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Night and Day: Part 1
Mar 2nd, 2018 by Coral

So I’ve been really busy and got bad at posting, I’m going to try and be better. I guess we’ll see how this goes!

This is the beginning of a much longer story, I will post more of it in the future. Enjoy!

 

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Marisol carefully sorted and packed her amulets and talismans, placing her boxes of supplies in neat rows in her small cart.  She breathed a sigh of relief to be leaving Marble Crest.

Outsized only by the capitol of Tarlen itself, the city was loud, always bustling with activity.  Marisol looked forward to returning to Willow Bend, which she had left the previous autumn. Business had been good in the city, but even so Marisol was dissatisfied when she quickly learned she couldn’t trust her clients, nor anyone else, it seemed.  

Her trade was in magic, though she was not a practicer herself.  In a city, this drew in wizards as her customers, and wizards had earned themselves rather unpleasant reputations.  Wizards had been an important part of the kingdom for a long time, but in recent years instead of keeping the peace, they had begun to destroy it.

The throngs of people in Marble Crest were devoid of the quiet peace that Marisol was so fond of. In addition to the wizards, there were thieves, pickpockets, conmen, and just plain too many people. She shook her head as she thought about it, politics, wizards, it was all a complicated matter she would be happy to leave behind.

The last of her things were packed snugly in the cart just as the sun shone orange beyond the horizon.

“Ready to leave at first light, Stilts?” Marisol said, scratching her dusty pinto mare behind the ears. Stilts gave a friendly snort and shook her head. Marisol smiled and went inside.

She curled up in her bed, the last night she would spend in the rented room.

The next day began early , in the misty hours just before dawn.  Marisol packed her blankets on top of her cart and gave Mister Ross her final payment.  With that, she set out with Stilts toward Willow Bend.

Looks alone, she knew she didn’t make a very intimidating impression.  She had long, silky black hair, and though she was tall, she was slender like a young branch.  Her slight frame and Stilts’ gangly proportions would have made her seem an easy target if not for her cargo.  

The sun rose quickly, warming the cool air. Stilts plodded along at a steady pace, and Marisol used the peaceful hours of travel to enjoy the scenery.  Spring was showing her colors at the tips of the branches, and newness of life was told in the early wild flowers.

She had been on the trail for nearly two days when it happened.

She had come to a rocky area in between stretches of forest, the vegetation was sparse and the sun was hot. The sounds of Stilts hooves and the cart wheels echoed, so it took Marisol a moment to recognize the other sounds. There was shouting, and the unmistakable whistle and buzz of magic. Wizard spells.

Her heart began to beat faster, a wizard fight. It was not something she wanted to get involved in.  She urged Stilts to go faster, and the noises grew louder.  Anxious, Marisol hung a camouflage amulet around her neck, hoping to avoid the conflict by taking an alternate route.  As she moved Stilt’s to the other trail, however, she was frozen by another sound.  A baby’s cry.

Marisol stopped Stilts and waited, hoping she had been mistaken. But no, there it was again, a hysterical infant. All of Marisol’s instincts screamed to help the child.

She grabbed a few more amulets and shoved them in her pocket, then she jumped off her cart and ran towards the sounds.  

Marisol quickly found the fight, the lights of the spells were visible over the outcropping of rocks before the people were.  The crying of the baby was getting closer, too.  Marisol crept quietly, out of sight, until she could see them.  At that same instant, she saw the woman, injured and bleeding, clutching the screaming child. She was on the ground, not far from Marisol. From the trail of blood, Marisol could see she had been trying to drag herself and the baby away from the conflict.

At first, Marisol thought the woman was dead. Then she stepped closer, and the woman opened her eyes, looking directly into Marisol’s.  There was a pleading in her gaze, and, with no strength to do more, the woman released her hold on the baby.  Marisol quickly moved to pick up the child, and she heard the woman breath raspily, trying to speak as she died.

“Please,” the word was almost inaudible above the sound of the battle still raging several yards beyond them. “Take him.”

“I will,” Marisol said, cradling the baby close to her. With that, the woman closed her eyes and went still.  

Marisol was jerked back to reality with the loud whistle of another spell, too near to her to be safe.  The wizards hadn’t noticed her yet, due to her camouflage, so she ran.

Back at her cart, she rocked the baby and tried to comfort him until eventually he fell asleep, doubtless exhausted.  Stilts continued the trek towards Willow Bend, and the wizards battle soon faded in the distance.

 

Marisol knew how it would look, to show back up at Willow Bend with the child, but she couldn’t tell them the truth. No, she couldn’t let anyone know where he really came from, then he would only be vulnerable to the attacks she had just rescued him  from. It would be better for him to avoid that. The worst of the villagers imaginations would be better.

 

Marisol was right, and the moment she returned to Willow Bend, she went from just being strange to being estranged as well. The townsfolk still came to her for business, she was the only one with her talents, but nothing more, friendly social interaction ended.  Those who did interact with her more were just in it for the gossip, like Julie, the village busybody.

 

By the time Jesse, so she had named the boy, was seven years old, the rumors were firmly fixed in the community. One day, Jesse came home covered in cuts and bruises, and Marisol had to coax the story out of him. He’d gotten into a fight with the other village boys, because they had been talking about her.

 

“Mother, they said….” Jesse said, his lip trembling. “They said you don’t even know the name of my father. They called you awful things.”

 

“Oh, I know,” Marisol said, gently cleaning the cuts on his hands. “I know what they say. We mustn’t listen.”

 

Jesse looked up at her, his eyes wide. “But why don’t you? Why don’t you know….?”

 

“Jesse,” Marisol said softly. “That’s not important. I love you, you know that. Nothing can change that, isn’t that what matters?”

 

“I…yes,” Jesse said, seeming somewhat comforted by the answer, but still troubled. Over the years, Jesse stopped asking her about his father, though he would still occasionally come home with evidence of a fight.  He never discovered his powers, Marisol kept them safely hidden by adding an ingredient to their food. The powder of dried petals from a river flower added no taste, but worked as a magic suppressant. It didn’t affect Marisol, and it kept Jesse safe.

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