I finally got a chance to really speak with Gloria. Correction. I finally worked up the nerve to face her. The boat felt like a place of death. The crew was cleaning the deck and giving first aid to the passengers. A few were missing, but Tina was the only passenger killed. A pair of crewmen didn't make it, but the others are doing well enough to survive. Hilda went below and sequestered herself in a cabin to pray. The captain has been busy directing the efforts of the cleanup, as well as the prisoners. Not all of the pirates escaped. Three of them are dead. I killed one. The other one is very badly burned by the spell. He probably won't make it to morning. I've killed him, and he's still breathing, in ragged gasps. I can hear it from here. They've put him on a stretcher and done what they can for him, but gods, how could I have done this to a man? I try to focus on the fact that he's a pirate, a kidnapper. He would have done horrible things to me, or to someone else. He probably already has. The world is a darker place than I had thought it would be. Is this my grand adventure?
Gloria and I talked, but I couldn't really think of anything to say to her. We moved away from the injured, and I stood at the rail, where I had spoken with Mr. K the other day. Had it really been that short? The railing was designed for human height, and Gloria pulled herself up against it and used a small crate as a footstool. She almost seemed like a child looking out over the riverbank, but the image was broken when she looked at me with serious eyes and said: "You've been holding out on me."
"What?" I asked.
"You've been studying, too." She said simply. "At first, I was a little upset, you know, after the incident in the ruins. But you've saved us twice over."
"Gloria, that's... That's not it." I stammered. I suddenly resolved to tell her the truth, or rather not hide from her anymore.
"I understand. Magic's a pretty scary thing. It sounds all right on paper, but then you're doing it, and someone's dying in front of you. I nearly was sick after that time on the cart." She looked back out over the water.
"You were?" I asked. I was too relieved that we had been rescued to take much notice of her, I realized. I haven't been a very good friend after all.
"Of course." She said. "I killed someone. Who wouldn't feel sick? I'll tell you a little secret, and I think it's the same as your's. My grandmother didn't teach me."
"What?" I asked. Could we be the same after all? I felt suddenly very nervous.
"Well, I've been sneaking her books since I was eight. I didn't really understand them at first, but I just felt like I couldn't watch her back forever. I want to be great, like she was. So I taught myself, in secret. You're self-taught too, right?" She smiled, and I felt like I had been smacked in the chest. We weren't the same after all. I took a deep breath.
"S-something like that. Gloria, I've never studied." I said.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I didn't learn magic in books. I just have the spells." It didn't sound like a good explanation, but it was all I could manage.
"You're pulling my leg," Gloria looked back at me, incredulous. I decided to tell her everything from the beginning.
"I wish I was. Just after Grandfather died, when I was eight, things started happening around the house. Doors would slam, dishes would break. Things like that. At first, we thought it was a ghost or something ethereal. The neighbors had a nest of magical rats in their basement, so as long as things stayed small, we didn't worry about it. But when we fled to Lithia, the events only became stronger, and more frequent. We wondered if it was Grandfather's spear, but we had an exorcist come, and he couldn't find anything. By the time I was thirteen, I knew it was me."
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"Well, it's hard to explain in words. I'd want something to happen, some small thing, or if I would be angry, or hurt, sometimes something would happen. I was able to change the world, in small ways."
"So, if you aren't a mage, what are you?" Gloria asked. She was remarkably calm.
"I don't know. Grandmother wrote to the Academy, and they sent for me. I honestly don't know what she wrote, though. There wasn't any way for me to stay in Lithia, though."
"It's human politics. Wizardry is dominated by the Gnomes, and the elves, so they're distrusted as spies and witches."
"That's pretty stupid. The Five Races should be working together."
"Yeah, but it's tough to see that when you're behind a wall. Lithia isn't a city of magic. It's a crime to practice it there, so I had to leave."
"A crime? What would they have done to you?"
"At my age? I don't know. But there are a lot of beggars down in the Golden Square who're blind and mute as punishment for casting spells."
"How awful!" Gloria nearly lost her grip on the railing, and settled herself down to the deck. "I knew things were bad in the Capital, but not to that extent."
"I don't know. I think that if I work hard and become a real wizard, like your grandmother, I can, I don't know, fix it."
"You shouldn't worry about fixing yourself, Lizzeth" She said quietly. "I've been thinking, since we started traveling."
"About what?" I asked.
"Your brother? I'm sure he's alright. Don't worry." I said, trying to reassure her. She was always worrying about him.
"No, that's just it. When we were living safely behind the walls, I was always chasing after him and trying to keep him under control. But that is the last thing I should have been doing, I think. He's a berserker, Lizzeth. A barbarian, like something out of an old legend. At first, I though that it was like a curse on us. But it isn't. It's a blessing."
"A blessing?" This wasn't what I had expected her to say.
"When the war between the gods finished, it brought an end to the age of the world. They redrew all the maps and changed some of the very laws of nature itself. The gods didn't just create havoc, they created new beings and brought them into the world, or they brought back ones thought lost, like Tarry."
"I haven't really thought about it that way," I said.
"Since we left the city, we've been in constant danger. You lost your home in Hydraal to the hordes. The world is a more dangerous place than it was even during our grandparent's day. So maybe you and Tarry are the kind of people that the gods want to make the Third Age."
"Oh, Gloria." I was crying. I had expected her to be afraid of me, but she just smiled, if a bit sadly.
"Don't get complacent, though. I'll be studying hard. I'm going to surpass Her, after all." We looked out towards the smokey dawn, and the city. Standing on the railing, our heights were equal. I followed her eyes to the pillars of cloud. Carabien: The City of Illusion.
"Right," I said, and wiped away a tear. There didn't seem time for them anymore.