He was sitting on the grass outside my hometown of Misay when I found him, cross-legged, turning his blade over in front of him, watching the gleam. He seemed to have grown from when I'd last seen him, just a little, but enough to best me. He saw me coming on my horse, the cheapest possible, purchased with almost all the money I'd had left so that I could get to Misay fast.

Devon got to his feet, watching my approach. There were dead bodies behind him, guards' bodies, and I stiffened. I had known them.

"Come back to see your former student?" he asked me, speaking so normally it was almost like we were in class.

"What makes you think you ever graduated?"

"Well, it hardly needed to be said, did it? I was the best. Better, even, than the teacher."

"That remains to be seen."

"Seriously, Alan, why did you come?"

"I heard you were headed here."

"And you finally got some feelings for your townfolk and decided to come back? You're a little late, aren't you?"

I bristled from the insult. "You don't understand."

"Don't understand what?"

"Many things. Things like war."

"War? That's funny because I was there, you know. I was there when Finis attacked, fighting it out, so how can you say I don't understand?"

"So you were there. That doesn't mean you understand everything behind it. You're too young."

"I'm very mature for my age, Alan. You know that."

"You are not that mature. You've gotten ahead of yourself."

"And you? You've gone backwards and disappointed everybody."

"I'm here now."

"To do what?"

"To stop you from doing anything foolish."

"Even you ran away from this town and couldn't come back. Why should you care if I torch the whole place down?"

I took a step forward, red with anger. "Everyone I love is in there!"

"Yet you abandoned them when they really needed you."

"T-that was different."


I wavered, even though I knew it was stupid to feel dumbed down by a fifteen-year-old boy. "I didn't want to fight."

"But you want to now?"

"I was your teacher. No one else can do this."

He laughed, bouncing his sword on his shoulder. "But you said I've gotten ahead of myself. Indeed, I've gotten ahead of everyone. I've gotten ahead of you."

I clutched the hilt of my weapon, blood beating through me. "Devon. Listen to me and stop this. If you need help – "

"I need nothing. But what I would like is for my ties to this stupid town to be gone forever. They're all a shame to me."

I scowled. Slowly, I drew my sword, and Devon crouched into his usual position. "Well?" he prompted me after a minute. "Aren't you going to get going, Teacher, or do I have to? At least Tem was brave enough to start first."

"A teacher never wants to attack his student."

"Yet you're here standing in front of me."

"Go on, Devon. Make your choice."

"Already made." And he lunged, unbelievably fast. I barely leapt out of the way, scraping across grass. I whirled, gasping as the blade sang close to my face. I hit out, but he parried me. Then it was his turn, and I nervously blocked. He continued attacking, his movements as short and sharp as I remembered.

As his teacher, I should have known his weakness, but I didn't. That was because I had never seen one in him. The thought made me sick now. I suddenly saw his sword dipping towards my shoulder. I turned, but not enough. The blade grazed me, tearing off a bit of shirt and skin. I yelled out, backing up and clutching my arm. I ground my teeth against the pain, a tiny tear squeezing from my eye.

Devon paused, staring patiently at me. I thought I saw something moving behind him at the gates, and I was right. It was Juliet and Tem, and a pair of strangers with them.

"Alan!" Juliet cried in amazement, and Tem's jaw dropped.

Devon glanced at them. "If I were you, I wouldn't bother helping him. He did desert you, after all."

"He's still our friend!" Juliet retorted.

"Is he?" He shook his head, not understanding.

Juliet ran forward then, ever eager. "Julie, don't!" I warned, but not only did she not listen to me, but Tem and the man I didn't know went up too. I moved to try and strike Devon before he could get to them, but he elbowed me in the head, making me dazed.

Juliet dodged a blow from Devon, kicking him in the face, in the nose. Then Tem jumped in. He attacked, but it was weak. I could see bits of blood on his arms, and sensed he had just been in a fight. Devon forced him back easily, then went to give the third man, who had no weapons unfortunately, a cut to the face.

I stood up straight, ready to fight again since they couldn't. But another figure coming out from the town stopped me.


I turned, staring at her. Her eyes gazed back at me, cold, quiet. She didn't move at first, but then I saw that she was running ... not towards me. She was running towards Devon.

"I just killed your man, Colm, Devon," she told him. "What do you think of that?"

He glared at her, but didn't comment or scoff, as I'd thought he might. If anything, he looked almost afraid of her.

"Hey, we got Qarull too," Juliet added. "And Alex. You know what that means, yes? It means you're alone, Devon. Why don't you give up?"

"I don't need them. I never did."

Lavi suddenly hurled something out at him, then, a beautiful length of strange, shining thread. I didn't know what it was, but I believed it had to be magical. Devon seemed to guess this too, however, because he slashed out, cutting right through it. The pieces fell to the grass, and he stepped on them, grinding them into almost nothing. He looked up at Lavi, narrowing his eyes. "Damn you, witch." He charged at her, but Juliet hurled herself into him and threw him off.

Lavi whirled then, coming face to face with me. Her eyes seemed different now. They were worried, worried for me, and almost had some of the warmth they'd used to have before I'd left Misay. I felt something on my wrist – it was some of that strange thread. "It's all I have left. Don't take it off."


But she didn't answer me. She ran, taking poor Tem with her. The man I hadn't recognized was already being dragged off by the unfamiliar girl – only Juliet and I were left with Devon now.

"Julie," I told her. "I can do this."

"I'll help you. As long as I can fight, I will."

Devon peered at her for a moment, then shrugged. He lashed out at her, and I tried coming in from the side, but he managed to push us back at the same time. He continued after Juliet, and she, amazingly, managed to dodge his attacks. Unfortunately, I knew it wouldn't last. Julie was good, but she was home-trained, a hobby fighter. Devon was disciplined and practised, and had built up good stamina.

Sure enough, Julie began to show signs of tiring within the minute. I knew Devon was close to hurting her, especially since he seemed to be focusing more on her than me. I dove between them, but knew I would pay for it. I saw the sword coming straight for me, right at the neck. But then, the strangest thing happened. Just as the point brushed me, Devon was thrown back.

I blinked, and so did Julie, though no one was more confused than Devon. I turned and saw Lavi on her knees, frowning in concentration.

I'd been right. There was magic at work. She had never said anything on it before, but now, here she was, using it to keep me alive. Only she didn't look well. I had a feeling she would not be able to keep up her magic for much longer.

Turning back to Devon, I ran, plunging my sword. He had been on the ground, taken aback, and for once, was too slow to get out of the way. My sword ran right through his shoulder, and he gritted his teeth from the pain. He stared up at me from the grass, eyes suddenly shifting, becoming pleading, childlike, and I was slammed with regret. What had I done?

He's just a child.

Quickly, I pulled back. I hadn't thought that Devon could fight anymore, but I was wrong. Ignoring his wound, he pointed his sword at me. I saw trails of something long and quick shoot out from the hilt, spinning round the blade and bursting against me and Julie. We were both thrown, and Devon laughed, shakily getting to his feet.

"Those books finally worked, Teacher," he told me. "I learnt a bit of magic after all, like I said I would."

He was coming now, coming for me and Julie, even with the blood seeping through his shirt. Julie and I were both stunned, and the others were too far away to make it. I stared hazily at Devon's rushing form, feeling that he was moving too fast, that I couldn't think. Was I really going to die here? Was everyone?

For the shortest second, I wanted to give up. I was tired. I felt that death had to be better than this, better than the guilt and shame, the years ahead of me filled with nothing good I could see. But thinking of the others made me change my thoughts. For them, I knew I had to at least try one last time. Panting, I pulled up my sword, high above my shoulder, just as Devon came into range. I swung down hard, but he stepped back just in time, and the point of the sword sank into the earth, embedding deep. In the back of my mind, I knew it was the feeblest mistake. I was now vulnerable. I barely caught an upward glimpse of my old student's face as he stared down at me, half-smiling, moving forward to attack.

But the attack never came, for another stranger thing happened. I felt a warmth spread through me, a fast energy coming from my center as well as the tips of my body, gaining strength as it moved. It spread through me, swimming through my arm and into the sword still held in my hand, before radiating out over the ground in front of me. Devon stopped rudely, the sword flying from him. I threw myself down over Juliet as it sailed over our heads, and before us, Devon keeled over, knocked out.

As soon as I was sure he wasn't moving, as soon as I was sure it was alright, I let my own tiredness rob consciousness from me, not knowing that some yards back, Lavi collapsed at the same time from using up all her magic.


I was having the same dream. I was in the local temple again getting wed to Lavi, in front of all the same guests, even though I knew it was wrong, even though I knew it was not possible. Tem's father and brothers were supposed to be dead, not sitting there, looking at us. There were a lot of soldier friends there who should have died too. I didn't really bother about it though. I glanced past everyone's heads, noticing that unlike the last dream, it was not raining anymore. It was bright and warm outside.

I turned back to the priest, peering at the smile on his face. He had already married us; it was time for the kiss. This was not the part I was looking forward to. I swallowed, flipping up Lavi's veil. She didn't smile like last time – her eyes flickered sternly, giving me no clue to her feelings. Was this what I wanted? Lavi seemed so different now. Did I still love her then, if she had changed? Would I still want to marry her?

I stared at her, not daring to move forward. People were blinking at us, wondering why neither of us were making a move. "Come on then!" they started shouting at me. "Come on, Alan!"

The voices melded together in my ears, starting to sound strange, hollow, distant. I looked to the crowd, but they were being sucked away from me. Everything was turning dark. Everything was disappearing. I looked for my bride, but she was gone. "Lavi?"

I felt a shift in things then. My lids fluttered open, just slightly, enough for me spot people standing over me. Some were priests, some were family. I felt sick, tired. I turned my head to the side, and was surprised to see Lavi in the bed next to me. She was lying on her back, pale, her hair a honey-brown fan around her face. I gazed numbly at the straightness of her nose, her arm hanging over the side of the bed.

Was she dead?

I shut my eyes, feeling darkness settle over me again. I didn't really wake until much later. When I did, I found no more priests tending to me. There were, however, a lot of other people there, circling my ward bed. My mother was in front, her head tilted as she smiled down at me. She reached out, softly running a hand through my hair.

I sat up, feeling lazy but unhurt. Behind my mother stood my elder sister with her daughters. Robin from the army was there, along with some friends. They nodded and smiled at me, making me feel warm and horrible at the same time.

"How do you feel, Alan?" It was my mother, who I hadn't spoken to in months. Wasn't she angry at me? Wasn't she disappointed?

"I feel dead."

"Well, you were out for almost twenty hours."

Twenty hours? I was amazed. I turned my head to the bed next to me, but it was empty and clean, sheets pulled tight. For a moment, my heart jolted. Then I lifted my chin slightly, my eyes drawn to a window seat at the end of the ward. Two sweet-faced girls were sitting there, speaking in soft tones as they faced each other. One was blonde, the other copper-haired. They saw me, and their conversation trickled into a lull.

"Excuse me," I murmured to my family and friends, forcing myself out of bed. I blinked for a second, dizzy from getting up so fast, but I fought against it. I walked over to where Julie and Lavi were sitting, their eyes focusing intently on me. Nervous, I cleared my throat. "You ... you two are alright."

Juliet nodded, but Lavi didn't say anything. Juliet glanced between us for a moment, then pointed in some random direction. "Oh, look. Something interesting. Excuse me." She ran off, leaving Lavi and I staring at each other.

Lavi did a small, quiet laugh. "That was subtle."

I smiled, but it was a tight smile. I had known that were I ever to come back to Misay, it would be difficult, torturous, facing everyone, and I was feeling that now. "Are you still angry at me?"

"Maybe. I don't know."

"Can I at least sit down? Talk to you for a little while?"

She shrugged. I took Juliet's place, hesitating. Lavi's eyes wandered, and I moved to see what she was looking at. As I did, I saw Juliet, my friends, and my family all suddenly turn away. I shook my head. "Perhaps we should speak outside."

"Agreed." We got up, heading out a door into the garden. I dared not touch her even though that had never been an issue before I'd left Misay. I felt confused now, walking with her but not holding her hand, as if we were intimate and strange to each other at the same time.

"Over there," she said, pointing at a white bench. She went over, sitting down, and I planted myself next to her, keeping a respectful distance.

For a long time, I didn't say anything. I just stared at my knees, then I stared at her knees, and finally, I became frustrated at myself and forced myself to talk. "What happened to you?"

"What?" She seemed alarmed, defensive, which I didn't understand.

"I remember ... you were in the bed next to me, weren't you? That wasn't a dream?"

"Oh. No. It wasn't."

"I thought you were dead."

"Just unconscious, like you."

"Were you hurt?"

"No, I merely overexerted myself. We both did." She paused, squinting at me. "Everyone's wondering why you came back."

I felt my back stiffen. I deliberated for a moment, struggling to find a way to to put my reasons in words. "I never thought Tem would really try to fight Devon. It was when I heard that Devon was traveling towards Misay that I started to panic. I started to think that something was going on. I started to think that something might have happened to the two of you."

"And you wanted to help."

"Of course."

"You were late."

I frowned at myself. "That's what Devon said."

"And he was right about that. Of course ... he was wrong about many other things. It's a good thing you managed to stop him."

"With help. That was your help, wasn't it, at the end?"

She nodded, smiling thinly. I showed her the bracelet that was still on my wrist, the thin, white one she had made for me. "Do you want it back?"

"No. Keep it."

"Does this mean I'll be under your protection?"

"Not unless I'm near you and can see what's happening to you."

I nodded in interest. "You never talked about this before."


"Your magic."

"I was never able to use it before."

"What do you mean?"

"I only learned yesterday."

My jaw dropped. She had been guarding my life with new magic? With just-learnt magic? "Yesterday??"

"I took to it pretty well, don't you think?"

"You mean all this time, you were like everyone else? Like me or Juliet?"

She nodded. "After yesterday, some people are thanking me, people who wouldn't even so much as say hello to me on the streets before. I just don't understand."

"You saved everyone. Me ... I would be dead if it weren't for you."

She didn't say anything.

"Where is he now anyway?"

"Locked up in the dungeons. Tem has a lot of fun going down there and making fun of him."

I smiled bitterly. "So everyone knows?"


"Do you have any idea, then, what the reactions are towards me?"

"They're mixed."


"But more in your favor."

It took me a long moment to brave asking the next question. "Are you one of them?"

"I'm not sure."

I sighed, disappointed.

"Do you plan to stay?" she asked me.

"Do you want me to?"

She did a little smirk. "Your decision should not depend on me, Alan. You should choose things for yourself." She looked away from me, calmly staring out over the grass, and I shook my head.

"You've really changed, Lavi."

"Have I?" she went, sounding bored.

"I really feel like I don't know you anymore."

"Things have changed. And when they do, people tend to change."

"I suppose you're right. I will be what you wish."

She started at those words, which meant she still remembered my poem. I supposed that counted for something. I felt sad to think that we might not go back to how we'd been before, but on one hand, I respected that she could be so honest with me. I respected that she seemed to have grown so much while I'd been gone. I glanced back at the temple, and thought I saw something rushing away from the windows. I had a feeling that even out here, everyone was watching us. "Come on," I said. "Let's go back inside."

She nodded, saying nothing. I let her walk first, my eyes on her hair, the swing of her arms. I wondered what I would do now. Would I stay in Misay, or would I leave again? If I did stay, what would happen between me and Lavi?

We reached the short rise of steps leading to the door, perhaps the only spot where we were away from windows, away from prying eyes. I moved up, waiting for Lavi to pull the handle. But she didn't. I was just about to ask what was wrong when she suddenly whirled and threw herself on me, kissing me with amazing fierceness. I could not have been more shocked had a stranger done that to me on the streets, but my heart soared all the same. I clutched her to me, feeling a closeness to her I had never felt before even when things had been good between us. After a long moment, Lavi pulled back from me, unapologetic.

I raised my hands. "Why ... ?"

"That didn't mean anything," she said quickly, though her cheeks were flushed. She could say anything she wanted, but she couldn't hide that.

I smiled quietly, nodding so that she wouldn't feel uncomfortable. "Alright," I said, dabbing lightly at my mouth with my sleeve.

She reached up, rubbing some of the color away too, then straightened her shirt. She pushed the door back, and we went in to return to everyone.


Yes, that's right, it's over! I have to say, I didn't realize how short this story was but I hope you all liked it so far. I want to thank everyone that read, especially Driew, swoas and Alenor - I really appreciate your comments and thoughts, especially yours, Alenor, with what you said last about Lavi. At the end of this, I would like to know, out of curiousity, who everyone's favorite character was so far?

Anyway, that's about all. Thanks again, and until my next story!