Warloc gazed out of the window. The sun was ever so slightly starting to dip, making everything look warmer than it was. The air was cold, and Warloc was grateful for his long baggy sleeves.
The window wasn't actually a window, as it had no glass. It was more like a hole in the wall of his study chamber at the top of the tower. Glass WAS manufactured here, but the process of flattening it out to cover a space in the wall was difficult. And there was every chance a hurricane would sweep through Augura again and smash through it, so Warloc didn't see the point.
He fought the droop of his eyelids. The Somnolence Draught hadn't entirely worn off, but he didn't want to go back to sleep. He didn't want to the green mottled man to return... especially now that it knew what his biggest fear was. How would it use that against him, he wondered.
Warloc heard heavy footsteps and smiled as his friend lumbered into view. The friend had red hair, the beginnings of a beard, and was more than twice his height. Gargantuum wasn't like other giants. He had elected to live not with his more violent brothers and sisters, but in a peaceable spot near the forest. He was particular about his personal appearance, and rather friendly.
'Afternoon, your Mageliness,' the giant japed as he sidled up to the window. Warloc looked down on him. Gargantuum was nice, but he liked to tease Warloc about the fact that he was still only a mage.
'Nice beard,' Warloc japed back. This made his friend rub his bristly chin and frown slightly.
'I hate having a beard,' he said. 'Claggy thing keeps growing. When you get promoted or whatever, could you find some way of stopping the growth?'
'Yes, I suppose. Listen, Garg, I need to talk to you about something.'
'Oh, OK. Well make it quick, I can't stay here long. You're looking well by the way.'
'Yes, that's what I wanted to talk to you about, actually. Last night, the things were bothering me again, so I decided to use some of that Somnolence Draught I was telling you about...'
'Oh yeah.' Gargantuum rubbed his chin again, where it was already more bristly than before. 'Needs trimming. So did it work?'
'Yes, it did. And I had the most strange... dream. It was so weird, it was like a... sort of thing.'
'Fascinating. You know there's nothing more boring than hearing someone else talk about their dreams.'
'No, listen. This was a very real, vivid dream. I'm not saying it was a vision, because I've never successfully induced one... but I saw this world with... huge flying things made out of metal... and the grass was green... and there was a girl.'
'Oh,' said Gargantuum, not paying attention.
'She was about... oh, she looked very young, and she had red hair like yours, freckles... and she had this burning energy in her eyes. Oh, and here's another thing. She had a staff, and she used it like nothing I've ever seen.'
'So what does it mean?'
Warloc paused, the excitement of the speech leaving him. 'I don't know... but it was very vivid... and this is something I'd never have thought of by myself... I mean honestly. Flying metal? That's impossible.'
Gargantuum looked at Warloc's face. He seemed serious.
'I think you're stressed, Warloc,' he said slowly. 'I think ever since that Curse... I don't know. You couldn't take monsters and sleep deprivation forever. What you really need is some rest.'
'You don't understand. This has never happened to me in all of two years. I'm not going mad.'
'I'm not weak. I can take it until I've learnt enough to go up against the Emperor myself. He can't put me off with a few late night ghoulies, OK?'
Gargantuum stood on his toes, elevating him to window height. 'All I'm saying,' he said slowly, 'is that you shouldn't so worked up about one dream. If it happens again let me know, but to be honest I don't think it's more than just a dream.'
Warloc started to protest, and then sagged. 'Yes. I suppose you're right.'
Gargantuum hovered for a few moments, and then made his excuses and walked off back into the woods. Warloc watched him go.
If it took him two more years, or even longer than that, he knew he was going to beat the emperor.
Lift the curse.
Get his wife back.
Miss paused while she peered at the register.
Siobhan sighed and put her hand up. 'It's pronounced Shu-vawn, miss.'
'Oh yes, I see now.' Miss nodded and carried on reading out the register, and when that was done she folded it carefully under one arm. She was not an attractive woman. She wore a long grey skirt and thick rimmed glasses. 'Alright everybody, well done on 'You raise me up' last week... still a bit wobbly in the middle though, so we'll practice that near the end. OK, now we're moving on to 'Greatest day', so if you could get into your places...'
Siobhan sighed and got into position. She didn't like this new teacher. Miss pronounced her name a different way every week. 'See-oh-ban'... 'Show-bu-han'... 'Si-oh-ban'... 'Shee-oh-von'... It was very annoying and did nothing for her confidence either. Still, she took her place near the back of the hall and picked up her lyrics sheet.
After choir was finished, Holly walked with her to the back gate. Siobhan wasn't sure if she liked choir anymore - Miss was getting on her nerves, and the songs were always the same. If she had to practice one more Take That medley, Eminem rap or Avril Lavigne drivel, she was going to explode.
'I might quit choir,' she told Holly, and outlined the reasons.
'Please stay, it'd be boring without you,' Holly said. 'And Miss bullies you if you leave her choir. She did that to Lucy from English.'
'What do you mean?'
'She picks on Lucy more than other people in class. Things like asking for a pencil she says 'Lucy, stop gossiping with your mates or I shall put you in deeeeeeetention.' Stuff like that. And she picks on her for homework as well.'
'Are you sure? Maybe Lucy's just imagining things.'
'No, she says Miss is definitely picking on her.'
'OK, fine. Well I won't quit choir then, but I should like it to be known that I really don't like -'
'Afternoon, you two.'
Holly and Siobhan swivelled round to see their French teacher standing behind them, holding a pile of folders.
'Hi Sir,' they said.
'Hello. Look, I know this is very last minute,' he said, crouching in front of them, 'but I need some helpers for Parent's Evening. Unfortunately the wonderful Matthew has come down with an allergy to teachers or something, so could either of you... help me out?'
Siobhan thought. She didn't really want to stay behind and help Sir, but the prospect of going home to look after a pain-stricken Mum wasn't appealing either. She made the decision, hoping Holly would do the same.
'I'd like to stay behind, Sir.'
'Excellent!' Sir handed her some of the folders. 'Right, we're in room B15. Are you coming along, Holly?'
'No thanks. See you later, Siobhan.'
'Oh, th- OK.'
Holly skedaddled. Glumly, Siobhan followed Sir to their assigned room.
Warloc sat alone in his chamber. His eyes were on a book, a book of charms and fordigations. Fordigations were a special kind of charm. It could be a story, poem or message that, when spoken under the correct circumstances, would be accepted into the mind of another, and the message taken on subconsciously. Fordigations were exceedingly difficult, and much to Warloc's dismay he was not skilled enough to cast one. He wished it were possible to cast a fordigation onto his wife, just to let her know he was OK and missing her.
As he was reading, a loose piece of paper fell out of the book. He picked it off the floor, and found it was another fordigation. He read it.
'Hegira lies beyond the line
that only bold minds may traverse.
Another world, far more malign
and treacherous than this. This verse
Will take you there; be brave and bold
Should stranger circumstance unfold.'
The words were interesting to Warloc. He read them again. A ford for traversing an unseen line...? It was interesting, but not too useful.
Sighing, he put the book down. He had more important thing to do today. He went downstairs, putting the book back on one of the shelves as he did so. He picked up his herb bag, put on his cloak and stepped outside.
Warloc walked all the way to the edge of the Enchanted Woodland. There didn't use to be an edge, but since Emperor Quelch's reign began, everyone had been split up. In the case of the cannibalistic Bloodnut tribes, this was probably for the best, but Warloc didn't think it right that all the different members of the magical community were separated. It meant that when he moved to Mage County to begin his training, his parents didn't go with him.
There to meet him at the edge was elfish queen Dahlia Alexander. They continued walking together.
'Your Majesty,' Warloc began, but she stopped him.
'Please, Warloc. Call me Dahlia, everyone does. I believe you wanted to see me.'
'I do. I need more Somnolence Draught. I have the necessary herbs,' he said, lifting his bag.
'You've used it all?'
'Yes. I've had trouble sleeping.'
'Ah,' the Queen said knowingly. 'I see.'
Soon they reached Dahlia's home - a wonky hut made of twigs with a flowery roof - and they stepped inside. It was warm and comfortable. The flowers were also growing on the inside roof, and Warloc gazed up at them all for a minute.
Dahlia took his herbs and began to grind them. 'Tell me Warloc. How did you use so much in one go? You bought it from me only last week.'
'I know, your m- Dahlia. The... things have been bothering me.'
'The apparitions?' Dahlia guessed. Warloc didn't reply, so she continued to grind the herbs. She was old and wrinkled, but somehow her hair was as thick and black as ever. Warloc's hair was greyish, and four feathers stuck out the top of his head. They looks a bit silly in her opinion. 'Are they any worse?'
'No,' Warloc said. 'I think I may have had a vision.'
Dahlia stopped grinding. 'Really?'
'I ran a bath with the Somnolence Draught. And while I was asleep, I saw magic and fire... and a red haired girl, twirling a staff. And it felt like something important was going to happen.'
He looked at her for a response, but she was emptying a thick, translucent goo into the grinding bowl. It landed with a glop, and she turned to face him.
'Warloc, your magic is improving every day. I too have seen this vision.'
His eyes widened. 'Really?'
'Yes. I know about this girl and what she can do. I also know that you will be meeting her very soon.'
Warloc stood up. Behind Dahlia, he could see yellow smoky tendrils rising from the bowl, and the mixture turned blue. 'When will I meet her? Where?'
'I'm afraid I don't know. What I do know is that her world is very different to our own.'
Warloc remembered the green grass and trees, and flying metal creatures, and nodded. 'I'll be ready to meet her,' he said.
Dahlia poured the mixture into a jar and handed it to him. He thanked her, gave her some coins, and walked back home.