Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume Two
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 4: Lonesome
Malcolm staggered out of the house and went out of the bubble to relieve himself. He now wore his tattered robe, which he’d found last night crammed in the bottom of his bag. It was a comforting thing to wear again. It brought back a sense of normalcy. When he returned, he sat down in a chair beside Slipha who sluggishly scooped berries from a bowl and into her mouth. He felt groggy and wished he were still asleep, but once you wake up on a hard, wooden floor, you don’t fall back asleep.
“Morning.” he said.
He looked up at her. “You look tired.”
“Did you sleep?”
“Just restless I suppose. Here.” She handed a cup of berries to him.
“Thanks.” He began eating. After a few bites, he ventured further. “So... did you enjoy your outing?”
Slipha hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“I saw you leave last night. Thought maybe you went for a midnight flight.”
She turned to him with a smile, albeit a tired one. “Yes I did. I was restless and needed fresh air and time alone.”
He nodded. “I often find myself wandering off, too. Wish I could fly away sometimes.”
She shrugged. “Who knows. Maybe you will one day.”
He looked at her again, this time taken back. “Really? Is that a bit of faith in me?”
“Perhaps. You’ve already surprised me by learning magic. So I guess I can’t discount anything.”
He couldn’t help but grin as he ate the rest of his breakfast.
Later that morning, April sat him down in the center of the yard for his next lesson. Thankfully, this one would not be as physical as the last.
“Alright, hold out your hand.” She did so and he mimicked. “Now, create a ball of electricity like this one.” A sphere of electrical energy grew from the palm of her hand and hovered.
Malcolm pushed the energy out of his hand, but instead of a perfect sphere, he created bolts of lightning which sparked and disappeared. “How do you do it?”
“You can’t be gentle about it. Push hard. You have to create enough electricity to sustain the ball. But, push too hard and it’ll simply explode. It’s a balance that has to be learned.”
He furrowed his brow and tried again. More sparks spat from his hand, arced here and there, and fizzled out. He tried again and again, producing the same results each time.
“It’s a constant flow.” she added. “It has to be maintained, otherwise it goes out. Here, let me help you.”
April reached out and cupped her hands underneath his outstretched hand. “Now, stop generating. Just feel the power that flows through your hand.” She sent her energy through his hand and created a sphere of power above it. “There.” She looked up at him, her eyes wide and her cheeks dimpled with excitement. “See how it feels?”
Malcolm nodded. “I can feel it.”
“Memorize that feeling. Then, do the same with yours.” She let the energy dissipate. Then, she took his other hand and brought it up so that he held his hands cupped together. She put her hands in his. “Okay, now you try.”
He began sending energy out of his hand. Like hers, it transmitted through her hands and created arcs of electricity above them.
“I can feel it. Push harder.”
Malcolm concentrated, pushing more energy. Sparks began spilling from his hands.
“Better, but you need more.”
He strained as he sent more energy coursing down his arms.
“Don’t strain like that. You’re sending energy to your muscles when you should be sending it to your hand. Relax, keep breathing, and push it out with your mind. Imagine that your breath is what is pushing the energy out, not your muscles.”
He nodded in agreement and followed her instructions. He relaxed, breathed, and pushed more energy out of his hands. The lightning began swirling around their hands like a whirlwind.
“Almost there! Keep going!”
He forced more. For a slight moment, the whirling energy created a sphere.
“There it is!” April shouted again. “Right there! Hold it!”
Malcolm struggled to hold it, but it was a delicate balance. He could feel the energy wanting to collapse. At the same time, he could feel it want to explode if he pushed too hard. He was breathing hard as he worked to maintain the balance. He could feel himself becoming weaker already, like having low blood sugar. The blue mesh of lightning which floated in his hand was lighting up her excited eyes. His focus slipped away from his exercise to her eyes. Then, the energy popped like a balloon.
He snapped out of his daze. “I’m sorry! Sorry.”
“No, you did great!” she exclaimed, her eyes still wide and her cheeks still rosy. “That was a great first time. How do you feel?”
“Tired. And shaky.”
“Just a second.” She stood and ran into the house for a moment, then hurried back with a small sack. She sat back down on the ground. “Here.” She reached in and produced a small candy. “We make these specifically for when we’re practicing. Though they taste so good, it’s tempting to eat when not practicing.”
He took the small pebble of candy, eyed it, then put it in his mouth. He let it sit and fizzle in his mouth. “Wow, that is good.” The sweetness was intense and the sharp taste cramped his jaw.
“Glad you like it. Have a few more and you should feel up to more practice.”
He smiled. “I’m beginning to like practice.”
She nodded. “That’s good! If you enjoy it, it won’t feel like work at all.”
“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”
Kara was in her miniature form. She sat on a tree branch which hung not far from the sphere surrounding their home. Though no one or nothing else could see the house hidden by the sphere, she could see it just fine using a bit of magic. She hugged her knees as she gazed into the yard watching Malcolm and April.
Miniature Autumn flew up behind her and landed on the branch. “Hey! Whatcha doin?”
Kara was startled for a moment. “Oh... hi. Don’t scare me like that.”
“Sorry. So whatcha doin?”
Kara’s gaze returned to Malcolm. “I don’t know. I just felt like sitting here.”
Autumn walked closer to her and plopped down on the branch. “What’s going on at home?” She cast the same light magic over her eyes so she could see.
“Malcolm is training with April.”
Autumn glanced at Kara, giving her a quick study, then returned her gaze to the house. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.”
“Really? You seem down.”
Kara shrugged. She wasn’t sure what to say.
“So what’s botherin you?”
She kept silent, continuing to watch Malcolm and April. They sat in the middle of the yard eating candies and talking.
“Come on, I know you. Something has to be wrong.”
“I really don’t know. I’ve never felt this way before.”
“Like...” she trailed off, searching the inner workings of herself to find an answer. “I want him to spend more time with me. I mean, I’m the reason he’s here, after all. Why does he spend more time with Yukina, Slipha, and April than me?”
Autumn swang her legs off the side of the branch as she pondered. “I think I understand. So, what are you going to do about it?”
“What can I do? I guess the others have abilities that he’s interested in. I don’t have anything.”
“No, I don’t think that’s what it is. I think Malcolm just enjoys spending time with us. Doesn’t matter what we do, he thinks it’s great. So if you want to spend time with him, just ask. I’m sure he’ll happily go along with it.”
“Do you think I could get him away from everyone else for a while? I mean, just because I'm afraid the others might get in the way.”
“Oh, so it’s alone time you want with him?”
“I know it’s silly. I just want to spend unhindered time with him.”
Autumn pondered this a bit more, tapping her index finger on her chin. “You like staying up late, don’t you?”
Kara looked at her. “Sure I do. I love going out late at night... long as I can keep it a secret from Yukina.”
“Then why don’t you take Malcolm out for a late night stroll? It could be a fun escape from the house.”
Kara thought about it for a moment. “That is a good idea.”
“It came from me, so it’s gotta be good!”
Kara smiled for the first time in a while. “Thanks, Autumn.” She grabbed her sister in a hug and squeezed tight, their cheeks smooshing together as they smiled. “Just promise you’ll cover for us if the others notice we’re gone.”
“You bet I will.”
After lunch, it was time for Malcolm’s training to continue. He and April went back to their spot in the grass and sat down. He noticed that, off near the edge of the yard, Slipha had fallen asleep under a beam of sunlight. She lay on her back, sprawled out in all directions, with her mouth gaping open. Malcolm chuckled to himself, thinking she looked like a cat napping in the sun.
“Alright.” April clapped her hands together. “Ready to make more energy spheres?”
“Absolutely. Let’s do it.” Malcolm held out his hands and began practicing.
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