Luella evaluated the tent setup. Not bad. A little refuge by the river, before she inevitably had to return to Sylvan Glade.
She loved Dandelion, she really did. But spending all of her time in Sylvan Glade with a child was suffocating. Especially now, when he was old enough to start asking uncomfortable questions. Painful questions she either didn’t want to answer, or that she didn’t even have an answer to.
Luckily, Dandelion being older also meant she could also afford to leave him to his own devices from time to time. After all, he was about the same age she had been when they first settled in Sylvan Glade. So she would take advantage of the newfound freedom and take little excursions to Glimmerbrook.
Luella mostly kept her distance from spellcasters on those trips, though. She never forgot her father’s words of warning. Don’t trust anyone but Simeon. Simeon himself reiterated that point; it didn’t seem he himself had gained much more confidence in his fellow sages over the years. He did still visit them, but not as frequently as when they were little.
Her fingertips traced the key on her necklace. She let out a sigh. Don’t trust anyone. Easily done, when she had no one anyway.
A movement on the path behind the shrubs distracted her. Someone was coming.
Excited, Luella approached the bushes, peering through. She’d seen most of Glimmerbrook’s inhabitants from the distance. Who would she get to see today?
She watched the teenager sit down by the river bank and gaze into the distance.
Her heart skipped a beat. Someone close to her in age! Relatively speaking, that was – as she had learned from Simeon, spellcaster years seemed to pass at an oddly rapid speed.
But who was this? Nothing about them was particularly familiar. Someone new to the village? Luella leaned forward to take a better look, but lost her balance, falling out of the bush.
The youth jumped up, turning towards her abruptly. “What the hell? Are you spying on me?”
It had been ages since Luella had spoken to anyone who wasn’t Simeon or Dandelion. She’d been exposed, but she couldn’t help but find it exhilarating.
“I was just curious.” She said truthfully, studying the teen’s face. “Are you a boy or a girl?”
The question seemed to have annoyed the teenager. The look in their eyes was piercing, defiant. Now that Luella was closer to them, she noticed how worn their clothes were, the dirt on their skin.
“Wait, you’re human!” She exclaimed as the realisation hit her – no spellcaster would have gotten to that state, they would have simply used a scruberoo spell.
For some odd reason, the teen’s expression softened slightly. “That’s exactly what I am.” There was an edge to their voice, residue of anger, but Luella didn’t get the impression it was directed at her. “Boy or girl shouldn’t really matter.”
“I guess that’s true.” Luella agreed, unsure why this was such a touchy subject. She knew even less about humans than she did about spellcasters. Other than that they couldn’t be trusted. But this one was young, and clearly out of their depth, judging by the state of them. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Morgyn Ember.”
So she’d been right about the teen not being local. “There are no Embers in Glimmerbrook.” She noted. “Where did you come from?”
“There are no Embers where I came from either.” Morgyn shrugged. “The name is… self-given.”
“You mean you made it up.” Luella laughed.
“That’s one way to look at it.” The teen frowned.
“That came out wrong. All names are made up anyway.” She mused out loud. “In a way, you’re better-placed to name yourself than anyone else, I suppose. So why Ember?”
Morgyn hesitated. “I was born with a different name. But my family… they died. In a fire. I survived. I could carry that with me my whole life, or I could start over. Reborn from the ashes.”
“So Ember.” Luella nodded, fascinated. “I… I understand. I lost my family too. The same way, actually. Fire.”
Morgyn looked at her strangely for a moment before speaking again.
“You could do the same thing, you know. The past can only hold you hostage if you let it. You can be who you want to be. You haven’t told me your name yet, after all.”
“I’m L-“ Luella stopped herself.
It was clear Morgyn wanted her to make up a name for herself, and she could see the appeal. Life didn’t have to be what happened to her. It could be whatever she decided.
But she had no ideas. What in the world would still be her?
“Faba.” She said firmly.
“L Faba?” Morgyn raised an eyebrow.
She groaned inwardly. How stupid did that sound? Was there a way she could save face now?
“I like it.” Morgyn interrupted her spiralling thoughts. “It’s different. You’re different. In a good way, I mean.”
“Oh. I’m an elf.” She explained.
Morgyn looked taken aback for a moment. “An elf? An elf… Wait. That’s… not what I meant. I just meant that you’re not like anybody else I’ve met before. But not because of what you are. Because of how you are.”
Luella was at a loss for words. That had to be the nicest thing anybody had ever said to her. Granted, she didn’t speak to many people, but still. Today was one of the best days she’d had in a long time. Her head was spinning. She had to repay Morgyn somehow.
She took out the wand Simeon gave her and cast one of the spells the sage taught her. “Fortunalis!”
A flash of sparkles flew through the air.
Morgyn stared at her, bewildered. “What was that?”
“A spell of good fortune. Means you’ll have good luck for the next 24 hours. There’s a potion that does the same thing, but you need turquoise and valerian root so this is just much quicker-“
“Slow down!” Morgyn interjected. “A spell. You can do magic?”
“Told you I’m an elf.” Luella shrugged. “Elves are known to have some of the strongest magic there is. Or so they say.”
“Listen… there’s something I can do too.”
Morgyn extended their arm cautiously, turning the palm of their hand up. Not a single word left the teenager’s lips, but an orb of fire rose from their fingertips.
Luella’s eyes widened. She felt paralysed. Memories of Syeldell burning flooded back to her.
She realised Morgyn stopped.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. I thought… I’m sorry.” There was a hint of something strange in Morgyn’s voice. Desperation, Luella realised.
“No, it’s fine.” She managed to compose herself. “I have seen untamed magic before. I just didn’t expect… you said you were human.”
“What do you mean? Untamed magic, what is that?”
“You really don’t know? But you’re a spellcaster…”
The blank stare on Morgyn’s face gave her an answer. Morgyn was a spellcaster who had no knowledge of spellcasters. Luella had no idea that was even possible. “You have magic powers, but you don’t understand them.”
Morgyn’s mouth opened, and then closed. She was right.
“Come with me. There’s something you need to see…” She grabbed Morgyn’s hand.
The feeling of their fingers intertwining was alien. The only person whose hand Luella ever held before was Dandelion, but this was very different. She felt herself blushing. She could only hope Morgyn was distracted enough not to notice…
She led Morgyn towards the magic realm portal.
“What… that’s impossible.” Morgyn stared at the gateway, mesmerised. “I’ve only just walked by here earlier and there was no… whatever this is.”
“It’s a portal to the magic realm.” Luella clarified. “It’s always been here, you just couldn’t see it. Somebody who knows about it has to show you, otherwise it’s invisible and you can’t get in. It’s for protection.”
“Magic realm.” Morgyn whispered, clearly trying to regain composure. “Right. Ok. So if the entrance is hidden, what will they think of visitors?”
Simeon would be kind to Morgyn, Luella had no doubts about that.
“You’re a spellcaster, you will be fine. A powerful one, by the looks of it, if you don’t even need to say your spells out loud… Though you should know it’s considered polite to say them, out of courtesy.”
“I don’t know any spells.” Morgyn admitted.
How did that work, Luella wondered? How could one cast spells without knowing them? Was magic simply leaking out of Morgyn?
“The magic realm is the best place for you to learn more about your powers. Besides, you have a spell of good fortune on you, so it will have to go well.” She winked.
“Thank you.” Morgyn smiled at her before walking over to the portal.
She watched the teen stare at the gateway, clearly drawn to it. She’d done a good thing. Though her feelings were strangely mixed, as she watched Morgyn about to go through.
But before entering, the young spellcaster turned around abruptly.
“Wait!” Morgyn called out, hesitating for a moment.
What a strange thing to say, Luella thought; she wasn’t the one about to leave.
“If I go into the portal now… will I ever see you again?” Morgyn asked her.
An unfamiliar giddy sensation washed over Luella. A wide grin spread across her lips.
“I hope so.” She replied softly.