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The Spring of Storms

The Seasons of Elsewhen
The Spring of Storms

The Fourth Season of Elsewhen
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UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
The Ides of Aphrodite, 7438 – EY Day 225
Early Morning
Hurricane strength winds howled past the sturdy walls of Thunderhead Castle. Rain pelted against the vast common room window, blown nearly horizontal by howling winds from across the great ocean that lay several hundred feet below the Thunderhead cliffs. I stared at the sodden glass moodily, holding hands with my boyfriend … my betrothed, Nik Firewind, as we sat sideways on one of the common room’s dozen divans.
Of a sudden, Danni Quickblaze bounced into the large room. Without a word she dragged one of the large chairs over from its usual spot near the central fireplace and flopped into it, sitting just to our left.
“Kind of puts a damper on wanting to go anywhere, doesn’t it?” Danni grinned at her own witticism.
Danni and I were the trailblazers of our little group of apprentices, the ones who go on ahead to check out wherever it was we were planning to go before anyone else was allowed to go … and she was absolutely right: The storm happening just outside the window was no place for anyone to venture, certainly not without pressing need. Even in good weather our ventures were dangerous; they were also exciting, which I suspect was why Danni was so restless at being cooped up in the castle. Our job was necessary, despite the danger, because the dozen of us — well, really only eleven, with Hammel Broadprairie still in a coma — were the last Wizards on Amedia capable of using Magic.
Using my Magic … my Instinctive Magic, that I share with the others through tiny green stones that some of us wear as a ring and others wear as a pendant. My Instinctive Magic lived on even after Amedia’s Magic died. Killed by Blight.
Blight? Banterell Lightningbolt, a Wizard once banished from Amedian society and expected to die from old age. He didn’t die, though, because Blight is Instinctive, like I am. That means we have Magic even when the World doesn’t. Isn’t that just great? My worst enemy has the same gift I do. At least he doesn’t share; I don’t know if I could handle a bunch of near-Blights.
Even had we been crazy enough to want to go out into the storm right then, neither Danni nor I, nor any of the other apprentices, were going anywhere. We were too busy keeping Thunderhead Town safe.
The weather had been just terrible for a while. After a colder winter than anyone could remember we were now well into a spring of storms … storms so bad that all eleven of us had little time to do anything more than protect Thunderhead Town from their fury. The Castle where we live could handle the weather but many of the buildings in town couldn’t, so the others have been using my Magic to maintain a bubble of air over Thunderhead as a sort of dome. The rain may pour and the wind might howl but the air inside the bubble remained calm and mostly dry.
I was not directly involved in the protection. The Wizard Council — five of us apprentices: four heirs to Council positions, Sanora Rainwater, Maikel Seabreeze, Antoine Deephaven, and my boyfriend Nik, plus my best friend, Jenna Gentlehaze, who serves as proxy for her province’s living-but-incapacitated Council member — decreed it best that I remain safe within Thunderhead Castle while everyone else tended the bubble. It was, after all, my Magic that drove everything and there was no telling how the Plain folk of Thunderhead Town would react to again having Wizards in their midst.
Even if we were saving their lives.
What tenuous lives they had become. The town overflowed with refugees from the surrounding area. Hundreds of local residents had fled to what safety the bubble supplied when the storms began to wreak havoc with their own small towns. Even my own family abandoned the house where I grew up to make their way to Thunderhead Town. Fortunately, I was able to offer them shelter in Thunderhead Castle. Unfortunately, they were but one of dozens of families crowded into the Castle. Not that there isn’t room; the Castle is huge, having housed the entire population of Amedia when it was first built. Room is only a part of the equation, though. Everyone must also be fed, and food has become a scarce commodity in Thunderhead, both Thunderhead Castle and Thunderhead Town.
Food was the one thing the Council allowed Danni and I to travel in search of. We’d found enough to keep everyone fed to this point … but it’s bad out there in the World. Wizard’s Reach, where Thunderhead is located, isn’t the only part of Amedia to be experiencing vicious storms.
Which raised the question in my head: What could the eleven of us do for the rest of Amedia? What good was it, sheltering our little corner of the planet from the storms, if the rest of Amedia should fall to the nightmare that our World had become?
“We’re going to have to go soon, Danni,” I told my partner. “We can’t save Wizard’s Reach without saving all of the Mainland.”
Nik took my hand and squeezed it. “I’m not sure we can save anyone,” he announced. “The Council has pretty much come to the conclusion that this is just a holding action we’ve undertaken and that total destruction is inevitable.”
I blinked once, then turned to look at my intended. “That doesn’t sound like them.”
“That’s not very encouraging,” Danni added, speaking at nearly the same moment.
Nik sighed. “You two haven’t been in the thick of the protection detail, like we have,” he said softly. “Life in Thunderhead Town is miserable, Astra. The people are crowded past anything they’ve ever known and everyday items are hard to find. Food is more than scarce. And despite everything we’re doing, every apprentice has been harassed and even threatened more than once.”
It was my turn to squeeze his hand. “We can’t just give up, Nik,” I said, sounding desperate even to myself. “Giving up is simply … well, not what Amedia needs. The World is counting on us.”
“Maybe the World is dead,” Nik little more than whispered.
“Now hold on there, Norland,” Danni growled and leaned forward to better see Nik past me. “Amedia can not be dead. It’s hurt, of course, and sick — sick beyond measure. But the World can’t die just because Magic has been killed. It just can’t.”
Danni’s last words sounded almost as desperate as mine had sounded.
“The storms have only been plaguing us for a couple of sixdays,” I added.
“That’s true, of course,” Nik conceded. “But when you consider the horrible Winter we had, it’s been months now. With most Wizards dead and gone, the people have just lost hope. They see that we’re trying to help and a few of them appreciate it, but most of them … I don’t know, they just seem to hate us. Because we can’t be everywhere, can’t make it all go away.”
“Why are there storms, anyway,” Danni wanted to know.
“Because there are no Wizards to handle the weather control —” Nik began, but Danni cut him off.
“No, I mean, why are there storms at all? Why does a lack of Magic cause storms in the first place?”
Nik frowned and looked at me. “Astra?” I shrugged.
“The lack of Magic doesn’t cause storms,” I said slowly, drawing back memories of lessons I’d had at some point. “Lack of Magic allows storms. Stormy is Amedia’s natural state. I think it has to do with there being so much ocean. Something about the temperature difference between the air and the water …” I shrugged; how was I supposed to know? I only learned Plain knowledge as I was growing up and six months of training with Wizard André had only allowed me to scratch the surface of Wizard knowledge.
“Maybe we should talk to Wizard Hucklebee,” Danni suggested, and Nik smiled for the first time in a too long.
“That’s a good idea,” he said, sounding close to cheerful for the first time in a while and turning his gaze on me. “The Council meetings have been closed, so we haven’t had real input from Wizard Hucklebee, or Wizard André, either. I don’t expect them to have answers, but if they can even help us understand the problem better, maybe we’ll be able to come up with something better than just keeping the rain away.”
The last comment was directed at me. The air bubble over Thunderhead had been my idea — based on a lesson I’d had with my mentor, Wizard André — and Nik had never liked it as a solution. He’d agreed that it would be better than nothing, but he hadn’t been willing to give up the idea that there was something better we could do. Now he wanted me to join in and validate the possibility that there was a “something better” to grasp at.
I was always open to consulting with Wizard Hucklebee and said so. “Sure. Let’s go.”
Danni touched my arm as I stood. “You want me to come along?” While she and I were partners in what we did, I imagine she felt like a third wheel when it was Nik and me undertaking something.
I glanced at Nik, raising my eyebrows in question.
“Yes, come with us,” my boyfriend said without hesitation. “Danni, you and Astra are a team. If we ever come up with something to do instead of just cowering beneath a bubble, you two are both going to be on the front line. You might as well be in on it from the beginning.”
Danni grinned and I could feel her energy level increase, just from her hand on my arm. “Great!”
The three of us turned and headed for the massive double doors that led out of the dormitory common room.
 
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