty as most of the warriors practiced in the morning. Delia was moving through the katas for the staff, moving slowly to make sure she was making each move correctly, then adding speed a bit at a time, always working to make the move perfectly. By the time she was satisfied, she was dripping with sweat and the sun was heading for the horizon.
Clapping behind her gave her a start and she turned, staff at the ready. It was Sisruo.
“Well done, Princess!”
Her blush was hidden by a face already flushed from exercise. “Thank you. Do you work with weapons?”
Sisruo walked over to her. “Alas, I do not.” He patted his flat stomach. “I fear I do too much sitting and studying and not enough weapons work.”
He looked perfectly slender and fit to Delia. “I was about to practice with my fire balls. Would you care to watch?”
“I heard that you have mastered the art. I’d love to.”
She put the staff back in the rack and motioned him to walk with her. “I don’t think I’ve mastered the art, yet, but I’m a fair marksman with them.”
At the spot she practiced this skill, she stopped. “Stay behind me.”
He gave her a small bow and stepped back.
Her first fire balls were a little sloppy. Mortified, she refocused. The next few were better and thrown about the furthest she’d ever done.
Sisruo clapped again. “How do you do it?”
As she did for the warriors, she walked him through what her process was. He was a quick learner. Probably because he’s already a mage, or near enough, she thought.
They stood side by side and made a contest of who could throw the farthest, then the biggest. She beat him, though when she demonstrated making several at a time and throwing them one at a time. He beamed at her. “I see I’ll have to practice.”
“Do mages go to war?”
He shrugged. “Sometimes. I think this time we will.”
“Master Kaepli and myself. Perhaps a few of the more advanced apprentices.”
Delia felt a real fear for the old mage. She truly liked him. “Isn’t Mage Kaepli a bit old?”
Sisruo laughed. “Don’t let him hear you saying that.” He drew a deep breath. “He’s as sharp a mind as I’ve ever met and has forgotten more magic than I will ever know. He will be a huge advantage for your father the King against your uncle.”
Delia realized she was juggling fireballs as Sisruo spoke. She extinguished them immediately as a blush crept up her cheeks. “Sorry. It’s become, um, natural, I guess, to make them.”
“I wondered. You didn’t seem to know you were doing it.”
“Sometimes I don’t.” She thought back to the council meeting where she’d made one in response to her fear of Nethene. “I think I should go bathe for dinner.” They began walking back to the castle. “I don’t remember seeing you there?”
“Oh no. I’m just an apprentice. That’s not the place for me. Besides,” he said quickly, “I’m usually studying one thing or another. We apprentices have a small dining room where we eat. That usually turns into another session on what we’re working on.”
“So you never stop working?”
“Oh, at mid-winter feast, we do. A lot of fun happens at mid-winter.”
A stab of regret hit Delia hard. She didn’t know any holidays of the elves. Her throat tightened with loss and regret.
“Oh. I’m sorry. I’ve hurt your feelings.” His apology was instant and sincere. Sisruo stopped and turned to her.
Delia swallowed her grief and put on a smile. “Don’t be concerned. I’ll see for myself at mid-winter.”
“Perhaps sometime you could come to the apprentice’s dining room and eat with us. Everyone would be eager to hear about your study of aura changing.”
For some reason, the invitation annoyed her. “Perhaps,” she said a little harshly.
They had reached the doors into the castle. Sisruo stopped and bowed. “I must go this way, Princess, back to work, I’m afraid.”
She bowed curtly. “So you must. Good evening.” Delia turned and went past the guards who held the door for her leaving Sisruo staring.
In her room she peeled off her dress and boots and threw them on the floor. She stomped to the basin and pitcher and after pouring water into the basin, held her hand over it. In a moment the water was steaming. A moment more and it was boiling. She snapped her hand back when it began to boil over the sides of the basin. Her heart pounding, she reached out to touch the water. She stopped just above the liquid, feeling the heat rise from it. Delia stepped back and covered her face, pressing on her eyes. She’d never done that before and hadn’t heard that anyone could.
Anger gone, she poured more water into the basin to cool it and washed the sweat away. In a dressing gown, she brushed out her hair and thought about it. Why had she done it? Anger, she decided. I was angry and it wasn’t enough to throw my boots. In the mirror, she could see the basin behind her. She got up and went to the bowl. The water was now room temperature. Delia held her hand over the water and thought about how she felt before. It took longer but the water began to steam.
Snatching her hand back she went back to her dressing table. After a deep breath, she began brushing her hair again. Another tool. A weapon, she thought. I’ll have to practice that in the yard tomorrow to see how it can be made effective.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 19.
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