The impact never came. My eyes flicked open, and I saw the unicorn frozen just in front of me, the tip of its horn no more than a finger’s length away. I relaxed, let out the breath I hadn’t even realized I had been holding, and grinned.
“Hey, Maybelle,” I said. “What took you so long?”
“Some of us have things to do that don’t involve saving you, you know,” she said, smiling back at me. “Maqtugha,” she said, severing the ropes, then frowned in surprise. “Okay, what happened, and how is the rope enchanted?” Magykans can see when an object’s had magyk used on it. Not the exact spell, just whether it’s been enchanted or not.
I explained what had happened with the sorcerer and the potion.
“And so, I don’t know what, but something big is going on,” I finished.
“Yeah…” Maybelle seemed distant. “A ‘sacrificial victim’? Not many potions need that ingredient…and none of them are good.”
She seemed too distracted to just be thinking about what had happened to me as she brushed her short brown hair out of her eyes, where it was always falling.
“Let’s go,” I urged Maybelle. “That wasn’t the only unicorn in the forest, and I have a feeling you’ll need to save your magyk.” Where did that come from? I wondered. That last bit had flowed out of my mouth easily, but I hadn’t planned to say it. Shaking off the strange feeling, I walked in silence with Maybelle back to the castle.
I sighed in relief as the castle came into view, the marble stone looming over the treetops. It was a strange place to call home, this building with so many turrets and towers, but it had been my home for over a decade, and that was my life. At least it used to be.
I stopped Maybelle just before we got to the corner where the path to my room split off from hers.
“What’s going on? What happened today?”
“Oh, nothing,” she said, surprised. It was an automatic response, and she knew that I knew it. “Well, it’s just…I don’t know yet. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said doubtfully. “See you then.”
The next day I just hung out in the castle, reading and quickly scribbling down the previous day’s events. I had the most peculiar feeling that it would be important, but I didn’t know why. Maybelle was gone most of the day again. I wondered what could be going on; a lot of the wizards were gone.
When Maybelle finally returned after sunset, I was waiting for her in my room.
“Well?” I asked, eager to hear about what was going on.
Sighing heavily, she settled down cross-legged on the floor. “So, I was gone all of yesterday, right?”
I nodded, as if to say, “Yes, I know, keep going!”
“Well, there was an attack on a village nearby. Iruy, I think it was called. There were pegasi and unicorns attacking, which means obviously sorcerers were behind it. We caught them and everything, and nobody died, but I just can’t figure out why they would do it. That village doesn’t produce anything important, or really have anything special about it at all. The other wizards say it’s just sorcerers being evil for no reason, but the sorcerers do actually have sense most of the time. As much as most magykans, anyway.”
I rolled my eyes and nodded again, this time in agreement with her. Magykans, whether good or evil, naturally have very inflated egos. Maybelle did, too, until I pointed it out very rudely when we were three. We were friends even then, and she didn’t mind. I don’t know what a three-year-old had to be conceited about, but she was.
“There was another attack on a different village today,” she went on. “The sorcerers came in person this time, and hit Ruthven. There were three deaths this time. All the sorcerers are in the dungeon now, but they won’t tell us anything about their reasons. It’s so frustrating!”
“Are you sure you caught all of them?” I asked. “Maybe it was a diversion for something else…like…” I lost my train of thought.
“Maybe.” Maybelle didn’t sound convinced. “Well, hopefully there won’t be any more attacks, and we can figure it out later.”
Her wish didn’t come true.
Every day for about a fortnight (that’s fourteen days, for those of you who don’t know), there was an attack on a nearby village. Most of them were just small towns, not important in any way. Maybelle was more and more tired every day. She was running out of both patience and magyk, and I was getting really worried. Although she didn’t go out every day (there was a rotation), she never had enough time to get the full amount of her magyk back.
A few days after the whole unicorn thing, I left the castle again, walking to a nearby village. I was very careful not to go in the direction the wizards had headed off in that morning. When I got to the village, I entered the general store on the main road. I headed to the back, where the knives were located.
If something else happened, and I thought it would, I wanted to be ready. I wanted revenge on the sorcerer who had nearly killed me. Of course, at that point, I had no idea that sorcerers would nearly kill me multiple times. But that’s beside the point.
I looked at the knives there were. I just wanted a plain knife, but one with a bright red handle kept drawing my eye. The price for that one was almost double the price of the others, but I felt like I had to get it, like it was imperative to get that one. I sighed and bought it.
The trip home was without incident, which I was glad for.
Exactly 16 days after the first attack, a messenger came running into the castle, completely out of breath. I was walking through the halls when he came running past. I followed, curious. Running into the throne room, which was gaudily decorated, he spoke between gasps of air directly to the king and queen. “Attack…at…Jayden…lots of sorcerers and magykal creatures…”
The words nobody wanted to hear were still echoing around the large throne room as wizards rushed in. I would never know how they knew when they were wanted, but it worked pretty well.
I understood why so many wizards would be needed for this one. Jayden wasn’t like the other small villages. This one almost could qualify as a city, with a population of nearly 1000. And it was an important town. It mined neolyte, a material used for wizards’ wands. Magykans don’t need wands to work magyk, but it helps to direct, focus, and strengthen their spells. Nobody wanted the sorcerers getting control of such a town.
Had the messenger run all the way from Jayden? It was pretty far away.
A few moments later, everybody who was leaving was ready. Most of the wizards were going, which didn’t make me feel much better. The sense of foreboding was back.
Out of the 300- or 400-strong wizard population, all but 37 left. I know, because I counted.
Nothing happened for a while. Everything seemed to be fine.
In late morning, loud thumps and bangs could be heard coming from the top floor. Everybody looked at each other nervously on the second floor, the one I was on, but nobody but me snuck up there to take a look.
A window had been broken at the end of a hallway, but that wasn’t what was important. I could barely see it anyway. A few people were running past me down the stairs, but that wasn’t what caught my attention. They weren’t the most important people there. It was the sorcerers, nearly a hundred strong, flooding down the hallway, that caused me to stare. Sorcerers were attacking, here, with only 37 wizards to hold them off.