Two Are Better Than One Chapter 1
By Samara Secor
Alicia brought her sword up to block her teacher’s attack and shuddered at the impact. There were rumors that Tyrian was a descendant of Gaull Ironhand, and given his massive strength she didn’t doubt that one bit. Still, even someone with the blood of a Dragonmaster in his veins was bound to make a mistake sooner or later. Alicia saw her opening and moved quickly, getting through a chink in his guard to place her swordpoint at his throat.
Tyrian tossed his sword aside and threw his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “I must be getting old. If an enemy had tried something like that on me a couple of years ago, they would have gotten their head bashed in. Don’t even think of doing that if the enemy’s faster than you. You’ll lose every time,” he warned.
“I’ll be careful, teacher,” Alicia promised.
“You’d better be,” Tyrian picked up his sword and sheathed it. “So what tasty little morsels do you think that your mother has decided to fix today?”
“If the hunt has been successful, we’ll have a bowl of Hearthfire Stew, extra spicy, just the way you like it.”
“Ahh! Your family always takes such good care of me when I come wandering through. Is it because of all those fine horses I keep bringing with me, or do you guys just like me?”
“You already know the answer to that one,” Alicia replied with an impish grin.
Laticia was bored. First, she had practiced her archery, but hitting the target wasn’t much of a challenge since it couldn’t move. Then, she had wandered over to where the new horses Tyrian had brought were grazing. She liked horses, and this group was of especially fine quailty. However, all she had seen ever since she could remember were horses, grass, tents, the same people, and more of that endless grass! It was nice for a while whenever they packed up the whole village and went somewhere else, but eventually the new location would grow old after a while, too. The only thing that she never got tired of hearing was Tyrian’s stories.
When Tyrian began a tale, there was no telling where your imagination could take you. One moment, you might be on the deck of the ship, smelling the salty tang of sea air, and the next, you were deep inside a cave full of delicate crystal formations which glinted all colors of the rainbow in the torchlight. The parts that excited her the most were the ones dealing with magic.
Are you having trouble lighting your campfire because the wood is too wet? Just chant Elwin’s Firestarter, and those logs will be blazing merrily in no time. Do you have problems with bees and other insects when you’re on a picnic? One shot of the Zap spell will send those pesky bugs running for cover. Tyrian would continue on and on like this until Laticia burst into fits of giggles.
After she calmed down, Tyrian would tell her about the other side of magic. While most spells were relatively weak, despite their usefulness, there were others that could control the elements. One example of this was the city of Vane, home to the world’s greatest magicians. Althena herself had harnessed the wind currents to the city so that it would float in a continuous, protective orbit around her tower. ‘Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the chance to study there and become one of those magicians!’ Laticia thought to herself as she wandered about aimlessly.
On the way there, a voice called out to her, “Hey, Laticia! Wait a minute. I want to talk to you!”
Sighing, she turned to see the familiar figure of Neil running towards her. He skidded to a stop in front of her and said, “I’ve been trying to find Alicia, but I haven’t had any luck.”
“That’s because Tyrian’s passing through again. She never misses a chance to cross blades with him. You know that,” Laticia blew a stray lock of brown hair out of her eyes and said, “You’ve been acting really weird lately. Is something bothering you?”
Neil’s cheeks flushed and he lowered his head, “Uh... Well, the Fall Festival is coming up in a couple of days, and I kind of wanted ask her if she’d.... er....”
‘Oh brother!’ Laticia rolled her eyes and said, “You want to ask my sister out, and you’re using not being able to find her as an excuse to get somebody else to ask the question for you. You may be a tough warrior, but sometimes, you act like a big chicken! Come on!”
She grabbed his arm and began dragging him towards her family’s tent. “Okay, okay! I’ll talk to her myself. Just let go of me,” Neil said.
She released him so suddenly that he fell over backwards. “Ow! Thanks a lot, Laticia,” Neil grumbled as he jumped to his feet. “Now, I’m going to have to go in there looking like I’ve been rolling in the dirt.”
Alicia woke up in the middle of the night and noticed that Laticia was gone. She quietly crept past the slumbering forms of her parents and Tyrian and opened the tent flap to look outside. Laticia was nowhere to be seen.
Alicia stepped outside the tent and took a deep breath of the cool night air. Looking up, she could see that the sky was clearer than it had been for a long time. ‘It’s a perfect night for stargazing.... I bet I know where my sister’s gone,’ Alicia began walking towards the hill, a solitary bump in an otherwise even landscape.
At the top, she found Laticia lying on her back with her hands behind her head. “What’s on your mind, sis?” Alicia asked as she sat down beside her.
“Alicia, I’ve been thinking.... Have you ever gotten tired of just seeing the same things day after day? I mean, wouldn’t you like to go and see some of those places that Tyrian talks about?”
“What? You mean like to Vane? Hey, don’t look so surprised. I’ve seen how your eyes light up whenever Tyrian mentions the place. I don’t know why you haven’t asked Mom and Dad if we can go for a visit. I’m sure if Tyrian was with us, they wouldn’t mind.”
“That’s just it. I don’t want to go to Vane just to visit. I want to go there and study magic. Can you honestly say that our parents would ever agree to let me do that? We’re the riders of the prairie. What need do we have of magic?” Laticia sighed unhappily and closed her eyes.
Alicia was silent for a moment. Then, she said, “I guess we’ll have sneak out here, then. Won’t we?”
“What? Do you really mean it?” Laticia sat up and stared at her sister.
“Of course I mean it, silly. Do you think that I would joke about something like that? We have the perfect opportunity to get away coming up, too. Everything’s always chaotic during the Fall Festival. It’ll take everyone a while before they even realize that we’re gone.”
“What about Neil? You agreed to go with him to the Festival, didn’t you?”
“The Festival starts at noon. It will be several hours before it even starts to get dark. By that time, Neil is sure to be sick of the whole thing. Now, we’d better figure out what we’re going to take with us. We don’t want to be caught out there unprepared....”
Laticia tapped her foot impatiently. She had come to the hill as soon as the sky began to darken, dragging both her twin’s pack and her own with her. She checked and rechecked her gear, trying to keep herself occupied as the minutes passed. ‘What is taking her so long? She shouldn’t have that much trouble ditching Neil, should she?’ Laticia wondered. ‘I knew we should have picked some other time to go....’
At that very moment, Alicia was frantically trying to think of a way that she could leave to join Laticia without mortally offending Neil. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, and if the circumstances had been different, she would have been, too. In the end, she recieved help from an unlikely source, Neil’s parents. They came up to her and Neil, with Neil’s younger brother and sister in tow. Neil’s father cleared and asked, “Forgive us for stepping in, son, but would you mind taking Carlin and Erin back home and keeping an eye on them? Your mother and I would like some time to enjoy the Festival by ourselves.”
Neil tried hard to hide his disappointment and said, “I can do that, father. You two deserve a break.”
After Neil’s parents left, he turned to Alicia and said, “I’m really sorry about this, Alicia, but I’m going to have to cut this short. Duty calls.”
“That’s all right, Neil. I understand. Maybe we can do this again some time. I’ll look forward to it,” Alicia said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Eww... Gross!!” Carlin and Erin shrieked in unison.
Neil blushed and said, “Come on, you little troublemakers. It’s way past your bedtime. I’ll see you later, Alicia.”
Alicia waited until Neil was out of sight and let out a breath that she hadn’t known she’d been holding. ‘Whew, what a relief! I hope Laticia isn’t too mad at me for taking so long,’ she said to herself and began making a beeline for the hill.
By the time she made it to where Laticia was waiting, she was slightly out of breath. “Sorry... sis..” Alicia paused a moment to catch her breath and said, “I had a bit of trouble trying to get away. You’re not angry, are you?”
“Not really. I’m just glad that you didn’t forget. Let’s get moving, now,” Laticia said as she shouldered her pack. “If we hurry, we should be able to reach that clearing in the forest in time to get a good night’s rest.”
To Chapter 2
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