Chapter 1

She couldn’t remember being born. Maybe it was too far back, or maybe she’d never really been born, in the typical sense of the word. In fact, Edana could remember no part of her childhood. In all her memories, physically, she was the same age, and she could not remember ever being different, at least in that aspect. Mentally, of course, she’d grown.

Her memories began in this place, a place of green foliage and bright weather. The days often blended together, and in her small village life flowed undisturbed, a hidden stream in an undiscovered forest. The villagers knew nothing of the world beyond their sheep-filled meadows, and they did not need to know of anything beyond that. To the best of their knowledge it was mutual, and the outside world knew nothing of their small, hidden haven.

Sitting in a small clearing away from the village, Edana awaited her teacher. Niamh, the only other mage Edana had known, had infinitely more knowledge than Edana, and infinitely more power as well. Edana had much to learn, and it seemed that her lessons would never finish. In a way, she didn’t want them to finish. She loved the comfortable life that she led, she loved the village, and she loved learning from Niamh. She couldn’t imagine herself ever being on her own, though she knew that one-day she would be. But that day was so far off…

A gentle wind swirled around Edana, lifting her long, red hair off of her shoulders, billowing it backwards, before gently setting it back down again. Edana turned, knowing that Niamh was approaching, and smiled as her mentor entered the small clearing and lowered herself gently to the ground.

“Did you sleep well, Edana?” The older mage cocked her head to the side, regarding the younger girl with unblinking, silvery eyes.

“Yes,” Edana replied, her excitement growing a bit. Niamh only asked her that when she was going to let Edana try some more challenging, powerful magic, when Edana would need to concentrate and focus. “What am I to learn today?”

Niamh easily sensed Edana’s excitement, and her eyes glittered. “Patience, young one. Today you will learn one of the elder-magics, that of shape-shifting.”

Edana’s bright amber eyes widened considerably. Niamh had never even mentioned that such a thing was possible. This will certainly prove to be an exciting day, Edana thought to herself, and settled in to listen to Niamh.

“The elder-magics have been around for a very long time, Edana, and are some of the more powerful of the arcane arts. They also tend to be more unpredictable for new mages, but more predictable for those who have used them for a great while.” Niamh paused, glancing away from Edana for a moment before continuing. “And always remember, you do not fully control the magic, the magic controls you. All of the magics originate from the earth itself, and once used, all return to the earth. It is the earth that chooses who can control what magics, and who can even control magic at all. Always keep in mind that though you may be able to shoot sparks from your hands one day; you may not always be able to. Magic can be fickle, and some think that the core of all magic is more of a sentient being, and chooses who can do what.”

Edana’s brows furrowed. “A sentient being, which controls all the magic?”

“Well,” Niamh replied, “Yes and no. Not any sort of being, not as we know beings to be. And,” she said, stressing the word, “That is only a theory. Only reasoning, in an attempt to find the answer to the question of why a mage’s magic does not always remain constant.”

“Ah.” Edana thought for a moment. “But haven’t you said before that some mages can only do one specific thing, and can do it consistently? But they might be able to do nothing else?”

“Yes, that is true to an extent as well. Some mages never do anything different in their lifetime, simply because they are not able to; the magic will not come to them. Though, other mages have felt this way through the majority of their lives, until suddenly they find another power available to be used by them. Overall, magic is a fickle thing. Do not forget that.”

Edana nodded, letting the new information sink in, before her mind turned back to the original topic. “So, not all mages can shape-shift, and I might not be able to either?”

“Exactly,” Niamh replied. “You have enough raw power within you, but yes, the magic of shape-shifting is one of the oldest, and it is rare those first attempting it are successful.”

“Can you shape-shift, Niamh?” Edana was eager to see the magic performed.

Niamh smiled, expecting the question. “Yes. It was one of the first magics I learned, and it has become more natural and constant for me.”

Edana sat back, idly grabbing one of the long crackers from her nearby pouch while she watched Niamh. The elder mage stood in the center of the ring of trees, unfocused her eyes and raised her hands. A soft, white glow soon surrounded Niamh. The light seemed to consume her, growing a bit brighter until her form was no longer clearly visible. The light then flowed downwards in a swirl, taking on a new shape. In one last brilliant flare that dazzled Edana’s eyes and caused her to drop the cracker, the light solidified. Standing in the place where Niamh had been was a wolf, white-furred and majestic. It regarded Edana with familiar silver eyes.

“Amazing.” Edana’s dazzled eyes glowed slightly from her excitement. “So, if you wanted to, you could change into anything?” ::Not necessarily anything.:: Niamh’s voice came not from the mouth of the wolf, but rather, telepathically. ::Like with magic in general, shape shifting isn’t limitless. Though you can attempt to change into whatever animal you want to be, it doesn’t always work. For instance, I’ve never been able to shift into a fish. It can be quite quirky.::

“So,” Edana responded, “How will I know what I should try to shift into? If not everything will work, how do I know what will?”
v ::Worry not, young one. And hold on for a moment.::

The light once again consumed the form of Niamh, this time swirling upwards. Edana shielded her eyes just in time; the light flared up again and when Edana looked back, Niamh was once again human.

“First, come sit on the ground, in the middle of the clearing. Center yourself, find the magic in the earth beneath you, and get comfortable.”

Edana did so, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the clearing. She attempted to clear her mind, trying to push out the excess excitement.

“When you feel ready, open yourself, and don’t think about any one particular animal. The magic works in a peculiar way. Visualize the light that you saw when I shifted, and picture yourself fading into that light. If you can shift at all, you’ll feel the pull of an animal. If you feel the pull, then you can slowly start changing into that animal. Don’t rush it, and trust your instincts. Try to let the essence of an animal, whatever it may be, come to you, instead of seeking it out.”

Edana nodded, and settled down a bit more onto the ground. She hoped that she’d at least be able to shift into something, and hopefully that something would be one of the animals Edana liked best. Perhaps a bird, or a wolf like Niamh. Or maybe even one of the king-cats that Niamh has told me stories of; giant cats that roam the hot lands in the south. I just hope it isn’t something like a bug, or a fish… that could be bad. Edana was rather thankful to remember that there was a stream nearby, in case she did become a fish.

“Edana, concentrate.”

Niamh’s voice cut into Edana’s thoughts, and the girl closed her eyes and centered herself, becoming conscious of the earth below her, the pulse of the magic that flowed through the ground. She descended her consciousness into that magic, and tried to picture the light she’d seen when Niamh had shifted.

Edana soon found that when she concentrated on the light, she could see a shape hovering within it. She tried to focus on it, to see what it was, but no animal formed itself, just that shape. She opened herself a little more, trying to swirl the light together to change into whatever it was that she would become.

Niamh watched, seeing that Edana’s hands and feet had started glowing faintly. The elder mage smiled slightly, pleased that her student had begun the change so smoothly. The light was dim still, but began to spread, and grew a bit brighter as it did so. Not even Niamh knew what Edana would become, for no mage could predict the powers of another.

Edana felt the magic flowing through her, and could feel the light changing her into something different. She still could not tell what it was that she was becoming; no shape formed itself out of the original one still at the core of the light, hovering in front of her mind’s eye.

As the light grew more intense in Edana’s mind, she could feel her hands and feet changing slightly. They became heavier, starting to feel almost numb. It was a bit disconcerting, but Edana tried not to concentrate on that, figuring that it was simply a part of the process.

As the light continued to brighten, the numb, heavy feeling traveled up Edana’s arms and legs. She couldn’t help but notice that her feet felt almost to heavy to move, and she realized with a start that her hands felt even heavier. Mind un-focusing momentarily, Edana tried to pick up her right hand, but found that it seemed to be firmly attached to the ground it rested on. She could not lift it even the slightest bit.

Panicking, Edana abandoned the attempt at shifting, trying to push away the light, hoping that she would just fall back into her human form, without any more of this odd, numbing change. Her mind fought the light that had started the change, and Edana strove to bring herself back into the conscious realm of reality, frightened that the magic would overtake her.

With a start, Edana’s hands and feet came unglued from the ground beneath her, and she opened her eyes, finding her appendages to appear normal, aside from a faint glow that was fading away. She breathed heavily, but her heart stopped fluttering so much, and she tried to calm her mind.

“What happened?” Niamh was concerned; it was rare for Edana to just give up on a magical attempt like that.

“There was a numbness that traveled through me, and I wasn’t able to move at one point. I panicked, I guess, but was it supposed to feel like I was freezing up while changing?”

“No, I’ve never heard of it feeling quite like that. Usually, it’s more of a light, flowing feeling.” Niamh’s eyes showed a bit of concern. “Did you see the form of any animal in the light?”

“No.” Edana shook her head, scattering the red strands on either side of her face. “I saw a shape, but I don’t know what it was. It didn’t look like any animal; I’m not sure what it was.”

“Puzzling.” Niamh regarded Edana, assessing the girl, who was, luckily, calming down considerably. “Perhaps we should do something else instead. Are you up to that, or do you want to call it a day for now?”

“No… I’m fine. Can we work on future-seeing instead? I think I’m starting to get better at that…”

----


Edana sat on her bed, the lofty window open and sunlight streaming through it. Edana’s eyes were unfocused, blindly staring at the trees outside.

What went wrong? Edana’s mind replayed the events, thought the girl was careful not to think too hard about the light again, lest the magic take hold and she begin to shape-shift again. Not even Niamh knows what exactly happened, why my limbs got so heavy, why I could see no animal in the light…I guess the ability just isn’t in me. I wonder what would have happened if I’d let it continue?

“Someone! Someone!” Edana’s thoughts snapped back to the present, and she looked down and out of her window to see one of the shepherd boys running into the village. She got off her bed and walked over to the window in order to see the happenings better.

“Barley, did you leave your flock unattended? What’s wrong, boy?” Kirkly, one of the town elders regarded the young shepherd with knitted brow from where he sat on a tree stump near the center of the small town.

“Vinny and I moved our flocks into the nighttime pastures, and he’s watching them—“

“Nighttime pastures? It’s not even midday yet, boy! Why’d you go and do a thing like that?”

Edana couldn’t help but smile a bit; Kirkly was always interrupted people and questioning them about whatever they were about to explain.

Barley’s eyes were wide. “There are outsiders coming! I saw them on the ridge, looking down at me n’ my flock, they’re gonna come here! They pointed and talked and more came and I got a-scared so I herded my sheep over to Vinny’s and he saw ‘em too! We put ‘em in the night pastures so they’d be safe and not stolen by the strangers, and I ran to tell you right away, and I hope they aren’t gonna steal our sheep!”

Kirkly set down his whittling tools and the half-shaped piece of wood he was working on, and stood up. “Go tell your father, and tell him to get the other men together. I hope these outsiders aren’t lookin’ for trouble…” Kirkly glanced up at the window Edana was standing in, as if he’d expected her to be standing there. “Get yer mentor, young one. Bid her hurry back from wherever she be.”

Edana nodded, and backed up from the wide window, turning to grab one of her empty pouches before dashing out the door and down the stairs. She didn’t know what was going to happen, and she was glad for the excuse to go find Niamh. However, she knew that Niamh didn’t like to be disturbed when she went off on her own, and that often, she would be near impossible to find anyway. Edana only hoped that her teacher was somewhere nearby, and would see the importance in the situation.

Edana checked the clearing first, but found it empty. She ran towards the woods, and followed a familiar path for a short distance, but saw no sign of the elder mage. Finally, she let one of her gifts take over. Her eyes unfocused as she tried to focus in on any shred of Niamh’s essence, in order to track her down. A sharp pinch of pain broke Edana’s concentration; Edana knew Niamh had precautions of her own up against other mages, and that didn’t necessarily exclude Edana either. Edana sighed, looking around a bit helplessly. How am I to find her? What if I can’t, and what if…

“What is it, Edana?”

The young girl whirled around, and smiled to see Niamh behind her.

“I felt you trying to track me, and when I sought out your essence, I could feel worry and anxiety radiating from you. What is it?”

“Strangers are coming to the village. Kirkly wanted me to get you. One of the sheep-boys saw them, though he didn’t say how many there were, and he didn’t know if they were friendly or not…”

“Come.” Niamh took off at a fast walk back towards the village, and Edana followed, relieved that her mentor at least seemed calm and sure of herself, at least to all appearances.

“Strangers have not come in a long time, I only hope they are peaceful.”

The two mages reached the village, and found a group of the men and some women assembling in the center.

“Will we have to go meet them?” One of the men voiced the question.

“Yes, I believe that would be the proper thing to do.” Kirkly looked over to where Niamh had come to stand. “We will take the mages, in case these outsiders prove to be unfriendly.”

Edana glanced over at her mentor, uneasily. Niamh simply nodded, eyes disclosing nothing. Edana looked back to the group in front of her, hoping that the strangers would indeed be friendly. What do they expect me to do if something goes wrong and these people aren’t peaceful? I’m a barely trained mage! I’ll probably be more detrimental than helpful in that situation. Edana was jolted out of her ponderings by a familiar voice in her head.

::Stay close, magelet. I have a faintly bad feeling about this, but it might just be nothing… simply stay alert. I wish I could have taught you already how to mind-speak… if anything goes horribly wrong, just get my attention though. All right?:: Edana looked over to Niamh, who was gazing at her, awaiting an answer.

“Yes,” Edana replied softly, and Niamh nodded and turned back to the group, who was readying themselves to journey to where the visitors had been sighted.

“If everyone is here, than we will move off now.” With Kirkly as the unofficial leader of the ‘welcoming party’, group starting down the path that led to the daytime sheep-pastures.

As she walked, Edana tentatively felt for the power she knew flowed right beneath the surface of the Earth. She was comforted to know that though she wasn’t fully trained, she had the ability to use that magic power to an extent, at least. And Niamh was with her. Though Edana had never met any other mages, she knew that Niamh was quite formidable, and could, hopefully, handle a tough situation.

The group reached the sheep-pasture much sooner than Edana would have liked. Though she was near the back of the group, she could see that ahead were the outsiders, who seemed to have been setting up some sort of camp on the outskirts of the meadow. The unfamiliar faces looked up at the approach of the villagers, curious but not surprised to see them. Niamh motioned for Edana for follow her as she went towards Kirkly at the front of the group, and Edana attempted to compose herself as she walked towards the outsiders.

“Greetings.” Kirkly stepped forward, as a tall, bearded man approached from the group of newcomers. “These are your lands?” The man’s voice was deep, and though he looked at Kirkly as he asked the question, his eyes traveled over the rest of the group from the village as well.

“Yes, they are.” Kirkly replied carefully. “You are welcome to stay upon them if you intend to be peaceful.”

The man smiled slightly, and bowed his head a bit. “Peaceful, of course. We are… merchants, traders of goods. We are passing through, simply looking for new, faster ways of getting to where we intend to eventually get. Our former routes have become,” he paused a bit, “crowded and unreliable, and we were simply seeking a better way to travel.”

“Ah,” Kirkly replied, nodding. “Well, for as long as you need to stay, you are welcome. We haven’t much to spare, but we’ve a bit to trade, if you are interested in doing so.”

The man nodded back. “Yes, perhaps after we set up our camp we can discuss those matters. I thank you for your welcome.” The man stepped back, executed a small bow, and went back to overseeing his people as they unhitched the oxen-carts of what Edana supposed was their trading goods. Her group retreated back to the village, and though the men seemed happy enough that the people weren’t there to fight, Edana could sense a slight discomfort at having the outsiders around.

Back in Edana’s room, the young mage couldn’t help but wonder about the strangers. She had an odd feeling about them, though she believed that for the most part, they were probably telling the truth. Or perhaps they aren’t but I just want to believe that they are…

“What was your first impression of them?”

Niamh quietly voiced the question from where she sat, tucked into the corner.

“I don’t really trust them. I don’t know… but the first thing I thought was that there’s something about them that’s not quite right. They seemed truthful enough, though. I really don’t know…” Edana sighed, smoothing out the sleeve of her tanned hide tunic. “Why, what do you think?”

“Much the same as you, magelet.” Niamh’s eyes were clouded slightly, and she idly rolled a smooth pebble between her fingers. Edana’s gaze followed the little stone as Niamh unconsciously rolled it over her fingers, seeming to keep it suspected from her skin when it probably should have fallen to the floor. “They are hiding something, I think, though I’m not sure how dangerous such a secret would be. The birds are uneasy about them as well.”

“The birds?” Edana knew that Niamh had a bond of sorts with animals, and that she often received little updates and news snippets on the outside world from the gossip of the creatures. The animals often could sense much more than humans could.

“Yes, though our feathered companions can be fickle in their judgment. Keep your wits about you, Edana. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you might find yourself alone with one of these outsiders.”

Edana nodded, remembering the way the leader of the traders had settled his gaze on her for a moment. She’d been told often enough that she was pretty, and she knew that though the villagers weren’t fazed by the fact that she never seemed to age, these strangers mind find that a bit more odd. For all I know, these traders haven’t ever met a mage before, let alone two of them. Though Niamh definitely looks older than I do, we both look younger than we are, not that I even know how old Niamh actually is. But I’m not sure what they’d think of two people with unnatural power, who never physically age…

“Yes,” Niamh said, even more quietly than before, as if she was talking to herself. “Stay wary of these people.”

----


Edana concentrated, staring at the small, red flower in front of her. Slowly, as her narrow eyes glowed and increasingly brighter shade of amber, the flower’s color shifting, deepening into purple. As the violet hue became more uniform, the shape of the flower started changing as well. The rounded petals narrowed, tapering off and curling up slightly. Finally, when each of the petals was shaped alike, Edana sat back and closed her eyes briefly, before opening them again to regard her work. “Very good,” Niamh said, also examining the small, still-living flower. It’s leaves remained unchanged, and were identical to the leaves of the flowers next to the changed one, but the flower itself was no longer as similar to its neighbors as it had been before Edana sat down to work with the reconstruction magics. “You’ve done enough flowers and small things, perhaps soon we’ll begin working with something a bit more challenging and useful to alter. If you ever find yourself in a tough spot, I doubt changing the color and shape of a flower is going to help you… though it makes for good practice.”

Edana nodded, laughing slightly. “You never know, maybe someone will need a bouquet, and the flowers they want won’t be in bloom. Could be useful!”

The elder mage rolled her eyes and shook her head, amused. “I doubt you’ll need to be one to worry about such trivial magics. You, I feel, are destined for much more than parlor tricks and small-scale spells.”

Niamh started to get up off of the ground, but stopped halfway, sniffing the air slightly as a woodland creature might. ::Up, Edana. One of the outsiders is coming.::

Edana hurriedly rose, just in time for a middle-aged man to enter the clearing, walking purposely, but curiously looking about him. He resembled the leader that had first spoken to Kirkly and the group, and who was now engaged with the talk of trading in the village’s commonhall. This man, however looked a bit younger than the other, though Edana guessed that he had to be somehow related.

“Good day… are you lost, stranger?” Niamh’s voice was pleasant enough, but not welcoming. The villagers rarely entered the clearing; all knew that it was reserved for the purpose of practicing magics, and that it was safer to stay away, especially while Niamh and Edana were practicing anything. It was dangerous to interrupt the spell of a mage, lest the magic attach itself to the intruder instead of the original target.

“Not lost, simply trying to find someone.” The man brazenly looked over the elder of the two mages, before turning to Edana. “Which one of you is known as the mage Niamh?”

“I am.” Niamh regarded the stranger a bit warily. “What brings you in search of me?” A small comment managed to escape her mouth. “It is dangerous to enter the practice place of a mage, when they could be working with potentially wild magic.”

“My apologies, good lady.” Edana sensed that the man didn’t quite seem sincere; from the offhanded tone of his voice, he wasn’t all that concerned about the problems that could be brought about by a magical accident caused by an interruption.

“Your village’s spokesman has informed us of your unnatural abilities, and we wanted to discuss something with you.” His eyes flickered to Edana. “Is there somewhere we can talk of such things? Perhaps here?”

“No, we shall go elsewhere.” Niamh’s tone showed her annoyance with the man, who seemed to think whatever he needed to discuss much more important than anything Niamh and Edana might have been doing before he got there. ::We can move on and practice more of this afterwards. I’d better see what he wants… keep yourself somewhere safe.:: As Niamh and the man walked off, Niamh leading him towards the wooden benches on the edge of town, Edana hurriedly walked back to her rooms. I wonder what he wants… and why he looked at me like that. These outsiders are putting everyone on edge; I hope they don’t stay long.

---


Edana was carefully sculpting another flower, this time in an attempt to turn the seemingly innocent bloom into something more deadly. Niamh’s comment about the flowers had prompted her to thinking. No one thought of a pretty flower as all that dangerous, and Edana was now determined to find a way to make one a bit more formidable.

She concentrated, focusing her thought on the energy, and focusing on moving the energy into a more tangible form, letting it flow into the flower petals, changing them in such a way that on each grew tiny barbs, too small to be seen by the human eye. Edana sat back for a moment, examining the altered flora with her mind’s eye. Well, it’s a start, but just being pricked a bit by a flower isn’t all that amazing. A rosebush can accomplish that. It needs something else… Edana smiled as the thought came to her, and she moved the little potted plant a bit closer to her. Focusing once again, she grasped the magic in her mind, taking only a tiny strand from the flood that course through her. She began to apply the magic, reshaping the barbed petals so they curled upwards, as if they were once again forming a bud. In the very center, Edana began to make a tiny spike, slowly building it higher, but concealed by the petals, and slowly making it pointier. The middle of the spike she left hollow.

Just a little more and it’ll be roughly finished, seemingly innocent on the outside, and a bit more dangerous within the petals—

“Edana!” Niamh flung the door open, and if her almost-frantic call hadn’t already done it, the small of the wood on the plaster walls would have shattered Edana’s concentration. For a few seconds, the younger mage stared down at what had been the flower. It had quite literally shattered; the little pot that it was in was still intact, but dirt had flown everywhere when the plant itself had, well, exploded with the force of the magic when Edana’s concentration broke.

Edana’s eyes quickly flashed up to Niamh, though. The elder mage stood in the doorway, staring at Edana and looking slightly relieved, but still quite upset.

“What is it? What’s the—“

“Get anything you need to take with you. We must leave. Come, quickly.”

Niamh turned, leaving the room and sprinting for her own, leaving a rather confused girl behind. However, Edana couldn’t have mistaken the urgency in Niamh’s voice for anything else, and she quickly dug out the travel pouches that Niamh had always insisted that Edana keep somewhere handy. Never before, at least to Edana’s memory, had she needed to use them, but she was glad now that she hadn’t stuffed them into the bottom of her clothes chest, as she’d almost done.

She put clothing in the largest of the bags, and took a smaller one for the small magical tools and anything else she needed to take. She assumed that Niamh could deal with the matter of food, if they were really leaving to go elsewhere, as it seemed that they were. Edana finished stuffing things in her bags just as Niamh reappeared in the doorway.

“Hurry, magelet, and follow me.” Niamh started towards the stairs of the house they shared with a few other villagers.

“What’s the matter? Why are we leaving?”

::The traders are indeed not all they seem to be. What that man wanted from me was to take us, the village’s mages. He claimed a village such as ours wasn’t in need of one mage, let alone two. I could sense more than that under the surface though. When I refused, and told him it might be best to finish any business and move on quickly, he lost his temper. I fear that might not be good for the village.::

Edana was nearly as confused as she’d been before she asked, and she was sure there was more to it than that, but she kept quiet, running out into the deceivingly peaceful sunshine behind her mentor. Awaiting them was Kirkly, looking frazzled and worried, with a group of men behind him.

“Niamh, what is the meaning of their sudden change? What’s happening?”

“These outsiders are not nearly as friendly as they first appeared. You may need to take up weapons against them. Edana and I may have to leave for a time.”

As if on cue, a group of the strange men appeared on the path to the village, hands hovering over the swords at their sides. “Give us what we want, or we will take it by force, and nothing will remain of this village afterwards.”

::Magelet, go to the woods. Avoid any of the outsiders you come across! Use any magic and tactic you need, but do not let them catch you.::

“Niamh, what’s going on?” Edana whispered the question, urgency in her voice.

::They are no mere merchants. They deal in a darker trade; that of people. Slavers, some call them. A pretty, ageless girl is too tempting a prize for them. They may have no mages with them, but they’ve most probably got one back at wherever they come from, and I cannot afford to have you taken. Go!::

Once again, Edana found herself confused, but obeyed all the same. She slipped around behind the others in the group, away from the outsiders, and finally sprinted towards the woods. She hoped the villagers blocked the view of the strange men, but upon reaching the woods, she found her escape would not be so easy.

“There! Isn’t that the one?”

Edana didn’t bother turning to the sound of the voice, she instead expanded her sensing ability, and ran in the opposite direction of any human essence. Sensing was handy like that; she could locate a vague location of any creature, which made it that much easier to avoid the people trying to find her.

Running through the familiar woods, the thought occurred to Edana that she didn’t really know where exactly she was going, and she had no idea how far the strange men were planning on following her. Still, Niamh had told her to run, and not let them catch her, and Edana was planning on accomplishing that.

However, Edana soon sensed more humans ahead, and, in fact, in just about all directions. Voices starting coming to her, as she frantically tried to find a direction that she could run in without someone blocking her path. Evidently, though, these people were quite determined to find and take her, and it seemed as though they filled the woods.

“I think I hear her, quick! Get ready!”

“It should be the little red-haired one, that’s the one we want!”

“Grab her when she runs by!”

Edana veered away from the sound of the voices, panic starting to rise slightly. I’m a mage, there has to be something I can do to throw them off my trail. Edana thought feverishly, and began working tiny magics in her head. Behind her, as she ran, tree roots rose up and undergrowth twisted to fill in the path she’d taken. As the girl darted through the trees, random patches of slippery mud appeared behind her, and thorny briars spread to block the passage of any to come after her. It wouldn’t necessarily be enough, though, and Edana knew she was nearing the end of the patches of woods that she was familiar with. She was getting tired as well, and if she ran on for much longer she would end up rather lost and exhausted. Still, what other choice did she have? As the scenery began to look more and more unfamiliar, Edana found herself involuntarily slowing. Her stamina was running out, and she was going to have to stop soon. The voices behind her were faint, but still audible, and Edana knew her best bet was to find somewhere to hide out.

Edana dashed towards a small, rocky ravine. Evidently, there had been a small rock fall sometime in the past, for the bottom of the ravine was littered with the white stones, of various sizes. Unfortunately, there weren’t any big enough for Edana to take shelter behind, and she realized upon reaching the bottom of the ravine that it wasn’t quite as good of a hiding place as she’d first thought. In fact, it was more of a trap; climbing out would take quite a bit of effort…

With a sigh, Edana sunk down onto the rocky ground. Her physical energy had just about faded, and she knew that even if she managed to scrounge up enough to climb out, she’d have no more left to keep on running. She let her mind sink into the magic, hoping she could quickly find some decent way of concealing herself by magic. However, this would prove difficult, and Niamh had never taught her any specific concealment magics.

Edana’s mind’s eye inadvertently focused on that patch of light, once again examining the peculiar shape within. Unconsciously, perhaps due to her body’s exhaustion, her mind slipped into the light, and she didn’t fight the heavy feeling that slowly crept over her limbs. In fact, her mind seemed to unfocus completely as the dead, weighted sensation spread through all of her limbs and up into her torso, and this time, she did absolutely nothing to stop it. In a way, she had nothing to lose, the men were nearing her anyway, and physically, her body could go no farther.

As the peculiar feeling of immovability finally reached Edana’s mind, her eyes closed and she felt herself sinking down, into the pebbles and stones around her. Oddly, with the feeling came another—one of a sort of dormant strength, a powerful steadiness. A few seconds later the light flashed through every crevice of Edana’s mind, and she knew that whatever change had taken place, it was now complete.

“What was that flash of light? Quick, over there!”

“There’s some sort of ditch or something, she must be in it!”

“Get her!”

Edana opened her eyes, sluggishly. She dragged them upwards, which took a lot more effort than one would expect for the action, and found one of the outsiders looking down at her. She figured she was pretty well done for, but his gaze passed right over her and a puzzled look came over his face.

“I dunno what that flash of light was, but there ain’t nothin’ but rocks down there. She’s got magic, maybe she just up and made herself disappear!”

Another man joined the first, and Edana noticed with increasingly less concern that neither seemed to see her. Her eyes felt heavy, so heavy, and she ignored the men, letting her eyes close. She felt an odd sort of tired contentedness, and drifted away from the physical world. Since the men didn’t seem to want to come down into her ravine, the next best thing to Edana seemed to be sleep.

Ah, yes, sleep. I don’t care about whatever I am, or what the men do now… I just want to relax here, comfortable, and drift off to sleep…

Within seconds, Edana’s consciousness had completely faded.
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