Chapter VI

"What do you think your are?" Cheryl fumed.  "Some type of god or angelic creature?  You're no better than myself, or anyone else around here.  You think so highly of yourself for your morals and your power, but you are still a builder.  No different from the rest of us."

Sor looked down, thinking over Cheryl's words.  "I can live my life the way I want to," she continued, "the way I need to.  There's no other way for me to survive."

"Yes there is, Cheryl.  I can teach you some spells that you can use to protect yourself."

"And be indebted to you forever?" she snapped.  "The only builder Conjurer?  No.  I'll never owe my life to another 'teacher' again.  If you want to help me, then do so.  Just don't try to change me.  Don't try to make me into something you want me to be."

The young Conjurer nodded in submission.  "I'm sorry.  I can't leave you to die on your quest, but maybe I can save the lives of a few others.  I'll go to protect you and those you encounter, but I won't interfere with anything you do again."

"I appreciate it."  She picked up her saber, and looked at it for a moment.  "In the meantime, you need to learn how to fight.  You may not want to kill anybody, but at least you'll be able to defend yourself without magic.  If there's one thing I've learned, it's never to rely too much on any one thing."

She hadn't even realized the hypocrisy of her statement, the Apprentice noticed.  Sor looked up at her, a sad look in his eyes.  "If that's what you want, then I'll learn.  In the meantime, should I call you 'Goddess,' 'Queen,' or 'Highness?'"

Cheryl's eyes narrowed.  "Get out.  Now."

Sor complied without another word.  She shook with rage, swinging her sword with great ferocity.  She needed to release the emotion before she could speak to Sor again.  When she was breathless, she put away the weapon and stepped outside to look for the Apprentice.

She found him sitting in the dining area, talking to the serving girl as he ate his breakfast.  Cheryl sat down to join him, and the girl scurried away in fear.  "You don't have a very positive effect on people you meet, do you?"

"You have no right to judge me!" she snapped.

"Just an observation."  Sor shook his head.  "It's your own conscience that's picking away at you, not me."

Cheryl growled.  They were suddenly in a pocket of silence, and Cheryl reached for her sword.  Sor showed her his hand, cupping his fingers into a bowl-shape.  Lightning flowed from his shoulder down through his fingers, crackling softly.  "I don't recommend you draw that.  I won't kill you, but lightning certainly hurts."

Remembering whom she was dealing with, she placed her hands neatly on the table.  The air bubble around them dispersed, and Sor stopped the blue energy.

"Are you alright milord?  Milady?"  The serving girl was again standing by the table, this time shivering frightfully.

"Just a little stressed, Ræchyl.  Other than that, everything is fine here."

Cheryl shook her head.  "This is a dangerous man.  I suggest you stay away from him."

Ræchyl inched away from Cheryl until she was standing almost directly behind Sor.  "Would you care for anything else while I'm here?"

"No, thank you.  Actually, I think it's time that I left."  He put down his fork, and reached into his money pouch.

Ræchyl didn't let him get up.  "Where are you going?"

"To . . . I have no idea.  It seems that there's no good in this world.  I guess I'm going to look for it."  He looked at Cheryl disappointedly.

"Don't go, Sor," pleaded the witch.

"Why shouldn't I?  I can't sit by your side while you go on, thirsting for revenge.  I can't go to sleep at night with helping you kill on my conscience.  I won't stop you, though.  Let me live my own life, and I'll let you live yours."

"You're not leaving.  I can't survive without you."

"What?"  Sor looked taken aback.  "Hire yourself a bodyguard, if you're that afraid of assassins."

"There are no more mercenaries left.  Besides, bodyguards can't stand up to the Guild.  You can, Sor.  There's not a wizard or witch who has ever lived that can stand up to you!"

"Shush.  Between what you said in the alley and earlier this morning, I have no reason to stay.  You'll live."  Sor got up this time, leaving a few coins on the table.  "Excuse me, Ræchyl."

She wouldn't move.  "Hypocrite.  You just said that you're looking for good people, and you won't help her?  Excuse me, milord, but if you leave now then you'll be proving your own point."

Sor smiled.  "How old are you, Ræchyl?  You're too smart for your years."

"That's none of your affair, milord."  She walked off without another word.  Sor looked down, and then turned to Cheryl.

"She's right, you know."

"Yes.  It's been a long time since I was wrong about something."  He swallowed, and sat back down.  "It's not right for the Guild to do what it's doing.  They need to be put to a stop, but you're not powerful enough to do it.  I am."  He closed his eyes, and rested his head on the table.  "I won't learn how to fight, so don't expect me to."

Cheryl sighed.  "Fine.  Just don't expect me not to kill."

"All right."  Sor sat up.  "Our next stop is the Northern Empire, isn't it?"

Cheryl opened her mouth in surprise.  "How did you know that?"

"Magic, remember?"

Ræchyl served Cheryl a breakfast she didn't order.  "I – ."

"Don't worry about the cost, milady.  Are you two really going to the Northern Empire?"

The witch smiled.  "Yes, we are.  We're going to kill someone."

"Some one from the Wizard's Guild, right?"  Cheryl nodded.  "One of their assassins 'eliminated' my brother Jækyb seven years ago.  I would do anything to pay them back.  Let me come with you?"

"The road is no place for you.  You've got a life here to lead."

Sor smiled weakly.  "Was your brother that important to you, Ræchyl?  Important enough that you're willing to risk your life to avenge his death?"

"Yes, he is.  Jæk wanted me to live my life to its fullest.  He had so many dreams of his own."  Her eyes lost focus and were overcome by an angry tone.  "But I can't live with the knowledge that the people who murdered him can do it again and again, without paying the price."

Sor nodded.  "Then we'll be sure to come back and let you know when the Guild is no more."  The girl looked as if she would protest, but did not contradict him this time.  Sor turned away from her.  "Will you be ready by noon, Cheryl?"

"I'm ready to leave now, Sor."  She crossed her arms in an unladylike manner, and leaned back in her chair. 

"Good.  I'll meet you in front of the Inn at noon.  I'm going to shop and find myself a book or two."

"Books?" asked Cheryl as Sor rose from his chair and left the Inn.

*                                                                                                                      *

Mid-day came slowly on that Spring day, and it was not because of the longer daylight hours.  Trying to make the best use of the free time that she suddenly had, Cheryl had checked every single stable for a pair of horses.  After meeting that failure, she found that the sun was still climbing the blue sky.  She eventually decided to spend the rest of her time in Ravil getting on better terms with Rachel.  It wasn't her first choice, but she knew that it would make Sor happy.

When the Apprentice arrived at the inn, he brought two horses with him.  Cheryl was extremely put out, feeling outdone.  His soft, heart-spoken words soothed her quickly, leaving her to wonder how someone as tender as he could live in the same world as everyone else.