We all have our struggles. I struggle to integrate the different sides of my nature, Maric struggles with his hungers, Gwyn struggles with the conflicts between her loyalties, Valene struggles with her needs and her duties, Dorina struggles with her beast, Aoibheann struggles with being Aoibheann, Wren struggles with whatever it was that drove her here, and Hadley struggles with the magic she was not told she had.
At least today, we were able to do something about two of those struggles.
I am not quite sure what alerted me, a general sense of unease in the air, the intimations from Maric that all was not well with Hadley, or just my need to know what is going on. Either way, I headed down towards the tavern, where I found Maric and Dorina, with Wren, Hadley and Aoibheann heading inside the tavern. Maric advised me silently that Hadley had been bleeding, a nosebleed, and he suspected that she had headaches. He suggested that I go to see her, since she likely was going to be more comfortable with me. I agreed, but first, greeting Dorina and apologised for not having worked with her as I had promised.
She said it was not a problem, she knew I was busy and she didn’t want to be a burden. She then told us that she thought Hadley’s problem was that she was part fae, and had been blocked from using her magic. That was what Hadley had told her. With all the fae magic around in these parts, she wondered if it was building up in Hadley and causing her problems, just as the beast building up in her caused her problems.
Maric and I had a brief mental conversation, partly about what I had already planned to do to help Dorina, and partly about what we could do to help Hadley. We decided that he would go off and work with Dorina, since I was more likely to be able to work with Hadley. I had to agree, I said, since I had received a lot of my fae magical energy from Hadley’s mother. He took Dorina off to her dwelling to help her with her beast and I went into the tavern.
There I found Aoibheann trying to help by giving Hadley a fork. She seemed to be under the impression that Hadley’s head would explode from not using her magic and was trying to tell her to channel things into the fork. From the expressions on Hadley’s face and the barely suppressed screams, she probably felt like her head was exploding, but all she could channel was her frustration as she slammed the fork down, leaving it sticking out of the table.
I was not entirely sure what to do, but thought I could try to absorb some energy from her, as I had from her mother so long ago. I thought back to my own first tentative lessons in magic, from Paasheeluu, or Mitternacht as she had called herself then. That gave me an idea. I still had a portion of her horn about my person. That could serve as a focus.
I squatted down in front of Hadley, so I could see her face, ramping up just enough of my presence to make sure I had her attention. I asked her to listen to me. I reminded her who I was and told her what I was going to try to do. She had an excess of fae magic. I had experience at absorbing that kind of magic. I put the piece of horn down on the table in front of her and told her it was a piece of unicorn horn, and was a focus of magic. Perhaps, I said, she remembered Mitternacht the unicorn. What I wanted her to do was to focus on the horn, to try to send her magic to it, maybe try to make it glow or otherwise to send magical energy to it. I told Hadley that I was going to then try to discharge the energy from the crystal. I took off my sword and gave it to Wren, asking her to put it somewhere out of the way. Aoibheann decided that the flames were a risk too, so sent Wren to put out the fire while she put out the candles. She asked how I was going to discharge it and said I would have to be careful to avoid breaking the crystal. I had vague memories that some of her early lessons had resulted in shattered crystals.
I was not entirely sure I knew myself, but I reasoned that if I could focus my will on sending energy to the crystal, I could equally reverse that focus, and channel energy from the crystal into me. I wasn’t entirely sure what it would do to me, since I already had a heartbeat, but I was used to absorbing from Gwyn too, during our lovemaking, so I thought I could take it.
I reminded Hadley what I wanted her to do and what I was going to do. I focussed my will, centring it on the crystal, opening up that channel between myself and it. Hadley looked at me, pained and confused and started to ask what… she didn’t know how. Nevertheless, she lifted a hand and aimed it at the crystal, trying to concentrate.
Something worked. With my Wyld senses wide open, I felt something stir within her and shoot towards the crystal, which glowed brightly. I barely had time to register this before it came shooting into me. Fae magic it was, that was for certain, but its intent was far different from what I had experienced from Isabella, Gwyn or Faermorn. This was definitely some sort of offensive spell. It hit me like the magical equivalent of being kicked hard in the solar plexus, bringing back memories of rugby games at school. It doubled me up in pain, and I think I screamed, or possibly growled. No doubt I made faces too. I stayed curled up for a few moments, letting the energies dissipate, or at least, find a place to be. I told her she packed a hell of a punch for somebody so small and asked if she felt better.
Hadley just laid her head on the table and murmured quietly, “thank you.” The pain in her face and eyes was gone, and the Wyld seemed quieter. Aoibheann said that she should try again if there was more and wanted to know if she should go and tell Maric. Wren meanwhile fussed around getting water for myself and Hadley. She asked what we would do if I wasn’t around to help.
I assured Aoibheann that I would let Maric know, telling her he was busy with Dorina at the moment. I told Wren that I thought this build-up had been going on for a while, and that was why it had been causing her pain and had come out in a rush. I was sure it would take a while to build up again, and in the meanwhile, we would work out ways of teaching Hadley to discharge it safely without my help. I drank the water that Wren had provided and waved at Hal for a large rum. Hadley seemed to have the right idea, I said, but needed to work out how to control and direct it.
Aoibheann thought that the build-up had been longer than the last few days, as Alec and Isabella had blocked her. She quite rightly suggested that fae energy, Wyld energy, was like life. Air was life to her, and when she had too much, she had to exhale. Remember to breathe, she told Hadley. I was quite impressed. In her own strange way, she had given sensible advice. Wren wondered if the blocks that Alec and Isabella had put in place were gone.
I drank the rum that Hal had brought me and thought for a moment. I told Wren that I didn’t know for sure. It was possible they had, or it was possible that the higher levels of fae energy here meant that the blocks were not strong enough. I agreed that Wyld magic was indeed tied to life, as, in a strange way, was blood magic. I opined that all magic was about channelling energy with your willpower. I now had experience of three types of magic and while the energies might seem different, and the techniques different on the surface, underneath they were much the same. We would look at doing some training in the next few days, but for now, I counselled sleep, preferably somewhere other than on the table, which is what it looked like Hadley was about to do.
Wren was sitting there counting in her head and asked what the third type of magic was. I asked if she remembered Mitternacht, the unicorn, which she did, and said that she had taught me some of her magic. I also suggested that maybe Valene could help Hadley too, as she was fae, and didn’t have the same conflict problems that Gwyn might.
Hadley was reluctant to move and didn’t want to go to her bed. Aoibheann suggested they could go camping in the orchard, which idea appealed to both the girls. I left them to it then, and headed back to the castle, where I asked the guards on night shift to keep an eye on the camp. I canvassed Maric via the mental link and reported what I had done, suggesting that maybe I could set up a practice area somewhere on the edge of the village, where Hadley could work of energy by shifting rocks about or something. He thought that was a good idea. So did I, and before I retired to my chambers, found myself a quiet corner and discharged some of my own excess energy from Hadley by throwing some rocks around. It was surprisingly satisfying.