It took a few days, but the tension between Amarynthe and her father eventually worked itself out. They had their talk – a couple in fact – and though neither was entirely happy with the outcome, they did manage to come to a compromise of sorts. Madeus promised that he wouldn’t attempt any more spells that used Ancient’s Dust in secret, and Amarynthe promised that she wouldn’t get mad when he cast them. Neither were exactly sure about their agreement on having Jerich and Zachariah working with the Master Mage on the project, but they would need to learn these spells eventually, and it was another sort of failsafe in case something did go wrong.
Madeus insisted that nothing would go wrong but Amarynthe was doubtful. That was how her mother had been killed – or disappeared – in the first place. It was that last possibility in particular that had finally swayed her to allow her father to actually continue working his magic. What if he was right? What if her mother hadn’t died that day?
What if they could get her back?
The mere thought turned her stomach into knots and she felt nauseous because it was too good to be true. But there had been no body… “What would you do, mother?” Amarynthe whispered to herself as she balanced on two legs of the chair while she waited in the kitchen. One knee held her in place under the table and her foot rested on the chair across from her, keeping her steady.
A supper of chicken stew simmered in the hearth and she had a basket of crusty bread sitting on the table with a cloth over top to keep it fresh and out of sight. She was hungry and it was very tempting, but she’d promised she would wait until they were done. Wrinkling her nose, she cast a glance at the ceiling as if she could see them in the tower despite the wood and stone in the way. Even though she’d given her permission, she couldn’t help but feel it had been a bad idea to let her father work on higher level magics… The boys shouldn’t be working on higher level spells yet – like the one she was most worried about, but she wouldn’t put it past her father to let them help.
Zachariah understood the theory intrinsically and Jerich was fantastic with casting and with her father to look over them, it should be fine but… they were who they were. Her father she wasn’t actually worried about – she was used to his eccentricities that somehow always seemed to balance out at the end of the day. But as for Jerich and Zachariah… They were stubborn, competitive, and occasionally foolish. Where Zachariah sometimes erred too much on the side of caution, Jerich had a tendency to overestimate his abilities and if any of those issues arose during a casting, they could all be in trouble.
“Oh, quit being stupid,” she chided herself after all the unnecessary thinking was starting to make her worry more than was healthy. “They’ll be fine!” she added as she dropped her chair back to the floor with a loud clack! “And they’ll be hungry too.” Amarynthe knew she was being a little silly in talking to herself, but it was a useful distraction. She brushed her skirt off and pushed her sleeves up when she got to her feet so she could retrieve the bowls for their supper.
No sooner had she finished setting the table and secured her hair in a braid again, the front door opened. Silence followed them in and with a quick glance at the three tired, gaunt, and mute men, Amarynthe immediately grabbed a bowl and began dishing the stew out. She knew that look. They’d dipped too deep into their reserves when casting and were suffering for it. She’d seen her father wearing that mantle often enough to not be too worried about it, but it was a strange cloak for the boys.
Zachariah’s hair was flat and limp on his head while Jerich had hollows in his normally full cheeks and both had a semi-glassy look in their eyes. Amarynthe tried to feed her father first but after a quick blink, he waved her away with the ghost of a smile. “They need it more,” he assured her, pushing the boys to the table as if they’d forgotten what they were supposed to do.
“Yep,” Amarynthe nodded once, placing the bowl in front of Jerich first, since he practically fell into the nearest chair while Zachariah wandered around to the other side. By the time she had filled the other bowl, he was settled, though close to dozing. “Here you go, Zachariah,” Amarynthe called his name when he continued to stare off while Jerich devoured his food without a word.
“Oh,” he inhaled, coming back to himself enough to accept the dish. “Thanks,” he mumbled once and then he was lost to her. Spoonful after spoonful of stew disappeared and she wondered that neither of them burnt their mouths.
When she turned around to find her father, he was standing next to the hearth with a bowl of stew in his hands, eating contentedly. Unlike his apprentices, he did not appear ravenous “They’ll be alright,” he murmured around a mouthful of food.
“What were you working on?” Amarynthe asked with a furrowed brow, flinching slightly when the boys discovered the bread and began to make quick work of it. She stepped in to retrieve the empty bowls so she could refill them, half listening for her father’s response.
“Transmutation spells,” he answered while cheweing loudly, making her cringe. She hated it when he did that.
“Of what?” she asked incredulously.
Madeus shrugged but then glanced out of the corner of his eyes when he felt his daughter looking at him. “Stuff,” he stated as if that explained everything, turning back to get another bit of stew.
His answer made Amarynthe frown. “Now you’re evading me,” she reminded him with a finger pointed at his nose.
He reached out to tap the top of her lip under her nose and she flailed in immediate, annoyed response. “Stuff,” he reiterated with a wink.
“Ugh…” Amarynthe groaned, dragging her palms down her face while she fought to keep the smile away. It betrayed her in the end and she had to laugh at herself.
“Wow!” Jerich spoke first from the table, his bowl pushed in front of him and crumbs from the bread liberally decorating his robe. “I finally feel human again!”
“You didn’t!” Amarynthe rounded on her father when she heard his statement and Madeus nearly choked at the outrage in her eyes.
“I didn’t!” he defended himself with a hasty wave of his hand, mouth partially full. The exchange only served to mystify Jerich who had missed the important part of the conversation, and even Zachariah seemed lost.
“Furniture!” Madeus coughed, pounding his chest when a bit of soup hit the back of his throat.
“Furniture what?” Jerich asked, looking between them in confusion.
“I think they’re referring to the transmutation spells,” Zachariah laughed, plucking bits of bread pieces from himself and piling them together on the table.
“Oh,” the taller Journeyman responded, his mouth opening in a wide circle shape before he grinned at Amarynthe rakishly. The sight made her heart thump unexpectedly. “Aw. Were you worried about us, Ryn?” he teased, almost immediately banishing the flutter she’d felt with a rise of annoyance.
“Of course I was,” she responded in a flat tone with a deadpan expression. “Goodness knows you can barely take care of yourself as a man much less as anything else,” she added quickly to keep the energy from becoming too dark.
“Hey!” Jerich retorted indignantly, frowning at Zachariah when the other man laughed along. But he wilted just a bit as soon as Madeus laughed too. “I’m not- I can take care of myself,” he stated as firmly as he could, trying to regain a measure of his lost dignity.
“Some of the time,” Zachariah teased, the smile on his face indicating he was enjoying the exchange since he was so often on the other end himself.
“You’re just as bad as I am,” Jerich pointed defensively, scowling at the blonde across the table.
“Am not,” Zachariah waved off with a snort, leaning into the table to debate the topic.
“Oh dear,” Amarynthe winced with a glance at her father, keeping her voice low. “I seem to have started something.”
“Eh,” Madeus shrugged, eyeing the empty contents of his bowl with a thoughtful expression – he wasn’t sure if he wanted more or not. “They’re just wound up from the casting,” he assured her comfortingly, ruffling her hair with his free hand.
Amarynthe didn’t stop him but she did wrinkle her nose when she felt the strands bunch up in a tangled mess. “If you say so,” she sighed, undoing her braid again to try and smooth out the ruffled hair on top.
“Yep,” he winked, handing her the bowl, which she hastily took, leaving her hair undone for the moment, and then stepped towards the boys. “You’re both fine casters!” he announced over their still mostly friendly bickering. Almost immediately, their voices died down as they looked at each other and then flushed lightly at the praise. “And I honestly don’t know where you get the energy,” he laughed then, pointing between them with mirth dancing in his brown eyes. “But I am going to bed,” he waved, turning to give Amarynthe a warm smile as he bowed slightly in her direction.
“Night father,” she waved before he could step out.
“Night Mage Scrivener!” the two young men called in unison, looking at each other in mild amusement as they did so. The shaggy haired Mage closed the door behind him with a hand scratching at his head and a smile on his face.
It left the two Journeyman and Amarynthe alone, a position she wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about. In an effort to keep things normal, she turned to drop her father’s bowl on the counter, but it managed to draw Zachariah’s attention first. With the scrape of wood against wood, he picked her bowl off the table as he stood up from the table and walked her direction. “Did you not have a chance to eat yet?”
“Hmm?” she hummed, setting the dish in her hands down as she turned around to look at Zachariah. She heard Jerich get up as well but couldn’t see him around the tall, broad form before her. “Eh… not yet,” she admitted sheepishly while she traced her loose hair behind her ear, flushing when her stomach chose that moment to speak up. “I mean you both needed to eat and then father was talking and I’ll get to-”
“Here,” Zachariah chuckled with a mildly reproachful look at her. “You’re always telling us that we need to eat because we’re using so much energy, but you are too.”
“Yeah!” Jerich agreed quickly, taking Zachariah’s place when the other man stepped aside to dish out what was left of the stew from the pot. “You’re always cleaning and stuff,” he nodded with his arms crossed in front of his chest.
“I don’t just clean…” Amarynthe mirrored his position and raised her brow.
“Nice,” Zachariah laughed once, glancing at his companion out of the corner of his eye.
Jerich flinched when he realized how that had come out and he waved his hands in front of him as if he could make the words disappear. “Well cleaning does take a lot of energy,” he explained instead, gesturing at Zachariah to back up him. With an amused smile, the blonde shrugged and nodded along in agreement as he headed for the table.
“Join us at the table?” he asked, already setting her bowl down with a gentle smile in place.
“But you’ve already eaten,” Amarynthe reminded them, heading over anyway. She brushed her fingers against Jerich’s arm to get him moving too and he grinned back at her, slinging an arm over her shoulder.
“We can still keep you company,” he winked, motioning to her chair.
“Would you give her some room?” Zachariah grumbled as the expression on his face turned cross, earning Amarynthe’s curious attention. He didn’t normally sound that way when he spoke. Did he not like Jerich being so close to her?
“I’m not crowding her,” Jerich snorted, stepping away so he could help with her chair.
Still thinking, Amarynthe took it without complaint and simply focused on eating so she wouldn’t have to answer. It felt like they were both taking turns trying to get her attention and it was interesting and frustrating in equal measure. “Is there any bread left?” she asked between their apparent staring contest.
“Um… sorry,” Zachariah apologized with a chagrined look at the empty basket. They’d made short work of it without realizing.
“Oh! We can just summon more!” Jerich grinned, already pulling his sleeves up to do just that.
“Ow!” he yelped, looking down at Amarynthe who was glaring at him disappointedly, her fist resting on her hip after she smacked him with her palm.
“No,” she stated simply. “You’re just recovering from the magic you cast tonight and if you’re summoning it from somewhere, you’re probably stealing. Likely from Arden,” she huffed, turning her attention back to the stew. But her hair fell over her shoulder and she had to brush it out of the way hastily. She didn’t exactly enjoy trying to eat her hair…
“Feh. Yes mother,” Jerich pouted as he finally took his seat across from Zachariah. Amarynthe exhaled slightly and looked up at him with a glance. That. That was why she worried. He was nearly a grown man and he still thought magic could do everything and then he went and pouted when he didn’t get his way.
Feeling guilty because she always did when he made that face, Amarynthe looked at Zachariah. “What would you have done?” she asked earnestly.
He made a face at being pulled into the conversation and took a small breath. “If you wanted it now… I’d probably have suggested what he did.” He knew it wasn’t what she wanted to hear so he looked away quickly and then glanced back once, his face a bit more colored than before. “Your hair looks nice by the way.”
Amarynthe wasn’t exactly surprised by Zachariah’s answer – it made sense given the time of night, but his second comment certainly caught her off guard. “Oh…” she trailed off, running her free hand over it self-consciously as she crossed her ankles under the table.
“Yeah. You should wear it down more often,” Jerich quickly joined in, eager to get her off the warpath. And it worked.
“It gets in the way,” she flushed, looking down at her food and trying to finish quickly.
“It’s still nice,” Zachariah spoke quietly, almost as if afraid to draw attention to himself again.
For a moment, Amarynthe tapped her wooden spoon against the bowl and then licked her lips as she looked up. “Thank you.” Her lips tugged into a smile when Jerich and Zachariah glanced at each other, not entirely sure if she was thanking them for the compliment. “For this,” she gestured at her hair and then continued, “and for helping keep an eye on my father.” He was always a topic she could use to get attention away from her.
“Of course,” Jerich grinned, leaning his arms on the table. “It just also happens that we get to work with really interesting magics now too!” he added with excitement, completely oblivious to how that made Amarynthe feel.
“We said we would,” Zachariah nodded in acceptance. “And it’s true that we do have more access to higher level magics but I think it’s good for him too,” he explained, picking at a grain of wood in the tabletop with his fingernail.
“Certainly! You should see your father focusing in the casting hall,” Jerich chimed in. “He’s a true Master there,”
Amarynthe laughed at their enthusiasm and nodded in her chair. “Either way, I appreciate it.” Finishing the last of her stew, she pushed the bowl away and leaned forward with a speculative look in her eye. “So! When are you guys going to be working on your next big casting?”
They both took a moment to look at each other thoughtfully before they responded. “Madeus said he wanted to work on something in a few days.”
“Once we had enough time to recover from this casting,” Zachariah added, shrugging with a glance at himself.
“Can I ask what you’re working on?” she prodded, perpetually curious of the workings of the shop, even if she didn’t much care for the aftereffects
“You can,” Jerich began with a teasing tone. “But it’s a secret!” he pointed at her, his index finger nearly close enough to touch her nose.
“Now that’s just mean,” she huffed with her arms crossed over her chest.
“We can tell you after,” Zachariah promised in an effort to mollify her.
“But that’s so far away,” Amarynthe sighed. “You’re both as bad as my father. Aggravating,” she laughed, sticking her tongue out at them.
“And you worry too much,” Jerich pointed out, standing up with a scrape of his chair and the swishing of his robes. “Done?” he asked, taking her empty bowl before she had a chance to argue so he could put it next to her father’s.
“Aren’t you forgetting one?” Zachariah laughed, following him with both their bowls and the basket looped over one arm.
“I figured you could handle it,” the taller man snorted.
“Hopeless, both of you,” Amarynthe gently laughed, moving to join them. “Are you going to help me wash the dishes too?”
The quick flash of displeasure that crossed their faces made her think they would decline but after a shared look over her head, they nodded in agreement. “Sure,” Zachariah spoke for them, looking around for the wash bucket and sand.
Just when she thought she had them figured out, they surprised her. Amarynthe kept her amused smile to herself though and helped them find the washing equipment. They were hardly professionals at cleaning but the company and the extra pairs of hands were nice. It helped to make short work of a normally boring and sometimes arduous task.
When they were finished, she dried the dishes and then they walked up the stairs together, stopping at her room first, since it was on the way. “Thanks again for helping,” Amarynthe grinned as she leaned against the doorway.
“No problem,” Jerich grinned back, using Zachariah’s shoulder as a leaning prop for his arm. The shorter man gave him a questionable look with a wry smile and shook his head.
“Any time,” he spoke instead, inclining his head towards her. “Rest well and we shall see you on the morrow!” Zachariah grinned, waving at her brightly.
“Night guys,” she waved back in amusement, feeling her stomach doing little flips as she stood there looking between their attractive faces. It was almost a relief when they were gone and the door was shut behind her. “Stop being silly,” Amarynthe told herself as she brushed at her hair with both hands while she leaned against the door. “They’re just your friends.” She spoke the words aloud as she headed towards the bed, as if in doing so she could make it all the more true. “Even if they are nice to look at and you do sort of like them.”
Saying the last sentence out loud felt more like an admittance and it prompted her to flail in place with a little, girly squeal, waving at her face with her hands. Taking a quick breath, she promptly took hold of herself and shucked her shirt and skirt, replacing them quickly with her sleeping shift. She tidied her room with the ease of routine and folded the clothes on the floor until she could put them up or wash them.
Tossing herself onto the bed, Amarynthe picked up her mother’s picture and held it at arm’s length. “What advice would you give?” she wondered, watching the brown haired, brown eyed woman in the frame move and smile and laugh as if she were alive. For a moment, Amarynthe remained silent as if she was listening and then she nodded along. “Of course. Time will tell. For a lot of things,” she added in a whisper before she set the image back on the surface beside her bed.
Not surprisingly, despite the fact she was quite tired, it took Amarynthe a fairly long time to fall asleep that evening. Her mind was awhirl with the possibilities and the ‘secret’ casting the boys would be working with in a few days. Time would tell indeed.