Across the SeaMature

As a young mage comes of age, she has to convince her childhood mentor that she's equal to any task that might come her way. She no longer requires his protection...or does she?

Sir Corentyn shaded his eyes with one hand as he peered into the sunlight, watching the ship maneuver its way to the docks of Afalon. He really should have sent one of the other guards, he chided himself. This wasn't a duty that was necessary for their captain to perform, but it was one he'd been anticipating with some joy ever since Archmage Morvan had given him the news.

The loud grating of wood scraping against wood stirred him from his thoughts, and Corentyn strode forward through the gathering crowd. No one stood in his way, for he was wearing his uniform and his authority was well-respected in the town. He smiled to himself. As much as he disliked formality, its trappings were serving him well, parting the throng before him.

Where is she? His eyes narrowed, scanning those who were disembarking, many of them elves, as the ship had come from Trondarnais. He dared not think, even to himself, that all elves looked alike.

Then he spotted the distinctive blue hair, unique even among her race. The little girl he had tossed on his knee had become a young woman, and more than that hair drew the eye. Her traveling dress was a brilliant shade of turquoise, its hem just brushing the tops of her high boots. There was an enormous speckled cat cradled in her arms. Taking a deep breath, Corentyn made his way to greet her.

Whispering comfortingly to the growling cat, Mairsil wasn't looking in his direction. Yet as he came within hearing range of her, she said, "I do not know why she is so upset. 'Twas not even a long journey. I have always loved the sea.....'Tis good to see you, Corentyn."

"For once," he observed wryly, "I have to agree with the cat. I'm not much for ocean travel, either." He reached a hand toward the animal's speckled head cautiously, remembering well that Brith only allowed herself to be petted upon her own whims. She was fond of reminding him that she was a familiar, not a house pet. He had to grant her, none of his pets had ever spoken to him in words he could understand.

On this occasion, she seemed to welcome his touch, so Mairsil pushed the furry burden in his direction. She cast her eyes around the docks, where the crowd had divided itself into groups and clusters. "I only brought one trunk...I wonder where they put it?"

"I'll retrieve it for you. They tend to just bile the baggage over there. But I'm not taking the cat with me." He set Brith down, ignoring her scornful green eyes, and took a step back to regard her mistress. "So grown up..." He let the observation trail away, remembering a time when her remarkable hair had been tamed into pigtails. But here stood an educated young woman, old enough to travel alone across an ocean. Suddenly he felt very old.

Smiling up at him, Mairsil said, "I thank you. The trunk is rather ornate. 'Twas my mother's wedding gift from Uncle Morvan."

"I remember it," he said mildly. "But I'm not sure I should leave you alone. This isn't really a dangerous town, but ships coming in tend to bring out the bad element. We do have our share, here in Afalon."

"I am a journeymage, Corentyn, not a toddler." She raised one indigo brow. "And I can see where you left the carriage from here. 'Tis not a long way off. Even a child could manage the walk unattended." She scooped up the cat and turned her back to him.

Her words stung. He had just been being courteous. Shaking his head, he waded into the group of people who were sorting through the heap of trunks, satchels, crates, and sacks. Mairsil's trunk was easy to find.

He bent, rising with the heavy trunk balanced on one broad shoulder, then stood there a moment. He looked out across the Shining Sea and wondered....

How have so many years passed so quickly?

The End

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