PART THREE: MANIPULATING MAGIC
As summer drew to a close and the ruins of Falnora were again beginning to resemble a community, Eya made her decision to leave. Because the autumn's harvest would be small, the winter would be hard on the settlement, and the fewer mouths to feed, the better. Yet Eya couldn't shake the feeling that she was running away when she was needed the most.
Of all the forces pressing her to go, none was more insistent than Reg. He recognized how frightened his sister was of such a major lifestyle change and that nothing short of bullying would cause her to face the necessity of the departure. He had to admit to trepidation himself. Spending one night in a city was nothing compared to going there to live. And the journey would not be easy - not with the threat of dwarves roaming the plains.
Their party would be a small one, comprising four people: Eya, Reg, Lora, and Bre. While the first three members of the company were going because of the ties of friendship that bound them, Bre had leapt at the opportunity because it was her best chance to get away from the "backwater mudpatch" of Falnora. Surprisingly, with the two people he cared most for making the journey, Ebb decided to remain behind. He claimed he was too old to set up another new life. He felt a part of Falnora, and he intended to remain there until his dying day. No amount of persuasion by either his daughter or the elf he loved could change his mind.
Lora appeared less concerned about traveling to Vorti than the twins had anticipated. When asked if she would go with them, she had been uncertain, but, after a lengthy discussion with Wil about the city's attitudes of racial tolerance, her outlook on the journey improved. Apparently, the low population of elves in Vorti was due more to that race's natural inclination to keep to themselves than to any distrust on the part of the human populace. "Curiosity" was the word Wil used to describe the position of humanity toward elves in Vorti.
The morning of the group's departure dawned clear and crisp, with a twinge of autumn in the air. Reg had decided that the earlier they left, the better. He didn't want there to be a chance they would get caught on the plains at night. As far as he was concerned, one encounter with the nightbeasts had been more than enough for a lifetime.
Shortly after sunup, Wil was in the fields, trying to coax as much growth from the crops as he could before the advent of the first frost. Reg joined the older man and together they strolled past rows of corn, wheat, and barley. Reg felt a twinge of nostalgia as he realized this might be the last time he would wander through these fields, at least for a long time.
There was something he had to ask Wil, however. It was a question he had been putting off all summer, but now that he was finally leaving, his time for stalling had run out. He was reasonably certain what the answer would be, but he needed to know for sure to avoid a blunder if the matter arose at some point during his stay in the city.
"You have something to ask me," said Wil, breaking the morning's stillness.
"You know me too well. Sometimes I think you can read my mind."
"For fifteen years, you and Eya have been like a son and daughter to me. It's only natural that I'd know when something was bothering you."
"When I was in Vorti, I learned something from Rim, the ex-chancellor, that got me thinking. Gav isn't your natural son, is he?"
Although Wil had to be surprised by the question, his expression didn't betray his reaction. "No, he isn't. And if you know enough to ask that question, you know who his father is."
Wil nodded. "He was conceived a few days before Lis and I left Vorti. Sor knew about Gav and wanted him away from the city and the burden of ruling. From that moment on, he was as my son."
"He doesn't know?"
"No. And he must never find out. That is perhaps one of the few things - maybe the only thing - Sor and I agreed upon."
"You never had any children of your own with Lis?"
"I'm sterile. All Apaths are - or are supposed to be. Sor has always been an enigma. The first Apath king. The first fertile Apath."
"Apparently, the ability to control magic doesn't pass from parent to child."
"At least in Gav's case it didn't," agreed Wil.
"You aren't pleased with our decision to go to Vorti, are you?"
"Of all the cities of Devforth, I have less regard only for Tsab. But it isn't my decision. You have to remember that I have a lot of unpleasant memories of that city. It's a different place there now, with the nobility gone and Sor ensconced on the throne. The Vorti I grew up in is no more, so perhaps my feelings are antiquated."
"But the king you opposed is still on the throne."
"Indeed. Through the years I've often wondered if my opposition to him was the right way to go about pursuing my agenda. Lis didn't think so, and in the end it failed. What if I had given him my support? With two Apaths, how much of a difference might there have been?"
"You once told me that recriminations are pointless."
"They are. What's past is past and nothing any of us can do will change it. But I'm concerned about the future, that Eya doesn't make the same mistakes I did. Take care of her, Reg. You have a keen intellect and good common sense. Use those qualities to help her. It isn't easy for an Apath in a city. A third of the people will be in awe of her, a third of the them will want something from her, and the other third will be jealous of her power and influence. She'll have suitors and few of them will be sincere. She'll be accepted not for who she is, but for what she can do."
"I'll be there for her," said Reg.
"I'm counting on it."
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