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Authors: Mary Fan

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BOOK: Tell Me My Name
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Suddenly he twists with an unnatural
jolt, turning away from me, and the action snaps me out of my
momentary distraction, reminding me that we’re both still at the
mercy of the master. Behind him, the magician holds up both fists.
If his eyes could emit heat, the apprentice would have been reduced
to cinders in an instant, and terror darts through me as I wonder
what will happen to the boy.

Don’t hurt him!” I cry,
wishing I could crash through this wall and protect the only person
who’s shown me any kindness.

Without glancing at me, the man jerks
his fists back, and the apprentice stumbles toward him. The master
must have bound him by magic – it’s the only answer. “Come. Or will
I have to drag you out of here?”

The boy remains silent. A slight,
barely perceptible shudder runs through him, and a sense of guilt
twists my stomach. His simple white shirt and brown pants appear as
useless against the cold as my dress. I would never have asked him
to relinquish his source of warmth, and it feels wrong, having
taken the cloak from him. At the same time, it would have seemed
just as wrong to refuse his kindness when he went through so much
to offer it.

Knowing I can’t ask any
more of him, I turn my attention to his master. How
he act so cruelly,
both toward me and toward his own apprentice? What gives him the
right to abuse us like this, and for no reason that makes any
justifiable sense?

These words teeter on the edge of my
tongue, but I can tell by the scowl on his snake-like face that
only a thread holds his temper back, and I worry that if it snaps,
he’ll take out his wrath on the youth. My eyes are drawn to the two
bruises on the boy’s face – bruises he received because of me – and
I’m sure he must have more that I can’t see. Rage blazes in the
leader’s expression, and I can’t risk anything more happening to
that young man. He may be a stranger, but he’s already given me
more than I had the right to ask for.

So I just watch, seething in silence,
as the magician leads his apprentice and cloaked followers up the
stone steps. At the top, he stops and lets the others pass. When
the youth arrives, the man unclenches his fists and places a hand
on the boy’s shoulder.

You have much to learn,
young one,” he says, shaking his head. His gentle, fatherly tone
sounds so false after the actions I witnessed that it makes me
cringe. “I know you must resent me right now, but do not think my
actions harsh. Remember, this is our way – the way of endurance, of
trials, of great rewards for great prices, for only the strong are
worthy of the kind of power we wield. You knew that when you swore
your life to us.”

Yes, Master,” the young
man says softly, and I don’t understand how anyone could
life. What kinds of “great rewards” could be worth serving such a
wicked man?

Meanwhile, the magician places his
other hand on his apprentice’s head and knits his eyebrows in an
expression of concentration. At first I think this is meant to be
some new kind of paternal gesture, but then I notice the bruises on
the other’s face fading, and realize with some surprise that the
magician must be casting a healing spell. After a few moments, the
injuries disappear completely, and he lowers his hand.

I know you mean well, my
young one, but your foolishness will cost you. Never forget how
deceptive appearances can be.”

The youth gives a slight
nod, but his expression is filled with confusion as he draws one
hand across his healed face. The master glances back at me and
narrows his eyes, then, with his hand still on the other’s
shoulder, leads him up the stairs. I think back to how he called me
dangerous, and notice that he seems strangely protective of the
boy, as if he believes that his harshness is for his apprentice’s
own good. I don’t understand how he could think that way, but is
there something more to him than the pure wickedness I see? He
locked me up and tortured me with his spell, and yet could he
possibly have a good reason? Did I do something terrible to deserve
this … something that I can’t remember? Maybe
the monster, and he’s keeping me
here to prevent me from hurting anybody. But I don’t feel like one
… Were we enemies? If that’s so, why wouldn’t he tell

I think back to his words
and try to puzzle out why he hates me so much. “This creature
one of
us,” he said. And he kept referring to my “kind.” He must mean that
I’m an outsider – perhaps I come from an enemy land? Maybe I’m a
prisoner of war?

That explanation seems to make sense,
and I try to recall what we might have been fighting over. Maybe if
I can remember that, it’ll help me puzzle out where my home is. The
feeling of an invisible knife hanging over my head – the uncanny
sensation of omnipresent danger that accosted me when I first woke
up – returns, and I shudder. Actually, it’s been here this whole
time; I just wasn’t thinking about it because I was distracted by
the magician and his young apprentice.

Now that I’m alone, I sense it looming
over me, threatening to fall at any moment. And I realize that the
only way I can escape it is to get out of here, to return to a
place where I’ll be safe. But no matter how much I probe my mind, I
find only gaping emptiness. How do I know so much about the world –
about storms and magic and war – when I can’t recall a single thing
about my own life? The magician said he wanted to discover my
“secret,” but how can he hope to do so when I don’t even know it

Whatever it is, I need to find it. If
it’s important enough for him to desire, it could be the key to my

Maybe if I look hard enough, I’ll find
something that can awaken my memories. The sight of my body helped
me recall what my face looks like – maybe a familiar word or object
from the outside world will bring back more.

I look out the jagged window the
magician left in the cell’s wall. He and the others have
disappeared up the steps, and without them, the large room seems
eerie in its emptiness. It’s wide and shadow-laden, illuminated by
only a single iron lantern, hanging on a chain from the low
ceiling. The walls and floor are made of dark stone, but not
individual blocks such as brick. Instead, the entire place appears
to have been hollowed out of a single, enormous rock. A wooden post
stands in the center, and I notice a pair of shackles attached to
it. Leaning closer to the wall to get a better view, I look toward
the outskirts of the space.

There’s not much, but what I do see
tells me that I must be in a dungeon. More shackles dangle from the
walls to my far left, and I shudder at the thought of people being
bound by them. My cell appears to be one of many, all of which have
iron bars frozen over with ice. Do other captives lie within

Hello?” I call. “Is anyone
out there?”

Only silence greets me. Hollow, lonely

Hello? Please, is anyone

I wait, but no one
responds. So I retreat into my cell, feeling heavy inside. I’m
completely alone here, and nothing stirred any memories. I’ve
looked at everything within sight of my cell, and none of it’s done
me any good. I need to get out of here – to see more, and to escape
before the magician returns and casts his horrible spell on me
again. But how? I’ve already tried, and nothing I did even hinted
at working. A rush of anxiety tightens my chest, but I try not to
let it overwhelm me. There
be a solution, and I feel like I’m missing
something obvious …

I glance down at the ball
of warm light in my hand, and suddenly an idea sparks. These walls
are made of
and ice melts! This answer seems so clear now, I wonder how I
didn’t think of it before. The nervous clenching in my heart turns
to an excited, elated drumming, and I feel the corners of my mouth
tugging into a smile at the revelation. It won’t be easy, using
such a small piece of warmth to melt so thick a wall, but I can do
it. Even if it takes hours, or days, of gradual wearing down, I’ll
persist until I succeed. And then I’ll slip through the bars – I’m
sure I’m slight enough to do so – and freedom will be

I press the ball of heat
into one of the frozen surfaces and watch intently. Though I remind
myself that this will take time, I can’t help my eagerness. A drop
of water is all I need to see – just a hint to tell me that my plan
is working. Time crawls by, and I can’t resist pushing the ball
harder into the wall in my impatience.
Come on, just show me a drop …

I lean closer, hoping to
catch even the thinnest of rivulets winding down the rough ice. But
I see nothing; the wall might as well be made of stone. My
excitement fades back into anxiety, and I try not to fear the
I’ve only just
, I remind myself.

More time passes,
stretching on and on, but I hold the sphere steady, knowing I need
to concentrate all the heat on one spot. Any second now, I’m sure
I’ll see a sign that my plan is working.
Just a drop … Please …

My arms and back begin to
ache with stiffness from holding the same position for what feels
like hours, and I try to ignore them.
It’ll all be worth it once I’m free
I think to myself, but the self-assurance rings hollow. The wall
remains as solid as ever, and it occurs to me now that the ice
could be enchanted to remain sturdy in the face of heat. I recall
the sparks the magician tortured me with – the ones that burned so
hot, they nearly drove me mad. There was no sign of water then, and
if such fire couldn’t melt this frozen mass, how could a small ball
of light do anything … especially when it was given to me by the
very man who imprisoned me here?

Suddenly the foolishness of my plan
descends upon me, and a great swelling of despair fills my chest as
I realize that this effort, like my others, is in vain. I let my
arms drop, wondering how long I stood here like an idiot, waiting
for something that could never happen, and, with tears stinging my
eyes, sink to the ground. I don’t want to give up, but when I wrack
my brain for more ideas, I can’t come up with any. I’ve tried
breaking down the walls, widening the window, melting the ice …
what more is there to attempt? The ground is solid iron – I could
claw at it until I ground my fingers to bone dust, and it wouldn’t
make a difference. The ceiling is iron as well … not that I could
reach it.

It’s hopeless. Completely hopeless.
I’ve tried everything I can think of, and I’m no closer to finding
a way out. And how can I learn anything if I’m trapped here, with
the only other sign of life being those who refuse to answer my
questions? Though the enchanted sphere keeps the frigid air back, I
still feel incredibly cold. The chill comes from inside me, from
the emptiness of not even knowing my own name.

But I can’t simply
surrender. There must be
more I can do – I just need to figure out

Realizing I’m still holding
the apprentice’s black cloak, I wrap the material around me.
Something about its presence brings me a small measure of comfort.
Perhaps it’s just knowing that someone – anyone – cares a little
about me.
What if I ask him for answers
the next time he comes?
a part of me
inquires. He alone was willing to help me; he’s probably my only
hope. But why would he, especially when his powerful master
controls him so tightly?

He challenged that
authority already, for my sake
, that voice
in my head whispers.
If I appeal to him,
if I let him know how much I’m depending on him, maybe he’ll do it

But what would the master
do to him if he did? Though the magician healed the wounds he
inflicted the first time, I can’t forget the horrible way he threw
the boy into the wall. I questioned then what right that man had to
do so, and now I have to wonder: What right have I to ask the
apprentice to face that again? What right have I to ask

To do what my mind
suggested would be to manipulate another for my own gain, and that
would be
Further, I shouldn’t have to depend on someone else in the first
place. I
find a way to recover my memories and escape this cell on my
own. But what if I’m not clever enough? Not resourceful enough? Not
… strong enough?

Tears roll down my cheeks, and as I
brush them away, I catch a glimpse of the window to the outdoors.
The light that previously shone through it has retreated, leaving a
bluish-gray shade across the sky. Its darkness seems to reflect how
I feel: lonely and lost.

Then a twinkle catches my eye. A star
– the first one I’ve seen tonight. A feeling stirs – not quite a
memory, but close. Something inside tells me that stars represent
goodness, and I focus on the thought. Maybe it’ll bring back the
recollection of who taught me that.

Suddenly the stories shine clearly in
my head, as sure as my knowledge of the wind and the sky, and I
find comfort in their familiarity. I know that the goodness of
starlight, given by the benevolent Divinity, glows within all of
our souls. She watches over us, Her children, and charged Her
heavenly servants, the ayri, with caring for us. They dwell in the
Celestial Realm alongside the spirits of the dead, each ayr
responsible for a specific aspect of the world – an hour of the
day, like midnight; an element of nature, like rain; or a
particular virtue, like truth. They embody these pieces of the
universe, with the ayri of time ensuring each hour occurs when it
should, and those of nature bringing balance to the weather and the
earth. As for the ones of virtue – it’s said that they whisper
their advice into our minds and guide those wise enough to listen.
And though they all remain ever watchful, the Divinity forbids them
from interfering with our lives in the Terrestrial Realm. For She
loves us, the children She created at the dawn of time, and wants
us to have the freedom to dictate our own destinies.

BOOK: Tell Me My Name
9.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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