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Fantasy Adventure Coming of Age

“I don’t want to ever so much as see crystals around here again Lissette! You do know this is what got your mother killed, don’t you?” Aunt Ivy’s pine green eyes shift back and forth, examining Lissette’s tawny diamond shaped face.

“But it’s also what made her feel alive.” Lissette responds. “I don’t understand how you so easily turned your back on our traditions all those years ago. What? Simply because you’re scared?”

“Fear isn’t always a bad thing Lissette. You’re young, so you think you know everything, but you don’t. Please just stop with the magic. I already lost Ava,” The name catches in her throat. “Don’t make me lose you too.”

Lissette rushes to the circular wooden door leading out to Willowdale. No one, not even Aunt Ivy, can take away what still connects Lissette to her mother. The one thing that brings joy in this dreary life. She strides towards the forest, where it’s safe to be herself.

“Hey there, what’s the rush Lissette?”

She’s startled out of her focused march by his chin length black hair and icy blue eyes. Her heart stops for a moment along with her feet. “Oh, hey Peter. Just,” She glances over at the small open market. “Out doing some chores for Ivy. Bread and all that.”

“Ah. Would you like some company?” He asks. Lips twisting into a half smirk.

“No, it’s fine. I’m kind of in a rush.”

He bows slightly. “As you wish gorgeous.”

She hopes he can’t tell she’s blushing and glances down as she moves onward. Lissette stops by the market just in case Peter’s still in the area.

She lazily inspects the baker’s selection and overhears the conversation of two women behind her.

“I can’t believe it. How did this happen when the Inquisori’s been so good about eradicating witchcraft?”

Lissette’s ears perk up at the word witchcraft.

“People can be sneaky. You never know what someone’s hiding.”

“Yeah, but the Gargantha lurking in the forest is not something easily hidden.”

“Those monsters are born rather small, or so I’ve heard.”

A Gargantha is created out of someone’s insecurities, secret longings, and regrets. The mage gains someone’s trust, usually with the help of illusory magic to get the to the core of that person. Lissette despises crooked magic, but it’s what people generally associate with witchcraft. She buys a loaf of bread and walks back to the cottage. If a Gargantha is out there right now, Lissette would need to go into the forest more prepared than she is.

Scents of a meaty stew swirl throughout the cottage, and Ivy’s more focused on the pot in the kitchen than she’d normally be. Good, she’ll probably ignore Lissette for a while. She slinks into her room which barely has enough space for her twin sized bed.

Lissette places the bread and satchel on her miniature bedside dresser. She pulls off her blood red cloak over her thick curly hair and lays on the bed in her puffy white shirt and loose pants. She takes her notes and pen from the dresser.

Use magic to defeat magic. Lissette pulls three empty sheets of thick yellowing paper from the stacks. She draws the symbol for verity. Three dots inside a triangle. Water, a circle with a t through the middle and raindrops in each of the four parts of the open circle. Fire, a diamond holding a flame inside. Truth and these elements are what best counteract illusory magic which creates a Gargantha. Lissette spends hours perfecting the symbols.

She puts her cloak and satchel back on, placing the symbols inside the bag. She walks out to the living room holding the bread and finds Ivy sitting on the couch reading a novel. Barely looking at the table beside her, Ivy lifts her teacup and sips while reading.

Lissette almost tells her about the plan. Maybe knowing that she’s using her powers for good will lighten Ivy’s views on it, but Lissette stops herself from saying anything. She’ll tell Ivy after she’s victorious.

Hearing Lissette’s footsteps, Ivy says, “Help yourself to some of the stew.” She doesn’t take her eyes off the novel.

“Thanks. I brought some more bread if you want any.”

“Mm.”

Lissette puts the bread on the counter and walks out to Willowdale. She spots Peter sitting below a tree playing the lute, and he glimpses her way just after she looks at him. Lissette quickly glances back down, but it’s too late. He walks over to her with a full smile on his moonlight face.

“Out and about twice in one day. This is rare for you.” He says.

“While you’re always out on the town.” She retorts. He raises an eyebrow, conscious of the double meaning in her words. She’s seen him walking around with almost all of the other young women in Willowdale. He’ll usually play them a song or two before moving on to the next one. She crosses her arms.

“Is that such a bad thing? I can’t imagine how boring it must be to just sit in your room all day.”

“Nope. Not boring. Peaceful.” She continues walking. “Anyways, if you’ll excuse me, I have things to do.” She glances at his blue eyes one last time and jumps back at the intensity of his gaze.

“Huh. Well then, Lissette. Enjoy your day.” He walks back to the tree and starts playing his lute.

Though she’s had a slight distant crush on Peter for a while, he hasn’t spoken to her much like he has today. She never realized he noticed her introverted ways like she’s noticed his extroverted ones. Lissette shakes her head. He’s just curious because she appears like a mystery.

Lissette pulls on her satchel and thumbs through the three papers. Hopefully this works. The most she’s ever done are simple spells to help around the house or change energy. She’s never used magic for anything on this scale before. She ambles to the forest on the long trail out of town. Feigning interest in a light green plant with deep red dots, Lissette kneels down and touches one of the waxy leaves. Maybe she’s not the one who should go defeat the Gargantha.

“Don’t doubt yourself. This is what I want you to do.” Ava’s voice nudges inside her head.

Lissette stands back up and walks with determination. Plants on each side of her sway in the wind. Her mom’s presence guides Lissette forward, even if it’s simply in her imagination.

Standing at the base of the entrance to the forest, she inhales and exhales a long, deep breath. Wind slows, expansive silence covering the dimming area. The sun falls on the horizon to her right as the moon lightly hangs in the other side of the sky. Lissette enters between the trees and listens for any footsteps or sounds from the Gargantha. Though she knows how one is made, she doesn’t know what they look like.

Time passes, and as darkness covers the forest Lissette wonders if what she heard in the market was merely a rumor. Her ankles throb and she sits down for a break.

Whispers flow around Lissette, and the back of her neck tingles. She sees no sign of anyone or anything in the area.

The words are barely distinct. “Not good enough. Why try if you’re going to fail anyways? Save yourself the embarrassment. Not good enough.”

She stands up but sees nothing from any direction.

“Something must be wrong with you. Your time has already passed. It’s too late for you to become an actress. You never would have made it to the city anyways. Not good enough.”

Lissette’s eyebrows knead together. She’s never wanted to become an actress.

Bushes shift, and the brushing sound covers the whispers that were there seconds before. Lissette turns towards them, biting her lower lip.

Peter emerges from the bushes, and she backs away as he comes closer.

She blurts, “What are you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the same question, Lissette. Except I already know why you’re here.”

Without glancing behind, she backs into a tree. She looks around for an escape route.

“The full extent of my charms didn’t work on you earlier because while I am a wizard, you’re a witch. Though,” he smirks, “You are attracted to me without the excess.”

She shakes her head and feels through the satchel.

“You don’t need to destroy my precious Gargantha. Imagine instead, how powerful we could be together. We could stop the Inquisori from trying to destroy magic. Average people are scared now, but we can make them fear us to the point where they won’t try to erase us anymore.”

“I don’t do magic to hold a twisted power over others.” Lissette pulls out the verity symbol and sways her arms until a slight glow circles around her.

“Oh come now, I’m not going to do anything to hurt you. I’m on your side. You’re not the only one who’s lost someone for our practices.” His eyes are earnest for a moment.

“And what of the girl who you used illusory magic on? It’s evil Peter. You’ve altered who she is forever. Those thoughts will always be at the forefront of her mind now.”

“Isn’t every human impacted in some way or another by those they come in contact with? I’m just a more powerful force than the average person. Besides, maybe she’ll actually do something to change her reality with all those thoughts floating around her mind.”

Lissette shakes her head, and her eyes widen at the sound of a tree slamming into the ground.

A large, rounded violet creature waddles behind Peter. It has craters all over its body, indents where the eyes should be. Whispers of, “Not good enough,” murmur through the Gargantha.

Lissette pulls out the water symbol, but the moment her verity shield is down, Peter uses wind magic to push the papers out of her hands and satchel.

She turns and runs for the symbols, but the distance between her and the papers is futile. Lissette isn’t practiced enough to use magic without them. “How did you learn to use magic without the use of symbols?” She asks Peter.

“I had a wonderful teacher.” A bit quieter, he says, “She was the person I lost.”

Lissette’s lips part, but she can’t think of a response.

“Get away from her!”

Lissette and Peter turn to see Ivy’s broad form. Elbows out to her sides and a ball of water flowing through the air between her hands. With the force of a tidal wave, it lunges for the Gargantha.

Peter directs wind towards Ivy, but he’s too late to counteract her practiced force.

A loud screech emerges from the Gargantha. Deep shadows of pain are in every note of disharmony, and the Gargantha transforms into a shadow itself before evaporating into the aether.

The ball of water is motionless once more between Ivy’s hands. She gives Peter the most intimidating look Lissette has ever seen from her aunt. This is a side to Ivy Lissette had a vague idea of but never expected to know. She’s never even seen her aunt use charms since her aversion to magic started around the time Lissette was born.

“Run.” Ivy commands, and Peter darts in the opposite direction of Willowdale.

When he’s completely out of sight, Ivy releases the magic and sighs. “Good. I thought I was actually going to have to hurt the kid.” She turns to Lissette, who looks at the ground.

Lissette asks, “How did you find me here?”

“I may not have purposely used magic in a long time until now, but intuition is my strongest gift. One that I’m happy I can’t get rid of.” She pauses. “Did you not know the Gargantha and wizard were out here?”

“I did. Well, I didn’t know Peter would be out here, but I knew the Gargantha would. I overheard it at the market.” Lissette looks directly into Ivy’s eyes. “It’s just, I thought that if I defeated it and told you about it after, you’d see why I should keep practicing magic. I want to use my powers for good.” She pauses. “Though, I’m beginning to see I barely even have any power.”

Ivy shakes her head. “Come, let’s go back to the cottage. It’s already dark, and we don’t want anyone to see us walk out of the forest at midnight.”

They move side by side in silence for a long time. As they approach the exit, Ivy says, “Your mother isn’t the only person I’ve lost to magic. There are more ways to lose someone than death alone.”

Lissette glances at Ivy and waits for her to continue.

“The wizard, Peter you said? He probably didn’t start off using illusory magic. Some magicians change when they get a taste of power. It becomes an addiction to ease the tsunamis within themselves.” She wistfully gazes at the stars. “Growing up, you’ve never seen me have a long term companion. And it’s because my heart is a ghost for someone who’s alive but no longer exists. Someone who I lost to that addiction. It will break my heart to the point of no return if I lost you the way I lost her or your mom.”

“But that’s not who I am. It’s not who mom was.” Tears form at the edges of Lissette’s eyes, but she resists the urge to wipe them away. “And she’s still with me despite what they did to her. I won’t become like Peter or the person you loved, but I won’t back down to the Inquisori either.”

Ivy stops walking and Lissette does the same. Ivy says, “What I’m about to say comes with a heavy heart. You need to leave Willowdale.”

“What? I’m not leaving you here alone. Isn’t that what you’re afraid of?” Lissette shakes her head.

“There’s a school out west where you can learn the practice, but they will also teach you the self control required for true strength. And you’re not going to stay here, where the Inquisori rule with an iron fist. The west is more open minded about magic.”

“Well then, maybe you can come with me.”

Ivy shakes her head. “No. I used magic today, but I will not sway from the life I’ve chosen for myself. Yet, I realize it would be selfish of me to keep holding you back from the life you want for yourself. You can lead a safer life there than in Willowdale. We can still write to each other and visit occasionally. Neither of us will be truly alone.”

Lissette embraces Ivy as tears stream down her cheeks. “Thank you, Ivy. I won’t change.”

“You will change. But some of the teachers at Vixose are from my past life, and I trust the change in you won’t be for the worse. I will draw out a map for you tomorrow and write the letter to the dean. But you will pay for the carriage with the earnings you made from your summer job.”

Lissette pulls back. “You always were a cheapskate.”

They laugh and walk the rest of the way home under a full moon.

October 19, 2021 20:37

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