Authors: Bonnie Lamer
Uh oh. I need to burst that bubble. “Xandra, I know that I promised you we would, but I do not believe this is the best time.”
“I must agree,” Grandmother says. “The point of the web being put in place is to make sure we are all safe. If your magic goes awry, it may damage the integrity of the structure.”
Xandra opens her mouth to argue but reconsiders. With a distinct pout, she says, “Fine.”
Dagda looks like he is thinking awfully hard about something. “There may be things that she could learn on a small scale.”
Hope has returned to Xandra’s eyes. “Like what?”
He moves closer to her. “From what I am hearing, you are only lacking in finesse and self-confidence.”
He does not have enough experience with her magic to be able to make such claims. “Her magic goes awry quickly and cannot be controlled easily. She is also not accustomed to working with the purer magic in this realm.”
I get a perfunctory, “I understand,” but I do not believe he even listened to what I said. To Xandra, he says, “Xandra, throw me to the ground.”
Pulling her usual amount of magic, which is always too much, she flings it out towards Dagda. He falls to the ground writhing in pain. Quickly, she pulls her magic back. She actually looks concerned about him briefly when she walks to his side to see if he is okay. Being the fighter that he is, Dagda kicks her legs out from under her. In the blink of an eye he is on top of her with a dagger in his hand. Every one of us pulls magic to come to Xandra’s aid but she does not need us. With a burst of magic, Dagda is flying backwards through the air, the dagger falling useless out of his hand. She does not seem concerned about whether or not he is okay this time.
“Dagda, what is the meaning of this?” Grandmother demands as she physically holds me back from going after him.
Dagda pulls himself to a sitting position and smiles. “I wanted to test her reflexes when attacked at close range.” Right. Sure he did.
With hands on her hips, Xandra asks, “Did I pass?”
He chuckles. “With flying colors.” He stands up and brushes imaginary dirt off his clothes. “Now, I would like to show you how to handle that situation without giving away how strong you are.” Okay, I can see where he is going with this now. I stop pulling against Grandmother’s grasp on my arm.
The idea of subtly is lost on Xandra. “Why do I need to do that? And are you planning to pull another dagger on me?”
“In combat, it is often beneficial for your enemies to underestimate you.”
She is still not convinced. “Okay.”
This time, he walks towards Xandra but stops about fifteen feet away. “Your reflexes are the same whether you are a hundred feet away from the threat or a single foot from the threat. That means you did not have to push so much magic at me the first time. If you had waited until I was closer, you could have put me out of action without everyone around seeing how much power you have.”
“I’m following what you’re saying, but the problem is I seem to have two settings with my magic. No magic and too much magic.” I cannot hold back a chuckle. She is telling the truth.
Dagda smiles. “That is what we can practice.”
“I still believe this is a bad idea,” I warn him but he ignores me. He is going to be one sore King by the end of the day.
“Xandra, I am going to run at you brandishing a dagger. I want you to wait as long as possible before you hit me with your offensive magic.”
She narrows her eyes at him. “This sounds like a great way to get myself ‘accidently’ killed.” It is good to see that she has a reasonable amount of distrust.
He chuckles. “I watched you repel an arrow from a crossbow shot at me from two feet away. I think you can handle this.”
It is going to take more than those few words to get Xandra to trust him. He takes a step forward and he is already on the ground. She apologizes but it is obvious she does not mean it.
Dagda gets up. “Try to let me get closer this time.”
He gets about three steps this try. As Xandra gets more comfortable and sees that he is not going to really try to kill her, she lets him get closer. After the tenth try I can tell that Dagda is hurting but he keeps going until he she lets him get close enough to brandish the dagger before she throws him to the ground. This time she holds him there using a surprisingly small amount of magic. After a moment, she pulls it back so he can get up. On very shaky legs.
“Excellent,” he says, still sounding out of breath. “That was the right amount of offensive magic. You did not send me across the room. You simply incapacitated me. No one around would be able to tell that you could have sent me flying through the wall if you had desired. Considering your size and youth, others would probably think that you were simply lucky in taking me down at all. You can use that to your advantage if you do not show your cards all at once. Now, I want you to use the same amount of magic you used just then while I am still over here.” He’s moved back to his original position about fifteen feet away.
Xandra struggles to not pull a lot of magic but she manages. She uses the same amount from a moment ago and puts Dagda on the ground where he was standing. When she lets him go, he is grinning. “Perfect,” he says. “Now, try it with Kegan.”
Xandra scowls. “No, I don’t want to hurt him.” Dagda’s eyebrows crawl towards his hairline as what she said sinks in. It is okay to hurt him, but not Kegan.
“I would like to volunteer,” Kegan says.
She sighs. “Kegan, if this is about last night…”
“No, I agreed to help with your training. This is a way to help.”
She shrugs. “Okay, but trust me, it hurts.” He knows that. He has already felt her magic.
“I am ready.”
With the same ease, Xandra makes him fall where he is standing. “Very good,” Dagda says. He turns around towards Grandmother. “I would like to try something different now. I will need your, Kallen’s and Tabatha’s assistance.”
Great, we are all thrilled to stand in as a target. I think he simply wants the rest of us to feel the pain Xandra has been sending his way. Dagda arranges us so that we are all crowded in front of Kegan. Him included. “Alright, Xandra, now I want you to take Kegan down again without affecting the four of us with your magic.”
Xandra is back to looking unsure. Needless to say, there is a lot of pain spread around amongst us as she struggles to send her magic only towards Kegan. After a while, Kegan starts turning green from all the magic she keeps flooding into him. I take pity on him and stand in his place for a while.
It is a very long day. We stop briefly for lunch, but then we are right back into the training room. By dinnertime, we are all ready to start flinging magic back at Xandra. We decide to call it a day.
As we leave the training room, we hear the first blast. It is louder and more powerful than yesterday’s bombs. We all start to run for the door but Grandmother stops us. “We need to make sure that the entire web stays intact. I want someone on each side of the house. If you see any cracks or holes, you let the rest of us know immediately. Xandra and Kallen, you take the front of the house. Dagda, you and Tabitha take the back. Kegan, you and Alita take the west side and I will take the east.” We all murmur our agreement so we can get out there and discover our fate this evening.
Xandra and I make our way to the terrace and I sigh in relief that there is no damage to the web. But the bombs keep coming. One after another, colorful streaks can be seen shooting off in all directions as bomb after bomb hit the external wall of the web. Each hit brings with it the fear that Grandmother’s vision will come true.
“What should we do?” Xandra asks.
“There really is not anything to do except watch for damage as Grandmother said.”
Xandra is standing with her arms crossed and is rubbing her hands up and down her arms showing how nervous she is. I stand behind her and wrap my arms around her, pulling her back against me. She hugs my arms tighter to her. We stand like this for quite a while.
Eventually, the shock wears off and our confidence begins to grow. Not one single thing is happening with the web. It is staying in place exactly as it should. Some of the bombs even seem to bounce off from it sending them back towards whoever is doing this.
Tired of standing, I create a chaise lounge for Xandra and me to sit in. I lean against its back and Xandra sits between my legs with her back to my chest. She continues to hug my arms close to her.
“What do you think they are made out of?” she asks me.
I think about it a moment. “I am not certain. There are many things you can use to make a magical bomb. Considering the size and scope of these bombs, I would say that she has enlisted the help of some very powerful Fairies who know a lot about pyrotechnics.”
“Does Isla have any idea of how many Fairies have joined with Xenia?”
“No, but she believes the number is larger than Dagda wants to admit.”
Xandra snorts. “Of course he does not want to admit that some Fairies may think he is an idiot.”
I laugh. “You know that is a treasonous remark, right?”
“Please, like he could hold me long enough to try me for treason.”
I kiss the top of her head. “You are very entertaining to have around.”
She tips her head back so she can scowl up at me. “Gee, thanks.”
I chuckle. “Would you rather I say that it is dull and drab to have you around?”
“You know, I’m pretty sure that I still have a connection to the spiders. I figure a good hundred of them could have you eaten in less than a minute.”
I chuckle again and lean down to kiss her cheek. “You would miss me too much.” She does not respond but she pulls my arms tighter around her. I will take to mean she would.
For several long hours, we watch and listen as the torrent continues. Even through the spider web, I can feel the powerful magic that has created the bombs. But the web holds hour after hour. It is close to midnight when the bombs finally begin to let up. Xenia and her followers must finally be figuring out that they aren’t going to get through. A few minutes later, they stop altogether.
Relieved, Xandra and I stand up to go inside the house and find the others. We stop when the whiny voice that has haunted me from childhood says, “Kallen, you will not be able to stay in there forever. You will have to come out sometime. You could end all of this right now by abiding by the hand-fasting that occurred in our infancy. Once Dagda is out of the way, you and I can rule this kingdom together. I will even forgive you for breaking the vows of our hand-fasting with the Witch Fairy that somehow managed to catch your eye. Her magic may be strong, but she has only fought against Cowan Fairies. She will not be able to stand against the army of full-blooded Fairies I have assembled. End this before innocent lives are taken. You and I together will be the strongest rulers this realm has ever seen.” She is obviously using magic to amplify her voice to this even more annoying pitch.