"You know...," Samne began, waiting for an acknowledgment from Myrrh before continuing, "I guessed that you were a hermit as soon as I reached that collection of horrors you call a garden..."
"And that didn't discourage you?" his teacher asked. Samne smirked to himself when he saw the commanding glance Myrrh gave to the book he had been reading. It would ensure that the book's pages wouldn't turn on their own even if a hurricane decided to storm through the library. Samne was positive that the book would kindly point out the exact word Myrrh had been reading in order to avoid the fierce mage's wrath.
"You were rumored to be good," Samne shrugged, smiling impishly. He noticed that his teacher was staring at him and frowning slightly.
"And...? Am I good?" the mage asked after shaking himself out of his stupor.
"Yes, you are a lot better than any of my former tutors," Samne admitted and then flicked a quick smile. "Though you are boring as the Nine Hells."
"I would hardly call the Nine Hells boring," his teacher muttered under his breath. Samne's curiosity piqued up at the weird tone.
"Really? Have you been there?" he inquired. He heard his teacher sigh.
"Yes, I have. It wasn't boring in the least."
"Ooh, do I sense an embarrassing tale ahead? Do tell, do tell," Samne probed with a wicked grin.
"I... Well, nothing special really happened," his teacher explained with a patient smile. Samne highly suspected that there was more than little conscious effort behind the seemingly natural expression.
"Nothing special, hmm? Elaborating a bit would be appreciated, you know."
"So would stopping asking irrelevant questions," his teacher countered pointedly. "Remember which one of us is the teacher and which the apprentice."
Samne threw his head back and laughed hard. He was vaguely aware of the fact that Myrrh hadn't joined him in his mirth.
"What were you going to say a moment ago? Before you started asking about my past," the mage inquired – mostly to get him to stop laughing like a hyena, Samne suspected. He couldn't help it. Considering how laid-back his teacher was it was really difficult to stay serious when he tried to pull a rank on him.
"I was going to ask you if you ever visited any of your fellow mages. Or old friends and family members and such."
"There... aren't many of any of those," Myrrh answered after a short pause. "I don't make friends easily nor do I spend time with my relatives."
"A lone wolf then?" Samne raised his brows in an inquiring manner.
"To a certain degree, yes." His teacher shut his eyes for a moment, apparently trying to decide how to explain better. "It's enough if I know there are friendly people out there – I don't exactly want to socialize with them."
"Interesting point of view," Samne shrugged, attempting to sound neutral. He was thinking that it was a little dumb to just assume that people who he hadn't seen in ages could still be considered friends. People changed and it was always better to keep an eye on one's friends and relatives so that one wouldn't be betrayed so easily.
"You don't agree with me, do you?"
"No, not really, I don't," Samne answered truthfully as he didn't figure out how to politely thwart the question. A thought occurred to him and he voiced it before completely realizing it, "Can't we go to visit a friend of yours at some point? It's not like we are short on time."
His teacher was quiet for a time that felt long to young Samne, who started to fear that he had really offended the mage. "I think Niladn wouldn't mind a short visit."
"Who?" Samne blinked.
"You'll probably like him," Myrrh mentioned and then, seeing his apprentice's baffled expression elaborated, "He's a dragon, too."
Samne grimaced. He didn't really have anything against dragons, but it was just that his father and his sister and her husband were the only dragons he had ever spent more than fleeting moments with. It was kind of embarrassing to admit but he didn't know much about the customs of dragons, being raised in the Third Heaven as he had been. It would be utterly humiliating if that dragon friend of his teacher's started asking questions.
"You don't seem too happy," his teacher observed and Samne gave him a quick grimace.
"I'm only half-dragon and I have lived my whole life with angels," he explained further. The mage made a sympathetic sound.
"I'll tell him not to expect you to be a fellow expert on customs then," Myrrh promised. And seeing his student's look explained, "Niladn is more interested in customs of different species than magic."
"Erm, nice for him?" Samne offered insecurely. Myrrh just smiled gently to him and reassured him that he would like the other dragon.
"Sir, are we going soon?" Samne asked. He was walking up the stairs that circled the tower. His teacher had told him to pack as lightly as possible and do it quickly since they were going to start their journey to Niladn the dragon's lair really soon. Samne didn't know why Myrrh was still lurking in the second highest floor of the tower.
"As soon as you get here, dear child. I have been waiting for far longer than I would have cared," his teacher replied with dry amusement that hid a hue of reprimand.
"Isn't the door at the lowest floor?" Samne reminded, opening the grand double door to the large round room Myrrh seemed to use for painting, sculpting, and carving things needed for his spells.
"Oh," Samne breathed when understanding dawned on him. Seeing his teacher standing on the floor in front of large double windows, enormous white wings spread, wind playing with his hair... it was a huge tip-off on their way of traveling.
Samne summoned his own wings, black with some gray feathers in them. "Flying?" he made sure before taking his bag in firm grip and walking to stand next to his teacher.
"Why not? You are an angel and I'm a mage. We can both fly long distances, so why not stretch our wings a little?"
"I wasn't able to fly to your tower when I first came here, and I tried – several times," Samne remarked, peering at the huge drop in front of him. The tower made a good taking off place, that he could already see.
His teacher snorted. "Of course not. My garden would be pointless if one could just fly to my tower and avoid all my traps just like that."
"So you don't have anything guarding the air? What if somebody manages to break the spell preventing them from flying?"
"I have guardians for that, too. Didn't you already notice it? My garden is flawless," Myrrh announced with a hint of jest in his voice. "We should take off soon."
Samne ignored the last bit and pressed on, "Oh really? Then how did I, a lowly halfbreed angel, manage to get through it and break into your tower?"
"Almost flawless. It's apparently not brat-proof," his teacher sighed in mock surrender, shaking his head. "You are the second one to ever get into here without my permission."
"Gloat later, will you?" his teacher snorted, pinching his cheek, and with a flap of his huge winds, he was gone. Samne chuckled and took off, too.
The first five minutes of flying told him that he could never beat his teacher in flying. The man had only one pair of wings, but he still was able to keep up a speed Samne had seen only a few angels to manage. He knew that shouting him to wait would be waste of time, since the rush of air caused by their speed made it impossible to hear anything.
After flying for a time that felt long for Samne and left him feeling exhausted, Myrrh finally stopped to wait for him.
Samne flapped his wings – all six of them – one last time before grabbing his teacher's sleeve to make sure the mage wasn't going to repeat that mad stunt.
Myrrh gave him an odd glance. "The mountains ahead are tricky to fly over, so you better follow me."
"Can we stop to rest, sir?" Samne gasped, enjoying the slow pace they were moving on. Then he noticed that he was practically clinging to his teacher and making the man drag him forward. He grit his teeth and put more thought into using his wings.
"Are you tired already?" his teacher asked incredulously. Samne sighed wearily.
"Sir, I'm only half angel. And even though dragons can fly too, their method of flying differs too greatly from the 'magic wings flappy flappy' way of angels."
"My apologies for tiring you out like this," Myrrh replied levelly. "But think about the bright sides: At least you can retire early, if the company of Niladn and his pets doesn't please you."
"His pets? Is a monstrous garden a common thing among mages?" Samne inquired hoping that the answer would be negative. He was already tired, and fighting his way through another garden of horrors didn't seem too desirable a pastime.
"He will probably skin me alive for calling them pets, but you he will definitely tear to shreds and then feed to unsuspecting travelers for comparing his precious apprentices to my lovely garden."
"Apprentices? He has apprentices, too? What are they like?" Samne bombarded his teacher with questions.
His teacher just snorted. "They are his apprentices in name only."
"But in reality they are...?" Samne pried, clinging more tightly to Myrrh's sleeve, entirely on purpose. The man was forced to flap his wings with more force, Samne noted with satisfaction.
"He teaches them things that no apprentice should learn from his master," Myrrh stated after obviously pondering his answer carefully. "More than that I am not going to say."
Samne shook his head. He didn't see any great point in speaking cryptically; he would just find it all out later on. If nothing else would reveal the secret to him, he would just befriend those apprentices of the full-blooded dragon Niladn and question them about it. Or Niladn himself, if the man wasn't too scary.