A Tale Goodnight

"Sssh, you want to hear a story right? Yes, one of your favorite stories. Well then quiet and let me tell you the tale that started it all."

A young lady was attending a masquerade ball. She had received an invite quite unexpectedly and it had no name upon it. Within the invite had been a small piece of fabric. Fabric of silver with blue flecks in it, complementing a dress she had. Was she supposed to match this?

So here she was, wearing a sapphire blue dress with silver flecks in the fabric and a silver mask. Her mask was the form of a she-wolf, silver as if standing in the moonlight, her blue eyes shining out from beneath. She didn't know what to do here, should she go out to the dance floor and look for a man in a silver and blue suit or should she stay out on the sides? She didn't like dancing with strangers, though she did occasionally, she was afraid someone would ask her to dance if she got too close to the dancers. But she also was getting tired of waiting in the warm atmosphere of the ballroom; so she decided to go to the courtyard.

The courtyard had been lit with torches here and there and decorated with ribbon and string tossed along all the bushes and evergreens. There were couples walking around together and groups talking with each other. She didn't feel like walking around by herself so she made her way back over to the ballroom, turning away from the double French doors to go to the balcony.

The balcony thankfully was unoccupied. She leaned out on the balcony's banister, looking off from the courtyard out to the pond. Its surface was reflecting the lights of the night sky like a looking glass. She wondered if she swam in a pond like that if it would be like swimming among the many stars she loved to gaze upon.

"It's a beautiful night tonight, is it not," came a man's voice from behind her. She almost screamed aloud from surprise; she hadn't heard him come up behind her. Instead of screaming she had let out a bit of a squeak and spun around quickly.

"Oh, dear me, I apologize for frightening you; it was not my intention to have you attend only to scare you." His voice was like a gentle lion's, with a slight purr. He was wearing a silver formal suit with a tailcoat of silver with blue flecks, just like the piece of fabric she had received in her invitation. He had a sapphire blue waistcoat on that matched the blue of her dress perfectly. His shirt was of a darker blue but looked well with it all and his trousers matched his tailcoat, and even his boots were dark blue soft leather. His mask was much like her own – a silver wolf grinning at her with dark blue eyes.

"I…you, you did not frighten me, just startled me. You were very quiet walking up here. You invited me here sir?" She was standing in front of him, leaning back on the balcony, with her hands holding each other before her. She was looking down at the ground waiting for him to respond, when he didn't she dared a glance back up at him. He was looking directly into her eyes.

"There, see? It's not so hard to look eye to eye and converse is it?" She confusedly nodded in the affirmative and managed to keep her eyes looking into his. "Yes, I invited you to the ball, I hadn't seen you at one in a long while. I remembered you wearing that dress to a ball before, I rather fancy it, so I had a suit tailored to match it best I could. I gave you the piece from over my heart so that you might wear your matching dress. I do hope you like it," he said holding out his arms as if to show off the suit's color. There was a sparkle in his eyes; he seemed to be excited like a child at Christmas time.

She felt stunned. Who on earth was this man who had taken notice of her? She was no one important, why had he gone to such lengths to do this for her? "I…I do like it. You cut a nice figure in it. The mask is very good on your face with such a grin as yours, but I am afraid I would like to know the face behind it sir." She was really beginning to have trouble looking into his eyes; she was trying to look between his eyes – at his nose – so the gaze would not be so intense. However, intense it was, and it drew her eyes to his like a bug to a lamp.

He smiled down at her and stepped closer, "Come, walk with me in the courtyard and gardens. I shall answer all your questions in the stillness of the back gardens, or perhaps a walk to the other side of the starry pond?" He extended his ungloved hand to her gloved one as he took another step closer.

He was very close now, she was leaning back into the banister rail, her mind racing, "That sounds lovely," and she took his hand. Warmth seemed to flood through her hand and up her arm and then flow through her. It seemed to flood forth from his hand. She gasped slightly, looking to their hands and then back up to his eyes, which seemed to be bright with silent laughter. She tried to compose herself as he stepped out so they could begin walking down to the gardens arm in arm.

Heat seemed to be flowing out of him, warming her to her very core, which made it very difficult to be composed. She wanted to mention it to him – the heat that is – did he have a fever? No, it could not be a fever's heat; it was comfortable – but still strange. They were silent as they walked, nodding at a few couples they passed on the way. She could not break the silence, but it was not awkward, it was a comfortable silence – like among good friends.

The further from the Manor House they walked, the less couples they passed, and the one's they did pass were very – passionate – about each other. She began wondering if it had been such a good idea to walk so far from others with this man she knew nothing of. He seemed nice and honorable but what if his plans were not so? She was much swifter and stronger than most ladies – her love of recreation to blame – but that was still nothing compared to this man.

She also had a reputation to keep up; what if someone recognized her and saw her go off from the Manor with a man? Then she thought to herself, "Oh come now, the only reason I have my good reputation is because I choose to and, well, I have found no one of interest to think of changing my reputation with. Plus, I do not care what people think anyhow!" Feeling very strong towards this decision and quite pleased with herself she had unknowingly pulled the man's escorting arm closer to herself. When she realized truly how close they were she did not know what to do – it would be rude of her to push him away.

However, there was a narrow path before them and they had to walk closer still! By this time she was very warm, most of her arm was touching his and so quite a bit of heat came from it. He led her over to a stone bench, which she gladly sat upon, breaking the heated connection. She could still see the sparkling of the pond from here, along with some stars above her, even though they seemed to be in a small copse of trees.

After observing this she again looked to this unknown man before her; he was pacing ahead of her like a bored and lonely wolf. He stopped abruptly and looked over at her the moment her own eyes had focused on him. Such a wolfish grin and sparkling eyes she had never seen; they seemed to draw her in. Then he began to speak again.

"I told you I would answer all of your questions my lady – so ask away," he stood directly in front of her, staring directly into her eyes.

He was a bit close for comfort and his gaze seemed to have trapped her – though she had to admit some willingness to that. "I…well. Sir, what is your name?"

"Ah, straight to the point you are my lady. My name, please don't let the words frighten you, but make your decision of my character from the actions you have seen. My name is Lord Nicholas Byron."

She gasped. Her hand went up to her mouth in shock, The Lord Nicholas Byron! The most feared and most powerful wizard of their time (perhaps all time) had wanted her, lil ol' nobody her, to come to a ball? Had taken time in matching her and insuring she came? This didn't make sense! She looked up into his eyes and took a deep breath; she had to think of the situation reasonably. He had shown the utmost politeness and kindness and gentleness towards her, more so than anyone at this ball; she should at least give him more time to prove himself to her before judging him. Though, he had brought her quite a distance from the Manor and any other people.

She thought her voice would fail her, "Lord Byron, what an honor to make your acquaintance." She stood and gracefully curtsied.

"Oh no no no…sit my lady, don't bother yourself with such things. And the honor is all mine, my dear lady I assure you." At this he took her hand in his and kissed the top of it. The heat that coursed through her at this contact was immense.

She couldn't help but blush, what with all the gentle words and radiant eyes and the heat coursing through her. "Thank you Lord Byron."

He interrupted her with, "No, please, call me Nicholas."

"Uhm, Nicholas," she said his name hesitantly, "why did you invite me to the masquerade?"

"Another straight to the point question! I am ever-glad to hear it!" He smiled down to her, mask shining bright in the starlight. "Why did I invite you my dear lady? Because you and I are not so different. Neither of us have any family – though you had some money left behind for your care and living – but no family since we were young. Then there's the fact that," he broke off thoughtfully. "Well, I will tell that last. I feel like there's a bond of sorts between us, like I can only go so far a distance from you before I cannot stand it any longer and must come back."

She looked at him quizzically and for once he looked away, breaking eye contact. She didn't know why but she blushed, "And the last part?"

"Ah, yes, the last part," his eyes ever so slowly traveling their way back up to hers," you and I both have magic."

She gawked at him aghast, magic! Of all things she couldn't possibly have magic! "I do not! If I did I would know by now, people show their gift of magic young."

"Ah most of us get out magic young, but not all of us. You see, if something very big, something very scary, happens to a young person soon to come into their magic one of two things will happen. They will either jump right their magic and use it excessively, trying to hide from the pain, or." He looked at her sheepishly, "Or they run to the only reality they really know and try to hide their magic. Hide it from the world, from themselves, hide it so deep within that they forget about it. You see, both of us had our families die as our magic was coming – I ran into it with open arms and you ran away from it."

She tried to ignore the heat she felt, ignore the thoughts of possible magic within her, and she focused on one simple phrase. "I have never run from anything; I am not a coward," she said with venom, standing from her spot, shoulders rigid.

"No, no, you misunderstand me. I am not calling you a coward. Please, I misspoke; you did not run from the magic, you hid it within you. We cannot run from our magic, it will stay there no matter what." He cursed his foolish mind; he had almost lost her there. He made a mental note to never use words like that about her again.

"I do not have magic. You are mistaken," she said pensively, turning her back towards him.

"Oh but you do, I can see it in you," she spun around and gazed up at him wondering what it was he could see. "I can see it like a glow about you."

"That's the starlight, just as it glows about you," she countered smartly.

"Ah, but you'd have that glow on the brightest day or darkest night," he grinned again like a wolf. "And do I have a bit of starlight glowing about me?"

"Yes you do."

"Another way we're alike." She rolled her eyes at him. "At least do this, look within yourself. Dig deep. You'll find the magic in there," as he pointed towards her heart, "and deep within your memories."

She looked up at his genuine smile, what if he was right? What if she did have magic hidden away inside her? She looked into his sparkling eyes, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She was looking through all her memories, memories she'd tried to hide because they were painful. She wasn't aware of the time, but knew it had been awhile when she finally found something.

Weird things had been happening in her house before they'd died. She had thought they were ghosts or evil spirits or something come to get her like her sickly parents. So when they died she had run, run away from. Now she knew what it was, she had been coming into her magic; she'd been making things move about or break and scared herself. She started crying then, little droplets that grew into tears then began falling like a small waterfall.

Nicholas could not see the tears at first because she had her head bent in thought the mask blocked sight of most of her face. But when he saw the tears falling he kneeled down at her feet and reached up to take off her mask. She let him; she didn't care if he saw her crying at this point.

Taking his handkerchief from his pocket, "Here, let me get those," he began wiping away her tears. "There is no reason to cry my dear, but cry away if you must. For I feel these are old tears, tucked away for a long time." He patted her hand and she felt that heat, the warmth of him flowing into her, and it was a strong comfort to her.

For that reason, and one other, she hopped off the bench and pretty much landed in his lap letting her arms wrap around him. The warmth that flew through her from that embrace was intense, but very comforting. Nicholas was completely stunned. At first he didn't know if it had actually happened, but then when he realized it had, he could not believe it. The woman he thought most beautiful had just jumped into his lap, embracing him warmly as if they were old friends. Once he was able to get his body working again he slowly put his arms about her and hugged her as she continued to cry. He then slowly lifted her up as he stood, only to sit back down on the bench cradling her in his arms.

After another good long while she started hiccuping and sniffling as she began calming down. The tears slowed and stopped and she leaned back to look at Nicholas. It was then that she realized what she was doing and where she was sitting. Nicholas was smiling at her, looking her in the eyes, when he saw her eyes grow big and her face turn the color of a red, red rose.

He then took a chance and again put his arms around her and hugged her close. He could feel her tense momentarily but then she seemed even more relaxed. He released her and lightly set her beside him on the bench. Her face, still the color of a rose, was facing the ground – she was trying to look anywhere but his direction.

"I…uhm," she didn't really know what to say.

"It's alright, you just needed a hug. Actually, you can take a hug whenever you like, hugs are good for you." He smiled at her as she glanced back at him.

"Ok," she whispered. "So, so I really do have magic?"

"Yes my dear, you do." She could see the silent laughter in his eyes as he looked at her.

"So, what do I do now," she questioned.

"Well, you could hug me again," he said with the utmost seriousness. Her face reddened again and she lightly elbowed him in the arm.

"I think not." She was looking at her mask and playing with the silver ribbon she used to tie it up with. "Can you teach me," she asked with excitement hiding in her voice, "you know, teach me how to use magic?"

"I was hoping you would ask me that," said a grinning Nicholas. "I will teach you all I know, but only on one condition," he smiled at her knowingly.

"And that would be what," she asked skeptically, raising an eyebrow at him.

"That you come live with me, at my estate, like all apprentice's do when learning," he said with his steady gaze upon her face.

She fully turned to face him, "It is normal for an apprentice to move in with their teacher, but this is not normal. You and I are too close in age, a single woman like myself cannot be seen moving in with a young man like yourself. It would be the scandal of the entire kingdom," she exclaimed with disbelief.

"First off, it's the condition I ask. Second, no one needs to know, it's not their business anyhow, it's ours. And lastly, who cares what the people think? Surely you don't really care what the gossipers have to say," he asked, gesturing out towards the Manor House and around them with that sparkle in his eyes.

She sighed and tried hiding her smile as she said, "How soon should I move in?" She thought she had already seen a big smile, but his previous smiles were nothing compared to the one now plastered to his face.

"As soon as possible my lady! I hope you will like it, I know it needs some work. I don't really keep the place up like I should. But it is a large house and there are many rooms you can choose from," he was talking fast and excitedly but she interrupted him anyway.

She was smiling when she said, "I need you to do one thing for me first."

"Yes! Anything, what do you need," he looked like a puppy eager to please.

"Would you please take that mask off your face, I am dying to see the face of the man who is doing so much for me," she laughed.

He smirked at her, "Dying to see my face are you? Does my voice sound that handsome," he teased.

She rolled her eyes at him, "I am curious."

"Then I shall oblige your curiosity my dear lady," he said with that same wolfish smile she was growing to like. He reached back and untied the mask's ribbon and then lifted it off his face.

The face that met her was not only extremely handsome and pleasing, but also familiar. She gasped as she recognized his face and features.

His face went from joyful to worried, his hand going to his face and feeling around. "Is something wrong? Did I splash something on my face? Is it discolored? Oh my, I seem to have frightened you, I'll put the mask back on."

As he was lifting the mask back to his face she reached out and stopped him. "No," she paused staring at his features, "you didn't frighten me. Only shocked me."

"Shocked you? Am I that ugly," his smile was coming back.

"No, absolutely not. I just didn't think I would be recognizing the face behind the mask," she said in awe.

"Recognize?" Now he was the confused one. "But you have never seen me, I have observed you from a far, you have never seen my face," he seemed rather bewildered at her words.

She softly laughed, "But you see I have. Not with my own eyes truly, but in my dreams. It sounds crazy but every other night I see you. Either just in the background of a dream or right out in front – saving me, being a bad guy, and other things."

Nicholas sat there gaping at her for a few moments, trying to figure this out. "Perhaps your magic was trying to tell you to look for me? So that it might be utilized and grown? You could possibly have a gift of sight," he was almost whispering to himself before his face broke into another wolfish grin. "So I'm the 'Man of Your Dreams' huh?"

She blushed and then smiled up at him, "You weren't always the good guy in the dreams, so don't push your luck."

"Dully noted my lady. I will always try to be the good guy in real-life."

"And that my dear child is how the Lord Nicholas Byron and Lady Evey Byron finally met!"

"Really Grandma? That's how it happened?"

"Yes dearest, that what begins the tales of The Great Wizards, Lord Nicholas and Seer Evey. But I'm afraid the tales will have to wait, for it's well past time since you should have been asleep."

"But Grandmaaa…," as she began tucking in the blankets about her grandchild.

"No, sleep now child. Plenty of time for other tales tomorrow. Good night," she said with a kiss.

"Goodnight Grandma, love you."

"I love you too dear one," she said as she closed the door behind her. An elderly gentleman came around the corner of the hallway, smiling over at his old wife.

"Off to bed are they?"

"Yes dearest," she smiled as they walked together towards their room.

"Good good," he said as he closed the door of their old bedroom, almost blocking out his next words. "How was you day Evey?"