Chapter 14Where Green Giggles

After that, all there was was silence from us. Both of us lost in our thoughts as we cleared up the picture in our head. The horse kept a good pace and, I knew, we were making good time through the forest. In fact I was a little surprised that it had so little apparent trouble with her at the back. Part of me was still thinking on how to keep her close. The 'servant method' made the most sense. But it was something I had to discuss with her before we even got to Dawnbridge. We saw little else in the forest while we rode, there were no other travellers, which was slightly surprising but not impossible. All we saw of the human realm was some metal from a cart on the side of the road, reflecting the light of the sun. Three hours later, we must have been about half-way when things cleared up, the path was a little wider here, strange enough, which allowed more light to reach down here. The flowers next to the path were quite colorful and scented the air with sweet fragrances. I slowed the horse to a trot, giving it a little rest and enjoying the scenery.

"I've been thinking about you. Eh, I mean on how to get you a place to live and such."

Deirdre giggled. "Did you come up with anything."

"Yes, kind of, but I'm not sure you'll like it."

"Try me?"

I swallowed and took a deep breath. "Well, they allow servants at the castle but I've never been rich enough to afford one. Of course it doesn't matter if the servants are female or male."

Deirdre stifled a giggle. "So you want me as your slave then?"

I blushed. "No! It's just a good place for you to stay, as you get your own bed, in a small room on the side of mine. You wouldn't have to do much, I'm used to taking care of myself mostly. Servants are very much a luxury thing."

She was laughing softly. "So you're not a rich kid then?"

I shook my head. "Quite the opposite. I've been very lucky to get into the castle. You have to be very good with Light to get in without financial support from a Master or parents."

"And, were you?"

I shrugged. "Maybe, I don't know. They appeared to think so... But maybe it's because I'm an... you know..."

She answered softly. "A Magi." I could feel her smile against my back. "Did they ever find out?"

To be honest that was a question that I've often wondered about myself. Magic being as it is, means that only a lucky few Light people can see Dark directly. Everyone can see its effects, obviously, and the masters have ways to test for it. Using small crystals that absorbed Magic. But they were fickle when used and not completely foolproof. I knew it was possible to actively suppress the Light or Dark in someone. It took some focus, but as I did it all the time, it just became second-nature. Like walking. It had felt like a refreshment to actually use it in a real situation. To feel the power of switching between focus, the pride of succeeding with different tactics. I was starting to understand why both sides disliked us so much. We had the advantages of both sides, even if we had to switch between them. We had the choice, the choice that was never given to them.

I took a deep breath. "Not that I know of... And I don't think they have. They'd never given me this position if they did."

"So, did you want to work yourself up to the level of Master?"

I smiled. "Not really, I don't want to be responsible for so many people."

"Really? I thought everyone wanted to become a Master, as the ultimate aspiration."

I shook my head. "No, a travelling Magi is all I want. Seeing as much of the world as I can... Although I do want to know what's going on with the research they're doing with crystals. I've got a feeling it might be dangerous to find out though."

Deirdre surprised me by wrapping her arms around me and giving me a hug. It surprised me so much that I almost didn't notice something looking at us from the trees. I tapped Deirdre on her hands, hating myself for ruining the moment. I stopped the horse while she leaned sideways to see what was going on and soon saw the same I did. A Dryad girl in the trees, staring at us. She was completely naked, her pale green skin, the color of a young sapling, shone brightly in the sun. No more than perhaps the size of a young ten-year-old girl but with the proportions of a woman, it was hard to tell how old she was, her skin looked so smooth and her body so odd, so fragile yet strong. Her eyes, staring at us, were completely black.

Deirdre's voice was laced with awe. "She's beautiful. I've never seen one so close."

Even though the girl was a couple of meters away, she didn't move. She really was staring at us. "Neither have I."

The dryad girl was really pretty but so unlike us. It was an unreal beauty that made you insecure about your eyes. Charm... They could project charm? All kinds of details from the books popped up in my head about the Fey people, the spirits of the lands. One of their ways was to project a sort of charm around them as a way of protection or seduction. It was almost like making yourself pretty or scary depending on how you felt and how you projected that feeling. It helped them keep people away from the places they harbored. Protective.

Why was she staring at us?

Why didn't she run away as soon as we spoke?

As these thoughts ran through my head, the dryad girl giggled, a sound echoing through the woods, and jumped away. Within fractions of a second she had disappeared between the trees, invisible to anyone who'd even tried to follow her. Her voice, bright like raindrops in the sun, still rang through my head. I'd never seen one so close or so... in control. She wasn't afraid of us and wasn't angry at us either. It was as if she was judging us.

Stupidly, there was only one thing that came out of my mouth.

"What just happened?"