UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM
The Ides of Aphrodite, 7438 – EY Day 225
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 … 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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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.