The forest slowly returned to normal with the sounds of birds and rustling leaves. The sunlight, split into so many individual beams by the leaves, played carelessly on the ground. Very peaceful. Not a feeling that was reflected in my heart at the moment. I just felt that people were watching over my shoulder most of the time, something I never liked anyway. But, somehow, I had the feeling that some of them were on my side. The letter had felt more like a warning to me rather than a warning for me. I also realized that though this was all very exciting, but it was causing a lot of delay. I urged the horse to a canter again, causing Deirdre to hold me around my waist a little tighter until the speed was more constant again. She spoke first.
"Either they know what's in the letter or there's something else going on here. Do you think that 'visit' from the night before was a spirit as well?"
She had a point. "It seems more likely now."
I could feel her shrug behind me. "Anyway, we were talking about me becoming your slave."
I wanted to stick out my tongue to her. "Don't say it like that. It's just a good cover to stay. If we want to practice the arts though, we have to be careful that no one notices."
She talked with a smile. "It's okay, I don't think you'd do something like that. We'll just see how it works out. Do you have a big room in the castle?"
I laughed. "Not really, but I'm lucky enough to have a room of my own."
Deirdre waited for a moment. "Aren't you afraid I'll tell on you?"
It didn't even occur to me, but while she said it, all kinds of reasons popped into my head. "No, I don't think you will. You've been a prisoner and wouldn't wish that on anyone else, I hope. And.. eh... So far you don't seem to think I'm evil or anything."
"Good answer." Her words made me smile, she giggled lightly and paused before she continued. "So tell me your story?"
"Alright." I took a deep breath and told her while we rode further on through the forest.
I grew up in an average town with average parents, as far as I could tell, and a penchant for Light. My father was a blacksmith and taught me a lot of the basics for my Light studies. The strengthening of metals and how water and air were used to make metal stronger or more brittle were very educational. My mother did some sewing, but with the business of my father, we didn't need the money as such. We were never rich, but there was always food on the table. A Master saw me working in the back of the workplace when he needed something from my dad, he noticed I was using Light to make things stronger and asked if he could test me. I suppose I was six then.
I've been in the castle since, always at the bottom of the food chain. Being one of the poorest kids in the castle, with no one backing me I had to work hard to get recognized for what I could do. We learned very quickly that intensity of Light in someone varies greatly. And no matter how much money your parents had, it made no difference. Anyway, I got all the worst duties. Cleaning the stables, taking care of training material, helping in the kitchen. Everything to earn my keep. Only the last two years did I get my own room for helping a Master with some studies. You know how people specialize in certain aspects of magic, right? Like the elements or healing or more combat based focus. Well, I've never really specialized yet, but apparently I was good enough with earth to help that Master. When I got the room I still had to do everything for myself, servants at the castle were numerous, but always assigned to only one or two people.
It was two years of further hard work, mostly in the area of elements. I spent a lot of time in the library in any free hour of daylight, reading up on all the studies they had there. Now that I think on it though, it was strange they had so little on crystals. Anyway, eh... so I was granted this assignment not that long ago. It helped that I was really good with horses, of course, but I think they had no one else they could miss. Bleakfield isn't that far so the danger was minimal for a young guy like me. It was kind of a refreshment to be actually asked for anything, as they rarely gave me the opportunity to prove myself. And I guess that brought me in the forest yesterday.
Deirdre giggled. "A little different from me then."
I smiled. "Quite. So, are you from a not-poor family or a very rich one?"
She didn't answer immediately. "Very rich... They wanted me to just stay at home until they found out I could do a little Magic. Then I got send to the castle at five, sponsored by my parents. But besides what you already know, nothing much happened that you probably haven't seen before."
"Tell me anyway."
Time had passed easily below the hooves and my words. It would be another few hours before we reached the gates of Dawnbridge, but at least most of the heavy feelings were forgotten for now. We just talked, mostly about nothing and everything all at once...
It was nice.