Thursday, 4 August 2016

Running Through Snow

Way out in the snow stood a dark, massive tower of stone. In this tower lived an old magician, and two young children. Neither of the children remembered how they got there, because they had been very young still.
The magician wasn’t a good man, although he wasn’t a terrible man either. But if the children disobeyed him, he would lock them up in a small chamber, chained to a chair each. He would check in on them every few hours giving them food or something to drink, and spend the remaining time in front of the closed door, in the next room, at work. The door had a small window in it, so turning his head he could always see part of the boy’s shadow.
Being locked up like this made the children bitter towards him, and they had long decided to run away from him and the tower, into the wide world outside. Sometimes they would stand on the platform on top of the tower, looking out into the snow, and talk about what they’d do once they got away.
You can’t be brought up by a magician without learning a little magic yourself. But to the magician’s annoyance, it proved that the children lacked the strict discipline controlled magic demanded. During practice, they would just let it flow out uncontrolled, shaping it at a whim alone. To a magician whose practice of magic consisted of chaining and forcefully shaping his magic, until it was dead yet beautiful like clockwork, this looked like pure chaos. It was unacceptable.
The last time the children were locked up, the boy managed to unlock his chains. Of course both of them had tried it before, but it was the first time he managed to do it. Thinking quickly, he pretended to be locked up still for a moment after they clicked open. And rightfully so, for the sound had made the magician turn his head to check on the boys shadow. The shadow, though, didn’t give them away, and so the magician went back to work in no time.
The girl’s magic liked to manifest as a shadowy snake, slithering all around the tower. The magician had been bothered by it several times, but hadn’t yet found the source of it. Excited by her friend’s newfound freedom, the girl called her snake and it slithered around the room while the boy, to his own immense satisfaction, freed the girl from her chains as well.
Although they weren’t fond of the magician’s methods, they had learned a thing or two from him. With patience unusual for children their age, they sat back down to look chained, and waited for the magician to enter the room. When he did so to give them some water, they ran. He was surprised to see them out of chains, but still nearly managed to hold on to the girl’s arm. But in a flicker the children were gone from side, and all that was left was the shadowy snake.
“That shadow snake again.” he said. “No doubt I will catch it this time.” And he set out to, with elaborate spells, hunt the snake once more. It had always escaped up to now, but there was no reason to believe that he wouldn’t eventually catch it. He was sure that he had gotten closer to doing so every time he tried, and while it meant that he could not leave any chance unused, it also made it a matter of time alone. Completely sure the children had nowhere to run, he sat out to track, trap and test on that annoying snake.
Up on the top platform of the tower, the children were euphoric. “We made it!” the girl exclaimed. The boy answered with a smile and a satisfied nod: “Now we can leave here for good, no chains will hold us anymore!” The girl smiled as well. “We’ll be our own family, won’t we?” “Yes we will.” He answered. Children like playing family, no matter if brought up by a magician or not. “Marry me!” the girl painted in the sky, her handwriting curvy and calm. “I will.” The boy painted back, his letters a bit more strict and straight than hers. And with a smile, they both ran to the edge of the platform and jumped off.
A bit of magic, and high snow together were sufficient for them to land safely, if not all that softly. And downhill they began running, unbound, free and cheering. The girl’s left a straight, winding trail of pushed down snow behind her, the boy’s spread out into several lines at each curve and reunited into a short bit line, before spreading out into the next curve again.
It didn’t take long for them to create a cloud of snow, especially behind them, but also slightly in front of them. But they knew nothing of the dangers of moving snow, and they kept running and playing with their magic with all their might. The girl was the first to run out of magic, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Short as they were, they hadn’t seen anything ahead of them, and ran straight over an edge. Being caught by a fir tree that is covered in snow, after running at full speed and then gaining some more from a fall, wasn’t a pleasant experience. It knocked the children down for long enough that the cloud of snow that had followed them could pass above them and settle. When they got back up, the girl was weak. It was plain to see that she wouldn’t be able to go much further.
Soon enough they found an empty hut, not knowing that it was a shepherd’s summer home, left for the winter. It had a bed, which the girl laid down in. The boy tugged her in, then sat down at the table and waited for her to recover. Not long after the girl had fallen asleep, she was awoken again by knocking. Someone was knocking on the door from outside.
When the boy opened the door, the magician stood outside of it. Considering the big trails they had left, it had been easy for him to follow and find them. To their surprise, though, he didn’t seem angry at all. Instead, he had brought them food and described the best way out of the mountains. He said that they should keep walking downhill until they would reach a tunnel. At this tunnel, a bus would pass by once every few hours, and drive off in the direction of the next larger city. He also told them how to hitchhike, thumb out and all that. Then he turned and left them with the steaming food. The girl didn’t feel all that well, so she only ate a bit. The boy though was very hungry from all that running and falling and especially using so much magic, so he ate plenty.
That is why the boy died, but the girl lived. The old magician had poisoned their food, angered by their escape and the fact that they had wanted to escape. It turned out he was truthful about the tunnel, though.

Aquila: “I’m not sure that’s a good bedtime story.”
Swirl: “Of course it is!”
Aquila: “If you say so.” She yawns. “Where did you hear it?”
Swirl: “Oh, it’s a story I’ve known ever since long ago.”
Aquila: “Ah. Good night, Swirl.”
Swirl: “Good night.”

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