I suppose it's time I came clean, told someone something. Anything. Everything.
There's quite a story to tell, and it's long. As I sit here, penning these words, there's a boy out there astride a great black beast searching for something he might not find. That doesn't matter to him, obviously, nor to me.
This all started about a year ago. I hadn't even met him yet. I was just some regular kid, a regular girl. I lived in Nolva, a tiny town in the south. It was just me and my mum, living an ordinary life in an everyday life. Nothing odd, nothing strange, nothing at all.
Well . . . sort of. I did say I was going to come clean. You need to know everything.
The day was hot, the sun a blazing white sphere in a sky of pure azure. The wind was blowing from the west, carrying the scent of the sea. The sunlight felt lovely on my skin. I closed my eyes and lifted my head, breathing deeply. Baking grass, salt water – I loved this scent that always came with the start of summer.
The grass was hot beneath me where I leaned back against the side of the hill. I heard the rustle of wind and hush of footsteps. I opened one eye and looked in the direction. A tall, broad-shouldered silhouette blocked out the blinding sky. "Hey," I said, closing my eye again.
"Doc's looking for you," was all I was told. Then the shadow over me vanished. I wasn't really surprised. My neighbour, Cheret, wasn't very talkative. Or friendly. Or anything, really. More of the strong, silent type, if you know what I mean. He wasn't even much older than me.
Exhaling loudly, I tucked my head in and got tiredly to my feet. The doc was always looking for someone. She was a bit of a fanatic – loved all that magic stuff and its beasts we occasionally got reports of. They never troubled us down here. Up in the larger cities, they'd something come onto people for encroaching on their territory.
Every once in a while, she asked kids and teens questions. She thought we were seeing fairies and didn't tell her. So far I'd managed to evade her interest – it wasn't like I ever showed a sign of seeing magic. Even if I did.
Coming clean time is here already, right at the start. The thing was, I did see all this magic around me. It happened all the time. I'd just been used to it so long that, well, I never let it show. Maybe that was what drew me to him, in the end.
Oh, what am I doing, referring to him all mysterious like? I can't give you a name so let's call him – Q. Anyways, back to the story.
I stretched my arms above my head and checked the laces on my hiking boots. Smiling faintly at the hillside covered in grasses and wildflowers, I picked my way down to the road. The hill was at the edge of town, not too far from where I lived. There wasn't much in Nolva; houses, a small marketplace, the doc's place that almost always billowed out smoke. Ah, yes, the doc, or Mayflower as everyone else called her.
Still have no idea where that nickname came from. It suited her very well though, as I thought of her brown hair full of flyaways and the stained white coat she always wore. Running a hand through my hair to push it off my face, I took a few shortcuts down narrow streets and after a few minutes came to the other side of town.
I stopped at the gate that border the doc's property. A white picket fence ran all around, separate from the place she lived in by a swath of grass. The actual building was this red brick monster, with a massive chimney jutting up from one side and spewing oily black smoke. Eerie lights glowed from the attic windows like they did around the clock.
I'd never actually been by her place. I tended to stay away from Mayflower, like any sane person would do. I kind of imagined it full of grisly antiques and magical items making noise.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed the gate open and went down the gravel path that was basically overgrown. The crunch beneath my feet seemed horribly loud in the quiet. I stopped at the wooden door and knocked. There was no response from within. I waited for a moment. I tried again. Still nothing.
Sighing out loud, I attempted to open the door and to my surprise it was open. I pushed the in softly and crept across the threshold. "Hello?" I called. My voice echoed. Something in the doc's house was ticking. The place was neater than I expected, but just as creepy.
I took a few more steps inside. "Doc? Cheret said you wanted me."
There was a sudden bang so loud I jumped. A voice yelped and I fought the instinct to run. Mayflower was not in my realm of bravery.
A clatter of noise resounded and Mayflower's head popped into the hallway. Her hair was a frizzy mess, and her long coat faded to a pale grey was covered in black splotches. She grinned at me.
"There you are!" she cheered. "Well, come on in! Don't stand in the doorway!" She latched onto my forearm and led me in, a bit forcefully. The two of us wound our way through a room with piles of stuff all the way to the back.
"Here we are!" she released me and spun around to face me. "I have a favour to ask of you."
I swallowed. "Look, doc, I don't think I'll be a help to you –"
She waved her hand dismissively. "No, no. Actually you're perfect – so ordinary and plain – almost too much, I think to myself sometimes. Ah, well. The favour. I want you to travel about to all the cities and towns you can and record whatever magic you find. Actually, I'll be the one recording, you just need to be there."
I frowned. "How –"
"Wiiiiith this!" She produced a necklace with a flourish. It was just a chain with a fairly large, shiny silverish stone hanging from it. She draped it around my neck. I didn't bother pulling my hair free because I didn't want it. "It's a seer stone," she said, "part of a larger piece."
With another flourish she whipped a tarp off a large silvery rock. By the looks of it, what hung from my neck wasn't the first chunk she'd broken off. She beamed at me. "Whatever is in the line of sight of your piece, I can see here!"
I turned my head and craned my neck to look. Sure enough, shimmering on the face of the stone was a view of the doc that was not a reflection. A bead of sweat trickled down the back of my neck.
"Right," I said as calmly as I could. "And how do I know you'll just see any magic and not spy on me."
"Oh please," she said flippantly. "Like I am interested in anything that goes on in your day to day life. Besides," she pointed to something that was blinking on the table next to it. "I've figured out enough to rig this little beauty up. It'll send me an alert if the stone sights any magic, then I can come and record it all."
I gave a nod. "'Kay. So you want me – someone who doesn't see a thing – to go and travel and give you a creepy insight to what I see. I'm not against travelling, or seeing things, it's just . . . everyone knows I don't see any magic, and that hardly anyone here does."
She was giving me enthusiastic nods. "That's why I think you're perfect. Who better to help me document then someone who is so commonplace!"
I decided that I wouldn't take that as an insult. It wasn't even like I could fake that the idea didn't excite me. I'd love to go and see places. I bit my lip in indecision. "Well . . ."
She suddenly grabbed my shoulders and whirled me around. "Excellent! Great! Set off quick as you can now!" Without another word she propelled me through her home, down the hall, and out the door. It closed with a bang behind me.
For a second I was just standing there, flabbergasted. That had just – she'd really – it appeared I was going on this trip whether I liked it or not.
Blinking once, twice, I unsteadily left the doc's property and directed my feet home. I tucked the seer stone beneath my shirt, because I was already noticing ghostly things dancing on the edge of my vision and I didn't want Mayflower catching on quite yet. Let me be out of her reach before any word spread.
I reached home and went in with my customary loudness, knocking the mud off my boots. "Mom?" I hollered. "Ya in? I gotta talk to you!"
"Yes?" her voice came back. "What is it?"
I quickly found her in the kitchen. I pulled the seer stone off and placed it on the counter. "Doc gave me that," I said. "She . . . she wants me to travel, and to let her use that to track any magic."
My mother paused. "Oh." She resumed stirring. "I see. So – do you plan to?"
That caught me off guard. "You don't mind?"
"No." She made me taste something. I told her it was fine. "As long as you're clear of the town – go ahead." She thought for a second. "I always thought that, since you see so much, there has to be a reason. You can't find it here in Nolva." She picked up the seer stone and looked at it. "You're an adult now, so go ahead. It might take a few days for you to get ready."
I beamed. "Great!" I turned around and began to pace, thinking out loud. "I'll have to go on foot, obviously, and I need to come up with enough supplies to last me through the forest. Oh, and I'll need pumblas somehow, and a way to earn more . . ."
"You could always do so by running your mouth at people," my mother said jokingly. "Why don't you start with seeing how much you have, and what's around the house to get you through the forest. Worst comes to worst, you get a job in a bigger city."
I made a face. "Got it mom. I'll slow down." I darted over to the stairs, paused on it, and said, "I'll be back down for dinner!"