After breakfast the next morning, Sonora looked at him expectantly. “What did you mean last night?”
“As I said then, I believe you might be the source of our escape,” Aleron replied, trying not to sound desperate.
“Surely you are not serious,” Sonora said in surprise. “Aleron, I do not want you to lose hope, but I think you are mistaken.”
“Lose hope?” Aleron replied. “I lost hope months ago, Sonora! But this idea has a fair chance. It will not be an easy route, but it might be the only one.”
“What is your idea, then?” Sonora asked, quelled by his earnestness but still dubious.
“They underestimate you, Sonora; and me. They are imbuing you with the very powers they have sought so hard to keep me from using. If I can teach you to use what you are being given, then perhaps we can use their arrogance against them. I must warn you, though; it will be risky and painful.”
“What is it you ask of me?” Sonora asked, afraid of the answer.
“You must force yourself to stay alert and receptive during their spells.”
“That is beyond my control!” Sonora exclaimed. “The pain is more intense than anything I have ever felt, and it consumes me.”
“You can keep it from taking over, Sonora; but it will take great strength and concentration. They will continue to do this until they are satisfied regardless of whether or not you accept it; if they are going to put you in this pain anyway, use it against them!” Sonora looked down at her hands, turning them over. Just last night she had ignited straw; what would she be capable of in a week, or a month?
“I am not sure I want this ‘gift,’” she said softly. Aleron placed his hand on her shoulder gently.
“It comes with great responsibility,” he admitted. “It will most likely change your life, and I cannot promise it will be for the better.” Aleron paused and sighed, struggling with the reality of their situation. “But if you do not…”
“Then I may not have a life to change,” Sonora finished for him.
Over the next several weeks, the transfers continued. Each time, Sonora felt as though her body would melt away from her. Sometimes she felt as though she were close enough to touch death, but Aleron would look at her across the room, and it gave her strength. She fought against it with a valiance few warriors could match, and the elder mage respected her for her tenacity in the face of such an overwhelming task.
At night, Aleron attempted to teach her things. He started small, working with the straw until she could start a blaze to keep them warm and the room lit, and progressed to explaining the way magic worked together in its forms. Things he could not risk her trying, he detailed for her in personal stories and experiences. Sonora proved to be a dedicated student, and began to understand the nuances of what she held inside of her.
When she slept, she continued to dream things that did not fit; dreams of Aleron and the young girl. She saw him teaching Arcis just as he now taught her, although without the urgency. She saw discord in his marriage, and felt sorrow too old for her to fully appreciate. She felt as though she were being told his most secret things behind his back, but couldn’t find a way to ask him.
She stored these things away, and used them for motivation. Aleron deserved her best, and though she could not replace his daughter, she would give to him as Arcis would have; willingly and wholeheartedly.
As they sat around their self-made fire one night discussing what she had learned, Aleron mulled over a new lesson—a difficult one to teach, but one extremely useful to them. “Sonora, I have something new to teach you. It is possible, sometimes, to see something that is going on outside of where you are. It is not easy, and without a scrying orb, it will take significantly more effort, but I think you might at least be able to follow magical signatures with which you are already familiar.”
“Markus, you mean.”
“Yes; Markus. It would be useful to know where he is when the time comes, and what he plans to do. Close your eyes and focus. Try to push through your eyes; try to push through these walls. Look for something that feels familiar, that glows slightly.”
Sonora did as instructed, but she sat for a long time pushing against the blackness behind her eyelids. Finally, in a moment that startled her so much she almost fell backwards, her sight pushed outwards. It was moving, but it shook weakly. She encouraged it on without much control of what she could see. She did see a dull glow ahead, and tried to steer her sight there. Thankfully, it seemed to be drawn towards the glow without much help. The range was very limited, and she could only see a small circle of space; everything beyond was dark.
And then there was Markus.
She could only barely make him out in the small circle of her vision, and he seemed to be radiating a dark glow that gave her an uneasy feeling, like a nervous child spying on a parent.
She watched him, standing behind some kind of elaborate table. Candles, daggers, and lots of things she didn’t recognize cluttered the surface. He gestured grandly, and looked pleased; boastful, even. She looked closely at Markus, feeling as though he could surely see her, although he seemed to take no notice. A few words she could read on his lips, and they were, “magic, channel, nearly finished, and dispose.” She thought of the way those could string together, and the thought made her stomach turn over. Sonora lost focus and felt as though some invisible force pulled her sharply back; when it stopped, she toppled over before opening her eyes and looking up into Aleron’s curious face.
“You look terrified,” Aleron said bluntly. Sonora related what she saw, and the look on Aleron’s face grew grim and cold as she told him about the words she read on Markus’s lips.
“I expected this,” he sighed, “just not so soon.”
“You knew they would decide to kill us?”
“I knew they already had.” Sonora looked taken aback, but Aleron knew there was no time for emotion; this required action. Their training would have to be cut short. Cut short, he thought, pacing; Markus has a way of cutting things in my life short.
“What do we do now?”
Aleron stopped mid stride and turned. “We escape.”