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Season 3 Episode 1
On the Wide River
Season 3 Episode 1
On the Wide River
The life of an apprentice sorcerer could be frustrating. Not the learning—according to Bailar, Mik was born to it, and that was coming along well. Not the chores—he’d had those to do at home, and alongside Sura the work seemed light.
It was Sura herself who brought the frustration alongside the joy. Last winter, he had started to see Robi as more than the friend he’d known all his life, the one who shared his games and jokes—and then she chose Piet before he could bring himself to say anything. Then came the invaders from Westmarch, and his foolish and successful attempt to awaken an ice dragon. And like cattle, one following another, it all led to his apprenticeship in faraway Exidy. There he met Sura, the first girl who saw him as more than just a friend. But as a fellow apprentice, one who was like the mentor’s own daughter, they had few opportunities to be just Mik and Sura.
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Freed from their daily chores, Mik and Sura thought they would have time on the barge, and in that regard this trip was more frustration. As big as the Lady was, there was no place aboard where they were not under the eyes of passengers and crew alike. At night, the few women and girls on board were sheltered away in one of the two cabins on the stern, while Mik slept with the men under a tarp fore of the cabins. (Bailar, as a sorcerer, was given the guest berth in the captain’s cabin.) At home, there was at least an opportunity for a brief embrace and a kiss between chores or after learning times.
Worse, while Mik did his best to treat Sura as honorably as he knew how, Dreaming Mik had no honor at all. But his Dreaming Sura was often just as wanton. What happened in his dreams often left Mik ashamed and excited in equal measure, and on this night, it would be the same. The barge was anchored on a stretch of the Wide where no town graced its banks, not even a fishing village. Mik twisted and moaned in his sleep; in his dream, he and Sura lay in the garden, a tingling wave rushing over him as Sura whispered his name.
Mik opened his eyes. He saw Sura (fully clothed) kneeling over him, one hand on his shoulder, the other holding a lantern turned low. He grinned and reached up, still partly the Dreaming Mik, and tried to pull her to him.
“Wait— no!” she rasped, keeping her arm stiff. “Didn’t you feel it?”
He was feeling something, or almost, but Dreaming Mik faded. The wave ebbed, and Mik was grateful she didn’t ask him about his dreams. “Feel what?” he whispered, getting to his feet.
“Magic. Someone cast a spell… something familiar. Concealment, maybe. I couldn’t sleep for… Anyway, I felt the power. Close by.”
“Not the mentor?”
“No. It didn’t feel like—”
“Oh!” Mik felt it this time, like a spider racing up his spine. “That? It felt like a sleeping spell.”
“Are you sure?”
Mik nodded. As Sura’s budding talents were sharp with spells of concealment and finding, his bent toward sleeping and waking. On the far end of the barge, they heard a thump and scuffing noises. “This isn’t good!” He squinted into the dark. “We need to tell the mentor. And the captain. Maybe you should conceal us.”
Sura shook her head. “Our cloaks are dark. Besides, they’re already aboard. If we felt their magic, they’ll feel ours.”
Mik nodded and they got moving, hand in hand, nervous but enjoying that much contact.
The cabin door was locked, and Sura decided haste was now more important than stealth. She laid her hand over the latch, and it popped open. As they slipped inside, the barge captain stood, a frightening bare-chested figure in the dim lantern light, a scowl on his face and a club in his hand. “’Ere, what’s this breakin’ in—”
“Sir!” Mik interrupted. “Boarders!”